Snowflakes, chalky hands and quinoa for breakfast – the best of Horse Pens 40

I’ve kept you waiting long enough; it’s time for a hearty recount of my recent visit to Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. The best photos, the best stories, the best of HP40.

Spending a night at Matt Wood’s humble abode in Powder Springs, GA has become a climbing tradition to rival our obligatory pit stops at Cracker Barrel. Even better than the accommodations provided by our bearded friend are the treats his father always has waiting for us. Last time, it was homemade chili. This time? Well, see for yourself:

After loading our swollen bellies with good eats, we set off towards our final destination. Upon arriving at Horse Pens, we were surprised with an unexpected delight: a short snow flurry. As a lady of the Sunshine State, I was elated to be in the presence of snow, and eagerly ran through the campsite collecting flakes in my hair.

The snowfall quickly ceased, and our attention returned to climbing. The first day was a little damp, but we made the most of it by collecting some beta for our projects and fooling around on the rocks.

Day two brought beautiful weather and great climbing. Niko and I had to leave a bit early, but he was still able to crush some serious rock. As for Mulletino, it wasn’t a send, but at least I made progress. I’m stuck at the ‘crux,’ and as soon as I master the hardest move, it’s all jugs ’till the finish.

Niko and Ryan put their best efforts into a route named ‘Sliders’ before we packed up and made the trek back to Florida. It wasn’t a send, but it gave Niko a good reason to make a return trip.

Don’t worry kids, there’s 100+ more photos to come on Facebook. Until those get posted, here’s a few more shots to keep you occupied:

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Where I am now – crushing Mulletino (V5) in Horse Pens 40.

Enjoying your weekend, readers? As you nurse your hangovers and bask in the laziness of your Saturday afternoon, I’ll be out in the boulder fields at Horse Pens 40. I’ve got a decent list of projects, but one of my favorite routes is Mulletino (V5).

I made mild attempts on this great roof problem during my last trip to Horse Pens, but now I have returned with more experience and determination. The top out of this route is downright sketchy – I’m talkin’ a high-ball finish on a mossy slab that has become overgrown from the lack of climbers brave enough to top it out.

Luckily, I discovered that the route sans top out still qualifies as a V5 problem. With a top out, it’s a solid V6. Let me tell you, the extra grade is not worth the inevitable crash towards the ground.

Happy climbing – or couch surfing.
Expect lots of photos of me (hopefully) sending Mulletino upon my return!

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Finally, on the road again – HP40, and climbers for Jesus, here I come!

My trips to Horse Pens 40 on Chandler Mountain in Steele, AL always seem to come during the most unusual of weekends. During our last trip, we shared the camp grounds with a crew of religious bikers who were celebrating their annual Pumpkin Moon Motorcycle Rally.

What’s in store for us this time around? This weekend, HP40 is hosting The Chandler Mountain Challenge, sponsored by Rock Solid Climbers for Christ. Oh, yes.

Thankfully, we’ll still be able to climb without participating in the event, but there will inevitably be some good stories to share after a weekend spent with climbers who “love to climb and as we do, we want to honor the God we serve and be a witness of Him.” Oh, I love Alabama.

Here’s some shots from good ‘ole Horse Pens 40:

I’m heading out now for an oil change and then stopping by Best Buy to pick up a new case for the Nikon, then it’s off to Matt Wood’s humble abode just outside Atlanta for the evening, then Horse Pens in the morning!

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Horse Pens Part II: My AE-1 Photography

I’ve kept you waiting long enough, here are the best photos from the FSU Climbing Club’s trip to Horse Pens 40. I’ll be heading out on another climbing adventure on Wednesday, so I’ll come back with loads more pictures and stories to share! The shot I took of my pal Jeff climbing at HP40 turned out much better than I expected, which was a definite confidence booster in terms of photographing future climbing trips with the AE-1. Enjoy:

In other news, I am once again impatiently awaiting the arrival of my coveted climbing shoes! According to my FedEx online tracker, the package is on the delivery truck – so now I’ll just have to stalk my front windows until my Katanas arrive!

Also, if you’re in Tallahassee, come by First Fridays tonight in Railroad Square! The Tally Rock Gym will be open extra late until midnight tonight, and I’ll be there giving $5.00 belays to anyone who wants to try climbing. Even if you’re not into climbing, all of the warehouse galleries will be open, Star Seas Cafe will be celebrating its last weekend, and all the good folks in Tallahassee will be out having a great evening.

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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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Image of the Day

I have spent my entire day pacing in front of my front door, waiting for my La Sportiva Katanas to get delivered – thank you for the awesome birthday present, Niko! Trapped at home, I have had a lot of time to kill. I entertained myself by flipping through photos from my housemate Brooke’s recent trip to Arizona. I was smitten the moment I came across the featured photo; it speaks to my lifestyle completely, and can be adapted to apply to all of our lives. Life on the rocks. ‘Cause it really always is, isn’t it?

Speaking of rocks, the Climbing Club at FSU is heading off on a trip to Horse Pens 40 next weekend – and I cannot wait. If you haven’t experienced the adventure of a rock-climbing trip, you really should give it a shot. There is nothing like spending a few days out in nature, eating bagels smothered in Nutella, toasting marshmallows over a real campfire and escaping the demands of your daily life. Coincidentally, our trip is happening the same weekend as HP40’s Pumpkin Moon Motorcycle Rally and family camp-out. I reckon things are going to get real interesting. You can be expecting some sweet photos upon my return.

Before I head off on that excursion, I’ll be enjoying my first proper visit to Chattanooga for my 22nd birthday. Niko and I will be traveling to Tennessee this weekend to explore everything that the city has to offer. I’m most excited for the Tennessee Aquarium, which houses the largest freshwater facility in the world. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of photography loaded with creatures. They have a butterfly garden, free-flying birds, a large selection of frog species, enormous aquarium tanks and my favorite, an exhibit dedicated to invertebrates like jellyfish and cuttlefish.

Hoorah, adventure!

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