I’m adventuring north to Georgia and Tennessee for some climbing and Chattanooga lovin’

If you know me, you know one thing: I don’t like to stay put for too long. After two weeks of recovering from my adventures in (and around) Salt Lake City, I’m once again packing my bags –

I’m off on a climbing trip to Rocktown and Stone Fort!

Niko and I visited Stone Fort (more lovingly known as Little Rock City) earlier this summer, and nearly melted in the swelter while I sent my ultimate project, Super Mario. It’s still August, but the temperatures have leveled off considerably, and I’m looking forward to highs in the mid-80s, and a gorgeous low of 61°. Top off that forecast with a mere 0-10% chance of rain, and you’ve got my ideal summer climbing conditions.

We’re also spending a day climbing at Rocktown, one of Georgia’s best crags – but honestly, what I’m most excited for this trip is finally getting the chance to stay at The Crash Pad in Chattanooga. This hostel caught my attention when it was a mere concept and a patch of neglected land; it now proudly stands as one of the most innovative and inviting hubs for adventurers visiting Tennessee. I won second place in their Ultimate Adventure contest a few months ago, and after multiple failed attempts at booking my two free nights (seriously, these folks are killin’ it; they’re always booked solid), I finally snagged myself a private room! It’s going to be way snazzy, and certainly beats the hell out of camping in a Walmart parking lot.

Stay tuned for lots of updates on my experience at The Crash Pad!

Naturally, I’ve got my eye on a few boulder problems at these two classic crags. I’m keen on a repeat of Super Mario, but really want to send my first V5. At Stone Fort, I’m hoping to crush the juggy underclings and allegedly smooth mantle on Steam Roller – and if I have enough steam left in me, I might hop on a sweet roof problem called Bonesaw. My main project at Rocktown will be a V5 named Police Brutality, but I might also give Double Trouble a chance. Both Rocktown routes have been calling my attention since my first trip out there years agos, and now I’m finally strong enough to actually give ‘em a go.

We’ll see how it goes!

While I’m out romping around in the woods, you ought to keep yourself busy by entering my giveaway for a Rig 500 hydration pack system from GeigerRig! Check out the contest – all you have to do is submit your best summer adventure photo for a chance to win! (Giveaway ends August 31st.)

Psssst... You should also keep your eye out for some really exciting announcements from me and Niko’s yearlong 2013 Simply Adventure trip – we’ve got some awesome sponsors we’re partnering with, and we can’t wait to introduce ‘em! 

It’s finally here – the Rocktown Guidebook has been released!

Back in December, I announced exciting plans that would finally create a guidebook for the Georgia crag called Rocktown. Until the fruition of this guidebook, climbers relied on “topos” that lacked a comprehensive understanding of the entire area. I remember toting around a few sheets of printed climbing guidance in my backpack, and always ending up missing a few pages or spilling water all over the darn thing. Basically, it wasn’t really working. So the news of a proposed guidebook brought excitement to the entire southeastern climbing community.

Until we heard the crickets.

Months passed, and so did the alleged release date of the book. It was promised to be in print by March, and yet as April passed, we began to lose hope. I had contacted the publisher in hopes of snagging a few copies to give away during the Save the South bouldering compeition I organized at the end of March, and his “we’ve hit a few snags” e-mail was the last I heard about the guidebook.

But here is it, folks – the Rocktown Guidebook has been released!

[Read more…]

The first climbing trip of 2012; wintry adventures at Stone Fort, Rocktown, and beyond

I confess: I’m wretched at embracing the moment and writing about my adventures right as or after they happen. I tend to let photos mull in my memory card, and have the awful habit of posting pictures on social media sites before I actually make proper use of them.

I hereby vow to never let more than 72 hours pass before blogging about an experience.

But first I have to clear out my vault of outdoor photos, adventure stories, and memories of all the tasty eats I’ve devoured along the way. Our first tick off the list of adventures to be discussed? My New Years climbing trip to Georgia and Tennessee.

The trip commenced with a late start on New Years Eve as Niko, Max, and I crammed into my beau’s small pick-up truck, and then barreled down rural back-roads towards the Georgia state line. Max quickly passed out in the backseat, so Niko and I shared a quiet New Years kiss – and in what I call an omen of good couple’s travel for 2012, the clock struck midnight just as we were passing over long bridge on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia.

