Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shaddow Ayala, new highball at Happy Boulders

The Happy Boulders canyon in Bishop's Volcanic Tableland is less famed as a highballing destination than the nearby Buttermilk Country, but there are some great highballs to be done here of course. One of these is the classic and oddly named I Am Leaving for Constantinople Tonight (a v0 on the east rim). To the left of this line is a tall wall that now sports a new highball, Stoney Pony, recently completed by Shaddow Ayala at around v3 or v4.

Happy Boulders first ascents part 2 of 4 from One Man One Dog Pictures on Vimeo.

Says Shaddow: "The wall the the left of 'I am Leaving for Constantinople Tonight' has always caught my eye. 'Stoney Pony' is a new 30ft. highball with solid rock quality, even though the rock surrounding the line is total choss. After working out an obvious start at the base of the wall, I hung a rope over the line to check out the top moves. The landing is less than ideal and the steep nature of the line makes things very committing even though the moves are reasonably moderate (v3 to v4). A long move high off the deck is sure to grab your attention. Bring lots of pads, spotters, and your highball head."

See the guidebook, 2nd ed page 149.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ian Cotter-Brown, Scare Tactics (v6 highball)

Ian Cotter-Brown has added a sweet-looking new line to the Lower Smoking Boulder (2nd edition page 286). This is the boulder just below the Drifter Boulder with the Croft Problem and the Cosmonaut. There is an obvious shallow ramp on the boulder's south side that trends up and right. Ian took a line that goes straight up crossing this ramp, naming it Scare Tactics. It begins with a v6-ish vertical section before crossing the ramp to a steepening headwall  (photo below).

Above: Ian Cottter-Brown beginning the dicey section of Scare Tactics. Photo: Shaddow Ayala

The headpoint crux comes at this upper section with some delicate and very committing moves on slopey holds. The ramp below makes this extra-intimidating. Ian took a rope to rappel down the line and clean it up, but says to take care. "The upper part feels dramatic and exposed," Ian told me.

There's a line in the guidebook listed at v2 on this face. I can't remember doing it, but it might have begun on the left and followed the ramp to this upper crux or past it ...?

Thanks to Shaddow for the image.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Variation to He Got Game

There's a good variation people are doing on the Therapy Roof boulder to He Got Game (2nd edition page 116). You climb out the roof starting as for He Got Game, then instead of climbing directly up the wall using a shallow glassy pocket, you trend rightward and around the lip using holds below and right of that pocket. It's basically a right version to He Got Game and seems to check in at around v11 according to reports. Here are some images of Ian Cotter-Brown doing this variation:

Get the decent pocket plus key foot out right

Get ready for the swing
 Hold the swing

The problem needs some pads and spotter due to the rocky landing. Thanks to Ian/Rock Warrior Films for the info and images. Anyone else done this? Any other suggestions for rating/name? Thanks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ethan Pringle, Mordecai (v12?), Lounge Lizards, Mandala Sit

It is good to have Ethan Pringle back in Bishop. He's climbed here for a few days so far this year and has already made some impressive ascents, one of the most notable being his ascent of Mordecai (v12?) on the "Drifter" or "Smoking" Boulder. The problem is on the opposite side of the boulder from High Plains Drifter and has been something of a mystery ever since Shawn Diamond reported his ascent (at the end of 2009).

Above: Video capture from the ascent from Rock Warrior Films

After a rappel inspection to check out the highball finish, Ethan began the problem with a jump from the ground and climbed through the crux (around mid-height) in a few tries and immediately went to the top. On the send, he found the last moves harder than expected and, in his words, "definitely frightening." He had around 10 pads and a couple of spotters below. The picture shows just how high and scary this line is with a large boulder lurking dangerously behind the topout.

Ethan climbed over the lip by moving left past some sloping dishes/runnels as this looked to be the easier option to him (a right finish was reported by Shawn). The crux sequence was a massive lock-off pushing down a left hand crimp to the waist and bumping the right to a positive "rail" up high.

Ethan's tick-list includes the second ascent of The Beautiful and Damned as well as Evilution (second ascent) and Evilution Direct, Flight of the Bumblebee, and of course he also started the trend with his one-shoe ascent of The Spectre, (recently emulated by Canadian Terry Paholek).

Also of note is Ethan's repeat of Lounge Lizards Direct at about v12 after the recent break, and his long-awaited ascent of The Mandala Sit which he had long previously come extremely close to doing, but sadly fell from and broke his foot in Jan 2008. Note that Ethan actually pioneered the tall-person beta for this problem (going up then spanning across right into the undercling) and yet he had to wait nearly four years to check it off himself (not only due to his foot injury but also a shoulder injury he suffered a while later)!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lounge Lizards Broken Hold

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man – Heraclitus 544-483 BC.

Wow! Now, I could be wrong, but did Heraclitus go bouldering in Bishop or what? Was it through his experience pulling on the ever-changing holds of our beloved boulders that he came upon that unfathomable idea? It seems likely.

