CM: Providence River Access
Providence is a crag nested in the forests of central Missouri, easily accessible from the Katy Trail. Primarily bolted by a few passionate locals, Providence hosts some of the best climbing and scariest bolting in the state. The sheer quantity of routes ensures that anyone of any ability level can have a great time there, provided they have a solid head for lead on moderate terrain or a competent leader willing to set up topropes. Over the past few trips to Providence I’ve accumulated a number of projects, including the (for me) extremely ambitious Slimestone Cowboy, said to be one of the best 5.12s in the state. I first fell in love with Providence on my first trip in March, when I sent my first 5.11b, the (Missouri) uber-classic Simple Math, as well as racking up a good number of 5.10 onsights. Karp Tool 5.10b, with its’ exciting sequence of V2- boulder problems, is among of the best of the grade in Missouri and, due to the cryptic nature of the route, was one of my most hard-fought onsignts, despite what the moderate grade might suggest.
The difficulty with Providence is that the good climbing peters out after the 5.11/- range, with quality not to resume until solid 5.12 territory is reached. Although I, like many climbers, have ambitions of climbing 5.12 fluently, we’re not quite there yet. This led me to start trying Sporticus, a rarely attempted 5.11c in the southern part of the crag, an area known mostly for its warmups. This past trip, I sent the route, also known as “Nothing Dynamic About It” (MP has it at 5.12a/b). It was, or should have been, an exciting send -- a first of the grade for me, an exciting moment involving a now-deceased lizard that found itself on the “thank god” jug at the wrong time, and the culmination of trying the route on and off since March.
What I realized after sending the route was that the only reason I had continued to try it trip after trip was because of its’ grade. Making that next step seemed so important at the moment that I ignored the fact that I found the actual climbing remarkably forgettable. Especially compared with the send of Simple Math, my first 5.11b, I was surprised to find myself relatively subdued when I reached the bottom of the route after cleaning the draws.
The lesson I learned is one I think everyone learns at some point. I’m always psyched to climb no matter the quality, but projects (especially those that represent a new redpoint max) need to be exciting and enjoyable. I can’t help but feel that I ruined my opportunity to be psyched about sending a new grade by continuing to try Sporticus. A new redpoint grade is an opportunity we get only so often as climbers, and it’s an opportunity that should be cherished. I’m fortunate to have had a 5.11d project I’m extremely psyched about, which I sent a week later.
In the interest of keeping your psych high, here is my list of must-do Providence sport routes 5.11 or under:
Slabtown/Sidewayzed, 5.8(+?) A long, runout route, but very fun. The leader should be fairly certain they won’t fall. Must be cleaned by a follower who also deals with some exposure.
Sunny Spot for Shady People, 5.9 Climb past the turkey vultures living in the cave before they attack you, then do a fun boulder problem to an easy crack/scramble to the chains of Slabtown.
Squeaker, 5.10a A great example of sustained 5.10 climbing, well-protected for leaders at their limit, with two options for how to tackle the upper section.
Karp Tool, 5.10b Another sustained route at a slightly higher level; exciting boulder problems separated by okay rests keeps the pump factor high on this fantastic route.
Around Town/Backtracker, 5.10c A great route with an exciting, traversing crux on edges and jugs, but don’t fall going to the anchors. Be comfortable onsighting .10b.
Ancient Sea Friends, 5.10d A controversially-graded route, climb an easy slab to a fun, moderate dihedral, then pick your poison for the crux arete.
Simple Math: 5.11b Climb a bulge on a huge, cryptic flake, traversing right and into the cave and up a juggy arete. Clip the fifth bolt, brace yourself, and prepare for the exciting V3+ boulder problem that takes it to the chains.
Smells Like Bat Spirit, 5.11b Climb through a technical face with the occasional powerful move, head up and left through a sharp finger crack, and pull a thuggy boulder problem to the chains. Quite hard for the grade, and equipped with steel chain draws.