“It hurts to sit here. My body is worked..” says Robyn via g-chat. It helps me remember back to the Monday’s of spring and summer 2009 and 2010 returning home from our weekly 5-and-a-half hour pilgrimage to The New River Gorge in West Virginia. Sitting at my desk, a fresh brewed coffee and my New River Guidebook in hand I would pour over the glossy pages and relive the weekends climbs. My body would ache and the muscles in my back and shoulders felt as if I had rolled down the steps of Old Main. As I scanned the pages and entered my ascents into rockclimbing.com my tender pink fingers would sweat leaving soggy prints on the keys.
This summer was incredible. Hitting well over 30 different crags all over the western US and Canada and propelling us into fall. Fall for climbers is a sacred time as the temperatures dip, the humidity drops, and a summer of hard climbing begins to pay off with memorable ascents of challenging routes. Robyn realized right away that The Fins were her dream crag. She has this amazing ability to find the tiniest holds and make them look like jugs. Yelling beta up to Ben as he worked Martini (5.12a) Robyn said “Use that mono-pocket for balance..” In climbing a mono or mono-pocket is a hole in the rock big enough for only one finger to fit. Ben hung at a draw and scanned the rock incredulous and confused. The only thing that even resembled a mono was a shallow dimple in the rock barely big enough to fit the tip of a finger. For Robyn, it was bomber. Ben used it, but was less than impressed. Both sent the route and it marked Robyn’s first 12a and Ben’s second ever 12a send.
This weekend we headed back to Dierkes Lake, to get on rope and start to get a feel for the area that will likely become our go-to winter crag. At first glance Dierkes is a little rough around the edges but as you start to explore your pessimism is quickly replaced by wishing you had brought a boulder pad. The boulder problems certainly stand out, and the highly featured basalt full of huecos and honeycomb pockets is enough to make any boulderer drool. Encircling the boulders however are surprisingly good sport routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.13a, slabby to overhanging. The general style of Dierkes requires good endurance with the ability to muscle through intermittent crux sections. The rock is very three-dimensional. You wont often be climbing a flat face here, in fact, it is littered with roofs and protrusions all with surprisingly cool holds.
After some warm-ups at the Hidden Wall on Saturday we retraced our steps back to The Alcove, Dierkes main climbing attraction, to get on a stellar line called Get a Life (5.11a). Scrambling to a high first bolt, you encounter a less than vertical face with some reaches to small edges and a mantle onto an exposed ledge out left. The height dependent crux from the ledge depends greatly on whether you can reach the sidepull or not. I was able to, Robyn was not, so who knows what trickery would be required for her to send this section. After the crux you meander through some impressive roofs with massive holds just where you want them to an airy finish at the canyon rim. If you are in the area this is a must climb.
Next up was a highly regarded 5.12a named Magma which streaked its way up the center of the Alcove. The technical crux was certainly lower in the route as you crank through some powerful laybacks on slick feet, but there are two red-point cruxes higher up. The first is a roof with good holds but no feet that requires a Chris Hull ninja high-step in a rather exposed position. The second comes at a blank corner. I was super happy to sneak by this section with my best Tommy Caldwell impression utilizing opposing-hand-smears combined with a wacky toe-hook. Certainly some of my most proud onsight beta deciphering to date. Sneaking past that section I peaked out from the last roof and realized I was closing in on my first 5.12a onsight of the year. Pumped and sweating, I crawled to a steep ledge and found a reassuring knee-bar (thanks Maple Canyon!) to compose myself before clipping the chains!
That evening we spent a relaxing night eating Doc’s Pizza with Susan, Jon and Hayden back at the Paul’s house in Rupert. Also of note was the beer we had from a (new?) local brewery in Twin Falls called Von Scheidt Brewery. Unfortunately, although I wanted to give them a good review, I simply couldn’t get behind their Knutkase Amber Ale. Despite its nice smell and cool label it tasted like someone handed me a green homebrew.. Hopefully we will get a chance to visit the brewery on our next visit and give some of their other beers a chance to pick up the slack.
