Shattered boulders litter Coji's landscape. The town's traditional occupation is shaping tiles from the rock long-scattered across its hillsides. It’s a bittersweet sight for boulderers in a sport climbing mecca, but the area’s most important faces remain intact.Read More
I knew no one in this country. I had never lived more than 15 minutes from my parents, and my knowledge of Ecuador was limited to a vague mental image of an alpaca in a poncho. I had never even been to South America. So I understand why my presence here seems pretty random to taxi drivers, coworkers, and even fellow gringos. Maybe it seems more random when I tell them that I moved here for the climbing.Read More
In the meantime, though, I have Santa Clara Alta. Its gray volcanic rock has little in common with that of the Canyon, with few roofs, thin cracks, and what I must describe as chunky slab. The approach, however, feels like I'm back in Alabama — if Alabaman forests were jungly Andean affairs, home to giant birds and (probably) baby dinosaurs.Read More
I believe the first phrase I used to describe the boulders at La Perrera was “Cotopaxi’s dried-up lava barf.” While these gray beauties are mementos of volcanic eruptions past, that description may not capture the magic of this place. In fact, after a weekend in the lush green playground of igneous rock and baby waterfalls, I still don’t think I’ve processed the wonder.Read More
The thing is, I haven’t been super motivated to climb recently. I sent my first two V6es the week before Peace Corps staging, and then I didn’t climb for two months. It sucks to feel how weak I’ve gotten so soon after that milestone, and I’ve had trouble dragging myself to the gym ‘cause I know how much bruising my ego will take once I get there.Read More
Favorite Person: Robert. Robert is 82 and wears a yarmulke. He knows a lot about history and likes making new friends. We started talking at the Black Sheep when he told me a knock-knock joke.Read More
There is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to them. Knowing how much music and poetry this state had inspired over the ages, I resolved as a child to one day visit the promised land and see its riches for myself.
Well, I’m finally here! Currently enthroned on a mass of sleeping bags in the back of Evan’s van. He’s been living out of it for a few months, and I got to join him on Monday. After three flights, a little turbulence, and one spilled beer, I reached Mammoth Lakes in time to end the day in a hot spring, watching my first California sunset. The next day, we headed to Way Lake for my first boulder of the West.
The approach to Way Lake is, it turns out, an actual hike. In the South, 20 minutes of mild steepness is a trek, but apparently 30 or 40 minutes up a mountain is NBD out here. We hiked up and up and up and ugh. It probably took us even longer than the average climber to reach the lake itself because a. we don’t hike and b. we kept stopping to look at all the pretty things!
I can’t believe how beautiful it is out here. Also big. My Western experience so far: everything is beautiful, and everything is big. The word that comes to mind is “magnificent.” And I’m blown away by the diversity of California’s landscapes. It’s crazy to think that people actually live in this fantastical place.
We finally made it up to Way Lake, which is currently a sad gray circle of dirt and rocks, but by the time we found our boulder and actually started climbing, the sun was pretty low in the sky.
We had oodles of fun on the Way Lake boulder as the sun began to set. I had just gotten the crux of a V5 called Beareagle when darkness hit, and after a few more burns we decided to call it quits. We maybe should have left sooner though, because trekking crash pads down a dark and unfamiliar trail in bear country with one dying headlamp and a cell phone light wasn’t really the original plan. We made it out though, obvi, and had a high-class dinner of rotini alla Ragu.
The next day, we headed to Rock Creek, a magical fairyland of water and rocks and gray logs that appear to have fallen ~*just so*~. There were aspen trees everywhere, and their rustling leaves were bright yellow and orange. Magical fairyland, y’all.
In the morning, we climbed with our new friends Melanie and Danny. I found them on Instagram a few weeks ago (follow Danny here and Mel here!), and it was great to meet the people behind the feeds. They are total crushers, full of beta and psych. I worked a V4 called Groovin’ Arête for forever, and while I never sent, I definitely learned some much-needed foot technique.
The climbing out here is really different from the stuff back home. Problems in general seem to require less power but are challenging in techy ways. I have been learning some strange-to-me toe stuff, and my biggest battle is trusting the feet.
So I never got the four, but it was a lot of fun to work. Our new pals left in the afternoon, but our ex-Athenian-now-Yosemitan Philip showed up with his friend Beth.
We had some fun on the Campground boulder and made friends with two older guys. Paul is roadtripping around the West at age 65. He chatted with us for a while about the history of Rock Creek and our generation’s duty as stewards of nature. Then he gave us beer. I didn’t catch the other man’s name, but he is British and a mountain biker. He was really into our climbing and watched for a long time, asking lots of questions and contributing psych.
Thursday was our rest day, and we ran into our Insta-friends at the Looney Bean coffee shop in Bishop. I guess there are only so many places in town for greasy folks in need of wifi. Oh hey! If you haven’t read my RootsRated review of Little River Canyon, get to it!
Today we climbed at the Buttermilks with Evan’s dirtbag friend Jeff. Jeff is six months into a one-year stay in Bishop. He wasn’t climbing but was nice enough to offer pads, beta, and a spot. He got us on some easy classics that were techy and painful but awesome. I’m learning to love crimpy highballs… one V2 project at a time.
Our skin was shot after a few hours; it hadn’t really healed from Wednesday. The rock out here is way smoother than the slopey sandstone we’re used to, but it’s still really textured and can definitely hurt. It doesn’t help when you are slapping and slipping and sliding around instead of trusting whatever tiny nonsense you have managed to smear your shoe onto… I have a lot to learn.
#Vanlife is fun so far. It would be nice to have a hot shower, but I am loving the ungodly amounts of Ramen. And pretty much everything else. <3
Dogs and babies flock to me. Their moms and dads have jerky and peanut butter, but they don’t even notice ‘cause we are busy playing What’s That Face and Where’s That Stick. I give a top roping cub scout beta, and he finishes his first 5.7. His joy is unparalleled.Read More
I was a little worried about being crippled by the fear factor of climbing semi-high over the deep, deep sea. But once we got to the cala, it was just too awesome. But also weirdly not a big deal. Just climbing, you know?Read More
And here's the thing about bouldering in July. Yes, it's really hot, but it's also really green. All the plants are stretching their limbs and yawning greedily in the sun, and the moss is creeping up over the rocks. There are evil thorns coming at you everywhere, and it is just really hard to find stuff.Read More
I found a gym that has me missing Active from across the Atlantic.
