Tag Archives: rock climbing

Finally sending my longest climbing pursuit, Super Mario, on the side of a golf course in Tennessee

Anyone can have confidence in the thought of completing a send, but confidence is moot without action. After a seven-hour drive up to Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, I wistfully fell asleep on my new Stonelick crashpad in the hatchback of my car at a Wal-Mart parking lot, trembling with shaky confidence towards the next day’s pursuit.

Niko and I got a fairly early start out to the Montlake Golf Course that houses the epic climbing spot called Stone Fort, and eagerly trekked out to the boulder field with an arsenal of crash pads. We eyed Art of the Vogi, warmed up on a few rounds of easy routes like Needless Things (V0-) and Fire Crack Flake (V1). Once our muscles had stretched out, we began our day of chasing climbs. 

We immediately trekked out towards the Super Mario boulder, where we met up with three rapscallions from Kentucky who took a liking to the strings of incoherent obscenities I bursted with every time I popped off the boulder. By the end of our time climbing together, we had all collected a few new curse combinations – but I still hadn’t sent Super Mario.

My morning session boosted my esteem over my efforts; I was able to stick a move I had never made it to before. Here’s how it goes: I had my left hand tightly perched on a deep, sharp crimp, with my right hand fulled extended out in a high undercling, while my leg was locked in a great knee-bar. The next move required me to ditch the security of the knee-bar, and balance my legs as far over on the right as possible. I then locked off with my right hand, and pulled on the undercling as I reached up above with my left hand to a solid pocket. 

And then I fell.

Again. My most familiar feeling on that boulder is the movement of falling off it. I’ve slipped, snapped, and popped off that route’s holds more times than I’d like to admit over the last two years.

*Note: This is an older photo; don’t worry, I’m not crazy enough to be wearing a
hoodie and sweatpants at Stone Fort in the middle of June.

Once the southeastern swelter began to bear down with relentless humidity, Niko and I retreated for a lunch break. We drove over to the Pep Boys crag parking lot, threw down our crash pads to make a little napping spot, cooked up some spaghetti, and prepared for our evening session.

As we hiked back out to Stone Fort, I decided I wasn’t going to hop on my project again until the next day – I figured I ought to give my tender fingertips a chance to heal before torturing them again. Instead, I gallivanted around the crag, following Niko to his own projects. I lounged on boulders, played with insects, and cheered Niko on as he sent ‘A Face in the Crowd.

Satisfied with his climb for the day, Niko urged me to hop on something else before we called it a day – so I decided to give Super Mario a quick burn.

Stone Fort was eerily deserted that day; Niko and I didn’t see a single climber during our evening session, which is unheard of at this popular climbing destination. It’s even more rare to have the Super Mario boulder all to yourself, as this rock tends to draw big crowds of boulderers projecting the many climbs that sit on it. Pleased with the solitude, I took my time working the route, and focused on cleaning up my messy footwork.

There were three unsuccessful attempts before I decided to just stop thinking about what I was doing. Without any intent of sending it on that particular burn, I shook out my arms, hoisted myself off the start holds onto the first big ledge, and cruised through the first series of moves.

When the knee-bar crux section approached, my technique became a little shaky. Feeling a slight instability, I jammed my knee into the space before the proper knee-bar, and ended up incorporating two into my beta. I swung out to the undercling, stuck it, and danced my feet over to the rightmost portion of the boulder. With a heavy burst of breath, I reached my left hand up to the pocket – and it stuck. 

From there, the route was all but sent. I brought my left hand up into a bowling-ball shaped series of solid pockets, shifted over to a large jug, and hoisted myself towards the sloped top-out area. Admittedly, my top-out was probably one of the most hideous sends that boulder has ever witnessed. Exhausted from my unexpected success, it was a struggle to beach myself up onto the rounded boulder – but I made it happen.

After two years of sporadic projecting, countless shredded finger tips, an outrageously bruised knee, two knee-bars where there should only be one, and the most ridiculous top-out of all time, I have finally completed my ultimate climbing project.

It wasn’t about the grade, it wasn’t the hardest climb I’ve ever attempted, and it wasn’t a glorious moment surrounded by cheering fans and snapping cameras. It was an intimate moment, shared only with Niko, with nary a single photo or video to bare evidence of my conquest – and it was the best feeling I’ve ever had while climbing, because it was mine

We retreated to Chester Frost Campground feeling pleased, sweaty, and famished. Niko whipped up a delicious campside dinner of quinoa, roasted tomatoes, black beans, and avocado – and then we promptly crashed in our tent. We woke up the next morning feeling more sore than we’d ever imagined, but it was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a while.

