A day of fun with 21

“We don’t know who we are until we see what we can do.”
-Martha Grimes

There have been countless climbing challenge ideas thrown around amongst Boone climbers, ranging from the stupid (e.g. “the 24 challenge”) to the silly (e.g. naked climbing), but last weekend, wearing his new big-boy “I’m 21 mofo years old!” pants, Carson decided to lay down the hammer on 21 of his favorite v5 boulder problems around Boone.

Can you name all of these climbs?
Test yourself: Can you name all 21 of these climbs? Click the image and zoom to make it reeeeaalll big so you don’t have to be all squinty-faced while you play the guessing game..

The Bakker boyz managed to wrangle two Zachs and a hobbit (that’s me!) to follow them on their grand undertaking. After eight days on, I have no idea why Zach Briggs decided to spend his rest day driving us around to various crags and cheering us on, but if you see him, give him a high five or pat on the back for an out-of-this-world psyche level. The crew would not have been complete without the highly missed face of Zach Silberman who was in town for the weekend and kept me entertained with awesome stories from his adventures in Colorado. With a puppy in tow, we set off, unsure of our chances of success, but determined to spend a beautiful day among trees, rocks, and friends.

The final numbers at the end of the day were 21 climbs completed in 11 hours, with ~10 miles total hiked up and down and around virtually every single area of Blowing Rock, 221, and Grandmother. We left around 8am and made it back to Boone a little after 7pm. Carson and Drexel day flashed every single boulder except for two, and each one of them blames the other for bad beta. Still struggling with a finger injury and with soft gym skin, I felt accomplished for keeping up with the boys and at least touching every single problem. Climbing doesn’t always have to be a competition – it can just be plain silly fun that just coincidentally happens to help grow big beefy veiny forearms.

I was impressed by Carson’s commitment to staying true to the goal of exactly twenty-one v5s. Besides our initial warm-up, he did not lay a finger on a single other grade. I don’t know how doable this venture would have been if we had picked a higher grade or if Carson had just turned 50 years old instead of 21, but it surprised all of us how easy this was. Okay, maybe not “easy” but it certainly wasn’t as brutal as we had imagined. I only spotted a couple chicken wings and the guys actually cruised through the last few boulders of the day pretty smoothly, versus the dramatic pumping out and screaming and grunting one might expect after a long circuit day.

Highlights of the day, according to Drexel, were Cocaine Highway (that sh*t is TALL and SCARY! Carson giggled like a little schoolgirl at the top!) and finishing the day on the Long Wall classics.

The weather was perfect all day. Fall called and said she had a good time visiting and will be back in a couple weeks for a longer stay. I can’t wait to spend many more weekends in Boone getting my skin and psyche ready for prime climbing season! Don’t forget to register for Hound Ears!

Check out the photos of our day (that big thing above) and see if you can name every single one of the climbs. Is there a v5 you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Please sir, may I have some more?

I’ve been checking out the site stats lately and noticed a whole bunch of people are arriving at our site via random google searches (e.g. “rock climbing slang chuffer” or most popular in 2015, “capoiera v10”). While most of our visitors are from the United States, we have a fair sprinkling of folks coming from  countries like Israel, Jordan, Thailand, Japan, Spain and Germany.


#2 – It makes me wonder what kind of blog post is actually helpful and interesting to other people.

So I created this poll that I really hope all the regular readers – as well as completely random searching strangers – might answer. Feel free to add other answers, too! It would be oh-so helpful in how we continue to proceed with our blog, if at all.

If you have any additional information you’d like to convey to us, please feel free to let us know using the form below!

Sneak peek of more potential baby animals.
Sneak peek of more potential baby animals. This one is a baby sloth!

Four Less Traveled Southern V10’s

Me: “Drexel, what would you like to say about your video?”

Drexel: “This is me. I climb’did a rock.”

[pause, he glances at the screen to see what I’ve written]

Drexel: Oh. Please don’t post that.

Me: Okay. [click]

More info, as written by Drexel on vimeo: This year I tried to escape the crowds of the Big 3 (Rocktown, LRC, HP40) and explore some of the smaller satellite areas. What I found blew me away. Although the quantity couldn’t match up to the big 3, the quality of the stone and the climbing kept me coming back again and again. It was extremely rewarding to figure out a few climbs that aren’t done very frequently and showcase them here. The South is a truly magical place and I know I will be back for years to come. Big thanks to Organic Climbing as usual and thanks to everyone I met along the way for the good times.

