A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rocktown Georgia

spring flower - we made it through winter!!!
crazy sandstone formation - i call it "the ice cream cone"

Located in the northwestern corner of Georgia is another amazing sandstone area. The rock feels very similar to HorsePens 40, but has iron veins swirling throughout the rock, since the iron is harder than the sandstone it erodes more slowly and leaves crimper rails that make for great climbing. Our first day we arrived and went for a hike into the boulders just to get oriented and see what the area was like.

The first area we made it to was called The Orb area and we ran into a small group of very friendly climbers from around Cleveland, Ohio. They were so friendly, in fact, that they loaned us the preliminary copy of the new Rocktown guidebook that isn't even published yet! It had color photos and was much much better than our little black and white guide that we got for free online. The nice guy we borrowed it from (Nate) just asked we return it back at camp and if we liked it, buy the guide once it comes out. Armed with our new guide we took off running through the boulders and became like kids in a candy store. We found tons and tons of boulders all with stellar looking climbs on them that we were very excited to try. The climbing was steeper than HP40 and with better holds. Considering the temperatures we knew that this style would be better for harder grades than HP40 since that is mostly slopers, it's also a style more to our liking. We explored into the middle Maze area and were stunned at all of the climbs we had found. The place is just outstanding. Normally we don't find v0-v2 climbs that are all that exciting looking, some of them might climb well, but with just casual observation it can be easy to dismiss them. Not here. There were tons of climbs that looked easy, but outstandingly beautiful and each one very very unique. That night we walked over to Nate and Liz's camp to return the book. They asked if we were climbing the next day and said they were taking a rest day so we should keep the book, and even let us borrow their Stone Fort area book as well! We were very happy to meet such cool people that were so friendly. We spent the evening hanging out at their campfire and shared stories.

 The next day we walked into the bouldering area and got started at the Hueco simulator wall. It had a bunch of easy climbs, that were all quite good climbs and perfect warmups. Our favorite was a v2 called Ripple that was just perfect. We walked down to another area and got on a sweet v1 called Mr. Softy and then did El Bano v3 (the bathroom). It was very good climbing. After that we did triple slaps v3, and then tried Nose Candy v6. I sent and Cassie came close but had trouble with her reach.

Cassie warming up on the Hueco Simulator Wall

Perfect v1
Nose Candy v6

 The next day we climbed with Nate,Liz,Mike,Dunk, and Matt. We warmed up at the Orb area and did a bunch of incredibly fun easy climbs including one of the best v1s we've done which starts on a roof and then goes up iron rail jugs. It was beautiful. Cassie tried Nose Candy again, but didn't quite pull it off. The Scoop v1 was one of the best v1s I've ever done. Hopped on Anti-scoop which was an okay v4. We tried Golden Shower v5 which is one of the best 5s I've ever tried but just didn't have the juice to send. It began to drizzle, then downpour and by the time we made it back to the car we were soaked. We decided to make lemonade from lemons and used the rain to wash up with some soap :)

Matt trying Golden Shower v5

The Scoop V1

Having spent two days climbing a lot we opted for a rest day and a free shower at the local community center. After getting cleaned up we went to a place called Pigeon Mountain Country Store. Nate had mentioned that they had good bbq (called 'cue down here in the South) and free wifi. So, we arrived and ordered a plate of the ribs and sides of baked beans and potato salad. We sat down on the porch and fired up the laptop only to hear someone say "that's the biggest black widow I've ever seen" we ran toward the voice (maybe not the smartest thing to run toward) and saw a huge black widow. It was truly a beautiful creature, though a bit scary looking. The 'cue turned out to be excellent and we sat on the front porch eating ribs, uploading photos and enjoying a nice cool afternoon. We made friends with the guys running the store named Jared and Joe who make the ribs and the lemon bars we devoured and vowed to be back someday. We spent the evening back at camp drinking burbon, scotch and watching the fire.

Black Widow
'cue from the Pidgeon Mountain Country Store

Our final day at Rocktown we went to the Orb area and got on Double Trouble v3. It came out another roof on a perfect iron rail. It was excellent. We then did Soap on a Rope v4 which has to be one of the harder 4s we've done. It was a very good climb and was well worth the effort. Matt tried The Orb v8 and got to the crux easily but was shutdown on the hard move. We tried Little Bad v5 which Matt flashed, and another v5 that Cassie flashed. We checked out a few more boulders but started running out of skin and energy. The rock is basically coarse sandpaper and wears out the tips of your fingers. At one point I counted 3 layers of skin missing off the tip of my middle finger.

