31 May, 2016

Weekend on the Ocoee

For the past year or so I had been trying to set up time to paddle the Ocoee River with Evan and my friend, Meryl. The three of us all know each other from working camp together, despite the three of us never actually working together at the same time. Weird. A few weeks ago, after getting off of the Green River I ended up texting Meryl to set up time to finally take her up on her offer to run one of, if not the Nation’s most popular whitewater river.

I ended up driving 5 hours to meet up with her and a few of her friends Saturday to paddle the Middle Ocoee. Despite only getting a few hours of sleep my excitement made the drive seem extremely short. I ended up meeting up with Meryl and couple of her friends around 1:00. As with every river, I was anxious before dropping in. It was a river I had heard about, but hadn’t seen too much of. The entire first day I felt a little reserved as I took my time familiarizing myself with the river and its characteristics. After dropping into Grumpy, the Class III right at the put-in I was hooked. By the end of the day I knew that the trip to Tennessee had been worth it.

The next day Meryl took me to the Upper Ocoee. This time we were joined by even more friends of hers from the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club. It was easily the largest group I have ever paddled with. I knew the Upper had a different reputation than the Middle, thanks to the Whitewater Center that was built for the 1996 Olympics. The first day, I admittedly was still working the last bit of rust off of my technique from 6 months off during winter. By the time we reached Alien Boof I felt back in form. After four laps of Alien Boof I actually felt better than ever.

The rest of the trip was incredible. We ended up running the Middle Ocoee after a quick break and it felt great. I ended up playing in the features more aggressively the second day and felt completely refreshed once the day ended. After this past weekend I think it is safe to say that I have found a new river to be listed among my favorites. It was also extremely nice getting to meet super amazing people who were willing let me accompany them down the river. (It was also great to get to paddle with such talented kayakers.)

I honestly can’t wait to head out that way again. In the meantime, if you aren’t aware take the time to pop over to Save the Ocoee and read about what you can do to help preserve recreation uses of the Ocoee River because the agreement between TVA and Tennessee is almost up and everyone’s support matters.

24 May, 2016

'Tis the Season for PFDs

Its been a busy couple of weeks! In a good way, a lot to talk about. A few weekends ago Alec and I headed west for the Green River. Our plan was to hit up the Upper Green then swing around and paddle the Lower Green. This would be Alec’s first time paddling the Upper Green and his first trip on a natural river outside of the Lower Green. He seemed pretty stoked to hit up the steeper drops of the Upper section. I was just pumped to get back on the river again.

After a quick shuttle, we were ready to drop into the water. Immediately Alec was able to tell the difference between the Upper and Lower. While the majority of rapids on the Upper are similar to those on the Lower, they begin sooner and appear much more frequent than on the Lower. It is fairly well paced and the first couple rapids give you a great chance to warm up for Bayless’ Boof (the first III+ rapid on the river). Like others before him, Alec noticed how much bigger the drop looks in person as opposed to in a video, but he ran both lines with confidence!
Alec's Personal First Descent of Bayless' Boof!

Derek dropping off of  Bayless' Boof backwards.
Alec's first time on Bayless' Boof's slide line!

Our trip was a huge success! Zero swims occurring- Alec managed to make it through the entire day without flipping, which was great for him since the water was a little cold and he didn’t have a Dry Top. By the time we got to Pinball (the second III+) he was super stoked to run it. He even went as far as to say it is one of, if not his favorite rapid he has ever run. After we finished we got out of our boats and began the steep hike uphill, passing a couple of paddlers who were planning on dropping into the Narrows (a section of river beyond either of our paddling abilities).

As we went to put into the Lower section of the Green, the same paddlers we saw hiking down to the Narrows were pulling off the river and struck up a conversation with us. After talking to them for 15 minutes I had built the confidence to huck into the bottom most section of the Narrows and run the last major rapid of the section, Hammer Factor. Alec and I took time to scout the rapid out and set him up as a river guard with his throw rope handy, just in case. I was breathing heavy as I slid into the water so I could control my breathing. After lining up I dropped through the first chute and began my descent down the diagonal slide that pushes you direction into a massive undercut boulder. One failed roll attempt, and one successful roll later I was in the pool below the rapid. It was my first time running a Class V rapid.

A video posted by Derek Dellinger (@dndelli) on

Hammer Factor wasn’t the only first new and exciting thing I have been given the chance to try out recently. As Evan said I did get the chance to go visit him in Morrisville and climb at TRC for the first time with my friends Keisei and Dustin. I think it was a great and positive experience for all of us. I was also able to clock in a new Personal First Descent of a river I scouted out earlier in the year, the Deep River. It is extremely rain dependent so I had to wait for the weather to be right.

If I am being honest, I had pretty much given up on the idea of running it because it was only flowing at 1.65ft, just barely within its runnable range. I really wanted it to be closer to 2.0ft. But Dustin called me after he got off work and asked if it was a no go. After talking to him for like 3 minutes I made the gut call to just go check it out. Within twenty minutes I had all my kayaking gear loaded and his fishing equipment and been packed away in my car, and at the river 30 minutes after that. It turned out to be a successful trip for both of us. I got an up close and personal look at the rapids and Dustin caught a few fish. The first fish he has ever caught on a river. (Dustin is the owner of the YouTube channel WhatTheYak and has been consistently putting out videos the past few months.) Here is a short video highlighting my experiences of the trip.

While only 0.2 miles in length and only containing 3 named rapids, it was definitely some of the best whitewater near my apartment in Greensboro. I would really enjoy running it at around 2.5-3.5 feet. In my 3 laps of the Deep River I could tell there were an incredibly large number of lines that could be run in higher water. The entire identity of the river would shift as well. It would probably change from a Class II+ river to Class III, possibly even Class IV! Hopefully I will get the chance to head back out there (maybe with Alec) and see how the river looks in higher water.

