Nalle Hukkataival’s U.S. bouldering tour
[Power of Landjager (V11), East Mountain, Hueco Tanks, TX. photo: www.gas-photo.net]
My 2-month roadtrip in the States has come to an end. We toured a bunch of bouldering areas, some that I've visited before and some that we new to me. I flew to Denver and the next morning we went climbing in RMNP despite being jetlagged. Normally the season in the park would be already over in November, but lucky for us this winter has been unusually warm and we got to try a new project at Nicky's.
Next day's mission was to Poudre Canyon. The area is at a pretty high altitude and when we got there it was snowing. I wanted to try Circadian Rhythm (V13), but when we got to the boulders the problem had melting layers of snow and ice on the lip and it was snowing harder each moment. After a desperate effort to warm up, I cleaned the top the best I could while other climbers walked past laughing at my efforts of getting it dry. Pretty quickly I got the all moves down, apart from the icy mantle. Having just flown in from sea level, I had some problems adjusting to the altitude and every try I felt like I ran out of oxygen. When I finally stuck the crux dyno to the wet lip, I almost blacked out. After gathering myself I managed to pull off the mantle through ice and snow and topped out the problem! Could have been less epic but at least I'll remember this problems now.
[Cleaning snow and ice off the top of Circadian Rhythm (V13)]
Time to go climb on the amazing black sandstone of Joe's Valley where our goal was mainly to try projects. We worked on some really, really hard projects. Afters days on them it turned out most of the lines we tried were probably around V18 and one of the only projects that I was actually close to climbing broke—not once but twice—making it unclimbable.
Still, I managed to make some quality first ascents on at a little more modest grades. One of my best FA's was Sandstorm. It's a V9ish highball and about 20 moves long situated above the Right Sign area. Cleaning and building a landing for this was a ton of work, but it was definitely worth it as it is one of the most fun problems I've climbed in Joe's. Big moves on good holds the whole way up. Down Jacket is another V9ish problem I put up to the right of Low Tide. Fun little problem. Another really good FA was Life of Fritz (a.k.a. Nothing You Can Do About It), a V11 in New Joe's. It's compression on a steep prow leading up to a techy slab that still needs cleaning. I also put up a dyno at the Battletoads area that I named Camouflage and it goes at around V10.
[First ascent of Sandstorm (V9)]
I did repeat some problems, too. I climbed the classic Black Lung (V13) on my 2nd try this trip. I had quickly tried it in scorching hot conditions last summer, but barely managed to pull on. On this problem conditions make all the difference. With colder weather I went from not being able to get on the wall to climbing the problem twice in a row fairly easily! I also did Blackout second try (which is around the same grade as Black Lung), flashed Gentleman's Project (V11) and climbed Monarch after snapping off some holds because it hadn't been cleaned properly.
[First ascent of Life of Fritz (V11)]
I'll have to return a lot stronger for some of the projects. Joe's seems to be the mecca of the very, very hard projects!
Next we were headed to Hueco. On the way trough Utah we missed our turn and had to take an alternative route. Ian, who was driving, saw big boulders by the side of the road and stopped the car. It was pitch dark, but Ian quickly figured out that we were at a bouldering area called Big Bend, so we got our shoes and did a night session. Me and Ian both climbed the classic Chaos and a heinous and techy highball arete that I later heard is a V11 and only has a handful of ascents! I also climbed the best lowball boulder problem in the world! It's only like V1 and I don't know the name, but it's so much fun!
Finally, we made it to Hueco driving through an epic windstorm that had flipped several trucks on the highway. It wasn't my first time in Hueco, but it was my first time there with decent conditions for hard climbing, so I was psyched! I finally got to tick some of the more condition dependent climbs like Terre de Sienne and Esperanza.
I also gave the lower start to Esperanza a few of goes and fell twice grabbing the finishing jug. I left it at that since the first three moves barely add any difficulty and certainly not any quality to the climb. I also managed to climb Diabolic (V13), which has a famous kneebar sequence, without kneepads or kneebars. It certainly felt hard for me that way, but I'm not a fan of using kneepads and without one the kneebar doesn't really work. Diabolic is very unique and it's one of my favorite problems in Hueco! Speaking of favorite problems, we also climbed To Die For and the name suits the problem pretty wellâ€¦ it's amazing! I also flashed Crown of Aragorn, the benchmark for the V13 grade, with basically no beta.
One problem that really stood out was A Tale of Two Gabors. This crazy problem was unrepeated for years until I made the first repeat this trip. The problem is the exact anti-style of typical Hueco climbing; basically manteling on slopers the whole way up the roof. This problem has one of the most bizarre and unique sequences ever and I won't even begin describing it, but you can watch the video.
On our last day we went to West Mountain. I'd never been on West before, so we just toured some of the classics and climbed Shroom, Best of the Best and High Ideals. At the end of the day we went to Indisposable Heroes (V12), which is one of the proudest looking hard lines in Hueco. I had no beta, we were almost out of time and I was thrashed from climbing. I kept falling on the bottom trying to figure out the complicated beta when our guide told me it was time to go. I managed to send the problem on literally my last possible try of the trip! A perfect ending for my Hueco trip! My skin was in desperate need of rest after brutalizing it on the rough Hueco rock, so I couldn't have been more psyched about getting to Arkansas, where the rock is nice and comfortable sandstone and there are plenty of projects.
On our first day in Arkansas we went straight to the problem we were most psyched on; Lost in The Hood (V14). After figuring out the exact beta, I quickly got to the top! Shortly after me Ian sent it as well! We managed to climb it very fast, but a lot of strong climbers have failed on it. It's hard to say about the difficulty of this one. We had Cole, one of the locals, to show us some cool projects. One of them was an old project at the Heaven Boulders that had been tried by quite a few people. It had been tried with a sequence that involved big lock-offs on tiny sidepull crimps. I tried this way first, but immediately gave up that beta and started trying a massive double-clutch dyno past this whole section. I kept getting the distance, but not hitting the holds right. I tried it over and over again until I got the coordination just right and stuck the double-dyno and climbed it to the top! I named the problem Misdirection. I put up another V9ish problem in the same area that we called Flash Mode since I flashed the first ascent and Ian flashed it right after me.
[Grand Dragon (V7) at the Idaho Boulders]
Probably my best FA in Arkansas was Illusion of Safety (V13). It's a massive arete at the New Font sector in Cowell protected by a steep slab landing below it. The sequence is complicated and it took us a good amount of time to figure out the final beta. You'll want to bring all your pads for this one!! Another good problem I put up is called Better Babies Club. It's a techy arete at the Idaho boulders and probably goes at around V11. Certainly more technical than physical. Besides my first ascents I also repeated some classic problems like Bloody Knuckles, Release the Squirrels, Anti-Hero and flashed Fred's Roof. Possibly my favorite climb in Arkansas was Grand Dragon, which has got to be one of the best V7's in the world. I'm psyched to return to Arkansas with more time to take care of some unfinished business!