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Dirtbag Beta: Review of the Hueco Rock Ranch

If you’re planning a trip to climb at Hueco Tanks, you basically have two options for lodging: camping inside the park, or staying at the American Alpine Club’s Hueco Rock Ranch. Of course, you could always rent a motel room closer to town, but let’s get real.

With the park campground often being entirely booked during peak bouldering season at Hueco Tanks, your best bet is to snag a campsite at the ranch. When I visited, the park was full, but the ranch had plenty of space.

The cost isn’t the cheapest, but the fees make up for it with free wi-fi, a spacious barn to cook and relax in, hot showers, and did I mention free wi-fi? The nightly rate is normally $10, but if you are an American Alpine Club or Access Fund member, you get a discounted price of $7/night.To the Hueco Rock Ranch!

There are also a few rooms available in the main house area, but this beta is intended for dirtbags, and I doubt any of y’all are trying to get fancy.

The campsites are well laid out, and marked with numbered stones. If you’re setting up a tent, make sure you really secure it to the ground. The desert is notorious for freakishly windy weather. Car camping is also allowed, and I’d recommend it during the winter season if you aren’t experienced with cold weather camping.

Since you’re surrounded by fellow climbers, it’s safe to leave your gear out at the Hueco Rock Ranch. Many folks left their food tubs next to their tents during the day, and we left our crash pads sitting next to the van each night.A panoramic view of our 'camp' spot at Hueco Rock Ranch near Hueco Tanks State Park.

The real attraction at the ranch is the recently renovated barn where climbers gather each evening. There are a few couches spread out, a big picnic-type table, and a sizeable kitchen to cook in. The barn has plenty of plugs, and the wi-fi is decent (but don’t bother trying to watch any climbing videos on most days). You’ll also find a library of random books, a foos ball table, and three full bathrooms in the ranch. In my opinion, the barn is what makes Hueco Rock Ranch worth the money.

Here are a few more tips for staying at the Hueco Rock Ranch:

Important Shower Beta: Do NOT use the rightmost shower. I repeat, do not use the rightmost shower unless you want to feel like you’re getting peed on. That was the first mistake I made. The second mistake? Not realizing that the hot/cold sides are switched on the shower knob. Folks, the ‘cold’ side is hot, and the ‘hot’ side is cold. You’re welcome.

Feeling hungry? The closest grocery store is Vista Mercado, a funky little Mexican market where you are highly encouraged to give yourself a taste of local food. For the best and cheapest tacos near Hueco Tanks, stop by El Pasito Meat Market. It sits inside a little gas station-type market, but it’s delicious.

Looking for ways to get into Hueco Tanks without a reservation? There’s a blog post for that! 

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Dirtbag Beta: Climbing at Hueco Tanks without a Reservation

It’s no secret that Hueco Tanks State Park is home to one of the best bouldering areas in the United States (and arguably the world) – which means that a lot of people want to come and climb. The evidence of past overuse is abundant throughout the park, and to combat the influx of visitors, Hueco Tanks designed something called the Public Use Plan.

Only 70 climbers are allowed into the park each day.

Of those spots, 60 are available through pre-registration. During the peak climbing season, these spots fill up fast – so what’s a climber to do?

The remaining 10 spots may seem like a long shot, but Niko and I didn’t have a single reservation during our trip to Hueco Tanks, and were able to get in every single day we were there.

The park opens up the 10 walk-on spots at 8:00 on a first-come, first-served basis – with a twist. If you’re camping inside the park, you can line up directly at the headquarters, but if you’re camping at the ranch, you line up at the entrance gate 2 miles away. And the folks inside the park get first dibs. Another issue is that if the climbing reservations are full, the campground likely is too. But you can still get in!

There’s a fairly simple sequence of events you have to unlock to get in, and it goes a little something like this:

1. Wake up EARLY.

Whether you’re camping inside the park or at the Hueco Rock Ranch, the most crucial part of snagging one of those elusive 10 walk-on spots is getting yer ass up, and I mean early.

Niko and I woke up every day at 5:45 to make the 10-minute drive from the ranch to the front gates. On the first two days, we were first in line, but as the weekend drew closer, we found ourselves beat by one or two cars on the final days.

