27 January 2010

Between Colorado and Wyoming - Rawah and Zirkel Bouldering

The previous summer was my first for spending the entire summer in Laramie, Wyoming. Stoked at first to climb in my home town in good weather, I was slowed by an early heat wave in the late spring. Vedauwoo was out for most of the hot days as was any old rock in the area. I wanted new problems on new rock in the cool mountain air. The entire reason I leave laramie in the summer. As previously mentioned in this blog I had discovered new bouldering all over the Snowy Range. That however was not enough, only being satisfied when I go completely crazy with too much rock to possibly climb in my life time. So, naturally from the southern Snowy Range I headed to the next peaks on the sky line to the south. The Zirkel Mountains were first and very hard to explore from the eastern side. I spent three full days driving and hiking the Zirkels on the their eastern side. After 4 mile (thought it was 2) hike Austin Jensen, Bryan Vansickle, and my self arrived at our first discovery of rock for our Zirkel explorations.

Boulders at Lake Katherine, Zirkel Wilderness, Colorado
We walked around Lake Katherine to the obvious large boulders and found some very good rock. It was all high quality black and gold gneiss. There is a bunch more rock out of the picture, but at an 8 mile round trip, you would have to be crazy. I hiked to several other lakes in the Zirkel Wilderness over the past summer and found similar rock, but similar walks. If you want a beautiful day hike without the bouldering pad, Lake Katherine and the eastern side of the Zirkels are well worth it!
With my wife Marla and our dog Amiee we went to check out some boulders only a mile up the from a trail head. The road to the trail head is marked on a map as a jeep trail, but that doesn't even come close to describing the rock gully, hell hole, mud pit it was. I have a jeep, the Boulder Recon Vehicle that I built bare bones for severe abuse on the worst jeep trails (A topic for another post). That was the first trail that has ever turned me back. We spent an hour on a 1/8 mile section just to find a place to turn around. Loose boulders the size of my engine had to be delt with along with deep water holes and boulder fields covered in water and mud. All in the comfy closeness of huge trees, some across the road. With another jeep to help I would love to go back and finish the road to the boulders. Anyone?

Marla and The Boulder Recon Vehicle on a recon mission a few years back.
The Roads in the Zirkels were, as a rule, really bad unless they were the gravel variety. Looking for and climbing on the rock in the eastern Zirkels takes time and energy. Not the best place if you just want bouldering. The western side of the Zirkels is a question that in spring will be known.
After the Zirkels almost broke me and the jeep I moved on to the Rawah Mountains between Fort Collins, Colorado and Walden, Colorado. The Poudre canyon area gives access to Cameron Pass on the southern extent of the range. Obviously there is good bouldering there, so I focused on the northern end, closer to Wyoming. I forgot the Zirckels fast, as rock was just off the road on the very first trip. The trouble was the maze of public vs. private land to figure out. Once the puzzle was solved I spent several good days exploring and putting up problems with Guili Zavaschi and Bryan Vansickle. The rock just off the road can been seen in the pictures below.

The best rock we found was a 2 mile hike in and over a thousand feet of vertical to help us warm up. I actualy found the good rock with my wife Marla. She is a magnet for good rock and almost all the rock I have developed was found with her. Again, she helped find a good area! The rock was good enough to warrant the hike despite good rock just off the road, lower in the valley. I wish I could have done more bouldering in the area, but a finger injury took me out of climbing at the end of the season. I only had a single day in the best boulders we had found. No more trips to the Rawahs or the Zirkels took place after that. Now it is full winter and the rock south of Laramie will have to wait. What I can say is that the climbing was very good and the scenery too. The huge boulders of granite are hidden deep in the forest on a north facing slope. We had perfect conditions in the middle of summer! It is completely worth the 2 mile hike into the boulders and the deep forest.

We had a deer watch us the entire day we were in the woods. It walked around us within 30 or 40 feet at times to see what a few of us might be doing in the boulders and massive trees. It was clearly at home and we were it's guests for the day. On occasion it would stop by our packs to smell the lunches we had packed in. It finaly tipped over Guili's pack and got into mine, taking some of my granola bar in the process. We viewed the deer as the forest's queen and let it eat what was left of the granola. I redirected the deer before it had my peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Marla in the deep forest on discovery day. The boulders are huge and close together. One after another can be seen looming through the dark woods.

Guili Zavaschi on Duende V3/4 in the Rawah, Colorado.

Guili Zavaschi on the first ascent of Toucheded V7 in the Rawah, Colorado. Just left of Guili behind the tree is Forest Queen V0 a beautiful warmup and right of Guili on the steeper stone is Kablooey V7/8.

Another viw of Toucheded and Forest Queen (behind Guili). Two studs Bryan Vansickle and Guili Zavaschi look at the top crux.

Bryan Vansickle putting up Foo Foo V4 an amazing sloper problem. Notice Guili's down coat in the middle of August!

Guili Zavaschi putting up a V5 that he was too tired to name. The slopers were amazing and the day was perfect!

We climbed from 9:30 in the morning until the sun went down. Our sessions are always long and we do a lot of climbing in those sessions. The difference with this one was the hike out. We stumbled down a "short cut" to get back to our car. Descending 1000 vertical feet through deep forest and marshes, then crossing a fast flowing river all before the final mile was hard, but it was no short cut. It was a long end to a very good day.
The finger is 110% now and I think about the boulders in the forest a lot. I will be so happy to load up the jeep and pads to head back to the Rawah. We left a lot of rock with no chalk on it. We left a lot to do.

 Bryan Vansickle trying an amazing project in the Rawah, Colorado.

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