My epic send was celebrated with a trip to one of my favorite places in Tennessee – the Chattanooga Market, which was celebrating their annual Blueberry Festival on this particular day. One of the best farmer’s markets I’ve ever been to, this venue is loaded with produce delights like impossibly long green beans, crispy sunflower sprouts, golden zucchini, and the tastiest homemade bread I’ve ever tasted. We loaded up on the goods, slurped on frozen lemonade, and then hit the road back to Florida. 

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I’m out in Tennessee, and I ain’t coming home until my climbing project is sent

In November of 2009, I set out on my first climbing trip to a place called Little Rock City in Tennessee – which I now more often refer to by its proper name, Stone Fort. I had only been climbing for a handful of weeks, and don’t even remember if I sent any routes during that inaugural outdoor excursion, but I do remember one distinguished boulder, and the legendary route that sat on the featured rock:

Super Mario.

Over the course of half a dozen trips out to Stone Fort, spread across a handful of years, I have always been drawn to Super Mario. The first few climbing trips spent working the route were admittedly doomed for failure; I was hardly a V4 climber when I decided this route would become my conquest. My most recent visit to the area was during January, during a time when I hadn’t been climbing consistently for about six months. It was no surprise when I was yet again unable to make the send.

This time, I’m ready. (I think.) I’ve sent multiple V5s in rock gyms across the country, I’ve been training for the past few months for both sport climbing and bouldering, and despite a two week break from climbing to galavant all over Arizona, I feel strong. This is it. Super Mario’s reign of defeat is coming to an end, and I’m not coming home until I finish it.

Mind you, Niko has to be back for classes on Monday,
so this boulder problem better go down quickly. I’m just sayin’. 

While I enjoy my weekend of chalky, sweaty hands, torn up finger tips, aching muscles, a tricky knee-bar, and (hopefully) a victory slice of Lupi’s Pizza after sending Super Mario, check out this great video by Andrew Kornylak that gives insight to the beta and beauty of this classic Stone Fort climb.

Send lots of positive, rock-crushin’ thoughts my way – I’m going to need as many good vibes as I can soak up!

Inspiring climbing and a gnarly whipper on Amarillo Sunset at Red River Gorge

While every climb, boulder, and cliff line is undoubtedly beautiful, certain routes offer an aesthetic that sets it apart from neighboring sheets of exposed rock. At Red River Gorge, one of these climbs unrivaled in its glory is “Amarillo Sunset,” a 5.11b that sits in solitude along a secluded area deep in the woods.

The approach to the climb begins with an approach by car. Our first attempts at reaching the back areas of Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve were thwarted by muddy roads with deep ditches carved out in them – no match for my low-profile hatchback. On the second day, we returned with some beta for a better way to get to the crags, and were successful in reaching our pursuit.

Our crew was comprised of the usual Tally Rock Gym suspects, plus two friends-of-friends from New Jersey who were out on their first sport climbing trip. When we made it to the base of Amarillo Sunset, we were greeted by a group who were wrapping up and removing their gear from the bolts. They gushed about what a blast the climb was, and set an atmosphere of charged anticipation amongst my cohorts.

Finally, our crew began to rope up. One by one, the boys crushed through the moves on this stunning line. I had been debating with my lady friend Rachel whether I felt confident enough to lead it, and ultimately settled on top-roping during my first attempt, with the possibility of a second go on lead if I felt strong enough.

I busied myself by clamoring through a thicket thick with poison ivy to a perfectly situated boulder that provided a great vantage point for capturing the impressive stature of Amarillo Sunset. I was joined on my perch by a group of Canadians who humored me with square-shaped Reeses cups and gushing adoration for Niko’s back muscles. We munched on chocolate and watched in awe from our spectacular viewing spot.

When Rachel got on Amarillo Sunset, she instantly squashed my thought of top-roping it as she led it like a true bad ass. Seriously, this girl is 10x the woman I will ever be; she knows no fear, and doesn’t understand the concept of personal limits. For Rachel, the only purpose for limits is to push them.

I snapped photos of Rachel as she powered through the first, second, and third bolts. My own confidence skyrocketed as I watched how effortlessly she seemed to be tackling the route. As she moved to clip the fourth, she hit a tricky spot and didn’t feel comfortable clipping from the appropriate hold – so she continued climbing a bit to gain better footing.

And then she fell.

As all climbers do – and with her legs properly positioned between the rope. Everything was gravy for a split second.