The Craggin' Wagon lined up at the gate at Hueco Tanks State Park, ready for a day of climbing.

NOTE: Depending on who you ask, some rangers may tell you that folks get in the line at the gate the night before – but this is NOT allowed. There’s a cop who lives in the area, and is not so thrilled with all the climbers, so he’ll gladly issue you a ticket. Do not sleep at the gate overnight!

2. Bring breakfast.

Once you roll into the queue at the gate (or at headquarters), you’ve got a couple hours to kill before the rangers open the gates and let you know the status. We went back to sleep in the van a few mornings, but the best days where when we cooked breakfast and brewed coffee in line. If you’re lined up directly at headquarters, bring a laptop and take advantage of the free wi-fi.

3. Consider buying a Texas State Parks pass.

We calculated the costs, and if you’re staying at the park for more than five days with two or more people in your car, or 10 days by yourself, you are better off buying a park pass than paying the 7$ entry fee each day. And you make the process a bit easier on the rangers each morning.

Hueco Tanks State Park, a true mecca for American bouldering.4. Be patience and think positive.

If you don’t get one of the initial 10 spots during the morning, don’t worry. You’ll be put on a waitlist, and at 10:00, the park releases any reservations for people who haven’t shown up. While you’re waiting, don’t hover around inside the park office – go hang out in your car, make some coffee, and wait for the rangers to let you know the status.

If all else fails, you can hop on a paid tour to get you to one of the other mountains. Some are professional guide services, and some are held by volunteers – but they all cost a pretty penny. You can pay up to $25 per person to get on these tours, so it’s really a last resort for the true dirtbag.

If you want to climb anywhere beside North Mountain, you’ll need to book a tour – but there is more than enough climbing on the main mountain to keep anyone occupied for weeks.

Additional advice on Hueco Tanks:

–       If you can, visit the park on weekdays. You have a much higher chance of getting reservations and walk-ons.

–       Keep calling the park to check for reservations (in a kind and respectful manner, of course). Niko and I called every day leading up to our visit to check for spots, and a few randomly opened up through cancellations.

–       For a tasty and cheap taco dinner, head to El Pasito’s on Montana. The burritos cost us $2.69 each, and tacos are equally inexpensive. You can get everything from menudo to carnitas – and beer.

–       The nearest grocery store to Hueco Tanks is Vista Mercado on Montana, but on the way in through El Paso off I-10, you can stock up on the cheapest produce I’ve ever purchased at Pro’s Ranch Market. It’s huge, loaded with Mexican food (both grocery and ready-to-eat), and outrageously affordable. Get a churro and some freshly squeezed orange juice!

Got additional advice for getting into Hueco Tanks?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

A Week of Bouldering at Hueco Tanks State Park

As we entered a barren landscape from the urban wasteland of El Paso, Niko and I quickly realized what we had just gotten ourselves into: a week of true desert living while bouldering at Hueco Tanks State Park.

We arrived late on Sunday afternoon, and I totally got a little giddy as Jason Khel checked us into the Hueco Rock Ranch. We paid for four nights, then scoped out a prime parking spot close to the main climber’s barn. (For more on the Hueco Rock Ranch, stay tuned for my review tomorrow!)

Our first day of climbing was brutal, in the most enjoyable way possible. A southeastern gal, I’m used to forest trails winding to boulders scattered along a field. At Hueco Tanks, the approach is an often epic hike straight up enormous granite slabs. I was admittedly wrecked within the first few hours, and spent the majority of the day watching Niko crush hard problems. At one point, Paul Robinson walked up and asked Niko for beta – pretty incredible to have spent our time at Hueco climbing amongst some of the world’s strongest boulderers, like when Niko projected a V10 with Anna Stohr and Melissa Le Neve.

Niko and I out at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.

The next few days really picked up, and we got into a nice groove. We woke up every morning at 5:45, drove out to the gate to wait in line for a walk-on spot, made breakfast, then climbed on North Mountain for the rest of the day. In the evenings, we ate dinner in the ranch barn while I caught up on work, then promptly passed out in the van not long after the sunset.

One the third day, I found my muse: Lobsterclaw (V5). Easily my favorite route at Hueco Tanks, this Hueco-filled line sat in a small cave area secluded from everything else around it. While climbing it, we met a great couple from Minnesota, Emily and Zach, who were on a three-month trip. We instantly connected, and spent the next few days climbing together. Zach and Niko are on the same level, as are Emily and I, so it created a perfect group dynamic.

