11 May 2014

A Long Neverland Spring

Spring can be a trying time in Wyoming. Sun, snow, heat, and cold are all carried with the wind. In past spring seasons bouldering conditions have been good for several months or a couple weeks. Winter forewarns nothing of the coming transition, while summer does not remember. This time around spring has been a long stutter of the middle ground of weather that makes for great bouldering. Weekends are starting to stack up into the same long memory. Reference into the written journals where I record all related to new boulders show a deviation from the norm. Most of the time it is too warm by now for Neverland to produce much.

The length of time, so many weekends in a row now, have been highly motivating and revealing as well. In fits I've pushed the tubby grad-school boy fitness aside and tried to regain some real man steel again. A good crew has been a huge driving force in a season to remember. For the first time Neverland has more than a car or two per week. Good new problems are being contributed regularly in a renaissance of sort. Or another kick in a fitful start. Last autumn was a long season, but a loneliness set in and a long while past without much new being done. It is sometimes difficult to look through the great wide open and see through the solitude of Wyoming's far away places. The new areas and new problems this season have felt closer and less wild than normal. Still more remote than most bouldering areas. After all it is still Wyoming, but a little more comfort allows for more to get done.
The usual suspects have been regulars over weekends, including Josh Oxner and Dr. Thunder. Jamie Emerson, and Collin Horvat have made weekend trips as well. Collin in particular has made the most of his multiple trips to one of Neverland's newer sectors. His clear and definite motivation has been a treat to witness. We've jokingly suggested naming the new sector Horvat's Boulders, but the joke is getting more serious each week as he continues to finish projects. I had not climbed with Jamie since our Bear Valley expedition last summer, but a reunion was inevitable. As he has written, a fire burns in a few of us who seek to find the best boulders. It burns brighter when like minds share something familiar. The process of finding the best lines is an aspect of climbing that I now realize I enjoy almost as much as the actual bouldering. Fantastic stuff has been found and climbed and I really can't say enough about how motivating it is!  It has been a great group to boulder with for sure. New excitement has strongly driven me to get off my ass and boulder a lot more and a lot harder. To get the steel back in the tendons from seasons past is the goal now. Too much good rock needs to be climbed.
Collin Horvat on the first ascent of the beautiful Aging Moose V2
Collin Horvat sticking the crux on the first ascent of Bird of Prey V10. An incredible problem on incredible rock.
Several weeks ago now we started bouldering in the new sector. With each visit it grows which is always a sign of a good area. This one keeps giving good lines and so many boulders wait to be seen. The first weekend was spent in a small area of high concentration.
Dr. Thunder on an unnamed sloper problem on great rock with Jason Anderson spotting
My fellow geology graduate student Connor Marr getting very close on the brand new Hair of The Dog V5/6 
Jamie Emerson on what is now another Horvat line, Southern Envy V9
Each subsequent weekend has seen new lines there, but more has been found all over as the famous Wyoming Syndrome has afflicted us.Wyoming Syndrome is a condition I wouldn't wish on anyone. Life times of great rock spread all over the place to such a degree that daily life becomes a chore. You can only think of rock, you dream of rock, and you forever walk through piles, fields, mountains, valleys, and plains of rock. Your body changes shape, more rugged usually, and the hands gnarl. A persons eyes start to focus on what seams like nothing, a boulder in the distance maybe, often a few.
Dr. Thunder finishing a problem put up moments before. Wyoming Syndrome V2
Even in a frenzy of new problems going up there is a feeling that more projects are being put on the list than being checked off. Always another pile of boulders to walk too if needed. Put some chalk on the holds and see what happens. I find myself walking to boulders in Neverland with a ridiculous smile and knowing exactly what a personal heaven would be. Then there are walks when the place feels like doom and an up welling of worry moves in. Is there any way to climb on all this and damn how time has flown by. Will just have to keep putting chalk on new rock. Those are the best days.
The Cow Cave Project
A project without a name

21 April 2014

Neverland Again

 It has been a long while since updating this blog. The busy busy schedule of graduate school has allowed the quick gratification of instagram to be my bouldering update method. That may work for some people all the time, but I have found a lack of detail with the quick post social network method lately. So many new and really high quality areas, boulders, and problems have been found that a grainy cell camera pic will not even come close. A high quality image won't do well through the instagram filter either. The rock is just too good. The demand for wasting so many of my days on such good rock is ever growing and maybe, just maybe sharing some of the good stuff will help justify my addiction. Spring has been a fine time to explore and temperatures have lagged far behind the warming of last year at this time. Good conditions!

