Inform and Inspire

Welcome to Upstate Bouldering, designed around bouldering in the Upstate region of South Carolina. This website is intended to inform the reader of local spots in SC, Western NC and Northeast GA, as well as a blog of my experiences climbing at these great spots. I hope everyone learns of a new place to climb or is inspired to climb somewhere close to them. If you have any comments, please send me an e-mail.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010


So, I haven't really been posting much about my personal trips lately...and over the past couple of weeks, I've had a variety of sessions.

About 2 weeks ago, George and I had a chance to hit 3 different types of climbing in 3 days. The first day we were invited to climb a "multipitch sport route", right here in SC. Well, it turned out to be more like a V4 boulder problem with a 90 foot 5.5 slab finish...I wouldn't exactly call it a 5.12, but it was somewhat fun none-the-less. The next day, we took a trip out to the Keowee Wall and sent until we could barely paddle back to the landing. The water was high, but the climbing was still fun and high enough to get my heart pounding a little. If you head out to Keowee though, look out for the copperheads that are always in the crack on the right side of the wall (Copperhead Crack 5.7/5.8) copperheads still have enough poison to cause some trouble. On the third day we ran up to the North Face of Looking Glass and hit the boulders below Glass Menagerie. I love the North Face boulders, but evidently, so do the black flies and gnats. I'm not one to complain to the point of leaving without climbing much, but these bastards made me I feel like a diva from the Snickers commercials complaining about the bugs, but I counted an average of 20 of these little biting jokers on me at any one time...just too much for me to handle. We only stayed about 2 hours and sent all of the easy routes on the Warm Up boulder, along with a few routes on a couple of other boulders. Nice visit, but I'll make sure to bring the bug juice next time. That wrapped up a great weekend...multipitch, DWS and bouldering was a nice trifecta!

Since then I have been out on a limited basis...its getting to the end of the semester and work has gotten seriously hectic. I had a chance to head out to the Bearfields and send one of my last projects of the season, and the last great line on the legendary Meat Grinder boulder...Final Frontier V6. This is another impressive slab that requires the mental prowess to levitate up a near vertical slab and top out on the highest point of this highball boulder. After Final Frontier, I went over to another area a little past the Bearfields that I call Exile. The boulders and routes are kind of short and slopey...a combo of 2 French claims to fame, Napoleon and Fontainebleau. I had checked out a few routes at Exile before but focused more on the Bearfields, in essence, leaving some good routes to be developed later. I sent 3 routes that had been on my to do list for a year or so and found out that they weren't as easy as I first thought. One of the slopey routes was bumped up to a V4 from a V3 and another V2 was bumped up to a V3...tough but fun slopey slabby climbs. It felt good to leave the Bearfields that day and feel like I didn't have any projects left for the season!

Since the recent colder spell, my mind has been telling me to get out and keep developing. I have only had limited time, so I have taken a couple of trips up to Little Eastatoee in the afternoons. I went up there earlier this week and resent Yeti Areti V4 and FA'ed a highball/deathball route I called Sweaty Yeti V4/5 (tough to grade under the circumstances, but V4/5 at the easiest). I had no intention of sending Sweaty Yeti, but I made the mistake of stepping out onto the suspended slab and not having a way back to solid ground without taking a 10 foot fall onto a pyramidal rock underneath me. After putting my weight on a small edge on the face, I realized there was hardly anything to hold on to, and no way to back off, so my only option was to go to the top. After some desperate slopey micro pinches/crimps and non existent feet, I open hand slapped on to the tough mantle top out and could finally stop thinking about the possibilities of breaking my leg if I had to bail. It was nice to get out to LE again after leaving it alone for so long...not a bad little choss pile to have close to your house:) Hopefully I can get back out to a couple of boulders in the next week or so and send some more fun stuff before it heats up too much. I hope everyone else was granted an extra window to finish their projects too...and you sent every single one of them:)

This Week's HP40 Guidebook Giveaway Entries

Well, I am a little surprised that there havent been more entries so far...I mean its a free guidebook I'm giving away here:) I had a few folks send pictures and a few just send in their favorite route. Dont forget that you have until June 1st to enter.
Here are this weeks entries:

1. Aubrey Wingo: Lost Digits at Boat Rock

2. Brian Blanar: Splash Back at Rock Town

3. George Evans: Grind Of Sound Mind at The Bearfields

4. Sean Cobourn: Red Giant at Poplar Tent

5. John Weseley: The Snake Eyes Sit Start at Shaking Rock

6. Matt Christie: Harvest Moon at Zahnd

So, only 6 folks have entered so far...and have helped me to plan my next road trip:) Thats what I love about the south, so many good boulders and they are spread out over several states. In the above list, GA, AL, SC & NC (still no TN entry...where you at LRC, Lilly, Dayton Pocket, Laurel Snow people?) are all represented and only 2 of the routes are from the major southeast boulderfields, Rocktown and Boat Rock. The others are from local, smaller bouldering areas that have just as good quality, but lack the crowds and hype...we are truly blessed with a variety of bouldering options down here below the Mason-Dixon!

