Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Afternoon Bouldering with a Golden Age Crack Master
I’ve known Larry Zulim for a long time. A great guy and all about going climbing. He climbs hard too, usually going to Yosemite at least once a week to climb crack.
He knows a lot of old climbing history and stories from the valley days. There is a picture of him balancing on a slack chain in the Yosemite Climber book by George Meyers. You would think that after all those years it would be time to do a slide show tour or write a book but Larry’s still climbing Hard for his sixty some years!
I went along on a bouldering excursion one afternoon recently with him and our friends Bruce and Adam. Bruce and I have climbed for some years now and Adam had never climbed before and bought some gear just for this day. We brought along one bouldering pad, though we hardly used it. We were Trad Bouldering
I guess you could call the 440 Boulders a secret spot. All along the foothills of the Central Sierra, there are areas peppered with boulders, some medium, some amazingly huge! But it’s all mostly off limits. “No Trespassing” signs everywhere.
This boulder place Larry is taking us doesn’t seem to have any of those kinds of signs. Coming here for a number of years already, he knows the access secrets, which includes bringing some doggie treats. Located on the eastern edge of the valley between Visalia and Fresno, it’s a bunch of lefts and rights, then through a farm workers yard with bulls and on to the edge of an orange orchard to get to the rocks. The parking is at a pullout slashed with gang graffiti, broken glass and bullet holes. It was unsettling to head to the rock leaving the truck to fend for itself. .
Last time I went to a bouldering area, a year ago maybe, everyone had a pad. It looked like a mattress convention! We would pile em all up for the high ball problems. Being a good spotter kept you in with the in crowd. Some big climbs you have to jump off the top onto waiting pads or pad.
There were chalk “buckets” of all things! Poles with coarse brushes taped on with duct tape leaned against the boulders. There was a step ladder too. Everybody was covered in chalk and sweat, a stove down in the dirt hissed out the smell of an espresso pot boiling and the banged up boom box blared out some thumping, bumping, gitty up rant. And everyone was sending the stuff, going for it on big air to the applause and yells of the crowd, climbing hard and in style and getting stronger and bolder on the Boulder. It’s contagious for sure. Bouldering is a sport all on its own!
Today it was just climbing. We were nomadic, moving camp to the next boulder set as soon as we’d all done the problems or not. There were some funky landings, with fist size rocks. I guess the pad would help here but we didn’t want to take the time. The climber must not fall was our mantra, though it wasn’t that bad. Today was more like the way I remember bouldering to be, when all you brought was shoes and a chalk bag. Sometimes a piece of rug helped. . Larry was going for 90 problems, which he did. He doesn’t count the down climbing and just keeps moving, though not too fast, just steady. Bruce and I got up more problems than we thought and Adam got a serious taste for climbing on his first boulder problems
We finished right as the sun was going down and it was almost dark as we came back to the truck where all was amazingly well. All the light was just right for photos and views and we felt rewarded with sore muscles and planning for the next week’s trip back. I’m Thankful to Larry for giving me the gusto to go climbing and having him as my inspiration