Arkose is a bouldering gym in the graffitied backstreets of Paris’s Montreuil suburb. Sista Fran and I have been traveling for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to climb. So when we got to Paris, we were psyched to hit up some polyurethane.
We googled something like “Paris climbing gym” and found a bunch, including behemoth Hardbloc (“LA PLUS GRANDE SALLE DE BLOC EN FRANCE”) and Arkose, a tinier establishment. We decided to try Arkose based on the fact that it was 12 minutes closer to our hostel than Hardbloc. We got lost anyway, but I’m glad we chose it.
I’ve decided that Arkose is like Active’s cool teenage cousin who lives in the city and gets to drink wine at dinner parties. Or something. It’s another little warehouse-y gym where space is scarce but creativity is not. There’s some slabby stuff, some steeper stuff, and a big fake top-out boulder. There’s a sweet play area by the traverse wall, and there are communal chalk buckets just sitting around.
Also, this: there’s a bar inside. Like, 10 feet from the climbing. You can fall off your project, turn around, and order a drink. Ha! Is this a thing? Europe.*
Oh, and you can get food too. Fancy-sounding food like “croques” and “tartines.” Ooh la la.**
I really dug the atmosphere at this place. It was quiet and cozy with friendly staff and chill vibes.
I wasn’t familiar with the grading system — I think it was based on the Fontainebleau bouldering grades, with seven levels of difficulty from “child” to something like “really freakin’ hard” (in French, of course). This was kind of freeing because we didn’t have any V-goals hanging over our heads. We just climbed until we burned out, and it was a good day.
Some things I noticed about the Arkose crew, which may not constitute any consistent differences between the American and French climbing cultures but, rather, are freestanding observations drawn from a single personal experience:
1. Nobody was “powering through.” Seriously. I didn’t get on a single climb that required me to blast off into space with the strength of a thousand flying oxen. Everything was tech-y.
Now, I didn’t try any of the hardest problems, and there’s a chance some hidden dynos got past me. But it really seemed like everybody at this gym had to use their beta-smarts.
2. Everybody used the changing room. Except for us. We were in cute tourist clothes for the morning, but we changed into quick-dry leggings and neon sports bras before getting on the metro because that’s what you wear to the gym. Well apparently, just 'cause you wear it at the wall doesn't mean you wear it to the wall.
Turns out these posh city dwellers wear real clothes in transit and save the gym attire for the gym. Oops. I had wondered about the conspicuous lack of Parisian norts…
3. People spoke French. Duh. I was a little bummed that the language barrier kept us from bonding with the Frenchfolk, but a little beta exchange did occur, and I got a couple of “Allez, allez”s. But also…
4. It was really quiet. Which was nice. Everybody was super calm. But it was kind of strange being surrounded by men and not hearing a single grunt. The closest I got were my own little struggle-squeaks.
I suppose some beta spraying may have occurred — in hushed voices, with minimal hand movements — but it was probably in French. Because, again, duh.
After leaving the gym, we put our tourist clothes back on and embarked on a quest for the perfect Eiffel Tower pic. During our journey, we discovered a little fitness area by the Seine River, complete with tiny rock walls. So cute! We played.
photo cred, as per yooj, to Mackenzie Taylor Photography So now we must be ready for Fontainebleau, right? I hope so, ‘cause we just got into Font proper, and we’re setting off at o’ dark thirty to beat some of the heat. We’ve got a guidebook, a new brush, and a rented crash pad — fingers chalked and crossed.
*Other unexpected alcohol sightings in Europe include shelves of liquor at like every gelatería ever, Parisian old ladies sipping beer at breakfast, and a kid drinking rosé from a bottle on the Paris metro.
**I actually heard a French lady say this yesterday. It was to me, about her little dog, whom she also called “très mignonne.” <3
Spring is making me sad. I mean, don't get me wrong. Flowers and breezes and sundresses are great. But bouldering season ended way too quickly.
You may have noticed, O Dedicated Reader, that I haven't posted in a while. Well, that's because I was too sad to write after the weather ruh-UINED my spring break. I mean, not really. But kind of. You know? You don't, but you will, 'cause I'm going to tell you now.
Months ago, Caroline and I both took off all of spring break and an extra weekend so that we could have Super Awesome Rocktown Fun Times fo dayyyz. And we did. For two days. Ish. We tried lots of new projects and didn't send anything and drank gas station sangria that was surprisingly good. And then it rained, and kept raining for the rest of the week at every crag in the Southeast.
It did not, however, rain in Athens. And everybody freaked out. It was like, 65 degrees outside, and girls all over town emerged bikini-clad from their winter nests to tan on the still-dead grass, smiling and shivering in the breeze. And my non-climbing acquaintances kept saying things like, "Oh em GEEE, it is SO. NICE OUT." And I was just like:
But it ended up being an okay week. Seester and I actually spent a day hanging out in Chattanooga proper, which I hadn't really done before. It was wet, but Chatty wears rain well. We found a vegan restaurant (with donuts!) and a bakery for dogs and Jane Austen-inspired toddler books for our future progeny and...
Well, anyway. We didn't climb.
But guess when I did climb? Last weekend! And guess where I climbed? Boone!
It was my first time there, and it. was. awesome. I was apprehensive about climbing on granite (#boatrockh8rsclub), but the rock was wonderfully grippy and not too sharp.
I went up with Evan, John (the one who went to the Obed with us last summer!), and another John. (There are actually quite a few Johns. This one was one of the professors on my Costa Rica study abroad last year! He is super cool and has a greenhouse and roasts his own coffee beans.) We were only there for two days, and after a brief detour to the M1 (?) Boulders, we split our time between Grandmother Mountain and Blowing Rock.
