What is a better way to spend spring break than bouldering on sweet sandstone? The only and correct answer is nothing. Usually I spend my spring breaks down in the southeast throwing down with southern sandstone, but this year I changed it up. Ben Spannuth, Garrett Gregor and I decided to go to Joes Valley and Red Rocks. I was really psyched to go back to Joes because I wanted to get back on Black Lung. I got close to sending over Thanksgiving, but could not make it happen. Both Ben and I injured our left middle fingers climbing in the gym, so we were worried about how climbing would go. I was especially worried about the first hold on Black Lung.
Sweet Sandstone - Nicholas Milburn
On our first day we went to The Angler to warm up. Garrett and I also tried Feels like Grit which is a viciously hard slab climb. There was a left hand pinch part way up and it really hurt my finger. I did not think the rest of the trip was going to be very good, but then Alex Enright saved the day. He told me to try taping my wrist and after that magical things happened. Whether it actually helped my finger or it was psychosomatic I do not really car because I could climb again.
Quite often my first days tend to be my best days and my first day in Joes was quite good Ben and I went to Zero and played around for a while. It’s not a very hard boulder if you figure out the best beta, but it is terrifying. It is pretty tall boulder with a built up landing which is very nice. It did not seem like anyone climbed on it in a while because everything was a bit sandy which does not help with the sketch factor. At one point I lost my balance and fell off the landing and cut up my ankle and stabbed a hole in my finger which came to hurt quite a lot later in the trip. Once Ben and I fingered out the beta and stopped being pansies we both sent the boulder. With the original beta it is supposedly a V12, but with some proper finagling it might be a V9. Whatever it is rated it is a really fun problem.
The rest of the day was spent at the Wills of Fire boulder. Ben gave me some wizard beta I figured out and sent Beyond Life and Beyond Life Sit. I also did Lumber Jack which has quite a terrifying top out. I ended up doing everything on that boulder except for one climb, They Call Him Michael. The rest of our time in Joes was spent trying Black Lung. Ben gave me some more wizard beta and instantly things started clicking. After working it for a while I ended up falling twice going to the last hold. It was a sad day, but now I know I can do it although I will have to wait until the fall.
One afternoon we all went to The Wind Below which is a 21 feet 6 inch V7 (Jamie Emerson measured it). It about 6 moves depending how many times you match. After Joes Garrett and I drove down to Red Rocks. Ben decided to abandon us and stay in Joes and support Will Anglin on The Masterpiece.
On the way down to Las Vegas we stopped at Kolob Canyon get on these sport climbs Garrett was really psyched on. They were about140 feet tall on a gentle sandstone overhang with huecos the entire way up the wall. The outer layer of rock was very hard and the inner layer was soft, so it formed these big juggy flakes. It was some of the coolest climbing I have ever done. We only did two climbs because it started snowing and got really cold. We finished the drive to Las Vegas once we finished up sport climbing.
The boulder I was most excited for was Wet Dream. I heard some pretty amazing things, so I was eager to try. We went to go try it on the first day which was great because the weather was amazing! I gave it a flash go and fell about half way up. After that I worked out all the moves. One of the coolest holds is a two finger ring lock. You even have to cut feet on it! Once I had everything worked out I tried it from the bottom again. Turned out I could not do the second moves anymore. It took me a whole bunch of goes just too even get where I got on my first go. I kept falling at the crux and started to get really tired. The moves down low felt harder, so I thought I might need to go back the next day. I really wanted to do it, so on my final go I tried extra hard. However, I missed every hold and grabbed everything poorly. Sometimes times you need to hit everything perfectly, other times you need to hit everything wrong. That time I made it to the top! It was probably the most desperate send I have ever done. Even topping out was a struggle.
Garrett really wanted to get Abaddon which is next to Wet Dream, so after I sent we went up there. Wet Dream is a long endurance boulder problem. Abaddon is quite the opposite. It has big powerful moves and not nearly as long. Garrett worked on it for a bit, but it started to get dark. The next day we went back and Garrett destroyed it! Every move was very solid, except of the top out. It looked a little sketchy and tall. After Garrett crushed we hiked out to Book of Nightmares. Garrett had worked out all the moves on a previous trip, but had a really hard time with one reach move. I helped Garrett finagled his way around the reach move with some awesome beta. It still looked really hard, but it helps if you are shorter. We both sent it well into the night by headlamp and flash light.
We went back near Book of Nightmares on our last day to get on Lethal Design. Lethal Design is the least sandstone climb I have ever seen on sandstone. It is a really long crimpy line that was a horrible choice of problem for our seventh day on. I just touched all the holds and pretended to climb for a while. Garrett actually climbed and refined his beta. On his best go he made it up most of the climb and fell on the last slightly hard move. It was a heart breaking fall especially after the rest of the session. Garrett never made it back to that point the rest of the day. I gave up early on and tried Americana Exotica which was nicer on the fingers. I thought it was a really hard V10. Also in the middle of my tries I kicked a rock and broke my big toe nail. My flip flop is nice and bloody now. I could still manage to get my climbing shoe on, but it was painful. Luckily all the feet are massive rails, so I climbed it one approach shoe and one climbing shoe.
Joe’s Valley and Red Rocks are some of the best bouldering places I have ever been. This spring break was my most productive bouldering trip to date This coming fall I want to spend more time in Joe’s and finally tick off Black Lung!