Emily cranks out of the tricky cave section on Lobsterclaw (V5) at Hueco Tanks.

The boys led the next day, egging each other on during burly climbs and crushing incredible routes. Zach shared my sentiments about Hueco being a bit polished, which was slightly disappointing but to be expected at such a popular destination. Once we started hitting more obscure climbs, the rock quality was superb.

Niko working Adjust Your Attitude (V8) at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.Niko falls into the sweet undercling move on Adjust Your Attitude (V8) at Hueco Tanks State Park.

After days of projecting Lobsterclaw, I found myself on our final day at Hueco Tanks with less than an hour before we had to leave the park. Emily and I made a lot of progress on the crux, and I finally stuck the hardest move just as time ran out.

It wasn’t a send, but I felt fairly satisfied having at least broken through the seemingly impossible crux – I honestly hadn’t believed I’d be able to stick the move.

Moving towards the crux move on Lobsterclaw (V5) at Hueco Tanks State Park.

We celebrated the last night of our trip, which happened to be on Valentine’s Day, with authentic Mexican food at El Pasito’s Meat Market. The meal was shared with our newfound climbing couple friends, and a dude we met in line at the gate one morning, who happened to have gone to the same high school in Miami as me!

Niko and I considered a quick morning session the next day before heading to Phoenix, but when our alarm went off at 5:45 the next morning, we shut it off and went right back to sleep.

Hueco, we’ll be back.

And when I go back, I’m going to crush Lobsterclaw. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Trekking through the desert landscape at Hueco Tanks State Park during the Simply Adventure trip.

Stay tuned for more Hueco Tanks blog posts this week!

I’ll be publishing the first post in my new series “Dirtbag Beta” – the inaugural piece will give climbers the beta on how to get into Hueco Tanks without a reservation. I’ll also have a review on the Hueco Rock Ranch comin’ up soon.

Exploring Texas’ Best Outdoor Spots: Reimer’s Ranch, Pace Bend Park, and Hamilton Pool

After a short detour in Austin, we planned to meet our climbing buddy, Teresa, out at Reimer’s Ranch on a Friday morning – so Niko and I took a few rest days at Pace Bend Park during the week. This friendly slice of exceptional Texas landscape is a miniature peninsula that sits on a steep cliff line above the water. Folks kept referring to it as Lake Austin, but it looked much more like a river if you ask me.

When Teresa finally escaped Houston to join us for a weekend of climbing, we set off towards stunning, and short, sport climbing. The Reimer’s Ranch climbing crag is located about 30 minutes away from Pace Bend Park, but it’s the nearest campground to the climbing – and the drive isn’t bad. Another great aspect is that once you pay for your camping ($5/night) and day use ($10/day), your parks pass is valid for Pace Bend, Reimer’s Ranch, and Hamilton Pool.

After less than awesome bouldering at Bull Creek Run in Austin, I wasn’t expecting very much from the climbing at Milton Reimer’s Ranch Park – but I was instantly blown away. You pull up to a rather dry parking lot area, which is equipped with immaculate rest room facilities. A few yards down the trail, the scenery switches: suddenly, you’re knee-deep in what can only be described as Fern Gully. The approach to the crag takes you skipping along a little creek, which opens up into a lush area alive with ferns and thick tree trunks. I was in heaven.

Niko climbing at Reimer's Ranch park in Texas during the Simply Adventure trip.

The climbing compliments the dreamy surroundings with pleasurable routes, unbelievably well maintained bolts and anchors, and a great climbing community. The only foreseeable compliant is in regards to the length of the routes – most are only about 40 feet tall, with four or five bolts. As a big chicken when it comes to lead climbing, I was totally content with the short climbs.

Teresa throws for a jug at Reimer's Ranch in Texas.

We hopped on a number of routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.12a throughout the two days we were able to climb, and I had a blast on every line I touched, including a great 5.10 b/c/d (?) called Prototype – which I top-roped twice, “red-pointed” the second go, and really regret not leading.

