This has been by far the wettest summer I can remember in the 10 years I've lived in WNC. Great for bringing the water table back up after the droughts, not so good for the climbing. Ah, well. You take the good with the bad. Melissa and I still tried to get out and find some dry rock, and we met up with Zach and Heath at a wee little cliff Zach's been developing that stayed dry for the afternoon, even during a good downpour at one point. That's the thing about climbing in the South--specifically here in WNC-- if you're determined to climb, it's possible almost any day of the year if you work with the geography.
My shoulder's been feeling better so I tried the two brand new lines, a 5.11- and a 5.12- (those grades are estimates at this point), and I got within about 2 feet of flashing the 5.12! So not too bad for having not trained at all for the last 2 months.
Even though it wasn't a balmy day, we had to partake in the sick water slide nearby. It beats any other water slide I've seen in the region for it's length and magical ability to somehow not hurt your arse. Be sure to check out the corny super hero pose we copped in the pool at the bottom.
As for pictures, I'm loving the new Canon Rebel T1i I just started using. It really captures colors well, especially on cloudy days like this one. I got some really killer shots of Heath on the 5.12 by getting up on a nearby boulder. Check out the crazy flag move where he's basically parallel with the ground!
A reminder about the photos: to see them larger in the sideshow, click on the 4 arrows in the bottom corner to see them full screen. And if you like some and want to download em, click on the image and it'll bring you to my flickr page where you can save them to your desktop.
I was at Grandmother boulders climbing this Sunday, and for the first time in 10 years of climbing there, I saw not one but two Forest Service rangers go by on the trail together near Throttle. Whether you think this is a good thing or bad thing, it's simply something to be aware. Whether rangers are there or not, it's always good to be on your best behavior while at Gma (as it is at all climbing spots). I'm for sure not the preachy type so I won't go into details--all climbers should know what's acceptable behavior and how to pick up after themselves. Just thought I'd pass on the news...
Good news! There is, in fact, rock climbing within a half hour of Johnson City. For anyone who doesn't know, I live in Asheville and my girlfriend, Melissa, lives in Johnson City--a place not exactly known for climbing. So when I'm there visiting, I'm generally planning how we can get to Boone for the day! But at an hour away, it's not always practical. So when we heard rumors from a friend that this swimming hole called Blue Hole had rock, we were more than skeptical. Simply put, non-climbers don't know what climbable rock looks like. For example, we recently drove past a chossy quarry with one guy from JC and he said, "Hey, can you climb that?! You use those steel-toed boots with the nails on 'em, right?" Yes, it's 1945, pal!
Anyway, we drove up to Blue Hole thinking we could at least get some swimming in--and were surprised to find a lot of rock there. It's a strange mix of quartz-like rock and a sandstone conglomerate I'm guessing. There are a few boulders and some low cliffs, some with overhangs and most slabby, but all waaay dirty! The route and bouldering potential is limited, and time investment is probably high thanks to moss, but it's mentally calming somehow to know there is rock near at hand. (I know, I've got a problem!) Even without the rock, Blue Hole is a pretty neat area--kind of a mini, mini gorge with a cool swimming hole and a couple of small waterfalls. I'm sure we''ll be heading back soon, fat toothbrushes in hand. And to watch locals do back flips off the cliff above the falls. Check out this blog for more info and directions.
The last time Melissa and I climbed at Table Rock was in May. We did Jim Dandy (5.4) and the Cave Route (5.5), two classic beginner climbs. Melissa did well on both of them, but admitted to being freaked out on Cave Route. Well, she got some redemption this Sunday. We went back to the Cave Route and she not only cruised up it easily, but also did her first multi-pitch climb by doing the second pitch of the route as well. And the good news is she wants to do more...so she didn't get scarred for life or anything. We wrapped up the day by going to Beacon Heights, where we were lucky to run into Zach L-H, his mom, and Ron Dawson. Zach just got back from the Cirque of the Unclimbables in Canada and it was great to see him back safe.
Gearing up in the Table Rock parking lot.
Melissa on the first pitch of the Cave Route.
I've now done two very light climbing outings, one at Blowing Rock boulders a couple of weeks ago and another in the ETSU climbing gym, and the results are pretty encouraging. The shoulder and neck are a bit sore, but my knee is feeling about 95% back to normal. So I'm thinking I'm definitely getting close to be back up to speed (about time!). I'm going to try some easy multi-pitch at Table Rock this weekend with Melissa, and possibly some light bouldering. If all goes well, I hope to be back at it full speed by the end of the month. Fingers crossed, ya'll...