Featured Climbs:
-Capoeira V10
-Bubba Gump V10
-Chattanooga Powerhouse V10
-Breadloaf Factory Low V10

Southern Comfort XVI

This past weekend Appalachian State University’s climbing team hosted their spring climbing competition, Southern Comfort XVI.


It was a BLAST!!!! I haven’t competed in ages, and I thought it would be a fun excuse to visit all my friends in Boone. I didn’t climb as well as I had hoped, and didn’t make it to finals,  but placed #1 in Women’s Advanced and came home with two sweet Organic bags!!!!!

omg bags

When I first got into the gym and started feeling out the problems, I’ll admit that a little bit of rage started bubbling up. I feel like there’s a lack of understanding in most gyms about how short a short-person is. So (a) I want setters to start being more creative in how to make a problem more difficult, aside from just putting in big moves, and (b) I need to figure out a way to channel that frustration into training harder, because I’ve been sorely slacking lately and that’s totes my fault for making poor life choices (chocolate > climbing?).

Just as a quick ruler idea from Drexel: when setting a move that is not intended to be a dyno, check the span from one fingertip to the opposite elbow. This may seem ludicrous, but that is actually my span compared to his.


So I went around and decided to give everything a three-go limit, starting with the hardest problems and working my way down. I’ve learned from previous comps that sieging is not the way to go. It quickly became apparent that all the advanced problems and most of the higher level intermediates were not feasible. I thought about getting upset. I saw other short girls getting upset. I actually saw one girl cry! But I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to climb hard-ish and have fun. So I just gave up on expectations and focused on problems that were more short-person-friendly. And that was fine. It was my attachment to a certain outcome that was the problem, not the outcome itself. If the ultimate goal is happiness/inner peace/what-have-you, then winning a comp should really be just a middleman, which means it is completely arbitrary. I shouldn’t need to “win” to have fun and feel good about myself.

I had left the competition early to answer my phone, went back inside to turn in my scorecard, and then finished up dealing with some really ridiculous situations going on back home — one of the plights of being an on-call therapist is that I have to stop whatever I am doing, 24/7, and deal with a client who was, in this situation, pooping all over the place as a power move against their parents. And then I got another call about a person trying to kill herself and had to somehow wave my magic wand and fix everything.

Sometimes I wonder why on earth I would choose to work in this field. Why didn’t I just stay in the minivan with Drexel, where everything was clean and calm and poop-free?

why god

I took a walk to clear my head, ate lunch, cuddled my puppy, and still ended up scoring a front row seat to watch FINALS!!!! I got super excited watching Melise, Rose and Kelsey cruising through all the Women’s Finals problems!!!! I thought it was neat that they changed the comp structure this year to allow for 3 females and 3 males, versus just top 3 coed competitors as they have in the past. Everyone took their seats and the heat was on!

Southern Comfort Girls
You can’t see it, but that dude on the right looked super jealous of Melise’s guns.
Carter was able to make that cool face in the split second after noticing I was take a photo. That takes some mad skillz.

The highlight of the finals was most definitely catching Melise flying through the air in slow-motion and completing potentially the hardest single move of the day. (Don’t mind the creepy demon chanting.) Carson and Jeph got PSYCHED!!!!!!

When everything was said and done, it was a great competition and a great weekend. Everyone went home with something cool, whether or not they placed, because of the insane amount of raffle prizes. AND I got to eat Cha Da Thai for dinner two nights in a row with my friends. AND some ladies took the plunge and bought themselves a pStyle! AND we (minus Carson) had a really nice group hug slash kumbayah circle. AND don’t forget those Organic bags!! How could life get any better than this?!

Photo stolen from http://cruxcrush.com. This could be you!

Comment below and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win your very own pStyle!!!!

Dik-diks, Dixon, and Dilly-Dallying

Drexel is still on the road, doing his best to keep the cross country crimpers alive and crushing projects left and right. He claims his fingers are so sore from climbing that he’s unable to write any of his own entries, so here’s a quick list of his latest sends: Osiris V10, Bubba Gump V10, Bread Loaf Factory V10, and the most epic, Western Gold V11.

