I Only Send Bumboy on Boulderween

By Elaine Elliott

A climber grabs the gritty slopers of  Bumboy  during a night bouldering session in the Middle Area. Photo by Lam Thuy Vo. Courtesy of  Color the Crag ,  Brown Girls Club,  and BOC Crew.

A climber grabs the gritty slopers of Bumboy during a night bouldering session in the Middle Area. Photo by Lam Thuy Vo. Courtesy of Color the Crag, Brown Girls Club, and BOC Crew.

“I just don’t get it,” I said with an overly exasperated sigh. “We sent this thing literally last night, and we know all the possible beta. Why can’t I send it now?” Sarah Anne and I were staring up at the chalked slopers of Bumboy. One of the South’s most iconic V3 boulders was only a few feet taller than we, yet the problem continuously stumps climbers every bouldering season. The sun generously shined upon Bumboy’s visage, but the bitter cold allowed for perfect sending conditions and therefore, no excuses.

“You’re probably just tired,” she replied.

“Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t even go to bed until like 2:30 last night.”

“Was it really that late?! I didn’t even think about the time.”

“Yeah because we came back at 2, and then I couldn’t fall asleep because the neighbors were blasting music. Good music at least.”

We re-chalked, rehearsed the beta once more, and made a couple more half-assed attempts on the Horse Pens classic before packing up our pads to try Cuts Like a Knife – as if razor-edge crimps were going to feel any better.

You can say as much as your want about the “best” beta for Bumboy, but I’m convinced the true magic lies in sending the problem during the witching hours of Boulderween when you’re five beers deep in Sweetwater Blue drafts. Thus begins the tale of my Bumboy battle. Cue spooky music, and imagine me tossing a handful of midnight dust into the fire like in Are You Afraid of the Dark?.

Boulderween breakdancing circa 2013. Courtesy of Lauren Cheek Clemmons.

Boulderween breakdancing circa 2013. Courtesy of Lauren Cheek Clemmons.

After dancing for an hour to all the greatest party hits — like Macarena and Ignition Remix — Sarah Anne and I ventured away from the open barn toward the Middle Area where boulders by the dozens waited ominously in the dark.

En route, we met a group of perpetually psyched Floridians who were also ready for some night session debauchery. After the exchange of names, a spliff was passed my way, and Sarah Anne received a warm bottle of Fireball. Such gentlemen.

Moments later, we found ourselves in the crowded stony corridors surrounded by lanterns and a swarm of rowdy costumed climbers. From bloody redneck zombies to Super Mario characters, it looked like the whole gang had arrived to anxiously take a stab at the 8-foot sloper test pieces Bumboy, Centerpede (V4), and Millipede (V5).

A sea of colorful crash pads covered the lantern-lit pathway, turning it into  a Chuck-E-Cheeze fun zone. Sarah Anne and I threw our pads down, adding a third layer of foam, and eagerly put on our shoes.

Sarah Anne chalked up and started analyzing the beta, using exaggerated hand motions, with a fellow dressed like Luigi. She wasn’t in costume, but with her hot pink shirt and a bright scrunchie holding back her wavy mane, she looked like the most tenacious Barbie among the crowd.

As for my outfit, well, it was one of those “last-minute” ideas that even the wittiest Pinterest diehards and Buzzfeed clickbait writers hadn’t thought of yet. I wrapped LED lights around my shirt, wore sunglasses, and taped a piece of paper reading "LIT"  on to my chest. As long as I continued drinking all night and the batteries didn’t die, the outfit felt perfectly appropriate for tonight’s shenanigans.

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A huge wave of psych and encouragement coursed through the crowd whenever a climber lifted their feet off the ground and gripped the starting underclings. The costumed spotters held their breath during each move, whooping and hollering anytime a hand stuck and a climber remained humped over the sandstone slopers desperately attempting to send.

Anytime I made progress on Bumboy, the raucous crowd screamed, “C’mon, LIT! LIIIIIIT!” Their enthusiasm about my outfit motivated me to continue flailing on the boulder until my fingers became raw and red from scraping off the sandpaper holds.

I’d tried Bumboy several times over the years, but the only time I’d ever sent it was during Boulderween in 2015. I'd taken whiskey shots with a bunch of strangers, who informed me of the secret “go right” beta (I realized later that it wasn’t really that elusive). It didn’t matter if I was sober, if the temps were frigid, or if I had the moves dialed — Boulderween seemed to be the only beta that really worked.

Most of the climbers in the group had already sent the boulder too. I knew this because anytime someone fell, a common refrain was, “Ugh, I mean, I’ve already done this problem” as if to validate their current failure. In hindsight, I’ve realized no one cares about your send unless they’ve seen it for themselves.

Slowly but surely, almost everyone successfully sent the problem. Some folks even started doing laps, alternating between the “left” and “right” beta to see which sequence was most ergonomic. Others graduated to attempting Centerpede or Millipede – both still feel damn near impossible to me.

Andrew Matsumoto sending  Millipede  in the midst of humidity and darkness. Photo by  Trúc Nguyen Allen .

Andrew Matsumoto sending Millipede in the midst of humidity and darkness. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen.

Sarah Anne and I had tried Bumboy at least a dozen times by now, getting oh-so close every single go. Even if I grabbed the most “juggy” right-hand sloper at the top, getting my feet up in order to mantle proved the most difficult task.

After persistently watching everyone’s beta, one gentleman who had also been struggling finally made in to the top, which triggered the crowd to release another round of cheers and applause. “Ah-ha!” Sarah Anne and I both thought after studying the minute differences between falling and sending on his go. With that, I tried to replicate his movement.

I smoothly made it to the top right sloper, and now it was a matter of figuring out where exactly to put my feet, which had nearly disappeared from my line of vision. With a little bit of try-hard and a determination to go to bed soon, I finally pulled myself up and scrambled up the remaining outcrop.

Finally! I thought to myself. I hopped down the backside in just enough time to see Sarah Anne grabbing the underclings with the utmost determination in her eyes.

With a four-inch difference between our heights, she used different footholds but also found herself mantling the boulder for the first time that evening. A three-go send train! The crowd screamed louder than ever before.

Shortly after our sends, the masses slowly dispersed and we went back to our campsite to sleep off the impending hangover.

The wind howled and an unusually brittle cold spell cast shivers through my already aching bones as I bundled up beneath several blankets on top of my Organic crashpad. As I tried to fall asleep, Neil Young’s voice drifted over from a set of speakers in the adjacent campsite.

Oh to live on Sugar Mountain…”

“Do you know what Sugar Mountain is?” my dad used to ask me when he played Decade on vinyl. “It’s a bar Neil and Joni Mitchell and all these other Canadian musicians used to go to but you couldn’t go if you were over 19. So he’s singing a song about youth.”

Boulderween was my Sugar Mountain. It was an event comprised mostly of young adults trying to prove themselves on sandbagged boulders — and raising some money for a good cause — but ultimately, putting fun before anything else.

That night, I replaced the word “Sugar” with “Chandler” before dozing off under the autumn stars.

A victorious topout. Photo by @doogieroux.

A victorious topout. Photo by @doogieroux.