The trip began in a rather wet manner, with a day of rain on the agenda. We left our lodgings in LaFayette, Georgia, in hopes that the hour trek out to the Chattanooga, Tennessee area would welcome us with some sunshine – but it didn’t. After a few hours spent killing time around town, we decided to brave the weather and drove out to Soddy Daisy.Miraculously, the sun came out for a few hours, so we drove out to a newly established, and very locally guarded, crag called Pep Boys. With locals who specifically asked that the location of this climbing spot be kept secret, I can’t quite divulge the whereabouts of this gorgeous destination – but let me tell you, it was enchanting.

The climbs were all still dripping from the morning storms, but I was pleased to wander around the trails and scramble up large hueco formations in my sneakers. Two beautiful cave areas sat divided by a gushing brook, and their magnificence alone was enough to make me determined to revisit this spot during a drier day.After declaring Pep Boys a bust due to climbs that were all sitting out of the sun, and therefore would take hours to dry, we retreated back up the mountain towards a favorite spot of mine, Stone Fort (Little Rock City). This crag sits directly on the Mont Lake Golf Course, making for a unique collision of dirty climber folk, and refined country clubbers.

We had much more success at this climbing spot, and I spent my day challenging myself on old classics, watching the boys defeat burly new discoveries like The Blacksmith, a surprising V9 that John crushed early in the afternoon.

Revisiting Super Mario (V4) was a frustrating affair for me. This problem holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first ‘real’ problem I ever witnessed outdoors. During my very first outdoor climbing trip in 2009, I sat transfixed in front of this iconic boulder as I watched climbers years beyond my skills easily traverse the route and top out over the bulging rock. I have been determined to send it ever since, but my return visits to Little Rock City have been few and far between.

Most recently, over summer perhaps, I had almost finished the problem – save for one tricky move. However, this return trip was a harsh wake-up call about the repercussions of my little climbing hiatus that began when I moved out to Denver; my strength and skills were totally trashed. I could hardly even get as far as I once had, let alone make any progress. I’ll admit, it was slightly frustrating to watch everyone else easily send Super Mario, but more importantly, it served to light a fire under my ass about getting back in shape. Satisfied with salvaging an otherwise rained-out day, we celebrated our trip with a visit to Lupi’s Pizza in Chattanooga before heading back to Georgia for the evening. At this point, I began obsessed over the morning’s weather forecasts; the Rocktown area was threatened with even more rain, and worse, below-freezing temperatures and gusting winds up to 30 mph. Yikes.

The day began relatively pleasant, albeit undeniably frigid. We felt our climbing inspiration surge as we spotted a few famous climbers in the gas station at the base of the Rocktown mountain.

I hardly climbed at all on this last day, largely because I could hardly warm my fingers up enough to even take my gloves off. The crew gathered around Sherman Photo Roof (V7) to watch Libbi work what has become her favorite project. In true Niko fashion, without even warming up, Niko surveyed the tricky route, said “this looks pretty cool,” tossed on his shoes, and flashed the problem as if he had climbed it a million times.

Eventually, our big group splintered off as we split up to focus on various problems throughout Rocktown. At this point, the wind began to really pick up, and the frosty gusts of humid Georgia air transformed from mildly unpleasant to unbearably frigid. Niko and I tromped around the crag in search of our remaining party members before retreating to the car, where we hid from the cold and stuffed our faces with Cheez-its while chatting with a group of Florida climbing friends we bumped into.

Eventually, our group convened in the parking area, and thus concluded our adventures to Georgia and Tennessee. Half of the clan continued on to Atlanta for an evening training session at Stone Summit, while our car gladly sped off back towards Tallahassee.

While my climbing was admittedly pathetic during this trip, it was a great way to motivate my New Years resolution to be crushing first V5s, then V6-7 by the end of the year. My move to Colorado saw an unacceptably long break in my climbing, and returning to my home rock gym in Florida was a huge eye-opener, mercilessly reminding me how much strength I had lost during my climbing hiatus.

