Starting to Circuit the Best of Southeastern Bouldering (With my Proudest Send!)

My crew of lady crushers at Rocktown in Georgia.One of my favorite things about the climbing culture of the southeast is our pride. Folks around here are proud of their local boulderfields, proud of hard-earned sends, proud to be a part of a community with camaraderie, hospitality, and deep-rooted, well, pride unlike any other population of climbers I’ve encountered on this trip. This is my favorite place in the entire country, and it feels so good to be home in the southeast.

For the remainder of my yearlong trip (less than 12 weeks, whoa!), Niko and I will be circuiting the climbing areas throughout Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and a bit of North Carolina. Our main focus is what we consider the true triple crown of the southeast: Stone Fort in Tennessee, Rocktown in Georgia, and Horse Pens 40 in Alabama. Now, I love Hound Ears more than anything, but it’s only open one day a year (and no days this year), so I think it’s about time Rocktown earned some respect with triple crown status.

We spent the weekend climbing at Rocktown with old friends from Tallahassee Rock Gym, and Vikki and Spenser from The RV Project. For once, the ladies outnumbered the men! It is so good to be crushing with Vikki again – she is the queen of short lady beta, and has helped me crush a few problems I was struggling with.

Finishing the top-out on Grape Ape (V4) at Rocktown in Georgia.Rocktown impressed us with some crazy autumn colors, easily the best we’ve ever seen out there. I spent the weekend getting a little mileage with a few new sends mixed in, like Belly Button (V3), and a totally-intimidating-can’t-believe-I-sent-it V4 called Grape Ape. It’s a fairly committing, tall boulder that demands you to trust your feet and lean over a funky slab to a great, but slightly out of reach, jug. I was mildly terrified at the top, but somehow made it work.

I’ve yet to find any big projects that really inspire me at Rocktown, but we’ll be spending a lot of time there so I’ll do some exploring until I stumble upon a climb that pushes my limits and motivates me to challenge myself on it. In the meantime, I returned to Stone Fort near Chattanooga to tango with a climb that has haunted me for way too long: Shotgun (V6).

During our last southeastern climbing trip before starting our yearlong trip, I fell in love with a boulder problem that was way out of my league, but absolutely enchanting. The fellas I was with quickly sent it, while I fumbled around on the first move without making any progress. For some reason, I was convinced that this was the one, and vowed that my goal for my yearlong adventure was to come back to the southeast and send Shotgun.

And I tried and tried. I came up with crazy beta that doubled the amount of moves I had to do compared to most folks who climb it. And I made progress. Then I got shut down, left Stone Fort for a while, and trained a bit at Tallahassee Rock Gym. And then I came back, and everything clicked.Gunning for the big pinch on Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort. I’m still not entirely sure how I managed to get up to the top out of this boulder, but it happened. It was my last attempt for the day, and I wasn’t quite feeling it, so I decided to just really throw myself at the big pinch move that had been shutting me down – and it worked. I reached up to the victory jug, recollected myself, and prepared for the notorious top-out.

I’ll admit, I spent a LOT of time hanging out on those slopers. There’s seriously just nothing there. You have to slap your hands on the flat nothingness, trust your feet, and stand up. Luckily, I had Spenser snapping pictures from the top of the boulder, plus Vikki and Niko cheering me on from below. It was an ugly struggle, but I had to do what I had to do.

Sussing out the top-out on Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort in Tennessee.Working out the slopers on the top-out of Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort in Chattanooga.Photos: Spenser Tang-Smith of The RV Project – he’s the best. 

Folks, it was a big moment for this little lady. There was totally a happy-dance on top of the boulder. Now I need a new project to keep me motivated at Stone Fort. The icing on my yearlong trip cake would be to send a V7 before the adventure officially ends – but that’s definitely dreaming big.

Since we’ll be around the Chattanooga area for the next few weeks, Niko and I (along with Vikki and Spenser of The RV Project) decided to show some love to my favorite climbing organization, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. We’ll be volunteering at the second annual Buy Your Own Boulderfield fundraiser party at The Crash Pad on Friday night – and if you’re in town you ought to be there! (And if you’re not in town, it’s totally worth making a weekend trip for – we’ll go crush some boulders afterwards!) The SCC will be auctioning off awesome swag like crash pads, climbing videography workshops, rock gym passes, and even a climbing day with Lisa Rands.

