Joe’s Valley Utah

angler

Josh on Angler (V2)

We finally made it out to the iconic Joe’s Valley in Utah. After years of being told this place was climbing at it’s finest, we were excited to see for ourselves. By the end of day one, we were already completely in love with it. The fresh smell of pine, the turquoise waters, and the stunning countryside drive where we saw more deer than people and a wide variety of nature’s colors, were awe inspiring. The first climbs we got on raised the psych levels even higher. The rock has that nice sandpaper texture that makes you feel like your feet will stick even when they are actually on nothing. This was helpful in pushing past my highest outdoor grade on slab walls. I’m pretty sure there really were no feet in some of those sections. It wasn’t just the way the rock felt and the ease of climbing though. It was also the way the routes moved. These climbs were interesting and exciting. Some had some really unique and fun features. One thing I particularly enjoyed was that many of the top outs were easy. Everyone has a different opinion, but I like my struggle to be on route cruxes and not finishing cruxes. If you disagree, there is enough variety to have your tastes covered too.

me

Joe’s Valley is filled with boulders, but we suspect the development will only increase as the years go forward. The spread of boulders is endless. It looks like you can pull over anywhere and jump on something. To some degree you already can. Many of the boulders are scattered close to the road. The furthest hike was nothing compared to the hikes for pretty much any local area for us. People said it was like 15 to 20 minutes of hiking. About half of this was flat and slow uphill. It was easy to fit in a whole lot of climbing in a few short days. Of course, you need the skin to keep up with it. Being in dry weather on sandpaper textured rock makes that aspect a bit of a challenge. We found our skin tearing up pretty fast. You’ll hear no complaints from me though since I sent a record amount of climbs for myself on a trip.

me at Joes

One thing I will recommend, particularly if you have fair skin such as I, bring or buy sunscreen. The temperature technically wasn’t hot and the air was dry, but due to the elevation the sun was strong. About an hour being in it, if you’re not used to it, you can feel like you are burning up. We were trying to keep on hoodies even when it was hot and seeking reprieve in the shadows and mini caves. It is strong sun and it feels amazing with the proper precautions. Also drink plenty of water and/or stop at Cup of Joes. Okay, Cup of Joes probably isn’t an actual dehydration prevention strategy, but it tastes amazing and the people who work there are very nice.

When I went, I was informed that they had some secret menu items. I was able to get Butter beer. I’ve never tried this before, but I have seen Harry Potter and have been intrigued. I read online that places either make it like cream soda or butterscotch. I was praying and hoping for butterscotch, and my dreams came true. It was a delicious frap style butterscotch beverage, and I completely loved every drop. They also have a board where people can mark where they come from around the world. It’s amazing to see how many people from everywhere have been there in the short time they’ve been open. The just opened this year and there are people pinned from Australia and parts of Asia on the map. I’m sure they will do really well. I will gladly support them as much as I can by buying these tasty drinks any time I’m there.

Butterbeer

When staying at Joe’s Valley, you will find way more free camping that you know what to do with. Some of this camping is in absolutely stunning locations. However, if you are not the camping type or like us you’ve traveled far by plane and it’s just sort of complicated, you can also stay at the San Rafael Bed and Breakfast.  (http://www.sanrafaelbedandbreakfast.com). The man who owns and runs this is incredibly nice. They make a great free breakfast in the morning and are super helpful. One night we made our own dinner in the kitchen because it was Easter and everything was shut down. He let us borrow all the cooking supplies we needed.

It was also really fascinating because we were staying in the same place as some big journalists from CNN. I think this is safe to say by now because they are no longer there, so you cannot stalk them. We were able to have breakfast with them and hear all about this story they were doing. This area has the most people who deny climate change. CNN was trying to find out why and we are interested to follow when the story is published. The story will be written by John D. Sutter, who writes environment protection articles. It was incredible meeting them and hearing about their lives. They travel all over to so many interesting places. We heard about Patagonia, Norway, etc. It does seem like it would be a bit tough too. They are almost never home.

While on the topic of meeting interesting and famous people, we also had the pleasure of running into Nina Williams. She seems like an awesome person and it was really cool seeing her climb. However, we are sad we didn’t get to meet her hedgehog. Maybe another day.

Back to the Bed and Breakfast for one moment, because I have to say there were also two other residents that I really enjoyed the company of. That’s the two dogs who live there. They are incredible friendly and loving. I miss them.

me and dogs

On one of our rest days, we went up to see the reservoir. I highly recommend this for anyone who visits the area. It is like 10 minutes from the main bouldering areas. It is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. You can camp there and enjoy the water. People were out of on a boat when we were there, and I’m sure there will be more of this as the weather warms up. I don’t even think the pictures do justice to the coloring. It was a bright blue, green. It was just stunning. Words can’t even really describe, so I’ll show you.

lake

lake 2

lake 3

lake 4

So you definitely want to check that out. It was breathtaking. We tried walking along the beach for as long as we could handle the intense, piercing winds. As we walked, we saw all these little bones. I’m not sure if it’s from the water level lowering or what, but a lot of little lobster? or similar creatures lives were lost on these shores.

lobster

Our other rest day was spent at Moab, but I feel like that deserves it’s own entry. Hopefully, I will be able to follow up with that soon.