It was beautiful, so lush and uncorrupted. It was hard to believe it had been snowing there a few weeks prior.
It was refreshing not to see any graffiti on the rock or trash on the ground. The area doesn't get as much foot traffic as many climbing spots. There's not a guidebook or even a topo for these boulder fields, and there's not much information on the internet. We learned some stuff from the Boone Boulders website and the rest from other humans at the crag.
I sent three ~V4s at Grandmother: Dynobot (which I did not dyno), Car Door (a sloper-juggy-sidepully feature climb with one big move in the middle), and a slopey traverse I don't remember the name of. I didn't get to try any fives, but there is allegedly a moderates mecca within the Grandmother Boulders called Valley of the Kings. I really want to find it and work Potato Chip, a V5 feature climb that looks super goofy in the best way.
The slopey traverse.
Oh, hey, check out this climb. It is called Look Ma, No Hands and is supposedly a zero or a one or something. You are supposed to climb it with just your feet, but I think only Evan got up without using his knees or elbows. Super awkward to climb and fun to watch:
Super Strong Nick joined us Saturday evening, and our camp site was super sketch. We were actually camping on the side of the road. In this tiny clearing across from a death hill. Awaiting attack by bandits. In retrospect, I kind of doubt the legality of our setup... Caroline and I are planning a trip for April, and we will be opting for a more ~*legit*~ space.
Everyone complained the next day about how loud and windy and cold the night was, but I slept like a very sleepy rock in a fuzzy sleeping bag I borrowed from Evan's mom (Thanks a ton, Faye!). In the morning, we went to Blowing Rock so Evan could work a V10 called Squeeze Job and Nick could get on Flagyl, another 10. There weren't as many moderates here, at least not that we knew about. I got shut down quickly by The Finn, a V5 that Obed John sent at the start of the day.
John on The Finn.
I was also denied by a supposed V3 called Center 45. Apparently it is ultra-classic. Meh. I never got the first move.
I tried the five to its right, the name of which I have forgotten, and was quickly shut down uh-gain. Then Greenhouse John and I found a wall of jugs with Nick's guidance. We repeated a few zeros with increasingly harder/sillier beta, then got pumped on some contrived traverses before checking out another four called Harvester of Sorrows. I really liked the first part of this problem: slightly reachy moves on kind-of-terrible slopers, then a WHOOSH-y heel hook and some hand matching. But the topout is some awkward slapping around and then a giant mantle I just couldn't do yet. (Have I mentioned how mantle-weak I am?) I'll get it next time, though; I've been upping my pushup game.
Nick and Evan didn't send their problems, but they still climbed well. Nick got every move on Flagyl out of sequence before splitting his tip and heading home, and Evan was sooo close on Squeeze Job. But most importantly, at the end of the day, we got pizza.
SOMETHING'S COMING YOUR WAY.
They are vegan and full of protein. Here is the recipe, kind of. ("scoop" = ice cream scoop)
Recipe, Kind Of*
1 can of chickpeas 1.5ish scoops of almond butter 1.5ish scoops of shelled hemp seeds 1 tsp. baking powder a little salt
Put all of that in a food processor and mixed it all up 'til it's dough. Then ball it up into little cookie nuggets, press 'em down with a fork, and press the following tidbits into the top:
some craisins some chocolate chips some coconut flakes
Then bake 'em at 350 degrees. I think mine were in the oven for about 12 minutes. They should be soft and taste like health. You can obviously forego the chocolate chips to make them #sugarfree or whatever, but I would also opt for a sweeter nut butter because the chocolate is what made these taste not-legume-y.
*I can't take total credit for this concoction. It is based on a recipe I found on Instagram a while back, from @herbivorous_rex.
**Full disclosure: I edited the colors in three photos and cropped two of them. Not John's doing!
How was your Valentine's Day? Mine was pretty good. I went to Little Rock City and bled on things. It was a great day of trying stuff, making friends, and practicing proper tape technique. But Sunday was even more exciting because I went to a new crag!
I say "new" mostly because it is new to me, but it really is a pretty new climbing spot. I'm talking about the Hospital Boulders in Gadsden, Alabama.
Located in the middle of a neighborhood and down the street from the eponymous Mountain View Hospital, the area became open to climbers in 2012 through negotiations between the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, the Access Fund, and the (now previous) landowners. It finally became SCC property last year after a lot of fundraising to pay off the AF loan used to secure the area. (Half the boulder field, however, is still on private property — so be careful where you walk!)
I had heard the name a few times, but the Athens climbing folk don't make their way to Gadsden very often. And I don't know why not! It's like a smaller, denser, less developed Rocktown. Admittedly the rock isn't quite as amazing at in Lafayette, but it is pretty darn awesome. It's just as close to Athens as any other good climbing, and it doesn't require a pass. After passing through a dummy-locked gate*, you just park next to a barn, walk 20 feet, and climb on rocks. YAY!
There isn't a guidebook yet, but there is a topo. Many of the routes are unnamed, and oodles are waiting to be FA'd. It was really fun just climbing on whatever and not worrying about grades.
The important stuff: we climbed lots of things, I am now psyched on roofs**, and Lucy made Evan a hat.
So that was cool. But something has been bothering me about climbing lately.
It started with little plastic corners at Little Rock City. You know what I'm talking about? When you open a Clif bar, or a Lara bar, or a Luna bar, or whatever bar you are eating (because you are probably eating a bar), you rip off the upper right corner (or maybe the left one), and then it disappears.
Well, actually, no, because matter doesn't do that. You actually just dropped it in the dirt and forgot about it. And now it is just sitting there, not disintegrating because it's made of film plastic, and film plastic doesn't do that.
So there are little corners sprinkled all over boulder fields, like malignant sparkles waiting to be picked up by an observant dirtbag or choked on by an animal. And whoever dropped them probably didn't even realize it. They probably don't know their trash has taken up residence in an ecosystem which has no use for it and, in fact, is negatively impacted by its presence.
