The first climbing video for Simply Adventure is now LIVE (and on DeadPointMag.com)!

Every once in a while, all that hard work and tedious to-dos and mindless training comes to a head, and leaves you with something you can actually put your finger on. After two years of projecting Super Mario, two trips to finally get the footage for a video (I may or may not have lost our tripod mount in the middle of a desert), and too many days spent waiting for construction noise or neighbor’s air conditioning units to shut up so we could film some audio – we finally did it.

Simply Adventure’s first climbing video is now live –
and on Dead Point Magazine’s website.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dESpz6IHJ3o]

The purpose of this film was to capture one of my all-time favorite bouldering problems in the southeast, possibly even the entire country: Super Mario. The ironic boulder served as the perfect example of why we feel so strongly about promoting conservation and using the Simply Adventure trip as a platform for raising awareness about the importance of preserving access and getting involved with your local climbing communities. Because, really, some people would dismiss that legendary hunk of sandstone as just a pile of rocks on the side of Montlake Golf Course – and that just ain’t okay in our book.

As much as I’d love to credit my pretty face for this inaugural video (HA!), Niko truly deserves all the praise for this little film. He is officially the video man for Simply Adventure, and I am incredibly proud of all his hard work on the Super Mario video. This is our first video, ever, so while Niko is quick to harp on any imperfections, I’d say he did a damn good job. And to think, it’ll only get better from here! 

Wait, but really, I’m on DPMclimbing.com! I feel so cool – even though I look slightly puff-faced, and do way too much slapping around on the top-out of Super Mario. Still, I’m up there. It’s real. It’s all happening, man!

What did you think of the video?
Any questions, feedback, comments, and critiques are welcome!
We’re always learning, and looking to improve.

Finally sending my longest climbing pursuit, Super Mario, on the side of a golf course in Tennessee

Anyone can have confidence in the thought of completing a send, but confidence is moot without action. After a seven-hour drive up to Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, I wistfully fell asleep on my new Stonelick crashpad in the hatchback of my car at a Wal-Mart parking lot, trembling with shaky confidence towards the next day’s pursuit.

Niko and I got a fairly early start out to the Montlake Golf Course that houses the epic climbing spot called Stone Fort, and eagerly trekked out to the boulder field with an arsenal of crash pads. We eyed Art of the Vogi, warmed up on a few rounds of easy routes like Needless Things (V0-) and Fire Crack Flake (V1). Once our muscles had stretched out, we began our day of chasing climbs. 

We immediately trekked out towards the Super Mario boulder, where we met up with three rapscallions from Kentucky who took a liking to the strings of incoherent obscenities I bursted with every time I popped off the boulder. By the end of our time climbing together, we had all collected a few new curse combinations – but I still hadn’t sent Super Mario.

My morning session boosted my esteem over my efforts; I was able to stick a move I had never made it to before. Here’s how it goes: I had my left hand tightly perched on a deep, sharp crimp, with my right hand fulled extended out in a high undercling, while my leg was locked in a great knee-bar. The next move required me to ditch the security of the knee-bar, and balance my legs as far over on the right as possible. I then locked off with my right hand, and pulled on the undercling as I reached up above with my left hand to a solid pocket. 

And then I fell.

Again. My most familiar feeling on that boulder is the movement of falling off it. I’ve slipped, snapped, and popped off that route’s holds more times than I’d like to admit over the last two years.

*Note: This is an older photo; don’t worry, I’m not crazy enough to be wearing a
hoodie and sweatpants at Stone Fort in the middle of June.

Once the southeastern swelter began to bear down with relentless humidity, Niko and I retreated for a lunch break. We drove over to the Pep Boys crag parking lot, threw down our crash pads to make a little napping spot, cooked up some spaghetti, and prepared for our evening session.

As we hiked back out to Stone Fort, I decided I wasn’t going to hop on my project again until the next day – I figured I ought to give my tender fingertips a chance to heal before torturing them again. Instead, I gallivanted around the crag, following Niko to his own projects. I lounged on boulders, played with insects, and cheered Niko on as he sent ‘A Face in the Crowd.

Satisfied with his climb for the day, Niko urged me to hop on something else before we called it a day – so I decided to give Super Mario a quick burn.

Stone Fort was eerily deserted that day; Niko and I didn’t see a single climber during our evening session, which is unheard of at this popular climbing destination. It’s even more rare to have the Super Mario boulder all to yourself, as this rock tends to draw big crowds of boulderers projecting the many climbs that sit on it. Pleased with the solitude, I took my time working the route, and focused on cleaning up my messy footwork.

There were three unsuccessful attempts before I decided to just stop thinking about what I was doing. Without any intent of sending it on that particular burn, I shook out my arms, hoisted myself off the start holds onto the first big ledge, and cruised through the first series of moves.

When the knee-bar crux section approached, my technique became a little shaky. Feeling a slight instability, I jammed my knee into the space before the proper knee-bar, and ended up incorporating two into my beta. I swung out to the undercling, stuck it, and danced my feet over to the rightmost portion of the boulder. With a heavy burst of breath, I reached my left hand up to the pocket – and it stuck. 