A lot of time has been spent walking across as much rock as possible. During the opening days of Winter Break last December I managed to expertly blow up my MCL on yet another Neverland project. With rehab in mind and too much rock I haven't seen it has been a productive combination of motivations. I also feel the conclusion of my graduate studies on the very near horizon. How much more time will have to understand Neverland? How much time to understand some of the finest bouldering I have seen?

Over the past three weeks two major new sectors of many boulders have been found. Some of the highest concentrations of good rock in southeast Wyoming. Some of the best single lines have been uncovered along the way. It is a strange place to be in ones life where the past two years have been in a transition to continue bouldering but with an emphasis on real life being dominant, and yet the best boulders are now being found. Damn the curse.

It would be silly to list everything or try to explain the almost delusional wanderings through so many damn boulders. The details are too much, but the highlights are worth a bit of time here.

We drive past several miles of boulders every time we roll out to the developed areas in Neverland. During the bitch of winter we sometimes stop and look at them. Finding good rock is not a problem along the main roads, but returning to actually send the problems has been. Finally we developed a few and lot more have been cleaned.
Nathan and Bryan chatting it up under The Nest V6 and It's All You V3ish. The county road is about two hundred yards distant
The Cow Cave. Just another road side attraction.
In the lone wanderings I do with my dog Amiee, some serious stuff has been found. Bouldering can be fun and it can be serious too. On a random two-track along a random fence is a small (very small) pile of a few boulders. Anyone looking for boulders knows to find the biggest boulders first and in the largest piles. This knoll of a few gneiss blocks was a good vantage point for binoculars to be used looking across the valley. It was also the end of the road, so foot travel was next in line for accessing the huge pile of boulders across the way. Where I would never expect it is a monster of a roof made of absolutely steel hard stone. I spent around two hours freaking out chalking holds. I returned with pads and felt all the moves and possible hold positions. I can't climb the line, but someone can, and they better! It is one of the most superb lines I've ever seen. Estimated at 8B+ to 8C it should be pretty serious, but all the holds are there.
Not much besides crippled kids makes me cry, but this did. That whole thing is the beast and the finish jug didn't even get into the photo. Bryan standing at the start of roof for scale.
Several young climbers over the past seasons have asked me how to get sponsored or if I would help them attain sponsorship. I strongly believe one should be satisfied with their own climbing and that is all they should worry about, so never have been able to answer the sponsorship question for them. Now I have an answer for them that is 30 feet long and has a ripping hard sequence. So go west young man into the vast emptiness of Wyoming and put down the mega-roof.

An amazing amount of time has been spent finding and even cleaning giant hard lines that I'll never climb. There is something special about those rare gems that hold an aesthetic almost impossible to find in smaller and easier problems. Every once and a while I amaze myself with a lucky send of a giant, but far more wait for a stronger more focused climber. The list of giants is growing and becoming a heavy load to remember.
A major focus for me lately to alleviate the giants problem is to find a good concentration of great rock where I can put up a lot of new lines. The hunt for the best possible problems has me fondly remembering the days of Needle Peak or even young Vedauwoo where we would add problems by the page full every trip. Two such areas have shown themselves lately. One is completely new and just a few hundred yards beyond where we had last looked. The second is actually an old area, but for some reason we had not focused or looked at it with the right gaze. We certainly had not walked it all and that was a mistake. Either area would satisfy the need for new lines at a good pace, but two are even better.
Another damn roof. Luckily a small one, but this new area has some huge ones.
Until the heat of summer rolls in my weekends are obviously gone now. Then El Dakota season comes in and the Winds after that, then late season El Dakota, then Neverland again, then somewhere in there a job I suppose.

30 October 2013

Fall Bouldering In Southeast Wyoming

It has been a busy fall to say the least, and a difficult one to find time for bouldering. Several snow storms have blanketed Laramie and my graduate work continues to challenge any sort of balance in my climbing life. Any available time has been spent bouldering rather than updating this blog (as you have likely noticed). I've tried to keep up with the easy way of updating by adding photos on Instagram (@davinbagdonas). After all a picture speaks a thousand words or something like that.

