Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Freestone review

It has been over a year since Missoula finally got itself a climbing gym outside of the university's gym. Upon moving here, it was apparent that the community sorely needed a gym to bring the different factions together and serve as a hub for all types of climbers to gather at to talk shop. So, after months without membership, I ponied up the 50 dollars for a month pass in preparation for an upcoming climbing trip to Bishop in hopes to become a more well-rounded climber, to reintegrate into the climbing community and to see how Freestone has evolved as a gym over this past year. With the membership almost up and the date for departure rapidly approaching, I'm writing a review based on my experiences there.

I first cancelled my membership shortly before the last climbing trip I went on in February to Hueco and have been without a gym and community since. This has allowed me to focus my efforts in Lolo which, ultimately, is the real reason why I have a membership in the first place. The past month of climbing inside has reignited my motivation to get out again and was a reminder to why I left Freestone. The question I kept asking myself was whether or not membership is worth 50 dollars a month?

For the price, Freestone is a poor deal in comparison to most other gyms around the country and price should directly correlate to the quantity and quality of services offered. Most climbing gyms these days offer entire rooms flush with workout equipment, yoga classes, climbing clinics, teams, and host multiple competitions a year, yet we pay as much as these gyms but get a tenth of the services.  That being said, I feel that a day pass should cost more than a pint of beer but less than admission to a movie. The problems set are the only products by which this gym can be judged by as they are the only service that is offered and I feel that the quality of problems does not constitute the price of membership. So, where does my 50 dollars go when I pay for a membership? I hope that the money goes to pay its employees well enough to only have to work one job in this town, instead of the normal 2-4 jobs most people work to just scrape by. If not that then more holds, more walls, more competitions, more equipment to train on, and more community-oriented programs. I feel that Freestone focuses more on the business and much less on the community that continues to support it, despite getting nothing in return. Maybe I'm too idealistic about this business, but with absolutely no other options I am forced to settle for paying too much and getting little in return.

I think that a reduced monthly rate would entice me into becoming a member again but I don't think that will happen unless there is competition in the form of another gym. I won't return to the gym with the current rates so I suggest to either step up your game Freestone or greatly reduce the rates because it's just not worth it otherwise. A great foundation was laid over a year ago for a business to help pull the climbing community together but has failed to add anything to that foundation in that time. Most importantly, customers should feel obligated to the community and welcomed by the business to voice their opinions if unsatisfied because few things will change over this next year if we don't.

Please keep in mind that my intentions of this are not to offend or attack anyone personally but offer help in the form of constructive criticism. Really, what I want more than a cheaper membership or more equipment is a business that strives to serve the community.

Regardless of all this, I hope people in the community get the opportunity to climb outside on the nice days or be able to take off on trips this winter. Those are the times when you feel justified by spending countless hours inside climbing on plastic or money on an overpriced membership.

I'm off to Bishop for a month.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Hunt

  As the season transitions into another so does a climber's focus and with winter setting in my priorities shift to accomodate this unfavorable weather. It is hard getting used to the idea of possibly climbing outside one day a week after spending most of the summer and all of the fall being in the woods four to six times a week. Truly sad and very difficult to become used to. However, now is the time to don your day-glow orange hat and vest, shoulder a rifle or pad (both for the diehards), and get out in the woods on the hunt for animals and stone. Lolo is rich with both and, like I have said in the past, the amount of stone in Lolo is simply staggering. Stone exists nearly everywhere in the forest but finding worthy blocks is the true challenge. Walking for hours on a hunch to find shoulder high turds or completely blank walls or utter garbage is disheartening to say the least and there will be many outings that will have you bitter about your findings leaving you with nothing more then a long walk back to the car. But there also exists opportunity for amazing finds.

  A few weeks ago Levi and I got in my car early one Saturday morning on a mission to find out if this spot we had been talking about for the past year would become Montana's premier bouldering destination. Dylan initially saw a picture of the area in the book Montana Roadside Geology that was of houses being dwarfed by an endless field of boulders that sat beneath a dark cliff band. We had combed Google maps looking at these boulders for months wondering if we had stumbled upon something that would soon consume all our free time.  The time had come to find out what this place was all about. Our hopes were high and the 4+ hour drive seemed much longer than it actually was with the anticipation building coupled with the anxiety of sacrificing one of the last good weekends here. We turned off the highway on to a rutted dirt road with a wealth of rock in the distance and the sun shining.

  With eyes fixed on the distant rock we nearly drove completely off the road into the tall grass prairie on more then one 90 degree turn en route to the boulders. As we approached it was apparent that the houses in the picture we had poured over were abandoned and we quickly left the car in the middle of the road and were soon in the midst of the boulder field. The rock was really good requiring nothing more then a once over with a wire brush to take off the outer layer to clean and the features were very unique ranging from softball sized protrusions, large plates separated by deep cut seams, pockets, and pinches. Unfortunately, most of the boulders were just too small.

