Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Grayson Highlands Trip and the Dixon Dessert
I have been pretty busy since I got back from our trip up to Grayson Highlands in Virginia last week...but I finally got a free minute to write up a report about the trip. Overall, I would say this was one of the most fun trips I've taken in a while! And it wasn't strictly due to the bouldering...the trip on the Virginia Creeper Rails to Trail was a lot of fun and the wild ponies were a big hit too!
So we headed up last Tuesday and within an hour of leaving Boone, we were at Grayson Highlands...much closer than I first anticipated. The weather was obviously cooler and the scenery was dominated by beautiful rolling hills with a big blue sky above. After getting settled at the cabin we stayed in, we headed straight to the park to hit the boulders full tilt. I had made arrangements to meet up with Aaron Parlier, the main developer of Grayson Highlands, and so we headed to the one place I really wanted to visit, The Highlands. The Highlands area is only a 15 minute hike up the AT connector from the Massie Gap parking lot. Once up on the ridge, you feel like you can see for miles and miles...gorgeous views of the hills and mountains that surround southwest Virginia, northeast Tennessee and northwest North Carolina. As soon as we hit the Highlands, we were greeted with a small pack of 3 wild ponies!
This is one of the reasons we wanted to go up here, and those cute little beggars (if you reach for your backpack, they snuggle up to you waiting for you to give them some food) didn't disappoint! After pulling our attention away from the ponies, the clusters of boulders strewn on most of the hilltops, especially the first, closest cluster, was calling out to us to go climb. We had seen Aaron and Travis working The Horizon Line V5ish, on this cluster when we first hit the ridgeline and then caught up with them. The boulders here are tall and polished due to their exposure to extreme weathering...it felt like I was climbing some of the polished routes at Rumbling Bald. We went and found the Highland Highball V2 problem, and decided it was a little too tall for the pads we brought that day, so we focused on the smaller Lowball boulder next too it. I sent a variety of easy warm up routes on this boulder and then went to work on the problem that grabbed me the most, Lowball Corner SDS. The problem sit starts under the first arete on the boulder and follows the short arete to the top. On the send of this route, the crucial right foot hold broke, making the problem a little more difficult...I sent it one more time with the missing foot and it felt even harder without it, I would say a solid V3 with the missing foothold. Here's a shot of me cleaning the route...
After talking with Aaron, he thought this was probably an FA. I went back before the last day we were there and attempted to get some footage of the route, but the heat and me bringing the wrong shoes for the problem didn't allow me to get footage of the SDS, but I did get a video of the Low Start, which goes around a V2. I was stoked to get an unexpected FA...giving me a boulder FA in 5 different states now! After climbing on the Lowball boulder, and goofing off a little on the highball boulder, we packed it up and headed up to the Listening Rock area with Aaron and Travis. We met up with Kaci Quinn, one of the rangers in the park that is helping lead the boulder charge, and proceeded to climb some of the easier routes and attempt some of the V3's and above. I was able to send about 10 different V0-V1's in this area that were super fun! Communion V0+ and Honeycomb V0/1 were some of the most fun and best roues in the low grades up there. I was thwarted by the sharp holds on The Hive V3, because I didn't want to cause a big flapper on my first day. After a great first day of bouldering in the Highlands and Listening Rock area, we headed back to the cabin for the evening.
The next morning we headed out to try to find the AVP boulder. We got to the parking area and found the Roadside Boulder and sent the Roadside Warm Up Vo and then I was able to add the SDS on thin crimps to tick Roadside Warm Up SDS V4. After this, we tried to find the trail out to AVP, but with all of the underbrush, we didn't ever find it...so we headed back into the park and to the Listening Rock area again. I added a few more routes to the tick list, including Bi-Lingual V1/2, picture below, which is one of the better routes in that grade range at GHSP, and then I sent what I thought was Biopsy V5.
I started with my left on a crimpy flake and right on a good crimp, pulled onto the rock and deadpointed up to a small crimpy gaston that liked to cause a barn door...the rest of the route was slopey and had a couple of fun moves to top it out. After getting together with Aaron, he explained that I didn't do Biopsy, but instead a variation that I called Bionic V3. I didn't think the route I sent was a V5, but it took me a lot of work to stick the barndoor move and be able to top it out...so I gave it a V3. This was actually one of my favorite routes of the trip and had some of the most fun moves of the trip! After nabbing a few more V0-V1's, we headed out for lunch and a nap before the evening session with everybody else. We met up with Matt Bielejeski from Charlotte and Kaci at the Contact Station and headed down to the Contact boulder near Kaci's cabin. This was one of the best boulders of the whole trip! The problem Copperhead V3 was another one of my favorites...and Kaci, Matt and myself each sent it first go. Kaci was stoked to climb her first V3, and for good reason! Matt added an FA called Heel or Peel V1/2 and I added an FA called Sleepy Hollow V1...both of these make great warm ups before you try Copperhead or Contact. These sends are in the video in the previous post. Aaron and crew showed up and worked Contact V4 a little before they all headed back up to the Listening Rock area. We were pooped, so we headed back for the evening, hoping to save a little something for the next day.
