Friday, February 29, 2008

Big Aretes

So I went bouldering in Cochise Stronghold last weekend. For the unfamiliar, Cochise is the biggest & best climbing in Southeastern Arizona - high quality golden granite towers in the Dragoon Mountains. Cochise is also very backcountry and remote, with long, stairmaster-type approaches, tricky descents, and so on. Despite being out here for 7 months and visiting 3 or 4 times, I've only actually climbed a single route there - the other trips have turned into bouldering trips, which is fine by me because the bouldering is great, unlimited, and there's no one else in sight.

Just like the routes, though, much of the bouldering feels committing. The problems tend to be on the larger side, often without the best landings. This past weekend I went with the intention of climbing two big overhanging aretes I'd looked at before, one of which I tried a little but couldn't commit to with only two pads and one spotter. This time I had both James & Laura to spot, and a third pad , which boosted my confidence plenty - both got sent! The first one was close though. It overhangs about 45 degrees, and though the holds are good, they're directional slopers and there aren't really any feet. You just sort of slap up with a heel hook and a couple smears. As I hit the lip of the boulder, both my feet cut and I swung waaay out over the yucca plant that makes up the landing from that point - not a comfy place to fall. I stuck on though, and groveled my way over the top.

The other big arete felt much easier after this one - it's a perfect razor cut left arete, overhung about 30 degrees, with a single sloping edge just out of reach in the middle of the face and a massive jug way at the top of the boulder on the right. When you hit the jug, your left hand is on a little bump on the arete, and you can't heel hook anymore - you've got to cut and throw your foot up above your head onto the jug before you match up and pull over the top using a several-ton detached block conveniently perched up there.

These problems are in a wash that does actually have a guide (apparently a bouldering comp was held there awhile ago, at a 'beanfest'). I'm not sure if these problems are in it - I'd be surprised if they hadn't already been climbed. In any case, the bouldering guide doesn't appear to cover much compared to the possibilities out there in Cochise though. If the temps will just calm down for a little bit longer (it was 85 degrees out today!) maybe there'll be a chance to venture beyond the realm of the guide...