Saturday, December 31, 2011

Austrians in Highball Paradise

Katharina Saurwein of Austria, and former overall lead World Cup champion of 2008 Jorg Verhoeven from the Netherlands (both now living in Innsbruck, Austria), have been out in Bishop since around December 12 and have already completed some impressive ascents. Of particular note was Katha's ascent of This Side of Paradise (v10), the mammoth highball prow at the Bardini Boulders, and Jorg's ascent of Ambrosia at the Peabodies.

I met these guys out in Zillertal, Austria a few years back when Lisa Rands presented a video by Sender Films in which she climbs This Side of Paradise. It was the incredible beauty of the line that really drew Katha's attention, and she made it her mission to give it a try. Unfortunately, after arriving in Bishop about a year ago (shortly before Christmas), heavy snow reduced access across the Buttemilk Country and their highballing plans were put on hold. Undaunted, they returned this time and things went a lot better.

After making the moves on a top rope, Katha went for the ascent and topped out to become only the second woman to do the line. On one try, she took a fall from just below the crux and said her legs were still sore four days later. No surprise, as she only had two pads beneath her!

Katha has also pulled off ascents of Golden Shower (v10 highball at the Pollen Grains), and Xavier's Roof (v11), among others. As for Jorg, he claims not to be feeling so great and spending his time shuffling their two foam mats about while Katha climbs. Even so, he did drag the pads over to Ambrosia to check that one off. Hey, when you only have a pair of pads to use in Bishop, you have to be thankful for such forty-five-foot-tall lines. As Jorg matter-of-factly explains, "The lower part to the hueco you can do with two pads and at the top you can't fall."

It should be noted however, that after renowned soloist Alex Honnold (second ascent) told Jorg it, "probably wouldn't be a good idea," Jorg decided against a ground-up approach and ran a TR on the line first.

"Scary, scary scary," is German for something I guess, and you can read more (all in that language) at Katha's website.  Also, for comments in English, and for some sweet photos, please check out Jorg's blog.

Meanwhile, here's a little vid:

Katha Saurwein and Jorg Verhoeven Highballing in Bishop. 'Ambrosia' V11, 'This side of Paradise' V10 etc from katharina saurwein on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Alex Biale, Rastaman Vibration

This news has been covered elsewhere I know, but I want to give props to Alex Biale for his ascent of Rastaman Vibration (v12) on the Grandpa Peabody on December 15. It is interesting to note that, although this line was first climbed by Jared Roth back in 2002, it had never before been repeated!

Indeed, Rastaman Vibration begins with one of the hardest moves at the 'Milks, a big move from a miserable pinch to gain a tiny right-hand crimp, feet swinging. Most people now know this move from images or video of Paul Robinson's sit-start to the line, Lucid Dreaming (v15/16?). However, not even Paul climbed Rastaman Vibration before completing the sit. After sticking that super-low percentage start, the upper section heads up the wall and super-highball slab (vibration territory) with dicey low-angle smearing and sloping grainy palm-moves twenty feet up. If you were aiming for the sit, would you really want to do that part twice?

There were probably less than half a dozen people who ever seriously considered a repeat, as the opening crux was so hard that almost no-one could do it and the handful of elite that did stick the move didn't feel like completing the line! Even so, we must thank Jared for his Rasta vision: Though proving one of the least popular lines in the Buttermilks, Rastaman Vibration nevertheless pushed bouldering to a new level and was a significant step toward the ultimate challenge that followed.

Breakage at Ice Caves

One of the key holds for many of the climbs on the roof of the Beef Cave in the Ice Caves at the Sad Boulders has broken. The break, which happened at the end of November, was of the good finger-hold that was at the right end of the rail that Beautiful Gecko follows, a hold that also was important for lines Aquatic Hitchhiker, Feels Like a Barnacle, In the Aquarium and Windchill. While all these lines will be harder now, this break will probably have the most impact on Beautiful Gecko. Anyone who has repeated any of these lines since the break please post a comment and let us know what you think! Thanks!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sonnie Trotter, Luminance and Ambrosia, Alex Honnold Luminance and Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

The handsome Canadian Sonnie Trotter, had a good past couple days of climbing in the Buttermilks. Yesterday he did Ambrosia (V11) the 45 foot Kevin Jorgeson highball/free solo on the west face of Grandpa Peabody boulder. Sonnie, as with all the others to have climbed the line used a different start: Sonnie's start is a mixture of Isaac Calderio's (3rd ascent of the line) and the original beta. Sonnie said although feeling a bit shaky at the hueco, 25 feet up, said the the upper half felt better than it had on his previous top rope rehearsals.

Earlier in the week Sonnie and Alex Honnold went and ticked off Luminance (V10?). The relatively short problem (10 moves--short by 'milks highball standards anyway) is not to be taking lightly due to its bad landing 20+ feet below. After doing a lap or two on the line they both agreed Luminance felt a little easier than previously thought, Alex (though not to be taking too seriously about his grades) said it felt more like V8! Either way, nice work guys!

Alex, who is spending the winter in the Bishop area did what is likely the 3rd or 4th ascent of Sonnie Trotter's line Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (V8 or 9) on the south face of the Golden Boulder. The line, which the name implies, starts about 12 feet up from a shoulder stand and climbs about another 12 feet of reportedly great climbing. There is a potential ground start to the problem (which has been attempted with no success) that will probably check in around V13 or harder and will be one of the last great high, hard lines in the 'milks... Or will it..?

Dan Beall climbing well in the 'milks

Dan Beall has just done what is likely the 3rd ascent of the newest hard link up on the Grandma Peabody boulder, Direct North (V14). The line climbs Direction (V13) to a marginal rest into the tall and insecure Magnetic North (V8 or 9). Below is a link to a clip of Dan falling off the last move on his last try before the send. A week or so prior to his Direct North ascent Dan dispatched, as Zlu Haller says "best line in the world?'', Evilution Direct (V11). Congrats Dan and keep on crushing

Here's a quick vid of one of the attempts: