Michael O’Rourke: The Old Projects

When I moved out to Boulder 2.5 years ago, I was so excited to check out my new playground and get familiar with the close areas. There a couple areas within 30 minutes of boulder that I spent a considerable amount of time in, my main three for bouldering are Clear Creek Canyon, Boulder Canyon, and good Ole’ Flagstaff. Over that time, I completed most of the hard problems that I put on my tick list, and there are still a good handful that remain unfinished.
The past few weeks I have been having a good streak on some of my unfinished nemesis rigs. With the snow melted and the weather was getting bearable, I headed up to Flagstaff Mountain just on the edge of Boulder. There were a few problems that I still needed to do, so I headed to the well-traveled Cloud Shadow boulder to test my luck on Trice, a problem that has made me struggle since day one. It’s only three moves, but all of them extremely subtle and precise with a couple different methods available. The first move is a right hand to a funky finger stack in a sloping pocket, and after that…I’m positive I tried every single beta to the next two holds multiple times, and all of them felt just as close as the next. I would see people trying to get a high toe and I tried that but I felt like I couldn’t get any purchase on the foot, then I tried doing a huge double dyno to the finish but couldn’t get the distance.
Now this year, while just playing around on it, I decided to put my heel above my head – which is something that never feels comfortable for me, but it sank in, and I could get enough purchase on the heel to move slowly enough to the next hold. It took me another try to stick the second hold, and then it was just one last little jump move to a sloppy divot, which proved to be more difficult and subtle than I anticipated. About 5 tries later I go for the last hold again and hit it just right and just like that I had done Trice. It was quite the satisfying send after trying it over 100 times over 2 years. The other problem on Flagstaff that I tried once 2 years ago and never came back to was the old Butt Slammer project that hadn’t been done in about 40 years. My friend Hunter told me he had done the stand to it and that the top wasn’t too scary and that got me psyched to get back on it. Back in the day when I tried it I had always wanted to do it because it was such a nice steep face with a great line of holds going all the way up.
Coming back to the Boulder reminded me of my first time coming up to Flag, and checking out all the new boulders for me and stumbling upon this thing and being like, woah, I need to do this. After remembering my beta with some new beta I got from Hunter, I pulled on the problem again and got through the first crux pretty easily, and dropped to warm up some more. After a few more warm-ups trying to go to the lip from the stand, I was ready to give it a go from the sit.
I do the intro moves, and I’m pulling through the first crux feeling good and I end up getting all the way to the lip and my fingers start to numb out, with a very sketchy landing and my fingers numb and chalk-less I try to top out but I can’t get my body right, so I climb down a little and take a drop. The next go the same thing happens and I can’t get my body over the lip to finish out the problem, so I have to drop from the top again. The next go I was doing the last move for the lip, and my right handhold broke, catching me off guard, and I took a digger. After a little rest and brushing up my freshly broken hold I get back on. I try and move fast through the problem because I feel weaker, and I end up getting to the lip again, and just pull as hard as I can to rock my body over, and hold a crimp while I do the final big crossover.
After all that struggle, I had put down another one of my Flagstaff projects and I was so psyched to be done with that side of the boulder.
The next week the temps cooled down a little bit, so I went to one of my climbs I’ve been working on in Clear Creek Canyon called Dark Waters. There are a lot of different variations in this cave and I did some of the easier ones when I first started climbing there. I was always able to feel all the holds on this climb and I could do most of the upper moves fairly easily on their own. The hard crux was down low, and the final was having enough power at the end of the problem to stick the finishing dyno. Every time I come back, it takes me a few goes to re-learn the intricate footwork, but once I get it down I can get the final jump maybe every other go.
At that point you just need to have enough power left to make this final jump to a decent edge, but I’ve managed to fall off that move more than I would’ve liked. I’ve worked this problem off and on over the seasons getting really close many times, I fell at the last dyno at least 8 times over the years before coming back again this year. It was cold and cloudy when we got out of the car with the snow fading in and out, pretty good weather for those bad holds. We got down to the boulder and I did a couple pull ups and did the last dyno and wanted to get right on the problem as to not waste energy so I could try the problem a lot if needed. I pulled on for the 3rd time and got through the first crux and stuck the first big move past the first overhang, then a little shakeout and throw a heel above head and do a big crossover to a thin slot crimp. when i grabbed the crimp i had felt like i had all this power left so i gunned for the finish hold and caught it with 2 fingers then readjusted and continued up for the easy tall top out. it was such a relief to finally stick that dyno and complete this problem that has really put up a fight.
Sometimes you just have to walk away from your old projects for a little bit to get stronger and smarter and come back for the take down, and it will all be worth it.