I am not a scientifically minded person. At all. I've withdrawn from two logic classes in college, and as fascinating as my geology class was, I barely passed. But I was a Girl Scout for 12 years, and if I learned one thing from Brownies about caring for the earth, it was this: you should always leave a place better than you found it.
Now, that is easy to do when you are at LRC and can stuff somebody's litter into your pocket on the walk back to the car. But climbers as a group are not doing an excellent job of cleaning up after ourselves, and we are certainly not leaving our crags better than they were before we came along. The fact that we are even interacting with the earth in our bizarre way means we are going to change it. But at the very least, we need to try harder to leave no trace — or at least a smaller one.
I am pretty new to climbing, and really to outdoorsiness in general. Most of what I know about minimizing my impact I've learned from the Internet and fellow climbers. So I am definitely not an expert. But I remember how I was when I first started climbing outside a year and a half ago: totally clueless to the impact of my new passion on the environment, but not wanting to be a part of the problem. I know there are others like me out there, and I think it's a good idea to address some basics of keeping climbing an innocent sport that doesn't destroy the planet or anger anybody.
The SCC has a nice little "crag minimal impact" flier that you can view here. A lot of it seems pretty intuitive, but there are definitely items climbers tend to overlook. Some problematic behavior I often witness (and some of which I am guilty) on bouldering trips:
1. Not staying on trails. Two words: unnecessary erosion. Another word: bad.
2. Leaving toilet paper everywhere. I know a lot of people have different opinions about what to do with toilet paper, and many folks just bury it. But considering how many people you see at the crag, and incidentally how many people do their business at the crag, the amount of toilet paper we are putting into the ground no longer seems negligible. And honestly, it doesn't seem like everyone is doing a good job of burying theirs; the fact that it is so easy to find a chossy rock with a bunch of TP wads strewn behind it is a good indicator that we should probably just pack it all away with our bar wrappers and their corners.
3. Leaving cans and bottles in fire pits. I don't know why this is a thing. A lot of people think that this is an OK thing. Maybe they are trying to make a fuel gift to future campers? But aside from the fact that aluminum and glass need some mega hot flames to burn, and the fact that cans and bottles are recyclable, and the fact that you are probably risking a fine just by bringing glass into a camp site, it seems obvious that glass and metal do not belong sitting out in nature after you have left, getting rained on/rusted/blown away/whatever. Like, they weren't there before you got there. They shouldn't be there when you leave. Right? Correct me if I am wrong and this really is a benign practice.
4. Throwing food scraps on the ground. I do this ALL THE TIME. But I recently learned that it really is important to pack everything out; even though things like apple cores are biodegradable, they take a while to break down, so much so that it's kind of a problem to just leave them in the dirt. According to Leave No Trace Dude, banana peels need a month to disintegrate, and "those bits of orange peel left behind might still be there a few years from now." Yikes.
Additionally, when lots of people leave food scraps behind, animals become habituated to it. This is a problem — I think — because they can then become dependent on humans' scraps, and/or they start eating whatever we leave behind instead of getting the nutrients they need from the food they would naturally be eating. So the reasoning here is similar to why you're not supposed to feed bread to ducks.
5. Not scrubbing off tick marks. This is more of an etiquette issue; it is pretty rude to chalk up a rock with a million lines and then just leave it like that for the next climber. For one thing, they might not want your beta. Also, tick marks are ugly. And again, that chalk wasn't there before you showed up; at least rub it out a little before you leave. I am definitely guilty of forgetting to clean my projects, but it's something I think a lot of us could work on.
6. Being obnoxious. Another etiquette issue, but an important one. When an area opens up for climbing, especially an area near civilization like Hospital Boulders or LRC, we want to be good neighbors. We don't want to have a reputation as the scruffy new kids on the block — leaving trash in the forest, letting our dogs run wild, and playing bad dubstep out of crappy iPod speakers. 'Cause climbing anywhere is a privilege, and if we are awful neighbors, it will be that much harder to open up new areas. And besides, we're better than that. Right?
So. Am I on point? Way off point? Did I forget anything super common and terrible? Am I wrong about the cans? Speak up in the comments!
*The gate was dummy-locked on Sunday. In the future, the SCC may implement a code, so make sure to check the website any time you're planning to go.
**UPDATE 1/4/2016: Just got back from my second trip to Hospital, and it turns out those mega-cool roofs are not on SCC property. Super tragic, but we steepthusiasts must stay away. :(
Well, we went to Smith Rock, and it was miserable.
I mean not really. But yes. Somewhat. At times.
Evan, his brother Matt, and I left Corvallis at 5:00 yesterday morning in hopes of getting in a full day of climbing before heading to Redmond for a few nights. When we pulled into the Smith Rock parking lot at 8:00, we were pleased to find we had the whole place to ourselves. “Do they know something we don’t know?” I wondered aloud.
Turns out, maybe. We spent the first two hours of our long-awaited climbing morn shivering in the rain. It was really just sprinkling, mostly, but it was also coldcoldcoooold and thus, well, miserable. I staked out a tiny cave as a potential dry-nap spot, and I may have whimpered a bit.
We did climb; the rock, though freezing, magically remained dry through the drizzle. Mostly. And the routes were super cool! We warmed up on a 5.8 jug ladder aptly named Five Gallon Buckets. It took me about a year to finish the thing because #leadfear, but it was a really fun introduction to Smith’s pockety tuff. We also climbed a 5.9 and a 5.10, the names of which I do not know, and I didn’t have a single freakout moment! Granted, I didn’t climb anything too difficult, but usually I feel a little terror on any lead climb. There was one point when I thought I might slip off some crimps, but I didn’t feel tearful or shaky or nauseous. I just said, “I’m scared!” And then I didn’t fall. YAY
Then Evan led a 5.11 that Matt and I toproped with breezy ease. I kind of wish I’d led it too because it was just my style.
Somewhere in there, the sun came out, and the wiser climbers (and walkers and nature admirers) began to appear. We met some cool people and some cool dogs and even saw some cool babies.
