Thursday, May 21, 2009

West Bluff - Alpine Club/Beautiful Soup Boulders

In the Southern corner of the West Bluff Talus fields lay two premier boulders with 3 of the hardest problems at the lake. The landings are friendly, for the most part, and the approach is relatively easy once you find your way to it the first time. All of the problems are classics for their grade and are very high quality.

Starting at the Apple Orchard, take a right out of the parking lot and drive to the "T" intersection. Take a right and follow the winding South Shore road into the park. You've got two parking options. First one is to park in the boat launch parking lot right at the base of the hill on your right. This option is better for weekends and busy days. If it isn't as busy take a left onto Cottage Grove Road that looks like this:

And this:

And look for some of the parking spots on the side of the road:

If you do park in the boat landing parking lot just walk back up the road and start hiking along Cottage Grove Road. It takes an extra couple of minutes and will help you warm up a little.

When you get to the end of Cottage Grove Road, about 5 minutes maybe, start following the paved tumbled rocks trail. Another 4-5 minutes of light hiking will bring you to a small straightaway that looks like so:

Then you'll turn a corner and see a "S" curve in the trail:

Stop and turn left. If you see this:

Start walking up into the talus field. You'll start to see the Alpine Club Boulder in a minute or so.

There are two problems on the Alpine Club Boulder and both are worthwhile and fun. Corner roof starts on the left side of the boulder and climbs up a small roof to a mantle topout. It checks in at about V3 and is a good warmup for the brutal testpiece next to it, Alpine Club.

Alpine Club clocks in at a very hard V9. It's a classic boulder with two very pure moves that climb up a bulgy face. You start on the obvious ledge and move up to a right hand sloper. Lock it off and then pick a hideous sloper or an awkward gaston. Your have your choice and each one has its difficulties.

Alpine Club is one of the most classic hard problems at Devil's Lake and is worth any amount of time you can spend on its frustratingly hard moves. As of this time it only has 4-5 known ascents.

Nic on the first move to the sloper

Remo trying the crux second move

Katie trying out the crux move

Just uphill from Alpine Club is a nice tall wall that hosts a serious contender for the hardest climb a the lake. There are three known problems on the boulder, even if one of them is a traverse.

Beautiful Soup is an old Eric Z. problem that starts on the left side of the wall, to the left of the pit. Start left hand on a good sidepull and right hand on an OK ledge. Move up to a small and sharp right hand crimp and then find your way, either by throw or other trickery, up to the deceiving ledge up high. Traverse off right on moves that really shouldn't be underestimated. At V8 this is a very fun problem to work on and offers a good intro to hard climbing at Devil's Lake. Dynamic and powerful moves make this a DL classic.

Remo setting up for the move to the ledge, just above him

One of the other problems on the boulder is a traverse into the start of Beautiful Soup. I believe this comes in at about V4/5 and starts in the bottom right corner of the pit. If anyone has more info on this please let me know.

That brings us to the Keymaker. Brian Sandona put this up back in the early part of this decade and it still stands unrepeated. It has a tentative grade of V11 and is waiting for a repeat. It starts on the traverse and follows Beautiful Soup up to the juggy ledge. Instead of traversing out right you follow non existent crimps and top out the boulder direct. Hard and unrepeated, hopefully this one will receive some attention this fall.

There also seems to be a V2 mantle on the boulder to the right of Beautiful Soup. It starts on a pretty obvious looking ledge and goes straight up.

That's all I've got for Alpine Club and Beautiful Soup. Let me know if you want to know anything else!

Friday, May 15, 2009

West Bluff - Smooth Operator/Bud White

I figured this would be a good second area to post up since people always ask me where these problems are!

I first saw Smooth Operator and Bud White on Todd's Birthday Challenge. He finished up his circuit with both of these classic, fun and scary problems. Smooth Operator is the original stand start to the boulder and climbs up a wide arete feature to a sloping, polished mantle. You finish above the very edge of a landing that stands atop another talus field. The fall is safe, but can be pretty intimidating. I spotted Huston on his attempts and he took a relatively famous fall where his eyes may have actually been larger than dinner plates when he came off. All of that and it checks in at V4. Full value problem.

