12.14.2009

Early Winter Granite at Gold Bar: Cold, Hard and Brilliant

"Wyndham Earl's Mind is Like a Diamond: Cold, Hard and Brilliant." (Agent Dale Cooper in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," played by Kyle Mclaughlin.) Although having nothing else to do with the aforementioned villain of the 90's television series, Gold Bar granite indeed offered the above qualities and then some this past Saturday, the 12th. Sam, Luke, two well-behaved dogs and myself arrived early at the pullout for the Five Star Boulder. Although the temperatures were obviously in the mid to high twenties, the sunshine behind a thin cloud layer looked promising for good bouldering. Despite an early mishap involving an icy log and a frigid stream that left me with wet feet and, as I was to find out later, no chalk bag, I was psyched: I hadn't bouldered outside since I was in Moab and Yosemite in spring of 2008.

The logging road used to access the upper reaches of Gold Bar bouldering, although recently regraded, is currently closed to vehicle traffic; this turned out to be quite the boon for us as the quiet hike up provided a nice way to get the blood flowing a little and relax. Ice covered sections of the road and the small cataracts that drain the heights of Zeke's Wall and above were sculpted into wild and intricate ice flows. Despite the 30 foot icicles dangling from Zeke's Wall proper, the boulders in the clear-cut were all dry and basking in the light as the sun attempted to break through the clouds.

My last experience at the Gold Bar boulders was over a year ago: a frigid but fun excursion to the Five Star boulder in November or so of 2007. As for the clear-cut and beyond, I hadn't climbed there since well before the recent spate of development; I was really looking forward to some modern problems that I hadn't seen before. I wasn't disappointed: every problem that I tried, other than my perennial nemesis (Twisted, on the warm-up boulder), was brand new and really enjoyable.

We started out with some leg-quivering highball action, tempting possible impalement and probable snapped ankles, but came away unscathed. A 25 foot delicate face topped with a finger crack provided ample entertainment in this arena. Next up was a series of various and enjoyable harder problems: Que Luna provided a surprising punch in the gut; Danny Devito, simple and elegant, was up next; its companion, Positive Vibrations, felt doable...but not this time; across the way, the aesthetic Water demanded closer examination. The overarching theme: high quality! The rumbling of ice warming and cascading off the wall above provided a compelling soundtrack to the whole affair.

I had seen a picture of local climber John Stordahl on a problem called the Rubix Cube that I just had to try, along with its neighbor, Sinistricity. Both climb out of an overhang on a multifaceted and extremely interesting boulder; the angle changes are radical and the climbing highly intriguing. Certainly the highlight of the day for me: two perfect problems side by side on perfect stone. The day concluded with some attempts on the aforementioned Twisted and on Equinox, both to no avail. Maybe it's better to try the harder problems earlier in the day when the muscles are more fresh and the temperatures over 25 degrees? Perhaps; but in any case, call it inspiration for the next trip there.

Hiking down was peaceful and I felt blessed by an errant dry, sunny Washington December day. Better yet, Drew Schick had found my beloved pink pastel chalk bag and delivered it into my covetous hands. Priceless!

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