The most memorable route was a 5.10a called Fat Chicks Trying To Look Sexy. It was Teresa’s unfinished project, so we both worked it until she snagged the red-point. We also gave a go at a sweet 5.12a Niko was working, named Yertle the Turtle. Neither of us ladies made it past the third bolt, but it was a nice challenge.

Most importantly, I took my first lead falls, ever. Yes, that’s right, I had never taken a fall while sport climbing before. I had a pretty good run of on-sighting every 5.10a (and below) I got my hands on, but the time came for me to put on my big girl panties and take a fall. And you know what? It ain’t so bad, y’all!

This is me, not taking a lead fall, but rather successfully climbing at Reimer's Ranch in Texas during the Simply Adventure trip.

The plan originally included three days of climbing, but our final day was rained out, so we packed up early on Saturday evening and finished our adventure with dinner at Emcee’s Eatery – which was good, but took way too long. Fortunately, I was pretty down to have some extra time hanging out with Teresa, so I didn’t mind the monstrous wait to get my spaghetti. (If you eat there, get the burgers, so good!)

This incredible cave at Hamilton Pool Park in Texas is mind-blowing. How does it not collapse?!If you’re ever in the Austin area, Riemer’s Ranch is a must. Right up the road, you’ll find Hamilton Pool, one of Texas’ magnificent wonders. Comprised of a looming cave that hovers over an emerald pool, this destination is a popular spot during the summertime. When we visited, the water was a balmy 53º, but I was filthy so I took a quick dip to rinse my oily hair anyways.

Once again, Texas surprised us with an unexpected adventure. We weren’t very fond of our few days spent in Austin, so it was especially pleasant to discover a rolling hill country with classic climbing just outside the city.

Extra Beta: We’d highly suggest paying a visit to Bump ‘n Grindz coffee shop. A hospitable man, Marco, who welcomes you into his café with open arms, runs the joint where you can fuel up on everything from homemade soup to gelato. The coffee is strong, the outlets are plentiful, and the wi-fi is free.

Official Results from Tallahassee Rock Gym’s Save The South 2013 Grand Reopening Event

There’s a rare phenomenon amongst writers: It’s that experience that you simply can’t seem to put into proper words. Any description or attempt at retelling the story feels subpar, grazing the surface at best. That’s exactly how I feel about trying to recount the incredible event that was Tallahassee Rock Gym‘s grand reopening and annual Save The South bouldering competition.

I’ve adopted the Save The South fundraiser event as my favorite rock gym project for the past three years, and while we knew that this year would be huge with the unveiling of our enormous new bouldering section, I was entirely unprepared for how incredible the event would turn out. Maybe it was the weeks of building and preparation I had watched unfold in anticipation of the event, or maybe it was the three hours of sleep I was running on, but I definitely choked up while welcoming climbers to our beautiful, hand built, grassroots, constructed-with-love, new bouldering section. I mean, look at it. We MADE this:A first look at the new bouldering section at Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Here’s a few stats to put things in perspective: Last year, we had about 50 climbers, and raised around $1500 for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. Pretty sweet, right? This year, I wanted to dream big and aim to raise $2000 for the SCC. What really happened is this:

Over 100 climbers came out to the Save The South event,
and together we raised $3160 for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition

In addition, our friends at the SCC started a new effort to boost membership, so each registered climber at our event is now a 2013 member of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition – that’s over 100 new folks joining the family of this grassroots conservation organization. Incredible.A few of the lovely ladies who climb regularly at Tally Rock Gym, and came out to show their love.

We decided to host this year’s Save The South in January instead of the usual March date, largely because Niko and I will be many, many miles away from our home by spring – and this turned out to be the perfect way to kick off our year of Simply Adventure’s mission to spread the love of climbing and conservation within the community. We donated hundreds of dollars of gear to the event raffle, and spent the past few weeks toiling away to prepare for the climbing festivities.

I am still reeling from the unbelievable amount of love and sense of community that was exploding as climbers returned to Tally Rock Gym, some after being gone for many years, and celebrated the hard work and craft put into the new climbing walls. We had folks travel from Colorado, Texas, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, and beyond. Whether Tally Rock Gym was the first place they learned to climb, or they were veterans of our annual Save The South event, everyone poured into our humble warehouse space with the same eager attitude and unwavering excitement. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came out to climb, spectate, and cheer – it was a true honor to have been a part of this event, and share it with all of you.
Max Richardson and Shea Nicole share the climbing wall during the Save The South event.

