Thursday, 8 January 2015

Part 5: Climbing Chatta-Bama

Permatorque - 26 (I think), Little River Canyon. Photo: Johnny Lightning

And the trip continues south after some great times in Kentucky. The guys I was working with at The Rockhouse in Red River Gorge invited me to head down to do some climbing in Little River Canyon, Alabama, as well as maybe some bouldering in Chattanooga at a place called Rocktown. I was planning to head south to check out Chattanooga anyways so it worked out perfect.

Red River Gorge Closes the Doors:
Selfie number one: sad face, last day at Red River Gorge and even more upsetting: no more Miguels food.
So come December everything closes up shop around The Red, literally. Everyone clears out and all the shops and eateries close for the winter. You can still climb apparently but it gets super chilly.
Six weeks can go really fast and I before long it was time to move on and head out of town.

I already had a vague plan to check out Chattanooga in Tennessee. I had heard it was a really nice town and had some great climbing around the area as well as some wilderness hikes and what not. So December 1st I said a sad goodbye to everyone at Miguels as they were doing the final cleaning up and made my way to Chattanooga.

Chattanooga Choo Choo:

I rolled into town at night and made my way straight to The Yellow Deli CafĂ© for some eats. It’s pretty much exactly the same as the one back home in Katoomba and everyone there is really nice and made friends pretty quick with the guys.

Its yellow and a deli.
Finally got to try the famous long awaited Yellow Deli chilli, it didn't disappoint. And the cornbread! Foodgasm.

I only had one day in town before meeting the Rockhouse Crew in Alabama so I went for a quick hike around Lookout Mountain. The Mountain stands above Chattanooga and as you could guess has some amazing lookouts over the valley and the huge rivers below. The weather was pretty crap but still made for a nice day of walking.
Chattanooga is down there, somewhere.
Another night and another Yellow Deli Meal and then I headed to Little River Canyon about an hour south in Alabama for some more climbing with the guys.

I met up with Hal and Johnny Lightning, two rad guys that I was working with at the Rockhouse in The Red. Steve Awesome, a Canadian strong man joined us for the trip as well. We had some blow ins from time to time, Johnny’s GF Sarah joined us for a few days which was great and another Rockhouse employee Steve Sandman came for a couple days as well. Had so much fun hanging out with these guys!
Left to right: Top - Hal, Sarah. Bottom - Steve, Johnny, Retard.

But the River is Big:

Little River Canyon is just awesome. Very beautiful indeed. A canyon close to 120 meters deep (maybe, I have no idea actually but I'll go with that) with quite a (surprisingly) large and fast running river in the bottom. Ten to forty meter cliffs run nearly the whole way down both sides, the rock is pretty endless and its bomber! How is this place not more popular.
Selfie number 2: happy face, more rock climbing.

Did I say fast running?

Hal getting suited up below Lizard Wall.

I'm going to put it out there that it could be better than The Red, just sayen’. Amazing blocky featured sandstone with edges ranging from big rounded blocks (lookout for the 'rock dildo' kids) to small perfect crimps. The rock is bullet hard and smooth but still with friction. I just loved it. Lock-off on perfect edge, high step to reach another edge and repeat, with some delicate face moves thrown in. Couldn't ask for more really. We spent most of our time at a crag called Lizard Wall, about fifteen degrees overhung, eighteen meters tall and stretching for a few hundred meters. And there was no one there, every day we climbed it was perfect conditions and we were always the only group at the cliff. I managed to climb a couple of routes from 22 – 27 in the few days we were there, all classic!

Long Doug - 27. Photo: Johnny Lightning.

Steve Sandman on Robyns Route, one of the best 25s I've ever climbed. Photo: Johnny Lightning.

Steve Awesome being awesome on Robyns Route. Photo: you guessed it, Johnny Lightning
Showing off ma ghetto booty on Permatorque.