Keep the entries coming, especially the sweet pictures! With the cooler weather lately, the season has been extended...get out and photo your favorite send! Or, go check out one of the above recommendations and see what makes it someone's southeast favorite.

I'll leave you with a shot of one of my SE favs...Use The Force at Jedi

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Horse Pens 40 Bouldering Review and Give Away!

I have to admit, at first I didn't like the book...entirely because some of my favorite climbs had been downgraded:) But after thumbing through and staring at all of the sweet pictures and incredibly useful info for a day or two, I started to realize that this really was one of the best presented bouldering guidebooks I have ever seen. When the Rumbling Bald Bouldering Guidebook came out a few years ago, I was blown away by the full color photo topo's and how easy it was to get around such an expansive boulderfield. I almost thought it couldn't get much better, but this guidebook proved me wrong. With most of the features of the Bald Guide, and many additional perks, the Horse Pens 40 Bouldering guide may have just set the standard that all guidebooks should shoot for!

If you know anything about bouldering in the Southeast, then you are already familiar with Horse Pens 40. An access success story in the early 2000’s, Horse Pens 40 became well known for its impeccable sandstone slopers pretty quickly. Almost instantly the area was compared to Fonatainebleau, the planet’s bouldering Mecca in France, and this helped to turn Horse Pens, and the southeast for that matter, into a legit bouldering destination. No longer were the stories of hidden boulders in the hillsides of the southern Appalachians just myths, only the lucky few could sample and was now possible for everyone to get in on the world class action. Since then, grades have changed, projects and testpieces have been sent and beta has been shared in major magazines and basic topo’s online. Horse Pens is also part of the biggest yearly outdoor bouldering competitions in the US...The Triple Crown Bouldering Competition. Now, finally, the new guidebook “Horse Pens 40 Bouldering” by Adam Henry and Greener Grass Publishing has given these inanimate rock formations their due respects.

I have been lucky to be able to travel to several different states and countries and experience bouldering in many different ways. Along the way I have relied heavily on any information source I could get my hands on, but mainly the use of a well respected and informative guidebook. I’ve seen the spectrum of guidebooks…used some of the most world renowned guidebooks to get around Fontainebleau and I’ve also used a few drunkenly scribbled beer napkin topo’s that weren’t so hot too. Up until the Rumbling Bald Bouldering Guide, there have been very few guidebooks to southeastern boulderfields. Southeastern boulder crags are sometimes mentioned in other guidebooks (like Horse Pens was mentioned in the Alabama & Georgia edition of “The Dixie Cragger’s Atlas”) but instead have mainly stayed in the realm of a .pdf file from Dr Topo (RIP). The new “Horse Pens 40 Bouldering” adds a vital tome to possibly the most well known southern boulderfield.

As soon as I picked up the book, I couldn't help but notice that the layout and design of the book is clean, vivid, and sharp. Brilliantly detailed color pictures pop out of every page, as I thumbed through, looking for my favorite sends. I skip past all of the words in the front to get to the topo’s and problem descriptions, the real meat of any guidebook. Almost every page is laid out differently, so it reads less as a textbook and more as an informative magazine. Also on almost every page are problem descriptions, a traditional topo, a photo topo, and a great action shot of a local legend or famous climber on that area’s classic...makes the book very appealing to thumb through and look at the pictures, even if you’re not looking at the topo’s or problems. If you haven't seen the sample pages yet, you really should check them out...and they didn't just use the best pages for the sample, the whole guide looks like this! The multiple photo sequences of the FA’s of Eric Pittman on Trick or Treat and James Litz (one of my all time favorite boulderers) on God Module were a really nice touch. I picked up quickly that there is a color coding to the problems on the topo’s; green for V3 and under, yellow for V4 to V7, and red for V8 and up...similar to color coding circuits at Fontainebleau. This makes it easy to glance at the traditional or photo topo and see what’s around in your grade range or which line out of the bunch you should climb. The topo’s are easy to read and navigating between areas is pretty easy...especially compared to topo’s of the past. At the beginning of each area, there is a description of the area, an overview of the area in comparison to the big map, a bar graph of different grades and the number of routes in that area, and a great little feature called “Not To Be Missed”. If you only get to visit Horse Pens for a few days, you want to climb the classics and cant misses in your grade range. ”Not To Be Missed” will tell you what the best routes to hit, in whichever grade range you climb, for the best Horse Pens experience. To top this off, in the front of the guide section is a list of the “Best Of The Best”, or the absolute best problems in the park at each grade. If you can only send a few...send these!

