Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.

“Good morning,” said the mist.
“My, how polite!” I thought as I began my morning business.

Ahhhh the relaxation that comes from being in a cozy coffee shop when it’s all grey and misty outside. We thought to climb more this morning, but the metallic tapping of rain on the roof woke us up at 7:40am to tell us that it was time to chill out and take a day off.

It’s been a little while since our last update, so it’s hard to put words to everything. Perhaps a TOP TEN list of the highlights? Yes, I think that will do nicely….

Top ten highlights of the week.

#1. Yesterday we more-or-less said goodbye to Rocktown (at least for a little while). The irony that our “epic cross-country climbing trip” hasn’t taken us far from this one location is not lost on us, but there is just sooo much good climbing here. We’ve done a lot, and there is still so much to go!

Our Knoxville friends visited, which brought sunshine to an otherwise manky overcast day. It was cold and wet most of the time, which is deceivingly awful conditions for climbing (the cold makes you want to climb, but the humidity won’t let you). It was hard to get the engines going. Folks got on the Vagina (v8), but it didn’t feel prime. Accepting that nothing super hard or friction-dependent was going to happen, we just had a silly, casual rest of the day. There were lots of repeats. Olivia showed a friend around who had never climbed outside before (a whole new world!!). Ryan did tall things. Andrew made a lot of funny faces. I decided to try Idiot Roof (v6) one more time, and somehow dayflashed it. This is a huge relief, because now I never have to climb it again. (It sounds silly, but most climbers should understand the feeling.) But this one highlight has turned into a mini novel, so TL;DR = Andrew makes some pretty cool faces.

The coolest L-sit ever, courtesy of Ninja Robot.
Ryan practices making a “pretty cool face” in hopes of sending Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen (v9).
Olivia isn’t so much making a cool face, but I think she looks like a mermaid swimming up Contrail (v5) on the Comet Boulder.

#2. Drexel sent Golden Harvest!!!

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A post-send hug of gratitude and camaraderie.

Two days prior to this send, he had forgotten the supreme importance of staying hydrated, and it wasn’t pretty. Signs of dehydration in a climber include lack of temperature control, greasy fingers, premature pumping, and temper tantrums. Andrew, our new climbing guru, advises drinking a liter an hour before climbing, and at least another liter as the day progresses. With this advice in mind, Drexel spent a day recuperating and then the next day crushing. Golden Harvest is unanimously agreed to be one of the most aesthetic and classic problems in the entire country and Drexel was (insert excited words here).

#3. Watching Farmer Dave and Andrew traverse almost 80 feet alllll the way near the Ripple (v2) across some chossy mossy rock, over awkward jugs, and somehow still have the energy to finish up with Hueco Simulator. Dave shook out the pump with an epic knee bar before diving into the 25 footer. Even so, he was overgripping those jugs so hard. Everyone should try this.

A kneebar can span the gap between life and death.

#4. Right after sending Golden Harvest, his adrenaline pumping through all those tendons and muscles, Drexel flashed Swamp Sauce (v8). It came as a surprise, and he almost pooped his pants with joy.

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Getting saucy.

#5. While I was “spotting” Drexel, I managed to read three more chapters of Children of Dune. This is the third book in the Dune series, which was purchased at a strangely unorganized bookshop near Chattanooga. I managed to read the entire second book over the course of one rest day, bundled up in the back of the van underneath two sleeping bags. No matter what flavor you desire, there is nothing more delicious than a good book. Is this a real highlight? Yes, for sure.

#6. Since the first day of Rocktown, I’ve had my eye on Little Bad (v5). This is the beautiful bulgey rock that I might have mentioned earlier as being a climb that even a professionally strong, yet short, female climber had trouble on, just because of this one big move with no feet. Well… I found a foot! With super-cold/semi-dry conditions, I managed to hold the match long enough to pop a foot way high up onto part of the bulge and jump to the next hold. And whee! This is one of my proudest sends! At first, my skin kept greasing, even with the chilly temps, and I wasn’t sure if it would happen. Drexel insisted that I strip down to a tank top, basically freezing my butt off, and somehow this caused my fingertips to stop greasing. Worth it!

This isn’t Little Bad. But it’s a beautiful rock that expresses how I feel about sending. And feelings are important, too.

#7. Adding to all the excitement, Andrew was on FIRE. In one day, he checked two items off his ticklist: Iron Claw Sit (v10) and Blackout (v10). His grunting and screaming could be heard from miles away as he sent, with a final triumphant, “I AM A F#@!*ING MAN!” as he flexed from the top (no joke, that really happened). Drexel also sent Blackout, dehydrated and desperate and not as gracefully as Andrew, but he sent. And sometimes, that’s all that matters…

Andrew staying calm during the cruxy topout of Blackout (v10).
Another amazing Andrew face captured!

#8. Aside from the occasional epic try-hard moment, the past few days have felt remarkably casual and fun. I’ve really enjoyed climbing without any attachment to sending. One day was spent just wandering around visiting areas I had never been to. I didn’t send anything harder than the super fun Triple Slaps (v3), but what a funny little climb it was! This might not seem like a momentous highlight, but I look back at these days fondly. More and more, I’m finding that there is more to climbing than sending higher and higher grades. The hunger for new hard sends reminds me of Pac-Man on an ever-exhausting journey of eating up little dots, always in fear of the wandering ghosts. I prefer games like, “Pet the Puppy” or “Eat the chocolate.”

Triple Slaps (v3) is like a jungle gym!! Wheee!
Salt ‘n Pepper.

#9. This might be silly, but I consider it a highlight – after almost two months on the road, with plenty of stressful conditions, being together virtually 24/7, Drexel and I have not killed one another! Yippee!! I think being crammed together in a car with any other human being would be a huge challenge, but somehow we are managing to deal with stress together instead of divisively. Being human isn’t easy, and being human with another human doesn’t make it any easier. Some people pay big bucks to attend counseling or weekend workshops to learn about communication, problem solving, and finding balance, but they should probably just invest in a minivan.

Rocks are bringing us together instead of crushing us into meaty pancakes!

#10. And finally — last week, we spent our rest day at the Tennessee Aquarium! OH BOY!!! I had never been before, and it blew my mind!!! All the animals, the giant aquarium, a room of jelly fish, sharks, creatures I’d never seen before, were there for us to pet, or at least ogle. It was a whole new world, with unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings. Never fear, I took endless photos/videos, and soon enough will probably create the “A Day at the Aquarium” video that potentially nobody but myself will enjoy. But the other good news is that my underwater camera is, indeed, waterproof.

Moments before claustrophobia set in.
The most colorful, surreal jellyfish. I did not enhance this photo at all! And it still isn’t as vibrant as it was in person! Incredible. This exhibit made me want to install an aquarium inside my future home.
I really hope this clown fish (aka little nemo) isn’t missing his family.

And that’s all folks. We’ll be couchsurfing in Chattanooga during the next few rainy days and then it’s either Obed or HP40. The boys left me in a coffee shop while they’re exploring some nearby boulder fields (sigh), so it’s time for a comfy couch and Children of Dune (almost done!), and mayyybeee a fresh-out-of-the-oven caramel chocolate espresso brownie.

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