Camping was great too, for a couple bucks a night we stayed at a local RV Park with free showers and wifi. Every night after a days climbing we would head to the laundry room to escape the cold and participate in the funniest Starwars movie marathon out of the few I've participated in, we even watched the Phantom Menace that’s how committed we were. The place even had a dam with a duck named Captain Quack (due to waking us up early with god-damn quacking) who mysteriously disappeared/flew south/was eaten by local hunters a few days after we got there.

Hal and Steve enjoying our luxury accomadation. Not pictured: Captain Quack.

After the world class climbing in Little River Canyon we decided to get amongst some local boulders, spending a day each at Hospitals Boulders and Sandrock, both pretty nice sandstone bouldering. Hospital Boulders reminded me of Sydney Boulders, but with more slopers. Sandrock was good to, amazing featured rock corridors about 10 meters high and some great views from the top.

Hal rocking the Cosby Sweater on Reeds Roof - V5 I think, Sandrock. Photo: Johnny Lightning.

having a play on GTO - V7, Sandrock. Photo: Johnny Lightning.
Rocktown - The Town of Rock:

Next up we headed back north back towards Chattanooga and Rocktown Boulders. This place is just quality. Sandstone again but a bit grittier and more like gym climbing. Classic problems everywhere you looked. Photos can tell it better than I can.
Hal on the super weird Helicopter - V5, Photo: Johnny Lightning

Some guy on Brown Hole - V8(slash 6). Photo: Johnny Lightning.

Gotta love the sweater, Hal on Sherman Photo Traverse V8. Photo: Johnny Lightning

I felt good on my first day, managed a couple of flashes up to V7 and did a very soggy V8 in a couple tries (might be a Grampians V6 though). After the first day I crashed and couldn’t find any more power for the next few days we were there, that’s what I get for eating to much fatty food I guess. Still had a great time though fooling around on easier stuff. So many classics.
I love this photo! Hal on the classic The Orb - V8. Photo: Johnny Lighting.

After spending a week destroying boulders (or egos in my case) and skin in equal measures it was time again to hit the road. We sayed goodbye to Johnny at the campsite and then me, Hal and Steve hit up another small bouldering field down the road for a final session. My skin was on fire at this point so after a couple problems I sooked out and bailed. I hugged the fellas goodbye and started heading north for Ontario.

Another pic for good measure. Another angle of Sherman Photo Travers -V8. Photo: Johnny Lightning.

So that might do there, it was all a while ago now but I’m a slow typist, sorry. Ill try and have another up soon with Christmas shenanigans, short version though: it was great. Thanks for all the photos Johnny.
Big hugs everyone.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Part 4: Kentucky Fried....Continued

Just a quick round-up on some other goings on in Kentucky other than climbing. What an awesome place.

Other Goings On:

To be honest I didn’t really climb as much as I thought while being here, I think I probably averaged about 3 days a week all up. Other than climbing I mostly hung out in the Miguel’s restaurant getting to know the staff pretty well and drinking far too much filtered coffee (when in Rome right?).
I also very luckily managed to score some ah “volunteer” work at the Rock House, which is a local restaurant down the road from Miguel’s. The guy who runs it is an absolute legend and the guys working in the kitchen are hilarious, it’s been a really fun place to work and will make the trip go just  a little longer. They also make some of the biggest burritos you’ve ever seen. De-licious!

This photo is un-bear-able..........sorry.

The weather here is also pretty up and down, apparently it was super wet just before I got here which explains why the car parks were a muddy catastrophe and at the end of November it got super cold, like 10 degrees below zero cold. Luckily me and Scotty insulated the shit out of the van. One cool thing that came from the cold weather was the formation of massive icicles at the top of the cliffs which as they melted in the warming weather would come crashing down with a huge rumble echoing around the crag as we were climbing. Made things pretty exciting for a couple of days! Had to watch your step walking in though, a giant icicle to the head would end the trip real quick. 
I call them Death-cicles

I also got to experience a proper American thanks giving. Scotty and Lina invited me back to spend the holiday with them and their family, which was bloody amazing. After helping chef Scotty do some cooking during the day we all sat down to a huge meal together of turkey, country ham, mash potato, pumpkin soup, stuffing and green bean casserole with pumpkin pie to finish. Then with some glasses of wine under the belt, was schooled in the finer points of American football, which if I’m going to be honest, was pretty enjoyable to watch. Thanks for letting the uncultured aussie crash your day guys, had a blast!
The man knows his turkeys alright.