Soap on a Rope v4
Today we are camped at Chester Frost State Park in Tennessee, charging up the batteries (both mental and physical) and are taking a rest before climbing at Stone Fort tomorrow. We are only about 2 weeks away from our trip to Thailand and are starting to get PSYCHED!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Horse Pens 40 Alabama

Cassie has Spirit v3
Matt on Stranger v2
When many people think of rock climbing they are immediately drawn to huge faces such as Denali or El Cap, but in northeastern Alabama there is a small sandstone bouldering area that packs quite a punch. It's known as Horse Pens 40.

We arrived in HP40 on Sunday after many days of driving from flagstaff Arizona. Along the way we stopped in eureka springs arkansas to see Don, my former step-dad who was around for much of my childhood. We had a great time catching up, seeing his plane making shop (those are handmade woodworking planes). He took us out for a nice dinner and showed us around town. We were quite impressed with the historic tourist town and are looking forward to going back sometime.

After that we drove the rest of the way to HP40 and arrive to very very unseasonably hot and humid temperatures. With temps in the around 85f and high humidity we knew that this slope mecca wouldn't give up its grades easily and so we focused on easier climbs. Even so, many climbs felt near impossible as our sweaty hands would grease off the holds. That being said we had an amazing first day exploring the myriad of boulders and we did find climbs we were able to finish such as Dope v2, Double Groove v3, Spirit v3, Stranger v2, and Eight-Ball v2.
At the end of the day I hopped on a great problem called Popeyv5 and came close to sending. We came back the next morning when it had cooled off and it went without too much trouble. We hopped on red arrow which proved difficult, though not impossible and then finished the day on bumboy v3. We didn't end up sending but both of us came reasonably close. It took a lot of skin off our fingertips, but we had a great time trying. It may be one of the most beautiful boulders I've ever seen.

Today we drive to near La Fayette, Georgia to an area known as Rocktown which is supposed to rival HP40 for quantity and quality of bouldering (plus free camping instead of the $30 a night for HP40 ouch!)
Cassie working Bumboy v3
Matt on Popeye v5

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Arizona and Priest Draw

Grand Canyon B&W
Matthew, Cassie, Yolanda, Zsa
We had a great visit to the Grand Canyon with Matt's mom and friend Yolanda. We walked along the rim, went to a number of great overlook points, watched the sunset and had a great time catching up with Zsa. We enjoyed the comforts of a hotel room, hot showers, and someone else doing the cooking, all of which Zsa was kind enough to put us up in. Thank you, thank you!!

Matthew and Zsa overlooking the canyon

Don't drink
Always good to know the park service will try to keep us from our own stupidity

After a quick visit, we made our way down to Flagstaff and the bouldering at Priest's Draw. We arrived on a Saturday and thought it might be pretty busy since we'd heard so much about the climbing here. We were a little worried about if we'd be able to find climbs we were interested in since we didn't have a guidebook, but met some people who gave us the general overview, then as we were climbing, we kept meeting people who were incredibly helpful in showing us what was what and giving beta and just generally really friendly nice people who we enjoyed talking to. We found the bat roof our first day which has one of the most amazing roof V3 climbs you will ever see. Completely horizontal, with holds where you can use your feet in ways you didn't know were possible, hooks, cams, etc. Very fun unique climbing.

The Fin
The next day we found the roof which has Anorexic V6 and Carnivore V8, both classic roof climbs we'd heard about before we arrived. We both worked Anorexic which at first seemed completely impossible with small painful pockets and big throws. Jim, a local who we'd met the previous day was there again and was happy to share some key beta with us, which made all the difference. We would likely never have thought to use our feet in some of the ways he suggested, such as the move pulling the lip where you have to do a heel toe cam above your head then reach way out around the roof. Somewhat scary, but worked very well.  We were both too tired to finish it that day, but came back after a rest day to complete it. Matt finished it with ease on his first try. It took me a few more attempts, but was able to finish it before we needed to leave.

anorexic (4)
The crazy top out of anorexic
anorexic (6)
We left mid-day in order to drive to Cornville where my Aunt Darlene and Uncle Henry live and we were going to see them and meet up with my parents as well. We're there now enjoying their company and beautiful sunny house. It feels great to be in a warm desert environment in the springtime.

