Sunday, January 15, 2012

Alex Honnold, Too Big to Flail

"I was shaking a bit up there. It's f***ing scary!" said Alex Honnold after completing his hard new line on the Luminance Block. This line takes on the sheer face right of The Golden Rule and involves some thin v9 face climbing at about 20 feet up, followed by the most airy hard moves at the Buttermilks to gain the top of the boulder--which, in this case, was about 50 feet above one of the biggest stacks of crashpads ever compiled. Friends and acquaintances alike lent pads to or hiked pads up for Alex to fill a dangerous pit between boulders at the base of this spectacular glassy wall.

Alex warming up with a spin on the lower section

As you can see, the line is truly monumental! It is fairly low angle, an off-vertical wall, and has some of the sweetest rock in the area, water-and wind-polished with glassy crimps and some delicate, balancy climbing. With the moves up high being complex and feet-intensive, this is likely the most serious proposition in the Buttermilks. It was clear that this was a major challenge even for Alex and he was super-psyched with the ascent that was made possible by the use of 34 pads! Good luck on the second!

Alex going for the send

Alex Honnold high and focused during the ascent of Too Big to Flail

It must be noted that Alex did work this line on a top-rope before going for the solo. After Alex completed this line, which he named Too Big to Flail, in a reference to the "too big to fail" banking fiasco of a few years back, he went on to add (in similar style) an easier climb just to the left, effectively a direct into the top of The Golden Rule:

 Above: Alex "straightening the rule" with Josh Lowell from the Reel Rock Film tour capturing the action.

The guys from The Reel Rock Film Tour, Josh and Pete were both there filming this for a major segment on Alex for their next show. They said they'd have a short clip to post up. See 3rd comment below.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Alex Honnold tops out Beefy Gecko and Aquatic Hitchhiker

The problems in the Beef Cave at the Sad Boulders are a lot of fun, but until now, only a few of them had been "topped out." Though some of the lines move left and out to daylight, other problems like Windchill (v9), Feel Like a Barnacle (v7), Beefy Gecko (v10/11) and Aquatic Hitchhiker (v10) while having great moves, end at a good jug at the upper right side of the roof. This jug is the starting point for Jeff Sillcox's visionary and scary addition from March 2009, Light at the End of the Tunnel (v8). To link any of the shorter lines into this latter topout would add considerable spice and complete the problems in the traditional way--putting the climber on top of the boulder.

Alex Honnold who is in Bishop for a couple of months, completed the hardest of these link-ups with Aquatic Hitchhiker and Beefy Gecko, to produce two outstanding problems that he named The Chunnel  and Beef at the End of the Tunnel, both at about the same grade as the originals. The upper section made use of a flexy flake above a pit that put most people off the idea of going for the send. However after stuffing a trio of pads into the rocky gap below and another across the top, he went for top section and broke the flake, taking what turned out, fortunately, to be an uneventful fall. Later after cleaning the upper section, he made the ascents of the two new lines

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alex Johnson, Golden Age (2nd?) and More

Alex Johnson is back in Bishop for a while and loving the bouldering here as much as ever. On this trip she has taken things to a new height by getting off the deck on some of the area's taller problems. It impresses to hear of her ascents of Mesothelioma (v7), Golden Shower (v10) and The Ninth (v6), all at The Pollen Grains (a.k.a. Lydija Boulders) in a day.

But, I was most pleased to hear she had gone out and repeated Golden Age (v8?) out at Dale's Camp. "I thought there was just Xavier's Roof. I didn't realize there were so many great lines there," she said of the area. Perhaps inspired by the three-star rating I gave the problem Golden Age she actually took the trouble to try to figure out where it went. I did this line a couple of years ago and was truly amazed to be making FAs of such quality in the area. Obviously I gave the line three stars, as that's just a rule for first ascents by guidebook writers.

The route to the right, In The Bank (v5) is another one that is well worth the trip for highball aficionados! See this earlier blog post which should give a pretty clear idea of where these lines go. Both of them begin on some sharp and granular rock, but quickly progress into some really beautiful glassy patina.

 Alex on the crux sequence at the start of Golden Age. Photo: Sasha Turrentine.

When I did the problem, it really did seem like we had been experiencing the golden age of Bishop Bouldering, with a slew of amazing highballs getting done all across the Buttermilks. However, I have not heard of anyone else repeating this striking line and Alex may well have made the second ascent! She seemed to think it was pretty hard and certainly well worth doing. Just make sure to climb directly up the blunt arete at the start with some harsh pulls on some sharpish rock, and don't come into it from the crusty holds on the right.