Back to the climbing. I’m going to give a little shout out to Warm Me Up Scotty being my favorite V1 ever. I don’t necessarily recommend it being your first warm up climb. I got on it seizing the opportunity to use several pads because a group of people were already on it. They said they all thought it would be an easy warm up and ended up working it for a while. It’s not super easy in terms of warming up or actually being a V1 climber. I think it just somehow worked into my style and was easy for me. I really loved it. It was fun movement that flowed well and offered just enough challenge to feel rewarding. I do have this one bias though. I do not consider myself a very strong overhanging climber, so any time a cave route is doable to me I just get so psyched on it.

warm me up scotty

While on the topic of fun V1s, I also did this one that I believe is called One Mover. I will admit that first go I really hated this climb. It looks so easy and if you are tall, it is. I hate to play that card, but sometimes it’s true. I was just barely holding on to the lip and it’s just get a high foot and over. I say it’s easy if you are taller, because the lip is so good that you can just pull yourself up to the foot with ease….as long as you have enough hand on it to pull up. After a few minutes of hating it and wishing I was taller, I figured out beta. I managed to get both hands on decent holds and pull up to the high foot. Then I felt incredibly proud and happy because I was able to overcome and make it work for me. It’s an easy climb and I’m sure most people won’t find it all that spectacular, but sometimes the full experience you have with a climb is what makes it rewarding. I did two V4s on this trip. One I flashed and the other I put in a sufferfest session on little razor crimps. While there is a lot of fun and good times to be had for soaring your way up a flash, sometimes all that struggle and work makes for a more rewarding experience. A part of me felt more proud to fight my negativity on this V1 and find success than doing many of the harder grades. Everyone is different, but there is so much to learn from climbing.

All in all, I loved each boulder that I got on. All of them felt fun. All were rewarding in some way. I find myself really missing these boulders. I certainly feel like I could spend a long stretch of time at Joe’s. I hope to return soon. I have an ongoing project after all. I’m sure I will send it with skin and energy. It was the last one of the trip and I was just too spent.

me

I know that Josh will have a lot of projects to come back to as well. Specifically Resident Evil. He did this climb many times, but was punting at the top. This was incredibly frustrating for him because the top isn’t really hard. He was able to do that move individually. It was more about doing it after all these other difficult moves put together. It’s hard to know you are capable of something, but for different reasons can’t pull the whole thing together. I’ve been having this experience a lot lately because I will piece together moves of a project and then be too tired to send.

This trip also came together a little bit last minute and was following a recovery period after injury for Josh. While he felt like he wasn’t doing his best this trip, I thought he was doing really well. It can be hard to push through the come back of an injury where some of your previous high point performance is lost. It can also be hard to play the mental game and just have fun when you aren’t reaching your goals. It seemed like he had a great time working on this.

Josh

I would recommend Joe’s, not that it needs my recommendation by any means. I’d love to return to Utah. Everyone we met was friendly and the sights you see are unbeatable. When driving to Joe’s, we went through a stretch of country with vibrant green hills, a long river that ran parallel to the road and a railroad track that ran parallel to the road and river, and lots of sheep. The railroad went through the hills in those cool little tunnels. The sky was brilliant blue and the whole experience was like driving through a painting. It was so pretty it didn’t even feel real. How often can you say that driving is a vacation worthy experience all on it’s own, but that drive was perfect. Salt Lake City on the other hand….all those lanes and still traffic! Who does that mess every day?

We look forward to continuing our climbing adventures. I strive every day to be more like the epic climber this little guy is:

Lizard

Climbing next to me, showing off how easy it is. Who could be mad looking at that smug little face though?

 

 

 

 

Kaaterskill Falls Winter Hiking

K falls

Winter is frequently used in literature as a metaphor for some pretty dark and dreary stuff, and a scroll through social media would show you there are plenty of people who can’t wait to get it done and over with. However, there is a great deal of beauty and wonder that can be found in the chilly season. As nature and outdoor adventure enthusiasts, that’s probably information you already know well. Winter has some exceptionally fun sports and activities associated with it; snowboarding, sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, etc. One activity that might not get the credit it deserves though, is winter hiking.

This year I decided to bundle up, borrow and then later purchase my own microspikes and trekking poles, and venture out into the ice and snow covered landscapes. Once I started, with the glorious Kaaterskill Falls, I couldn’t stop.

Kaaterskill Falls is in the eastern Catskill Mountain of New York. This two stage waterfall is quite an awe inspiring sight to see. I have no doubt it is breathtaking in the spring, summer and fall when it’s flowing with gushing water, but in the winter when it’s all ice is something well worth seeing too.

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K falls 4

I really enjoyed how the top layer was frozen, but in some parts the inner water was still running free. It created this cool effect where you could see the water rapidly moving through a layer of ice like watching it through a clear tube. Another neat thing was that since the pools of water below the falls were frozen over, you could walk almost completely up to falls. I was so close that I could feel the spraying mist. This felt incredible while in the moment and absolutely awful when I walked away and the cold air started to freeze my damp skin and clothes.

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We heeded the warning about not going all the way to the top, since the hiking trail was really icy. The microspikes let us get close without a whole lot of exertion or slipping though. Some people got fairly far in sneakers, but they were slipping, sliding, and sledding all over. In any case, I think the views we got were probably better than what the top would offer anyway.

It wasn’t just the waterfalls that offered a captivating view. I left with a deep appreciation for how beautiful ice can be.

ice

ice 2

ice 4
In fact, after a little hesitation, I climbed my way into a cave of ice. You can see a little in the picture, but the ground is all ice. That’s what caused a bit of hesitation.

ice cave
It was well worth it for views like this one:
ice 3

Whether you go in winter, summer, spring, or fall, I highly recommend the Kaaterskill Falls. They are beautiful! The hike is steep, but quick. The parking situation involves a little walk down the street, but the parking lot has a stunning view of it’s own. Every step I took was something gorgeous to see. I also recommend bundling up, getting the right gear, and not letting winter hold you back from getting in some hiking miles. Hiking in winter changes the landscape in a way. It offers the rewarding experience of seeing a place that you may have seen before in a new way.

 

Kaaterskill Falls

Katherine and I in front of the highest piece of the falls.

 

 

Van Life with Kyle Bishop

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Photo by Kyle Bishop of his van

Van life is something that has been becoming increasingly more popular. It even has hash tag recognition on social media. Some see it as the ultimate adventure. It provides an opportunity to see the world and explore new places with a minimum of responsibility. The additional freedom is something many crave. To others the concept seems completely crazy. Quitting your job, living on the road, and being confined to such a small space can seem like a large, uncomfortable risk for some. Between all the stories of those who love it, those who merely use it as a means to do more of what they dream, and those who say it’s super hard, I decided to talk to my own source on the subject.