Add caption

Apart from that my time mostly consisted of sitting on my laptop in cafes and eating way to much food! The Food here is so damn good. I’ve been enjoying all the sweet fatty things you don’t see back home, biscuits and gravy baby, holy shit, and corn bread, the best! Not to mention all the fast food which I'm trying to sample some of each, Waffle House, Wendy’s, IHOP, Five Guys, Applebees, Arbys, Chipotle, Chillis, Dennys, Cracker Barrel, Dairy Queen, the list goes on. There are also so many candy bars here that you don’t get back home (new addiction to reeses pieces chocolate bars). Ive definitely put on at least five kilos since being here, sad face. So enjoyable though.
Deep fried to perfection!

Where the magic happens.

Now to Really Hit the Road:

So that’s about all of everything I got up to in Kentucky. Met some awesome people, did some bad arse climbing, ate some amazing/terrible/”god damn it, why did I just eat that whole thing” food and hung out with some good mates. Off to Chattanooga now for some hiking around for a couple days then more climbing and bouldering before Canada for Christmas. Missing everyone back home for sure, big hugs and kisses for everyone back home, or just a high five if kisses from heterosexual males isn’t your thing. See you all on Facebook soon.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Part 4: Kentucky Fried

Official AAA road map for Kentucky.

Time again to do some blogging. Just about to leave Kentucky after a funny ol’ month and a half in The Red River Gorge, climbing (sometimes), eating (lots), and generally just having a cruisy time of it. Enjoy!

Van Land:
Sexy aint it?

After a week and a bit running around New York I finally had a van and was ready to kit it out with a bed frame and try and insulate it as best I could. Having no tools to speak of it was going to be an effort to work out but luckily Marie mentioned her dad, Scott, lived not far from The Red and had a bunch of tools. So after talking to Scotty on the phone it was all on and I headed out of New York. Eleven hours driving later I rocked up at Scotty and Linas house in Louisville, KY.
Scotty "The Man" Buckingham, putting first tools to the job.

These guys are just awesome. The epitome of southern hospitality. They set me up in the guest bedroom with my own bathroom in there huge house that Scotty built and took me out to dinner pretty much every night of the four I was there, the last night being homemade Chinese Hotpot that Lina made, which was super tasty. They even kitted me out with some bedding and utensils. Can’t thanks these guys enough for all the help. Bloody marvellous!
Chinese Hotpot = Culinary sensation.

Over the next four days we insulated the walls, floor and ceiling of the van with BAT insulation. We built a bed frame down one side as well as installing some fold down shelves for cooking on the back doors.
Pretty is the insulation.

Not Pictured: Scotties super thick southern accent.

Bourbon being a mandatory feature of all vehicles in the state.

Home, sweet home!

And Finally Some Climbing:

Now with a pimpen home on wheels I was itching to get down to The Red and meet up with my buddies Logan Barber and Jack Masel, who had been there for 2 weeks already, for some climbing action. A couple hours’ drive, a few stops at Walmart and the supermarket and I was finally pulling in to Miguel’s. This iconic pizza shop/camp ground sits in the corner of the car park with fields of tents winding their way to the back of a hollow between the hills where it’s situated. My first impression of Miguel’s is that it is friggen busy, climbers absolutely everywhere. It seems everyone has a dog and no one is particularly friendly which I found out over the next few weeks isn’t always the case, meeting some awesome folks, especially the guys who work here. 
Welcome to flavour country.