Alright, alright...I finished geeking out and gawking at the problems I had sent or wanted to send, so it was time to read this like a normal book, from cover to cover. Usually I skip over much of the introductory information provided in many guidebooks, too many times its just fluff, but the 30-40 intro pages is a pretty nice read. After the Forward from the Verm himself, the Brief History of Alabama bouldering takes you from John Gill’s experiences at Shades Crest/Moss Rock to those pushing the limits more recently. Adam’s reputation for being opinionated and polarizing show’s up in The Southern Way, more so than his recent interview in Climbing Magazine, but I understand his need to share his mantra and what has been a driving force in developing not only this guidebook, but the entire boulderfield. Grades are always debatable and Adam makes it clear that you can call it whatever you want and it wont hurt his feelings...with that being said, many of the traditional grades of many of the classics have been dropped and sandbagged, even compared to Font itself. Bumboy, Centerpede and Millipede have all seen a drop, and so have many more of the area classics...but he does qualify it by saying that these are the grades with perfect conditions and with intimate knowledge of the line based on previous ascents. The Alabama Beta is crucial for planning a trip and the articles by Bob Cormany and Brad McLeod provide an inside primer on deep south access and bouldering. Mike Shultz’s History of Horse Pens provides a glimpse into the past of Horse Pens and its many uses...although opinionated (come on…”War of Northern Aggression”) and debatable, its informative and sets a great background for bouldering in the area.

Luckily, the book came out before I took a recent, late season road trip. This wasn’t my first trip to Horse Pens, but I still wasn’t exactly familiar with the entire area, so the guidebook really helped me find my way around. It was much easier than the old Dr Topo to use, it covered more areas and problems, and helped me to maximize my time while I was there. I was able to pick which problems I wanted to send, walk straight to them without any navigation problems, and the photo topo’s made sure I was on route once I got there. It wasn't difficult to navigate through the labyrinth and make my way from area to area also.

As if the Horse Pens 40 beta wasn’t on point and enough, Adam also provides some info for 2 other areas nearby. I haven’t had the chance to climb at Palisades Park, but I was able to compete in Chalky Dreams at Moss Rock Preserve last year. If you’re down in Birmingham, there’s plenty there to keep you busy for a few days. The article “Shades Crest” by John Gill was a nice addition too! In comparing the topo and info I was given at the comp last year, there has been some changes to some of the names and grades, but overall the classics are still there and the boulderfield was represented better than I've ever seen it.

Overall, I thought this was one of the best bouldering guidebooks I have used. If the only gripe I have is that Bumboy was downgraded to a V3, I still think it’s a V4:), then I’d say the book was a success. As if Horse Pens 40 wasn’t already one of the best bouldering destinations in the southeast, now there is an equally impressive guidebook to lead you through the maze of impeccable problems! If you're planning that Alabama bouldering getaway, the first stop for info should be Greener Grass's website or your local outfitter to pick up a copy of this invaluable book. I am certain that the guidebook will make your trip more worth while and more enjoyable!


Alright, with that are the rules of the Guidebook Give Away Contest!
Post a comment right on this page or send an e-mail to with your name and address and the name of your favorite Southeastern (mainly AL, GA, TN, NC & SC), bouldering route. If you have a picture of you on that route, send that in too and I'll post it up in a future blog so everyone can see. If you havent been to the southeast to boulder, send me the name of the southeastern route that you dream of road tripping and climbing instead. All entries will be used in a random drawing on June 1st to give away 2 new copies of the guidebook. I will make a weekly post including the names and routes of all that have entered that week...that way you can see if I received your e-mail/comment entry or not and if you are entered in the contest. Please only submit 1 entry, multiple entries will be thrown out. I will not sale or use any e-mail or physical address for anything except this contest. Once again, this is all possible by the gracious guys at Greener Grass Publishing...keep an eye on them for new guidebooks coming out in the future. Good Luck and send those entries in!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Coming Soon...Horse Pens 40 Guidebook Review and GIVEAWAY!!!