Bud White is the super sit start to Smooth Operator and goes at about V6. I need to get a hold of Todd for exact start beta but this was Todd's lone FA contribution to Devil's Lake. As far as I know it starts a couple moves down to the right. I'll get more info soon though...

For the approach, starting at Ski Hi Apple Orchard, take a right and go to the T intersection. Take a left(thanks brian!), past the fire road and follow the signs for the North Shore. You'll take another right past some log cabin homes and come to a stop sign with the entrance to Devil's Lake on your right and a putt putt golf course on your left. Go right. Follow that down the hill but look on the right for a parking area. It'll look like this:

Park there. Again you are in the park so make sure you have a park sticker! On the right side of the lot will be a large trail that looks a lot like this:

Walk down that and look for a smaller trail on the far side of the walkway. You'll basically head up into the talus now though. In early spring and late fall you can actually see Smooth Operator from the parking lot. It's not too far away, really. Look for the boulder below. It's at the bottom of the talus field and you need to go up into the talus when you see it.

Walk up and left into the talus going towards a grouping of boulders. It'll become more obvious as you go and you'll see a huge roof. Keep walking up and you'll hit the boulder. Here's a couple of pictures. They don't really do it justice though.

Smooth Operator starts on the small roof in the left of the photo.  Bud White starts near the big sloper in the bottom right and climbs into Smooth Operator.

I've got a few pictures of me and a couple others actually trying Smooth Operator and I'll try to find those soon and post them. Let me know if you have any other questions about either!

Monday, May 11, 2009

West Bluff - 45 Degree Boulder

I want to start out the posts with one of the better boulders in the West Bluff Talus fields. The 45 degree boulder is somewhat of an anomaly for Devil's Lake. It holds steep, fun and dynamic climbing and 3 distinct lines up its face. The landing is built up well and the topouts are nice and safe. I really wish there was more like it at DL!! Who knows, maybe there is...

As for FA's I really have no clue. I'm going to assume Paul J, Eric B, or Eric Z. Someone in that crew more than likely did it years ago and I want to thank whoever flattened out the landing.

Starting from the Ski Hi Apple Orchard go right out of the parking lot and drive to the "T" intersection. Take a left and drive about a half mile looking on the right for this:

Drive past the gate until you can park on the right side of the road, maybe 50-60 feet past the gate. Rangers can, and will, check for park stickers here so make sure you have one on your car!! Walk back up the road and hike up the fire road until you hit the West Bluff asphalt trail. Along the way you'll actually pass about 10 areas on either side of the fire road in the woods. You'll only be able to see one of them though, on the right. I'll have more on that soon but that boulder is a great way to warm up and the area is fantastic if you just want to search around for a while.

After about 10 minutes you'll be on the top of the west bluff. Go right past the lookouts and walk for maybe a minute or two. Keep a lookout on the left side for a trail that will break off to the left and go down into the talus. I believe it's around some stairs. I unfortunately forgot to take a pic of it when I was there last. I'll try to update after I go again.

After you get on that trail follow the cliff line as you descend into the talus a bit. After another minute or two the boulder will be on your right in the talus field. Keep an eye out because from above the boulder doesn't look like much. It's definitely worth it once you get there though.

There are three distinct lines on the boulder as of right now, as well as many variations and eliminates, I'm sure. On the left side is a nice V4. We call it 45 Degree Left:

Right up the middle is a nice line, 45 Degree Center, that clocks in at V5. It's got a nice sloper right in the middle and starts as a crouch start on good underclings in the crack.

There is also a line that could start on the far right side of the face and go up the right hand arete. I haven't tried this one so I can't really talk about it too well.

