Friday, April 13, 2012

Flagstaff Adventure

Zak takes the whip off a newly established 5.12b/c at the Peaks area.

Last weekend I hooked a ride with Andy Reger to go visit our friend Zak Romuald in Flagstaff Arizona. It was my first time there and when the sun came up in the morning I was really impressed by the great looking stone and beautiful environment.  The rock we ended up climbing on was a volcanic rock called Dacite.  This type of stone had a corse texture, some wild caves and cracks, and great potential to explore endlessly. The climbing we encountered was a lot of creative slab crimping, some technical vertical terrain, and even continuous wandering crack systems.  The areas we went offered a great variety of terrain to climb on, and I found most of it to be pretty engaging.  My only regret is not bringing a rack to get on some of the beautiful mixed crack climbs! Oh well... So the first day we went to a new(ish?) crag up in the Peaks that offend plenty of aesthetic and challenging sport and mixed climbs.  Hear we got a solid day of sport climbing in and we all left feeling very pumped.

Zak on an Unnamed 5.12b/c.  Evidently it is stiff!

A fun .12a corner called Be The Burn

The routes that we climbed were all 50-80 feet long and each one seemed to have a split personality.  Our warm route started on easy slabs and gradually became steeper until it was overhanging and pumpy.  A 5.12a I did started in a clean cut water streaked corner and transition into bulgy wandering/sequencey climbing at the top, were the real pump set in!  The climb Zak was working started in a wide chimney and transition abruptly to technical face climbing, which I could only imagine was a difficult transition to make.  Even with their dual personalities, the routes were all quite good and easily provided us with a day worth of fun.  The next day Andy and I woke up late and went thrifting in the afternoon. I was looking for overalls and any sort of cool stuff. I found an orange karate belt I plan to make into a gear sling and an old elbow pad I can use for climbing.  Andy found a whole slew of things and left the store looking like he was about to set up a Rube Goldberg Machine.  After our Flagstaff wandering we headed to an area called Gloria's to do some bouldering.  After walking through the woods for a short while we arrived at the base of a small mountain formation where we spent the rest of the day exploring the boulders and climbing.

Looking out after a few minutes of scrambling at Gloria's.

Zak's favorite warm up, the aesthetic V4 traverse.

Most of the time I wasn't quiet sure the difficulty of many of the climbs I was attempting. Zak was the brains behind the operation and he didn't get off work till later when he planned to meet us.  Luckily he drew us a map of the area, which explained (roughly) were some of the popular boulders were.  We used this as a mini guide and went off exploring.  We started on the slabby routes, which seemed harmless until you reached about halfway up and realized you still had to do some delicate moves higher on the slab to finish.   We transitioned into some of the harder crimpy problems and did our best to unlock some of the moves on these mysterious problems.  In between climbs we would scramble around the boulders and look for the next problem to solve.  Surprised by the abundance of features and many large cracks, I found myself looking for the perfect untouched offwidth problem for me to goof around on... I knew it was out there somewhere! 

Andy's favorite crimp fest V5.

My favorite problem, Unknown (AKA Glutton For Pain) V?

Needless to say I was pretty psyched when I found the wide crack that was formed between two big boulders.  It looked gnarly!  It was way too skinny to acomidate your upper body, too large for doing handstacks, and also coated with a nice layer of spider webs and bugs... perfectly off-sized and off-the-map!  I first looked at the formation and didn't know where to begin.  I sat under the large traversing wide crack and wondered how to even get off the ground to begin climbing the big beast.  Finding no success with arm bars or chicken wings, I new my lower half would be the only effective jamming device.  So I laid down on my back and stuffed my feet into the crack and did a sit up to reach some marginal face holds.  From here (after several attempts) I was able to work my lower body upwards into the crack as I gradually traversed upside-down and to the right working up the crack.   If I was determined enough I could wiggle my body upwards were I could eventually reach a few better face holds and begin the pivot back upright, which I found to be the most difficult part.  If I explored Gloria's for a month I'm sure I'd find a dozen more of these excellent offwidth challenges, only next time I'd wear thick pants with some neoprene knee pads underneath.

Zak sticks the finishing sloper jug as Andy lights the scene. V6/7

As the sun was going down Zak came and met with us after he was off work for the day. We continued to climb into the night with the aid of headlamps and a little beef jerky.  We etched tried a few problems and eventually worked out the moves of a pretty fun V6/7.  Eventually our bodies were worn and tired and that meant is was time for a beer and some grillin'.   Back at Zak's we relaxed, made food, and looked through photos. I reminisced about my first Arizona climbing experience and determined that Flagstaff definitely has a great feel, and is somewhere I could see spending a good amount of time.  The climbing was great and the environment and people can't be beat.  I know there is still a ton of climbing to be done there and I'm looking forward to my next opportunity to head in that direction.  Thanks to Zak and Jeff for the hospitality and Flagstaff for all the cool thrift stores and climbing! Until next time...


pamelapack said...

Beautiful pictures Matt. That falling sequence is very cool!

Matt Kuehl said...

Thanks Pamela, can't wait to meet up with you in Ved, super psyched!

Scottmw said...

Any idea how hard or the name of the route just left of the one he was whipping on?

Matt Kuehl said...

Unfortunately, I only spent one day here don't know that route. Sorry Scott!