So things were looking brighter. Matt departed after lunch, and Evan and I headed back to the crag. We made a treacherous ascent to a 5.11 called Vomit Launch, which required some of the sketchiest scrambling I have yet engaged in. After climbing/stemming/shin-scumming up a dark, crumbly chimney, we emerged just in time for the downpour.
So we sat in the rain for a while. We talked about the climbing awaiting us down South and bemoaned our bad timing and took this selfie:
At least the view was nice.
Finally, we began an even more terrifying, falling-means-death descent. Def should have rapped down. But we made it out alive and mostly unscuffed, then drove to our warm and swanky condo. Later, we had some pie.
Unfortunately the general consensus is that today and tomorrow will be too cold to climb, but I’m not too torn up. Yesterday’s warmup was unlike any climbing I’ve done before, and I’m glad we had the experience.
My first impressions of Smith Rock and the climbing West:
IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL.
My brain can’t handle naked rock faces not surrounded by dense forest.
My sense of dimension is confused.
The sky is magnificent, always.
This rock doesn’t hurt my hands!
There are BATHROOMS! With COMPOST TOILETS!
So I’m a little bummed the trip didn’t turn out how we wanted, but I know I’ll be back soon. The West is beautiful in so many ways, and I want to explore much more of it. For now, I’m grateful for central heating and a few more days in Oregon.
Oh my gosh it's been so long I'm sorry. I had midterms and tests and essays and a cold and work and articles and birthdays and then I got another cold and then I hurt my finger and then I got sick again.
I've been overwhelmed. I haven't been able to climb as much as I've wanted, although I have been out a few times since October 3rd (I'm sorryyy). And I've been stressing out about the prospect of recounting my recent climbing adventures because - There have been a few. - I keep leaving my camera places and not getting photos. - I haven't opened that Dave MacLeod book in a month. - I haven't been climbing (or eating or sleeping or studying) particularly well.
So, just to check in with my readers (I love all seven of you <3), here are some lists.
Recent sends: - Trouble (V3, Rocktown) - The Thespian (V3, HP40) - Green Machine (V4, LRC) <-- my first outdoor 4. - Seven pullups! #yes
Recent frustrations: - working during gym hours - being too sick to climb - my first tendon injury(/ies)
Season goals: - Super Mario (V4, LRC) - Croc Bloc (V5, Rocktown) - The Hobbit (V5, Rocktown)
RAPID FIRE THOUGHTS
I bought new shoes on closeout. They are Evolv Predator G2s. They are stiff and hurt a lot. I need to get my Hornets resoled but I don't know how much that costs and also I've never mailed anything that you have to put in a box. Actually I have only mailed like four things ever and they were cards.
I am in Oregon with Evan and his family. We are climbing at Smith Rock on Saturday. It will be my first time climbing not in the Southeast. Yesterday I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
A tendon in my finger is hurt. I am not climbing on crimps.
I wish I could climb more but am trying to be a grownup about it. Hypothetical hierarchy: school-work-relationships-climbing. Food is in there somewhere. Unfortunately cleaning is not.
My room is really messy that is why I said that.
I wrote a thing for my creative writing class about my mental experience when I think I might take a lead fall. Maybe I will share it with you post-workshop. I want to take lead falls at Smith. Or I think I should. The prospect actually makes me slightly nauseous.
Oh and I climbed in my first competition. It was called Boulder Bash and happened at UGA. Active climbers got first in advanced (Nick!), first in men's (Jamie! He's 14) and women's (Elaine!) intermediate, and third in women's intermediate (me!). I climbed poorly (I've been doing that lately), but it was really fun and not as stressful as I feared.
I realize the food aspect of this blog is very lacking. I will work on that. Evan and I made sushi. Here is a photo:
It was pretty good.
See you soon! Follow me on Instagram! Eat vegan and recycle!
After last week’s 5.11 freakout, I was determined to climb some boulders, close to the ground and far from the terror of leading.
And I did — twice!
Saturday morning, I headed to Little Rock City (at 5 a.m., on three hours of sleep, of course) with Caroline, her boyfriend Remi, and our friend Jared. We drove through lots of drizzles on the way up, but nobody mentioned it. I think we were afraid of speaking rain into being, but Soddy-Daisy pulled through. The air was humid and misty when we arrived, but besides a little moisture that quickly dried up, it was the best — and coolest — climbing weather we’ve had all summer. Although I wished toward the end of the day that I had brought a jacket, the air’s chilliness got me psyched for real fall weather and “sending temps.”
The first thing Evan asked me when I told him after the trip that Caroline and I had worked on Pancake Mantle (V2) was, “Did anybody cry?” Not this time. We only spent about 10 minutes here before moving on with a collective eye roll. Caroline and I did not send, but Jared did, and I got a leeetle farther than last time — now I can make it over the pancake, but I’m just not strong enough for the mantle. Guess I’ve got to add some pushups to my pullups.
I don't remember this problem, but it looks like Caroline maybe crushed it.
Speaking of, remember my casual goal of doing five pull-ups in the near future? Well, I did it last Thursday! So now my goal is 10, you know, eventually. But I should probably start training in other ways too — might now be the time to approach the campus board? Those funny rings hanging from the ceiling? What is a kettle ball?
Anyway, Jared and I sent Two Can Sam, one of the V3s I accurately predicted I would send before Pancake Mantle. Supposedly the beta for that climb includes a silly/painful/unnecessary hand jam in the middle, but I’m happy to say we all worked it without forfeiting our knuckle skin. Caroline basically finished the thing but got sketched out on the topout, which is pretty confusing/scary.
Remi worked Red House (V7) for a bit and encouraged the three of us to try Super Mario, LRC’s most beloved V4. It is longish and kind of overhung and traversey, and it combines several climbing styles, which makes it hard but a good study piece for learning *~*how 2 climb*~*. We worked it out of sequence, but I know we’ll all send it before the season ends.
Caroline working the middle of Super Mario
While we were in that area, scary death acorns kept falling on us from above. No one was hit, but it was a very flinch-y time. We met this older (than us) guy who was bouldering alone and had the air of someone who had climbed All The Things over several decades. He was quiet but friendly, and he gave us beta, and I didn’t ask his name because I liked the mystery of not knowing. I will just think of him as the Burl Wizard of Little Rock City. Or something.
