Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Real Winter Bouldring

Some climbers choose Hueco Tanks, some pick Bishop, possibly Horse Pens 40 or somewhere around Arkansas for their winter destination of choice. The luckier US climbers save up for a trip to Catalunya, Spain or Fountainblou, France. And so, the travel begins... I was in Hueco Tanks for 23 days two years ago and there was one cloud in the sky that whole trip; I probably thought it was going to get cloudier and ended up taking a rest day. Spoiled with this sort of climbing, it's tough to come back to Northeast, where you can't predict whether you'll get 15 inches of snowfall, an inch of ice on the ground, or everything will just start melting because of Climate Change (yes, very politically correct). Either way, the budget this winter did not allow for another exotic trip to a dreamy land with blue skies and infinite rock structures. And so, Neil and I decided to experiment with the local winter bouldering...

Neil on the way to Boulder Natural

On January 5th, 2008 we went out to Blair Woods out in Pawtuckaway State Park. We "warmed up" in 30-degree weather by hiking to and cleaning one of the most artistic boulders in the Northeast, the Swirley boulder. Imagine a house-full of 30-inch snow on the floor, and you're shoveling it all from the top. Well, that's what we did. As silly as it was, it allowed for future climbing of and Neil's sending of Stand and Deliver (V11) and my progress on Child of the Storm (V13). Heading home to Neil meant watching a 50-inch screen TV at his apartment and to me - eating my mom's borsh. But that wasn't the end of our snowy trip.

Neil on Vintage (V4)

Blair parking is located about 1/2 mile down an unplowed dirtroad (covered with snow) on a fairly large parking lot (also covered with snow). My dad's old Subaru Forester made it fine downhill. Leaving the car at the parking lot left me feeling it would be tought to get out. And it was. The car got stuck 20 feet out our parking spot. And, here we were, two engineers trying to figure out how the hell we should pull the car out an icy hole we created. We tried pushing and even pulling after shoveling the snow from underneath the car, but nothing seemed to work. And so, we gave up on using brute force and decided to set up a pulley system with the always-in-the-truck Mammut ropes. The nearest tree was just about a rope-length away and so we used both ropes (what are the chances). Trying to recall what we did the last few years of high school and as freshmen at UNH, the physics classes just weren't coming back. What's a pulley system, anyway?

Me on Vintage (V4), more snow

But we made it, with 3 or 4 carabiners and a gri-gri, we set up a pulley system. It created just enough tension in the rope to help us push the Subaru out of the holes. Several more minutes of pushing the car up or down the slope yielded some yards and we got out. Lesson learned: New England bouldering in winter requires either a big 4-Runner or some extra hiking.

Neil getting on Halcyon (V11)

Surprisingly, we had some successful 20-degree days (gloves and extra pairs of socks recommended) after the major digging-the-car-out epic. Hiking and bouldering in 20-degree weather actually amounted to some good climbing on fairly dry overhanging rock and we are now addicted to this weather. It's good! - for anyone out there sitting watching football on their a$$ or setting another red problem in their home gym.

Me on project left on Halcyon

One last thing we haven't tested was climbing DURING the snow. And so, on January 27th, after about 6 inches already precipitated, we got out to Pawtuckaway. Boulder Natural was prime, with its overhanging lines completely dry besides the topouts! And we sessioned... Vintage multiple times, followed by Neil making progress on Justin Bourque's Halcyon (V11) and me trying a new project just left of Halcyon that goes into it at the end. The pictures are from our latest trip. Enjoy, and remember that real winter bouldering is here in New England and we'll be waiting for people to join us, even when the temps hit below 20s.