Like many climbers, I enjoy my lists. Now that it’s 2014, I had to take a look back at the year that was 2013. For the first time in my climbing life, I had a pretty solid balance between sport climbing and bouldering, if you look at the year as a whole. I went to Hueco in February (which is heavily featured in this list, for good reason), bouldered for about 2 months around Bozeman, then turned full-time sport climber for more than 4 months. Since this is supposed to be a bouldering blog, I’ll stick with an all boulder top ten, with a few favotire routes in addition. Anyways, here’s my top ten boulder problems from 2013 in the order that I climbed them:
1) See Spot Run V6, Hueco Tanks, TX – Like I said, Hueco is going to be very prominent on this list. My first and only previous trip to Hueco was in 2010. During that trip I mostly got shut down. Everything felt really hard and I hated the regulations. Fast forward to 3 years later, in much better shape and armed with three of my favorite climbing partners I was able to climb tons of classics! In an area chock full of classics, See Spot Run is right near the top. The crux comes right off the ground for the first three moves. Just after the crux, the problem eases off a little, but it gets tall fast. A few big moves on not-as-good-as-you-want crimps see you to a relatively easy top out at about twenty feet. A historic gem.
Myself on See Spot Run
2) Ghetto Simulator V2, Hueco Tanks, TX
Another very long problem, but this one is unique because of the rock slab a few feet behind the problem. Although, you don’t want to take an uncontrolled fall anywhere, you can step off at just about any point on this 25+ foot problem. Pretty much 20 feet of steep jugs with a few crimps at the end right when you’re pumped.
Myself half way up Ghetto Simulator (photo by SHo)
3) Dragonfly V5, Hueco Tanks, TX
The best problem I did at Hueco and one of my all-time favorites. A semi-juggy traverse leads to the sweet crux, campusing from a right heel hook to a left heel hook then gaston-ing to victory. Dragonfly along with the following problem were part of my best day of bouldering I’ve ever had. I’ve had better days in terms of grades, but I’ve never climbed so many classics in a day. I climbed Warm Up Roof V4, Warm Up Roof Right V5, Brutus V5, Hector in a Blender V6/7, Dragonfly V5, and the following problem…
Ho mid-crux on Dragonfly
4) Moonshine Roof V4, Hueco Tanks, TX
One word – surfboard. About half-way through this 15 foot horizontal roof is the surfboard feature which is exactly what is sounds like, a surfboard hanging from the roof. Ridiculously fun heel hooks and toe hooks. I knew I didn’t have much left in me at the end of the mega day so I gave it everything and pulled off the flash.
No photo of Moonshine Roof, but Jeff gives it two thumbs up.
5) Sign of the Cross V3, Hueco Tanks, TX
Yet another classic from Hueco. I tried this one a little on my first trip and couldn’t even pull off the ground, but I was able to send it first go this trip. Old school goodness.
6) the Hourglass V6/7, Leavenworth, WA
After the summer long hiatus from bouldering, I left Smith Rock and headed straight to the primo granite of Leavenworth, WA. I had low expectations jumping straight from sport climbing into bouldering but the week went well and I was able to put down a ton of great problems, including the Hourglass. The Hourglass starts with a few moves of relatively easy slab, you then balance up on small crimps and jump out to a slopey jug above the lip. Definitely a circus trick problem, but one of the best circus tricks I’ve done!
Myself on the Hourglass
7) Chasing Windmills V6/7, Superbia (Boulder Batholith), MT
Remember that description for the Hourglass? This Batholith classic is surprisingly similar – moderate slab moves lead to a jump to a jug at just the right height to keep it interesting. While Patrick Odenbeck did the FA of this problem with a wild jump to the jug, I was too much of a wimp to go for it. Instead, I figured out some beta to get slightly close to the jug, making it a not-so-wild jump. Here’s a vid of Odenbeck on the FA:
8) IsRail Direct V7/8, Moe’s Valley, UT
One of my favorite problems from last year was the amazing sloper problem Israil in Moe’s Valley, Utah just outside of St. George. While I was very psyched to do Israil, I left some unfinished business with the direct sit start. The direct starts with a big move from underclings to a decent sidepull, then a giant dyno to join up with the sloping brilliance of Israil. Although Moe’s tends to be not quite the quality of stone as Joe’s Valley, this one would be a classic anywhere.
