I suppose I’ll keep the blog ball rolling, since certain people (cough Drexel cough) have avoided carrying their share.
This past weekend I took the 3.5 hour drive to Chattanooga to hang out and climb with Drexel and Melise. A drive of 3-4 hours is just long enough to make you antsy, but short enough that you could probably survive without stopping if you were determined enough.
Saturday was kind of grey and gross, but we got out for a nice hike with the pup to look at the surprisingly impressive and proximal Apartment Boulders. I won’t tell you where they are (just in case this is supposed to be a local’s only secret) but I bet you could find out if you were persistent. It’s crazy to see boulders so close to civilization, until you stop and remember that the boulders were here first, so it’s less “Whoa, how did those boulders get here!?” and more “Whoa! Why did someone build apartments so close to large rocks?!”
Sunday we went to Rocktown. It felt very nostalgic after our month of calling this place home. It was also an incredible feeling to touch real rock, when my weekly training consists solely of plastic. It’s hard to describe the pleasurable experience of your body going through familiar movements on warm-ups as beautiful and textured as the Hueco area, but maybe a picture can do it justice?
The only thing more fun than exploring Rocktown on your own is sharing Rocktown with a climber who is there for their first time. There is a strange satisfying joy that comes from showing someone all your favorite climbs. And even moreso, seeing someone flash the pants off of all your favorite climbs. Because honestly, that’s what happened when Melise met Mr. Rocktown. By the end of the day, Melise was victorious, and Mr. Rocktown had no pants on.
One by one, they fell before her – Hueco Simulator V-scary, Nose Candy, Sherman Photo, Helicopter, Standard Deviation, Golden Showers (second-go, the only non-flash send of the day)… It was INSANE!
Not to be outdone, Drexel sent Triple Threat V9, one of the few remaining Rocktown climbs on his ticklist.
I had no impressive sends for the day. Confidence tip: Set the bar super low and then exceed expectations no matter what you do!
My main goal for the day was to teach Rumi how to be a good crag dog. He did a pretty good job, except for that one time something snapped in his tiny furry brain and he went into crazy mode of run-in-circles-as-fast-as-possible-omg-run-run-run. I believe the term I’ve heard other dog owners use is that he got the “zoom-zooms.” Regardless, he had fun and made some new friends:
Overall, a great day. We had been planning to hit up the Hot Chocolatier in the evening after inventing a point system in which Melise had earned herself at least three liquid truffles for 50+ V points, but alas the shop was closed on Sundays. But put away those sympathy notes — we were sneaky and managed to create our own truffley-fudgey-deliciousness back home using melted chocolate bars and cream. Crisis averted.
New video out. Thanks to Organic for the support, and all the wonderful Booners. http://vimeo.com/113348945 Drexel is having a blast climbing in Chattanooga on the daily, kicking it with Mike and a chiweenie. I’m jealous (about both those things), but too busy coloring feelings with adorable little demon children and their families (yay “real” jobs). This upcoming winter break should see an increase in climbing, psyche, and trips with all our friends to Rocktown, LRC and maybe even Rumbling Bald (Dec. 13th Triple Crown!).
p.s. Good news for all you Asheville climbers: The new Chocolate Lounge just opened, and it’s easy jogging distance from Climbmax downtown. So set yourself a goal of climbing all the v3s — I mean 3 stars — er, I mean dots? Yes. Dots. Climb all the dots, and then get yourself a hot cup of salted caramel liquid truffle. (Or just skip the climbing and go straight to the chocolate – teehee!) … (You know who you are.)
This weekend marked the beginning of the 2014 Triple Crown Bouldering competition series, and also the first weekend that was super friggin’ cold! It felt like one of those middle school nights where first you soak in a hot tub, then plunge into a frigid cold swimming pool while shrieking with delight, and then pop back in the hot tub and do this over and over again. Except that the hot tub just closed for six months and you have to stay in the pool until then. Yes, winter has arrived this weekend and it’s here to stay, so you better learn to enjoy it.
(If you didn’t do that hottub/pool thing in middle school, sorry, but you missed out big time.)
We were both psyched to help out during Hound Ears as judges, arriving at the campground at 6:45am on the day of the comp. While waiting around a couple hours for the morning drizzle to dry off the rocks, we took advantage of the free coffee provided by Thea from Footsloggers (thanks!). After five cups it was time for me to do… something! Anything! SO MUCH ENERGY. Soon the rocks were dry enough and I (very excitedly) helped herd people onto shuttle busses and made awkward caffeine-fueled conversation with folks as I collected their waivers. Despite one bus breaking down, all 400+ people finally made it up to the boulder field and things could start.
