25 Climbs for 25 Years at Rocktown, and a Perfect Weekend in Chattanooga & North Carolina

In an attempt to say “no thanks” to the typical 25th birthday, which according to my generation includes a quarter-life crisis where you wonder what you’re doing with your life and why you aren’t as so-called successful as your peers, I decided to do something different: I challenged myself to climb 25 boulder problems.

I thought it was going to be easy. The original plan was to head to one of my favorite spots in the southeast, Stone Fort, where I have a pretty decent circuit of familiar climbs. Instead, the weather forecast relocated us to Rocktown – also a wonderful crag, but with a few hang-ups. The boulders are drastically spread-out compared to Stone Fort, and the lines aren’t always as clean.

The day started strong at a familiar warm-up spot near The Orb, a classic Rocktown V8. I made quick work of almost 10 climbs ranging from V0 to V2, including a few new lines I hadn’t climbed before. Things were looking good.
Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.

After a few failed flails on Double Trouble (V5) and an old send, Jug Surfin’ (V4), I realized that if I was going to succeed at climbing 25 boulder problems, I was going to have to take it easy. We moved on to another cluster of easy problems, knocking out 5 more lines. I was convinced that V0s were all I’d be able to send, but resigned myself to having a fun day instead of focusing on v-points.

We visited a new area I haven’t seen before, and I flashed two sweet climbs called Ripple (V2) and Mario (V3). A quick moment of redemption, but still no impressive sends.
Climbing Mario (V3) at Rocktown in Georgia for my 25th birthday.Flashing Ripple (V2) at Rocktown during my 25th birthday challenge.

The remainder of the day was spent climbing lines that looked like no one had touched them in a very, very long time. First was a tall arête climb with a sweet iron rail feature, which I quickly cruised up. Then we moved onto a trio of lines on a triangular boulder called Pommel Horse – and it was game-on. This boulder was completely grown over, and anything that could have been a hold was caked in moss or draped with cobwebs. Even Niko struggled to decifer where the various V0s went, but we finally finagled our way up the boulder and I bagged three more sends.
Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.

I ended the day on what can only be described as a choss pile. My favorite southern food buffet was closing in only a few hours, and I still needed five more climbs. We hiked back towards the front of the boulder field, and climbed unappealing problems toilet-themed names. It wasn’t pretty, but I was determined to finish all 25 climbs.

Twenty minutes of hiking, and an hour of driving later, we arrived for an all-you-can-eat southern feast at Wally’s Family Restaurant in Chattanooga. Once our bellies were bursting with collard greens and bacon, we retreated to The Crash Pad where we were treated to the hostel’s newly opened private room – which is crazy cozy and has a great upstairs view of the grounds.

The next morning, Niko and I made a long haul out to Waxhaw, North Carolina, where we met my family and two favorite fellas for a relaxing birthday weekend. We explored the Q-City BBQ Championship in downtown Charlotte, wandered around Asheville, and I even got to blow out some birthday candles over a slice of red velvet cake. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday – my 26th is going to have a lot to live up to! 

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″]

Video of the Day: Climbing ‘The Orb’ (V8) at Rocktown

Well, I have already blown my New Years resolution of posting every day, oops. To compensate for my lack of posting, here’s a sweet video of Mike McClure sending ‘The Orb’ V8 in Rocktown. I’ll be heading out to Rocktown for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday next weekend, so there will be plenty of photographs and videos to get your blood flowing and your fingertips sweating.

This route is a favorite amongst my climber buddies, who have all projected this beautiful route. Niko is dying to get his paws on The Orb, as well as his ultimate project, The Vagina (V8). Personally, I’m looking forward to sending Police Brutality (V4). I worked it briefly during a trip last spring, but lacked the motivation to finish the route. That’s all changing this trip, baby! Enjoy the video, readers.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvAq6phXFpY]

Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be heading out with a few friends to do some outdoor climbing around Tallahassee. There are a few buildings with routes on them, and apparently a park near a friend’s house that has a handful of sweet problems. Pictures, and possibly videos, shall be posted shortly after my adventure!

Keep exploring, readers.