From there, the route was all but sent. I brought my left hand up into a bowling-ball shaped series of solid pockets, shifted over to a large jug, and hoisted myself towards the sloped top-out area. Admittedly, my top-out was probably one of the most hideous sends that boulder has ever witnessed. Exhausted from my unexpected success, it was a struggle to beach myself up onto the rounded boulder – but I made it happen.

After two years of sporadic projecting, countless shredded finger tips, an outrageously bruised knee, two knee-bars where there should only be one, and the most ridiculous top-out of all time, I have finally completed my ultimate climbing project.

It wasn’t about the grade, it wasn’t the hardest climb I’ve ever attempted, and it wasn’t a glorious moment surrounded by cheering fans and snapping cameras. It was an intimate moment, shared only with Niko, with nary a single photo or video to bare evidence of my conquest – and it was the best feeling I’ve ever had while climbing, because it was mine

We retreated to Chester Frost Campground feeling pleased, sweaty, and famished. Niko whipped up a delicious campside dinner of quinoa, roasted tomatoes, black beans, and avocado – and then we promptly crashed in our tent. We woke up the next morning feeling more sore than we’d ever imagined, but it was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a while.

My epic send was celebrated with a trip to one of my favorite places in Tennessee – the Chattanooga Market, which was celebrating their annual Blueberry Festival on this particular day. One of the best farmer’s markets I’ve ever been to, this venue is loaded with produce delights like impossibly long green beans, crispy sunflower sprouts, golden zucchini, and the tastiest homemade bread I’ve ever tasted. We loaded up on the goods, slurped on frozen lemonade, and then hit the road back to Florida. 

I’m out in Tennessee, and I ain’t coming home until my climbing project is sent

In November of 2009, I set out on my first climbing trip to a place called Little Rock City in Tennessee – which I now more often refer to by its proper name, Stone Fort. I had only been climbing for a handful of weeks, and don’t even remember if I sent any routes during that inaugural outdoor excursion, but I do remember one distinguished boulder, and the legendary route that sat on the featured rock:

Super Mario.

Over the course of half a dozen trips out to Stone Fort, spread across a handful of years, I have always been drawn to Super Mario. The first few climbing trips spent working the route were admittedly doomed for failure; I was hardly a V4 climber when I decided this route would become my conquest. My most recent visit to the area was during January, during a time when I hadn’t been climbing consistently for about six months. It was no surprise when I was yet again unable to make the send.

This time, I’m ready. (I think.) I’ve sent multiple V5s in rock gyms across the country, I’ve been training for the past few months for both sport climbing and bouldering, and despite a two week break from climbing to galavant all over Arizona, I feel strong. This is it. Super Mario’s reign of defeat is coming to an end, and I’m not coming home until I finish it.

Mind you, Niko has to be back for classes on Monday,
so this boulder problem better go down quickly. I’m just sayin’. 

While I enjoy my weekend of chalky, sweaty hands, torn up finger tips, aching muscles, a tricky knee-bar, and (hopefully) a victory slice of Lupi’s Pizza after sending Super Mario, check out this great video by Andrew Kornylak that gives insight to the beta and beauty of this classic Stone Fort climb.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/7388463]

Send lots of positive, rock-crushin’ thoughts my way – I’m going to need as many good vibes as I can soak up!

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.

Little Rock City – My Battle to Conquer ‘Super Mario’

In climbing, we always hit those routes that stump us by only a few simple moves. Days, weeks, sometimes even months are spent tirelessly battling against the rock to complete a send. During last weekend’s trip to Little Rock City, the V4 route named ‘Super Mario’ became my new, obsessive project.

After working it the entire weekend, I fell short of sending by one simple move: a cross with my left hand up to a set of perfect honeycomb holds. I mastered the route’s infamous knee-bar, shredded my fingers on crimpy ledges and still I couldn’t complete the route before our weekend was cut short by a dreary bout of rain. I still find myself miming the movement sequence of the route when I’m walking to class.

Here are the best sequential shots of Super Mario. The boulder itself is stunning, perhaps lending to my obsession with the route. Thankfully for you, lucky readers, my dear friend Libbi sent the route – so you have a fairly complete set of Super Mario move-by-move documentation. The only moves missing are the first moves up to the block ledge you’ll see in the first picture, and the third move which requires the climber to throw right onto a crimpy little nook, then cross left on the other side of the crimp. Enjoy:

As disappointed as I was when my final day of working Super Mario was abruptly cut short by Mother Nature’s merciless desire to sprinkle the mountain with rain, it gave me a great reason to plan a return trip to Little Rock City. Niko is hellbent on spending a weekend at Rocktown, so I’ve compromised and decided on a post-finals adventure to both crags. Super Mario, you will be mine!

While we’re on the topic of climbing: have you voted today for the SCC Purchase & Maintain Land for Recreation & Greenspace Preservation effort through the Pepsi Refresh Project? Voting ends in a few weeks, and we are so close to the finish line. VOTE EVERY DAY! You can log in with your Facebook account, and it takes only a few seconds of your day to potentially help our climbing community.