Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Rock, Rock On

The bouldering world is no longer the best kept secret in climbing. The multitude of followers has created a rich and diverse culture that ranges from big wall, training oriented, traditionalist, to dynamic, power intensive, gymnastic oriented boulderers. Depending on the level of competitiveness any climber finds within him or herself creates the atmosphere and setting for personal development. Whether pumping in the gym or searching for the solitary boulder, each path is unique and begs for exploration.

John Gill pioneered the "vertical path" and opened the world of bouldering to the explosive potential that lay dormant at its core. The beauty of movement and flow which Gill pursued, became one of the staples of bouldering and has led to similar pursuits, in some form or fashion, by countless other following in his wake.

Not to discredit mountaineering or big wall climbing but the compact and precise nature of bouldering condenses the escapades of longer routes where a climber might encounter hundreds of feet of 5.7 before hitting the crux and being forced to commit. Boiling down the height and movement into a few precious moves, amplifies the necessity of route reading and execution, leading to better climbers and climbs.

This blog is a chapter book of my escapades in and around the Front Range Bouldering. Flagstaff, Morrison, Three Sisters and eventually Rocky Mountain National Park will all be explored, along with any and all hidden gems and secret projects I am made privy to.

There is no bouldering committee, no national rankings or grading systems. Routes are graded on difficulty by a consensus, each climber who sends a problem has an opportunity to grade it. In my experience, most of the older routes are severely sandbagged, leading to heightened expectations and hinting at the grit bouldering pioneers possessed.

I will attempt to bypass the cultural rift that exists within the ideological community because in my experience there is no conflict. All climbers follow different paths and strive to achieve personal goals, be it in competitions or in the solitude of nature.

Yes, there is a new breed of climber who was born in the gym and perhaps have never strayed outside, but the idea of personal struggle and achievement that led our forefathers onto unscaled spires and up unknown faces is still present. Likewise, the sense of community is ever present and perhaps more prevalent among gym goers than in the solitary explorer who covets the discovered garden. The gym offers a different experience than outdoor climbing, creating a safer and more approachable place to learn technique and gain experience.

For me climbing is only half the game though. Finding the spots and routes is a chance to explore. Scouting new rocks offers the taste of development and prestige of climbing untouched rock. I assume others have similar feelings toward first ascents, otherwise the sport would not have developed and the major peaks would be unexplored. Difficulty aside, all climbers want to climb their best and are searching for the sense of accomplishment found at the top of a rock with a pounding heart. No one climbs "because its there," we climb because something inside ourselves challenges the limit of what can be done.

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