Come to the BYOB party in Chattanooga –
I’ll be serving up all-you-can-eat chili all night!

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! 

Cozy bunks, robust coffee, and a killer crew at The Crash Pad hostel in Chattanooga

Throughout my travels, I’ve slept a lot of places. My tent has been pitched on plenty of plots of land, and then there have been the less dignified nights snoozing at truck stops or sleeping in my hatchback in Walmart parking lots.

I ain’t too picky when it comes to catching a few hours of rest.

During the summer’s final hoorah, a climbing trip to Georgia and Tennessee, I was spoiled with the most wonderful accommodations I have ever experienced during an outdoor adventure: The Crash Pad hostel in Chattanooga. I’ve been dying to check out this innovative lodging venue designed specifically for adventurers, but wasn’t able to make it happen until I won two free nights during their Ultimate Adventure contest – then it was game on.

After a hot and sticky day climbing at Rocktown, Niko and I drove up to Tennessee and made our way to Chattanooga’s charming Southside neighborhood. To my delight, The Crash Pad sits just around the corner from one of my favorite landmarks in town, the flashing signage from the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

Immediately upon walking into the hostel, I was greeted by the hostel’s directors of all things awesome, Al and John. They were as stoked to meet me as I was to finally meet them, and they totally made me blush with compliments about The Morning Fresh. Those fellas know how to woo a lady!

We checked in, and then got a little tour of the hostel. The cozy bunk area offered sturdy beds with great privacy curtains, and tons of outlets. Seriously, +100 for the abundance of outlets all over this hostel. We wandered towards our private room, and were instantly impressed by how perfectly simple the set-up was.

Just a big bed (with all linens provided), a little shelf with an alarm clock and lamp, a bright window, and a sweet modern sink. What more could you need? Everything was in pristine condition, and I loved the no-fuss, no-frills feel.

Bonus points: The property had recently broken ground on a new bar/restaurant, to be named the Flying Squirrel, which will make it nearly impossible to ever leave this pleasant plot of land. While it was a slight bummer for me wanting to take lots of pictures of the hostel’s exterior, I am elated to see that The Crash Pad’s success story is adding a new chapter – especially since it involves beer.

Basically, I am smitten with The Crash Pad.

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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! 

Official Results and Photos from Tally Rock Gym’s Save the South Competition!

I’ve kept you waiting long enough, it’s time to unveil the complete score listings and a few of my favorite shots from Tally Rock Gym’s phenomenal Save the South benefit competition for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. It was a great event, and between all our entry fees, raffle ticket sales and other donations, we raised over $1,600 for the SCC! I am proud to have been a part of the competition. Everyone climbed hard, and we even had a collection of climbers travel to Tallahassee just for the event.

Our swag table stood impressively next to the registration counter, and we outdid our expectations for raffle sales thanks to our eager competitors who all wanted a shot at our giveaways, which included: a free shoe certificate from Evolv, complimentary stay vouchers from The Crash Pad of Chattanooga, guidebooks from Greener Grass Publishing, tasty certificates from VooDoo Dog and Bagel Heads, a free hold set from So iLL, and a load of swag from Pusher/Revolution, Mountain Khakis, Rock Candy and Kendal Jackson Bags.

The actual competition went swimmingly, with many climbers racking up impressive scores and hardcore sends. I must give a big shout out to Louie, Usman and Mike Stanton, who traveled from out of town to climb at TRG. Coming from huge gyms with impressive setups, it was a big compliment when the boys spoke highly of our walls, routes, community and the great time they had at our gym.

Enough talkin’ – here are a few of my favorite photos from the event. Check Facebook tomorrow for a complete posting of all the photography. Scroll past the photos to view the complete score listing (of competitors who turned in their score sheets, many did not).



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Two days until Save the South – all our swag is in, and we’ve been featured in today’s Tallahassee Democrat!

The back room of the spare warehouse at the Tally Rock Gym is stacked with boxes from all our fantastic sponsors – our collection of giveaway swag is officially complete. If contributing to a good cause isn’t enough motivation to get you out to TRG’s Save the South climbing competition on Saturday, then our exhaustive list of prizes will certainly inspire you to chalk up.