There are still over 1500 photos that I need to sort through and edit, but enjoy a few teaser images while you sort through the official score results. Note: The top three competitors for each category are in bold!  

LADIES

Meagan Martin 3769
Aubrey Wingo 2236
Lexi Toro 2153
Amy McKenna engages interesting beta during the Save The South event at Tallahassee Rock Gym.
Sarah Tepper 2061
Tessa Bullington 1773
Anna Hartzog 1750
Katie Devick 1713
Lauren Buntemeyer 1687

Cassie Newman 1648
Amy McKenna 1574
Nicole Nguyen 1533
Rima Nathan 1482
Jill Smith 1445
Melissa Martin 1390
Kaylee Cubeta 1313
Robyn Weinlauf 1258
Katie Pullen 1217
Candy 1175
Kayla Hibbard 1162
Ingrid Baldeon Passetti 1148
Haley Hyde 1062
Caitlin Marsteller 1013
Becka LaPlant 917
Casey Gray 893
Toni Sturtevant 805Sarah Tepper maneuvers up the arete at the Save The South event.
Tara Bullard 730

Kirsten Clauser 675
Leigh Fremuth 605
Heather Barry 350
Amy Gregor 310


MEN

Mark Mercer 4061
Usman Bashir 3556
Bryce Van Dam 3552
Brandon Iglesias 3184
Jackson Reynolds 3179
Ross Elliot 3150
Kris Long 2843
Wilkiam McKaba 2823
Johnathan Nilson 2803Finalist Lexi Toro crushes the women's finals route during the Save The South climbing competition.
Max Richardson 2801
Jim Smith 2773
Charles Carbiener 2688
Bryan Brindt 2665
Joe Mason 2631
Garrett Garner 2623
Mark Spottswood 2623
Thomas Sullenberger 2611
Ryan VanDeWater 2601
Nam Phan 2596
Colton Peters 2561
Michael Underwood 2546
Bo Cobb 2501
John Permenter 2491
Phil Harrell 2462
Jerry Polmerski II 2459
G Golding 2453
Eli Wolfe 2446
Marc Akbar 2436Dakota Lundeen eyes a big dyno move on the new roof wall at Tally Rock Gym during the Save the South event.
Kyle Sumner 2432
Dakota Lundeen 2431
Dominic Delgado 2417
Taylor Passetti 2398
Martin Stroh 2356
Mike Harrell 2347
David Lawson 2184
Patrick Bresland 2120
Ryan Abramowitz 2068
Alex Woo 1800
Philip Fralix 1768
Michael Hooten 1959
Asa Emmons 1753
Nick Seale 1723
Adrian Thompson 1509
Hunter Metzger 1427
Kurt Marsman 1349
Hal Fravel 1343
Justin Iseman 1304
Alex Pina 1167
Tyler Scheele 1005
Christian Stowers 813
Gary Fowler 727

Whether you placed first or fourteenth, I am so proud of each and every climber who came out to show their love for Tallahassee Rock Gym and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. My heart grew about three sizes the morning after the competition, reading all of the statuses and posts from folks who love our rock gym, love our family, and felt welcome into our community. (We love you all too!)

Women's finalist Sarah Tepper shows off her raffle winnings - a sweet new Teton Sports Outfitter Quick Tent!Enormous heaps of gratitude are owed to some of our sponsors. Teton Sports and Geigerrig really stepped up to the plate and made generous donations for our gear raffle – which is a huge source of our fundraising for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. Climbers were hovering over the swag table in hopes of winning the Teton Sports Outfitter Quick Tents and Geigerrig Hydration Packs, and I’ve already received a rave review from one of the lucky winners.

Thank you all again for coming out – and get ready for Save the South in 2014!

Trip Report: Southeastern Climbers Coalition Trail Day and Climbing at Boat Rock

During the planning process of the Simply Adventure trip, Niko and I felt strongly inclined to explore the ways we could make our adventure more than just a climber “vacation” – we wanted to give back to the climbing community. After meeting the two fellas of the Access Fund’s Jeep Conservation Team at Red River Gorge last spring, we realized the most obvious way we could contribute: trail days.