Early season bouldering was a bit warm and rain continued through September. A large amount of sandstone only 35 miles out of Laramie had been my primary focus. El Dakota as Josh Oxner and myself have titled the area has turned out to be an enormous addition to Laramie bouldering. It is a mountain of Dakota Sandstone that sits at nearly 9800 feet in a deep forest. Because of this, bouldering through the summer and especially early fall has been fantastic! How did this large new area hide for so long and how many more can we possibly find out there? Bouldering potential within a two hour radius of Laramie continues to grow at what seams like an ever increasing rate. I never could have imagined the potential, but will gladly take it as it comes. Should climbers continue to motivate and put up new problems, Laramie area bouldering will have many thousands of problems in a decades time!
One of a hundred boulders or more at El Dakota. Alca V5/6
We had planned a rebirth of the Vedauwoo Bouldering Festival, this time at Curt Gowdy State Park. Much of my late September was spent at the Hynds Lodge cleaning and climbing new problems for the planned competition. The best lines put up were never repeated as snow and below zero windchill forced a cancellation the day of the event. Obviously the problems are still up there and several are very worth while. 68 problems were selected for the festival out of around double for the entire area of the state park. I kept problems on the down low in an attempt to keep the competition fair. I got really excited about a few and ended up having Bryan Vansickle and Nathan Hough help develop. Cross Country Connection in down town Laramie has the Hynds Lodge Bouldering topos available. Please go grab a map and try the new lines. Some of the best new additions to Curt Gowdy and the Vedauwoo area include Waist Land Boogy V9, Up and Away V1, Old Aspen Prow V2, and The New Nathan V3. I also included 23 projects on the topo in a range of estimated difficulties from V2 to V13. That's right, there is a pile of cleaned and unclimbed lines just sitting there. If you finish one, please record the name and grade so we can add it to the guide book for the area.
Hynds Lodge Crag and a whole lot of boulders
What about October? Yeah, that has been a good one! After the time spent on the failed Curt Gowdy Festival, a few weeks of catch up work were needed on the academic side of things. Neverland was always calling, and without fail I followed the call. Now into my 30s, I have started to feel the constrain of time to finish the hardest and best lines found in the area. Triple X is one of those and for me the most difficult that feels like it is still possible. At great risk to all other aspects of my life I started going out every other day. During the week this includes a two hour drive in the afternoon, two hours on the project, and a drive home after dark. I vowed to continue in this schedule until the line is complete or winter blocks the road. All other previous sessions on the project had been random and spaced (not a good way to finish something hard). Four days on so far and the progress is much better than I had hoped for! The process of breaking down something nearly impossible, making small steps add up to larger steps, then seeing the possible from what was previously not is an experience beyond words. It is why many of us boulder and is an experience all it's own. I am completely taken by it! The motivation ours into other aspects of bouldering and life too.
Of course other boulders have to be climbed on some of those trips. The motivation is high and progress only adds to the addiction/madness. An example, Bryan Vansickle and I spent way too much on gas and time to drive three hours around the mountain to Bennett Peak. We spent a day there, crossed the ice cold Platte River, quickly finished an old project (now Down River Vibes V9), and drove all the way back to Laramie the same day. This allowed for a two hour session the following day on Triple X in a snow storm. It is border line crazy when you add up the two days and ten hours on the road for a V9 and an ass kicking in the freezing cold. I would do it again, probably this weekend.
At Neverland, Vansickle had cleaned a beautiful and huge roof, very reminiscent of Hueco Tanks. Luckily it is close to Triple X, so we managed to feed addiction for both of us. During the last trip Vansickle completed his line. Ultamak V8? and it is one of the best new big lines to go in at Neverland. It climbs like New Religion in Hueco Tanks, but has a harder start, longer moves, and a big round top. It is an area classic. The roof has several other possible problems and a long traversing problem Green Machine V6 I added as a warm up. An 8A+ feeling project climbs into Bryan's line, then follows a huge slash out the length of the beast, for what must be one of the finest power endurance lines I've seen. Anywhere but Wyoming this thing would be on glossy paper with a bunch of strong dudes talking about a stunner.
Going back tomorrow, and this weekend, just me and the dog.
Vansickle on his new problem Ultamak V8? in the huge Fern Roof of Neverland. Green Machine V6 starts on the far right near the blocks and climbs all the way left into the black flakes.