The Monolith Circuit: A First-Timers POV

I keep writing about the weather. I know the subject is usually reserved as a conversation topic for elderly men or as a filler in the awkward silence when it is usually better to say nothing at all.  Yet, as a climber in a region with a minimal window of opportune weather, I think about what the sky is doing a lot. And so I write about the weather a lot. I’ll keep it short.

If one were to wake me up in the morning, via phone call, one could only expect my incoherent self to mumble a half-intelligent something in response. “David, it’s beautiful outside. Do you want to go for a hike or something?”  I tried to say that I would call back, but it sounded more like a series of disconnected grunts. I hung up and cracked an eyelid to the light streaming through my window expecting to see a dull mat of grey cumulus.  “Wow”. Azure blue. Forty minutes later I was on my way to pick up scones and coffee before heading out to Hatchers to meet Todd, Tanya, and Sue. I called my friend back, “Thanks for waking me up, but I’m going climbing. You understand this is what I do, right?” He did.

The guilt melted away as the four of us hiked toward the monolith, and the boulders I had viewed many times before, but had never been to. Our first stop in the circuit was the Zoolander Boulder, a large boulder at the base of the trail with well established problems, most of them superb. The slab face on the boulder is tall and split with large flake a seams creating perfect, classic warm-up problems that everyone ran up. On the adjacent vertical face, I had the pleasure of doing Ferrari V2, La Tigre V4, and Magnum V7, three great problems that had me stoked for the rest of the day. Around this time, Will and Drew showed up, completing our cadre and we played around with the lower, harder starts to the problems. Tanya and Sue spent a lot of time working on Magnum, with Tanya making progress all the way to the crux move, a long semi-static reach to the good crimp rail. It was not to be, but with her determination and perfectly dialed beta, she will probably send it on the  next trip out.

Tanya topping out on Ferrari V2

Tanya topping out on Ferrari V2

Sharp crimps on the Highlander Boulder

Sharp crimps on the Highlander Boulder

Eventually, we all wandered up to the Highlander Boulder, appropriately named for its position at the top of the monolith over looking the rest of the valley. The holds on the short, powerful problems were extremely sharp and while giving my fingers a break, my gaze would shift back to the valley below and blue sky above. So much rock and such great weather. A steady wind blew as broken clouds drifted above us creating an occasional chill, but in the returning sun the intense heat coupled with cool wind created a very pleasant sensation. I took a short nap, Will and Drew one-uped each other, and Todd scrambled around documenting the glorious day.

View from the top of the Monolith

View from the top of the Monolith

As we hiked to our last destination, The Hulk, Todd  showed us another boulder that was developed. We were all shocked and angered to find that someone had tagged the rock with spray paint, the same shitless kid who sprayed the front of the monolith too. As climbers we have chosen to appreciate the beauty of the world around us by interacting with it instead of degrading it. We choose to be a part of it, instead of “mastering” it. Unfortunately there are those people, even amid the incredible setting of Hatchers Pass, who exalt themselves by destroying something beautiful. If anyone ever sees a person in the act of spray painting at Hatchers, please bash them in the head (figure of speech “cough, cough, wink, wink”) with a piece of the same granite they befoul. Call it karma. The graffiti left a bad taste in the back of our mouths, but it showed signs that it might fade with enough brushing and rain. I’ve never thought of lichen as being benefit for climbers, but in this case it may help to remove the lettering, “John 2012 A”. We moved on.

Graffiti

Graffiti

Behind the monolith there was more granite than I had previously imagined, and I stared in amazement at the fields of talus cascading down the walls of the valley. I left everyone to go explore and after a short hike I returned bearing a piece of handrail and a few iron bars, relics of mining history from the past century. I boasted about my rusty pipe and then had a few goes on “The Hulk”, but I new I was already done for the day. So were Tanya and Sue and after working problems on some nearby boulders, they departed on a nature walk back to the cars (a.k.a. went to drink all the beer at the cars). Drew was bleeding from his hands and ankles (possibly elsewhere there was so much blood) and had to give up at last. We left Todd, to explore more of  the talus, while he continued to throw himself at the project. In the end, it remained undaunted and Todd was not able to get set in the thin seam beyond the impossibly small crimp and the unbelievably minimal heel hook. Although rare, it is cool to see the, “The Ancient One,” himself actually struggle and fail on something every once and a while, showing the rest of us that there is a project for everyone at Hatchers and conveying the the fact that bouldering is about finding problems (or projects) that suit each individual. It is even more inspiring to see such a hard problem on such an incredible piece of rock: tall, proud, and awfully perty to look at. As the sun slipped behind the mountains, we all packed up and shared beer and chocolate at the cars; and later, pizza and more beer back in town. Perfect.

Project Hulk

Project Hulk