World Famous Climber & Gym Designer Returns to Tahoe

*Original Post: January 6, 2015

 Jason Kehl finally reunited with the "Flying Saucer Project".     PHOTO: JON THOMPSON

 Jason Kehl finally reunited with the "Flying Saucer Project".


Hello people,

I hope all of you had a healthy season and finished up your projects in the prime temps! Tahoe Bouldering Guides have been hard at work opening up new blocks all summer long, and growing the already expansive Tahoe Bouldering zones even further for your enjoyment. Amazing new lines are going up everywhere and there is no shortage in sight!

This past September we had the pleasure once again of hosting the multi-talented Jason Kehl here in Tahoe. He was here collaborating with gym owner Jason Burd on the design of our new High Altitude Fitness facility, which is coming next year to Truckee. Woo! Thanks Jasons! Can't wait to see this new mega facility. 

Jason's visit also coincided with a climbing comp at High Altitude Fitness and featured holds shaped by Jason as well as rad problems set by himself and the High Altitude Fitness crew. 

As soon as Jason got to town we went straight to the impeccable stone of Sugar Pine 6. There is a long but very enjoyable approach to this bouldering area. Sugar Pine is a collection of special zones that stretches for 7 miles along General Creek up to and over the west side of Lost Corner Mountain. Once we arrived at the main boulders out at Sugar 6 and had warmed up, we cleaned a couple undone lines. The left line of the two went down at the hands of Mr. Kehl and was named "Velvet Carpet". Dave Hatchett, Matt Battaglia and I, all three, sent the line as well and we gave it a grade of v5. The climb starts on an edge and moves out left to some slopers, which you manipulate to hit a perfect finishing jug, a great addition by Jason. Next was the straight up problem. After a few attempts we realized we would have to bear down on this sharp-ish crimp pretty hard. The feet were very poor and it was a delicate, balancey sort of sequence. I managed to pull off the problem and named it "Joey Jim Bob", nice line. Jason repeated the next attempt and we settled on a grade of v7. Great start to the day. Next we headed over to Dave's classic "Shedding the Light" v5 and Jason enjoyed a flawless flash of the problem.

Jason flashing "Shedding the Light" v5. photo by Dave Hatchett

Jason flashing "Shedding the Light" v5. photo by Dave Hatchett

To the left was "Yodenhiem" v9 from Kyle Omeara, a real nice slightly overhung problem utilizing a sidepull and some small holds to gain increasingly better holds up high. Jason took this rig down quickly and we rolled over to "Daddy Plays the Squeeze Box", a brand new line I had opened up earlier in the season. He likes the compression blocks too, so I was stoked to get him on the line. It is wide, wide compression at the bottom and trends into a more manageable span about midway. He pioneered new beta to come across the body and match the arete using a left toehook and snagged the second ascent. I was happy this beta emerged and made the problem less height dependent so more people can enjoy the line. We settled on v9 as a tentative grade until we can get some other opinions. Then it was over to another new line I had opened up with Dave and Seth Carter this season called "Warped Into Perfection" v6, and the left exit Seth put up called "Left Into Perfection" v7. Such cool climbing on these two lines; utilizing edges, gastons and slopers. Jason and Matt sent both lines and it was time to head out. Epic first day back on the Tahoe granite for Jason. 

The next day out we headed to Boreal with Jason, where we had taken him to previously on his last visit to Tahoe, in 2012.

Warming up on stellar problems at Boreal.

On this 2012 trip at the Flying Saucer boulder, Jason unearthed an undercling/sidepull that allowed the hard undone line to begin to make sense. That day Jason, Joel Zerr, Kyle Omeara and myself started trying the "Flying Saucer Project" for the first time. It was so much fun trying this powerful super steep beast of a problem. After the session there was still a stopper move in the middle of the roof nobody could do. 

Fast forward to last season in 2013, Tom Fern goes out and cleans up a sit start to the already brutal line. The sit start is perfect and makes the line that much more of a challenge. Tom and head route setter at High Altitude Fitness, Dustin Sabo, then wrapped down the tall headwall to clean and inspect the sequence. Altogether this beast ends up being a stout 12 moves to the jug at the base of the headwall. From there you have a v6ish rock up move to get established on a shallow granite pocket which leads to a series of crimps to get to the lip at about 25 ft or so. This thing is, in my humble opinion, one of the sickest undone lines in the Tahoe region. 

Now back at the "Flying Saucer Project" after two years of waiting Jason is mega psyched on the session. We had climbed all day on other things waiting for the temps and we only had a couple hours to sesh. He sets to work on the new entry moves of the sit start and quickly figures his own way out with a toehook. Jason had now been acquainted with the start of the mega proj.

Figuring out his method for linking the sit start into the would be stand.

Figuring out his method for linking the sit start into the would be stand.

The sit will extend the line by 6 thugy maneuvers, and flows very nicely into the would be stand. After this there was just a bit of light left, Dustin had been cleaning up a new line in between "Little Green Men" and "Terminal Velocity". We started trying it. The first move was fairly hard and I did it from one move in real fast to feel out the top. Mega cool climbing. Jason quickly claimed the first ascent of "Whispering Eye" on his very next attempt, adding the entry move and opening up the amazing addition to the already stacked boulder. It was another grand outting in the Tahoe region. 

