Monday, January 23, 2017

Tucson Bouldering: Things to Consider

Here is the first of several posts I'm hoping to do about my recent trip to the States and the climbing around Tucson, AZ.  Hope you enjoy

Recently I had a great four weeks in the USA where the vast majority of my time was spent around Tucson in Southern Arizona.  I took my usual systematic approach to trying to see as much of the bouldering as possible, ticking the best problems along the way, and I feel I did pretty well during my short time.  It was a blast and the bouldering actually blew away my expectations and I'll venture to say this corner of Arizona should be a winter destination.  Seriously, there is so much good bouldering already established (and other climbing for that matter) and the locals have only scratched the surface.  There is tons of development to do and not just in the remote areas as several of the best problems I did were FAs in well established areas with easy access.  The climate, quality/quantity of climbing, and the convenience of having family in the area will likely make Tucson my new winter spot.  Good times.

Until I get around to going through all my photos/videos from the trip here are a few things to consider if you decide to take a bouldering trip to Tucson.

  1. Mt Lemmon and the Catalina Hwy.  Mt Lemmon technically refers to the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson but is it used more broadly by climbers to reference the area that holds the majority of the bouldering (and rope climbing).  The Catalina Hwy is what makes much of the climbing in this area possible as it winds up the mountain, gaining several thousand feet in the process and providing access to the bouldering on "Lemmon".
     Looking down on Tucson from Wilderness of Rocks up towards the top of Mt Lemmon
  2. Lots of bouldering but widely dispersed.  While the total amount of bouldering around Tucson is impressive, most of the individual areas are quite small and cater more to the cherry-picking hard-man than the high volume moderate climber.  The exception to this rule is Wilderness of Rocks which is an expansive area where you could post up for days.  Unfortunately W.o.R requires an hour plus approach and is mostly underdeveloped.
  3. Adjustable Climate.  Tucson is an ideal winter spot as you can expect to climb in a t-shirt in the dead of winter.  You also can "pick your conditions" to a degree as the climbing high up in the Catalinas is considerably cooler if things get too warm at the lower areas.  We were pretty lucky as the higher stuff (like Wilderness of Rocks) was climbable most days but in some years snow levels might limit climbing to the lower elevations.
    Only a 30ish minute drive separated our snowman and sandcastle
  4. Variety of climbing.  The bouldering around Tucson is actually quite varied as you can pull on steep pocketed volcanic, thrash your tips on granite, or slap some water-polished gneiss.  The rock on Mt Lemmon alone varies between areas so don't get discouraged if you visit one place and decide it's not for you.  In general I'd say Wilderness of Rocks offers some of the best stone if you don't count the water-polished stuff in the narrow canyons.  And of course there is heaps of rope climbing which is meant to be pretty good (if you're into that kind of thing).
  5. Potential.  Those that know me are aware that I like having the option to find new stuff and areas with potential have massive appeal to me.  The developed climbing around Tucson will keep most people entertained for a fair amount of time but the surface has only been scratched, especially if you are willing to hike.  Hopefully the locals are getting after it as I'm excite to see what they have found for my return next winter.
    This shot only shows a few of the boulders to be found at Cochise Stronghold, a little over 1 hour from Tucson.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dartmoor Bouldering: Four from the Moor

I'm gearing up for the annual trip to the States and I can't be more excited to see friends and family while climbing worthy rock.  The trip will be a bit different this year as it is "only" 4 weeks and we'll be based out of Tucson, Arizona.  Good times will be had and I'm psyched for some new rocks.

In the meantime here is a little video of 4 problems from different places on Dartmoor.  All are considered area classics but some are a bit more obscure and don't get much traffic (particularly Dark Devotion).  Hope you enjoy the video.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Little Cottonwood Canyon: Bad News and a Bouldering Video

I'll start off by apologizing for the prolonged absence from posting.  There are multiple reasons for the break and hopefully I'll get back into semi-regular posts.  If there is anyone out there that still reads this blog but wants more frequent "climbing porn" then I'd recommend following my Instagram, Facebook, and/or checking out Climbingpics (I post photos there for time to time).  Ok, now to an actual blog-post.

A couple weeks back a Salt Lake City climber discovered that several problems in Little Cottonwood Canyon had been vandalized.  Apparently someone went to several popular sectors and smashed/pried off some holds.  There were roughly 20 problems effected and while all of them still go (I'm told most are actually easier now) it's a real shame someone would do this.  Obviously the culprit had at least a basic understanding of climbing as they targeted classic problems with their blatantly malicious act.  You can read more about the vandalism at Rock and Ice.