You’ll all be pleased to know that since returning to Denver after this revealing trip, I invested in a rock gym membership at the climbing wall near my house, and have been consistently climbing ever since – I even sent my first V5.

Finally – a Rocktown Bouldering guide for your favorite Georgia climbing crag

Rocktown is easily one of the best climbing spots in the southeast United States, but unless you’re a seasoned regular at this spot (like Niko, who qualifies Rocktown as his favorite place to boulder), it’s pretty difficult to navigate through the sprawling boulder fields without any guidance. So, today’s announcement goes out to all the Tally Rock Gym climbers, warriors of the southeast, eager explorers, and my favorite people:

They’re finally publishing a guidebook for Rocktown!

 

Thanks to Sean Kearny and Zak Roper, Rocktown rompers will be able to get their hands on a comprehensive bouldering guide by March 2012 – sigh, if we can wait that long. The guidebook is slated to be 176 pages, full color, featuring over 600 routes. Are your palms sweaty yet? – Cause mine are. A climbing buddy who was lucky enough to scope out one of the final drafts has raved about the upcoming publication, and his positive feedback makes this a must for any southeast climbing junkie.

The Rocktown Bouldering guide will cost $33.99, but if you pre-order it, you’ll be able to snag this handy book for only $29.99, plus free shipping. You can check out what I assume to the official Rocktown Bouldering Guide website, where you can order your copy directly through PayPal, or download a PDF mail order form. I think I speak for the entire climbing community when I extend a big thank you to Zak, Sean, and everyone else who was involved with the creation and production of this new bouldering guide.

For more on Rocktown, check out my post from the FSU Climbing Club’s Spring 2011 Trip, or check out these videos I posted of The Orb (V8) and Niko’s favorite problem, The Vagina (V8)

Rocktown: Best Photos and Routes from the Climbing Club Spring Trip

Keeping with the tradition of last year’s crag choice, the spring trip hosted by the Climbing Club at FSU brought our slab-happy crew to the paradise of Rocktown, an untamed boulder field near La Fayette, Georgia. Naturally, I kept my camera in tow, and shall now present the best photos and stories from our adventures.

The drive up on Friday evening delivered dumping rain and tents filled with puddles. A small group opted to stay at a motel near the base of the mountain for fear of getting stuck in the deep mud that lined the switchbacks up towards the campgrounds. Lucky for me, the evening downpour led to plentiful sprouts of fungus, flowers and gooey insects.

Surprisingly, the boulders weren’t too wet the next morning. Our hands didn’t hold up quite as well as the rocks though; Nick’s peeling palms are a testament to the burning itch we felt every time our fingertips popped off the wall.

My favorite problem of the weekend was an ‘Unknown’ V3 roof crack found behind The Vagina. It had a sweet top-out over the back of another boulder. As usual, I spent way more time taking pictures and playing with bugs than I did actually climbing – but hell, I was a happy camper.

This was only my second visit to Rocktown, but definitely ranks as my favorite. We spent a lot of time diverting from the trails (thanks to Niko’s inability to follow a path), and got ourselves into a few sticky situations. Everything was moist and slippery, but that just added to the excitement.

‘The Orb’ was a big attraction on the second day of the trip. Feeling lazy and worn out, most of the group clamored around the boulder, sprawling out on crash pads while Niko, Douso and a few other strong climbers worked this V8 problem.

Rocktown was a great way to get the adventure spirit roaring in anticipation of my upcoming trip across America with Niko. It was a mini-sampling of what I’ll be enjoying during the next month of toting crash pads, muddy shoes, sleeping in a car and campfire food.

 

The above left photo is one of my favorite Rocktown photos of all time. Niko took that great shot of Douso, who was climbing a V-ridiculous that sat next to The Vagina. Douso’s body has a shape that works so well with the flow of the rock sediments, it’s perfect!

Naturally, we ended our trip with a customary stop at Cracker Barrel. It’s always a hoot to see the look on Sunday churchgoers faces as our muddy clan shovels food into our mouths and wave our arms wildly while we imitate the moves on routes we can’t wait to work again. We must look nuts, but then again, we certainly are.