Kyle Bishop has been living in his van for about 4 years now, so he knows a thing or two about what this lifestyle is like and how to make it work. I’m happy I was able to meet him before his journey began and through pictures, blogs, and social media posts, it has been exciting to watch this inspiring adventure unfold. Kyle has one of those personalities that just draws people to him. He has a positive energy, friendly demeanor, and adventurous spirit. He is a charismatic person and a lot of fun to be around, which definitely makes him someone worth meeting. I’m sure that many of the people he has met on his adventure would consider themselves fortunate for the opportunity to get to know him and spend time with him. I’m grateful he was able to answer some questions for us about life in the van and his travels.

Climbing Together: What initiated this idea or made you want to start living the van life?

Kyle: The house I grew up in had a lot of unused space, hid in a blue collar town, and had no access to public transit. A safety bubble, as sterile as it was boring. By high school I was dying to escape.

In college I stumbled upon Tumbleweed houses, beautiful tiny-homes placed discreetly on trailers. A home with no wasted space? Free to escape a town you might outgrow? Sign me up!

After college I took a graduation trip to Yosemite. No wheels meant hitching to all the crags. Eventually I was picked up by a van. Looked around and realized it was a home. From there things just clicked. I’d already survived sharing a dorm barely twice as big, why go for a tiny house when you can get a van for 1/4 the price! (con: also 1/4 the room)

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Photo credit to Kyle Bishop

Climbing Together:  Once the idea started to take hold, were there obstacles to getting starting? What tips would you recommend for someone who wanted to try switching to this kind of life? 

Kyle: The only real obstacle was overcoming initial fear. Nobody really van-lifes in New England, probably something about the mind-numbing winters. I was pretty apprehensive without knowing anyone showing it could be done. “Is this crazy? Is there something I haven’t anticipated?” Lots of doubt.

My advice to anyone interested is to head to Yosemite, Red Rock, or Indian Creek during peak season, this is when the wild van dweller performs his/her annual migration. Catch yourself a wild dirt-bag and ask ’em some questions.

Everything is pretty smooth sailing after the first week or two. You quickly realize you can always move back into an apartment.

Climbing Together: Good advice. You’ve also done some backpacking. Do you think switching to backpacking was easier because of your experience with van life first? Or is it something you would have been able to do without that initial experience?

 

Kyle: A lot of travel is all about your comfort zone. From sanitary… “issues” in India to altitude in Nepal, relatable past experiences help you cope. Van-life is somewhere along that spectrum; it pushes your comfort zone just a little bit further.

Climbing Together: Do you think a certain kind of mentality or way of thinking would make someone more or less capable of adapting to this kind of traveling life style?

 

Kyle: Having such a small space means you can only keep so many things. New purchases have to be weighed against what you already have, both in value and in volume. An anti-materialistic streak goes a long way in being ready for that change. Also, your will to withstand jokes about vans and rivers must be ironclad.

 

Climbing Together: Makes sense. You mention in your blog getting seasonal or short term jobs to help with income for the rest of the year. Is it hard finding and getting these opportunities?

 

Kyle: I mostly stick to freelance programming. I’ve found two to three months of half-time work can give me enough to last the rest of the year #noRentVanLife.

I’m very lucky to have found programming; I’m fairly confident I’d be some kind of poopsmith without it. Programming is one of the few fields where opportunities seem to come to you without you looking for them.

dragontail-peak

Dragontail Peak. Photo by: Kyle Bishop

Climbing Together: There have been quite a few articles lately promoting the idea of being in nature being good for mental and physical health, which is easy to understand. As someone who is able to spend more time in nature than the average person, have you noticed any kind of difference in regards to this?

 

Kyle: The city used to feel like a concrete prison. Working a 9-5 has you itching for the weekend, when you can finally run off to the mountains and reclaim some sanity.

The van brings a sense of calm through control. Don’t like the place you’re in? Drive somewhere new. Want to go cragging but short on sleep? Crash in the parking lot. Snowstorm coming? Time to head South. That control has always been much more calming to me than the forest itself.

Climbing Together: You’ve been to a lot of places in your travels, is there anywhere that sticks out as being a favorite? Is there anywhere you haven’t gone yet that you are hoping to? Is there anywhere that surprised you by being different from what you had thought it would be?

 

Kyle: Yosemite has always been number one; aptly deserves its title of “mecca”.

Top of my bucket list is The Great Arch in China and Rocklands South Africa.

The only place to surprise me has been Joshua Tree, I think the people of LA have Stockholm syndrome about that place. The rocks look like giant piles of horse manure strewn between weird trees, feel like tear-your-skin up sandpaper, and have the strength of kitty litter held up by Elmer’s glue on all but the most trafficked boulders.

yosemite

The always stunning Yosemite. Photo by Kyle Bishop

 

Climbing Together: What areas have you found to be the best climbing? Have you seen improvements in your climbing from being able to do it so often?

 

Kyle: Bouldering: Little Rock City, Chattanooga. Not as big as Bishop, but damn is the gymnastic style fun.

Trad: Tuolumne. Alpine adventures everywhere!

Sport: The Red. Pizza. Beer. Miguel.

I’ve come to realize I don’t improve unless actively trying to do so. Having so many great destinations at your fingertips can put you in a rhythm where you just shoot for the problems in your comfort zone. There are so many classics in that comfort zone that you don’t really have to push yourself; just do the next classic you know you can conquer.

If anything, I’ve become incredibly consistent. Throw me any style of v7 and I’ll almost certainly plow through it.

kyle-bouldering

Kyle bouldering in Hampi. Photo by Nick Blazey

 

Climbing Together: With traveling so much you’ve likely experienced a lot and have many stories. Is there something that stands out as an exceptional memory or something you could share?

