Discovering my new favorite Colorado crag at Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder

Between all the chaos of moving, and settling into my new life out in the Rockies, I lost sight of the very reason I made the cross-country relocation to Denver: I’m here to climb.

I shamefully allowed two weeks of no-climbing slip by before I finally snapped one morning and decided to drive out to Boulder to check out a spot my lady friend Jane had stumbled upon. With my hiking boots still out of commission from a trip to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was admittedly ill-prepared in my dainty Keds for our little uphill adventure – but when has that ever stopped me?

We docked my car at the parking lot of Chautauqua Park, near the spot I usually park to head out to Satellite Boulders – but this time we headed back up Baseline Road towards the mountains rather than hanging left and heading straight into the park. This roadside route took us to a new park I hadn’t yet seen, Boulder Mountain Park. We trudged up along the edge of the pavement until we hit a trail head that shot straight up the hillside.

The approach to the first boulders was shorter than that of Satellites, but significantly steeper. I huffed and puffed my way up the narrow trail, and after a short sprint upwards, Jane led me to these beautiful, chalky boulders. (Excuse my iPhone photos, I’m still using a 3G, so it ain’t fancy.)

     

Our first excursion out to this spot was enjoyed later in the day, and I left my climbing shoes in Denver, so we vowed to return two days later armed with the proper gear. On our second visit, we crushed the intermediate routes with ease. A little digging around on Mountain Project’s guide for the Flagstaff Mountain area informed us that I sent Plain View Traverse, a flowy V3 with a balance-intensive top out. Jane took the first send of Trail Side Direct, a reachy V2 – and then I followed suit, quickly discovering that this particular problem has a sketchy top out that beckons you to straddle a thin slice of boulder and down climb a bleak slab.

While I certainly wasn’t pushing my true limits of climbing, it felt great to finally get out to a boulder field and get a little confidence boost with these great moderate problems. This new spot has me constantly daydreaming about its sweet lines, inviting holds, easy access, and how wonderful it is to have a fellow lady climber.

On the way back to the trail head, we came across the beast pictured to your left: Hobo Cave. This gem is tucked away on a poorly kept side trail, and a small fire pit in the middle of it hints towards the origin of its name. Hurried to beat the sunset, we didn’t have time to test out any of the lines, but I’m eager to return to the cave. The holds appear to have been permanently chalked for decades, and some of the rock is smooth as a kitchen counter top – the place was oozing with history.

The point of this proclamation of my new-found love for Flagstaff Mountain? Perhaps just to further my excitement over my third return visit today. This time Jane and I will be fully prepared with two crash pads, my camera, and $5 so we can park next to the crag rather than wasting time with the lengthy hike in. My goal for today is to check out, and possibly crush, Monkey Traverse – a classic V4 that seems to be the pride and joy of Flagstaff Mountain.

Send good vibes, and keep on climbin’.

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Road Trip America – Climbing Wallstreet in Potash near Moab, Utah

I’ve climbed a good number of crags around America within the last two years, but none were as unique as the routes at Wallstreet in Utah – they’re literally located along the roadside. A few routes even required belayers to stand directly in the road. Needless to say, things got interesting.

The climbing was so enticing that I was easily convinced to finally give (outdoors) rope climbing a try. I choose a slab wall that Ryan had free soloed up, seemingly with ease. The climb quickly taught me a lesson about slab climbing: I’m not so great at it. The prospect of slipping and grating my face along the positively sloping rock was a mental road block that I couldn’t get past – as was the no-hands-trust-your-tiny-foot-holds style of climbing. I think I’ll stick to overhangs.

Across the street from the climbs, the Colorado River rushed and rippled past us with frigid water that looked almost good enough to jump into. This was easily one of my favorite crags I’ve ever photographed. There were beautiful climbs, unique landscapes, and even a few creature buddies.

If I had to pick a highlight of the day for the boys, it would be the 5.8 trad crack, called 30 Seconds Over Potash, that Jeff led. It was pretty intense watching him muscle his way up the route in true Jeff fashion – which means he just powered through the movements with minimal technique and maximum strength. Once he finished placing gear and anchored in, he let the other boys top rope the route while practicing their gear placements.

Perhaps the best photo from the day was snapped on a 5.11c that Ryan, Jeff and Niko spent a chunk of the day working. This route was literally located on the street, the belayer had to stand directly in the road. There were multiple times when we had to shout up for the climber to pause while the belayer pressed up against the rock to let a semi-truck pass by. Ryan gets the photo of the day with his no-hands chalk up, complete with his tongue out against the wall.

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(Belated) 420 Twofer – Mountain Khaki Blogging and a Time Lapse Mountain Video

Oh yes, today’s post is a double whammy of mountainous treats. First on your plate, enjoy a short write-up posted on Mountain Khaki’s ‘Built For The Mountain Life‘ blog about Tally Rock Gym’s March 19 ‘Save the South’ bouldering competition. Check out a snippet of the article, written by yours truly.

RECAP: Tally Rock Gym “Save the South” – “Each year, as the damp Tallahassee winter blooms into a sultry springtime, the Tallahassee Rock Gym in Florida’s panhandle hosts an annual fundraiser bouldering competition to benefit the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. This year’s event, entitled “Save the South,” was a major success for Talahassee’s sole rock-climbing facility.

