Monday, September 26, 2011

The Season

By Kreg Dobzinski

Tis the season! No, not for turkeys and family and presents, but for something way better - climbing. It is absolutely ludicrous that this time of year is called Fall when this time of year is all about sending. Now, I know some of you outdoor enthusiasts may be excited about the prospect of crimping on crisp razor cut holds or sticking to a sloper like velcro, but be aware that climbing outside has a whole other set of expectations.

First of all, why is Autumn more conducive to pebble wrestling? Basically, the lower temperatures create better friction and also allow you to climb with less heat fatigue. Also, most have been waiting/training since the end of spring so both physical strength and mental facility is often at maximum capacity. Although, those of you who have not climbed on real rock before should be aware that you may (and probably will) get shut-down on climbs at a grade you normally would be able to cruise. That's O.K., a few more sessions will hone your new route discerning skills. On the plus side, intermediate features and multiple beta sequences are more of a possibility making height and pure brute strength oftentimes less of a factor outdoors.

Speaking of the actual areas themselves, the southeast is the nearest to O-town and has a wealth of possibilities. Hundreds of the best boulder problems in the US are scattered through the areas of Rocktown, Stone Fort, and HP40. Sport and Trad climbing are no slouch either a little farther north in Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina. Planning would be prudent, but the main thing to do is just pick a spot a go. But wait, where's the tape? While there is something to be said for taking an on-sight approach to climbing in a new area, but with a guidebook your experience will most likely be more fulfilling. Knowing the cluster of grades in a certain area goes a long way because the ability to more fine-tune your warm-ups and prevent gassing out early. Additionally, most guidebooks will include a star rating that is a subjective measure of how pleasing it is to complete the noted climb and this can save you from picking a route with breakable holds or overly awkward movement. Conveniently, we have a wide variety of guidebooks for areas such as these in our pro-shop.

If camping, it would be smart to remember a few things. A major one would be to respect the area you have chosen and been allowed to climb at. 'Pack it in, Pack it out' is a simple waste management philosophy that basically states the intention to leave the location either the same or better than you found it. Access issues usually delicate and risking permanent closure due to simple laziness is unwise. Plus, you will have thousands of other angry climbers to deal with and I will tell them where you live. On a lighter note, research other cheap or free activities to do in the area because your hands only have so many layers of skin and need a rest day, but keep in mind if you are near rocks you are probably going to still want to climb them.

For eats, hitting up the local grocery store will be the cheapest, but if you plan on choosing a restaurant - please don't go somewhere you have been a million times before. Various websites like Urbanspoon and the word-of-mouth recommendations from the locals will probably provide a much more satisfying food experience. Most likely there will not be a water fountain installed at the base of that arête' you going to work on for a few hours. Cramping from dehydration is a very real possibility and because of the lower temperatures you will probably not notice until it already too late. Keeping both your outer campsite and inside your tent tidy goes a long way when having to pack it back up again. Lastly, remember the advice given by moms worldwide - bring a whole bunch of socks and underwear.

This is by no means a comprehensive overview of what to do in the outdoors, but I hope some of the information will become useful and got you a little psyched to get out there. Remember to be cautious and seriously weigh the risks of any climbing endeavor, but most of all enjoy yourself. If you have any questions regarding locations, various pieces of gear you might have to use outside, or are interested in grabbing one of our sweet, sweet guidebooks make sure to come on up to the front desk or email us at
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