I apologize for the man-centric aspect to the quote, so please simply exchange the word man for woman where you feel it appropriate. It comes to the same thing.

I walked up to the Druid Stones to check on the classic problem Lounge Lizards (v11, guide 2nd ed. page 398) and sure enough, as suggested in an email from Will Fraker (thanks for the email Will!) the big hold in the lower middle of the wall was gone—well most of it. This is the key hold that binds the whole problem together. Most people would get both hands on this and bust a big move up and right to a flat edge. I would then even put my heel on it to pull up left into the finish. Looks like the problem will be harder now. Part of the hold remains, it is a relatively small crimp, but certainly good enough to make the line possible, and for the direct version perhaps not change it too dramatically. But I didn’t get on it. I just wanted to see.

Conditions are perfect up at the Druids and the line--a beauty still--is now awaiting a re-ascent.

Similar things have happened on other lines around Bishop, sometimes leaving problems that make everyone try just that little bit harder. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the world is in flux and there is nothing that is permanent except change. Are any problems the same problems that they used to be? Does it even matter when, as Heraclitus so wisely points out, you, after all, are not the same man?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Iron Man, Rubber Man?

The Iron Man Traverse was one of the first problems I worked for up at the Buttermilks, and it was a landmark in my bouldering as I’m sure it has been for many others. Beginning at a wide, flat rail, the climber moves right, following the rail as it thins down to fingertips. Nearing the end, as the climber tires, the rail peters to nothing, forcing a withering slap to a sloping lip before a tricky mantel onto the summit.

Above: The Iron Man Traverse, Buttermilks, image by Dan Brayack, Brayack Media.

This compelling problem, in the middle of the main area at The Buttermilks must be one of the most often-tried problems of its grade anywhere in the world. So what is the story behind this line? Getting the ball rolling by climbing and naming this popular classic was our very own climbing-shoe re-sole master Tony Puppo of The Rubber Room in Bishop.

Tony grew up in Santa Barbara, but in 1976, after attending college in Long Beach, he moved to Bishop to be nearer the mountains, nearer to Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. He spent his time working various jobs and finding time to climb.

Tony remembers few specifics of bouldering back in the late 1970s, but even then The Buttermilk or “Peabody” Boulders as they were known was a regular hangout where he and his climbing friends practiced a little bouldering to get in shape for their bigger projects elsewhere. Bouldering was barely considered real climbing, and the easy way up was the name of the game on many of the giant blocks. “Traverses were not considered a big deal,” says Tony. In addition, he adds, “It was thought of as a little pretentious to put a name on things you were doing there.”

Nevertheless, Tony did name a couple of his boulder problems including one fun problem for which you begin by crawling into the large hueco at the base of the rock—really a lie-down start! Tony was clearly a man ahead of his time.

But things were changing fast in the climbing world. Tony remembers a moment of inspiration when he saw a magazine cover showing John Long climbing one of John Gill’s testpieces at Pueblo, Colorado. It was January 1978, long before the internet: Climbing magazine was one of the only places to read about climbing; it cost a buck-fifty, and on the cover was this superhero in running shorts pumped up like a muscle-mag stud burling across this mythical masterpiece of bouldering esoterica, The Ripper Traverse.

Long’s article (Pumping Sandstone) validated Tony’s interest in that horizontal rail up at the ‘Milks, clearly marking it as a worthy objective and he set out to climb it. Later that year, after numerous visits, he finally achieved his goal. Pondering for a while over a name for this singular line, Tony called to mind that inspirational photograph of Long, arms spread on The Ripper, and named it The Iron Man Traverse. The problem was near perfect, and the name stuck.

Needless to say the Iron Man immediately became a must-try testpiece for locals and visitors alike. Meanwhile, some years later, Tony moved on to manage the resoling business at Wheeler and Wilson’s, later Wilson’s Eastside Sports. He astutely hired his wife-to-be, Nan, as a cobbler—you’ve got to wonder how that interview went! Then, in 1999, a few years later, James Wilson made an agreement with Nan and Tony Puppo to split the resoling operation from the retail store and together they put the belt-sanders, work benches, and shoe presses onto dollies and rolled them over the pedestrian crossing across Main Street, through the parking lot, and in through the front door of their new business: The Rubber Room.

It is an innocuous little place facing the mountains just south of Joseph’s “Bi-rite” Market, but during peak season 300-plus climbing shoes a month will pass through the building. Check out the antique 1940s boot-stitching machine handed down through generations from a cobbler known only as “Tennessee.” Tony himself has spent over 30 years resoling shoes, living a life surrounded by sticky rubber as he and Nan built the business into one of the premier resoling operations in the country. All I can say is it’s a good thing Tony named that amazing problem up at the ‘Milks before he took up the business: The Rubber Man Traverse just wouldn’t have the same ring to it.

 Above three images: Tony Puppo at work at The Rubber Room, Bishop.