I've been in Bishop for a but more than two weeks now. When I arrived, the weather was pretty bad - cold and snowy. Still manages to climb the first week but it was a struggle to stay warm and loose. I was also getting over a sickness at the beginning of the trip. My main goal for the trip was to do the Mandala sit start. I had tried this a year and a half ago and came very close (fell twice on the Mandala's first move). Other problems I was thinking about are Spectre, Swarm, Direction and Evilution.
Recently the weather has been good and things have really been falling into place. this past weekend, I climbed with my girlfriend, Sandy, my brother, Andrew, and good friends Noah and Siemay. There was a lot of stoke. On Friday I climbed Evilution Direct - one of the best problems in the world. My brother had been super psyched on the route and had worked out the beta for the finish which had changed because of a broken hold. A couple days earlier, I tried the lip moves on a rope and figured out a sequence that felt solid for me. On Friday, I tried the moves once more on a rope and then sent first try from the ground. It was scary, but I felt in control. I got a bit excited at the end quickly manteled a slopey hold to get into the low angle scoop. This was not the plannes sequence, but fortunately worked. Andrew is also super close to doing the line. He took a few big falls from the lip. Below is one photo I took of him at the last hard moves. Will's Young shot some cool photos of me doing Evilution and posted them on the Bishop Bouldering blog.
On Saturday, I went up to the Swarm V14 and tried some of the moves. I had tried the first moves many years ago when it was still a project and was excited to see how they felt now. I quickly did the first move and was close to sticking the second move - a jump to a small edge with a good incut in the back. I stalled on the hold a couple of times, but didn't quite stick it. I also worked out the end sequence twice. My psyche for the line was definitely increased by watching Tim Clifford climb it a few days earlier. I also found his beta very useful. I think we used the exact same beta for the whole climb. Sandy took a few cool shots of me working the problem just before dusk.
I rested Sunday and went back to the Swarm on Monday afternoon. After three close attempts from the start, falling at the second move, I decided to take a short rest to let my skin get a bit harder. Then I went back and did it on my next go. The ascent went pretty smoothly, but I definitely had to hang on hard to not fall after the crux. I was really psyched to stick the moves and it was such a god feeling to swing out on the crimps and then swing back in without falling. I felt that this problem really suited my style - crimpy and slightly overhanging.
Yesterday I went for a hike with my dogs in the morning. I was hoping to stumble across a rad new problem somewhere above the Buttermilks, but luck wasn't with me. I rested during the middle of the day with hopes of climbing in the last hour before it got dark when the sun is no longer hitting the boulders. I warmed up some and then headed to the Mandala. There was a good posse trying it and I started getting psyched to give the sit a good go. I had worked out the moves on previous days and had also repeated the stand start on Friday after doing Evilution Direct. I fondled the key left hand crimp and was pretty optimistic about how it felt. This hold makes or breaks the lower moves because all the hard moves of the sit start involve this hold. It is a small rounded spike that you can just barely wedge two and a half fingers into. I chilled a bit longer and then sat down at the base and started. The intro moves went well and I got my fingers into the key crimp well. I held the swing and jumped to the starting hold of the Mandala stand. I just barely latched it and was uncertain if I would continue holding it. Instinctively I wrapped it int a crimp and it felt much better. I then set myself up for the long first move of the Mandala and grabbed the small hold with just three fingers. I didn't have time to get my pinky on so I just crimped as hard as physically possible and pulled up to the next hold. I didn't get this one perfect either but was still on. I launched for the next edge which I knew was a lot better and stuck it. From here I was solid on the finish, though a bit nervous because I could no longer feel my fingers and the holds are pretty solid. I pulled around and mantled the lip super psyched. It felt great to succeed on the primary goal of the trip. When I came down, my fingers we in sharp pain because I hadn't warmed them up enough for that much hard crimping. I also had small cuts on every tip that looked bad at the time but turned out to be mostly superficial. The sit start supposedly goes at V14. For me, it is probably the hardest problem I've ever done. It felt harder than Swarm. None of the moves were as hard as the Quintessential moves for me, but the link was more involved (Quintessential is a problem I did the second ascent of in South Africa and I considered it the hardest problem I've done prior to doing the Mandala sds).
After sanding my tips and resting a bit, I headed down to Evilution to watch the action there. Some people were trying both exits to the problem. Several days back I had tried the lip moves of the original Evilution line once. I knew I could do the crux move up there and was thinking that maybe I should try to climb it while things were still fresh in my mind. On the other hand, I was thinking that one Evilution ascent would be plenty good. Anyway, after watching a few people try the left exit, I got psyched to try it. I decided to give it one really good go. I figured I could do it if I tried my hardest. I velcroed up and then gave it a go. The bottom went smoothly and I felt strong on the crimps through the lip moves. The last few moves after the crux were a bit dicey because I was high and had never tried the moves before. All went well though and I found myself climbing the upper slab above Evilution for a second time this trip. They say the left version is V12 and the right version is V11. I buy this but really they feel pretty comparable. One is physically harder and one is mentally harder.
I'm really psyched with these recent ascents. The past two days are probably my best days of climbing ever. I feel really strong now and hope to carry this psyche and confidence through another couple of sends. On the top of the list are The Buttermilker, Direction, and Mystery. I'm also interested in trying the opening sequence on a new highball that Kevin Jorgenson may try to send tomorrow. I watched him do it on TR and he looks super solid. Maybe if I figure out the opening moves, I'll try the upper part. More than likely, I'll have to wait for another trip.