And I found this lordly mushroom!
One of the best parts of the day was when, after much try-hard-ing, Remi sent Tennessee Thong, his first V7 in about two years. Remi’s one of those guys who used to crush really hard before life happened. Now he’s getting back into it at the big-boy level. He’s great to climb with because he’s super-encouraging, and you always learn something new from him.
Nearby, we worked Swingers (V3), which I first tried back in April and was excited to finally get on again. And it was cool to see how much stronger I’ve gotten since then! The start isn’t very nice to particularly-not-tall people, with a high right heel-toe cam and a low left smear, so Jared and Caroline weren’t psyched on it. But it’s now one of my favorite climbs at LRC, and I am pretty sure I will send it next time. It’s not the kind of climb I would ordinarily find myself enjoying — overhanging with a low start and muchas matches — but for whatever reason (I think it’s the big pulls and the oh-so-solid heel-toe cam), I love this problem. I ended up using this crazy heel hook swingy beta at the lip that made me feel like a Boulderer. It was great.
And then Remi left his phone on a rock and I lost my debit card* and made the mistake of buying gas station bean dip in a can because I craved hummus but IT’S NOT THE SAME AND IT’S NOT EVEN GOOD** and there was road construction and we didn’t get back until almost 1.
So I went to bed at 2 a.m. and got up at 4:30 for my first trip to Horsepens 40!
I’ve been wanting to go for ages, but it’s so far away that people won’t usually go for a day trip, and the camping is expensive (but worth it), so nobody wants to do that either. But I’m so glad I finally made it out there because, in Evan’s words,
It. Is. Magical.
Evan, Lucy, and I met Elaine and Matt at this enchanting boulderfield, and wow. I didn’t do any research ahead of time because I had heard so much about how amazing Horsepens is and wanted the magic to come at me full-force. That was probably a good move too, because I didn’t have any projects to get frustrated on. I was alternately enamored by how beautiful Horsepens is and despairing at my sore body and
Ripped. Up. Tips. Guess I overdid it on Saturday… I mostly stuck to slopey V0s and pretty much quit climbing around 3 p.m. Everything was just too painful, but it didn’t matter because all the climbs are interesting here, and it was wonderful just to sit and bask in the Horsepens majesty. I wish I could show you what I’m talking about, but I didn’t actually get that many photos this time around. Don’t worry, though — I will definitely have some camera loot after Boulderween (!) this October.
Sunday was much hotter than Saturday, but my hoodie did come in handy as a pillow when I took a series of afternoon lizard naps.
Evan worked the Inspect Her Gadget (V5) traverse at the start of the day, and I attempted the campus-start V4 variation. Maybe I could have stuck a move or two with a higher pain tolerance/more skin, but I quickly moved on to easier climbs.
Elaine and Lucy worked Spirit (V3), which I couldn’t even start because the first holds were so pebbly and vindictive. Everybody sent The Stranger (V2) but me, but I consoled myself with mental reminders of my bodily soreness, sleep deprivation, and lack of skin. Still, we all worked a V3 called Panty Shields. I didn’t quite top it out, but it’s a cool technical problem that I will totes send next time.
Elaine has the most photogenic beta.
I thought it was my last climb of the day until Elaine got on Earth, Wind, and Fire (V3), a slabby crackish classic that is pretty tall and pretty scary (hello, tree spot). I just had to try it. I’m still super iffy on crack techniques, but it was such a cool problem. I’m not sure why I didn’t freak out on this one, because I had definitely panicked a little on Groove Rider (V3), another high and slabby climb which I only attempted once.
Elaine crack-a-lackin' on Earth, Wind, and Fire
We all had fun on Merlin, a super fun V1 named for its resemblance to the eponymous wizard's headgear (told you this place was magical). I know it was easy, but I was proud of myself for climbing so high sans rope. And then I did it again using the arête! Honestly, the downclimb between the hat and the adjacent boulder was the scariest part.
Evan sent Popeye (V5) at the end of the day but for the most part worked “easy” stuff with the rest of us. The rock at Horsepens is special, man, and even the zeros play with your head. Everything is a challenge.
They say, in fact, that all of Horsepens is super sandbagged. I can’t say whether that’s true or not, but it’s definitely tricky to figure out beta, even on the easiest warmups. The climbing is so fun though, and the place is so beautiful. Not just the rock, but the facilities — everything is painted red and yellow and labeled with these cute signs that reminded me of Del and Marte’s place at the Obed. And there are bathrooms and showers and stages and food (marked by an all-caps declaration: “FOOD”). Oh yeah and also horses.
Oh, and guess what I just found out (like, halfway through writing this post). I’m going again this weekend!!! I know you’re not supposed to use more than one exclamation point if you want to be taken seriously on the Internet, but Horsepens deserves all the punctuation!
I’ll try to keep my skin this week, and I’ll (probably) get lots of photos this weekend. In the meantime, I’ll try to actually post something related to the “Eat” side of this blog, and when I have time I’ll update you on my hair (no more no-poo :( ).
Until then — happy sending! May the temps be ever in your favor.
*Debit card has since been recovered. In my camera bag. Post-cancellation.
**I should have known better ‘cause I did the same thing on the way back from the Obed.
Seven of us went to Chattanooga on Friday to climb some rocks. I don’t know the names of any of the routes we got on, but gee were they fun. We had four ropes and like, 30 draws, and the routes were really close together, so we were able to rotate climbs with maximum efficiency. Which was good because Evan, Nick, and I got to the crag about an hour later than we'd planned, and then the approach was terrifying and we couldn’t find the rock and Elaine and Matt couldn’t find Chuck and Kyle and Evan was asleep in the car and I almost died like several times but it all worked out and we had a great day.
