My To-Do list has reached a damning level of ridiculousness, but all the writing, studying and working will be worth it at 1:00 PM tomorrow, when I will make my return to my proper habitat in the mountains. I’ll be spending a glorious weekend in the boulder fields at Horse Pens 40, in Steele, Alabama. Sleeping under the stars with Niko, tearing my fingertips apart on rocks, photographing the foliage and breathing crisp mountain air – can’t I just leave now?
For many Climbing Club members, this will be their first excursion on a climbing trip. As a veteran who distinctly remembers my unprepared first trip, I wanted to share some insights and advice about packing, what to expect and more. There’s the obvious stuff, like bringing a tent, sleeping bag, refillable water bottle and camp-friendly food. There is also the less obvious information, such as striving to minimalize and making sure you bring a roll of tape for your soon-to-be wrecked fingers.
Packing: In terms of camping, you need to ensure you have all of the above mentioned items, and I highly suggest investing in a headlamp. Not only is this beneficial for night climbing, you’ll find it endlessly useful when your bladder needs unloading in the middle of the night. Cookware and food are also important – don’t forget utensils. Ideas for camping food includes granola bars, bagels with Nutella, apples, pasta and packaged meals that only require hot water.
Climbing: There are a few essential things that every climber needs to remember: your climbing shoes, chalk bag, crash pads, tape and comfortable shoes for the hike to the boulders. A pair of shoes you can easily slip on and off will be best for when you’re moving between boulder areas – on my first trip to LRC, I brought annoying sneakers that required constant lacing and unlacing, and it drove me nuts. Also, be sure to bring a small backpack that you can shove your gear, snacks and whatever else into while you’re out exploring the area.
Weather: The forecast for the weekend is showing lows in the mid-40s to low-50s and highs around 82. This means you’ll be bundling up at night, and stripping down during the day, so plan accordingly. Trust me, 82 might seem pleasant, but after a few hours of climbing you’ll feel like you’re baking in a sauna. Bring shorts!
General Advice: Before you leave, charge your camera and your phone! This is the wilderness, baby, ain’t no plugs where you’re going. Don’t bother doing laundry before the trip, being smelly and dirty is a glorious part of being a climber. If you’re finished packing, go back to your bag and get rid of half of the stuff you think you need. You’ll probably end up wearing the same shirt the entire weekend; no need to bring more than two. Respect nature. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints. We are blessed to be able to climb at HP40, and we should show our gratitude by honoring nature.
Friends, readers, fellow climbers – prepare yourselves for my return on Sunday, when I shall be regaling you with tales of my weekend adventures. Story time shall be accompanied by photos, naturally. I am indescribably excited for my hooded jacket to come back to Tallahassee reeking of campfire. Horse Pens 40 is also hosting their annual Pumpkin Motorcycle Rally this weekend, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be loaded with entertaining anecdotes.