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
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
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
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.
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.
Evan, Lucy, Beckett, Nathan, and I drove up there on Friday for a half day, and since it's only about 90 minutes from Athens, we didn't have to leave until 6 a.m.! #whoo
Since Evan has a sports car, Nathan has a bike, and Lucy is 13, the task of driving fell to me. Actually, I think one of the guys would have driven my car, but I am trying to improve at driving and stop hating it because it's a necessary skill if you want to be an adventurer. I just traded in (err, kind of) my white '89 Lincoln Town Car for a 2004 Ford Taurus a few weeks ago, and this was my second time driving folks to a climbing spot (the first was our Little River Canyon expedition a few Sundays ago). And maybe my fifth time driving outside of Athens, like, ever. #scary
The drive to the crag went preeetty well, except I learned quite suddenly that you always have to stop for school buses, even if they are across the yellow lines and three lanes away from you, which is good to know because I don't think I've had to stop for a school bus ever (did I mention I don't drive much?), and apparently it's a really big ticket if you don't. But I also think it's pretty not-okay for these bus drivers to let kids out on a four lane road with no crosswalk and expect them to cross it and... well, anyway. Once we reached the mountain, it took me about three years to get us up its potholey gravel road, but I think I did a pretty okay job considering.
It was a frustrating day for me at Brick Wall. I was sore from a few days of gym climbing, so everything felt harder than it "should" have. And although I thought I'd gotten past my fear of heights with my post-send-slack-pulling at the aforementioned Canyon trip and my 10-lead-flashing last weekend, I had a serious freakout leading this 5.10a called Pigs on the Wing. As in, a grab the last quickdraw, sob to the top, don't stop shaking for thirty minutes freakout. It was bad and embarrassing and I was really mad at myself, but the thought of falling filled me with more terror than ever. I think the fact that I was feeling weaker than usual combined with latent fear demons in my head to make the worst of a potentially okay situation. But I got over it, and it was still a great day. I toproped a 5.10b/c called Power Flyer, and I agreed with Lucy and Evan that is was way easier than the 10a, but since the fear aspect was (mostly) removed, I don't really know.
We also toproped a couple of 5.9 trad climbs, No Name Crack and Offwidth. Offwidth was my first experience with crack climbing, which is strange and hard and super fun. I definitely want to climb more cracks, although the idea of hand jamming still confounds me. Really jamming anything except a pant-covered knee confounds me. Like, ow. But I am definitely a fan of the knee jam.
Hey, look, gear on gear!
Evan practiced placing trad gear on this 5.11c called Dreams while on toprope, and of course he'll send it on actual trad (on trad? while tradding? as a trad daddy? what is the phrasing???) next time. Lucy was baller enough to toprope it too. You can read about her experience here!
Since we were even in number, I was usually belaying or climbing and didn't get a lot of photos. But here are some vultures:
Not a good omen in my 5.10 distress.
We left around 4, and I drove us back to Athens without event. Beckett rested her head on my arm from the backseat, which was heavy and made steering a little awkward, but it was so friggin' adorable and I just got used to it. It was nice pulling up to the apartment at 5:30 instead of midnight, and it was definitely a productive day.
I'm a little disappointed that my fear of heights is still hanging out in my brain. But climbing is a process in every aspect, I suppose. I can't go out this weekend because of work (sigh), but if I can get anyone to climb on Labor Day I'll make sure my mind and body are ready.
Okay, so that was the Currahee portion of this blog post. This is the cookie portion! Crag cookies, crag cookies
Friday was Nathan's first time coming out with us. He'd allllmost come a few times before, and I was really excited to climb with him, and I was determined he would make it this time. So Thursday night at the gym, trying to convince him that it was worth the hot temps and all, I was like, "I'LL MAKE COOKIES, MAYBE." I included the "maybe" because it's important to have an out, but once I'd said it, I had to do it. I don't know if Nathan even remembers that conversation, but...
After a 10:00 trip to Academy Sports to pick up some overpriced gymnastics chalk (I procrastinated), I commenced the baking process. And this time, I wrote down measurements!
This was my first time using carob powder in a recipe. I'm not sure how I feel about it. People like to use it instead of cocoa powder because it is also brown and starts with a "C," but it does not taste like chocolate. I really lack the culinary vocabulary to describe the taste of carob. But it's not bad, necessarily, depending on who you are. Just strange, and you feel kind of virtuous and trendy eating it. And it doesn't contain caffeine, so that's nice, or lame, or whatever, depending on what you seek from your cookies.
Anyway, here's the *~*recipe*~* :
1 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c coconut sugar
1/4 c carob powder
t tsp baking powder
1 tbsp chia seeds
handful of coconut flakes
2 tbsp flax seed meal + 4 tbsp warm water
1/2 c coconut oil
1/4 c agave nectar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the flax seed meal and warm water and set aside.
3. Combine the dry stuff, except for the coconut flakes.
4. Add in the wet stuff and then the coconut flakes.
5. Make lil balls, and put 'em onto an ungreased cookie sheet. You should have about 16.
I didn't flatten them down, and after 8 minutes, they were still little nuggets:
So I flattened 'em out with a fork and baked 'em for two more minutes. So you should probably skip that part and just flatten them to start with and then bake them for 10 minutes.
And then they'll look kind of like this! Soft and chewy and full of nutrition.
Now. The important question: How do they taste? Well, not sweet. Like, they're brown, but they are not chocolate. And coconut sugar isn't actually all that sweet, as sugars go. And whole wheat flour, while less evil than white flour, tends to make things bitter-er. I honestly wasn't sure about them, but the guys liked them. In Nathan's words: "they taste like energy cookies." Which apparently are a real thing because I just googled them and found like a kajillion recipes so maybe I will just call them that. Like, coco-carob energy cookies. The coco is for coconut, NOT COCOA. Because THESE BEAUTIFUL COOKIES DO NOT TASTE LIKE CHOCOLATE.
Well, you've been warned. I'mma go to the gym now and climb on some plastic.
Any other climbers out there struggle with The Fear? How do you manage it? And what in the world do you think of carob powder? Speak in the comments, or on the Contact page!
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.