Nick, Matt, and Elaine had to leave early, but once just four of us were left, someone (thanks, someone!) had the idea for me to climb up this 11 (I did not send), go in direct, and pull my camera case up on the rope. I'd always wanted to get cool photos from this angle but hadn't been sure how to go about it before. But Friday, I did it. I learned a new knot, the clove hitch*, and found my appreciation for pulley systems reawakened as second-grade physical science reentered my life.
It was kind of nervewracking opening my camera case so high and imagining all the things that could go wrong if a quickdraw/rope/zipper inexplicably failed, my T2i and all its lenses tumbling to a shattery death by sandstone. But it was secured to my person with a long draw and a safety knot, and I kept the strap over my shoulder while pushing thoughts of heights and gravity and manufacturing error out of my mind.
It wasn’t a big photography day, what with all the 10s to flash and 11s to try, but I got a few shots from the ground...
And that is all I have to share with you today. Life is about to get busier with classes starting and all, but I'll keep seeking weekend adventure. And you know what? I’m pretty excited about the weekdays too.
*I don't remember if we actually utilized the clove hitch for the camera hoist. But I definitely learned it.
What heights do you take your camera to? Anybody have gravity-related camera horror stories? Share in the comments!
This seems to be the norm for approaches at Little River Canyon: Class 4?
This weekend, I learned about hiking classes. I'd heard of them before, but as a budding adventurer I was unfamiliar with how hardcore hikers graded their routes. According to my seasoned outdoorsman friend Charles, the basic breakdown is this:
Class 1: You're walking. Class 2: You're still walking, but it's a little scarier and you have to be careful. Class 3: You're on your hands and feet. Class 4: You're on your hands and feet, and if you fall you might die. Class 5: You're climbing, and you probably need a rope, because it you fall without one you will probably die.
And that's why sport grades start with a 5!
This Alabama crag is worth the scary death-hike. It's hard to find anything below a 5.11, but the climbing is great, and the canyon itself is beautiful. Best of all, you can climb there in the rain.
Just follow me on Instagram, already.
Friday, I went to Lizard Wall with Evan and Charles. I was pretty sore from a workout a few days prior, and I couldn't stick two moves toproping Lemonade (5.11a) or Bon Voyage (5.11b) without getting pumped. But I had fun anyway and learned things! For instance: you can use a Grigri as secondary protection when you're cleaning a route and lowering off one anchor. Who knew? (A guy on Mountain Project did.) I recommend learning how before you're at the anchor.
So Friday was fun, and the guys worked on things and probably sent some, and I remember the name Robyn's Route (5.12b) but not much else besides pumpy forearms and these delicious lil cocoatmeal nuggets:
Nugget recipe coming soon!
But Sunday was when the real try-hards happened. I'd been psyched all week for the girls' trip Caroline, Lucy and I were planning to take to Rocktown (alluded to here), and Evan + 3 were planning to hit up Lost Wall for some trad. But then the forecast crushed our dreams. So Sunday morning, we all rode up to the Canyon.
We goofed off a bit on the damp Mushroom Boulders, waiting for Beckett to eat her breakfast.
It was frustrating to see such beautiful sandstone defaced with people's terrible handwriting. Beatles quotes, declarations of love, pleas for Instagram followers (really) — we keep running into this. Remember the Shaking Rock graffiti? Sand Rock has tons of it too. And last Sunday at Rocktown, someone had written "cum" on the Orb boulder.
Fortunately (I guess), I think it was done with charcoal and not paint. But still. Just why? Why?? Whyyyy???
Anyway. After bouldering a bit at the 'shrooms, we made our perilous way to the Toomsuba wall. Everybody was awesome! Our new friend Thomas onsighted a 5.11a called Combat Zone, and Evan onsighted Courtesy (5.12a). Elaine, Lucy, Caroline, and I warmed up on Cheesecake (5.9). Elaine onsighted it, first-time outdoor-leader Lucy flashed it, and I…didn't.
Caroline and I are kindred, height-fearing, helmet-wearing spirits.
I took a pretty scary lead fall on the Sand Rock classic Misty (5.10b/c) in April, and since then I've developed an unfortunate fear of heights. But Sunday, I decided it was time to conquer my lead-fear. I knew I was ready to flash this 9, but I wigged out near the top and took my first lead fall since that one. It was for the best, though; I needed to fall again, this time correctly. And it wasn't that bad.
And later, when I sent the route, Charles told me to pull up a bunch of slack and then jump from the anchors. It's the second-scariest thing I've ever done, and I took a minute to work up the courage. The moment before my feet left the rock filled my entire body with fear, but the thirty feet down were exhilarating. Trusting the gear and my belayer was weirdly empowering in the way it freed me from "what-if" thoughts. Qué será, será, you know? You're already flying through the air, you have no control — might as well enjoy gravity. It took my body like, ten minutes to stop shaking, but I couldn't stop smiling either. I highly recommend this technique for anyone trying to get over a fear of falling. (Thanks, Chuck!)
After that, we did a 10a called Vogue that really felt easier than the 9 (but whatever, burly route-setters). Lucy, Elaine, and I worked an 11c on toprope after Chuck and Thomas put it up. Lucy was the only one to make it up, but I think we should all work this one again when we're fresh and a little bit stronger.
Now that I've reined in The Fear a little, I can't wait to get back to the Canyon (specifically Grey Wall, where the 5.11s Obsession and Easy Out are awaiting my send). I'm psyched for bouldering season to begin, but I'm starting to get the hang of this sport thing. I think even when "The Season" is here, I'll keep climbing higher…and occasionally jumping down.
Remember how in my last post, I declared Little Rock City “my second-favorite bouldering spot?” Well, my first-favorite is Rocktown*. And after shredding my fingertips and ego bouldering at LRC, I was aching to get back to Lafayette**.
So on Thursday, I posted this Facebook status:
I didn’t expect it to work; most people seem to prefer air-conditioned gym climbing to summer bouldering. But I just had to go, and I hoped against hope to entice a carful of others dying to slide on slimy slopers in the Georgia heat.
And I did! Five folks wanted in on the foolishness, and although two of them backed out to nurse injuries (:(), at 5 a.m. on Sunday, my workweek dreams came true.
