Watercolor Magic: The boulderfield beauty of Creative Crag

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I sure could use a few watercolor maps of my favorite Southeast crags, beautiful enough to hang on my wall but durable enough to survive the approach?” Well, now you have. Introducing: Creative Crag.

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V5 in a year? Expectations of ascent

In retrospect, it seems awfully silly; when I started climbing, I was the weakest of the weak, and I had less bodily awareness than a 12 year old boy. I could barely unscrew a peanut butter lid. I opened “pull” doors by gripping the handle with both hands and leaning back on my heels with all my body weight. I lacked the hand-eye coordination to catch a basketball from 10 feet away, and I truly could not walk a straight line. Why I expected to be some kind of rock-spider prodigy is beyond me.

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Hospital Boulders, little plastic corners, don't destroy the crag plz

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.


10984535_10153113658229402_3258364031153117434_o Chris on a V4, or a V5, or a V6. Who knows?!

The important stuff: we climbed lots of things, I am now psyched on roofs**, and Lucy made Evan a hat.

10861059_10153113658454402_4814469427924070979_o The hat.

And Taylor took photos! All of the ones in this post, in fact. Check out her website. And her new Instagram.


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. :(

How to boulder when you are super duper sick

Let me tell you about last weekend. I woke up Friday after spending Thursday in bed with a cough. I had made plans with Elaine and Joe to climb, and when I wasn't positively dying that morning, I decided that a "little cough" was not gonna keep me out of the mountains. Sure, I sounded like a frog who'd swallowed a broken battery and found myself occasionally collapsing in a hot hacking mess, but I was fiiine. FIIINE.

(No, I wasn't.)

But we met Evan and Chris at Little Rock City, and it was a good day, and I almost sent Sternum (V5), and I FINALLY SENT PANCAKE MANTLE!!!! (Click here for an introduction to my personal Pancake Mantle saga.)

wpid-img_20150130_163727.jpg #victoryselfie on the pancake.

Elaine sent The Big Much (V4) and Latin for Dagger (V5), and Evan and Chris worked on Biggie Shorty (V10). And other things happened. But by 5 p.m., I was dooone. Donedonedone. Done. I walked/hacked/slowly crept like a decrepit sea hag back to the clubhouse alone, ready to trade my soul for a cup of tea. The clubhouse man was locking the door when I arrived, but he took pity on me and let me fill a styrofoam cup with hot water inside. Bless him. Then I sat crouched on the steps using my crashpad as a blanket, wearing three hats and covering my face with my gloved hands, prompting inquiries from concerned passersby who probably thought I was crying or possessed.

Eventually everybody else showed up, and I went with Evan and Elaine to this neat brewery, which I didn't appreciate because I was dying, and then we stayed in her friend's actual log cabin, which I didn't Instagram because I was dying, and when I woke up I was pretty much dead. But that wasn't gonna stop me.

I was in much worse shape physically this day, but I planned better than I had for LRC, and I sent my first V5 at Rocktown! It is called Slapper, and I owe it all to Traditional Medicinals.

I could tell you some more stuff about the trip (we met up with a bunch of Athens folks, and Nick flashed a seven and a six, and then he sprained his ankle, and I got to tape someone else up for once), but instead I leave you this gift:

A Packing List for the Sick Boulderer

wpid-img_20150131_172112.jpg Sweet Stan.

Let's be honest: if you are sick, you should not be climbing. You are just gonna make yourself sicker (I was in bed for two days after Rocktown), and you're not going to climb your best. But if you are stubborn and your body has bad timing, there are a few items that will help you out.

1. A Thermos: I have been wanting to get a thermos for a while. I spent a lot of time last week researching Hydro Flasks, Stanley thermoses, and Zojirushi vacuum bottles. I didn't want to rush such an important decision! But after I finished Friday's climbing session with such a desperate need for warm liquid, I knew a thermos had become a necessity. And the most convenient option that night was whatever Walmart had to offer — which happened to be a 32 oz Stanley monster. Saturday morning, I filled it with tea and lemon and a jalapeño. All day, it was like a magical elixir of hot nourishment and sending power. OK, so I only sent the one problem, and I didn't actually climb that much. But it really improved my day! I think without it I would have been a very cranky frog.

2. Throat Coat tea by Traditional MedicinalsThis is THE BEST thing for a sore throat. Honestly, I think it works best without anything added (although the lemon and jalapeño were revitalizing for me, I think my throat would have fared best without them). It also just tastes really good. And if something else is ailing you, this company has a lot of other great teas. I recommend the PMS Tea and the Breathe Easy. And the Ginger Aid. And everything else.

3. A blanket: I didn't actually have one of these, but I wished I did. Because even if you think you are going to climb as hard and as often as you do at your best, you aren't. And while you are sitting around watching your friends climb and trying to convince yourself that you feel FINE, ALRIGHT?, you are going to get cold. I had to make do with the extra fleece I had thought to bring, but there was definitely room in my pack for a rolled-up car blanket.

4. Extra TP: Really. I didn't think about this beforehand, but when you are drinking extra fluids because you are sick and dying and all, you are going to have to pee more than usual. So bring twice as much toilet paper as you usually need, because you don't want to have to ration it as the day wears on.

5. Low Expectations: You are probably not going to have much energy today. Saturday, I sent Slapper after about an hour, tried Rescue 911 (V5) twice, and then only had four burns left in me for Golden Showers (V5). But it was still a really fun day because I got to watch my friends crush, drink yummy tea, and experiment with my monster voice!

I hope these tips are helpful for any other foolhardy climbers. If you have any advice I didn't think of, leave it in the comments! <3


Seven weeks later...

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)


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:

sushi It was pretty good.

See you soon! Follow me on Instagram! Eat vegan and recycle!