I was initially looking forward to running around Hound Ears climbing with all my friends. Then last weekend, my ankle was kicked out during a soccer game and plans changed. My new goal became hobbling around slowly without hurting my ankle worse, cheering on friends and strangers, and signing scorecards as an official judge.
Olivia’s recent blogposts have been super inspirational about having a positive attitude while injured. It also helps that the world is a beautiful place (especially in the fall) so my view of people climbing looked like this:
When I wasn’t busy signing scorecards or hiding my frigid fingers deep into pockets, I managed to snap off a few photos:
People turned in their scorecards and meandered back to the campground to eat chili. Slowly but surely, the sky darkened and things got more interesting. There was a pad-stacking contest (who can balance atop the highest # of crashpads), winners were announces, and some numbered balls were thrown into the audience. I was busy cuddling with a shivering puppy in the minivan, but Drexel and his brother Carson caught ALL THE BALLS and won some legit stuff, like a new chalk pot, down jacket, and framepack. These are not your average door prizes ladies and gentlemen.
Back home again, but we’re looking forward to Stone Fort at the end of this month. I’m crossing my fingers that my sprained ankle will be healed up by then, but if not, I look forward to signing everyone’s scorecards again with a big red “J.”
So yes, it’s been over three months since the last post. THREE MONTHS! Whatever could we be doing instead of throwing ourselves at real rocks all day, huddling in a minivan every night, and crossing the country in search of the best carousel ride??? Well, that’s a good question…
1) We’ve been living and working in good ole Asheville (“Ashevegas”), the hotspot for local beer, vegan gluten-free restaurants, ridiculously happy well-rounded children, and chakra-opening crystals.
2) We have been climbing as much as possible at Iron Palm Bouldering, our favorite indoor gym in Asheville. We’ve also met some super awesome climber folks who CRUSH and also just happen to love chocolate and puppies as much as I do. Speaking of…
3) We adopted a PUPPY!!!! His name is Rumi. He likes tummy rubs, licking inside of ears, and will trot around the house with his water bowl in his mouth when it is empty. Yes, he is the smartest, cutest, bestest puppy in the whole wide world.
Those are the main points. I won’t bore you with details about all the 7 Wonders games, tea times, dinner parties, hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the day we managed to boil, peel, squeeze and freeze over 50 tomatoes that a farmer gave me after I volunteered with them for a day.
Starting on Monday, Drexel will return to the wonderful, magical vagabond life. I’ll be holding down the fort in Asheville with Rumi and my big-kid job as a family therapist. So dear readers, prepare for a slew of extremely climber-centric posts as rock after rock crumbles beneath Drexel’s large manly phallanges. I apologize to our mothers who probably still think it’s silly to grunt up a rock face when you can just as easily walk around, but I’m sure all of our friends will be full of that dirty P-word.
I’ll be meeting up with Drex in Arkansas around Thanksgiving, and it would be sooo cool to see all of our cross-country friends again at HCR and Cowell. We also look forward to seeing everyone at the upcoming Triple Crown events!!! SIGN UP BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!!
That’s right – a “what we would have done differently (or not)” post. That seems almost criminal after over five months on the road, making mistakes and getting messy and learning from so much trial-and-error. I would have loved to read an article like that before our trip.
To add some incentive, about two months ago (right as our trip ended), we got a comment from the burrow files asking us for a post on lessons learned. So this is for you buddy.
[For those of you just joining us, here’s a quickie context: we have just completed a five+ month cross-country rock-climbing road trip while living in a minivan. We started in the Southeast (Rocktown & Stonefort/Little Rock City), then Arkansas (Horseshoe Canyon Ranch & Cowell), Joe’s Valley, and finally Lake Tahoe. We spent about a month in each place with small stops in between locations.]
So without further ado, LESSONS LEARNED:
#1 – Choose your vehicle (and interior design) wisely. We picked a minivan for this trip, hoping to find a nice compromise between spaciousness and gas mileage ($$$). Along the way, we saw other minivans, but we were jealous of the gigantic Sprinters. If we were going to live out of a vehicle for the long-long-term, a Sprinter for two people is the way to go. It’s like a studio apartment on wheels. But yeah, they are ridiculously expensive.
We saw people make do in their Subaru Outbacks, which is cramped but certainly livable for one person. This girl [KP] just started her trip, and she got a pop-up tent on top of her car. One couple we met pulled a T@B camper behind their truck. There are lots of possibilities, and I could never provide the full-spectrum of options that you could get by a simple google search. It’s up to you to decide what kind of set-up will fit your budget and specific travel needs.
If you are going to go with a minivan, it’s definitely not a bad choice. It just takes a little bit of remodeling.
