How Does the Public View Us?

Know that it's with irony when I say that I love when non-climbers talk about climbing like they understand it. (Although I do relish how the misinformed always seem to have the strongest opinions because it can be very entertaining.) Case in point: an editorial in the Standard Examiner that had this to say about climbers in Arches National Park:

"The fact is climbing areas such as Delicate Arch is more fad than sport. These natural resources are not particularly difficult to climb. Many of today's climbers are as likely to climb for the publicity as they are for the sheer respect of the terrain."

The accompanying cartoon shows a gorilla on top of an arch with an onlooker filming, saying, "Smile, sweetheart. You're gonna be Youtube famous." Wow. Aside from my initial disagreement with much of this statement, it brings two things to mind.

First, it appears that the disservice Dean Potter did to climbers by going up the Delicate Arch is still having lasting consequences in the public's mind.

Second, does the public now view climbers as a bunch of video and media obsessed goons who care more about image and spray than the activity itself? As the writer of a blog who does push the media elements of the sport, this is something I've often wondered about. In the end, are we using the internet to share our passion or to inflate our egos? I prefer to think it's the former, but I'm sure the latter is mixed in. After all, what is 8a.nu if not ego run amok? Regardless, how the public views climbers is obviously a big issue in public debates concerning access issues. This is a bigger theme than I want to get into at the moment (finals today for summer classes! ugh! Moving tomorrow!). So I'm gonna let a full blown post on this come at a later time perhaps.

But you should check out the editorial for a somewhat maddening read. And let 'em know your opinion, too.


I didn't know a whole lot about Potter's climb on the arch except for the fact that it caused a lot of controversy. I figured I should know what I was talking about before I said he did a disservice to the climbing community. I found an in-depth article on Outside's website that is definitely worth reading on the matter. Here's a quote from someone who initially supported Dean:
"There are many people who think Dean just walked up there and climbed it," Daly says. "I wanted to think that, because I have all this respect for him and this spiritual context under which he says he climbs. And I think other people want to believe that. That's why I feel so hurt. He did rehearse it. It was for a photo shoot. It was a communal effort by a group of people, and there is damage to the arch. It takes all the polish off the diamond."
A video clip is brought up in the article and should appear alongside it, as it was apparently shot after roped rehearsals. The embed on the video is disabled, so check it out on Youtube.



Injury Update...And a Cautionary Note

I ultimately decided not to get the MRI that I was scheduled for. It may turn out that this was a bad call, but even with insurance the MRI was going to cost me at least $700 out of pocket. So far I've spent around $1000 out of pocket chasing dead ends and the idea of shelling out more right now is just too painful.

Plus, Southeastern Sports Medicine pushed for the MRI way too quickly in my opinion. When I described my symptoms, like the knot that's been in my neck for a year now, the PA who was seeing me did not even feel my neck. She did a few range of motion and strength tests on the left arm, heard me say I'd had a torn labrum in 2003 on my right shoulder, and quickly decided that must be what's happened to the left. She never even asked, "Does this feel like the same injury you had in the right shoulder?" She spent all of 5 minutes with me. I couldn't believe that she didn't even poke around in the areas I was describing as the most painful. I don't know what anyone else's experience has been here, but I won't be going back again. They rushed me into the X-ray booth (more $) and too quickly scheduled the MRI. I got the feeling the place was just an insurance billing machine. They were moving dozens of people through very quickly--and most of them weren't sports injury patients at all (unless overweight geriatrics are suddenly playing rugby), so even their name is misleading. So that's my heads up to anyone considering them for sports injuries.

As for the injury, I'm hoping that laying off it all summer has helped. And the new mattress I got to finally replace my crappy old futon. Only time will tell if laying off it has helped. At least it didn't hurt after my last day of climbing at Granite City. I'm also hoping ASU has a staff PT in the Athletics department I can access. I'll keep ya'll posted.



Should Free Soloists Get Paid?

Strange things pop into my mind while I’m trying to wake up in the morning. This morning, it was the ethical question posed above. Should soloists like Alex Honnold get paid by sponsors? After mulling it over for part of the morning I realized I have no final opinion on this, but I think it’s a great issue for debate.

Update: Just found this great promo that shows some crazy soloing...

Why? Well, before we get into it, let’s first establish that Alex is a total badass athlete, both physically and mentally. His recent solo exploits on Half Dome and El Cap are exceptional feats that continue a tradition of bold solos in the Valley by the likes of Peter Croft, John Bachar, and Dean Potter. I was recently talking with a friend who works in the outdoor industry who said that nothing very interesting has happened in climbing in the last few years. But I think the kind of stuff Alex is doing is an argument against that sentiment. While boulderers might be pushing the v-scale along incrementally, bold solos that break new ground will always be riveting.

