CHATTANOOGA / by Angela Payne

The past few months were full of travel and competitions.  I saw some amazing places and had a great time hopping around from country to country.  But travel takes its toll, and when I finally landed back home, I wanted to flop down, eat ice cream and indulge the lazy blob inside me.  Of course, that blob wasn’t going to get its way without a fight, because the anxious climber in me wanted to finish Freaks of the Industry.  The prime time of the alpine season was coming, with winter hot on its trail.  I needed to seize the good conditions and start putting a focused effort into my project.  And so I did, for a week at least.

Self portrait in Chaos Canyon on a crisp fall day.

Self portrait in Chaos Canyon on a crisp fall day.

I’ve written plenty about this boulder problem; probably more than any sane person cares to read.  So I’ll spare you the details and cut to the chase—I let the boulder get me down.  I fell at my high point again, and again, and forward progress became very hard to find.  I still managed to glean some enjoyment from the experience for the first few days back in The Park, and even gained some new insight into my climbing style and my motivations.  I was truly enjoying the beauty of the place, but I soon lost my patience with the boulder and my attitude took a turn for the worse.  The process of projecting can definitely bring out the best in me, but it can also do the exact opposite.  The fun was gone, and I was becoming sour and negative.  My priorities were all out of whack, and I needed to step away.

I knew the only way I would easily avoid the temptation of returning to The Park would be to put a few states between the boulder and myself.  So, I headed to the place where no one takes things too seriously and climbing is always fun: The Southeast.

Chattanooga

Chattanooga

I have spent a fair amount of time in the Southeast over the past 15 years, and the climbing here never, ever fails to lift my spirits.  Plus, the sandstone is some of the best anywhere, and I have always been infatuated with it.

Our first day of climbing was spent at Little Rock City (aka The Stone Fort).  This area is located in Chattanooga in the woods alongside a golf course.  The concentration of problems is high, and the approach is barely long enough to warrant putting your crashpad on your back.

The golf course next to the boulders at Little Rock City

The golf course next to the boulders at Little Rock City

Day 1 was exactly what I needed: fun, lots of it.  I climbed a great little slab, and then Chris proceeded to come up with a run and jump method for it.  A good portion of the day was spent flailing around on boulder problems, and then came the stupid human tricks.  One of the things I love most about climbing with Chris is that the days typically involve some type of challenge that may or may not involve actual climbing.  This time, the challenge was to start sitting on a small rock ledge and rotate your body 360 degrees to end in the same position in which you began.  We spent just as much time attempting this challenge as we did attempting actual boulder problems.  It was the highlight of my day.

Chris in LRC

Chris in LRC

Chris completing the run and jump in LRC.

Chris completing the run and jump in LRC.

Vincent successfully completing the challenge

Vincent successfully completing the challenge

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Our next day of climbing was spent at Rock Town in Georgia.  This area is hidden back in the woods and involves a hike that is “long” for Southeastern standards.  Walking through a dense forest is always refreshing to the Midwesterner in me since densely-packed deciduous trees are hard to come by in the west.

We started on a boulder called Burst of Joy that involves a technical start and a big jump around an arête.  It was tons of fun.  The rest of the day was full of flailing on beautiful sandstone in a forest that was in the midst of the summer-to-fall transition.  One of the boulders we tried was Golden Harvest, and it is definitely one of the more beautiful pieces of rock I have seen.  The face is covered in blocky slopers and always reminds me of a water-color painting.  It’s SO pretty!  I want to climb it someday…

Vincent trying Golden Harvest

Vincent trying Golden Harvest

Eyeing up Golden Harvest

Eyeing up Golden Harvest

I have a few more days here in the Southeast before I head back to Colorado.  I don’t really have a specific plan for my remaining time, but I guess that was the point of coming here.  I was originally planning on doing the Triple Crown competition at Little Rock City, but now I am more tempted to use the would-be pre-comp rest days to climb more.  The Triple Crowns are always great fun, but the competitor in me might take a holiday this time around.  Regardless of how I spend my remaining days, I know there will be plenty of fun involved, because around here, fun seems to be a fact of the climbing life…just as it should be.