Image of the Day: Bouldering Perfection at HP40

I am dedicating this entire weekend to climbing. Yesterday at the gym, I realized I have really dropped the ball in my strength/technique. My climbing was utterly pathetic for the first two hours, until I started projecting a new route and got on ropes with my buddy Marlin. To keep the progress flowing, today’s image is a beautiful shot by Cealey Godwin. This photo was taken during our recent trip to Horse Pens 40, and the featured climber is a super strong girl from our gym, Montana.

Everything about this image expresses the overall vibes of our trip to Horse Pens 40 – showers of falling foliage, stunning rock formations, loads of climbing and superb lighting that streamed through the autumn trees. The photo is an inspirational double-whammy. Not only does it get me pumped for another day of hardcore climbing, it also serves as motivation to continue saving up for a real camera, like the Canon EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR. Mm, drool worthy.

If anyone wants to join me today at the gym, give my phone a buzz. I’ll be there all day until my fingers fall off. Also might try to develop my film today from the pot luck/Chattanooga/HP40 – if you’re lucky!

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Horse Pens 40 – Part 1: Adventures with Ian

If you’re a camper, climber, hiker or any variety of outdoor lover – you need to make a trip to Horse Pens 40 in Steele, Alabama. This outdoor park and campground delivers everything that you seek when looking for a convenient, friendly, beautiful place to soak up some nature. I had a glorious weekend of climbing, exploring, picture-taking and campfire cooking. Plenty of stories and photos to come, but first, let me regal you with the tale of my adventure with Ian.

Saturday was loaded with hardcore climbing, and naturally, a lot of breaks for food and resting. During one break around midday, Ian and I decided to venture off into the woods on a mini-hike to snap some photos of the foliage and rock formations. As we approached lookout point, one of the silver bearded groundskeepers struck up a conversation with us. He offered to take us to an ancient Indian burial ground, and I readily accepted.

We trekked through the boulder fields, squeezing between cramped rock corridors until we entered a small enclosure with a ledge walkway and a pit of leaves. Our burly guide explained that this was once the home of an Indian chief, who resided in this rocky nook under the careful watch of two guardsmen. Upon death, the chief was ceremoniously laid to rest in this spot. Unfortunately, the previous landowners had unearthed his body and sold it for a small fortune. After sending these grave robbers behind bars for a decade, the Schultz family took over the property, and now dedicate their lives to preserving HP40 and the thousands of burial grounds that can be found on the grounds.

Our kind guide also entertained me with a tale relating to a giant knotted tree that I had spotted earlier while climbing. This enormous tree had a huge bulging growth in the middle of it’s trunk, an unmistakable landmark in a crowd of vegetation. The tree served as the territorial divide between the Creek and Cherokee Indians, who fought over land rights for centuries about 10,000 years ago. What an insightful, unexpected little adventure.

To accompany today’s story, I’ve decided to feature a few of Ian’s best photographs from the trip. I’ll be developing my roll sometime this week, which will include photos of my birthday pot luck, Chattanooga and Horse Pens 40. Enjoy!

Some of the crew enjoying the sunset at Lookout Point. (Photo by: Ian Walton)

Jim Smith climbing in the boulder fields at Horse Pens 40. (Photo by: Ian Walton)

Andrew Rice silhoutted against the setting Alabama sun. (Photo by: Ian Walton)

Raychel Putnam attempts a route as onlookers cheer her on. (Photo by: Ian Walton)

A few more shots after the jump, so don’t hesitate to click! To check out more of Ian’s photography, head to his blog, Paradox Isotope. Continue reading

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Take me back to the mountains!

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.

The Morning Fresh will be on hiatus this weekend, as I will be gladly disconnected from all technology while I crush some rocks.

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