Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

We actually just arrived in Hueco Tanks, Texas, but there are a couple of posts to catch up on...

We planned our last day at HCR to be a full day of trad climbing, but it ended up being a bit of everything. The first route of the day was Treebeard 5.7, a nice hand/fist sized crack. Here is Kristal racked up at the bottom and again almost at the top.

We then went to look at some of the other awesome crack climbs in the area but it actually turned out we didn't really have suitable gear, and with the constant threat of rain we didn't want to chance it. Instead we jumped on a trio of cool sport routes, which were super fun despite being dirty from the previous night's rain.

To round out the day we jumped on a few boulder problems. Here's me on Old English V3, an incredible arĂȘte slab. I had tried this problem a couple of days before wearing my Solutions with little luck. Kristal kept telling my to try my flat shoes on the slabby problems and I finally had them with me. Amazing what a difference the right shoe makes!

Me on High Five V4, a one move wonder to the lip.

Kristal on another awesome slabby arĂȘte, Make You Cuss V2.

Me on The Crescent V3, a super fun (with the right beta) featured slab.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Heading West

On Wednesday, we left Horse Pens 40 for Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Arkansas, In some ways it felt like the real starting point to our road trip, as HCR was the first destination we hadn't already visited. A ten-hour drive brought us through northern Mississippi, western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas and into the Ozarks. While they don't exactly qualify as real mountains, the Ozarks are some pretty big hills and Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is quite remote. Late at night the approach seemed a bit sketchy. The road was steep, winding and covered in goats.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is a pretty interesting climbing destination. It's actually a dude ranch. And from what I can tell, they appear to ranch goats. Everywhere you go, the sweet, melodic sound of goats bawling accompanies you like the soundtrack to your climbing adventure.

Though anyone who's watched as many climbing videos as I have would assume HCR is a bouldering destination, there's actually a ton of climbing here too. We spent our first day sport climbing some really fun routes. The second day was spent bouldering. The problems were pretty high quality, but the quantity was limited. Thundershowers forced us to take a rest day today, but if the weather clears tomorrow we're going trad climbing. And hopefully will remember to pack a camera so we can post some more pics.

Our campsite, looking across the canyon.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Horse Pens 40

With a small general store, restaurant, showers and camping 100 feet from the crag, Horse Pens 40 is the bouldering equivalent of a 5 star resort. There are over 400 documented problems on quality sandstone, with nice landings, spread over a small, easily accessible area.

For all its awesomeness there is a price though. On your first encounter with the typical 'Horse Pens topout' or 'squeeze problem' you may be mistified by the grades, or even the possibility of a problem. There is always a period of adjustment, as you relearn how to climb, and give rarely used muscles a good workout. Even though we were both here last November it was only on day 4 that we finally started to feel comfortable with the rock again.

We were already nursing tender finger tips from Stone Fort and Rocktown, so day 1 was pretty harsh. Day 2 was our mileage day, with fully taped fingers we climbed over 30 easy-ish problems. Here's Kristal eating lunch.

Here are some clasic 'squeeze problems'. Me on Centerpede V4.

Kristal on Dope V2.

Me on Double Groove V3.

Even though the slopers outnumber the crimps, there is a bit of everything here. Here's Kristal at the top of Merlin V1, a nice high slab climb (the bottom half is hiding behind the Millipede boulder).

Me on Genesis V3.

Kristal on Earth Wind and Fire V3, an awesome trad style slabby groove problem.

Me on Hammerhead V5, one of the few roof problems with positive holds (and the typical HP topout of course).

The easy access to the boulders also makes for ideal night climbing. As the weather gets warmer during the day, it's pretty rare not to see headlights wandering throughout the boulders at night. Here is Kristal on Bum Boy V3, seeking out the better friction that comes with cooler night temps. Thanks to Wes and the other guys there for the awesome beta session on it. I don't think I've ever seen a problem with so many different ways to send.

The uniqueness of the rock, and the moves required to tame it, are oddly captivating. I'm already looking forward to the next visit.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Invasion of the Ticks

The last few days saw us fending off an unprecedented attack of ticks. I actually had one latch onto my back (gross), found one crawling on my arm, and saw three others crawling on the tent. We were camping out in the actual, honest to goodness woods near Rocktown. It's another awesome southern sandstone destination just outside of Lafayette, Georgia. Despite it's relative remoteness, there are several camping areas with unserviced sites that are mostly used by hunters. So we still found an awesome place to put up our mansion. Here is Kristal preparing dinner.
The climbing is really nice, with a healthy percentage of overhanging hardness. Our tips were still in pretty rough shape from Stone Fort, so we went into full skin management mode. At one
point Kristal had all of her fingers taped.

Here is Kristal getting set for the big throw for the lip on Left El Bano V2.

Me on Triple Slaps V3, featuring 3 awesome huecos and some pretty cool moves.

The Orb, a ridiculous free standing rock with a lot of cool problems.

Kristal on (I can't remember the name) V3, a cool flake traverse to a cool topout.

Me on the top of Soap on a Rope V4.

Kristal on some fun and easy unknown face climb.