 

Kyle: Went to Nepal and hiked the Annapurna Circuit. Near the end decided I would hike into the heart of the mountains to Annapurna Base Camp. Many days later, I reached the top around noon, 5 miles behind me and 4200m below. It’s about 40 miles back to Pokhara with a little over 3000m drop, roller coaster style with ups and downs in-between.

So I took off my shirt, put on some tunes, and blasted down the mountain. 24 hours later I hobbled into town, feet aching, body broken, spirit beaming.

Worth mentioning I did it all in 5mm sandals.

kyle

Annapurna. Photo credit to Kyle BIshop

 

Climbing Together: What are some challenges to living this type of life style?

 

Kyle: Many people won’t understand you, some may even try to change you. The doubters. The haters. All these people will come together to foster doubt in yourself. Nowhere is this more true than a place without others doing the same (I’m looking at you, New England).

Some nights will be cold, others sweltering hot. Sometimes you wish it weren’t raining so damn much so you could escape the van and stretch outside. Creature comforts don’t come as easily to a box on wheels.

Through it all there are those days where you wake up with mountains all around, a short ride to endless adventure. On days like these, you know, oh man is it worth it.

Climbing Together: Speaking of other people, on the one hand it seems like you would get to meet a lot of different and interesting people, which would be rewarding. On the other, it seems like constantly being on the move would make social relationships possibly difficult. What is your experience with the social side of your traveling?

 

Kyle: A shared bond like climbing makes for an easy icebreaker, but friendships often end when the next destination calls. This has easily been the hardest thing to come to terms with, and is why I plan to set roots in San Francisco.

 

Travelling is an amazing experience, and I still recommend long-term for all who have the opportunity. Seeing so much and meeting so many has a way of showing you what you truly want in life, through both example and experience. There’s a saying I’ve grown fond of, “some live to become an example for others, even if just to show what not to do.”

 

 

I’ve spent the last three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand, purposefully longer than I’d usually spend, fostering deeper connections while preparing for the last transient hurrah before the roots come down.

khon-kaen

Khon- Kaen. Photo by: Kyle Bishop

 

Climbing Together: It seems you are thinking of going back to a more stationary type of life? Would it be hard to adjust to that?

Kyle: As you can tell from the last Q, very much yes. After having bounced between the occasional apartment in Asia, I can say the only thing that takes adjusting to is rent and utilities.

Van-life provides one hell of an adventure, but I’m looking for a long vacation from adventure. Shit, I must be getting old.

Climbing Together: You’ve mentioned a little about this, but what are your current goals or plans for what’s next?

 

Kyle: I’ve been holed up in Asia working on a top secret project, an anti-procrastination tool for programmers. A few more months and I’ll be ready to launch. After that it’s off to SF.

Enough time in ad-tech, the majority of my freelancing work, has me craving a company on the forefront of social change. I’ve spent enough time in the mountains to know they’re worth protecting. Time to put my money where my mouth is.

kyle-3

Red Rock Canyon: Solar Slab. Photo by and of Kyle Bishop

 

Thank you for all your awesome answers and the time you took to write them! It seems van life is a bit of a challenge, but well worth it to see all these breathtaking views, have the control to go where you want to and when, and experience all the incredible things that come along with traveling. It is something worth considering if you have the mind set for it and the capabilities, but like all things in life, it isn’t for everyone. Good luck as you continue and finish your amazing adventures Kyle. The mountains are worth protecting, and it will be great to have someone like you working for them. Hopefully I will see you again soon, perhaps in Yosemite.

 

If you’d like to keep up with Kyle, he recommends https://github.com/kybishop for the nerds.

Have any of you tried the van life? Feel free to comment below with your own experiences or goals.  

Learning to Set

 

We’ve created a little home wall, and as we collect more holds, I’m learning more about setting and good places to get holds.

Holds can be really expensive if you’re buying them, but there are some deals available online that really help with obtaining a collection of holds. I recently ordered some factory seconds from Escape holds. Factory seconds are holds that are maybe discolored or off a little in texture. They might not be worth buying for a gym, but for a small home wall that is perfectly fine. I also have purchased some sample holds from Atomik’s deals of the day. The sample holds are a mixed collection that are actually free. There is still a shipping cost, which was a little high, but cheaper than a hold set. Also they have deals like footholds being .50 cents on Fridays. Scanning the web for these deals can really help. It also helps to see what you can make on your own. Even if you don’t have the capacity to make an actual climbing hold, you can use little pieces of wood to make a simple crimp or small foot chip.

Another thing to consider is keeping an eye on your local gym. At some point, gyms will get rid of older holds to replace with newer ones. With the volumes of people climbing each day and the fact that they are a business, it’s better to have holds as new as possible. Usually gyms will sell these old ones for very cheap, but it takes some patience since it’s not all that often. I have only seen my local gyms selling them a handful of times in the past few years. Something to consider, but it might not the best with your timeline.

Right now I’m budgeting the holds by ordering sets each pay check or each pay check that I don’t have a high amount of bills or obligations. It’s taking time, but they are collecting nicely. It also helps to have other people invested. Josh built the wall, and uses it more often so he makes and buys holds too. Depending on your wall location, you could maybe make a deal with friends that they can use it if they contribute. Might be a little harder if the wall is in your home or workplace, but if it’s in a barn outside or something, why not? Getting the bulk sets and finding deals like the factory seconds have been helpful. Some of our holds are made out of wood by Josh too.

Now that there are enough holds to make some climbs, I’ve been working on setting. It’s still a bit limited since our wall is only big enough to do so much with and we don’t have all that many holds yet. It’s really interesting to me how many different ways a person can view setting. Josh sets climbs to replicate outdoor projects as closely as possible. It’s a great strategy when you don’t live very close to them because you can practice often and maximize your efforts in the limited real time you get with the project. Also it helps keep working when the weather is bad, like summer heat waves or freezing winter. It is something I will probably utilize too when the time comes aka I have a project I can replicate.