We’ve been blessed with an amazing sponsorship line-up: The Crash Pad, Pusher/Revolution, Rock Candy, Kendal Jackson Bags, Greener Grass Publishing, VooDoo Dog, Bagel Heads, Evolv, Mountain Khaki, Momo’s, So iLL holds and of course, yours truly, TheMorningFresh.com – have I mentioned that we’re the official sponsor of the event scores? This is the only place you’ll be able to see a complete score listing.

A special thanks goes out to the Tallahassee based Ramba Consulting group for generously donating $500 directly to the Southeastern Climbers Coalition.

The most exciting news of the day comes from our local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat. Fellow climber Alice Hafer wrote a preview piece about the competition, and you can check it out here. For those of you fortunate enough to have a paper copy of today’s edition, you can find the article on page 4 of the Local section! Here’s a little preview from the piece, which she kindly interviewed me for:

“The SCC is a great organization not just for climbers, but for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. They establish a lot of hiking trails and clean-up days. If you appreciate Mother Nature, then you can appreciate the SCC,” Katie Boue, volunteer coordinator of the event, said.

This event is going to be the best comp yet, and I can’t wait to see how everyone performs. Tonight and Friday will be spent furiously stripping and setting at the gym, and climbers are reminded that Tally Rock Gym will be closed on Friday & Saturday for the competition! Keep yourselves busy on Friday as we give the gym a route make-over in preparation for Saturday’s event.

Update on The Crash Pad and a Peek at Tally Rock Gym’s “Save the South” benefit!

Today’s post is an update on two of my favorite things: The Crash Pad of Chattanooga and the Tally Rock Gym.

In late January, I shared my enthusiasm about a project put together to create an adventurer-friendly hostel in my beloved city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. My original post only showed an artist rendering of the future plans for the hostel.

Here’s two shots of the actual site of The Crash Pad. The first is from December 11, 2010 – not much to see besides an old pre-existing brick building covered in old tacky paint.

This next shot was taken on February 23, 2011. Now we’re talkin’! The building now seems to have all outer walls, a second story and I believe they’ve also begun work on the roof.

Awesome progress. What’s even better is that The Crash Pad has very generously become one of the sponsors for our upcoming “Save the South” fundraiser comp for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition!

What’s this “Save the South” shenanigan, you ask? Tally Rock Gym hosts an annual benefit event to raise money for the SCC, and I am working to make this year’s comp the best yet. Not only is The Crash Pad donating some awesome swag, we’ve also got some great local and climbing companies involved with our cause – Kendal Jackson Bags and Pusher/Revolution, to name a few.

Climbers, save the date. March 19th shall be a glorious spring day filled with brand new routes, awesome prizes and the usual ruckus. Oh, did I mention that The Morning Fresh is one of your lovely sponsors? I’m makin’ treats, get excited.

Stay tuned for the official event flyer, and loads more information about TRG’s “Save the South” event.

The Crash Pad of Chattanooga revolutionizes the hostel concept for adventurers of all breeds

Throughout the winter months, my climbing pals have been itching to head north to crags in Tennessee and Georgia. I have also craved an outdoors adventure, but the thought of spending a night sleeping outside in below freezing conditions usurps my desire to get my hands on real rock.

Frigid wind blowing through a flimsy tent as I shiver and shake my way through the night? No thanks, I’m a lady. Sleeping in a hotel is hardly an acceptable alternative; no self-respecting climber retreats to a fancy hotel after spending the day trekking through wilderness.

Thankfully, The Crash Pad is changing everything. The geniuses behind this phenomenal concept are bringing a hostel-style lodging facility to downtown Chattanooga, offering a haven for climbers, kayakers, hikers and every explorer in between.

According to their website, their mission is “to further establish Chattanooga as an ultimate outdoor destination by providing a base camp and community hub for adventurous travelers.” Hell yeah!


My favorite aspect of this establishment is their goal to blend the free spirit and sense of community you find in a hostel with the cleanliness and charming atmosphere of a small hotel. They hope to open by May 2011, and I will definitely be making a trip out to my beloved Chattanooga to scope it out.

Check out The Crash Pad’s Facebook page for constant updates on their construction process and related community events. They also post some sweet climbing videos.

Seriously, do I really need any more reasons to move out to Chattanooga? This place is just screaming my name. Someone needs to find me a good writing gig out there ASAP.