Welcome to steep country.

The Leaves where all turning red for the first couple of weeks I was here which made for some beautiful views driving between crags and at the top of the cliffs. Sunsets in particular could just light up for some stunning scenery.
This is Natural Bridge, its natural, and a bridge.

The first climbing day for me the guys took me to The Motherlode region down south. This is the place with the Madness cave, an incredible 40 meter wall that kicks back to 45 degrees half way up with rippling features that provide consistent incut edges all the way up. If you’ve seen photos of The Red it was most likely this wall. Not wanting to do anything too hard on the first day I checked out a 5.12a(24), a 5.12b(25) called “Ale 8 1” and got completely sandbagged on some terrible nonsense called Chainsaw Massacre (5.12a, 24). Getting ridiculously pumped on these the first day climbing gave me a taste of what this place is mostly about, consistent climbing while fighting a nasty forearm pump. There is also definitely some techy stuff here which I actually found the most enjoyable.
Logan on something ridiculously steep in the Madness Cave.

The Red River Gorge is also most definitely a sport climbing outdoor gym, with entry conditional on dog, stick clip and climbing slang test (some favourites include “dirt me”, “I’m numbing out” and ”I was cruxing so hard”)
Logan on Prometheous Unbound 5.13a(28). Cruised it 2nd shot.

The climbing here is honestly amazing though and is some of the most enjoyable climbing I’ve ever been on but ultimately I just couldn’t find my groove with it. I guess its a mix of a few things. I subluxed my rib two weeks before leaving Australia (tip: don’t go mountain biking before a big trip) which was lingering and meant cutting my training short which I don't think helped. 
Me on Jesus Wept 5.12d(27).

Even though I didn't climb as best as I thought I could I did manage to get up I couple of amazing lines. My third day on I managed to flash a 5.13a(28) called Spank and onsight another straight after called Easy Rider. Both where super fun. Kaleidoscope (5.13c, 30) also went down third shot which was great and a 5.13b(29) Table of Colors Direct might have been the best I climbed in the whole place or ever for that matter. Another 5.13b(29) I flashed in the Madness Cave called Flour Power, which might have been the highlight right there. I also managed to onsight or flash a bunch of climbs between 5.12a(24) and (5.12d(27) so pretty happy with that for sure.
The look of struggle. Me on Sex Farm 5.12b(25).

Logan had a great trip with a couple of 5.13c’s(30) as well as some impressive 5.13a(28) onsights, go Logs! Jack should be super stoked with his trip, definitely harnessing some long hidden potential with a few 5.13a’s(28) and 5.13b’s(29) and his first 5.13c(30) with Kaleidoscope. Was great to hang out with these fellas and climb rocks. They made the trip so much more awesome.
The boys in line with there tickets in hand.
A few weeks into the trip my good mate Roman came over to join us. We had been planning this trip for months before hand and was awesome to finally see him over here and to hang out. Roman did nothing short of an onsighting rampage, tearing The Red a new one with style. He bagged himself a few 5.13c(30) onsights and a whole bunch between 5.12d(27) and 5.13b(29). Some truly impressive climbing to watch.
Golden Touch 5.13b(29), didn't even make it past the 2nd bolt, nice photo though.
Duckface and sleepy eyes, look out ladies.

It has been a great crew to climb with, also making a local crusher and all-round nice guy Nat an honorary Aussie who climbed with us a bunch. I really did enjoy the climbing style here and once I let go of thinking I had to climb hard grades and just climbed because it’s fun (which I forget way too often) I had a great time on the rock. It’s so nice to be somewhere completely different and also enjoying the company of my good buddies!

To Be Continued........ Again:

So I have written more but it ended up being way too long so I might leave this one for now and put another blog up soon with a bunch of other stuff I got up to while in Kentucky. So far the trip has been just awesome, Loving life! Put another blog up soon, promise. Big hugs for everyone back home. Miss y'all!