I mainly know about these sends because I’ll be at work, in my “big kid” job as a therapist, in a session with a client who is yelling or crying or throwing things, when my phone will blow up with ten texts consisting primarily of exclamation points and excited emoji faces. My first thought when I hear the continuous earthquake vibrations of my phone is, “Uh oh, someone else is in crisis!” so I’ll find some excuse to check the screen. Lo and behold, Drexel has triumphed again! “I did it! I did it! I did it!” he texted.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to join Drexel, Carson and Jeff on a lovely outing to Dixon School Boulders. If you’ve never heard of this place, check out this neat video starring Zach and the Bakker boys talking about Dixon and sending some of the classics. As Zach says in the video, it’s definitely worth checking out, spending a day amongst the trees and rocks on a beautiful, quiet mountainside with gorgeous views.

Dixon boulders is a small bouldering area owned by Crowders Mountain State Park near Kings Mountain, NC. It’s maybe 1.5 hrs from Asheville, 2.5 hrs from Boone. It’s a metaconglomerate rock, which might mean nothing to climbers except that the grain size and quality changes drastically from one end of the boulder field to the other. There are maybe 40-50 total climbs, with only 20-25 being high quality and a couple big projects still waiting for a strong climber to give them a name.


We first warmed up at a large chunk of rock containing countless fun v0-v3s and also a tricky barndoor problem courtesy of Ian Rogers called Barnyard Banshees v5. From there we moved up the hill to Classic Overhang v3 and Beelzebub Roof v5. Zach makes this climb look easy in the video and Jeph flashed the pants off of it, but I struggled pretty hard to gain momentum to reach certain holds and still have enough power to clamp down on the pebbles up top. I flailed a bit, grunted, sighed, told the group we could move on, started to pack up, and then had a sudden burst of angry determination that I was able to ride to a final send. WHOOSH. Sometimes there really is power in a “last go, best go” gritty determination.

Image captured from Dixon School Boulder video of Zach on Beelzebub v5.

We tromped our way up and over to one of the best boulders at Dixon, Atlas v7. It starts with a really fun traverse leading up to a tricky face slab. Lil Bakker projected the poop out of this boulder back in the day, and now he’s a lean mean climbing machine who eats v7s for breakfast.

Atlas v7
Drexel showing us all how to gently pat-pat-pat a teensy widdle crimp. “There there…. there there….”
Jeph claims he doesn’t do a lot of yoga, but he hand-foot matched like a regular downward dogger and said, “Namaste? Nah, mus’ go!” as he flowed to the top of Atlas v7.


Let me say for the record that I have NEVER felt so supported in my entire climbing life as I did on Atlas. After everyone else sent, Carson, Jeph and Drexel became the world’s best support crew. They showered me with compliments and offered wild incentives that tapped into my deepest desires. I have never wanted a boulder so bad, and been so frustrated by tired fingers. After finally linking all the moves together and figuring out that I could indeed complete the top part through slow suspenseful weight-management and arms stretching at full span so I looked like a gloriously awkward starfish, I just…. I just couldn’t do it. Here I was on the brink of complete life satisfaction, and…. nothing. This might be my biggest deathbed regret.

Next up was Drexel’s biggest project, the terrifyingly tall Leaning Tower v8.  It’s arguably one of the best lines at the park, but is also extremely tall and intimidating and has a very committing last move that Drexel was mentally unable to make himself go for. He’s worked this problem enough times to pretty casually move up the arete and get himself in position to dyno to the top, but the idea of doing a big throw at that height and falling was too big of a fear factor.

Even scrolling through the photo takes a long time!


We ended the day on Venom v5 and Venom Direct v6, completing Jeph’s Dixon circuit experience.  We marched back to the Crowders Mountain State Park parking lot with smiles on our faces. We all agreed that the pebbles hurt, but our skin looked a lot better than it had before. My gym skin definitely needed some good pebbly scraping to get it ready for next weekend’s trip to Rumbling Bald.

Back at home, we had a lovely night with Drexel and Carson’s family. We even got Nana to add her vote to “Cutest Baby Animal”! But we need your help!!!! DESPERATELY!!!! We narrowed it down to top five contenders: Dik-Dik, Slow Loris, Wallaby, Wolf, or Panther. Please vote in the poll below so we can figure this out once and for all.


My vote was for Dik-Dik! It’s tiny, it’s awkward, it has oddly tiny ankles, what’s not to like?
I won’t lie. I’m biased. So Dik-dik times TWO!


