It’s almost May, and the Front Range has been stretching into a spring of absurdly good weather. The days are lengthening, and post-work pitches and boulders are beckoning. With weather like this, it’s easy to forget that six weeks ago, we were huddled into down coats and leaning into mid-March snow.
I’m always grateful for good weather – it inspires climbers to ask the question, “want to go do something tomorrow?” With the swelter of summer padding quietly around the corner, it feels good to know that we’re in prime climbing season. This is a narrow window, bracketed by greasy, shade-chasing afternoons, and finger-stinging cold. Just five weeks ago, Ryan, Adam and I stumbled into the first spring days, and found a free afternoon to go to Carter Lake for some t-shirt-weather bouldering.
It was one of the few times I’d made it out in months. Work had kept me on the road, and away from the gym. I’d recently started a new position at my company, and in the stress of learning a new job, hadn’t made the time to climb. I needed to make it out for a bit, to remind myself why I live in Colorado, and Ryan and Adam dragged me to the lake for some bouldering.
We started off on a fun V0-ish problem that sat close to the water.
We took advantage of the low water to make it up a fun V0-ish problem on a boulder that’s usually submerged. Sidepulls and tricky feet send you up to an off-balance stab around the top for a rail that’s just out of reach.
Carter Lake is a beautiful place, and we took a few minutes after the warmup to enjoy the sun, and learn that Ryan Wilson is a pebble-skipping virtuoso, one of the greats, a man apart. Neef and I had each grabbed a pebble, and launched them into the lake. Neef got three skips, I managed two. Ryan hopped off the walk-off, saw what we’re doing, grabbed the first rock in reach, and launched it side arm into a gentle drop towards the lake, his fingers spinning the stone with the practiced assurance of Da Vinci at his brushes. Twenty skips later, the stone begrudgingly ended its beautiful travel thirty yards from its first contact with the lake.
Neef and I stared astonished as a quote from Christopher Walken’s character in “Man on Fire” floated unbidden into my head:
“A man can be an artist… in in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it.”
Wilson shrugged, grabbed another rock, and said “I spent a lot of time rowing,” as if that could explain the warm halo of light surrounding his shoulders, or the feeling of harmony and peace that descended as he wound up to release another astonishing set of hops across the lake. The dude can skip rocks. That’s all I’m saying.
We made our way uphill to a boulder with a low V3 traverse into a committing topout. Neef and Wilson dispatched the problem quickly, while I learned where my limits were in short order. We moved around the boulder to a hard, low roof problem with a sloping mantle at the top that gave my climbing companions trouble.
The problem starts with a heel hook to set up two throws for opposing crimps. It sure looked hard. I was too busy falling off the first move and drinking the ever-classy Busch heavy from neon-orange camouflage cans to know for sure.
Wilson made it to the topout, but was stymied by the sharp angle change and tenuous mantle moves.
A second go at the topout saw him push through the tenuous finish, to send the V5. Nice work.
We finished the day at climbing a fun seam problem that surmounted a 90 degree roof on sharp vertical rails and good feet. The climb is rated at V2, but I was able to onsite it, which suggests a grade of V-basic minus.
Now that the weather is improving, and the cold-weather days are numbered, it’s worth remembering that each day out is valuable. The runout horror show climbs stand out when we look back on past climbs, but laid-back, low-pressure afternoons spent skipping stones and weakly wrestling some moves are just as valuable, centering, and important.
If you’re reading this, you already know that. I just like to hear myself talk. I’ve been getting into better shape recently, and am looking to get back to this beautiful spot for some flailing. Let me know if you’re in!