On Wednesday, we decided to go ride part of the Virginia Creeper bike trail over in Damascus. We opted to not get a shuttle and just ride up about 10 miles towards Whitetop and then turn around and head back. We had been riding a lot on the Swamp Rabbit Trail here in Greenville to get ready for the Creeper, so the miles weren't that bad, but the downhill return was fast and exciting! That evening we went back into the park and hit the Highlands area one more time.
Once again we were greeted with ponies...a pack of about 6 this time and 2 smaller ponies were in tow. The smallest one can be seen rolling in the grass on the video also. After hanging with the equine for a little while, we headed back over to the Highball and Lowball boulder again. After attempting the SDS and realizing it wasn't going to go this time, we climbed the easy stuff again and then I sent the Highland Dihedral V1 just to the left of the Highland Highball. I don't think this is an FA, but it might be since I haven't seen anything about it anywhere. This is a tall dihedral with some good hands right when you need them! After this...of course...we headed up to the Listening Rock area...again:) We were lucky enough to catch some footage of a couple of deer grazing right in front of the first set of boulders, which can also be seen in the video. The highlight of this session was Aarons 2nd go send of Man-Child V6, which can be seen in the video I posted on the last post. What a great day full of fun routes!
Our last day started with a stop off at Listening Rock to finish climbing all of the easy routes we hadn't yet got to send...its not always about climbing the hardest you can climb, I like to climb all of the easy stuff in an area too to get a real feel for the style of climbing. After sending Crash V0 and Duel V0, both use the same great crack to ascend a 12 foot section of rock, I sent Tall Dark and Beefy V3 and Vitamin B V3...both of which were tough sits that led to some thin crimps up a taller section of rock. With only 1 route left that I HAD to tick before I left, we headed down to the Rock House/Olympus area to climb Cherokee Dihedral V1. This ended up being one of my favorite routes of the trip and a great way to end the voyage. Here are a couple of pictures of Cherokee Dihedral, which follows the dihedral crack up and right to a fun top out.
If you are thinking about heading to Grayson, get in touch with Aaron through Mountain Project and he'll be happy to show you around, if he's around. Be prepared with extra skin and a roll of tape...the rock at Grayson reminded me of Boat Rock and Dixon, rough, sharp and able to rip a flapper in you before you know it!
After returning home to Pickens, SC, I drove my wife to the Charlotte Airport so she could fly out to visit her family. While in Charlotte I decided to stop off at Dixon and finish my week off with some bouldering...and it was hot! I only hit 2 boulders, the Zeus Boulder and the boulder just to the left of it, "Filthy Crack" as I've heard it called. After sending those fun tall warm ups on the side of Zeus, I worked Zeus Eye V6-V8 a little and realized it was going to take A LOT more effort and time, along with cooler temps to even come close to the send. So instead I managed to grovel my way up a couple of other V1 and V2 routes. Once over on the Filthy Crack boulder, I sent the fun V0/1 crack, and the V2/3 SDS that climbs the short face to the right. I have sent these routes before, but I have always worked the other 2 routes on the boulder to no avail. This time, despite the heat, I sent the Deadpoint Arete V3, which climbs up the arete, doubling on the obvious flat sloper, and then deadpointing up to the top hold and finishing straight up the arete...damn what a fun route (even though I reagrivated a big toe injury I've been battling off and on). After this I went to work on what seems to be a new FA on the bulging arete to the left of the crack. I had cleaned this line of lichen and debris the first time I came to Dixon last year, and worked it everytime I've been back...but this time it all finally came together perfectly. You start with a right hand low on the thin sidepulling seam and left on a small bump in the slopey arete...plant your feet and head straight up the seam to a small isolated seam closer to the top of the bulging arete and some open handed slapping. The route finally gives up a little when you hit the good pocket/sidepull on top of the bulging arete and you can finally get your feet on something substantial...I named the route "Float The Boat V4" because it felt just like a mixture of a V3 and V4 route from Boat Rock in Atlanta! I felt like it was one of the better sends of my break and a solid new route for Dixon...I was stoked! What a good end to a great week of bouldering!