29 June 2013

El Dakota

Legend of a lost pile of Dakota Sandstone has circulated among the bouldering community for some time now. Ever since the torch was passed from America's original boulderers on to the next generation, who have in turn passed the torch, Dakota Sandstone has held a special place in our psyche. It is what American bouldering was created on. We are products of our environment and our built dreams are produced from experiences in our environment. It is only natural that the bouldering forefathers of America would dream of a bouldering paradise built from Dakota Sandstone. Well, three years ago I felt that I may have discovered the place of lost Dakota. A beautiful but rugged hill held around a dozen blocks of various sizes. Some fine-grain and bullet hard, some the famous pebbled conglomerate. As is common for Dakota Sandstone overhangs are hard to come by. Thus for the modern boulderer, separated now by a few generations from those who love the stone, I wrote the place off as a major new area. A few dozen problems perhaps, some good ones for sure, but I never thought it would produce the massive lines of today. Scott Blunk visited the place with me and concluded the same, as well as confirming that I had indeed not found the legendary stash. It is still out there, a lost city of gold.
Access to the limited number of the blocks involves a very steep hill side and thick brush. This spring, I wanted to show some of the Laramie locals a place we might spend a week or two to buy some time and stay fit for the coming alpine bouldering season.With Josh Oxner, both of us fresh off a Wind River trip and feeling our mountain legs, we hiked a few hundred yards into very steep and thick forest, above the previous years finds of hill side Dakota blocks. Even without pads we barely pushed through the thick and largely dead fall forest. A knowledge that the hill side blocks had to of fallen from somewhere above is all that kept us pushing into the dark forest. Boulders grew in size and became more abundant. Snow remained in small drifts and ice clung under boulders. Then we stood on flat ground in a thick and cool forest among huge blocks of every shape. A talus of immense blocks was just ahead. I immediately recognized that I too had dreamed of this place. A place of huge boulders hidden in deep forest, covered in moss, hidden from the outside world. I had just never considered it was a place of Dakota Sandstone. Josh and I went frantic among the dream. We drove home in a daze of excitement, trying to figure now how we would spend our early summer in El Dakota. So much new rock, but would we have the time?
Immediately, along with Marla and Amiee Dog I returned and opened a trail the few hundred yards through the thick forest into the open talus. A trail to carry pads. A flurry of development ensued, Josh and Andrew from Montana cleaned and climbed a lot.
Josh and Andrew cleaning what would become Pocket Nest and Hot Damn, day one, El Dakota
I added a few lines on the best looking boulders and pushed ever deeper into the forest.
Alca a beautiful V6 prow and Bitter Root V5 hidden in the left shadow were my first contributions to El Dakota
Josh and Andrew returned to work and school, so I went alone for a week or two, cutting trail along a ridge of blocks. A new sector emerged, one of big lines and deep ice caves. It is a bit of a walk and one that passes a quarter mile of random boulders that will have their own lines one day. I passed all the rest to get to what is now the "mega-mega" project. Josh and Andrew reported it to me after a long bush whack. I had to find it, and a way to bring pads in after their excited claims of an amazing wall, despite what they called an absolutely horrendous hike. The rock in the area of the "mega-mega" is beautiful fine-grain sandstone, some of it showing a touch of font-like textures.
The "mega-mega" project
The way in is now an semi-easy stroll through what was a full contact forest of dead fall and talus. It took me two separate trips to break the trail and find the best route, but it also opened a large area of boulders for development. Shannon Joslin and Flannery Shay-Nemirow made their way to Wyoming to add lines at Neverland. In thick summer heat I convinced them to abandon Neverland and climb on the lesser quality Dakota. Honestly, I was getting a bit overwhelmed by the thick forest and trying to both find routes through it alone and clean new boulders. They were motivated to develop for three days and found several good lines in an area of amazing fine-grain stone. I was not sure what they would think of the place, being used to the finer stone of newer bouldering areas, but they vowed to return (and to Neverland of course). We could definitely use the help.
Flannery under the amazing fine-grain dihedral project her and Shannon found
With good reports coming from El Dakota, Dr. Thunder some how found a way to escape work and contribute some lines for a day. Knowing Bryan can work like crazy I took the opportunity to walk in with a small chain saw and remove the last of the major dead fall along the trail, as well as push to the far edge of the forest. I cut and shlepped logs while Bryan helped roll them and cut dead limbs with a machete. We even climbed a few new lines at the end of a hard day, men in the woods style. Hopefully Bryan returns.
Bryan working a beautiful pocketed wall of Dakota left of a good V5 Pinch 7500.
Bryan putting up Too Much Make Up V5ish, but font style V5ish, named after a woman he encounters while running heavy equipment near Douglas.
Even in the heat, evenings have been good. Not the blowing cold wind good of spring or fall, but good enough to continue climbing while most other areas are far too warm. Independence Day approaches and ice remains in some caves and deep holes among El Dakota. Eventually ice will melt and evening breeze will no longer carry the cool air among the boulders and forest. We'll have to move on to a new dream. Until then, I'm completely amazed by the place, by the technical and beautiful bouldering, and the deep forest of El Dakota.

1 comment:

  1. More excellent work from Davin and the crew! Always nice to find something good close to home, eh? I look forward to seeing this stuff.