Monday, July 25, 2011

Saturday of Sends (well, at least for some)

Saturday morning a crew of five of us left the noise and smog of LA to try to send some stuff up at Black Mountain. "How were the temps?" you may ask. Well, they were pretty much horrible, except for in the shade where they were tolerable. It was not an optimal sending day, but that didn't slow down Itai Axelrad one bit. Our first stop was the Future Wall, a beautiful overhanging piece of perfect granite with a couple of lines ranging from V1ish to V9. 

Ike Silver warming up on the Future Wall

We didn't get to do much of a warm up before jumping right on "Hop Scotch," which I came close on last week. Brett Gottdener and Itai both sent after a few burns to refine the beta and learn to grab the miserable sloping edges before the throw just right. After watching them both send I came agonizingly close to sticking the throw, but as the temps just got warmer, I came to accept that I'd have to return another day for this classic.

Brett Gottdener sending Hop Scotch (v9)

Itai Axelrad  mid-throw on Hop Scotch

During the hottest part of the day we continued to chase shade and climb on moderates. You know, the kinds of things you don't need perfect friction on each crystal to send.

Brett Gottdener topping out a beautiful slab. 

If you look at my last post you'll see I did the likely FA of a moderate that I called v2/3 from a crouch/sit start last week. Well everyone agreed Saturday on two things, first that it's better as a stand start (starting one move in, with left on a crimp and right on a lower sidepull), and secondly that it's v3 from the stand. Good to get other opinions. This week, I also did the likely First Ascent of a line in the v4/5 range on the left side of the same boulder, pictured below. I say they are likely First Ascents because the boulder was super dirty, with holds covered in lichen and that kitty litter type of grainy choss that brushes off the outer layer of some granite before its been cleaned. If they aren't first ascents, so sue me, but they are fun little additions to the area. Because the face of the boulder is kind of shaped like the continent of Africa, we dubbed it the Africa Boulder and the lines on the left and right respectively "Black Sahara" and "Denial" (for the Nile, and because I was in denial of its difficulty).

Myself, about to grab the lip on Black Sahara (v4/5)

You can see the video here of the send of Black Sahara. Why was it the only climb we got video of on Saturday? Probably because it was the only line we KNEW was going to get sent right then, Although we missed getting footage of Itai's much more impressive crushing streak.

By this time it had cooled off sufficiently enough for Itai, Brett, and Jeff Blum to put some real effort into sending "Tour de France Sit Start," so we headed over there. With the same beta that Dan Mills and I worked out last week, Itai was able to send after just a few burns of refining the sequence. Brett and Jeff were both making impressive links and hopefully they can both send soon too!

Itai Axelrad sending Tour de France Sit Start (v10)
sequence shots put together from a few different attempts

From "Tour" we headed over to this other potential project that I had spotted last week. As you hike into the Tour de France area from the Boulder Basin camp ground, you hike under/past this pile of boulders that looks somewhat uninteresting, but facing away from "Tour," one amazing line juts out of the pile, a perfect overhanging prow with just enough features to climb it (we were pleasantly surprised.) The line starts sitting on an obvious xenolith jug, does a big move to a horizontal crack, establishes under the prow, and then with a heel toe cam, pulls off an absolutely horrendous credit card crimp made of bombproof patina to a miserable seem and then bumps to a sidepull jug. In other words, it's siiiiiiiiiiick. I must return for this line; it is simply amazing.

A visitor watches us clean the prow proj.

Brett Gottdener and Jeff Blum scrubbing the choss grains off the prow proj.

Brett trying the prow project

Jeff Blum grabs the credit card crimp, while Ike Silver zens out on top.

With the cooler temps of dusk, and the beta sorted, Itai was able to put this project to rest as well in a few tries! He's calling this line "Captain America," and it's at least v9, but it's very style specific (i.e. lock off on a non-hold). I seriously can't stress enough how bad the crux hold is. I would describe it as a small ear, the width of maybe two credit cards and sticking out from the wall about the same width. It helps to engage your thumb. Moving off of it is really about using the heal-toe to levitate up the wall.