    There were of course some true beauties. The square boulder had an awesome leg-snapping, pinball landing that crushed any hopes of climbing it without gear.

   It was a bust. The houses must have been occupied by dwarves because they were barely over head height which threw off our entire basis for being house-sized boulders. However, the walls behind the boulders look phenomenal and for any interested party it is located just north of Square Butte and south of Geraldine on the west side of the highway.

 The weekend was salvaged by stopping in Bozeman to visit friends and climbing in Butte with Kyle and Joe giving us a tour of what they have been developing.

The hunt continues for next season's sweet spot.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Warlock Photos - Lolo Update

A few photos of Levi on the ultra clean Warlock Project.  This boulder is located in the middle of nowhere.  TMAX-100 from the Canon AE-1. 

In other news I woke up at the 4200 gate to go hunting on Tuesday morning.  4 inches of fresh snow and more to come.  Butte season already?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Big in Japan

  Today is the Butte Bouldering Bash and, unfortunately, I won't be joining the crowds to sample some of Butte's finest. I have nothing but respect for the guys over there getting out all the time and putting in work to search out new stone. I, however, will be honoring the hardworking few by getting out of the gray hole of Missoula and spending my time alone and in the woods. The gate to 4200 closes this Monday so here is the last chance to enjoy driving the road at break-neck speeds over washboards and loose gravel to hop out, slam a beer, shoot the empty can and then go climbing minutes from the road. I plan to celebrate the closing of the gate by blowing up a small piece of this beautifully fucked up country and chopping down trees with my pistol. This also means Granite Ridge, Elk Rock, and the Euro Stone will be all but shut down for the season except for the diehards and masochists willing to subject themselves to a long and cold walk uphill for 30+ minutes.

This is what we have been doing as told through pictures and broken sentences. Enjoy.

Spying a potential gem.

The Warlock Project. Small pockets, heel hook cross to smaller pockets and heinous top.

The amazing one-finger start to Firepower Arete V6

Dylan on the 3rd ascent of Firepower arete. Long moves to a tenuous and blank top.

Dylan on the high point of Big in Japan project which should now be an established problem, but he's a pussy. A beautiful boulder that is about 20-25 feet tall. Starts with an amazing undercling to small holds made manageable by growing a few inches to surfing the casual middle and keeping your head about you for the delicate top. Classic.

Levi on the opening move to show scale.

Lastly, everyone should be skipping as much gym time as possible and getting outside because snow is coming and the season is approaching the end.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


John is new to town and he seems like a crusher.  I met him the other day at the Dark Room and he seems like an honest guy with good intentions with the ability to squeeze Lolo granite like its nobody's business.  Video: 

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Cold temps have arrived.  Yesterday was a lovely preview of what is to come for the fall season.  Fall season is the best season by the way.  Managed to get out for a few hours in the mindfuck temperature of 40 degrees.  Not cold by anymeans but when tanktops and shorts have been the norm it certainly takes some time to adjust.  So you could go to reel rock tour tonight, get pysched and crush it at the gym.  Or you could get outside and realize how primetime it is.  To poundtown we go!

Sunday, September 30, 2012


This year has been ripe with sending. Personal projects to undone lines have been getting put down with speed and style which has been inspiring to be a part of. The cumulative psyche has been very high and with actual climbing season finally here I expect big things to come. There are a few hard projects left in the depths of the forest that really hold our interest although there still remains a wealth of untouched rock.

The season started off strong with Levi putting down The Viking project at the Hideout. The dyno version of The Viking still is a project and will likely clock in around v11. Here is Levi coming close on the dyno and a link to Dylan's post with some nice photos and a video of The Viking send. The Viking probably goes around v9.

A couple weeks later Levi and I revisited a project from last year and both sent in one session. I managed the 4th and Levi with the 5th ascent of The Alchemist which is a stellar v9 on the Euro Stone.

After a tour of the Opium Den we quickly realized the potential for a larger concentration of problems that exist there and quickly got to work. One problem in particular caught my eye and after upwards of 8 sessions Levi finally pieced together Cosmic Damage which I returned to roughly a week later and got the 2nd ascent. I think it should be around a v9, maybe harder.

Around the same time of the Opium Den revival we looked at an otherwise forgotten boulder that sits halfway in a creek and immediately saw a number of high quality hard problems. The Nice House boulder is located off Granite Creek shortly after the G+G wall which hangs over the road. Please park off the road completely so as not to get your car totaled by any number of gun toting, redneck bumpkins hauling ass down this dusty road. The boulder currently has two completed lines but holds three more problems that will easily be v10+. Swamp Donkey located on the far right of the block and is a really nice moderate that starts over the water and continues up a sloping rail. We spent a few hours one hot summer day making an actual landing for it and hopefully it will stay through the winter and beyond. In addition to the Nice House boulder there is another nice boulder located to the left once over the river through some thick forest and a couple minutes hike. The Bog boulder is a slightly overhanging face with a couple good warmups and two v6/v7s in the middle. Rhodesian Jungle (probably v8 but now broken v6/7) started left hand on a crimp rail and right hand low but after breakage makes a match possible and the problem a little easier. Poundtown starts right hand in the two finger pocket and continues straight up on small dimples which could use a low start.