If you check the site frequently, then you might have noticed the link to the new Horse Pens 40 Bouldering Guidebook has appeared to the left. Greener Grass Publishing has been kind enough to donate a brand new copy of the guidebook so it can be given away on the website. Keep your eyes peeled for the official contest information and my review of the new guidebook, coming within the next week. The contest will be open to anyone, anywhere and will be easy to enter and win!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

First Paddle and Lake Bouldering of the Spring

With all this hot weather, I'm shocked it took us until yesterday to take our first lake paddling trip. We finally went out to Lake Keowee, busier but warmer right now, and did a short trip near Falls Creek Landing. Falls Creek is infamous for the island, about a 1/2 mile out, with a 20 foot tall rock bulge that everyone jumps off of. Early in the season, before the poison ivy takes over and the lake drops any, you can climb a few great routes up the rock bulge, knowing that the water has got your back! One of my favorites is the V3 that starts on the right side of the rock, goes up the broken ledges and tops out on the slopers at the top...really sketchy feeling when you're mantling out the top! If you havent checked out any of the water bouldering spots on Keowee, you should. The 2 I listed under local spots can be accessed by land or next time you want to cool off, pack your oldest shoes, head out to the lake and get some air between you and the water!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Break Sendfest!

As I mentioned in my last post, I had this last week off of work and had a chance to boulder until I couldn't see straight!

The break started last Friday and Saturday at Boat Rock in of my favorite bouldering spots in the South. We started out at the Spiderman boulder, and I surprisingly started out my break on a high note. After feeling strong on Spiderman Crack V2 and Spiderman Direct V3, I then made quick work of Spiderman Traverse V4. I was then able to add the extra traversing that changes Spiderman Traverse into Antivenom V5...for the send of my first Boat Rock V5. As I mentioned in my last post, I have been dealing with some injuries, and I felt like it was going to lead to an early end of the bouldering I was pretty psyched to send something so hard, at least for for me. Feeling confident, I laid down for the start of Venom V5. I couldn't even pull off of the ground for the first few tries and then I made a little progress and figured out how to hold my heel hook and at least suspend myself from the its on! After clamping down with my thighs, and bleeding from both, I made the one hard move to get the problem started, got my feet beneath me and traversed over to one of my favorite top outs at Boat Rock. Venom became an instant classic for me, it felt so good to send and was the highpoint for Friday's session.

After climbing some routes on the Bad Boys boulder, we headed out to the Yellow Arete area, just in time to see a couple of sends of Yellow Arete of the super classic Boat Rock problems. I've never had good success on the route, but I love to see folks send it! We were all climbing on the smaller boulders close by, sending mainly easy stuff, when we encountered another new favorite of mine...The Shield V3 (SDS V4). To be such a simple problem, I really enjoyed sending it, and Brian sent it too. I followed The Shield up with Mantle One V3 & Mantle Two V3, and then we called it quits for the day and headed out for dinner.

Saturday we went back to Boat Rock and had another good day of sends. Brian has been projecting Sourwood Arete V3, almost every time we go out to Boat it was good to see him finally send it! This is another one of the area classics and a super fun route. We then went down and sent some of the problems on the Waves In Motion boulder and the big Beach slab, and from there we decided to head out to the Half Pipe area, somewhere none of us had been out to before. Bread Basket V2 has such an obvious feature on the rock, the bread basket, that it calls out to you to climb it. Then I sent the rest of the routes on the same boulder...Pipe Dreams Arete V3, Diamond Head V2 and the easy slabs in the Half Pipe. We added a few other easy routes to the tick list and headed out to the Glove. Brian wanted to work on Eagle Slab V3, and I have always tried to figure out Dogwood Arete V4 when I'm nearby. Brian blew a hole in the soles of both of his climbing shoes, so he was shut down completely...and I was shut down on Dogwood, yet again. We could hear the cold beers calling out to us from Brian's fridge, so we headed back to rescue them and put them out of their misery:)

That was the end of the first trip of Spring Break, and what a good trip it was! I found out that I wasn't as injured as I thought I was, and the time off/down time I took actually helped me to rebound and send at the top of my game. Its always a blast to hang out with Brian and Sara and see Atlanta from an insiders point of view too!

From Little Eastatoee

I was feeling beat until Monday, when I stopped off at Little Eastatoee and sent one of my last projects there...West LE Fadeaway V4. This is a fun route that includes a good variety of movements. I was happy to wrap up my Little Eastatoee tick list for the season!