We're leaving here tomorrow for what for us will be a marathon two day drive to see Matthew's step-dad Don in Arkansas. We don't frequently cover some many miles in so short a time but after our visit with Don, we have two weeks to get to Ohio where we're planning on hitting a few of the prime SE bouldering areas. We're pretty excited to see some new parts of the country and getting quite excited to go abroad again!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

back on the road

Triassic moon
 We left the comforts of nice warm houses for climbing at Triassic on Friday March 2nd. Mark, Pace, Chris, Renee and Torrey joined us for a great weekend of camping and climbing with friends. It was great to be back in one of our favorite places, spending the days in the boulders and nights around the campfire. We had a great time getting back on a few of our favorite problems including "Golden", a beautiful, tall V1, and trying a few new ones. We tried a few things that weren't in the book as well. Matt found a cool prow that he thinks hadn't been climbed before since he broke a hold off on his first try, and probably if it had been done before, the hold would have already been gone. He's calling it "no problem" V3. FA = First Ascent

Matt's first FA?
After two great days, it was time for everyone else to head back to SLC while we stayed for one more night. It was harder than expected to say goodbye this time. You'd think we'd be getting used to it by now. With our friends leaving and us staying there, it felt like when the boat dropped us off in Alaska for our remote kayak trip. Just a strong feeling of we are on our own again, watching the connections we have to the familiar drive away.

climbing = joy

self service V4 at Joe's
The next day, we had plans to climb at Joe's valley where I had a bunch of problems that I was close to before leaving. I did one and got close on a second, but after a few hours, realized that we were just tired from 3 days of straight climbing. So, we decided to start making our way to the Grand Canyon (that seems logical right?)

monument valley through the dust storm

We drove through the San Rafael Swell which we hadn't done for quite a while. It made us remember just how amazing of a place it is and how many great canyons there are to explore there. One more plus for why Utah is a good place for us to come back to. We were planning on taking our time to get to the Grand Canyon, maybe bouldering in Flagstaff for a day, but snow was predicted for today and tomorrow, so we decided to get here before the snow came rather then risk driving through it. This meant driving in one of the craziest windstorms we have ever been in, which made the views of Monument Valley quite fuzzy and blasted us with sand the entire way, while we fought to hold the wheel in what should have been a right turn to keep it going straight. But we made it to the grand canyon where it is now snowing. Matt's cooking up pancakes and then we'll be going to check out the views of the canyon.

mexican hat

Golden V1
Cassie trying Seven Deadly Crimps v8

Moe's Valley and our return to Utah

Moes Valley

Well we've been on the road for 9 months now. After all this time traveling and meeting new people we were starting to feel a bit homesick for our old friends in Salt Lake City. With that in mind we left Red Rocks over a week ago and headed to Moe's Valley in St George, Utah to do some bouldering before making the push up I-15 back to SLC.

extendo chalkbag

Nikki on a sweet arete

We had a good week at Moe's with Cassie sending two v6 projects pretty easily. I focused on two projects that I never really thought I would be strong enough to climb. I got really close, but did what is called a "dab" which means as you are climbing a foot touches what is essentially the ground. Given that this provides assistance it's not a clean send and can't really be counted. That being said I'm still quite happy to get so close on another v8 and v9. We met two really cool people from New York who are on an extended road trip and are moving to Portland in the next year or so. Ian and Nikki are both really strong climbers and are fun people to hang out with. We all enjoyed having smores over the campfire and falling off of projects. Hopefully we will see them again someday. It's always so great to make new friends, and then sad when you have to part ways.

Settlers of Katan

We left Moe's and headed to SLC. Our friend's Mark and Suzi let us crash at their place for a few nights and it was great to have a house,bed shower and excellent meals! We had our crew of friends over for a Friday night slideshow and video. The Bishop video was premiered and I think it was a success. It was a blast to catch up with them and see faces we recognized. Makes us think SLC is definitely on the short list of places to come back to. We all made plans that evening to head to Triassic the following weekend.

Dinner with Louise
After that we took care of some stuff in town and headed to our friend Louise's house in Spanish Fork. We ended up staying a bit longer than expected because of bad weather which was fine with all of us. It gave us a good excuse to bake lasagna, bread, and drink a couple of bottles of excellent wine. Good conversation and good company. Surprising how much you crave these things after many months on the road.