Filling in the Gaps

Over the last month I have been slowly developing more of the bouldering potential at Byron Glacier. Last year the pace of developing was frantic and sporadic due to the late discovery of the area and the limited time I had to devote to it. Each day I would explore new boulders and establish a half-dozen problems in the few hours after work and before nightfall; as a result of this pattern, most of the problems that I did were relatively easy (V1-V4) and many of the areas I was developing had a lot of obvious lines that I ignored. This year I have been filling in the holes of the areas and actually devoting time and energy to project harder problems.

On Friday, I spent a long day at work huddled in my windowless office, ignoring the divine weather and holding back a flood of pent up frustration. But at 3:20 I was out the door and driving south. Unfortunately this week I had to return my massive Metolius Colossus pad to REI due to a product defect that caused the rapid and complete deterioration of  the fabric, so I begged and then borrowed another pad from Todd. Strapping the pads together was a little more interesting than usual, but eventually I packaged together a solid cube of foam and started hiking, ignoring the “thrilling” comments from passing tourists.

I  headed to the Ninja Boulders, an area that already had several fantastic problems and warm-ups. I had previously looked at, but ultimately ignored the short, overhung face on one of the boulders, noting that there wasn’t really a line of holds, just a single jug hold about 3 feet away from the lip. It felt like a good day to dyno. I warmed up on established problems, and then did two new lines on the smaller boulder before setting up for the jump. I thought the move would only be about a V3 and for a taller person, it probably is. It felt much harder for me. Even with the jug start, I struggled to generate enough power to grab the good part of the lip above. I spent a lot of extra time brushing moss and searching for hidden footholds to use, but nothing materialized. Eventually I sacked up and made the move off of a low left foot and to snag the top of the problem for the FA of Chuck, The Norris V5.

The mosquitos started to bug me (ha) and unlike Hatchers Pass, the horrible things were more numerous, more vicious, and very persistent. I moved to the Tourist Boulder, another previously established boulder that had recently melted out of the snow field behind it. The cool, catabatic winds coming over the snow kept the mosquitos away and I was able to work on a project of mine from the previous year. The problem starts and ends with a mantle move that is easy to get into, but hard to complete. Despite having crimp features on the face I could not release my right hip from underneath the lip. Again, a taller person could probably reach a better hold and make the problem a fairly easy V4, but not for me. I tried many different variations of hand/ heel combos and the beta that finally worked was an obscure high heel hook with my right foot, moving my body away from the obvious holds on the face, but allowing my left foot to sneak its way up. The Hemantle is rated V6.

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I grabbed my pry bar and moved over to the bulging overhang next to me. Last year I had attempted to grab a crimp on the face only to have it explode and rip the my finger digit to shreds. With a soft pop, the entire flexing rail fell away to reveal an even better hold that showed no signs of breaking. I got excited and allowed myself to think that I could send the project that night… But after a half-hour of tries hanging from the newfound rail with my butt sagging beneath double heel hooks, I still had no idea how I should hit the lip and keep my body off of the rocks below. All of the frustration from the day melted away and so did my energy, the anger was replaced with a sense of calm satisfaction. The power in my fingers faded and so did the light; back in the parking lot I relished the mingled flavors of cold pizza and beer and the soft hum of mosquitos hovering in the night sky.