My second trip of the break was to Horse Pens 40, what most consider to be the mecca of southeastern sandstone bouldering. I'm a slab fan, so both Boat Rock and Horse Pens are right up my alley! Since I had been back from Boat Rock, I kept thinking about a route I could have sent, but didn't really try...the V4 SDS to The Shield. So on my way down Tuesday, I stopped off for a quick lunch break at Boat Rock and headed out towards Yellow Arete to send it. It didn't take too many attempts to figure out the sit start and balancy move required to link into the stand start version of The Shield, and add the send. Right around the arete from The Shield is an obviously overchalked hold that is used to launch off of and dyno to the lip...Robert's Throw, a V6/7. I had looked at the route on the first Boat Rock visit, and gave it a couple of attempts, but didn't really give it my best. After working out the best, highest feet that would work, I gave it a couple of solid attempts. Unexpectedly, I almost snatched the lip within my first half dozen tries, and stuck it with a dozen. I heaved my body over the top out mantle and was super psyched to have sent! Robert's Throw and Venom were the 2 definite highlights of my 3 Boat Rock visits over my break.

After the drive-by sending in ATL, I headed on to Horse Pens. This was only my second trip to HP40, and my first time camping and night climbing there. My last trip was almost entirely about sending Bumboy, so I really wanted to see as much of the place as I could this time. After setting up camp, I headed out to the Ten Pins area to send a bunch of stuff I wanted to last time I was here. After shoeing up, I pulled on the first few routes and then started rapid sending. Some of the highlights for me included Sunbeam V3, Baja V2, Ketchup V1, and Copa Cabana V2(hasnt this been a V3 up until now?). Then I went over to the Spirit area and sent some of my favorites of the trip...Snibe V1, The Stranger V2, and Spirit V3. Spirit was one of the highlights of Horse Pens this trip. I figured out the top moves pretty quick, but had some trouble with the SDS. Thanks to a guy from Nashville showing me the SDS moves, I finally linked it all together for the send. At this point, I had exhausted myself in like 2 hours, so I headed back to camp for a bit.

For my second session, I really wanted to work on Centerpede and Millipede, but the action on Bumboy was way too intense to be around. A nice guy, that I had met earlier, was flipping out trying to send, while some death metal thrashed out of some ipod speakers nearby...way too much for my generally mellow mood. Its funny how so many people can get so frustrated and lose their cool while they're climbing. I took the new guidebooks advice and headed around the corner to the much less crowded Orchid V2. I really enjoyed Orchid and Sure Thing, both fun typical slopey HP40 V2's, and also added Lay It Down V2, Busu V2 and Pearl Necklace V2, other good feeling routes. After sending Merlin V1, one of the best V1's I've climbed, I headed over to work on Orca V3, one of the routes I've always wanted to send. I worked it a little last time I was here and got nowhere, but I felt like a different climber this time. After figuring out the big right hand slap to the top, I took another dozen or so tries to be able to move out left to the crimpy sloper and top it out...what a sweet route! This, along with Spirit, were the 2 highlights of my trip to HP40. Feeling like my muscles were becoming jello, I headed pack for a rest at camp.

After dinner and night fall, I headed out to some of the Roadside boulders for a quick night session. I sent a few V0's and Lucky Charms V2 to finish up a great day of climbing! Wednesday morning I was the first person awake in the entire campground, so much for sleeping late. I was able to get another short session in before 8am, and realize that my fingers felt like over hydrated hot dogs, rolling around on a bed of nails. I gave in to the fact that I was completely spent and packed it up early and headed home. I had an incredible time on this trip; Boat Rock and Horse Pens, with so many quality sends...made for one of my best road trips ever!

Table Rock Webcam
Thursday, I went hiking up in Table Rock State Park and identified a possible new bouldering area that the CCC will be asking for in a new proposal to the park. I climbed just a few easy low ball routes (I don't want to make anyone angry and jeopardize future access) but found these routes fun and the boulderfield very worthy of asking for in the proposal. News of this proposal will be coming in a future post.

Friday, George and I went to Granite City and had an easy day of sending V1's. I also topoed some new stuff and updated the old topo with more accurate grades...look for it to be posted up within a few weeks.

Now its Saturday and I'm trying to rest up, as well as, get some biking and paddling in before I have to be back at work on Monday. The heat has come on so fast that we skipped the springtime 70's and went straight to the summer 80's, so bouldering season down here in South Carolina is on its last leg...I couldnt be any happier with how I climbed and the routes I ticked on my break though. It was a great way to wrap up (or start wrapping up) an incredible bouldering season!