And nothing like ending the day on 20 feet of V6 slab. Needless to say this is about as high as we got.
I also managed to spend some time fiddling with my new camera. Here's long exposure shot of the boulderers next door to us.

Today was a travel day and we are now at Horse Pens 40. More on that in the next post but I just have to say that although it was pretty sweet to be camping out in the middle of nowhere it is really nice to be somewhere with water, showers, boulders 100 feet from the tent, no bugs and most of all, no ticks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We spent the last two days bouldering at Stone Fort (aka Little Rock City) outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Stone Fort is a pretty unique destination in that it is on the property of a golf course. It's pretty odd to see prim and proper golfers and dirtbag climbers sharing the same venue. The rock is sandstone and our tips are pretty shot after two long and awesome days on the rock.

Here's a shot of the course behind the clubhouse. The boulders are in the woods on the left.

Proof that at least the management of the place has accepted climbers into the fold...

Kristal in a cool hueco.

Me on Tri-Star, an awesome V4 crack.

Kristal on Dragon Back, a really cool V1 feature climb.

Kristal on Mizzen Mast V1, a cool lip traverse.

On the way back to the campground we stopped at a swanky reclaimed industrial area that has been turned into yuppie central. The place makes Westboro look like a trailer park. We stopped in at the organic grocery store, pictured below (complete with reserved low emission vehicle parking). It was like going to the zoo to look at all the new age hippies. I almost got trampled by a herd of soccer moms with yoga mats as we were leaving. Luckily there were some fast food joints a couple of blocks away. It was nice to be back in the real 'Merica.

Today we are heading to Rocktown, another sandstone gem, where we will be back country camping. No more internet from the tent, :(, so it might be a while for the next update.

Friday, April 9, 2010

When Boulderers Tie In

Despite the title of this blog, I actually packed 427 feet of rope and hoped to use at least some of it. Today was our last day in Red River Gorge and, somehow, I managed to convince Jason to go trad climbing- no small feat. Anyone who’s climbed with him knows he’s perfectly happy to pull impossibly difficult moves far above a crash pad, but tying into a rope makes him a little nervous.

After indulging in the first real cup of coffee I’ve had in a week (thanks to Joe, who actually packed a coffee grinder and French press), we headed to Fortress Wall, home to a series of high quality cracks. We started out on a super easy 5.4, an offwidth 5.5, and a 5.6 with marginal gear. Party Time, a five star 5.7 was awesome, a fist to offwidth sized crack with great views. I got a little nervous on the lead when I managed to run out of appropriately sized gear and had to push my last cam a good 15 feet, but the quality climbing more than made up for it. I think even Jason enjoyed it; as I belayed him up I overheard comments about how fun the climbing was and he only looked mildly terrified as he reached the ledge. :)

Our last climb of the day was pretty unique. A hand sized crack with an offwidth pod called Snake. Below is a pic of Jason cleaning it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bouldering in the Red

Two days in at the Red and it's been pretty awesome. There's a whole crew from Ottawa here right now and it's pretty sweet to be climbing and chilling with some familiar faces. We are all staying at Lago Linda's and I have to say it's super chill compared to the madness of Miguel's.

Yesterday was a pretty easy day of sport climbing and today I managed to convince Kristal to go bouldering. To put it in perspective the guidebook contains over 600 trad routes, 500 sport routes and a grand total of 11 boulder problems. Needless to say this isn't a bouldering destination, so I was pretty happy to be climbing in my element for a while. Below is The Pearl at Eastern Sky Bridge Ridge.

We were also planning to hit up a nice easy trad route but managed to get lost on the way to the crag. What was supposed to be an easy 20 minute approach turned into an hour and a half epic, with much bushwhacking through dense underbrush. Wearing sandals. We eventually made it, but by the time we got there we were pretty short on daylight. We were both pretty spent anyway so we called it a day.

As long as the weather holds, tomorrow will be an entire day of trad climbing. Kristal is pretty excited. I will try my best to climb through the fear...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Luxury Dirtbagging

Well, we hit the road tomorrow. We spent the day on my parent's farm pimping out the car and packing it up. We are all good to go! Check out the pics of our awesome new house on wheels...

We took the rear seats out of the car and built a platform so we can sleep in it when we need to. It's amazing how comfortable the bed is and I can't believe how much space there is now. For the most part, we'll be sleeping in our ridiculous 6 person, 3 room tent though...

Hopefully it doesn't fall apart in a month. First destination is Red River Gorge in Kentucky!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Moving On

For the last two years, I've been spending two weeks a month in Ottawa, two weeks in London, and hundreds of hours driving back and forth on the Highway 401. The long hours stuck in my car gave me plenty of time to mull over the climbing trips I'd take when my contract ended. The more time I spent stuck in traffic, the more elaborate my climbing trip daydreams became, until, with a little help from Jason, plans to spend a week down in the Red evolved into this grand trek across North America.

Today, I made the drive back to London for the last time. After two years, I'm definitely a little sad to be leaving Ottawa, but very stoked about the upcoming adventure. Thanks to everyone who made the last couple of years so memorable. I'll miss you. As for you, Highway 401, I won't miss you at all. There are new roads to travel.