I’ve been setting climbs to work on certain movement. You might notice in my video that a lot of these climbs have rock overs, heel hooks, and big moves (well as big as they can be). These are things I want to continue getting better at. As I collect more holds, I want to progressively make these movements hard by using holds I struggle with too. I also think of movement I really enjoy like crosses and drop knees. I set one move and then work around it. This works nicely on our wall because the climbs are likely to only be about 3 moves. I think it’s a good way to train my weaknesses.

When I’m climbing something, I really like it to have a nice flow. I like seeing climbers elegantly moving along the route almost like a dance. Some setters are good at this, some are terrible, and some it just might not be their top priority. There are many gym climbs I try that just move very awkwardly and unnaturally. Some of this, to be fair to setters, is in the difficulty accounting for all different body types (tall, short, flexible, etc) and some of it is the climber’s reading ability. I understand that sometimes I just really suck at reading them well, or lack the strength/span/knowledge of technique to do what was intended. In any case, trying to make a nice flow is something I focus on. I’m not the best yet, because I’ve only set like 10 climbs maybe and all of them are only things I climb, but it is a goal I have in mind. I try a certain move and look to see where my hand naturally wants to go out or where my feet naturally want to be. Sometimes I will put a jug in place to test the movement and then progressively use worse holds to make it a challenge. Or I might get an idea of the natural area I’d reach to, but then try to stretch it out a bit to make it bigger or more challenging. The next step will be in making this so it works for people other than myself, since right now my height and ability are all factoring in. Since I’m just starting out this seems like a great way to practice and get thinking about placement though.

Have any of you set routes before? What are some things you think about or tips you have? Feel free to leave a helpful comment below.

Ice Pond Bouldering

ice-pond

This weekend, we ventured slightly over the New York border to try out the Ice Pond bouldering. Ice Pond actually is on Mountain Project, so if you want to check out all the possible routes: https://www.mountainproject.com/v/ice-pond/107399355.

It was a beautiful location. There is a nice little space for parking. The large pond covered in a sheet of ice next to a railroad is stunning. It’s an active railroad too. I watched some trains go by while resting.The hike in is pretty easy going. The rock quality is excellent! The climbs we got on were fun, yet challenging. Since it’s winter, it is easy to see lots of boulders and find your way around. The trails are pretty good too, but it’s probably a good idea to go with someone who knows where they are going.

When you walk in, there are just tons of boulders everywhere. This always leads me to think there will probably be a lot more room for development as people get interested and try out different parts. The rock feels solid and the holds are friendly. I didn’t get on anything that felt sharp or gritty. It all felt pretty smooth. There was a wide variety of hold types on the climbs I tried out too.

When we first got there, we started with a couple of fun V2 ish climbs. One was a cool lie back rail, and the other was a fun arete. The top outs were a bit tricky and slopey, but the climbs were interesting. Both took a little bit of thinking, but once you got it, felt good.

Then we moved on to a cool v8 lip traverse, called Evolution. Alex was able to send this one pretty quick. Everyone had fun working on it.

alex

While I didn’t try to climb it, I got a look at the v1 Warm up. It looks beautiful. It’s a long rail ledge that is known for being a bit sketchy at the top because it’s high up, not such a great looking landing (well because of the tree at least), and all that. The climb looks gorgeous though. It stands right out when you near the area. It has a bit over 3 stars, so people really seem to like it. We were told by one of the people that did climb it, that it was a bit sharp. However, it looks like cool holds from the bottom.

I got on some really interesting climbs, but I’m not sure what they are. The people I was with didn’t know, I don’t see anything on mountain project, and for all I know they might not have been officially climbs. They were fun though, and had chalk so I’m sure I’m not alone in at least trying them. I would say they are on the easier side. Maybe v0-v1, but definitely not higher than that. At least not the way I was climbing them.

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I was drawn to them by how neat the rock looked. They both had fun movement. One starts with an undercling and pinch (at least this is what I did). You get a foot and press up to grab a nice jug. Then the rest is pretty easy jugs up, but with the bulge in the rock it can be a bit tricky to see feet. The other one was a fun arete climb that involved big moves to good holds. I think that one would be a good, easy warm up.

It was very cold out, and we tired out pretty quick on the first few climbs. We weren’t there all that long. It was worth the trip. Now that we’ve seen how good the rock quality is and how fun the movement is, we will surely be back.

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Kentucky/Tennessee Bouldering

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“Latin for Daggers” V5 Stone Fort Little Rock City, Chattanooga, TN.

Road trips certainly provoke a variety of feelings both positive and negative. Being crammed up in a tiny, somewhat uncomfortable spot for hours desperately searching the radio channels for anything that isn’t Christmas related can be aggravating. However, the sights you see along the way and the random assortment of conversations make it feel worth it. I will never forget that one stretch of highway that was just lined with packs of deer. We must have saw like thirty or more. Since I mentioned the road, I’ll be clear that they were all alive, healthy, and well. We think maybe they were just interested in the salt remnants of recent snow clearing.

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Although Pennsylvania and West Virginia were just covered in thick blankets of fog, when we came across a clear spot, it was beautiful. Lots of farm land, hungry cows, and vibrant sunsets. There are lots of interesting things to see, like that “Endless Caverns” sign that looked like a little Hollywood sign on the mountain or the sad fact that New York now has “Text Stops.” There’s also lots of cool places to stop when you are driving. For the most part, we stayed to a tight schedule though. There was that looming holiday date and family that wanted to see us, so we tried to make it to all the spots we could fast.

Our first climbing stop was the Red River Gorge. We had plans to meet a friend who was kind enough to show us some Kentucky bouldering, but decided to get there a bit early and indulge in a little sport climbing first. I always love the Red River Gorge. It is an incredibly beautiful place. The rock has so many colors and such unique, fun features. Not to mention the large amounts of climbing available in a wide range of grades. We also, like many others, love Miguel’s. Unfortunately, Miguel’s isn’t open this time of year. This is a fact we didn’t look into beforehand and were disappointed. We still enjoyed some Ale 8’s, but Miguel’s is all around amazing. If you get a chance, always go there.