Myself on Israil Direct
9) the Sting V4, Red Rock, NV
Perfect stone, great moves, aesthetic and a gorgeous location – what more can you ask for? I got lucky on this one and pulled off the correct beta first try for the flash. One of the best sandstone problems I’ve done.
10) Boysize V7, Joe’s Valley, UT
Last but not least, the Joe’s Valley old school humble-er Boysize. I’d tried this briefly on a previous trip but it felt literally impossible. Luckily this time I came armed with the a secret weapon – Derveed Sharkfist. Derv had the not-so-secret toe hook beta, which changed the problem from impossible to barely do-able. Even with the new beta, I had to really work for this one. Due to some fog induced humid conditions, I had an unusually high number of dry fires and finally had to call it a day after dry fire-ing off after the crux. While everyone else was on their way back to Bozeman the next day, I went straight back to Boysize in less than ideal conditions (foggy and 25 degrees) to send the problem.
Myself on Boysize
Bonus Five – the Roped Stuff
1) War Path 5.12b, Indian Creek, MT
A low crux leads to continuous 5.11 perfection on War Path at THE Indian Creek outside Townsend, MT. If you like incredible Montana limestone, do this one.
War Path (photo by Christine Sjöquist)
2) the Dinner Roll 5.12b/c, the Fins, ID
Another one with a thin boulder problem that leads into perfect 5.11 pockets that go on forever. If you like hueco-like pockets, do this one (and every other climb at the Fins).
the Fins – Dinner Roll is just left of the large yellow streak on the left-most wall
3) 2 Wycked 5.12c FA, the BBC, MT
The BBC is the biggest reason why I didn’t boulder for so long during the summer. Over the course of about three months I was able to bolt a dozen new climbs. Of all the new routes, 2 Wycked was hands down the best. I spent about 3 days bolting this 100+ foot monster and another 6 days to send it. Amazing, gently overhung, mostly enduro climbing for 60 feet is followed by another 40-some feet of thin, some may say heinous, technasty to the chains. If you don’t have the beta dialed, you could fall off just about anywhere in the last 25 feet. For weenies who can’t handle the vertical tech-fest on the top, there’s a mid-way anchor to bail to. I know I’m biased, but this is the best route I’ve done. If you like super incredible Montana limestone, do this one.
Dusl on the lower half of 2 Wycked
4) Cocaine Rodeo 5.12a, Ten Sleep Canyon, WY
This one goes down as the coolest climbing experience I’ve had – bouldering or roped up. We’d just arrived at Ten Sleep a few hours earlier and I was dead set on getting one more pitch in. Problem was that it was nearly dark and sprinkling. The smart move would be to call it a day or maybe get in a easy pitch. Nope, not me. For some reason I decided strap on a headlamp and give an onsight burn on Cocaine Rodeo.
By the time I screamed my way through the first crux, it was fully dark except for the 5 feet of light emanating from my dying headlamp. After downclimbing a few times I was able to pull through the second crux to another good rest under a small roof. While resting, I noticed a pattering noise getting louder – “Is it raining harder now?” After hearing a yes reply from below I leaned out to feel the strengthening rain coming down.
I’d come to far to let the rain win so I started up again pulling through what I thought was the last crux. I was wrong. Turns out the final 15 feet of this 100 foot route is the redpoint crux. After another 10 minute up-climb down-climb session, I was able to battle through the final crux only to be left with another 10 feet of enduro climbing on completely juiced forearms. Those that have sport climbed with me know that I yell from time to time. Well, this was entirely another level of yelling. I was yelling AT MYSELF as loud as I could, basically pissed off because I knew I was going to fall off the very top of this route after getting so far. Thanks in large part to Leslie and Kelsey yelling right back at me to hang on, I was able to pull through and clip the chains.
If you like memorable experiences, onsight a route at your limit in the dark and the rain (hopefully Cocaine Rodeo).
Myself low on Cocaine Rodeo (photo by Kelsey Sather)
5) Zebra Zion (3rd pitch) 5.9, Smith Rock, OR
Trad climbing doesn’t get much better than the last pitch of Zebra Zion. Two pitches up the Morning Glory Wall at Smith lead to this mega-classic trad pitch. The pitch climbs up a slightly overhung juggy flake that goes on for about 40 feet. While the climbing alone would make it a classic anywhere, the position, perched high above the Crooked River and all of the Smith crags, cements it into mega-classic status. If you like climbing, do this one.
Off Route Courteau and the Gooch on Zebra Zion circa 2005 – Third pitch is the lighter colored flake at the very top of the photo, just right of center