As summer comes to an end and fall begins it’s a good time to reminisce on the past accomplishments of a short Alaskan summer. Here in Juneau it rains over 220 days a year so when I say short I mean really short. This past summer has been possibly the most productive summer of climbing that Juneau has ever seen. In all there were probably 70 new boulder problems added to the small number of already existing problems.
Bouldering in Juneau started in an area known as the Fred Meyer boulders. These boulders are unlike any rock I have ever seen before. Most of these boulders can be described as a little chossy, a little dirty and definitely tall and proud. One of the more spectacular climbs in the area was established this year by a local climber, Hunter Brown. He has a pension for climbs that are a bit on the taller side and this year he put up an instant classic Bare Knuckle Brawler. A brilliant overhang followed by some delicate moves over a less than desirable landing. Hunters psyche is infectious, especially when it comes to finding and cleaning new climbs. He is one of the reasons Juneau climbing is where it is today.
The largest area is called Tee Harbor. When we first came to this area it looked like dense rainforest but with a lot of work the boulders began to show themselves. This year the amount of problems has doubled. Several classic lines including Low Tension a fantastic arête traverse that leaves the dull hand over hand traverse at the door; captivating climbers with its maze of crimps, jugs and slopers. Powder for the hoes is also a new classic of the area. A sit start to some Brilliant compression and a dynamic finish. On top of the achievements of Tee Harbor was the first accent of The Donkey Show. This was the first V10 established in southeast Alaska. The crux move revolves around holding a terrible left handed sloping crimp and a bad right hand pinch, you then dyno to a sloper with the right. These problems are just the tip of the iceberg too. Since these problems were established the local bouldering crew has found several new boulders including a roof with a spectacular crack feature straight down the middle.
It seems that everyday spent bouldering is an adventure. Often times you find yourself searching for days hoping to stumble across a new area but sometimes you just need to look at an area that you frequent and look at it with different eyes. One of these areas that has seen a surge of development is right around the Mendenhall glacier. Every boulder that’s been climbed was deposited by the glacier less than 70 years ago! The proudest boulder in all of Juneau is located there, A Special Sandwich.
This problem was years in the making. When I first arrived in Juneau 3 years ago it was the first problem I came across on my first hike in the woods. The only problem is that it is located in a rain forest and was sopping wet and covered in 4 inches of moss and forest floor. When coming around a corner I caught my first glimpse of this large boulder that seemed straight out of Yosemite; big, granite, and proud. This summer I heard that someone had been doing some cleaning and I was instantly intrigued. When I got up to the now dubbed ambush boulder (due to the frequent startling of bears on the trail) the top of the boulder was clean! I then decided that it was time to get things done after some scrubbing and drying the problem was primed and ready to go. I pulled on and instantly sent packing. This one was going to take awhile. The entire problem revolves around a difficult dead point to a very unique block hanging under an overhang. You then match the block and then move out of the overhang and continue up the arête to the top of the boulder. In all I spent 7 days on the first accent; some days better than others, but culminating in my proudest climb to date.
I have found that bouldering in Alaska has been the most rewarding experience I have had as a climber. It has opened my eyes to what is possible to find in your own back yard. Climbing a boulder here requires far more than just the desire to climb. One thing you, the reader, may not understand is everything that is green and living here is relentless. The plants grow overnight. It takes serious dedication, work and vision. While Juneau may be far from a global climbing destination, it is a place that has inspired me to look for something more from the climbing experience. It’s a place that I am proud to call home.