And this time, I wasn’t the only girl! Sitting with me in the backseat of Elliot’s car, listening to NPR’s Radiolab and also enduring the poorly prepared coffee struggle, was Lucy, Active Climbing’s favorite 13-year-old. It was her second outdoor trip ever, and I was psyched for her to try out some of the South’s finest sandstone.
Read Lucy’s take on the trip here!
After my Pancake Mantle meltdown at LRC, I went into this trip knowing it wasn’t a day to throw myself at anything. Psych was high, but expectations were low — the right balance of attitudes for a humid day of sloper-slipping.
Still, I couldn’t just walk past my projects! So we got on Trouble (V3), Isle of Beautiful Women (V4), Screaming Church Girls (V4), and Golden Showers (V5). Lucy made quick work of Trouble, and I alllmost topped it out like, nine times, but nothing else was gonna go. So we goofed off on 1s and 2s (some of which were still not gonna go) until our tips were raw. And it was so fun! Supastrong Chris even lead the way, finding easy climbs in my (brand new!) guidebook and seeking them out.
Chris worked a V7 for a while too. That's probably kind of like us working 2s?
It was weird seeing Rocktown so empty. We ran into just two other climbing groups, and only one dog, a sweet golden retriever named Veda. I took Lucy over to the Super Mario boulder, wanting to get her on its eponymous V3 (and try out Luigi and Yoshi myself), but the area had turned into fire ant territory, and there were cobwebs all up in dem holds.
Real life desertion.
So we played on jugs some more, destroyed our tips, and left for Athens. Now Lucy and I have a girls’ trip in the works with Caroline & co., and I can’t wait to use my newly purchased group pass when the friction gets good.
Oh, and also — my hair looked awesome on Monday. Remember how I gave up shampoo in July? Well, I think my hair is finally pulling through the adjustment period. I’m active enough that I have to do the baking soda and vinegar thing pretty often, but Sunday night, I didn’t even do that because a.) my fingers hurt too much and b.) it looked...fine. And even the following night, after only a rinse in 36 very active hours and a five-hour deli shift at work, it was shiny and voluminous and not gross at all. No 'poo for the win!
*First-favorite of the places I’ve been, that is; I’ve been told Horsepens 40 is magical, and I can’t wait to see it this fall.
**Pronounced “Luh-FAY-it;” #southernswag
I hate Pancake Mantle.
If you haven't heard of it, Pancake Mantle is a V2 at Little Rock City (aka Stone Fort), my second-favorite bouldering spot. It is this goofy climb that requires you to pull yourself up onto this pancakey piece of rock and mantle/thigh-scum/desperately butt-hop to the top-out. It's like, three moves, and everybody thinks it's oh so funny and is like, "Have you tried Pancake Mantle LOL it's so funny right OMG you should do it right now DO IIIT" every time I'm at LRC.
Oh, yes. I've tried the insidious 'cake.
I'm gonna call myself a solid V3/V4 climber, but I cannot do Pancake Mantle. I've tried on four occasions, and I simply can't pull myself onto the pancake. Which I suppose isn't that surprising because I can't do a pullup on a bar either, but like, it's a V2, man. IT'S A V2.
So when I made an impromptu trip to LRC on Sunday with Evan and our friend Matt, I maybe should have passed Ole Cakey and just kept walking. But instead, I turned back to confront the enemy. And then I attacked it for thirty minutes, scraped my arm up, didn't send, and started to cry.
That's right. I cried at Pancake Mantle. "BUT IT'S A VEE TEWWW," I shudder-wept at Evan. I compared it to the myriad V3s and V4s I've worked that are "S-SO MUCH EASIER. IT'S NOT FUH-AIR. HOW IS THIS A VEE TEWWW?" I wavered between accusing the surely burly dude who probably graded this problem of taking his upper body strength for granted and not really knowing the life of a V2 climber and lamenting that I should be able to do any 2, 'cause I've been climbing for a year, man, and 2s are a thing of last July. After sitting on a rock and pouting/sniffling/breathing deeply for a while, I reluctantly moved to where the guys were working some V5 dyno and pouted over there instead. I felt better after sending Rib Cage (V3), which I'd projected before, but the feeling of Pancake Failure stayed with me.
But you know what? I need to get over it. Pancake Mantle is obviously not my style, and there are lots of problems that throwing myself at would actually be fun and productive. And although my pullup inability is definitely an obstacle to be overcome, the only reason this problem is so upsetting to me is because of that silly number.
'Cause really, in some ways the numbers are silly, and pretty subjective. Sure, V points are a good way to measure your general progress, but there's a lot more to climbing than grade-hopping. Here are some things I can do now that I couldn't do before I started climbing:
- open doors on campus with one arm instead of my entire body weight (gonna call this a V1 move)
- pour sugar with one hand on the bag and no spillage (V2)
- pick up industrial-sized bean cans with one hand (def V2)
- make it to the Kroger checkout without trading my produce basket for a buggy (V1/V2, depending on what's in season)
Also, some projects I will probably send before I get Pancake Mantle ('cause I will get it someday):
- Two Can Sam (V3, LRC)
- Swingers (V4, LRC)
- Super Mario (V4, LRC)
- Trouble (V3, Rocktown)
- Screaming Church Girls (V4, Rocktown)
- Isle of Beautiful Women (V4, Rocktown)
- Golden Showers (V5, Rocktown — I mean, maybe.)
The rest of the day was pretty nice in spite of my breakdown and the 92-degree heat. The guys had a better attitude than I did and climbed fun stuff below their grades after working Red House (V7) for a bit. The coolest part for me, though, was all the critters that were out! We saw so many caterpillars. Also, salamanders (I think), but they were camera shy.
Anyway, next time I'm at Little Rock City, I'm heading straight to my projects. I may give Pancake Mantle a few courtesy tries, but if the send isn't imminent, I'll shrug it off and move on to Super Mario.
Same photo, different bro. #sorrynotsorry
Oh, yeah! And I changed the blog name to Eat & Climb, because well duh. And now I'm domain-name legit.