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We went a bit easy on the route climbing, since we wanted to conserve energy and skin to last the duration of the trip. Muir Valley is a favorite of ours and place we know our way around a bit, so we went there to do some easy leads. It was super cold, which works well for bouldering, but not so great for a lengthy route. We handled the numbing toe and finger pain well and managed a few. Muir Valley is a very easy place to go. The trails are very well developed, they have put in lots of bridges, stairs, and things of that nature. Also below each climb is a tiny little plague that tells you the name and grade. If you went without a guide book, signs would point you to different cliffs and you’d know all the grades. It’s pretty awesome. Also, all the climbs we got on at least, had the quick clip anchors, which makes finishing nice and simple. Some were a bit frozen and took some more work than usual, but still easy overall. They do have a parking fee of $10 and ask for donations. I think this is well worth it and totally reasonable, but it’s good to have a heads up when planning a trip, so I’m letting you know if you didn’t.

The rock has that sandpaper grittiness that I love, because I feel more solid on it, but it can do a number on your skin. There are always neat things in the rock. Like a couple climbs we got on had these cool little knob like features that made excellent I’ll-never-fall-off-these feet and hand jugs. The movement flows well and is easy to figure out, but also interesting. Even on the easiest levels, it’s still a lot of fun to explore the route and enjoy a variety of hold types. Jugs, dishes, pockets, cracks, crimps, pinches, slopers, little pebbles; all favorites are present.

After doing some climbs, we spent the night in the coolest yurt through: https://www.redrivergorgecabinrentals.com/

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These photos were taken with the phone and not the best. Sorry. But the yurt was an amazing experience. It was super warm! The structure was so neat. We liked how a lot of things were made with trees, like the bathroom sink was a bowl on top of a tree stump, and as you can see a tree makes a central post in the first photo. It had two bedrooms, a giant sky window at the top so you can see the stars, and a hot tub! The fire place was cozy and it was filled with anything you might need. It’s really clean and just gorgeous. The cabin rental place is the best. The only down side to the experience is that you can hear a lot through those walls. At night we heard a bunch of howling, people yelling, and it was a little bit scary, but everything else was great. I could easily live in one of these. Plenty of room to be considered a full house, in my opinion.

Anyway, back to the climbing. The next day we met up with a friend for some bouldering. It was considerably warmer out, but not warm enough to compromise the friction. He showed us some boulders just south of Lexington. We have sport climbed in Kentucky before, but the boulders were a first. I was pleased to find they are similar to the sport routes in texture and the type of holds, aka Lots of amazing pockets!

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The climbs are so enjoyable! They are still being discovered and worked by locals. There are lots of add ons (can’t recall the proper term). So you start at one point and it’s v4, further back and it’s v7, etc. Every climb we got on further added to my psych level. They were just incredible. They flowed well, had interesting movement, fun holds, and just solid climbing.

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I really couldn’t get enough of this cave climb pictured above. The top out move was the hardest for me and I wasn’t able to get it in this trip, but the whole overhung part was amazing! Lots of giant pockets around to use as a hand or foot hold. It is so overhung that I looked at it and thought this isn’t going to happen with my weak core strength, but then I got on it and it just came together. With good positioning and technique it’s fairly easy. Further back and it gets a bit more challenging.

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Josh isn’t dabbing, just the camera angle

There’s a series of move your body around in a circle moves and then forward. Above my personal level, but Josh sent it with ease and it looked like a lot of fun. They say like V6/7/8 maybe. Somewhere in that range. The texture makes smearing and little toes very easy to stick. There are bumps, cross overs, heel hooks, toe hooks, and drop knees galore. Although it is best in projecting to just work the move you’re struggling with, these climbs were so fun that it was hard to not keep going back to the beginning just to enjoy the experience all over.

Which brings up the question of if it’s best on trips to project or just gain quantity. I try my best to get a feel for different areas by trying out things, but when you find something good, why not just stick with it until you send? I’ve spent whole trips on pretty much one climb and not seen success, but no regrets. I make my plans to go back and try to commit to memory what to work on when the time to revisit gets closer. In fact, when we made it to Chattanooga, I sent a climb that was basically the only thing I worked on the first time we went. It felt amazing! Years between, but remembered quite a bit. Everyone is different and there’s really no right or wrong. Just have your kind of fun, I guess.

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Tommy Wilson, our fantastic guide

Kentucky was incredible as always. I’d really like to go back to the bouldering again. I wish it was a local spot, honestly. The approach is steep and works you out, but it’s quick. The climbing is worth it. However, in the interest of time, we needed to move on. The next stop was a pampered night at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN. (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bnago-gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center). Josh loves it because it has the best steak and is just a great place. I love it because the cloud like beds and the fact that it’s a total experience all on its own. It has it’s own biospheres with waterfalls, plants, animals (well, fish) and lots of activities.

Apparently for Christmas they go all out. They had their own Grinch Musical, horse carriage rides, ice skating, snow tubing, Christmas tree decorating contests, and more. It was insane. Way too many people for us, but we enjoyed what we could before getting overwhelmed. It’s an expensive place, but if you can save up money, it is worth experiencing once in your life.

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Image may contain: plant, outdoor, water and nature

After a luxurious stay there, we went to Stone Fort, Little Rock City in Chattanooga, TN. This is a bouldering area, that shares space with a golf course. It does cost money to climb there, I think it was like $8. The climb shop and pro shop for golfing are one in the same. The people that work there are very friendly, and they do really make you feel as important as the golfers. The boulders here are gorgeous! They look like little works of art.

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These climbs are awesome. They are a blast to work, they look so pretty, but they are quite painful. You’ll probably rip apart your hands and look a little zombie, mangled, like by the end of it, but you’ll enjoy doing it so much you won’t notice. At least I don’t. Just tape it up and push through. These routes got us really excited about climbing, and it was hard to leave. This area is also known for slopery top outs, and well just a lot of sloper climbs in general.