Video of the Day: Stickin’ The Vagina (V8) in Rocktown, GA

This weekend, the Climbing Club at Florida State University will be heading out on our semester trip — this time it’s a return visit to Rocktown. Located near La Fayette, Georgia, the Rocktown crag sits near the top of Pigeon Mountain. It’s going to be a beautiful few days of sandstone.

‘The Vagina’ is a V8 boulder problem that Niko has been projecting for a few seasons. It’s really his muse right now, and I’m confident I’ll return to Tallahassee with video footage of his first send — so you better climb hard, buddy! Here’s a sweet, short video of Kris Hampton climbing The Vagina. Enjoy.

[vimeo clip_id=”19340287″]

It’s time to go local, and you should to! Support local businesses to support your community.

I’ll admit, pinching pennies at Walmart has been a budgeting tactic of mine for the past four years. It’s simply too easy to save money at Wally World, but the time has come to ditch my selfish habits. Yes, shopping locally doesn’t always bring the deep discounts presented by big corporations like Walmart, but spending a few extra bucks on groceries will benefit my community and my health.

Do you really think that Walmart is concerned about the quality of their produce? It’s cheap, but it’s also laden with chemicals, and probably came from a corrupt field of genetically mutated garbage picked by underpaid, unappreciated workers.

Produce is the first area where I plan on making the switch – and I invite you to join me. Farmers markets are popping up all over the place, and it’s a trend train that everyone should hop aboard. Get your fruits and vegetables from a local farm; this produce will be handled with love, and you’ll be able to see exactly where your money is going. Did I mention how much better local produce tastes? Plus, shopping in an open air market beats the overbearing fluorescent lights of Walmart any day.

Need advice on some great local places to pick up your veggies in Tallahassee? Consider these:

  1. Bread and Roses Food Cooperative on Railroad Avenue – Always a favorite stop for healthy munchies, I recently discovered that Bread and Roses also carries a great supply of local produce. They are entirely volunteer-run, and offer hearty discounts for members. Regular food shipments arrive on Mondays, and Thursdays are their local produce day. Plus, they’re connected to the Fermentation Market – another superb local business.
  2. New Leaf Market and the Lafayette Street Organic Growers’ Market – In addition to New Leaf’s constant supply of delicious health food, every Thursday from 3 – dusk, they host the Lafayette Street Organic Growers’ Market behind The Moon. The market supplies fruits, veggies, seafood, meat, baked goods and more. New Leaf also participates in Local Business Saturdays, offering great deals for patrons supporting local establishments!
  3. The Thomasville Farmers Market – Just a 30 minute drive to Georgia will take you to a sweet open air farmers market that comes complete with the Market Diner, which cooks up fresh food using local ingredients. Totally worth the drive, and a perfect opportunity to explore Thomasville. Check out my previous post about the market.
  4. This last one will have to be further updated in another post. While scoopin’ dinner last week with Niko at the shopping center on the corner of Apalachee Parkway and Capital Circle, we stumbled upon this newly opened produce market that appeared to be operated by a local farm. I have vowed to check it out after my Rocktown trip, and will dedicate an entire post to these guys – if it’s worthy!

The plan is to start featuring loads of locally owned markets, restaurants and shops on a frequent basis. If you’ve got any suggestions for a place I should feature, let me know and I’d be glad to check it out! I hope you all join me on this journey towards fully embracing local pride!

Tragic caving death of two Gainesville climbers offers a solemn lesson for all explorers

In the aftermath of a climbing accident, the entire climbing community becomes affected by the tragedy, whether personally acquainted with those involved or not.

This past weekend, a group of ten climbers set out in the Rocktown area of La Fayette, GA for a weekend of adventure. The group was spelunking in Ellison Cave, which is one of the deepest cave systems in the entire nation. Ill-prepared, the group entered the cave wearing only t-shirts and shorts.

As Grant Lockenbach, 22, and Michael Pirie, 18, rappelled down a ~120 foot drop, Lockenbach dropped a bag and attempted to retrieve it. He became tangled in his rope, trapped beneath a frigid waterfall. Pirie immediately sought to aid his friend, but ultimately wound up in the same position as his comrade.

Their bodies were recovered from the site, and it is believed that they perished from hypothermia.

