Saturday, September 19, 2009
A Slightly Wet Lilly Session...Cumberland Blues (Almost!)
I came up to Knoxville this weekend, with my wife, and I was hoping to be able to climb all day at the Lilly Boulders in the Obed. I knew that this weekend would be iffy because of all the rain we have been getting, but Lilly has always beckoned me like a siren calling me into the rocky shore. For some reason, it hasn't ever really mattered to me what kind of weather its getting, if I'm in Knoxville, I'm heading to Lilly as soon as I can get away. I haven't been to Lilly in over a year, but I used to go almost every weekend when my wife was finishing up at UT. Lilly always seems to have something to climb, no matter if its hot, cold, dry, wet or soaked with some left over radiation from Oak Ridge:) It's not the biggest bouldefield in the South...in fact, the Jedi Boulders easily has more problems than Lilly does. But the surroundings are amazing, a lush forest with plenty of sandstone and a great paddling river running less than a 1/4 mile away...and many times, you're the only one in the boulderfield. I was hoping to climb Buddha's Belly, a super slopey V4 bulge that has always been tough for me, but I knew it would be wet and didn't get my hopes up. I kept hearing the words of the Grateful Dead in my head..."A lot of poor man got them Cumberland Blues, he cant win for losin"...seemed fitting, but within a wet climbing context. Lilly is an incredible sandstone area, that has a great combination of slopers and some absolutely amazing roofs (if you haven't seen Daniel Woods send the 2nd ascent of Chinese Arithmetic, the V13 James Litz classic, check out the link at the end of this post). So for the last week or so, I've been working on my power and training on my HIT system, getting ready for those roofs...roofs really aren't my favorite style of climbs, but I tend to climb them well once I start working them.
So, I showed up in the boulderfield this morning around 8 or so and sure enough, everything but the roofs were wet. I went to my usual warm up spot on the KB (Key Blocks) boulder (mislabeled on the Dr Topo guide, but labeled correctly on the old comp topo) and sent some of my favorite warm up problems. Even though they were a little wet, the boulder is slightly past vertical, so most of the holds were somewhat dry. If I could have one boulder in my backyard, it'd by far be the KB boulder. One of my favorite aretes, the KB Arete V2/3 is on one side of the boulder's main wall and the best beginner arete, Tippy Toes V0 (Aretes of Fun V1 on the Dr Topo guide), on the other side. In between these 2 aretes are a handful of V2 to V5 routes that would be top notch routes at any boulderfield. The top picture on this post is of the overhanging Key Blocks Arete. After that, I decided to just chalk up Buddha's Belly V4 and see if it'd be possible. After using most of the chalk I brought with me, I had dried the crucial holds enough to finally slap and compress my way, to send the sucker from the sit start. So my trip wasn't in vain after all! The 2nd and 3rd picture on this blog are of Buddha's Belly. After Buddha's Belly, I went over to work on another super classic roof problem, OPP, a V7 on JR's Corner. I got the route from a stand start, but the real meat of the problem is with the sit start...but I still did better on it than ever before. The last 2 pictures, at the top of the blog, show OPP on the right and Chinese Arithmetic to the left of it. After OPP, I went over to check on a problem I've been working almost everytime I visit Lilly, Flexorciser, another V7. I had sent almost all of this route in pieces, but never linked it all up for the complete send. I sat deep under the overhang and started remembering the parts of the route as I began climbing it. I wasn't expecting one of the holds to have a dish of water hiding behind it and I was tossed off, missing my crashpad and bruising my hip on the hard ground. In the split second of pain while I was laying on the ground, I thought about packing it up and heading out...after all it was starting to sprinkle. But like any good climber, I used the pain to motivate me for the next climb and to pull even harder. I took a second to gather myself and chalk up a few of the wet holds I missed. With the pain fueling my power, I started on the tiny sloper crimps at the sit start and barely pulled through the roof to gain the headwall and the eventual top out. I almost slipped off, right before the top, due to the water and mud that was caking on my hands, but I held on to get the send. The 4th and 5th pictures above, are shots of Flexorciser and the Muscle Block Boulder. Looks like my goal of a V6 or higher route, for the fall climbing season, was closer than I could imagine...even on a road trip that I thought might end up being a bust due to all of the rain. "Goes to show, you don't never know"...when you'll climb good and when the pain can drive you to a send that normally might not be in your grasp.
If you are heading to Lilly sometime, get in touch with me so I can send you a copy of the old comp guide and topo. The Dr Topo guide is so far off, its practically impossible to navigate by it and many of the problems are misnamed, misgraded and even put on the wrong boulder...which is also misnamed. I'm also planning on creating a new Lilly topo, with at least a dozen new routes not listed in either of the guides, for the road trip section of my future guidebook.
Here is a link to DeadPoint and Daniel Woods at the Lilly Boulders...