21 June, 2017

Generic C&C Post

I have only been climbing once in the past month and I am definitely starting to miss it! I have gotten the chance to go kayaking a couple more times. I hit up the USNWC a couple of weeks back and then loaded the gear up to head out to National Camping School to get re-certified as a Program Director for summer camp. On the way, up, my car broke down and it ruined my plans of trying to find a river to paddle when everything had great flow.

Alec on the first drop of Pinball.

This past weekend I got the chance to paddle with my roommate, Alec, one last time before he made the move to Colorado. He’s actually been there for a few weeks now, but came back to NC to finish up his degree with a short summer course. We hit up the Upper Green with our friend Brandon, who I’ve never paddled with before.

Brandon on Bayless' Boof.

The day was great with clean runs down the Upper Green from all of us. After stuffing our faces with Saluda Stuffers, we headed to Fishtop and paddled across the small pond at the put in to Pulliam Creek Trail to make our way into the Narrows, towards Hammer Factor. It was the first time any of us had hiked on this trail, but I found it to be easier overall than the other trail towards Hammer Factor. I walked further down the trail and added a couple of rapids of the Narrows I had never paddled before, starting a little above what I believe is Blackwater Falls.

08 May, 2017

Big Laurel Creek

It’s clearly been a long time since I last posted. Well, at least I’m not as bad as Evan! The past two months I have been active- but I’ll get to that in another post. Right now, I want to talk about my Personal First Descent of Big Laurel Creek.

The story begins a couple of weeks ago, when my roommate, Alec, and I went and paddled the Deep River. It was a nice warm up for the year, but definitely left a hunger in our stomachs. We painfully watched the river levels over the next week-and-a-half. Everything had water, but we were too busy with work and school to go paddle. Finally, the opportunity arose where Jamie and I would be in the mountains near the rivers; we had found our window.

To make things fun, Alec, Jamie, and I invited our friends Patrick and David to join us. Alec and I were hoping to get everyone out on a river that would be a step harder than what they had done in the past, but still be fun for everyone. We had been planning on the French Broad, section 9. A few days of rain before the trip brought that idea crashing down with a flooded river that we weren’t committed to taking three new paddlers on.

We then turned our eyes to the Green River. Jamie and Patrick both have been down the Upper Green a few times now and it seemed like they were going to add a notch to their belt. Luck was on our side because water was spilling over the dam to Lake Summit. If the lake level reached at least 100.6% we would be able to paddle the Dries.

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I called and checked the lake level: 100.63% Perfect! The Dries had enough water to get us down, but not so much water that Jamie, Patrick, and David couldn’t join us. Not wanting to get stuck on the river after the water release shut off I made sure to find out about the scheduled release times. “No Scheduled Release.” What I didn't know then, was that they were running the dam all day long. No shutoff time!

I made the decision that we would go to Big Laurel Creek. It was a river I had been wanting to paddle for quite some time, but hadn’t been eyeing because I thought it might be a little too much for some of the others to handle. They proved me wrong. Jamie, Patrick, and David all did great! David managed to get his first two rolls on a real river- and managed to stay in his boat the whole time. He even got his first Class IV that day. And even though Patrick and Jamie both swam some, I was very proud of how well they did. Their resilience was very inspiring.

Big Laurel is probably one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve paddled, and just what we were looking for. It started out at a great pace. A slew of Class II's to warm up on before picking up the pace. Plus, getting to run a creek style river that dumps into a Big Water river was an interesting experience for everyone. Switching from the steep rapids on Big Laurel to the last couple miles of French Broad, section 9 was a hoot! FB9 was pumping at around 5,500cfs which made Kayakers Ledge (normally a Class III) into a super beefy double drop with sticky holes on both. Frank Bell’s was a solid Class IV and super fun!

09 March, 2017

Keeping Busy - Having Fun!

It has actually been a pretty crazy month! It’s been awhile since I have posted so I figured I would post something short just as an update. I’ve felt like I’ve stayed active just because of the way my schedule has worked out. A few weeks ago UNCG hosted their 19th Annual Spartan Summit. Instead of competing this year, I helped set for the Intermediate division. It was a blast to work with everyone and to set a large group of routes that all differentiated themselves through various styles.

