Reasons, promises, and Cuyuja climbing

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.

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Second Impressions: La Perrera's volcanic wonderland

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.

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Grit and Burl: Maybe it's time to take training seriously

So I just kept climbing, daydreaming, and attempting to absorb the powers of the greats through YouTube binges and Crux Crush interviews. I slowly progressed past the V5 mark and toward V6, strengthening my shoulders and bettering my head game by climbing a lot of routes in styles I enjoyed. When the lady climbers I most admired talked about their own training plans, I shrugged some more: Sure, they train, but I’m not on that level yet. Well, I think I really am. I don’t even think there is a level. Climbing with purpose and cross training are probably beneficial no matter how long you’ve been scurrying up walls.

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Ecua-Crag Introductions: Las Canteras, Sigsipamba, and La Perrera

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.

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Chickamauga Dreamin': Five Rocktown reveries

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.

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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.

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Pulling on Parisian plastic

20150715_172700 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.

tiny rock wall for SAP-4

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.

tiny rock wall for SAP-2 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

Reflections and a thank you

I guess I’ve been climbing for about two years now.

Actually, May 10th marked my two-year anniversary with the plastic at Active. I’m so glad I discovered our little bouldering gym back in 2013 (Thanks, Nick!). Climbing has taught me so much about strength, confidence, failure, and perseverance. It’s teaching me to trust myself.

11218194_10153343043179402_4539347155107344290_o Now can I be in the #fitspo club? Photo cred to Mackenzie Taylor Photography

Looking back on New Climber Sarah Anne is a little strange. V3s seemed impossible then, I thought my Elektras were the shiz (they were), and I didn’t think I’d ever do a pull-up.

I'm stronger and more confident now, but really, I’m still a beginner. I’ve finally developed a modicum of technique, but put me on anything slightly overhung and you’ll have to spoon feed me the beta. Hand-foot matches? Toe hooks? Bicycles? How does one climb? I definitely plan to get stronger, but I also have so much to learn about the basics of bouldering. I’m even newer to sport climbing, and trad is a distant dream.

Still, this year has been special because, as a newly not-totally-new climber, I’ve gotten to introduce several other people to the sport. I’ve taken a few friends out for their very first bouldering trips, and I’ve even helped teach a couple folks how to belay safely and clean routes. Sometimes I’m in the gym, and new dude bros ask me for beta. Me! For beta! Dude bros! It’s exciting to help others get psyched on a sport that has affected me in so many positive ways.

But it also makes me appreciate the guidance I’ve received from other people. I’ve learned so much about technique, training, and mindset from the Active crew, and I will always be thankful for the super strong guys who let me tag along on their bouldering trips, even when I was projecting V2s with an all-wrong attitude. They taught me to push with my feet, use my reach, and chase good times instead of grades.

Then there are the folks who have literally taught me the ropes. I am only now beginning to realize how fortunate I was to get my first lessons in belaying and leading from such experienced and safety-conscious climbers. I’m grateful to the guys who had — and have — the patience and fortitude to teach me, trust me, and correct my mistakes.

So thanks, guyz: Evan, Nicks, Chuck, Remi, Matt, John, Thomas, Jeremy, Chris, Sam, Hal, and every other person who’s seen me beg for beta, belay poorly, or cry on lead. Y'all are the best. Climbing is such a great part of my life, and it wouldn’t be as awesome without people like you.

Pss-AT and Kihap: Thoughts on #tryhard sounds

Grunting also seems akin to swearing, and (occasional) swearing has been proved by SCIENCE* to increase pain tolerance! Climbers can always use more of that. In fact, in Taekwondo there is even a special term for the force that leads practitioners to shout during their practice: kihap. Evan told me about it just now, and I found a little info on the Taekwondo Wiki:

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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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Spring meh, almost bandits, protein cookiez

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.

IMG_1565 All photo cred** (except the selfie) to PhD John and his iPhone skillz.IMG_1584Look at this tree!11080325_10203988476979658_5985551446123624659_oOur new album cover.

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.

IMG_1534 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.

IMG_1627 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.





These are the cookies I made for the trip.IMG_20150320_224746

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!

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


Sprain, sprain, go away

You know how in my last post, I waxed poetic about subverting the climbing gods by not hurting myself on the one-year anniversary of my tragic Rocktown ankle sprain? Jinxed it.

Elaine, Caroline, and I rode to Rocktown on Saturday with one of the Chrises in spite of the fact that like, eight people had bailed on the trip on account of a cold, cold forecast. (I believe the high was going to be 34? 35? I keep trying to check Facebook and then forgetting what I am doing there and getting lost in engagement photos and something about Nancy Grace.)

