For the aspiring Boulder climber, Flagstaff Mountain provides a plethora of marginally classic testpieces, just 10 minutes or so from downtown. One of the most famous is the steep bulge of Mongolian Cosmonaut. Located just across the street from the infamous Monkey Traverse, this low, pebbly bulge sees more attention than it probably deserves. Clearly I’m not helping matters with this post, but nevertheless, there remains some confusion about where this starts and its difficulty, and I thought this would be a good place to clear things up.
Local legend Skip Guerin has the first ascent in the late 80s. Skip started with his right hand on an edge, and his left hand low, under the bulge. He also used a key heel hook on a large pebble. Part of the issue is that the right hand starting hold has continually crumbled, making the first lock-off that much harder. In the early 90s Rob Candelaria added an even lower start, which broke, was repeated by John Stack and then broke again. At some point, the important heel hook broke off and the frequency of ascents seemed to drop. Here is what Chip Phillips has to say on his excellent Flagstaff Bouldering Blog:
The sloper pocket is slowly disintegrating and the entire underbelly of this problem is falling apart, so get an ascent in while you can. Climb the west-facing bulge via numerous small pebbles. The trick is the start. For the high start (a) which has become more fashionable as the problem disintegrates, start with your LH on the big sloping gaston and RH in the shallow pocket just down and right from the sloper and pimp the pebbles up and over. For the original sequence (b) which was considered V8 but is now closer to V10, start with your LH underneath on the bad crimp sidepull and RH in the shallow pocket and float your LH to the big sloping gaston. Missing footholds and the eroding RH pocket are making this harder. A lower challenge (c) that was originally V10/11 began with your RH underneath the roof as well on a crimp. This version is thought to have been done by a couple folks before it lost at least two key footholds around 2002.
Starting one move in, on the sloper, certainly constitutes an ascent of something, but Mongolian Cosmonaut should be started on the right hand edge and left hand underneath.
Here Peter Beal demonstrates a proper of ascent of Mongolian Cosmonaut.
Just a little history on an often tried, sometimes climbed problem close to home. Thoughts?