WHAT WE DID: We had a Toyota Sienna. We removed all the rear seats and built a futon-style bed frame with three panels. The back panel lifted up to store two crashpads and our cooking equipment. The middle panel lifted up to become the “back” of the futon while the front panel could move forward and back to transform from “couch mode” to “bed mode.” Underneath the frame we could fit five large plastic bins with all of our belongings. This was definitely livable, but poor 6’2″ Drexel was too tall to sit up comfortably on the couch, and our stuff was difficult-to-impossible to retrieve from underneath the frame while in “bed mode.” It was easy for things to become messy. We had built our design around the concept that we needed space for maximum storage, instead of for comfort and ease of use. That was a mistake.
WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE DONE: We should have built side panels for storage that would nestle in the rear windows, like so:
One design that could have been a better use of the space is this pull-out slat bed. It would have been very nice to have that empty space during the day just for stretching and breathing, since the inside of the van always felt very cramped no matter what “mode” it was in.
With a sofa bed design like this one, we could have invited friends inside on cold rainy nights instead of feeling claustrophobic cramming people on our bed and bumping heads against the ceiling. During the day, we could have had a place to stretch or sit more comfortably. We could have had room for stackable plastic drawers, to increase the amount of easily-accessed items (e.g. clothes and food). We saw a guy who bungee-corded one of these behind the drivers seat and that seemed pretty smart to us.
That’s all I’ll say about vehicle design. There are plenty of sites with blueprints for building different features into your van or car. It wouldn’t be too difficult to live comfortably and affordably. Just remember that space and comfort are going to be more important than you might initially assume, so plan wisely. Your space should feel like a home, because that’s what it is going to be.
#2 – Bring less stuff. A lot less.
We had five full bins of stuff stored under our bed: one bin each for cloths or personal items, two bins total for food, and a “fun box” with books, art supplies, etc. With proper planning, we could have managed with NO BOXES. We could have used a 4-bin plastic storage tower for clothing and daily food, the side window storage (see photo above) for books, climbing gear, etc, and then the storage inside the bench-bed for food storage and miscellaneous supplies like chalk (since we liked to stock up).
It was just silly how many clothes we brought and never touched since we ended up wearing the same three outfits in rotation (Drexel basically wore the same zion prana pants for the entire five months). When your clothes get too stinky to feel okay about it, there are laundromats everywhere.
We also didn’t need as much back-up food like cans and boxes of easy-mac (some which came on the full trip with us and are still alive to this day!). At no point were we more than an hour or two from a grocery store, and there was absolutely no risk of starving. We had planned for a more extreme form of survival than necessary. If you need anything at all, you can probably find it on the road, so don’t bother packing for all those “just in case” moments. I won’t say more about packing because we wrote an entire blog on “The Must Haves and the Must Have-Nots (Of Packing).”
The bottom line is – pack less stuff than you might originally think you’ll need. You’ll thank yourself for the extra space later.
#3 – Have a fast, convenient way to boil water. Like a tiny tea kettle. Or those JetBoil things. Or anything else that does the trick of boiling water without lugging out all your cooking equipment. All we brought on our trip was a pot (for making pasta or quinoa) and a cast iron skillet for sauteing veggies. With only one big pot to use for everything, all of our oatmeal, tea and coffee had tiny flecks from last night’s dinner floating around. A small tea kettle would be faster and ensure that all we poured would be water. And that all we poured would go into the intended container, instead of splashing everywhere (our pot didn’t have a special lip for pouring ease). Do everything you can to make the morning process easier and calmer. If you can boil water for coffee and oatmeal without having to get out of the van, or even out of bed, you’re probably doing something right.
#4 – Depending on where you want to go on your trip, having AWD could be essential.
We survived on muddy and icy roads, but only sometimes from sheer luck. If we did this trip again, we’d either avoid sketchy roads, or choose a different vehicle. As it was, we slipped into an icy ditch on the way to Rocktown and got stuck in the mud in Arkansas. If you’re road-tripping in the winter and don’t have an AWD, be prepared to change your plans when the weather is feeling mischievous.
#5 – Budget wisely. Life doesn’t have to be expensive. Research ahead of time to find out how much it costs to climb at different places and plan accordingly (e.g. HCR is $5/day while the nearby Cowell is free). Find the cheapest (aka free) camping whenever possible. We made this easier for you with our Low-Down on Climbing and Camping, but you might need more extensive searching depending on where/when you’re going. When saving up money for your trip, just remember that food-wise you will probably spend $200-300/month (if you buy cheap groceries and also eat out a small handful of times). The only other expenditures should be gas (use this easy gas budget tool), climbing gear (e.g. chalk, replacement shoes) and then maybe bills from back home (e.g. cell phone). You might want to allocate a small budget for “fun” stuff, like riding carousels (don’t worry, most are 25¢ or 50¢) or expensive must-sees like the Tennessee Aquarium. Our trip ended when we ran out of money. It was also getting too hot to climb, so it worked out fine, but don’t let money be the sole dictator of your life.