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I really loved the V3 pictured above, which I believe is Tire Knockers. The start feels hard until you figure out the right feet, then it goes pretty easy. You bump up the arete with your left hand, and have some fun crimp jugs to work with the right. The top is slopery, but good because you can rock over on to where the slab starts and pull up nicely. It might not read as really exciting, but it was a lot of fun.

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Josh, who loves a good knee bar, really liked this climb. Red House V7. You can do the knee bar by doing the V4 too. They link into each other. This climb was interesting to watch. He did an awesome job sending it.

We were originally planning to travel on to a different place, but due to how much fun we were having and our time constraints, we spent another day here instead. It was a good decision because we had a lot more fun, but also tired out fast. There are projects still to be finished, and we look forward to a return one day. It probably won’t be for a little while though. We have our eyes set on Joe’s Valley for our next big trip.

Acorn to Arabella: An Incredible Adventure in the Making

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Alix Kreder and Stephen Denette standing in the boat house they have constructed

Have you dreamt of seeing the world? Being able to explore every place you set your mind on? Have you longed to climb, hike, or be in nature each day of that year that met the weather requirements for said outdoor activity? Have you wished to be free from the constructs of every day societal living; work, eat, sleep, repeat?  A lot of people want a more adventurous, travel filled life, yet few people go after it. There are a hundred excuses you could use for why, such as family, money, careers, responsibility, lack of experience, etc. Using excuses is fine, but they are just that. Excuses. Going out and living your adventure dream is actually very doable, and these two enthusiastic, soon to be sailors, prove just that. They have an inspirational plan to set sail towards all their adventure goals.

When I first heard of Acorn to Arabella, it was through a post on Central Rock Gym Hadley’s Facebook page. It’s my favorite local climbing gym and a place Stephen Denette works as an incredible route setter. The post was encouraging people to check out a crowdfunding site they were using to gain some support for their goal. I was instantly infatuated with their idea to build a 38 ft sailboat from scratch and travel the world, because hearing of people having the guts to go for their dreams is compelling to me. Also when I was younger, it was a dream of mine to be a commercial fisher and live on the sea…until I learned that I get super sea sick and am absolutely awful at actually catching fish. In any case, I love hearing stories of the sea, crave adventure stories, and found all aspects of this to be worth further investigation. I figured out how to contact them, and was thankful they were very willing to do an interview and share more of their story. If this interview inspires or interests you, feel free to support them and learn more through their site:  http://www.acorntoarabella.com

Alix Kreder and Stephen Dennette have been friends for a long time. They met in a climbing class at Unity College in Maine. Through climbing, a strong friendship formed. They come from a community of people going out and living their adventure dreams, and they want to join in with their own dream and unique method. Alix already has quite a bit of experience in traveling, but can’t wait to gather more. Stephen has a plethora of experience in woodworking, but is looking to this large scale project to put his skills to the test. Both would like to live a life embracing the freedom of the outdoors and seeing as much of the world as they can. They want a different way to live, and they work well together with a balance of necessary skills to make it all possible.

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Climbing Together: How did this plan come about?

Alix: (laughing) It’s this crazy guy’s idea.

Stephen: Building a wooden boat has always been on the bucket list, I guess. I always thought it would be cool to build a boat someday. I always thought I would get a wood shop put together and sometime in my retirement, cut down some trees, mill the lumber, and build a boat and go sailing. Then it was about six years ago, I was on vacation out at Cape Cod and I went to a used bookstore, and I picked up a boat called 50 Wooden Boats, and that really got the gears going. So I started digging more into boats, picking up different books, and haunting the online forums. Just kind of learning what I could. I’ve always been into wood working, so I’ve been collecting tools and building my wood shop for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had that end goal of building the boat some day, so I’ve acquired tools with that in mind. It was like two years ago, two and a half years ago, I kind of got to the point where I was like I could do this. I have most of the tools, I understand the process of building a boat, and so the vision started to come together at that point. Then I got this kid involved.

Climbing Together: How did he get you (Alix) involved?

Alix: At first I was like this is kind of crazy. Yeah, okay. Sure, we’ll do this some day. I sort of somewhat blew you off in the beginning. The more we kept talking, the more I was like okay he is serious so how can we do this? He ended up finding this site Patreon. That meant we could actually get this thing funded. By me doing videos and putting the whole thing online, we could get the whole thing funded. For me that made it real. I was like alright I’m in.

Also for me, I’m half French, half American. I’ve lived overseas for half my life. I’ve been traveling for half my life. Since I graduated college, I haven’t stayed in one place for more than 3 years. When he came to me with this, it was like this is the perfect way to travel. You’re traveling with your home, you can go where ever you want, you don’t need to be tied down to a job, per se. The way we’re doing it you don’t need to. It’s perfect.

(https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=3016693)

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One of many merchandise options your pledge can get you.

Climbing Together: Has raising money through Patreon been successful so far? 

Alix: So we haven’t really gotten into the videos. (The videos are what supporters pay for). We’ve done a couple videos, but we haven’t really done a good push. Especially without having too much to show for it right now. We are kind of waiting until we get a good amount and then push things out and do a real good marketing push. But we’re pretty confident and my video skills are getting better.

Stephen: Alix moved down here a little over a month ago; the beginning of August. Up till that point I was shooting footage on a go-pro and doing it by myself, and sending that to him up in Maine. He was trying to work with that and trying to make it down on weekends to help. It’s been a bit of a struggle, but now that he’s here we’ve been able to make a lot of progress and work on the videos. We’re hoping to make a big launch and push around the New Year. We think by that point we’ll have enough of a boat here that you can come and look at it and say “Ah, yes. That object that you’re building looks somewhat like a boat. I can see it.” Once we are at that point we can get the local media involved. We’ll have a bunch of videos backlogged that we can start releasing them and not stop. We’ll be in good shape.

