Climbers find a rocky thrill in the Ibex Valley

If first impressions are important, then having Eric and Sierra Allen introduce you to bouldering is probably the best-case scenario.

If first impressions are important, then having Eric and Sierra Allen introduce you to bouldering is probably the best-case scenario.

Eric has been scrambling across the granite monoliths in the Ibex Valley for nearly 30 years, and now, Sierra, his 15-year old daughter, is about to surpass her master.

Last Friday, under a cloudless blue sky, the Allens took a few neophytes to the Ibex for a bouldering session.

When they arrived at what could only be described as a boulder garden, with the Ibex face looming above — the Allens began pointing out various “problems” (climbing routes) on the massive rocks strewn about.

“Cresta Vista is probably the first difficult problem out here,” said Eric, a crash pad folded up like a backpack on his shoulders.

After the newbies tried a few easy climbs, getting used to the rubber slippers and chalky hands, the Allens showed off a few more difficult problems.

“Way Sicker Than Average” involved hanging upside down from the ankles, before flipping around and topping out — all without getting more than four feet off the ground.

“I’ve never been intimidated by the lack of danger,” Eric said with a laugh. “Anybody can do this, the danger factor is pretty minimal, and you can find a really, really, good hard problem where your back is only two or three inches off the ground.”

Sierra started The Clutch Cable problem from a sitting position, jumped blindly up from an underhang, then lifted herself, legs free, onto the rockface. She finished the climb with what she referred to as a “beached-whale top out.”

Even without a great finish, Sierra’s clutch climb was probably the most impressive of the day. It took her a few tries to make the transition from the underhang to the face, but when she did, everyone watching let out a cheer.

“That’s beyond me,” said Eric.

When she was younger, Sierra wasn’t interested in climbing.

It was more her dad and brother’s thing, she said.

But a few years ago, she started bouldering with a few friends, and now is “really into it.”

“It’s fun — it’s very mental and at the same time, physical — the mind and the body,” she said. “You’re improving every time you do it.”

The Allens make it look easy.

But when pressed into what feels like a vertical rock face with just part of one toe hooked on a sill no thicker than a nickel, it is anything but.

“You can do it, reach, straighten out.”

The Allens are encouraging.

The soft mat and ready hands waiting to break the two-or three-foot fall are an added comfort.

And when those fingers manage to reach the top ledge and grip, there is a feel of elation.

The boulder may only be three metres tall, but it feels like the top of the world.

“Pura Vida,” said Eric, pointing to a rather imposing route. “It’s still a problem, but I think someone will send it during the festival.”

The Fourth Annual Ibex Bouldering Festival, which the Allens will host on August 19, is a chance for climbers to meet at the Yukon’s bouldering mecca.

The festival was started in 2001 by Eric and his son Ethan — after the second year, the festival went on hiatus until last summer, when Ethan returned from university.

The four-year gap between events led to some surprises for the Allens.

“I was amazed there are so many people I didn’t know into bouldering; we had something like eight pads out here last year,” said Eric, who estimated about 60 people came out to the 2006 event. “It brings these people into contact with each other.”

All climbers, beginners to advanced, are welcome, and there’s definitely enough to challenge all. But the festival is more than just climbing. Once you’re fingers are shredded (or just tired), there’s slacklining, which is a tightrope-style balance thing, and juggling — as well as food, music and more.

The Fourth Annual Ibex Valley Bouldering Festival runs Sunday, August 19. Registration starts at 10 a.m. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for kids, and lunch is provided.

Bouldering instruction is available and circuit events will go until 5 p.m.

Those without a four-wheel drive or high–clearance vehicle can catch a ride in from the Scout Lake Road gravel pit. Surf to www.yukonbouldering.blogspot.com or call 456-2477 for more information, or e-mail yukonwildthings@yahoo.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

Most Read