#6 – Be prepared for the season.
We mentioned this in “The Must Haves and the Must Have-Nots (Of Packing)” but know what weather you’re going to be experiencing and make sure you have a warm enough sleeping bag. There were many a night that I did not sleep because I was too busy shivering and whimpering softly. A few months later, we were sweating and getting bitten by mosquitos because we had to crack a window to not suffocate on the humid heat. These problems could have easily been solved by a better sleeping bag and screens over the windows, neither which wouldn’t cost much, but might take a bit of pre-planning. (Worth it.)
#7 – If you’re a girl, you NEED a FUD.
FUD stands for “female urination device.” I recommend the pStyle. Stand and pee. No fuss. ‘Nuff said.
#8 – If you’re driving long distances, get a book on tape.
We didn’t have one when we drove from Chattanooga, TN to Arkansas, and that was a looong car ride, I’ll tell you what.
#9 – Driving, climbing, or hiking, stay very very hydrated.
It’s easy to not drink water when you’re driving, but if you’re intending to climb the next day, you need to drink. We had one of those 5 gallon plastic jugs and were able to refill it everywhere we went (there are spigots everywhere – on the road leading to Rocktown and even out front of the grocery store in Joe’s Valley). Downside was that our water tasted like dirt or plastic sometimes. But no matter what, drink water. Drexel got dehydrated one day and it wasn’t pretty. Andrew drinks ten Nalgenes daily! Don’t be a Drexel, be an Andrew.
#10 – Ten is a nice number to end on. Is there anything else we would have done differently? Sure. But so much of the journey is a process. Try to enjoy it.
Paul Winkler. 29 yo. Earned a BS in Mathematics and MA in Education. Lives in Albuqurque, NM. Originally from Hampton Bays, NY.
THEME SONG: Oh gosh, I don’t know if I have one. If I did it would probably be something by Tribe Called Quest, though.
1) How long have you been climbing and how did you get started?I’ve been climbing for 6.5 years. I got started when I moved out to NM for a job. I was living on the reservation and there was nothing else to do besides run, which I hate, so a friend of mine and I decided to check out a local crag after acquiring some cheap gear. It was sketchy!!
2) What do you enjoy the most about climbing? Bouldering: It’s hard to pick one thing, so I’ll list the many things I enjoy. I love the problem-solving aspect, the idea of pushing myself to my physical limits and the absolutely gorgeous areas you get to go to.
Sport Climbing: It’s much more of a mental game, so I like the idea of resource management. You have to be able to climb sections efficiently and choose when and how long to rest.
3) What are some of your goals in life (climbing and otherwise)?Climbing wise, I’d love to nail down some class V13s and 14a. routes. I have a few in mind, but I need to broaden my horizons a little more to figure out exactly which ones.
Life wise, I want to go back to school and get my PhD and get a job that affords me a comfortable climbing lifestyle.
4) What are your favorite pre-and-post-climbing foods? Before climbing I like to eat something fairly light, like oatmeal, cereal, or a bagel, etc. After climbing the greasier the better. A nice juicy burger, some BBQ, or even some disgusting fast food. I usually don’t each much on a climbing day, so afterward I like to pig out.
5) What are your thoughts on training? It’s a must! I have far too many thoughts on training to share them all, but a nice regimented program can do wonders for your climbing. The best resource you can lay your hands on is The Rock Climber’s Training Manual by the Anderson brothers. That’s the basis for my training program and it’s the best one I’ve come across so far.
6) How, if at all, do you think your climbing has been affected by your gender?
I think the competitive nature of men has had some impact on my compulsion to get stronger. Otherwise I don’t think it’s had a major influence. A man in a male-dominated sport isn’t really anything new, but there is some kind of mentality that goes along with that.
8) What advice would you have for someone trying to get into rock climbing?
First things first you should decide as early as possible if it’s something you’re only ever going to do casually or if you’re going to want to keep improving. If you decide it’s the latter, then you need to find a mentor. The best ones are not only the ones who have been climbing a long time, but those who also climb hard and are still trying to improve themselves. Find someone who climbs 5.13 or V9-10 on a regular basis. I promise you will be much less likely to stagnate because you’ll have someone to look to for motivation to improve. A little competition is good, just don’t get TOO competitive with your friends.
9) What are your hobbies/interests outside of climbing? Even though I can’t do it anymore I still love surfing. I also love to play board games, frisbee, slack-lining.
10) If you were given the choice of never petting any cute animals again, or never rock climbing again, which would you choose? I would definitely give up on petting animals rather than climb. That’s a pretty easy choice.