It was indeed very cold. Like, 19 degrees when we arrived around 9. NINETEEN DEGREES. But we persevered because we love rocks, and we drove three hours to reach them, and we were probably too prideful to accept that everyone else had been wiser and we should've stayed home. At least, that's kinda how I felt. Also, I was a little afraid that if we began really voicing our misery we might start feeding off each other and collapse into a sobbing puddle of suffering.

On the bright side, we ran into a lot of friends! Including Atlas, our favorite climbing toddler. Apparently a bunch of groups from Athens (and not-Athens) had decided to forge through the cold. One group had even camped, which sounds just ugh, but good for them and their dedication...

I had really been wanting to get Caroline on Soap On A Rope (V4), so after numbing/burning our fingers a bit on the warmup Orb boulders, the three of us ladies got right to it (this was around the time when Chris found a supa strong bro squad to project with. Bye, Chris!). But we really couldn't feign enthusiasm in that cold, and soon we kinda gave up on seriously projecting it. It was a bit discouraging, but soon the sun came out and the temps rapidly rose.

So we went to Golden Showers (V5)! This is going to be my first five, I just know it. This time around, I finally stuck the sloper that had been SO HARD the previous weekend. Everyone humored me on it for a while, but once I started digressing, we packed up for The Hobbit (V5, aka Diamond in the Rough). This is a really cool problem with a slight incline and sloper jugs and fun beta you can make as swingy or as static as you want. Elaine is about to finish this guy, I progressed a few moves, and Caroline got farther on her first burn than I did during my first session. But eventually we all started to tucker out, so we decided to rest for a bit and move on.

wpid-img_20150110_175346.jpg Caroline on The Hobbit

We ended up at Screaming Church Girls (V4), Caroline's long-term project and the bane of my climbing experience. Seriously, this problem incorporates all of my least-favorite things about climbing: a high-feet sit-start, scrunchy static movement, and crimps that hurt — right before a long move to topout jugs that would ordinarily be no problem for me. This problem makes me feel like a giant frog with a giant frog butt and unusually long frog legs. It's one of those climbs I'll try twice on every trip and then scoff at.

But Caroline has been working on it for a year and a half, and she was determined to send. And between my grumbling, half-hearted attempts at the horrid thing, SHE DID!!!

wpid-img_20150110_174610.jpg It was a proud moment for us all <3

So then I tried a little harder and discovered some start beta with lower feet that worked for me. And I didn't send, but I got through all the scrunchy moves that had been so hard for me before tiring out at the big move, which was also exciting but still frustrating, so now I feel like I haaave to try it again... *grumble grumble*

So go Caroline!! After that success, we checked out a V4 none of us had tried before called Serendipity. It is weird-looking with a curved crack and — well, the beginning looks like this:


It goes up and left to this ball-y thing and is pretty high. Elaine eventually sent it (yay Elaine!), but I was still daydreaming about Golden Showers and didn't even get on this one. Instead, I headed back to that beautiful boulder, knowing somebody would have pads under it.

Actually, a lot of somebodies did. There was a crew working the adjacent V10, Golden Harvest, and another on my proj. So I hopped on, and lo and behold — I stuck the sloper and the undercling! Now I was getting excited — I just had to throw for the big slopers and top the thing out.

In retrospect, I definitely should have rested longer between burns. But I didn't, and I got tired, then sloppy, and then I fell going for the undercling — not even the slopers — and then I rolled my ankle.

It hurt. I swore. I took deep breaths and had a mental freakout waiting for shock symptoms to wash over me like last time, but they never did — my first good sign. Then I could kinda-sorta put a teensy bit of weight on it at just the right angle, another good sign. It still needed tape, though, and I was fumbling. This guy who had been working Harvest came up to me and was like, "Have you ever taped an ankle before?" "Um, not really," I admitted. "Me neither, but I'm really drunk right now," he said. I think he was kidding? The tape job looked pretty bad but served its purpose well. Thanks, possibly drunk ankle-taping man!

The whole thing was pretty embarrassing, but at least it was toward the end of the day. Chris found Elaine and Caroline, and we had a leisurely walk (hobble) back via the main trail. I was super bummed at first because this is the first weekend I've had off in a long time, and Evan and I had been planning a camping trip. But I've been icing it all week, so I'm hoping I can climb on it a *little* tomorrow. It is still a little swollen and kind of painful at times, and I will definitely wear a brace, but I've been walking almost normally the last few days without one. I've been calling it a "minor sprain" and drinking lots of turmeric. I'm just gonna take it *mostly* easy tomorrow.

In other news, Taylor and I have already failed on the 30-day yoga front. We decided we will start over in February. So maybe it will be 28 days of yoga? I dunno. Still better than no days of yoga!

And I am taking weight training! It's one of my PE classes this semester, and I am learning a lot. My deltoids and triceps have been sore this week, so I hope that means I will be stronger tomorrow. Because I am definitely going to Rocktown, and I am getting on Golden Showers, and it might be a bad idea, but this time I will bring my first-aid kit and an ice pack.