After numerous sessions and tons of different beta I finished Swamp Donkey in a surprising one-try effort after deciding not to climb that day.

Lastly, while out shooting, Dylan rediscovered a swath of stone that looks like it will produce some gems. Yesterday, Levi and I put up Haters Gonna Hate, a likely v7, and Dylan got out today to clean up the third ascent. While Dylan slam dunked the the post-crux hold I rattled off some photos.

In between these noteworthy sends this year has been mostly filled with wire brush on granite, tons of hiking to new and old sectors, beer, guns, and finally, development which can be equally as rewarding as sending hard or establishing something new. These sends make the hard work worth all the effort but I really do enjoy a long day of hiking through the woods to stumble upon something like this. Enjoy the next few weeks because Lolo season is rapidly coming to an end so get out and get after it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Years Ago

 I took this photo on my first day in Lolo.  I remember it vividly as Levi sent Way of the Samurai that day.  If I remember correctly, Levi said "it feels good to have new blood in Lolo" and attributed his psyche to send to my new found presence in the maze of Lolo.  Later we met up with Dean in the Journeymen boulders, tried a sharp project and proceeded to do hood rat things.  I think I sent Hooray for Boobies that day but got pounded by everything else I tried.  Ultimately that is Lolo for me.  Random fits of strength occur rarely for me here and when they do I take great pleasure in them.  The whole experience is what makes Lolo so different from other areas I have climbed in.  It's not all about the bouldering.  It's the mantrums, slogging uphill, flappers, debauchery and company that keeps me coming back.  Masochism at its finest perhaps. 

This blog may seem like an attempt to stroke our egos and potentially it is.  But that's not our main desire.  I know there are climbers in Missoula and beyond that are interested in what Lolo is and is going to become.  Most times we may seem inapproachable, which is probably true.  We are introverts, assholes and selfish.  Let this serve as a bridge to what we can't express in person. 

 The Hideout

Hiding Out

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Welcome to bouldering in Lolo

Vedauwoo- a post-holing playground for any idiot willing to subject themselves to absolutely bitter conditions 8 months a year 

   I learned to climb out amongst the vast granite paradise of Vedauwoo located 15 minutes from Laramie, WY and the University of Wyoming. Some might consider this place absolute hell with crystals as big as dice and meaner than your asshole friend drunk on whiskey but these people obviously never spent enough time there. To the uninterested college kid it offered all one could want: escape from the meaningless day to day in hopes of fulfillment through the most selfish of past times... climbing. Vedauwoo is a brutal teacher but through hardship, failure, unforgiving weather, absurdly long winters and terribly short summers, heinously sharp stone which was often blank, scattered boulders and long approaches I learned how important things like a dependable climbing partner and the need to escape from the masses are. Fond memories still resonate through me as I now spend my days on similar rock deep in the maze of dense Montana forest near the border of Idaho.

   In Montana, my core group of climbing partners has shrunk dramatically to Levi and Dylan but efficiency, motivation, and debauchery is outrageously high. This season we have consistently gotten out to climb all year despite a short spring, terribly hot summer, and smoky fall. Projects have been getting put down in addition to new boulders in established sectors and new sectors altogether. Tons of time and money has been put in and blown through on gas, beer, ammo, brushes, walking through the woods, finding nothing, finding gems, sniffing out new climbing areas, and tomfoolery. 
   I have been very fortunate to be given this opportunity to lend a hand in the development of an entire climbing area with close friends and respect their level of secrecy. To have an entire climbing area to yourself in this day is rare and to keep it for yourself may be selfish it is also absolutely devine. It is less about taking first ascents for yourself as it is climbing in an area with one or two friends all by yourself. Having said that getting the FA of some new sweetheart boulder problem is incredibly fun and innately motivating. Let's not forget the simple fact that the amount of rock in the Lolo pass area is simply staggering and for anyone with a sense of adventure and a little motivation this same experience can be replicated.
   One of these days there will exist a guide to the bouldering of Lolo for all to enjoy but it will be a little while we work out the last little pieces for the biggest concentrations. Keep in mind that there are few places left like this and a lot of time and effort has gone into this so far with much more to come but not all that motivates are first ascents as simply stepping away from the routine and being by oneself are equally as important to some. Most importantly, climbing is inherently selfish and patience is a virtue.