Each day was unique, beautiful, and strange on the high plains of Wyoming. Being alone in such a vast place was fantastic as always, but a rare calm and solitude set in almost upon arrival. The predicted wind did not arrive on schedule, and during the brief time it dominated the setting, came from an unfamiliar side. On the first day an Easterly wind blew. In a landscape sculpted by a Western wind where trees grow limbs on a single side and even the rock outcroppings lean as they are eroded into strange shapes and superb boulders it is a massive difference to have a strange wind. I went straight to a cave to clean new lines and climb in the relative peace of the backwards wind. This late in the season little else was to be done but go to one of several caves I've referred to as the Wind Caves, but on this day were calming solar collectors. Life buzzed around in the calm air and birds flew in complete abandon. Little green ferns grew in the back of the caves. Water dripped straight down missing the worn out spots of usual.
|Hidden caves of Neverland|
The low start went the next go and felt far easier than before. Viva Obama V7/8 is what I named that particular problem. Yes, the election found me even out in the wilderness. The true motivation of the day and reason for being in that particular sector of Neverland was the long and steep line that had been looked at the previous trip. I couldn't get it out of my mind and it was the first line I thought of when realizing the other trip had been cancelled, now with Neverland being my destination. It is one of the best roof boulder problems out there. Figuring the sequence out quickly I went to work getting the crux dialed. The last moves out of the long overhang are the crux, so figuring those as best I could would determine success or not. After some tries and rests it was close to being saved for another day. Again, realizing the amazing solitude of the day and taking the time to sit in awe, finishing the line in a day came together. The Solitude V9/10 is one of the best lines I've put up in a long time! It is 9 moves of 80 degree roof before the crux and 12 moves total before the jug to finish it. It may be V10 as it compares with several V10 I have done, but may be V9 as it is similar to a few of those in Neverland I've put up too.
|The Solitude V9/10|
|Amiee Dog keeping a close eye on the hunters below while I attempt another project|
Arranging the pads after two trips to the vehicle to get enough to cover the ending of the cave, I put on my shoes. Two initial goes failed with the first crux move. A banana and some water, a few tries on the second and redpoint crux to remind me of the unique and powerful move, and a quick rest in the now very warm sun was all I needed. I barely and I mean absolutely barely stuck the sloper on the redpoint crux move out of the cave on my third go. Getting onto better holds and even going left an additional move to shake out, I nearly dropped off. The exit is dicey feeling on junky slopers, but completely safe in actuality. Pumped more than I have been in a long while I very awkwardly rolled over the top (dry humped the top). Finger Paint V11 was incredibly satisfying to finish and took me several sessions over a few seasons to complete. It is a long problem with 27 total moves and 16 through the crux cave section. It took two days this season in close proximity of each other which is the key to finishing those projects.
Once again Amiee Dog was getting sick of not walking. I was feeling pretty tired and actually minorly tweaked/sprained my wrist somewhere on Finger Paint, so agreed with the dog.
Having never actually walked to the far away areas of Neverland the decision was easy. There are several areas within a reasonable walk for a day of bouldering. We've been spoiled with short approaches.
I chose a long ridge with several large crags of rock with many boulders. The day was becoming clear and the wind less and the draw of a more wild place was there too.
Perched in a small overhang on the side of a small crag, up above the high plains isolated on steep slabs is a project I continually remind myself of. The Dead Tree project is something to behold. Bryan Vansickle and I had found it in the heart of Winter when even feeling holds was too cold. From time to time we have wondered if it is doable by us or by a stronger fool. With such a perfect evening at hand I carried a pile of pads up the slabs, then carried the dog. We peered from the high cave into the vast evening and heard coyotes. I arranged the pads and went to work on the very hard start of the line. Even fresh the line would be a stretch for me and on a tired evening ruined me. It is 8B for sure and one of the cleanest and most beautifully simple hard lines I've seen. Two hard moves of complete and pure power lead to a move of V9, then easier moves to a tricky mantle onto a long slab. The simple, hard, and rarely repeated Alma Blanca 8B in Hueco Tanks comes to mind in comparison, but they are two completely different problems. The Dead Tree project being cleaner, of fantastic stone, and in an amazing setting.