While the Simply Adventure journey will take us across nearly every state in the country, our hearts and souls will forever remain in the southeast – so we wanted to kick off our year of trail days with our local climbing organization, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. This weekend, we loaded up the van (for its first climbing trip ever!), and headed out to the Atlanta area for a trail day at Boat Rock.

After a night spent sleeping in a Walmart parking lot, we arrived to an empty gravel lot at the base of the Boat Rock crag. Within minutes, the entire lot was filled, and cars overflowed along the streets beside it. I had envisioned a dozen or so dirtbags lined up with shovels, but the scene I was greeted with was far more impressive: Upwards of 30 kids showed up to do their part in preserving Boat Rock.

It was incredibly humbling to witness the community spirit that was demonstrated during the Boat Rock trail day. Young people lined up with buckets to shuttle an enormous pile of mulch up to the boulders, and they eagerly tromped through the woods filling up garbage bags with half-decomposed trash – including two rusty tires, a broken mirror, and heaps of discarded metal.

What had been planned as a lengthy trail day turned into an affair that only lasted a few hours – the dedicated crew of trail day goers managed to accomplish hours’ worth of work in half the time. It’s absolutely amazing what a group of hard-working climbers can accomplish when we rally together and focus on cleaning up our crag.

After running out of mulch to haul into the boulder field, I joined Urban Core Climbing’s Emily Taylor, and her impossibly adorable daughter Milo, for an impromptu tour of the crag – and we were hard-pressed to find even a single piece of litter leftover. With nothing left to pick up, I enjoyed meandering through the woods and snapping way too many photos of adorable little Milo. 

The crew gathered for a gear toss, with swag provided by event sponsors like Access Fund and REI, then we settled down for lunch before the group dispersed into the crag for some much-earned climbing.

Niko and I gave a few folks a little tour of our van, then threw our new Stonelick pads on our back and trekked towards the climbs with a fellow trail day participant, Jordan, who would become our guide for the day.

Let me tell you, Boat Rock is easily one of the most humbling crags I have ever climbed at.

Suddenly, V3s feel like V5s, arêtes lose their edge, and it’s nearly impossible to find a top-out that includes actual holds. And foot holds? What foot holds? Boat Rock don’t need no foot holds. Climbing at Boat Rock is both frustrating and empowering. You don’t ‘get’ sends; you earn them.

Our first stop was the Spiderman boulder, one of the ultra classic climbs at Boat Rock. This hunk of rock also happens to be one of the few with features and deep holds – so don’t let it fool you. After sending every line on the stand-alone boulder, we headed for Paint Can, a V5 climb that flows like butter until you hit the barren, bulging top. I watched a few locals run through the problem, and was quickly discouraged when I attempted to pull myself up on the “crimpers” the fellas had tugged on – there was literally nothing up there.

I quickly abandoned any attempts at sending problems at my limit, and refocused my efforts on finding sweet problems that suited my style. This led me to discover my new favorite style of climbing: cracks. Jordan suggested that I hop on a sweet V3 finger crack called “Lost Digits,” and after a frustrated series of attempts, I nailed the most bomber foot jam of all time – and was instantly hooked.

We immediately hiked over to another easier climb called “Blues Crack,” which I may or may not have climbed three times in a row. There’s just something about the methodical nature of climbing a crack, and that satisfying moment when you’ve locked your fingers into a solid section, or jammed your toes perfectly into the wedge of rock. It’s an entirely unique style of climbing; and I’m obsessed. 

Have I mentioned yet how much I love climbing cracks?

Next to Blues Crack sat a funky problem aptly named “Tough Guy.” It was one of Jordan’s projects, so we all got stoked on working out the beta. It’s rated at a V3, but I’d easily give the top-out at least a V4. As with most climbs at Boat Rock, the key is to trust non-existent foot holds, and make hand holds out of nothing. Jordan and Niko made it look easy, while I ended up spending no less than five minutes on the top-out – but it was a send, folks.

We ended the day at Yellow Arete, a towering boulder problem that offers inviting features until you get to the committing top-out. Naturally, Niko crushed it effortlessly, although even he admits that the finish was bleak. It was one of those climbs that’s tall enough to force you to finish the problem, purely because you really, really don’t want to come back down.