Anyways, the bad new got me thinking out Little Cottonwood Canyon and I decided to finally throw together some footage from my brief time there last year.  This little video is from a brief solo session where I had a couple hours to try to do as many of the classics as I could.  It ended up being very productive as I was able to do every problem on my list and even had time to add one from the 5-Mile sector across the road from Riverside.  Doing this circuit is less impressive when you consider that I had previously done 5 of the 8 problems in the video but I was still pretty happy with myself.  It's also worth noting that of all the problems in the video only Butt Trumpet (from the 5-Mile sector) was vandalized as the perpetrators were apparently too lazy to walk further than 20 feet from the road.

Hope you enjoy the video

Little Cottonwood Canyon Bouldering: The Riverside Circuit from Walker Kearney on Vimeo.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Going Coastal: Tintagel Bouldering

Tintagel is primary known for the ruins of what is believed to be King Author's legendary castle, but if you're a climber there is another attraction that is worth a visit.  The bouldering at Tintagel is limited but it has what I consider to be the best single coastal boulder in the Southwest (as least the best I've seen).  For the most part I've been pretty unimpressed with much of the coastal bouldering but Tintagel did not disappoint as it offers a high concentration of independent lines and a beautiful setting.

This massive boulder is the highlight of Tintagel and provides most of the good climbs on a steep face.

Most of England's coastal bouldering is tidal.  That means that you have a window around low tide when you can climb and during large swells you might be totally hosed.  It also means that during the winter these areas are absolutely pummeled by winter storms that can so some serious rearranging.  This shot is from my first time at Tintagel last spring and if you look at the previous photo you'll notice a couple very large boulders missing just to the left of the monster I'm climbing.  The ocean is powerful and this time it was nice and made room for a couple sweet roof climbs but you never know what will happen next winter.  Do yourself a favor and do these awesome climbs now in case nature wants to rearrange.  

Here is Mikey doing Purple Haze, one of the main climbs on the boulder.  

Grant and Chris both fired the most sought after tick at Tintagel, Awol Apprentice.  A great line and great sustained movement takes you right up the center of the massive boulder.  This climb also used to be a few moves shorter but a couple years ago a large boulder was removed from underneath it and deposited under a different climb (which now is unclimbable).

While it's the straight ups that are the main draw there are plenty of linkup and variations as the boulder's features provide for plenty of alternative starts, exits and traverses.  Lots of options if you want to get a get a workout.  Mikey dialing in Awol in hopes of establishing the long traverse in from the left.

There are several other problems on different boulders with my favorite being Colorado Dreaming.  This rig requires a bit of thuggery and trickery but is well worth figuring out.  I'm told this problem didn't used to be so steep as the boulder shifted a couple years back.  Crazy stuff as this boulder is seriously massive.

When high tide ends your bouldering session you can mosey over to Tintagel's castle and see where King Author used to hang.  Pretty cool place.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ninja Warrior Sweden: Season 2

Last week they aired the final episode of the second season of Ninja Warrior Sverige (Sweden) and while no one finished André Sihms and David Johansson got the furthest, falling at the same spot on the ultimate cliffhanger.  Congrats to them and all my fellow competitors as it was a lot of fun.  
As for my performance, I did manage to be among the 25 competitors that made it to the finals but I consider anything short of finishing the whole course a disappointment.  Those that saw the final episode witnessed me punting on an "easy" obstacle and while I have plenty of excuses for my failure it simply comes down to a lack of preparation and execution.

I do admit that I was in worse shape than last year but the nice thing about being a climber is that my base fitness level would have been more than enough to complete every obstacle pretty easily if I didn't do anything stupid.  The real crux was more a matter of focus as I was there alone with Björke and wrangling a one year old doesn't really give you much time to concentrate (or sleep for that matter).  So it goes.  In season 1 I walked away feeling cheated and this year I left feeling like a big disappointment.  The plus side is that I'll be better prepared for next year and I'll certainly put in some time learning to use those little trampolines.

Here are the Youtube clips of my "semi-final" run and a very short "finals-stage 1"

You can catch a glimpse of Björke at the beginning and end of the clip.  I'd like to think that his crying was just his way of yelling support for his dad....

It would have payed to familiarize myself with those little trampolines.  I knew I had a bad hop from the get go and had to change trajectory mid air.  Unfortunately this forced me to grab the net low with straight arms which is not the way to do it.  I guess I was stressing over the time but I should have taken a couple moments to do it right.  Sucks to fail on something you've never had a problem with before.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dartmoor First Ascents: The Great White Slope

Last year I removed a moss carpet from a boulder in Lustleigh to reveal a massive sloper.  The feature alone made this rather short boulder suddenly very appealing and I added it straight on my to-do list.  The sloper ended up being worse than it looked and I needed to wait for cold temps but to be honest I wasn't expecting this problem to be that hard.  It ended up putting up a serious fight and is full on from beginning to end.  In fact, just getting establish proved difficult and I had one whole session where I was never even able to attempt the first slap.  I even put a rope on to try the upper moves and I can honestly say this is the shortest boulder I have ever done that for.