And then she flipped. 

Upon impact with the wall, the rope somehow wrapped itself around her bare legs, and plummeted her into one of those upside-down positions that have you cringing when you watch it happen on Dead Point Mag videos.

There was a round of gasps, and a collective “holy shit” rang throughout our ranks before Rachel quipped down to us with a shaky “I’m okay!” She quickly followed that up with, “I think you should lower me now,” and Niko gently lowered her to the ground then rushed to her side.

After the shock of the moment subsided, I was truly taken by the way my beau tended to my fallen ladyfriend. He was so delicate and concerned, and touched every part of her knee, asking where it hurt. He tenderly flexed her leg and poked at the swollen bits to make sure nothing was broken, and it was apparent that his thorough care for Rachel instantly calmed her.

But enough of my awwww moment. Back to Rachel.

Once the swelling in her knee subsided, she realized that the source of her throbbing pain was actually in her heel – that’s the body part that first made impact with the wall. Someone whipped out a comically sized bottle of Ibuprofen, Rachel downed a couple, and within a few minutes, it was like nothing had ever happened. Like I said, the girl is a bad ass.

I’m a fairly impressionable gal, and Rachel’s experience totally intimidated me – so I got right back to my plan of top-roping the route. Unfortunately, thunder and rain bore down upon us soon after, and that coupled with a whiny European who came up on our group and impatiently mused about how it was a “waste” to hike “all the way” out to the crag to have to wait for this one climb caused me to lose the opportunity to get on the route myself.

Amarillo Sunset taught me a great lesson about regret. If you see a line you want to climb, and you don’t make an effort to climb it (despite weather conditions and rude dudes with snobby accents) – you will regret it.

But now, I have a reason to get back to Red River Gorge as soon as possible. Amarillo Sunset will be mine – and not on top-rope.

Video of Niko crushing Hippocrite (5.12a) at Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge. What a destination. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bummed to see a climbing trip end, particularly because I’ve got about a dozen climbing buddies who are still out there right now. Gorgeous crags, overhangs that stay dry even in downpours, phenomenal pizza, and a beautiful camping experience. A lady truly couldn’t have asked for a better trip.

I have about 800 photos and a dozen or so video clips to edit before the full trip report, but I couldn’t resist posting a quick littleteaser to give you a taste of Kentucky.

This video features Niko climbing “Hippocrite,” an aesthetic 5.12a line that sits towards the left side of a crag called “The Zoo.” We visited this area on Cinco de Mayo, which I declared a rest day. Armed with a six-pack of Coronas, a juicy lime, and a little salt shaker, I spent the afternoon sipping on cold beer while the boys went to town crushing some gnarly routes. Check it out:

Note: This video was shot with my iPhone 4s – and I was about three beers deep when I decided to film the climb, so please excuse the lack of my usual standards, ha. 

Here’s a fun little bonus photo/story: After shooting Niko on Hippocrite, I was overcome with the urge to break the seal – so I tromped down into the woods and found a nice little spot to relieve myself. In my tipsy stupor, I was totally ignorant to what was going on right in front of me – I didn’t even notice the snake that my stream had narrowly missed.

I literally almost squatted on the slithery creature, and upon noticing it, I immediately whipped out my phone to take some pictures of the cute little guy. Here’s the best one – I reckon it might just be the best picture I’ve ever taken on my iPhone:

It wasn’t until I returned to the group and showed off my shots that I was jolted to be informed that my little friend was actually a copperhead. Oops.

Stay tuned for plenty more updates from my trip to Red River Gorge!

My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama

Last August, I journeyed up to Steele, Alabama for my first sport-climbing trip to a crag known (by some) as Sandrock. Despite the graffiti-drenched boulders defaced by locals, and an ungodly amount of broken glass strewn about the trails, I had an amazing time leading my first routes – but the most lasting impression from this trip was left by a small metal sign on the drive towards the mountain. It read “Little River Canyon,” and pointed towards the north.

After a few seasons slipped by, Niko and I finally made plans to check out the mysterious Little River Canyon. Perfectly timed with the release of the new Dixie Cragger for Georgia and Alabama, we were able to embark on an informed journey to the new crag. I practiced my light packing skills, tossed our gear into the trunk of our buddy Bo’s car, and spent the seven-hour drive up to Alabama dreaming of sandstone.

Naive about any camping situations available in Little River Canyon, our crew decided to stick to the free, and unbelievably scenic, camping at the top of Lookout Mountain, deep in the rural bits of Alabama. Things got a tad interesting on Easter morning, when we woke up to a passionate sunrise sermon held a few yards from our tent.

