Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Casa Diablo: The Mega-Boulder

Casa Diablo is certainly more than just a one-trick pony as there are multitudes of amazing problems scattered around.  That said, there is one particular boulder that stands out and has received more of my attention than any other in the area.  I've dubbed it the "Mega-Boulder" due to it's quality/size and, as I said before, it alone is worth a trip.

The steep face that I'm so enamored has yielded two world-class problems (yes, they would be classic anywhere in the world) and the 2 or 3 projects remaining on the boulder are worthy problems as well.  Here are a few pictures and commentary

The Mega-Boulder.  Tom is standing under Midnight Roses with the stunning arete to the right and the rope hanging down over a project we never got around to trying.  Far to the left and obscured by a tree is another project we brushed up that will be a nice addition.  

Noah laying eyes on the boulder for the first time.  The boulder is massive but since the top-out is low angle it makes for perfect bouldering. 

While Midnight Roses was the first problem we did, it was the arete that I originally took a shine to.  It's one of those lines that you know is doable but the difficulty is hard to assess and the fact that it is highball with a tiered landing means overcoming fear will also be a major obstacle.  Last winter's ground-up attempts proved terrifying but this year we cracked the beta on rope and then tried to dial in the crux sequence before going cordless.

Even though working the arete on rope eliminated a degree of uncertainty it was still unnerving to climb without a grip of pads.  Since neither Tom nor myself are famous enough to attract a posse to contribute pads Tom decided to set up his circus net (seen in the photo to the right).  That's right, Tom has a circus net for just such occasions and the fact he busted it out speaks to the quality of this problem as it is no easy task to set it up. In the end I think Tom would say it was worth it as the effort culminated with him safely on top of the Mega-Boulder.  I wasn't so fortunate and while I have lots of excuses for my failure I'm kicking myself for not taking full advantage of the cushy landing.  I can't remember what Tom called this one but it is awesome.

Midnight Roses was the first problem we establish but it didn't go down easy either.  We resorted to working this problem on rope (Lisa doing just that in the photo) and the beta took some refining before we put it all together.

Midnight Roses is actually fairly sustained but the first move proved to be the physical crux.  The "standard" beta involves a big right-hand move to a sloper but there is also alternative beta that better suites those of shorter stature.  Lisa and Noah demonstrate the different options.   

This problem definitely goes on my list of favorite first ascents* and it is an amazing addition to a region that is already renowned for its climbing.
*technically Tom did it first but we sent in rapid succession and the process certainly was a team effort. All depends on how you look at it

Another angle of Midnight Roses that helps you get the idea of how steep the boulder is at the start.  It ain't really over until you're standing on the holds above the lip.

One final photo of Tom on Midnight Roses.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Casa Diablo: Bishop's Untapped Granite Bouldering

I know it might be hard for some to understand but I've been over Bishop bouldering for a number of years now. Don't get me wrong, Bishop is great and this is a classic case of "it's not you, it's me". I've just spent too much time in Bishop and the last few years in have lacked psyche as I've been reduced to circuiting, seeking out obscurities and occasionally sending a "hard" problem.  Of course I always find myself coming back as the winter climbing options are pretty limited and most of the other spots (Hueco, JTree, Vegas, Moes, etc..) suffer the same fate as Bishop.  I do realize I'm spoiled but after 15 years of climbing I'm having a harder and harder time finding spots that provide a reasonable climate and get me excited.  Well last winter Bishop suddenly jumped back on my radar as I happened upon a place that makes me very excited, Casa Diablo.

Casa Diablo is not new or secret (not that I know of at least, or not anymore.....) and I've actually known about it's existence for roughly 6 years but never made the trip to check it out. I'd been meaning to go but the reports on the place weren't good and I'm generally only in Bishop for a week with the family so I didn't make it a priority. Another factor was that the amount of climbable rock around Bishop is staggering and I focused on other “new/secret” areas I caught wind of. At this point I feel I've seen the majority of Bishop's many unpublished satellite areas as I began to seek them out in earnest when my motivation started to wane but I never found a place that made Bishop shine again. All the new areas served as only minor distractions, providing a few days of motivation at most and some of them were so underwhelming that I never put on my shoes. Of course I enjoyed the process of searching but had started to give up hope that anything substantial was out there, until last year when I decided to check out a massive collection of granite that I hoped wasn't total choss.