Thanks to the support of sponsors like Mountain Khakis, the fundraiser collected morethan $1,600 through donations, raffle ticket sales and entry fees to directly benefit the SCC. In addition to raising money for one of Tally Rock Gym’s most beloved organizations, the event presented a great day of bouldering and community bonding for climbers of the panhandle.”

Click here to continue reading…

Additionally, I wanted to post a time lapse video that has gone viral this week. Shot by Terje Sorgjerd, the 3 minute video captures beautiful scenery from a peak in Spain, and shows off wonderful images of the Milky Way. If you need a relaxing break from work, or just want to get amped up on earth, watch this:

[vimeo clip_id=”22439234″]

The video got me all hot and heavy with anticipation for my (and Niko’s) upcoming road trip to Denver/Moab/Yosemite. I cannot wait to ditch my normal routine and live on the road for the entire month of May. It’s going to be beautiful, and naturally, you’ll get to relive it all on The Morning Fresh!

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Late Night Climbing Photoshoot at TRG

After convincing the owner of the Tallahassee Rock Gym to close early on Saturday night so we could all go feast at China Delight, the crew and I returned to the rock gym armed with two bright portable lights and my camera. We spent the evening testing out the new routes, chasing trains as they passed Railroad Square and eventually, I fell asleep on the dirty rubber floor of the gym. It was a fantastic evening, even though McGoo and Niko stole my camera within five minutes of our photoshoot.

The real proof that my camera is a miracle worker? Check out how professional my roommate, Brooke, looks in her climbing shots. This girl hasn’t climbed in months, and yet the glory of Nikon was able to make her look like she was a seasoned veteran.


I was very pleased with the results from the photoshoot, and am eager to get back into the gym to take some more sweet shots! I’ll be taking some video footage this week to begin your weekly presentations of the best routes at the Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Get ready for the week to begin, especially all you students! Spring semester is only a few days away, and it’s time to kick things into high gear in preparation for a successful semester. I’m looking forward to my last first day of classes, but it will be bittersweet every step of the way.

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Little Rock City TOMORROW – Meet the Climber Line-Up!

Our climbing trip departure is lurking closer, and the anticipation is mounting. To prepare you for the phenomenal photography that shall accompany my return, I wanted to introduce you to ‘the climbers.’ There are over 20 adventurers joining us on this journey into the Tennessee mountains, but I’ve singled out the top athletes for your viewing pleasure. These boys are the cream of the crop, with bulging muscles and sexy calloused fingertips. Ladies, enjoy. Fellas, try to keep up. (Feel free to skip to the bottom of the post to dig directly into the photos!)

First, we have my all-time favorite climber boy: Steve Strickland. Not only did he place 7th in the nation this year, he’s a veritable legend at the Tallahassee Rock Gym. Honestly, he’s the reason I was dying to get my hands on a quality camera for the trip. His movement is graceful, his body is streamlined, and he makes for an ideal photo subject. He’ll be abandoning me in favor of the Colorado mountains in January, but I’ll forgive him one day.

Next, meet the charming Nicholas Douso. This climbing powerhouse currently resides in Orlando, but he lived up in Tallahassee during the summer months to work as a restaurant manager-in-training. He’ll be joining our crew for the trip, along with his girlfriend – who allegedly crushes as well.

I have yet to meet some of the other advanced climbers we’ll be spending the weekend with, but their talented reputation has already preceded them. I can’t wait to meet the infamous Mark, who is supposedly going to inspire Steve to climb harder than he ever has before.

As for the rest of the crew – these guys epitomize the climber lifestyle. We have Jeff, the reckless, ridiculous kid who always knows how to make me laugh. The photo I captured of him climbing at Rocktown with a cigarette dangling from his lips sums up his entire personality. He’s absolutely wild. Then there is Matt Wood, proud owner of the most glorious beard in existence. He moved out near Atlanta last year, but has been meeting us for climbing trips throughout the southeast.

My fellow lady climbers are Carden, Cealey, Raychel and the other Katie. I may be the most experienced of the females, but don’t be surprised if these girls put me to shame this weekend – they’re new to the sport, but their passion is blazing. Another individual with a newfound drive for climbing is the clever Chris Lane, who realized his yearning for outdoor climbing during our trip to Horse Pens 40. Additionally, we have Erick Delgado, another kid who came into the rock gym with mild curiosity, but has transformed into a die-hard climber.

I’ll be riding up with Niko, Steve, John and Libby. I don’t think I need to explain how talented Niko is, but I’ll include some photos to humor you. In short, he’s a beast. I can’t forget John and Libby, the unstoppable couple that appeared at the Tally Rock Gym a few months ago, and have been revolutionizing our climbing styles ever since.

Get ready kids, it’s going to be one hell of a weekend.

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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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Image of the Day

Today’s post is a double whammy image of the day and climbing inspiration of the day. This is a real wall featured at the Illoiha Gym in Japan. This unique facility combines artistic style with the art of climbing, and I would love to be able to spend a day on a wall like this. Everything from picture frames and mirrors to flower pots and deer antlers are secured to the wall and eligible for use as holds.

If you look closely, you’ll see that they also have conventional holds mixed in. I’m not sure how practical this arrangement is for setting new routes, – and I don’t really see any routes at all – but it is a really phenomenal concept.

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