melissa i strong
rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily
Gustovo's instagram picture of the boulder he found.
Bouldering first ascents have been hard for me to come by throughout my climbing career. I have definitely found new rocks and stunning lines but usually I am out with my husband, Adam, or another strong fellow who happens to be waiting their turn for the first ascent. They politely hang back and encourage me for a bit but then it is time for me to step aside and the problem is done. This is how the Brown Frown at Emerald Lake was established by Adam and how Buffalo Solider at Pear Lake was put up by Mike Wickwire.
I was fortunate enough to have a friend, Gustavo Mosier, hand me my first first ascent of note (there is a chossy warm up overhanging arête at Pear Lake I can claim). Gustavo was exploring the ridge of rock along highway 34 in Estes Park. This ridge has produced bouldering areas such as Elkland and Nicky’s Boulders. We all know there are more lines up there --some are in Privatelandia and are not easily accessible.
One day this spring when the snow had finally stopped Gustavo went exploring further down this hilltop away from the private land in Rocky Mountain National Park. Here he found a few gems that he and friend Brett Rios did quickly. They also spied a slightly overhanging crimpy rig that they cleaned and chalked up. Not one for small crimps Gustavo took a picture and a pass on this rig. Right before he left for a trip he posted it on instagram tagging a few friends that might be interested including me.
Happy that the approach was not epic or snowy I was excited to check it out. I made two trips to this boulder. My first trip there I had no expectations except to try to see if we could figure out the moves. Friends Cletus and Ashley who are both strong climbers accompanied me. I speculated that Cletus would be the one who would have sent this rig first since Ashley was coming off of a break while she dedicated her time to nursing school. We all were doing well but the crux proved to be a bit bunchy. Cletus tried to figure out a way around it but I was the one who was able to do all of the moves that day! We all got tuckered out pretty fast due to our lack of long climbing days caused by all of the snow in May. I left with hope and some thin skin.
I returned later that week again with my Ashley and hubby Adam. Adam falls in the category of a strong male and has snaked a first ascent in the past; however, because of his elbow tendonitis he had taken three months off and was “weak as a kitten” according to him. My skin was thin and I was not feeling it but I warmed up by trying the moves again. I was half convinced that I wouldn't be able to repeat the moves but I did them quickly so it was time to try from the start. Two burns down and a no go. My index finger was about ready to split open. Adam was slowly figuring out moves but was stumped with the same bunchy crux. I was thinking maybe this was not going to happen and then the third time was a charm—I sent it!! I moved through the crux quickly and was slightly surprised. There were still a few moves left that were easy but a bit reachy for me—fortunately I kept it together and I soon after I was on the top slightly in disbelief.
It was a good feeling as I walked away from the rock to have done a somewhat challenging problem quickly and to be the first person to climb it! Now a name was in order. I always thought naming a problem would be the easy part but it took me longer than it did to send the problem. I finally wound up calling it Ain’t No Thing But a Chicken Wing v8. This name won due to the bunchy crux. “The chicken wing beta is crucial,” I explained to Adam when he was trying the move, “ain’t no thing but a chicken wing” he responds and it worked.
In the process of thinking of names I did come up with several more that need a good boulder problem. Training has continued and I have had a few days in the park but I recently ruptured a pulley tendon which has left me training some but on the move hiking the Rocky Mountains seeing new beautiful destinations and searching for new rocks.