However, soloing’s obviously dangerous as hell. And climbers like Alex and Dean seem to make a name for themselves in this subsection of the sport. Sure, one can always argue that all climbing’s dangerous and that we all accept that as a part of the activity (and part of why it’s so attractive to many of us). But soloing is obviously different. I used to free solo some (when I was a "conflicted youth" with something to prove to myself) and the one thing I can say in its defense is that if you go soloing, you’ve probably reached a point where you are ready for it mentally and physically so it doesn’t feel that dangerous. But I also never got hit by a falling rock, or a bird, or a got a bee sting, or got caught in a rainstorm (ie I was lucky). No matter how good you are, other factors can always slip you up.

So what’s the problem with sponsorship? A sponsorship by a company is essentially their way of saying, “We support what you’re doing, and want to be a part of your achievements by association.” Sponsorship of someone whose major achievements are in the realm of soloing is not only saying we support you, but we encourage you. You have to wonder how this affects an athlete and other climbers as well. Would you feel more pressure to pull off bold solo ascents if that’s what your sponsors are implicitly asking of you by giving you more support after such climbs? Will other climbers see this and think that maybe they too can raise their profile by soloing? Is this not in some ways like turning a blind eye to athletes in other sports who are doping? The leagues and sponsors in those sports aren’t compelled to intervene because the athletic feats--especially if they are record breaking ones--are good press for the industry (and often whip fans into a fervor), even if the athlete’s safety is at risk. Of course, no one’s hiding the fact that bold soloists are soloing—it’s all over the climbing media—but does the same lack of concern for the athlete still apply? Hard to say. But the real question remains: Is there a danger in encouraging free soloing by backing such ascents with dollars? And do sponsors, who share in the glow of accomplishment, face any blame in the event of failure?

So those are my thoughts about why sponsoring soloists gets into a weird ethical terrain. However, here are a couple of thoughts on the pro soloing side:

I think that most free-soloists would be doing it regardless of sponsor support. Soloing, for those who undertake it seriously, borders more on a spiritual pursuit, I think. And if they’re going to be doing bold ascents anyway, why not support and recognize the truly remarkable efforts? To do otherwise is to say that the achievements are somehow less worthy because there is more risk. It'd be like taking sponsorships away from athletes who didn't wear helmets, only to a much larger degree.

Another point worth considering is that folks like Alex are achieving more than just soloing, and are deserving of sponsorship for those other efforts, too. Should their sponsorships be taken away just because they also solo and it could send mixed messages to the climbing community? Everyone is responsible for their own choices and actions in a free society, right? If someone tries to solo because they think they can get paid, that's like a smoker lighting up even though they know it's bad for them: accepting the outcome of a dangerous action is a matter of personal choice.

As you can see, there was no clear-cut right or wrong side, at least not to me. But like I said, I think it’s an interesting ethical question. Should the climbing community celebrate such climbs (with big media coverage and sponsorship) or try to discourage such risky pursuits as unnecessarily dangerous?



Vicarious Living

Just wanted to give a quick nod to some folks who look like they're having a fun summer living the traveling climber lifestyle. Check out these blogs, but be warned: if you've been jonesing for a road trip, they'll only make things worse.

In this first one, these folks have been on a full-on Western states cragging trip:


And Erich's been living at the New most of the summer:


Read 'em and weep, fellow summer desk jockeys! And drop me a line if you know of other great climbing trip blogs. I'm a road trip vampire this summer, trying to stay psyched off of other climbers' adventures.



Granite City Bouldering

As I've been saying, this has kinda been the summer from hell so far: taking pre-reqs, working full-time 'til last week, fixing up and packing up my house, all in preparation for school (movin' next week!). There hasn't been much time to climb, which in some ways might be a hidden blessing. My shoulder is feeling better than it has in months.

What with all of the stress, Melissa and I decided we needed a day off away from the books and out of the house this past Saturday. Since Brad at Upstate Bouldering posted a guidebook to Granite City near Cashiers, we decided to check the place out. (I'm not gonna include directions or beta in this post since it can all be had from Brad's site.) Not many bouldering areas around WNC have much in the way of very easy climbing...but Granite City has tons. In fact, V0 and V1 are probably the most prevalent grades. It looked perfect for both of us.

The drive there is a part of the fun, since you drive below Whiteside Mt (the boulders are at the base of a mountain next to Whiteside). I've never climbed on Whiteside, but damn--looking at all that rock got me psyched. I went home that night and scoped out the NC climbing guide for a good half hour. If and when I get back to full speed, the Original Route is now on my tick list. It looks like an awesome route and a great intro to the wall.