I convinced my good friend Noah to join me for that first inspection of Casa Diablo and before even getting out of the car I knew we would find something worthy. From where we parked I could see rock with solid patina and rounded huecos and I simply did the math; I knew from studying satellite images that there were thousands of boulders and lets be conservative and say only 10% is good rock. Well, you're still looking at hundreds of quality boulders and with those numbers I knew that somewhere in that mountain of granite it would all come together to make some 3 and maybe even 4 star boulder problems. The crux of course would be finding them.

Long story short, I strapped my infant son to my chest and Noah and I spent roughly 6 hours hiking around.  We split up to optimize productivity and occasionally came back together when drawn in by a shriek of joy and a request to "come check this thing out".  We saw plenty of great things to climb on but it all culminated around the discovery of a dream boulder that was so good we new it would be the starting point of our development.  Since that first day I've spent roughly a week in Casa Diablo and every time I get more excited about the place.  Of course the fact that I live in Europe makes getting back to Casa Diablo difficult but it sure is nice having a reason to go back to Bishop.

Here are some pictures and I'll try to get around to posting some more information in the near future.

Casa Diablo.  I've spent several days hiking around and haven't come close to seeing everything.  Check out satellite images to help grasp how much there is in the area

Noah is a little camouflaged in this picture but if you find him it'll give you scale for this impressive looking boulder

I'll try to spare readers from too many pictures of boulders from that first day of hiking around but you get the idea.  We saw so many things it was hard to wrap our heads around it.  Clockwise from upper left 1) A cool roof with huecos and edges that proved too hard for us. 2) A highball with amazing hueco features. 3) The roof lacked enough features but the arete/prow is a top quality moderate. 4) A wall with bullet rock.

And then there was the Mega-Boulder.  When we saw this thing we new our search was over as this thing alone would make a return trip more than worth it.  More on this boulder in another post....

Nick on a worthy easy/moderate.  This problem may have been climbed on before and will be an area classic.

Prairie with a solid spot from Nick

Noah on a project.  This thing is a stone's throw from the parking which makes me think it may have been tried before but I suspect it hasn't been done.  We figured out all the moves but it wasn't easy.

I convinced Jay (spotting Prairie in the photo) to join us for a day last winter and we hiked to a new sector I had scoped to establish some moderates.  This wall was stellar as it offered top quality rock and some rare granite tufa features.  

Prairie unlocking the stemming sequence for the start of Old Pine.  

A tricky crack climb we established on our way out one day.

I've put 3 sessions into this project but came up empty handed.  It might have gone down if I had the discipline to actually rest but with so much to do it's hard to take a proper off-day instead of "only" developing moderates.  One of the many problems waiting until next time......

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Some Shots from the Road

I'm wrapping up four weeks in the States and it's safe to say the trip hasn't quite worked out as expected as a broken computer kept the blog silent and a broken van curbed movement and climbing.  So it goes.  I'll catch up with some retro-posting soon and in the meantime here are some shots from the road.

I drove through this little town in California where I'm kind of a big deal.  

Just south of Walker (the town, not me) on Hwy 395 is a lone boulder that offers a perfect pit-stop.  I stopped for a quick session and ended up getting sucked in to trying a project for 4 hours.  Fortunately my buddy Tom randomly drove by and stopped to join the fun

Tom on the awesome project that took a long time to figure our.  By the time we had all the beta we were too sauced to send but I'm certain Tom will fire it when he returns.  

The Tungsten City boulders is a rarely visited area outside Bishop I decided to checkout.  It had a nice little circuit and you can't beat the approach.  This was before my van started giving me trouble

Traveling without the family means dinner can be thrown together last minute.  Sometimes I don't want to put in much effort.

And sometimes I happen upon a sweet Mexican restaurant. 

Fellow van dwellers enjoying some spiced whine after a day of bouldering

The crew trying to stay warm

The Sierra Nevada mountains catching the first rays of sunlight as the moon descends.

Catching the moon.