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Animal World, Boulder Canyon, Revisited

Free Willie at Animal World, Boulder Canyon

Animal World, Boulder Canyon, Revisited

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I think it’s been a couple years since I last climbed at Animal World. I had a couple friends wanting to check out Boulder Canyon. Since I had recently climbed at the Sport Park, I was more interested in revisiting Animal World.

The thing I find interesting about revisiting an area that I’ve climbed before years earlier is to see how I feel about certain climbs that I have attempted before. I like to see if I am as gripped, or if I find it the same level of difficulty, or alternatively more or less difficult.

The best is finding that you climb it better than before. It means you’ve improved and haven’t declined in ability.

There was a particular climb I had in mind, called Free Willie, an 5.11a that I found a couple of years ago when I first visited Animal World to be particularly grueling. I didn’t lead it at the time, just followed after Mark’s lead, unclipping the ‘biners as I progressed up. I remember how I had trouble on the final hand traverse, especially with unclipping — hanging on one hand a la Cliffhanger, while clipping with the freehand:

Cliffhanger, but with no headset, or helicopter in the background…

But this time I wanted to lead it.

I went up with Katie, Dan and Katie’s son Sawyer. Since it’s been a couple of years I, of course, got a tad lost and overshot the turn to the crag. Luckily I saw the tops of the bolted routes, with climbers rising from below. I recognized the upper bulge portion of Animation aka Jaycene’s Dance, a 3 star 5.8 warmup route I led last time I was here.

We went down.

Since the front portion of the Animal World crag had every route taken up, I led everyone around the corner to see what was within our abilities to climb.

Sawyer on “Is it ready yet…Moe”

Lazy Day

We decided to warmup on Lazy Day, a 2 star 5.9+. I think I’ve written before that most times I’d much rather climb a 5.10a, than a 5.9+. The “plus” (+) is typically a heinous crux move that can be a grade or 2 harder than the rating. I think I found it as I rose above the 3rd bolt. I found it particularly daunting as the holds petered out.

Dan, a much taller climber, managed that section without the difficulty that I had. I thought the 2 stars was not justified, I would have given it a 1 or 1.5 stars — not spectacular, but a decent warmup.

I felt a bit gratified when I saw some other climbers stopped out at that bolt though, lowering rather than finishing it off. Maybe I haveimproved?

Is it Ready Yet…Moe

We decided to move left to: Is It Ready Yet…Moe, another 2 star 5.9+. This one I enjoyed quite a bit more than Lazy Day. It had a bit of everything: some crack, an arete, small chimney, and a swing to the left to find the final bolt leading to the chains.

Animal World favorite: Free Willie!

And then came time to Free Willie!

The climb felt more juggy than I remembered, and I used the sort of upside down triangular step to the left at the 4th bolt to dyno up to a jug.

The Free Willie” name is thought by some on Mountain Project to come from after the hand traverse to get onto the small ledge only wide enough if you flop onto it on your side. The sort of move a beached whale would make.

After the hand traverse where I saw a big white chalked “X” at the midpoint, and panicked adjusted to grab the hold just to the right of it. I then proceeded to beach myself on my side, thrutching my length inch by excruciating inch.

Look closely, and you can see my leg and arm outstretched as I flail on the ledge.

My left foot was wedged in a crevice behind me, my right leg trapped beneath me, useless, hands patting the face at…nothing.

At a certain point my core keeping me in place gave out, and I could feel myself tipping backwards. I managed to arrest the fall a bit by grasping the ledge. It was one of those freeze-frame moments where I found myself hanging by my fingers, the rope hanging by the bolt to my left, realizing that I would take a small swing to the left. I tried to do a pullup to mantel, but I could feel my pumped out forearms didn’t have the strength — and I dropped

I yelled, ‘Oh my god! Oh my f%$king god!’ I could hear a bunch of climbers laughing at me from below.

After a shakeout rest, I went back at it — moved a bit more right on the ledge before manteling up and over.

Katie on Free Willie

You know, sometimes you thrutch, and sometimes you thrutch. This time I thrutched. But it felt great to attempt a 5.11 lead, with such a varied route.

Next time I will get it clean.


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Originally published at on November 11, 2016.



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