If I am keeping score, and I am, that is a Personal First Descent of Hammer Factor and the Deep River this year, with plans to travel to the Ocoee River to visit a friend, Meryl within the next week or so.

19 May, 2016

Trading Places

So Derek and I had another climbing gym swap-a-roo meetup where he came to my neck of the woods with a couple friends and we all went to the gym where I work, Triangle Rock Club.  TRC is a pretty nifty place with some okay bouldering and some really great top-roping and lead routes, which works out great for me since bouldering is, let's say, not my favorite.  I had a great time showing them around and getting back on the walls after not having a climbing buddy for a few weeks and I think my guests enjoyed themselves as well, but I'll let Derek speak on that.

As far as what I climbed it was nothing too far out of the norm or spectacular for me.  I borrowed a page from Wayne's book and warmed up on a 5.7 and then kept increasing the rating until I was starting to struggle.  My max attempt of the day was a 5.12- which I didn't send since I couldn't get through a big move to a slopey hold, and my best flash was a crimpy 5.11 that was a friendly reminder to work on my grip strength and form.

It's really frustrating to me that the jump from 5.11's and 5.12's seems so huge and I hate that I'm starting to feel like I can't move up to the next grade.  As much as I don't enjoy bouldering maybe it's a necessary evil to break out of this plateau, that or maybe I could get off my ass and climb more often but I'm having a lot of troubles finding the motivation to get out of the house right now.  The closer my Seattle move gets the more stressed out I get about meeting my savings goal before I leave, and of course leaving the house translates loosely into spending money so it's a constant struggle.

Not that I'm not still excited to move though, still really looking forward to that.  Anyway it's been a pretty slow time because of that so I've been living vicariously through watching other climbers in the gym while I'm working, particularly boulderers.  That counts for something, right?

05 May, 2016

Tuck Fest '16

The last time I checked in I was on the way out the door, headed for Tuck Fest. It seems appropriate that as I write about Tuck Fest, that I am packed and ready to head out the door to take a friend, Alec, down the Upper Green River. I am super stoked about it! There is a little rain coming down right now and water is scheduled for a 12 hour release tomorrow: fun will be had.

This was the fourth annual Tuck Fest held at the USNWC. It’s a three day festival with competitions, demos, and music. This was my first year attending and I will admit I was a little unprepared. I only entered two competitions because the timings, but both were great learning experiences. The first day I showed up early to watch friends from the UNCG Rock Climbing Club (The Cliffhangers) compete in the bouldering competition. It was amazing to watch everyone climb, and even more amazing watching the little kids compete. They crushed it. It made me really regret not bringing my climbing gear down because some of the boulder problems looked really fun.

The Cliffhangers (on the very right) checking out some boulder problems.

Later that day Alec, joined me in the Baker’s Dozen whitewater kayak race. 13 laps around the Wilderness Channel, approximately 6.5 miles. My first ever whitewater event was going to be a long endurance race. The river takes a completely different feel when there are 30-40 kayaks storming down the flat water in order to reach the first rapid in the lead. I was forced to roll quite a few times because exhaustion began to set in early and poor form caused me to flip in rapids that usually wouldn’t give me trouble. Despite reaching the first rapid in dead last I managed to pull back into the middle of the pack by the end of the race. (There were quite a few swimmers that day.) After the first person finished the race they called it and everyone pulled out, placing people in order by how far they had gotten. I only managed to complete 11 of the 13 laps. Though I was a little bummed initially, I realized I was competing against Olympic hopefuls who paddled nearly every day and it was my first time really paddling in about six months, save for the 1 Wildo lap I paddled when Adam and I hit up the USNWC a month prior.

On Sunday I met up with friends for the Cliffhangers again, this time to enter a Top Rope competition. For the few weeks leading up to Tuck Fest I was beginning to think I might actually enjoy climbing more than kayaking. During the Top Rope competition I began to realize as much as I love climbing I still love kayaking as much as I ever have. Early on we realized we were surrounded primarily by youth, and that the Adult class in the competition wasn’t really the priority of the staff. After only getting in 3 attempts in the first 3 hours I was there, I ended up putting my score card in my bag and hitting the river again. I’m not sure if it was the number of people competing, the styles of climbs, or just not being ready mentally to climb, but I felt like I wasn’t climbing to my own personal standard. Plus, I wanted to run the Competition Channel a few times. It was great to hit up the big water again and took some time in the Wilderness Channel to surf M-Wave before calling it a day.

Getting surfed in the hole at the bottom of Big Drop.

I ended up showing back up for the results of the Climbing Competition to cheer my club mates on. The Cliffhangers ended up sweeping the adult category of climbers. We all did some bouldering on the competition problems from the day before, while we waited for the results. I was also reminded of the importance of never giving up. If I had turned my score card in I could have come in 3rd place in the adult male category, partially because David decided to not worry about his score and I had managed to top a few easier routes that inflated my score higher than his. (I ended up “losing points” because I turned my score sheet in late, but I still got that Fourth Place Ribbon as a consolation prize. LOL)

Even though I did not perform as well as I wanted to, it was a great learning experience for me. It also reminded me of an important goal of mine for the year that would help me perform better in both climbing and kayaking, not to mention make me feel better: losing weight. So far I have done a decent job maintaining my weight this year, but I need to shed at least enough weight to drop from 200 lbs down to 190 lbs by the end of the year. Even then I would be on the heavier end of both disciplines, but I would be closer to my eventual target weight.