There you have it, the mini guide for the 45 Degree Boulder. Please let me know if there is more that you guys want to see in these posts, whether it be pictures or directions or whatever. This is a work in progress and I hope you guys find it helpful!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Launching Point

I started bouldering at the Lake back in 2000 or 2001. I had one Metolius crash pad that I bought at REI, it was their only one. I always went out alone since partners were apparently hard to come by. I was somehow able to get my paws on a copy of Eric Zschieschie's bouldering guide for the East Bluff areas which is now out of print. I'm convinced that I got one of the last copies as it was off of the website I ordered it on a week later. I coveted that thing and broke it's back over and over. This was way before anything was available online and most of the local knowledge was passed down through word of mouth. I, sadly, wasn't in the inner circle and had very little info to go off of.

With that scraggly little guide I started exploring different areas. The book profiled 5 different areas, all of which have very straightforward directions. I can't count how many times I got lost trying to find the Monolith boulders. Mind you that this area is exactly 3 feet off of one of the parks many paved hiking trails. I'm kinda dense and have a heinous sense of direction. Couple that with absolutely zero knowledge of the layout of the park, made for lots of hiking with very little actual climbing. Kinda rough.

One memory that sticks out was one of the first times I went up the lake. It was the middle of winter and snow covered everything, but I wanted to explore and nothing would stop me from finding those majestic boulders. I walked on the massive trail to the left of the North Shore bouldering area, way before I even knew bouldering there even existed. I started looking at some of the shorter rocks on the side of the area and got excited. I followed the bluff line for a few minutes expecting to find new boulders but turned around too soon, disappointed. I was literally 10 feet from the bouldering and didn't even know it. I can't explain the feeling when I actually found the boulders later the next year.

In the winter of 2003 I found a sweet sandstone bouldering area near the north shore and started freaking out. Thinking that I had just found the first sandstone bouldering area at the lake, it was with insane amounts sadness that I rounded the corner and saw chalk. Later in the year I came back to try the main, proud line going out the overhanging face. It was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen and I couldn't believe it was in Wisconsin. I was shut down on the first move and could barely hang onto the starting holds. I later found out that the problem was put up by Eric and was called the Greatest Show on Earth. It was a small victory to have found this one on my own, with no one else's directions. I loved it.

During the spring of 2004 Todd Mei invited me on his birthday challenge. I was the weakest climber in the group of 9 and was in awe the entire day. Todd put up one of the most prolific circuits in the history of the lake and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. He fell a total of about 7 times and did, I think, 30 problems including 4 V8's and a number of hard problems. It was one of the most impressive and eye opening things I'd ever seen. He took us to areas that I had no clue even existed and I had a smile the entire time. That was the epitome of bouldering at the lake to me. I'm not sure I've ever been so inspired to get stronger.

I moved away for a few years with somewhat of a loathing for the bouldering at the lake. I could barely climb V4 there and hated the holds and lack of friction. Everyone there was close mouthed about where everything was and I hated them for it. They told me that I just needed to go out and find the stuff on my own. I was annoyed and I needed something different. In my two years in California I got stronger and smarter. I learned just how sandbagged the lake was and I couldn't believe the amount of unexplored rock by the road. I was overwhelmed....and blissfully happy.

When I finally did move back in 2005 I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't climbed at Devil's Lake for what seemed like forever and my last memory was of resentment and a little frustration. The "old guys" had mostly moved on and it seemed like a more vocal group was taking over. I was open to being surprised. I got lucky. My first day back at the lake we had a crew of 9 guys and we went all over the top of the West bluff finding "new to me" problems all day. We saw all of the stuff on the fire road, the 45 degree boulder and all the stuff towards the bottom of the talus field. Peter was able to get the FA of a project that day and I quickly did the second. Anchorpoint remains one of my favorites at the lake because of the memories of that day. We ended at Alpine Club and all got royally shut down. It was a perfect way to come back to the lake.

I still hold a special place for the lake and I want to see people on the problems. I really hope that this site will help change that. I want to eventually include areas like Governor Dodge, Rib Mountain, Black River Falls and some of the other outlying areas as well. I am hoping that this turns into a place that anyone can go to and find info on bouldering in Wisconsin.

With that, you should see some more info very soon.