Jordan hopped on Yellow Arete next, projected it until his fingers were ready to shred, and then our little trio hiked back to the parking area to conclude our day.

As Niko and I fueled up for the drive home with instant mashed potatoes and avocado, we reflected on the impact of our first trail day. Yes, we had pitched in to help ensure that Boat Rock access is preserved for climbers – but far more importantly, our eyes were opened to the vital future of the climbing community. The kids from Urban Core and Adrenaline Climbing are setting the stage for the next generation of climbers. These young people aren’t just getting into the sport of climbing; they’re fully embracing the lifestyle and responsibilities that accompany the true meaning of being a climber.

I think we all could learn a thing or two from the kids who came out to the Boat Rock trail day – and I hope the Simply Adventure journey can continue to spread the hopefulness and genuine appreciation demonstrated out at that Georgia crag. I had a blast with everyone who came out, and will be posting the complete set of photo on the Simply Adventure Facebook page – so stay tuned!

Did you hear? I’m the new voice of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition’s revived Twitter account! I don’t think it’s rocket science to calculate that Niko is much more helpful during trail days than I am (c’mon, he could carry 10x more mulch up a cliff than I can), so it is truly meaningful to me to be able to use my social media skills to help the SCC. Give @SEClimbers a follow, and send us a Tweet!

Want to help the Simply Adventure team successfully spend a year traveling around the country to spread the good tidings of land conservation, and work with local climbing communities to preserve the future of our crags? 

Donate to the Simply Adventure fundraiser – and help equip us with the tools we need to make our mission a reality. We’re running out of time, and still have over $4000 to raise within the next two weeks. 

Trip Report: (Epic, Beautiful, Strong) Climbing at Hound Ears during Triple Crown Bouldering Series

I don’t know about you, but ever since handing in my score sheet on Saturday afternoon after crushing all day at what easily qualifies as the most beautiful and bountiful bouldering crag I have ever visited, I have been obsessively refreshing the Triple Crown Bouldering Series website, eagerly awaiting to see the final competitor listing – and it’s finally here: The results from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition at Hound Ears are officially posted!

But before I reveal how I placed, let’s take a look back at my amazing weekend out at this unbelievable crag:

The adventure began early on Friday morning, as Niko and I left Tallahassee at 6:00 AM on the dot. We wound our way through Georgia and South Carolina before crossing the North Carolina state line early in the afternoon. After a few wrong turns, thanks to my newfangled Apple Maps app, we finally landed at Grandfather Campground.

I was expecting a huge crowd of climbers to be milling around already, but we ended up arriving before registration even began. We set up camp, feasted on delicious Indian food provided free from Triple Crown, and swiftly retreated to our tent to rest up for the big day.

Holy mother of climbers – I have never seen so many folks gathered at a single crag on a single day. Since Hound Ears is only open for public climbing during Triple Crown, the event was sold out. That means a total of 300 climbers were bussed from camp to the peak of the Hound Ears boulder field on Saturday morning. Epic.

Despite having spent the previous evening pouring over our printed guidebooks, Niko and I would have been completely lost without the guidance of an old Tally Rock Gym climber, Ben Wiant, who joined us for the competition with his wife. Along with two other Tally Rock Gym regulars, Monty and Sara, we trekked through the trails towards our first stop of the day: the Air Jesus boulder.

The group warmed up on a row of V0-V2s, and then we dove into a grueling day of crushing. Despite being slightly intimidated by the height of the magnificent Air Jesus boulder, I decided to hop on the V5 version of this classic climb, and sent it within three attempts. I immediately knew it was going to be a great day.

I also quickly realized that it wouldn’t be such a great day for photography. When you’re scurrying around an enormous crag trying to send 10 problems within less than seven hours, whipping out your camera loses priority, very fast. So excuse my not-so-epic pictures, oops.

Niko jumped on a sweet V9 called Air Satan (Low Start), but kept slipping off a slick foot on the top-out. He coulda, woulda, shoulda sent it, but it was early in the day, and we decided to come back to the climb later (which we never did, naturally).