The next day we were a bit tired so we went out for some classic moderates close to the road at the lower Beaver's area. Jason flashed "Wild Pack of Family Dogs" v6, flashed "Cujo" v6, he did "Race Against Time" v6, "One Eyed Willie" v7, "Avoid the Wart" v8, and flashed "Camel Toe" v9 at the end of the day. Jason seemed to enjoy cruising around enjoying these classic moderates and the easy access.  

Jason sending the "Race Against Time" v6 (pre-breakage).

Jason sending the "Race Against Time" v6 (pre-breakage).

Now it was comp time. Jason and the crew at High Altitude set the boulder problems for the competition. I helped them out forerunning and these problems were all a ton of fun. Brand new shapes fresh out of the box, all colors and sizes from Jason's imagination adorned the overhangs of the walls at High Altitude as I walked in and looked around. It felt like a fresh set of radical problems just for us! We set to work attempting the lines and adjusting them with minor tweaking until all were to the crews liking. I hear the event went off and was a great success, congrats to the participants!  

With few days left in Jason's visit we went back to Boreal to the PROJ. When we arrived to the Flying Saucer Boulder I couldn't resist trying this line I had scrubbed up last time right next to the Flying Saucer Block. It is a spanny problem starting on a set of crimps and moves out to an arete leading to a hard release/come in move to match the arete. I managed to fire it first attempt and named it "Freak of Nature". Next we started to work on another line I had been eyeballing while working the mega proj alone this summer. Jason, Dustin and I set to cleaning the holds and started trying the problem. It was rad! The sit start involved a hard pull off the bat, the rest of the problem flowed well and eased up as you got closer to the finishing jug. Cool sidepulls, slopers and crimps on this line. This problem went down after a bit of work and I named it "Point Blank". The problem was another fine addition to the cluster and both new lines will be in the second edition of the guide. Jason immediately nabbed the second ascent suggesting v7 or v8 for the grade of "Point Blank" and we moved on.

Lizzy Asher and Shannon Joslin joined us about this time of the day and we hit up Charlie Barrett's mega crimp testpiece "Lost Soul" v11 in the shade, first. This thing is intense crimping either method you opt for, up a beautiful, tall, slightly overhung face that leads you straight up from the starting triangle grips to a committing dynamic lunge to the slopey lip.

Jason working "Lost Soul" v11, a rad Charlie Barrett line.  PHOTO CRED: JON THOMPSON

Jason working "Lost Soul" v11, a rad Charlie Barrett line.


It was a great first session for everyone and by now the sun was off the scenario at the PROJ and we retreated to bigger grips and steeper terrain. This time we were just trying the middle bit of the MEGA PROJ to try and learn the elusive maneuver. After a few attempts we were feeling better on the move and began getting to the grip again. The move is so steep and burly for the right hand arete crimp you are using, but at the same time ridiculously fun to attempt.

Jason trying the undone move. And getting closer!  PHOTO CRED: JON THOMPSON

Jason trying the undone move. And getting closer!


We both ended up getting to the hold and feeling the micro precise divot for the fore and middle finger, but sticking it eluded us still. Such an engaging, intricate, sustained, powerfully precise, technical granite boulder problem this thing will be. It was so much fun to get to work on it with such a fun crew while inching closer to imagining an ascent of this behemoth. So worth the time and effort. Can't wait for spring to come so I can return to this MEGA PROJ.

Last day out we hit the PCT boulders up on Echo Summit. I wanted to get the top of Steve Francis'  "Pocket  Problem" v11 figured out with Jason's help today. The problem is a real gem and the end is a FOR REAL mantle/press to a not so good seam high up in the slab.

Baby head Jason attempting the "Pocket Problem" from Steve Francis up on Echo Summit at the PCT blocks.   PHOTO CRED: JON THOMPSON

Baby head Jason attempting the "Pocket Problem" from Steve Francis up on Echo Summit at the PCT blocks. 


Baby head Jason throwing a temper tantrum.  PHOTO CRED: JON THOMPSON

Baby head Jason throwing a temper tantrum.


We could see the method but just couldn't quite pull it off in a session. The top is hard on this one and I'm psyched to return and put it down. NICE JOB to Steve on this unrepeated hardline. After this, we trolled around hitting some of the area classics until there was only a bit of daylight left. Jason had scoped himself a hidden gem right smack in the middle of the main circuit and we went back so he could look into it further. After a few moments of studying and chalking, the line came to life. Jason pulled onto the block for his first attempt at his new creation in the evening twilight. He proceeded to flash FA the brand spanking new instant classic "Final Hour" v7 for a fitting end to his visit.

Jason opening up his new creation, "Final Hour" v7. First Ascent. 


A few days later I returned for the second ascent of the problem with Dave Hatchett. He bagged the third ascent right after and we can both vouch for it's quality, not only of the stone but also its motion. Real nice FA by Jason. It was mega fun to have Jason out to the boulders again here in Tahoe and I look forward to his designs in the new Truckee High Altitude Fitness gym coming to us all next year!

Cheers everyone!