I also got the chance to go outdoors a few times here recently. I got the chance to head out to Pilot Mountain with some of the climbing club. It was a great day. I do wish that I had gotten the chance to climb more, but I did manage to get on a 5.9 that was new to me and to finally send a 5.10 that I tried back in September. It was a great experience where I got to really feel how much I’ve improved over the past five months. It was also a blast getting to teach people how to lead climb and to get them on their first lead routes. It astounds me that less than a year ago I was learning how to lead myself.

Derek flashing Black Rain (5.9)

This past Monday I got the chance to hit up Moore’s Wall for some outdoor bouldering. I would be lying if I said I was overly happy with how I climbed. I flashed a smattering of V1s and V2s before hitting a brick wall in the V3 known as “V3PO”. Most of the problems were more overhung that I am used to and am excited to head back out there and hope that being more comfortable with the style that I will climb better.

Derek flashing R2-V2 (V2)

02 February, 2017

Eleven Months Left!

So… clearly these are being published a little late, but these are my goals for 2017. I really wanted time to reflect upon what I wanted out of this year. Evan probably knows this about me, but I set lofty goals for myself. For the past two years I have failed to meet 100% of the goals I set for myself at the start of the year- but both times I was did meet the percentage of goals I set out for myself. This year I decided to strip down the goals to the ones that were really important to me.

Whitewater Kayaking
25 - Days Paddling
2 - Personal First Descents
5 - Different Rivers Paddled

10 - New Advanced Climbs (UNCG) Top Rope or Bouldering
5 - Days Climbing Outside
1 - 5.12 Climbed at Any Gym or Crag

Other Activities
30 - Miles of Backpacking
190 - Target Weight (lbs)

Creeks & Crags
20 - C&C Posts
4 - C&C Videos

Reading & Writing
1 - Participate in NaNoWriMo
2 - Entries Submitted for Publishing
4 - Books Read

1- Earn Bachelor’s Degree
3.0 - Spring Semester GPA

Some may notice that there are less goals oriented around outdoor activities. This isn’t because I plan to be less active, but because I plan to be more efficient in how I spend my free time. I would rather spend my time focusing on the things I really love. I also decided to set goals by days spent, rather than raw number of rivers. Last year I paddled 18 days, so I know I will have to remain active to reach the 25 days of paddling this year.

Hopefully Evan will let us know his goals soon.

24 January, 2017

The Beauty of Believing

But I just made the terrible mistake of checking the water levels of the nearby rivers during January when I don’t own a Drysuit. Everything is running and my kayak sits in my living room where it continues to hibernate for the winter. (Save for a failed attempt to go snow-yaking.)

While my kayak slumbers- I have been continuing to climb frequently. I assume you could call “almost every day” frequently. Other than a couple weeks off for the holidays I have been feeling stronger and stronger in my climbs and managed to hit a milestone in my climbing career before my short break.

Actually this Friday (Jan. 27th) will mark the one year anniversary of when I began climbing. Thanks to the beauty of text messaging I know the date. For my first few months I climbed at the old UNCG wall “The Edge”. In mid-August the new UNCG Rock Wall opened up to the public for the first time and as the gates open the community flooded in. Immediately two routes stood out, ‘Moon Stone’ (5.11) and ‘Something to Believe In’ (5.11). All of the advanced climbers at the time began jumping on each route and trying their hand at conquering the beasts that would both would probably be graded higher and most commercial gyms. ‘Something to Believe In’ probably deserves to be 5.11+ at UNCG.

Left start hold and route card for 'Something to Believe In'

In less than a week ‘Something to Believe In’ was recognized for having an incredibly challenging start that was deemed ridiculous by many climbers. After a month only three people had managed to get on the project and make it to the top (clean), including the person who had set the route. For two months the route toiled away in obscurity as the only people who dared to touch it were those wanting to see why it had developed its reputation. Pulling on to the wall and making the first move just seemed out of reach.

That is until Patrick encouraged me to give it a go one evening. Like everyone the starting moves just proved to be too much for me. So I ended up skipping the first one/two moves and began working the rest of the route. It is a route that uses a combination of creative balance moves with slopers, sloped pinches, and crimps. It was incredibly hard to figure out how to use each hold and I felt way in over my head. It stood alone when it came to difficulty of routes I had been on, but when I came off of it for the day it no longer felt quite as impossible.

