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Getting Outside: Winter’s End at Carter Lake

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.

Neef bearing down on a quarter inch crimp

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.

Outside! Neef soaking up some sun.

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.

Some may say too close to the water.

Too 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.

Wilson, reaching for the rail

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.

Proof I dragged my butt up at least one problem. (Photo: Ryan Wilson)

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.

Starting the problem

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.

Setting up for the sloping lip

Wilson made it to the topout, but was stymied by the sharp angle change and tenuous mantle moves.

I have to mantle what, now?

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.

Over the roof of The Seam (Photo: Ryan Wilson)

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!

Finishing the day (Photo: Ryan Wilson)

ADNeef - Beautiful climbing
stunningly handsome broheims
well written story.April 29, 2012 – 10:15 pm

Doug - Nice write up, Tyler. Looks like I’ll be returning to my bouldering roots soon. I’m inviting people to Kearney May 12/13th to help create my monster woodie. Refreshments will be provided.April 29, 2012 – 10:31 pm

Kate - Looks like you guys had a grand time! I can’t wait to get out this summer!April 29, 2012 – 10:51 pm

Adam Scheer - I’m glad to hear the Busch heavy camo cans are still there for the suckling. I suppose it makes sense considering that nobody can see them.

Cool post. What inspired you to go to Carter Lake? That sounds like an Adam Neef idea.

Wilson sending a V5 on his 2nd go? Nice work.April 30, 2012 – 10:08 am

Kai - The camo cans let the rocks know “Hey, it’s cool, I’m one of you. You know, part of nature.” But the Busch heavy just pisses gravity off. If they made Keystone Light in a camo can, you would have sent.April 30, 2012 – 10:42 pm

Kate C - Ahhhh, looks completely awesome. I haven’t been out to Carter Lake yet, but it’s on the list for some day when I get good at bouldering. The NCCC is having a Carter Lake trail day this Sat morning if you are interested: 1, 2012 – 11:08 am

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