I have been reading heaps of articles about the incident, and every piece makes remarks about the excellent character of these two victims. They were great members of their community, and had the best of intentions.

Their accident serves as a stark reminder to all climbers and explorers: as thrilling an adventure is, you must be prepared. It is all too easy to get in over your head while climbing, but you must be comfortable with your limits.

The incident reminded me of the time the boys attempted to summit the Grand Teton over summer. As they stood before me, ‘ready’ to traverse snow fields in their duct-taped shoes and flimsy sweaters, I was overcome with anxiety over their lack of preparation. Thankfully, the boys were all fine – but their lack of preparation prevented any of the crew from completing the summit.

Please, please exercise caution when engaging in high-risk activities. Yes, you are an adventurer, and yes, adventures are most often spontaneous and lack planning, but you’ve got to use your noggin sometimes, folks. I can’t bear to imagine losing a member of our closely-knit climbing family.

Mud, Beards, Fire and Beer – Warrior Dash 2010

I recently happened upon an insane video with costumed people diving through mud pits, jumping over rows of fire and drinking a truckload of beer. This wild ruckus was footage from a competition called Warrior Dash. I’m talking men in viking suits, scantily-clad women drenched in mud – it’s glorious. Check out the video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyZVWwzb8Rc]

The event has dates throughout 2010-2011 all over the country. Floridians, our Warrior Dash is going to be held on January 29, 2011 in Lake Wales. Personally, I think it’s going to be absolutely miserable during the winter months. I’m holding out until the May 14-15 event held in Mountain City, Georgia. I’ll be freshly graduated, ready to get dirty and drunk. If anyone wants to join in, let’s form a caravan of insanity. I thought about camping near the event site, but realized that I’m going to need a real bed and shower after the race, so hotel it is!

Warrior Dash promises to be the wildest competition of your life – are you up for the challenge?

Need weekend plans? Drive into Georgia!

Continuing with the theme of adventure, I want to encourage everyone to check out the Thomasville Farmer’s Market in Georgia. I am suffering from major roommate envy after hearing the tales of Skyla’s weekend adventures. She spent her Sunday afternoon straddled on the back of a sweet motorcycle, while winding through Florida back roads that led her into southern Georgia. Here she happened upon the Thomas Farmer’s Market, and the Market Diner – which earned her major bragging rights.

Only 35 miles from Tallahassee, this Thomasville location is acclaimed as the second largest farmers market, and even hosts an on-site restaurant, the previously-mentioned Market Diner. Skyla wooed me with descriptions of the expansive buffet’s southern-style macaroni & cheese and fresh vegetables directly from the market. Naturally, I immediately formed plans for a Saturday afternoon date with Niko to this place, so I did some research, made a few calls and have plenty of information to share.

The Farmer’s Market is open from 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM. A mild drive from Tallahassee, you can find this open-air venue at 502 Smith Avenue in Thomasville, Georgia. The Market Diner is located on the grounds of the Farmer’s Market, where hungry patrons can enjoy Saturday lunch and dinner from 10:30 AM – 9:30 PM. This is a great way for food lover’s to spend an afternoon; you can explore a new destination, purchase some delicious home-grown produce, then return home and cook a fantastic meal with your fresh goodies.

And in case you needed additional evidence of the Market Diner’s exceptional southern spread, check out this quote from Guidebook America:

“A hearty buffet of okra, collard greens, turnips, butter beans, black eyed peas, fried chicken, BBQ pork, cornbread and the luscious Red Velvet cake are few of the items that will tantalize your pallet.”

While you’re in Georgia, there is a bevy of other activities and attractions that will fill your day with adventure. The weekend of October 8 – 10 is home to the 43rd Annual Thomasville Fly-In, where guests will be treated to a spectacle of aircraft, helicopter rides and an airborne candy drop. Another option is a visit to Thomasville’s famous tree, The Big Oak. This towering Live Oak is more than 300 years old, and is a popular attraction amongst tourists – including my boyfriend and his ex, so let’s skip that one. Other great destinations include the old-fashioned charm of the Downtown area, the Birdsong Nature Center and dozens of naturally wonderful parks. Hop in your car, head out past the Florida state-lines and explore everything that Thomasville has to offer!