For the next couple weeks I started to hop on it more and more often making progress as I climbed. It sometimes felt like people thought I was weird for projecting it, but I had become consumed by the climb and I continued to work it. The final piece was putting together the start, which I managed to do with the help of Nick, one of the people who had climbed it. Eventually I sent the route and became the fourth person to get it clean.

It would be easy for me to claim ‘Something to Believe In’ as a milestone route because it is the hardest route I have ever climbed or even because I spent more time projecting it than any other climb. But what really sets the route apart for me is feeling I got and feedback I received from UNCG’s climbing community as I worked it. It was the first time that it felt like I had ever influenced people to climb something. Climbers who I look up to and have been learning from for the better part of a year seemed to watch me climb and listen to my praises the quality of the route. Since I topped ‘Something to Believe In’, Jamie and Alec managed to send it- and other climbers have managed to get incredibly close.

While I doubt it will take anyone else the same number attempts, I am glad that I managed to reignite interest in climbing a route- and that that interest ended up allowing the route to live well past its lifespan. As one of, if not the oldest route on our wall it will be stripped in a couple weeks as we prepare for our annual competition and I am sure more people will send it before it comes down. At least from me, it will be missed!

01 January, 2017

Goodbye 2016 - It's Been a Fun Ride

It seems to be a common trend on the internet to celebrate the ending of 2016. Just because people have replaced their calendars with new ones that have different numbers they think everything that happened last year would magically disappear. Luckily, I had a great 2016.

For the past two years I have set out with a list of goals to accomplish and these have worked out pretty well! I have yet to meet 100% of the goals that I put down, but have managed to reach the percentage set out for myself both years. Here is a very brief rundown of my 2016:

I spent 18 days paddling this year, which doesn’t sound like much, but for someone who lives in the Piedmont of North Carolina where paddling opportunities can be limited is actually a huge deal. During that time I paddled five Personal First Descents (PFDs):

  • Toilet Bowl / Hammer Factor [Green River Narrows]
  • Deep River [Cedar Falls Section]
  • Middle Ocoee River
  • Upper Ocoee River
  • Haw River

Gabriel's Bend Rapid (Haw River)

Each trip was an amazing experience and I learned a lot from each one. While I am super stoked to have run the last two rapids on the Green River Narrows, which included my first Class V, the weekend I spent on the Ocoee River with my friend Meryl stands out as one of, if not the funnest river I have ever paddled.

I guided three people on their first kayaking trips. Watching each of them have a blast as they embraced the sport was super exciting for me and I realized I still have a lot to give when it comes to the sport. (I also have a lot to learn too.) My roommate and I also entered our first kayaking race at Tuck Fest, which is where I realized that Kayak races might not be my cup of tea.

For years I have wanted to get into climbing and this year I finally did. In less than I year I have managed to meet a great group of friends through my University’s climbing community and have worked hard to improve. I entered my first two Climbing Competitions and even began to Sport Climb outdoors. I got the chance to make my first climbing trips to New River Gorge, Lake Summersville, and Pilot Mountain.

Pole Dancing (Pilot Mountain)

Recently I finished climbing the hardest climb I’ve ever sent at our University’s wall which was an amazing experience. I will likely write a post about this soon.

Backpacking / Hiking
I spent three days of my Spring Break completing the last 30 miles I had left to hike in the Nantahala National Forest. It was great getting back out on the Appalachian Trail with my dad and I was super stoked that we got to share that experience with my little sister.

Cheoah Bald (Nantahala National Forest)

I also got to hike the Perimeter Trail at Camp Grimes for the first time in years, and loved every second of it.

Disc Golf
I played eleven disc golf courses this year, six of those were new courses for me. In that time I got to play my first Doubles Tournament with a friend I met from school where we did decently well for as out of practice as we were!

Fitness and Leisure
I managed to lose enough weight this year to get to 188.6 lbs but have struggled to keep it off. I have been bouncing between 190 and 200 all year, and am currently back at 200. I plan to get back down below 190 and to keep the weight off this year. Evan and I also managed to increase the amount of content that we were posting to the various outlets of Creeks & Crags.

This year I managed to have a combined GPA of 3.72 at UNCG which is probably my best accomplishment of 2016. Not because I don’t think I couldn’t have done better, but because I have finally managed to learn how to balance my school work with all the other things I want to do.