It must be noted that the small metal sign beckoning climbers to detour towards “Little River Canyon” is slightly deceptive. What we had imagined to be a quick hop, skip, and jump over to the crag from Sandrock was actually a 30-minute haul – but I enjoy leisurely mornings, so I had no complaints.

I was pleasantly surprised by the ease at which we were able to locate the climbs at Little River Canyon. Our main haunt was The Gray Wall, which is accessed via a discreet trail that sits right off the winding mountain road that runs through the preserve. Given that we were in a canyon, the approach involved a bit of scrambling, down climbing, and getting dripped on by miniature waterfalls.

At The Gray Wall, we were introduced to a crew of southern climbers who demonstrated a keen passion for Little River Canyon, which is actually a national preserve. The boisterous group welcomed us to ‘their’ crag with enthusiasm, and offered to let us use their draws on a few warm-up routes.

And by warm-ups, I mean a wide row of 5.11 climbing.

I hear there is just one 5.9 hidden somewhere in Little River Canyon, and a small handful of 5.10s are strewn about – which basically means that this crag is a destination reserved for more advanced climbers.

 
In my honest opinion, I believe the more demanding level of climbing is what has kept this crag as well preserved as it is. I saw nary a single spray of paint on the sandstone, nor any piles of wayward trash. Unlike Sandrock, this crag has evaded traffic from the masses, and retains its pristine natural glory.

It’s such a pure area that I honestly hesitated to feature it on the blog. So if this post inspires you to visit Little River Canyon to bask in the beautiful climbing, I implore you to exercise the utmost respect and land stewardship.

As for the actual climbing, this canyon delivers such phenomenal lines that our crew all agreed we’d probably never visit Sandrock again if we were in the area – Little River Canyon trumps it tenfold. I climbed my first 5.11a, a pumpy ledge-filled route called “Obsession” – admittedly on top-rope, and it was not a red-point. The boys climbed a handful of 5.11s at The Gray Wall, and then Niko briefly jumped on a burly overhanging route called “Tension.” We also fooled around on a quirky, short slab route that no one could conquer. Check out the photos:
 The main event of our adventure was our time spent on the hardest section of The Gray Wall. The star of the show was Lion, a 5.12c sport route with stout movements and burly demands. The boys were eager to hop on it after watching a local climber, Rob, barrel through the cruxes. (Did I mention that Rob is about to turn 60, and crushes sandstone harder than I ever will? He was such a cool dude.)

        In true Katie form, I hardly climbed as much as I should have. Instead, I busied myself by climbing up one of the 5.11 routes, clipping myself into a bolt using long runners, and hanging from the sandstone while waving my camera around at the boys as they climbed.

The trip was a huge wake-up call for me – it mercilessly reminded me that as a boulderer, I seriously lack endurance. Both Bo and I were pumped out every few moves on our climbs, and we both left the trip determined to improve ourselves. Thankfully, while we were totally shut down by lengthy climbs, we managed to not be conquered by chiggers (unlike my last trip to Alabama, when I ended up with chiggers nesting in my belly button, true story.)

Despite the harsh realizations, this trip got me incredibly stoked on sport climbing. My silence on the blogging front is a direct result of my newfound passion for training. Little River Canyon motivated me to dive into hardcore endurance training, and I have since spent every single day climbing to my limits. Last night, I red-pointed my first 5.11 in the gym, and practiced my lead climbing on a few easier routes. Today, I’m indulging in a rest day, after seven straight days of training.

Stay tuned for more updates on my training efforts as I prepare my body and mind for my upcoming trip to The Red River Gorge.

A preview of my sport climbing adventures at Little River Canyon in Alabama

For Florida climbers, three-day trips to northerly crags are our vision of a weekend warrior’s victory. With the closest (decent) outdoor climbing sitting five hours away in Alabama, our short visits to sandstone wonderlands provide a highly anticipated escape from our usual indoor rock gym musings.

This past weekend, I ventured to a new crag with three of my climbing buddies. During recent trips to Sandrock, we had all taken notice of signs for “Little River Canyon.” Curious about this destination, we did a bit of digging, and discovered that the area was a prime sport climbing spot. Armed with the recently released Dixie Cragger’s Atlas for Alabama and Georgia, we journeyed to this new wall.

