11 November 2012

Two Days In Neverland

A four day trip to an exotic bouldering destination fell through in the final hour because of poor weather. My motivation and mind set were on high for the planned four days of amazing bouldering. With the last minute change something had to be done to alleviate the energy. Something to get the anticipation of outstanding bouldering out of my system. I simply couldn't focus on anything but boulders, so I drove to Neverland for two days. Without being able to rally any type of crew or even another person I went at it alone, but of course with Amiee Dog. It became mission to climb at a high level, to use up my energy and reserves, and do it alone as best I could. Automatically the solo nature of my trip limited which of the big lines I could attempt safely. Choosing wisely which problems to put effort into and planning my energy reserves carefully resulted in two of the finest days I've had in a long time.
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
Cleaning a section of steep walls, three lines came into being. A short warmup on perfect holds was completed first. I named it Little Wren V3 or V4 after the small grey wren who flit about stopping to watch my progress on the line. Moving the pads deeper into the overhang I was quickly surprised at the strange difficulty of the low and logical start to Little Wren. The wren stopped several times on a nearby branch to watch my struggle. It reminded me to take a break and enjoy in the fine day. Amiee Dog and I wandered for half an hour or so to look at the various sun warmed caves. Again, we found too much to boulder this season and next. Amiee Dog found pools of fresh water.
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
The day was still young and Amiee Dog was tired of being in the same place for the entire morning. Packing up the pads we walked a long loop back to the vehicle. All in hope of finding something else new to climb, maybe not as steep a line to save some energy. We did find a good section of boulders and cleaned a few. Hunters down valley sent three shots off at something in the woods. I could hear the air being cut and Amiee Dog started walking home without me. I barely rallied her in and we went together to the safety of the vehicle. I left another project unclimbed, but unclimbed because of something other than my tired body.
Amiee Dog keeping a close eye on the hunters below while I attempt another project
As it has been a strange autumn for weather the past few trips to Neverland this particular day was no different. With a few hours of sun left the wind simply stopped. It became dead calm. It has done this almost like clock work the past few sessions. A rare Wyoming gift! I went straight to the Triple X project and this time extremely motivated to finish it. Needless to say it is a hard project and for me 8B for sure. Making it to my previous high point I failed again. It is becoming more of a ritual to fail on the project than to make progress. I'm comfortable with that perspective for now, realizing other climbers have had success on long term projects sometimes with over 40 days of work! With that as an example I'm not even half way on the Triple X. With another day ahead, Amiee Dog and I headed home to rest and prepare.

Wind and lots of it came at dawn. Hope of a return trip to the caves of the first day was quickly quenched. There are a few good options on high wind days in Neverland and the Finger Paint Cave is probably the best, especially in the morning sun. Despite a good amount of bouldering the fine day before, I felt relatively fresh. My fingers were freshest. I knew if I warmed up properly I had the fuel to finish something hard. Previous mistakes in the Finger Paint Cave have been warming up on the different sections of the Finger Paint Project, then having those specific muscles shot, so the project remaining a project. Thanks to Nathan Hough and Brian Horlick two good warmups are in the same sector now. I warmed up on those trying to go up and down them enough to get a very slight flash pump. Waiting 20 minutes or so to recover I prepped the holds with chalk and a light brushing.
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.

Carrying my ultra-light pad set up I was able to complete a long recon mission and boulder too. I carry a Five Ten "Park Pad" made by Organic specifically for longer approaches and strap on a Metolius Sketch pad to cover lower starts. Amiee Dog and I looped about 5 miles of crags and valleys and added a few problems along the way. We found insane boulders and beautiful scenery. We found deep peace and again great solitude. I lost count of the times I stopped to watch the scene of the day unfold. I would often find myself with a huge view, just staring at the space or distant forest or rock, sometimes the huge sky. The next moment standing in an aspen grove or lost in a maze of crags among giant boulders of fine rock, I let myself become lost. Amiee Dog was in heaven, gone wild to her hearts content.
We arrived back at the vehicle in early afternoon. Tired and satisfied with a great journey and many new found boulders. I ate my spare lunch as Amiee took a nap. And again with a few hours remaining in the day, the wind stopped dead. My mind had already checked out for the day and was set on the drive home. I tricked it by taking a left where I should have taken a right and went to the Winter Areas to look at a few things from my memory.
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.

As the sun set I sat and watched the distant plain. Coyotes yelped in the next rock pile over where again there are several good boulders to be climbed. The calm was so that a few miles down the road at the neighboring ranch a conversation took place as clear as if it were next to me. I could have talked along about the water tank as if I knew, but enjoyed the vastness instead. Amiee Dog was in the same place of mind and watched intently on the horizon. I did not get to escape days away from home, but found all that I need here at home. Probably more than I need all in the great solitude of Wyoming.


  1. An inspiring post Davin! Thanks for taking the time to write it. Nice photos too.

  2. Thanks David,

    Would love to have you down here sometime. The weather is fine and the boulders even better. You'll love it!

  3. I'd love to visit! I'll see what I can do.