Back at Dierkes we warmed up on a couple short and stout 10’s to the left of the Alcove and soaked in the morning rays. Shifting around again to the main attraction we got on a STELLAR jug haul called Zipthing (5.11a) that balloons out an increasingly overhanging, pumpy roof to a vertical finish and a great view. The holds on this route were made to climb, and it would be a shame to miss this one if you are climbing at Dierkes. We were actually planning on climbing Ziplock (5.11b) but these two routes vary only by one bolt in the steepest section so we will have to come back for that one. After charging up Zipthing Robyn lowered and immediately launched up the neighboring Black Thing (5.11c) for one grande pump finale.
If you have some time and want to see a good video of some of the climbing here at Dierkes, check out this video which features some of the routes we got on and plan to do this winter:
While enjoying some pizza at the Paul’s I texted back and forth with Chris about climbing and fall projects. As of late I have had my sights set on building a solid 5.12 base by attempting to climb twenty 5.12’s in 2012, an idea that spawned from a friend of Ben’s at Maple. With my goal in view, and winter closing in, I thought it would be a good time to also start pushing my redpoint grade limit a bit, and with Dierkes likely becoming our cold-weather crag I picked Burlygirl a.k.a. Gurlymon (5.12d). This route was developed by local hardman and developer Chuck Odette. It starts by following the first four bolts of Burlymon (5.12a) through a steep bulge before a super cool traverse leads to some 5.11 climbing and sparsely featured face. A shallow three finger side pull and undercling pinch are the only holds below a smooth roof. Above the roof a large shield is the only feature for 10 feet or so before a final pull over a smaller roof on good holds to the anchors.
After slapping around the shield in hopes of finding a good hold it was obvious there were none. The left and right edges of the shield were flaring wide pinches. Two looks over the roof, one to clip the next bolt and the other to feel around a bit turned up nothing. I returned to my rest below the roof and relaxed a bit more considering my options. One thought (and believe me the last option) was to try a left hand jam under the flaring shield. I stepped my feet up and found a decent hand jam, at this point I new I was going for it. Slapping my right hand to the side of the shield I was greeted with a terrible pointed pinch. Slapping higher it rounded out a bit and I wiggled my fingers up like an inchworm desperate for any texture. Finally I settled on a wide (think bread loaf) right hand and lunged my feet horizontally above the roof to the right pasting them on the wall. Locking off the right hand bread loaf I managed to bring my feet under me a bit more and lunge with the left to a slanted flat ledge. At this point I was sure I was off. With no good feet and two bad holds I needed to clip but couldn’t. I could feel the anchors just two bolts away but my position seemed impossible.
I was quickly getting pumped and loosing focus. In one last determined effort I squeezed my left hand as hard as I could and increased the tension in my smeared foot and made the clip. Pumped I lunged again to a decent incut and brought my feet up under the final roof. To my surprise the holds under the roof were pretty good and I was able to dangle there and compose myself before arching my back and peering over to the chains. I felt around and found two good hand holds and let my torso sink under my arms keeping my feet on the wall under the roof. I tested my reach and was about an inch shy of the shuts. I new I was close. One determined lock-off from my hardest onsight ever! I locked off hard on the good left hand above the lip and barely reached the anchor. Clipping the rope, I hung the second draw as well to add an exclamation point as I let out a celebratory yell. I could hardly believe it. I had just onsighted Gurlymon (5.12d)!! Everything really came together for me on this send. I found the exact beta I needed in order to pull the move and I held on through the pump. There is a rest right before the crux, which in a way is good and bad. It allowed me to do a brief couple surveys before committing (the good) but often when there is a huge rest before a crux the crux is often hard for the grade (the bad). Maybe my hand fit just right? Maybe I had some demonic strength and determination in that moment to clip, but either way it went. Certainly a proud send, and a big moment. Robyn has been constantly encouraging me to try harder routes, and after the success of this weekend I am feeling more motivated than ever to get on more routes in the 5.12c-5.13a range. While these grades have felt just a tad out of reach for most of the summer, the climbing season is currently under attack from the great flakes from above and now’s the time. The climbing style at Dierkes motivates me to pull hard, and I am SUPER PSYCHED to get back there throughout good weather this fall and winter. If you happen to live in the area or are passing through, be sure to hit us up for some Dierkes Thuggery – you will be glad you did!