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, August 23, 2012

Summertime Chattanooga Roadtrip: Rocktown and Little Rock City

Back at the end of July, when the mercury was popping out of the thermometers, an incredible new guidebook arrived in my mailbox...the Rocktown Bouldering Guidebook!  Over the years, I’ve bouldered at practically every southeast boulderfield worth visiting, including a lot of trips to LRC and enough visits to HP40 to know my way around…but I’ve never made it out to Rocktown. So the new guidebook gave me new motivation to get out that direction and give an honest review of the book from the perspective of a newbie to the area. Unfortunately the guidebook came out during the summer and 100 degree heat, but fortunately I have a wonderful wife that was game for a roadtrip!  Here is a recount of the roadtrip and coming very soon is the full review of the new guidebook, so check back often!!!

When we got to the parking lot, we were greeted by a couple of dads and their sons (all non-boulderers) that had just got back from a long hike through the boulderfield and upon returning to their car, realized that they had lost the car keys and were locked out…with no more water, no cell phone reception and no way of getting back home to Atlanta. So, we decided to help these guys out, and my wife shuttled one of them down the mountain, so they could make a call for help, while I packed Lily, my crashpad and gear into the boulders. Not the best situation for bouldering, but I’ve always had a dream of taking Lily on a bouldering trip with just the 2 of us, and this was as good of a time as any!

So we hiked in to the legendary Hueco Simulator area, I unloaded Lily and the gear and got her playing with some toys before I shoed up and set the pads for the first sends. I climbed all of the fun V0’s along the perfectly featured wall and turned around to my daughter eating a fist full of dirt…so we decided to just do a little recon of the area together instead, until my wife caught back up to us. Once I could focus again on the sandstone giants and their perplexing puzzles all around me, we headed to one of the poster routes for the area, The Scoop V2. The Scoop climbs a slabby scoop to a slabby top out with a couple of good holds…needless to say, not a warm weather problem. But this is one route that everyone has always recommended to me, so I had to give it a good effort to say I at least tried. I love slabby boulder problems and thought The Scoop would actually not be that bad, even with diminished friction due to the heat…I mean it is just a V2 slab…I can send that in my sleep…right?....NOPE! I was able to send The Scoop Left V1, an easier version of the V2 classic, The Scoop Right V3, a harder version of the V2 classic, and Imaginary Pathway V2, a slab around the corner from the V2 classic…but I just couldn’t pull off the V2 classic. I was happy to have a reason to come back as soon as the weather cools off though!

I had poured a lot into trying The Scoop, and along with the intense heat, I was getting pretty wiped out at this point, even though I had only seen 2 boulders, but I didn’t want to leave until my fingertips were screaming at me, so on the way out I hit the Lucky 7 boulder at the beginning of the boulderfield. Lucky 7 is a nice beginners or warm up boulder with plenty of V0’s and a couple of harder routes. I was able to squeeze my remaining strength out on the top section of the problem Lucky 7 V2 and sent Squat Low V3 with a lot less effort. Because of its size and complexity, Rocktown is not an easy boulderfield to navigate, but the whole time I was in the boulderfield, the guidebook kept me on track and if I found myself confused, it didn’t take very long to use the book to reorient myself and get to where I wanted to be. The maps and topos are very user friendly and with minimal effort, even the newest bouldering gumby can find their way around the maze of boulders in this amazing boulderfield. Once to the boulders, the photo topos make it super easy to find your route and before you know it, you’re topping it out! There will be a lot more about the Rocktown Guidebook in the next post, coming very soon!

From there we headed to Chatty and our lodging for the night…the Chattanooga Choo Choo. We rolled the dice on the Hotwire hotel deal where you pay a really cheap rate, but you don’t know which hotel you’ll stay in until you pay. The Choo Choo is the reconditioned train station of the famous train, the Chattanooga Choo Choo. With old trains on the premises, some you could even stay in, a great pool and hot tub and clean rooms, the whole family had a blast! And The Terminal next door has some great food and beer and makes for a fun place after sending all day.

The next morning I got up early and headed out the Little Rock City for a few hours, before the heat set in for the day. I wasn’t feeling all that psyched for some reason when I got there…I’ve been to LRC quite a bit and have sent most of the quality routes in my grade range, so there wasn’t any specific route that I was focusing on. So I decided to just hit some routes I hadn’t really focused on too much in the past towards the front of the boulderfield. I sent a few V1’s (maybe Green Label and Black Label…I can’t remember off the top of my head) before heading over to check out Genghis Khan and Manute Bol. Neither looked remotely doable for me right now, but I ended up climbing the easy terrain to the right of these routes and to the left of The Wave. After sending a few V0 slabby problems, I took a crack at Green Machine V4 and flashed the thang!!! I really enjoy slabby bouldering, and after making the first few hard feeling moves to get really established on the slab, the second half of the problem felt like a walk off. I was a little shocked to send a V4, especially a slab problem, while on this summer trip, but it totally sent my psyche through the roof! Then it dawned on me that I had really wanted to work Art of the Vogi V4, but never had…so I headed over to the impressive overhang and bubbly face and started digging in. Vogi let me know quickly that I wasn’t going to flash it and I was going to have to work hard for the send. After about an hour of figuring out the best way for me to get past the lower overhanging moves and sending the top out once, I linked it all together and pulled onto the bubbly face and stood up for the send. To be a problem that you don’t top out, I thought Art of the Vogi was one of the best routes I had ever sent!!! Seriously…I got it up there with Bumboy at HP40, the 5a going up the face of L’Elephant in Fontainebleau, Shady Grove, Slave Driver, and Morning Star at Rumbling Bald, Hooker and Flexorcisor at Lily, Lost Digits and Sourwood Arête at Boat Rock, Use The Force and New Jedi Mind Trick at the Jedi Boulders and Meat Grinder at the Bearfields. Whoa…did I just list my top 13 problems I’ve climbed over that past 20 years??? If these aren’t the top 13, then these routes are definitely some of my all time favorites...that's for sure!!!
I had plans of heading to the Lily Boulders and to Boat Rock on this same trip, but the weather didn’t cooperate enough for me to make it to Lily, and it was 100 degrees during the time frame I had to hit Boat Rock…so I ended up passing on sessions at both spots and just savoring the taste of the send of Vogi more!  I hope everyone has had a chance to get out and climb lately…if not, get off the internet and go send something fool!!! Just make sure to check back real soon for the Rocktown Guidebook Review!

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