The second part of the day day my favorite send, Bleed Me Out (V5). I was working another set of V5s called Satan’s In The Tires and Body Disposal when one of the Triple Crown judges saw me climbing and insisted that I hop on Bleed Me Out. Frankly, I had already crossed that one off my list of problems I wanted to attempt, purely based on the wretched name.

The route starts on a very solid ledge, with not so great feet. You have to launch out and cross over to a microscopic crimp knob, which you have to match before delicately swinging your feet over and hurdle up to the next tiny crimp. My crux came at the last crimp before the top-out; it was literally invisible from the two non-existent crimps I was already on. I was terrified, but somehow reached up, locked my tiny fingers on the equally tiny hold, and cranked up to the top-out lip. The highlight of my trip was a feeling of absolute elation, which was amplified when I looked down and realized the judge was watching me the whole time. (Thank you wonderful lady for encouraging me to make the send!)

Our next little hike took us to one of the ultimate classics at Hound Ears, a highball V3 called Heretic. I took a little rest while watching the boys crush the huge moves on this towering problem, and cheered Niko on while he sent Unforgiven (V7). Yet again, the Triple Crown judges lent a helpful hand in revealing a hidden crimper that Niko hadn’t been using during his first attempts. With this new bit of beta, he was able to quickly make the send. (Thank you Triple Crown for having such fantastic folks running the event!)

The last truly hardcore session was at the Lost and Found boulders, where I sent two V3s while Niko worked on a vicious V9 called The Brady Problem. It wasn’t a send for him, but he did get to watch Jimmy Webb nonchalantly stroll up to the boulder, send the problem, and merrily stroll away. Pretty neat.

At this point in the day, we were wrecked from the sharp stone. We retreated to the main area in search of burritos (which we missed out on) and easier climbs to finish the day. After getting whooped by a V2 called Evil Slug, Niko convinced me to hop on a lippy V4 called The Anchor, which I miraculously sent despite an overeager spotter who literally talked me off the wall during my first attempt. I loved his enthusiasm, but couldn’t focus on topping out the problem while he was shouting “Come on, come on, get it, get your foot up, crank up, crank over, let’s go, do it!” relentlessly in my ear.

After that, I was completely drained. Who knew climbing 10 V3-V5 problems could be so daunting? I ended the day attempting a few V3 and V4 problems, but couldn’t even lift myself off the ground – so I settled with my 10th score sheet listing, a V1, appropriately named “Lard Ass.” I scored my signatures, surveyed my score sheet, and turned it in to the judges. 

At the end of the day, I had no idea how my performance stacked up against the other lady competitors, but I had already won the battle against myself. With two V5s, a V4, and a handful of V3s, I had rocked my strongest day of climbing to date. I pleasantly enjoyed the remainder of the evening sipping beer and tequila/lemonade cocktails, gorging myself on barbeque provided by Triple Crown, and laughing at the wipeouts during the crash pad stacking contest.

When the winners were finally announced, I knew my name wouldn’t be in the top 3 for women’s intermediate, but my notions of where I might place were instantly crushed when the called out the name of the top climber, Alexa Russell. I had watched her climbing earlier in the day, and she crushed every V5 and V6 she got her hands on (keep in mind, we were competing in the V3-4 category) – and apparently, she’s only 13! I didn’t stand a chance.

Final verdict? I placed 15th in the Women’s Intermediate.
Not too shabby for my first competition.

Overall, I am so satisfied with how the competition turned out. My month of training truly paid off, and I felt incredibly strong throughout the day. The biggest improvement I saw was with top-outs. I have never fearlessly mantled over a flat ledge before, and my confidence was sky-high during Hound Ears. Even on the V2s, I felt like a champion as I rocked my body over the boulders – I only beach whaled twice! 

Next time, I’m going to incorporate more endurance training into my pre-competition workouts. Seriously, sending 10 problems (in seven short hours) at your limit is no easy feat folks.

PS: WHY OH WHY ISN’T HOUND EARS OPEN EVERY DAY? It’s my new favorite crag, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be attending every single Triple Crown there for the rest of my climbing career. Hound Ears 2013, anyone?

Oh! Have you entered my giveaway for your chance to win a sweet, BPA-free, 100% recyclable Eco-Bottle? Click here for your chance to win – all you have to do is leave a comment telling us why plastic bottles suck! Giveaway ends on Friday!

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