Itai Axelrad sending Captain America

Unfortunately, after a night of campfire revelry (well not really), we woke up at 8 on Sunday morning to already miserable conditions. The lack of breeze and temps in the low 80s by 11:30 sent us packing. As much as we would have liked a second day of crushing, we didn't want to sit around and wait till 6 pm for the conditions to improve, so we busted back to LA. Hopefully temps will start to cool down soon, now that we're supposedly past the hottest time of the year; however, maybe it's time for a day trip to the higher elevations of the Tramway. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another Weekend at Black/Tour de France SDS

It was an amazing weekend at Black Mt, yet again. I left LA Friday afternoon and camped Friday and Saturday nights, allowing me to get in two perfect days of bouldering (well it was a little hot in the mid-day sun, but chasing shade actually provided the occasional chill). The sunset on Friday was gorgeous as always,

and the following morning I discovered that my campsite was surrounded by a field of these beautiful little purple wild flowers.

Saturday morning, Nohl Von Haeckel and I swapped attempts on Hop Scotch, which we both failed on, and then went up to try the sit start to Tour de France.

Video of me failing on Hop Scotch

Nohl about to attempt the crux throw on Hop Scotch

After Nohl had to take off, Dan Mills in the hills with the pills showed up. After refining the beta together, Dan sent, and I ended up having to wait until Sunday afternoon to do the same.

Dan's send

Before my Sunday attempts on Tour, while waiting for the wall to go far enough into the shade and cool off a little bit, I cleaned up and sent this nice moderate problem. Probably in the V2 or 3 range.

The crux hold on Tour de France

The crux sequence

It feels nice to finally send something! Now on to the rest of the classic hard problems of Black Mt. The psyche only continues to grow, now that I'm finally starting to feel fit. See you all out there!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tour de France!

NO, this post is not in reference to the epic bike race that just finished its 6th stage in Lisieux, France.

I'm talking about the amazing overhanging wall and boulder problem at Black Mountain.

Pic stolen form Alan Moore's blog and taken by someone long ago

Last Saturday (I know, I'm lagging the better part of a week for all of my updates lately) I headed out to this less-traveled part of the mountain with an excellent crew from the West LA gym. We headed up late, for the afternoon and evening session, and took our time warming up slowly before following the somewhat nondescript directions we had been given to the Tour de France and Future Walls. Having taken the wrong faint trail, we found ourselves first at the Future Wall, whose sloping rails were baking in the sun on the overhanging western face. It looked amazing though, and I look forward to getting to try its most obvious line, Hop Scotch (v9), at some point soon.

From here we headed up the hill to the east-facing Tour de France wall. Hiding in the shade, the diagonal rails and cracks were much more hospitable for hard bouldering. From what I gather, the original line on the wall is Tour de France, which starts standing (apparently people are referring to this stand start now as "Stage 1") and is considered V7. Four of us ran a send train on this puppy, after a few burns to figure out the beta, and it is pretty low in the grade for a 7 (like nowhere near as hard as Baby Face in Hueco), but I think that will stick.

After sending the stand I attempted the moves on the sit a few times, but I couldn't really figure out where it made the most sense to start or how. I think Alan's solution (click for video and context) seems logical, and I'll be trying it for sure next time we're up there. We also tried the amazing Raison d'Etre, on the left side of the wall, which we were starting without stacked pads (as seen in the vid) and with our left hand on an undercling/pinch lower on the wall. Both of these lines are absolute gems and I'd be really psyched to send them this season (or any!)
Unfortunately I forgot my camera last Saturday, so you'll have to wait for additional media. Alex Hoffman got lots of photos and even some video of the sendage, so I'll post that shit up as soon as it's available. (UPDATE: See below. All photos taken by Alex Hoffman)

Jeff Blum, mid-send on Tour de France (Stage 1)

Myself on the same

Jeff going for it on Raison d'Etre

Myself, mid footcut on Raison d'Etre

Always psyched!