Anyway, the hike in to GC is like 3 minutes. We were happy to find dry rock since it poured off and on for the whole drive there. We got to climb for a little over an hour before a storm rolled in. We spent most of our time in the Main Street area, which is a corridor that comprises most of the climbing here (see pics in the slideshow).

All in all, the place is a fun diversion, and a good destination if you are a new climber or building up to harder problems. Things are very lowball for the most part and there are a lot of traversing variations that can keep the Main Street area interesting. If you're a V4 and up climber, there's not a ton here for you, but if you're in the area it's worth stopping by. I should mention, however, 2 sick looking lines. A V7 highball called The Moonshiner and an amazing V8/9 problem called Hard Times Arete. If this line were anywhere else, you would have heard of it before now. It looks sick and pretty durn classic (again, pic in the slideshow).

Another great thing about GC is it's proximity to the Chatooga river for swimming, which we hit up on our drive out. You can also go to the Horsepasture river and slide down Turtleback falls. To sum it up, GC isn't an area you'd write home about from abroad--it's lowball and for the most part easy climbing ('cept for a few really nice looking hard lines), but it can be a fun local's day trip if you throw in some of the other regional attractions.


Design Update

I just spent the last week (not the whole week...just as time allowed) trying to figure out how to make the featured posts slider you now see at the top of the page. It let's me highlight content and popular posts so people can find stuff more easily on the site. Let me know what ya'll think or if you have any troubles viewing it.



Rutherford County Photo Contest: Climbing Photos Wanted

Have some great photos you took of Rumbling Bald climbing on your computer? I was contacted this morning by the Rutherford County Tourism Board about a photo contest they are sponsoring. They are promoting the area through the contest, and asked specifically about climbing shots from Frixtion's readers. (But I'm sure they're also interested in any other shots you might have of the region.) So if you're interested, you can find more details here.

This is the list of prizes and some other info:

First place receives one complimentary night at The Esmeralda Inn, a
one hour pontoon rental with Lake Lure Adventure Company, a gift certificate to Alyssa’s at Lake Lure Restaurant & Bar, and a $25 gift certificate to M Squared Restaurant. Second place receives one round of golf and a scenic lake cruise from Rumbling Bald Resort. Third place receives a four hour fishing trip on Lake Lure provided by Lewis No Clark and a gift certificate from Point of View Restaurant. Honorable mention will receive a souvenir gift basket for the Forest City Owls.

Winning and other selected photographs will be featured in promotional material for the 2010-2011 Lake Lure & the Blue Ridge Foothills “Front Porch of the Blue Ridge” marketing campaign. All winning photos will be displayed, along with as many other entries as space allows photographs, September 14-19 at the Celebration of the Arts-Visual Arts Guild Gallery.



Grayson Highlands Bouldering Update: Interview and Video

Now that the contest has settled down I've gotten the chance to revisit the short Facebook interview I had with Aaron Parlier, who has been developing the boulders at Grayson Highlands State Park. (For my original post on Grayson Highlands, click here.)

Frixtion: What's the rock like at GHSP?

Aaron: The GHSP boulders are Volcanic Rhyolite, which is completely unique in my experience, but several friends of mine have frequented Hounds Ears and say that its very comparable to the stone there. Most people say that Grayson is sharp at first, and then you tend to learn how to climb on the edges and it feels much better.

F: Where should a visitor go on their first day?

A: For someone’s first day I would recommend the Listening Rock Trail area if it's during the summer, as well as the Contact Station Bouldering area since they’re at a higher altitude and since the LRT is closed in the winter. Also, if they want the full value experience, I would recommend the Highlands Area during the summer (or anytime for that matter) because not only is there a constant breeze, but its exposed bouldering with wild ponies running around, and its epic up there. The Boneyard bouldering area is phenomenal but there isn’t a developed trail (yet, but it’s in the works) through its sub areas and it can be grown up in some places in the summer. In the fall and winter you can see all the boulders and then it’s great and I would recommend it first. The AVP boulders great year long and is fully developed with a trail.

F: Have you been one of the primary developers of the boulders?

A: Yes, I’ve bouldered in GHSP for about 4 years now, but didn’t fully realize its full potential until 2008 and that is when I started developing the area. I’ve been the only developer there and have established the large majority of the 220 boulder problems since '08. In the recent few months there has been a huge influx of interest in the park and I’ve seen a welcomed amount of boulderers there repeating the lines I’ve cleaned and sent. It’s really helpful to have a consensus on the grades. I’ve had help from my climbing partner Steve Lovelace in cleaning recently as well. I know James Litz climbed in the AVP area a long time ago while he lived in Jonson City, TN but he’s declined to claim FAs since he can’t remember the exact locations... I’ve documented the FAs on everything to the best of my knowledge and it seems to be pretty accurate.
F: Anything you want people to know before they come for a visit?