Adult Slow Loris look like Pokemon.
SEE!?!?!? POKEMON!!!!
Willaby wallaby woo, an elephant sat on you!
Peekaboo, peekaroooooo!
TIL: Even black panthers have spots.




Invisible Ethics of Conversation

Have you ever played the game The Sims? Remember how when two people are talking for a while you start to earn points on your relationship meter? That’s how real life is, only not. Talking to another person can be a magical thing. It can make you feel more alive and connected. Almost any conversation can be an enjoyable, beautiful thing that changes both of your lives for the better. You have the ability to take it to this place. You also have the ability to crush all the joy out of a conversation and put everyone in a grouchy, aggressive mood. Which one do you prefer?

“The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace…”


Rules of conversation can vary slightly based on the degree of rapport you already have with a person. A conversation with a stranger or roommate might be a lot different than a conversation with your best friend. Regardless of whom you are speaking with, it can’t hurt to keep in mind these Invisible Ethics of Conversations:

1) When someone else is talking, focus on “What is this person really saying?” rather than, “What do I want to say in response to this?” While sometimes it is appropriate to share a story in response to someone else’s story, it is not okay to interrupt their story to do so. This might be a really hard concept to accept, but the world does not revolve around you. People are not necessarily fascinated with everything you have to say.

blah blah
Oh yeah? Your mom is blah blah blah.


2) When you ask a question, give the person a chance to response. Don’t interrupt their answer to bring it right back to you. Give them a moment to think. Silence is okay. Take a deep breath and wait patiently for an answer. Do not ask a question just because you really want an excuse to answer it yourself. YOU ARE NOT THAT COOL. STOP IT.

3) Try to give all parties involved an even amount of talking time. Shoot for 50/50 or 60/40. Once you get to the 80/20, 90/10 or god forbid 100/0, this is no longer considered a “conversation” but becomes “ranting” or “venting.” I know they both having the same root ending, but a monologue is not a dialogue. Unless you began this social interaction with the understanding that you were going to dominate the air space, there is no excuse for your selfish behavior. Make the world a better place and please just stop doing that.

If people often look like this when you are talking, you are doing something wrong.

3) Be aware of your agenda when talking — Are you trying to build a relationship? Offer someone advice? Gain information? Vent about something bothering you? Impress someone? Once you identify your agenda, make sure your behaviors are congruent with your goal. IF you are trying to impress someone, be aware that talking about yourself and your great qualities can actually hurt your relationship and backfire on you by making you look like a tool. Learn the phrase, “Show, don’t tell” to remind yourself to demonstrate your qualities versus talking about them. Don’t tell someone, “I’m a fun guy” but actually do something that brings enjoyment to others so they can see how fun you are. Especially when meeting someone for the first time, there is nothing more annoying that screams insecurity than a long drawn-out story highlighting how awesome you are. The best response to this type of story is a, “Yeah you’re really cool” and then walk away.

I care what you have to say.
Oh yeah, that’s fascinating.

4) Learn active listening responses like:
a. Reflection: “It sounds like… you were really feeling [emotion] about this.”
b. Summarization/Paraphrasing: “So you’re saying that…. ?”
c. Ask open-ended questions: “What did you mean when you said….?” or “What was it like to… ?”


5) Pay attention. Look at the person talking. Smile, nod, make eye contact, notice what’s going on with both of your body languages and adjust accordingly. Unless you are expecting an emergency, do not pick up phone calls or answer texts. That is equivalent to abruptly interrupting your conversation to start talking to the random guy next to you. Most phone communication can wait 10 minutes. Having a phone is not an automatic excuse to be rude.

6) Learn to fight fair. If you disagree with something the other person is saying, understand that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. You are probably not going to change someone else’s mind. The best you can hope for is a shared respect of each other’s viewpoints. Do not state your own opinion as fact (unless in the rare case that it is), but rather, “I feel that….” Or “Hmm, I can see how you would think that. My take on the matter is…” Unless this is a debate club, you are not going to get a prize for being right. Rethink your agenda: Is your focus to build a relationship, or build your ego? Sometimes it is very fun and enjoyable to argue when done in a fair, friendly way. Sometimes it is just abrasive and obnoxious. If you are arguing just to have another excuse to dominate the conversation, stop it.

Do not take advice from Calvin.


Have I missed anything? Please let me know in the comments below!

Following the adventures of two rock climbers and their minivan


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