Monday, November 30, 2009

C.O.R.N. C.O.B

The title is an acronym. It means Central Oregon Really Needs Concentrated, Obvious Bouldering. Because what currently exists is neither concentrated nor obvious.

So last week I went back to Oregon for Thanksgiving. Mostly to chill with the family and eat a shit-load of mashed potatoes, but the weather was good enough to check out a few of my favorite Bend-area bouldering areas.

So join me for a little trip down memory lane...

Soon after the mighty Jim Karn moved to Bend from another town full of dirty hippies (Boulder, Colorado), he put up a sloping lip traverse called "Snail Trail" at Meadow Camp. I mean really slopey.

It starts on a wide, flat edge rail on the left "wing" of the boulder and tops out somewheres in the upper right of the photo. You may remember this boulder problem from the cover of the 1996 catalog for Jim's clothing company, Worm. And if you do remember that, it means you are one of about 20 or 30 people and you're at least 40 years old.

A few months after that, I found a feeble array of basalt blocks by Tumalo Creek. I started calling it "The Tick Ranch" after I came home and found four parasites had burrowed into my skin after a little cleaning session.

The Tick Ranch's only real claim to fame is a route that Alan Watts put up some time in the late 70's or early 80's. It's an 11d (French 7a for you Euros) that goes up an overhanging corner and out a roof. At that time, it was probably the hardest route in Oregon. And it looks like this:

Yes, I know that 11d is not really a big number, but you have to put it into context: It's an 11d protected by thin wires, on slick basalt patina. And this was before Spanish rubber, so Big Al was most likely wearing shitty EBs and sporting a Swami, no leg loops. All of this means extra credit points for being a bad-ass.

One of those boulders I called "The Ming Boulder", short for Mingus, a variation of Jingus, which means shitty or heinous. Not much to do in Bend but think up stupid slang and drink heavily.

I squeezed out a few problems on this block, "The Ming" and the "Ming Traverse".

The Ming is a little 2-move vert face problem on the left of the photo. John Cronin got the FA and called it V9, because every Cronin problem is V9.

The Ming Traverse starts around the other side of the boulder, passes the pine tree and finishes above the Ming face. It's somewhere in the V7/V8 range. The pine tree is really close to the boulder, so I would take a 2x4 and prop it away from the rock to give me some space to pass by. That's some MacGyver-type shit.

Soon enough, Cronin got the FA on another problem I had been trying a hundred yards away from the Ming block. It starts with a sit-down near the small cave on the left of the photo and moves around to the right, finishing on a slab on the back side.

Cronin graded this V11, which means it may be the only Cronin problem not graded V9. He called it "Path of the Righteous Man" after that famous speech in Pulp fiction...

You may think that the theme of this little blog session is "A tribute to sloping lip traverses". And you would be correct in assuming that. But you have to work with what you got in Central Oregon: a shitload of sloping lip traverses.

That does not mean there is a lack of rock in the area, actually there is plenty of rock. But 99.999% of it is just too short for decent climbing. As Metolius employee Erik Von Heidiken once said "Central Oregon would be the greatest bouldering area in the world if you were 12 inches tall".

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    You say in this post that you named tick ranch, I am wondering if you have any information about any grades for the sport routes up there?