It took three more sessions and so much skin to crack this one and in the end I barely scraped up it.  I'd be curious to hear how it goes for other folks as maybe this one just played to my weaknesses.  But better get after it soon as I'm not how much longer we'll have favorable conditions.....

Here's a little video that only captures a small part of the struggle.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Five Tips for a Climbing in Fontainebleau

As anyone that has been to Font can tell you, it's a magical place and the best bouldering in the world (I stand behind that statement). I think this was my 10th trip to Font and while I'm far from fully versed on all-things-Font, I feel I've learned a thing or two over the years and thought I'd share a few tips for anyone planning a trip to the magical forest. So in no particular order here are my top 5 tips to optimize your trip to Font.

Bring an umbrella. The weather in Font can be notoriously bad and if your trip coincides with a rainy spell you'll want to utilize every weather window available. That means you'll be among the hoards of desperate climbers flocking to the rocks when the rain stops and subsequently running for cover when the showers return. A good umbrella and/or small tarp will be your new best friend as they will keep you dry during short showers or day ending rains. It can also be wise to use the tarp and fashion a little roof in anticipation of the rain and it can even be used to keep the top-out of your project from being saturate. It is worth noting that you can't count on hunkering under a roof as they can be overcrowded and substantial rains will have streams of water gradually encroaching on your cover until there is no more shelter.  It is no fun to pack wet gear into your car and even worse if you're camping with a crashpad doubling as your bed. Hopefully you'll have good weather but if you draw the short straw then do yourself a favor and get an umbrella.
It could be worse, at least they have an umbrella.

Learn how to poop in the woods. Don't you just love it when you are exploring around the boulders and encounter a minefield of human feces. Yeah, neither do I so please be considerate and learn how to poop in the woods. If you don't know let me break it down for you. Take a long walk far away from trafficked areas (not just behind the first boulder or tree) and find a suitable place to dig a sufficient sized hole. Ideally you wouldn't leave behind toilet paper by using what nature provides (moss, smooth sticks, rocks, etc) or packing it out but the bare minimum is to bury it with the poop. After you do your business someone should be able to walk by without even knowing what just transpired there. Seriously, why is this hard for so many people. The ground is not that hard and a stick can easily be used. I could go on ranting but I'll leave it by saying there is never an excuse for leaving your shit for someone to step in and your toilet paper to be blown to the wind. If you have to poop in the woods learn to do it properly and everyone will have a better time in Fontainebleau.

Don't go to Bas Cuvier on a weekend. It can be nice to bump into other climbers at the boulders but it can be a bit much when you have to take a number just to try a problem. Under normal conditions you can expect the popular areas ( Bas Cuvier, Sabot, Isatis, etc..) to be busy but during European holidays and weekends they can feel just like Disneyland as you'll spend most of your day waiting in lines to get on the more popular rides. Fortunately there are multitudes of less popular areas that are equally as good and offer the perfect place to spend your weekends. And if you simply must try one of the uber classics in the middle of Bas Cuvier go early in the morning and you'll have the place to yourself, or wait until the evening we things tend to die down.
Henrik trying an awesome problem that we stumbled upon while exploring the boulders around Rocher d'Avon one Saturday.  No crowds to deal with, just sweet sweet sandstone. 

Forget your tick-list. Font is the one place I've been that genuinely has loads of amazing problems across the entire grade spectrum and I pity those that are slaves to their predesignated tick-lists. With so many stunning problems the idea of spending several days trying to do a single one just seems crazy to me. Yes, you should seek out those classics that will challenge you but I've seen folks so hellbent on sending a V-blahblah project that their whole trip is spent climbing on a handful of problems. What makes Font special is the ability to run around and do so many great problems one after the other and if it's your first trip to Font you'd be cheating yourself by even going to the same area over and over. So dump the tick-list and try to visit as many of the more than 100 areas as you can. And if you really want to appreciate Font I highly recommend doing some curcuits. You'll do tons of great problems, see the whole area and become a better climber. 
Henrik and Lina learning the subtleties of climbing in Font.  Both these problems are on red circuits, awesome, and unlikely to stroke the ego of number-chasers.  

Drink wine and eat cheese. While you might be in Font to climb on rocks don't forget that you are in France and should take advantage of being a tourist. A day trip (or two?) to Paris is probably in order and there is no better way to start your day than picking up some fresh bread from your local boulangerie. Personally, my wine and cheese consumption goes through the roof but there are lots of ways to embrace your inner Frenchman/woman. Just don't take it too far because despite what your mom says you can't quite pull off the pencil mustache and beret. 

Now get out there and start planning you next trip.....