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.