A: I would like people to know that dogs are allowed in the park. Also I am in the process of writing a full color guidebook on the park, so be looking forward to that. 

Also, here's a video by Matt Bielejeski, who recently visited highlands and put together this nice look at some of the boulders (thanks, Matt).



Very Short Notice, but Good Cause

A forum on America's Great Outdoors Initiative will be 1-4 p.m. today in the Ferguson Auditorium at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

Here's some info from the Asheville Citizen-Times

"Senior officials with the Obama administration also will be seeing — and hearing — about what's in Asheville's backyard during a listening session being convened today. More than 300 people are expected to attend.

As part of the administration's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, the sessions are being held at spots across the country to help develop ideas for improving conservation and recreation.

Senior administration officials including the assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, the director of the National Park Service and the senior advisor for environment and climate at the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be at the session today.

They will hear from residents, conservation groups, outdoor recreation enthusiasts and others about what has worked to preserve the outdoors locally, what challenges exist and how the federal government can help."

For climbers in N.C., we should use this opportunity to encourage the Dept. of the Interior to legitimize climbing on the Parkway, and create more friendly and open usage policies for climbers in National Forests and Wilderness Areas. The Access Fund has some more here.


Contest a Big Success! Winners Announced!

I've gotta be honest. When I started this contest with Mike from Misty I really didn't know what to expect, and I have a feeling that Mike didn't either. But being the cool guy that he is, he jumped on board enthusiastically to support the CCC and offered to donate the Powerpack. Things got off to a bit of a slow start because of the 4th of July holiday weekend, but after that the fundraiser just kept growing and growing. Seemed like every time I checked my email there was a new contribution from another climber committed to helping the CCC protect the amazing resource of the West side Rumbling Bald boulders. With everyone's help, we were able to not only meet, but also surpass, the CCC's $500 summer fundraiser goal for grand total of $560. So everyone who donated, please give yourselves some props. You came through for the CCC and made this fund drive a success. Frixtion, Misty, and the CCC all thank you in a big, big way. Saving the rocks we all enjoy is definitely a community effort, and we couldn't do it wihtout your help. Also, we have to give a final thanks to Deadpointmag.com for their promotional assistance. They really helped drive some numbers, too.

So without further ado, here are the contest winners!:

1. Matt De Camera wins the Misty Powerpack

2. Brian Payst wins the Petzl headlamp

3. Robert Rives wins the Adventure Photo book

Congrats, fellas!

The selection process: Everyone who entered got assigned a number. I then used an online random-number generator to select numbers in that range. The numbers that popped out in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order won the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes. Easy-peasy, right? Congrats to the winners and thanks again to everyone who donated. The Rumbling Bald boulders are that much closer to being paid off.

Continue to stay tuned on Frixtion for more CCC news, regional cragging beta, and other climbing goodness!

Also, thanks again to Misty Mountain for their support of the CCC's efforts.



Frixtion on Facebook and Twitter

Thanks to Misty and the CCC I've really come to appreciate the value of social networking--Facebook definitely helped get the word out about the fundraiser. Therefore, I've decided to actually use my old Frixtion Twitter account, and I started a page on Facebook. Click on either of the icons out to the right if you'd like to get all social with me (I promise that's not as dirty as it sounds). Thanks!

CCC Fundraiser Contest: Last Day to Enter

This fundraiser has been a great success so far. And today's the last day to enter, so anyone who wants to join in, help raise funds for Rumbling Bald, and have a chance to win some schwag--today's the day!

(How does one correctly spell schwag?)

I'll be announcing contest winners on the blog tomorrow morning, and I'll send emails to those folks who have won. Stay tuned!



I'm Speechless...Almost

Dang, ya'll! Yesterday when I updated the blog about the fundraiser we were just shy of $400. I made a very personal revelation that yes, I can be type-A at times, especially when it comes to climbing and saving some sweet boulders. It wasn't easy opening up like that. It was an Oprah couch moment for me. But with everyone's support, we've now raised over $500 for the Rumbling Bald fund. I guess I should be open about my feelings more often. :) Anyway, like I said in the post title, I'm almost speechless. But I gotta give everyone who has donated a big shout out for coming through for the CCC. I'll save my big praises for my final post regarding this contest, which ends tomorrow. But I just wanted everyone to know that me, Misty, and the CCC are all psyched on this most recent showing of support.