I still have 435 of my own photos to sort through and edit, but I couldn’t wait to share this amazing crag. Little River Canyon is a pure, unsoiled, gorgeous slice of exposed cliff faces and lush forest landscapes. The climbs are organic and challenging, the trails well-maintained through appreciative land stewardship, and the locals are eager to share their love for the area with fellow climbers who approach the area with respect and love for the climbs.

To tide you over until I complete my photography edits, check out a few excellent shots captured by my trip companion, Bo Durham. Shooting with an AE-1 film camera, he snagged some sweet images of our excursion – including a photo that instantly became my favorite picture of Niko and me of all time.

Enjoy!

This trip was a particularly great adventure for me. I climbed my first 5.11a, called Obsession, while we were roped up at The Gray Wall – and while I wasn’t gutsy enough to lead it, the positive experience I had on this route skyrocketed my determination and motivation. My next trip is out to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky during the first week of May, so I’m ready to dive into some endurance training to prepare for the next sport-climbing journey.

Stay tuned for my complete trip report  and the best
climbing photos from my visit to Little River Canyon in Alabama!

Official scores and results from Tallahassee Rock Gym’s ‘Save the South’ climbing competition

What began as a 36-hour rock gym transformation overhaul commanded by a sleep-deprived staff armed with an enormous shipment new holds somehow blossomed into Tallahassee Rock Gym’s most successful Save the South climbing competitionso hats off to you, climbers.

We labored over creative new routes, celebrated the spirit of our humble climbing community, feasted on delectable Momo’s pizza, and had ourselves an amazing event.

All while raising over $1500 for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition.

Those are record numbers, folks – and we couldn’t have achieved it without you. I also recently found out from the head honcho’s at the Southeastern Climbers Coalition that our event has become one of their top fundraisers. For the staff at TRG, our goal has always been to hit $1,500 in fundraising, and we owe it all to our amazing climbers and generous community. Reaching our previously unfathomable goal means only one thing – it’s time to raise the bar for next year’s event! 

I couldn’t be more proud of the participants, staff members, spectators, and everyone who had a hand in making this fundraiser a true success. We came together to share our love for this adventurous sport, and showed our support for one of our favorite climbing organizations.

And we couldn’t have done it without our sponsors. A huge ‘thank you’ and heaps of gratitude are owed to the wonderful companies who stepped in and contributed to our cause. We deeply appreciate the support from climbing businesses like ClimbOn!, PMI Rope, Pro Balm, and the always wonderful Kurt Smith. As a local facility, we also extend many ‘thank you’s to our local community sponsors, including BagelHeads, Trail & Ski, Tasty Eats, and Momo’s Pizza.

But I know what you’re really here for – the final score listings.

In similar fashion to last year’s competition, a few of our favorite climbers from Gainesville made the drive up to the panhandle to sweep our high scores and crush our hardest routes. With tireless effort and friendly determination, they once again earned some of the highest rankings during the event – and Gator boys, I better see you back again next year!

Below are the official scores for participants who turned in score sheets at the conclusion of the competition.

WOMENS

Arieanne DeFazio – 2410
Rachel Putman – 2290
Cassie Newman – 2035
Chelsea Boetcker – 2025
Montana Napier – 1645
Barbara Ellis – 975
Maryanne Shaw – 880
Tessa Bullington – 755
Kristin Kozelsky – 635
Madeline Rosenfeldt – 635

MENS

Louie Talacay – 3185
Usman Bashir – 3150
Brian Huang – 3125
Mike Stanton – 3045
Bo Durham – 2995
Bryan Cox – 2980
David Valdivia – 2970
Thomas Bowers – 2805
Spottswood – 2705
Joshua Larsen – 2705
Max Kruse – 2710
Vinny Medina – 2680
Sam Raley – 2640
Colton Peters – 2585
Brandon Iglesias – 2370
Dakota Lundeen – 2365
Tom Patten – 2315
Jacob Stalder – 2475
Chase Pedersen – 2455
Charles Carbiener – 2265
Alex Woo – 2210
Dominic Delgado – 2130
Lucas Larson – 2085
Alex Griffel – 2060
Bob Rosenbaum – 1890
Smiley – 1860
Kris Long – 1855
Zach Stivers – 1855
Brian Drewke – 1825
Doug Walters – 1815
Ray Uzonyi – 1560
Isaac Bakan – 1425
Girish Ramachandran – 530

NOTE: Through the chaos of tallying score sheets, announcing top competitors, and drawing raffle winners, a small handful of men’s beginner score sheets found their way out of the stacks – but top climbers David Miller and Andrew Young certainly earned their mention, congrats fellas!

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