Climbing Together: Do you have plans of where you want to travel to?

Stephen: Not really, no.

Alix: Where ever the wind takes us. We were talking about a circumnavigation anyways, but how we do it and where we go doesn’t really matter to us. It’s more the lifestyle that matters to us. Not where we go.

Climbing Together: What are some aspects of the lifestyle you’re drawn too? 

Stephen: One big thing from the research we’ve done and the books we’ve followed on sailing around the world and all that kind of stuff, if you are young and healthy and frugal and don’t have ties to land, don’t have a mortgage your paying for or anything, you can live on 4, 6, 8 thousand dollars a year. When you reduce your financial requirements down to that little amount of money, all the sudden you’re looking at; I’ll sail to the Bahamas or some other tourist destination for the tourist season and I’ll be a bar tender or bus tables or whatever. You work for two, three months and you have enough money to go cruise for the rest of the year. Working two, three months and cruising nine, ten, sounds pretty good.

Alix:  One thing a lot of people have confused from what we’ve been saying is we are not looking to just not work for the rest of the year. We’re excited to go do stuff too. That’s part of the lifestyle of being on the boat. Visiting, meeting people, do a job over here, stay for a couple months here. It just seems much more fluid instead of being stuck in one place for  a 40 hour work week and having your weekends to do what you want to do and take maybe your two weeks vacation.

Climbing Together: Do you think it will be hard to pick up little jobs along the way?

Alix: No, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Stephen: We’ll have a floating resume. The intent is to bring a decent kit of hand tools, so that we can work on the boat, repair the boat if we need to, and do our own maintenance. There are a lot of wooden boats out there and they all need work. To be able to pull into a boat yard or pull into a marina and put the word out there that we are looking for odd jobs and if anybody questions the quality of our work, they can come over and see our boat.

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Stephen in his wood shop

Climbing Together: That’s a good idea.

Alix: I taught English overseas. That’s easy to pick up. Things like that. Along with keeping up with the videos for a travel blog, we can definitely make $8,000 a year.

Stephen: Find a way.

Alix: Easily.

Climbing Together: Do you plan to do your own fishing and stuff? 

Stephen: Absolutely

Alix: Living out at sea, you’ve got to fish.

Stephen: I’ve grown up fishing and hunting and I plan to continue all of that. Spear fishing for dinner looks like a lot of fun.

Alix: Lots of real fresh fish.

Stephen: Rumor has it French Polynesia there’s wild avocados the size of footballs.I want to go find some of those.

Climbing Together: That sounds like a lot of fun to see all the different places and cultures.

Stephen: That’s a huge part of it. Like Alix was saying, most people don’t have a ton of vacation time and flying places is expensive.

Alix: It takes time and when you do, you have what, like two weeks of vacation. You get a couple engagements you need to do and it whittles away a quarter or half your vacation. You’ve got a week left.

Stephen: To be able to sail to somewhere in South America and get a three month visa and say we’re going to live in Costa Rica for three months and then we’re going to head down to Brazil and live there for three months, and keep going and so on and so forth. Being able to not only travel but to immerse into a culture for that long and really explore a place, get to know people, make friends, and do things with the local community.

Climbing Together:  Yeah, a lot of people go places on vacation and don’t really get time to be a part of it.

Stephen: We’re really excited to visit a bit more rural and wild corners of the world. Places that you probably wouldn’t go on vacation or couldn’t go because you would need a plane and a then a ferry and then another plane to get to these little places. If you have a sailboat, just sail right up.

Climbing Together: Yeah, I like in taking climbing trips that its often places people don’t typically go to or see as beautiful, but there’s so much you get out of going there. Even though people would be like, really that’s where you went on vacation? 

Stephen: Totally. Yeah, and to go to places that aren’t set up for tourist. Where you’re meeting the locals and the actual community and it’s not just some all inclusive resort.

Climbing Together: Have you built any smaller boats leading up to this? 

Stephen: Nope, first boat. Don’t even know how to sail.

Climbing Together: Okay, so are you learning as you go? 

Stephen: I have a lot of friends who sail. Some of them who have done big blue water crossings and been out to sea for weeks at a whack. So once we get the boat in the water, the plan is to take a few months and do a shake down cruise up and down the eastern sea board. See what time of year it is and if we’ve got to dodge hurricane season or what not. Once Alix and I feel comfortable with the boat and have sailed through a few storms, then we’ll take off from there.

Alix: I wouldn’t mind taking a couple classes before we go to. I have a bunch of friends that just came down from Portland, Maine. So there’s a lot of sailing up there.

Stephen: I’m a little crazy. I want the first boat I sail on to be the one I built.

Alix: If one of us knows what we are doing, we’ll learn together. I’m not worried about.

Stephen: We’re not going to just get in it and take off.

Alix: That’s part of the whole project to is taking our time. There is no rush in sailing off to a certain destination. If we’re just going up and down the eastern sea board learning how to sail and taking our friends out, that’s ideal.

Stephen: I’d probably happily spend a few years doing that.

Climbing Together: How long does a project like this take?

Stephen: From what I’ve read from the pros, they say anywhere from 4 to 8,000 man hours depending on your boat, how fast you work and all that kind of stuff. Our best guest is 3 or 4 years.

Climbing Together: How much work a day do you put into it?

Stephen: Depends on the day.

Alix: Depends on the day and what were doing.

Stephen: Lofting probably 8 hour days over the weekend but it’s so mentally taxing. You’re crawling around on your knees drawing all these lines down to a 16th of an inch or better. After 8 hours of it, you’re kind of cooked. When I was saw milling and doing all that, I took a week off work and probably worked 12 hour days for 7 or 8 days straight. It really depends. Our goal is to try to do like 30-40 hours a week between the two of us on the boat. If we can do that then we can have the boat in the water in 4 years or less.

Climbing Together: Is there anything you are worried about or think will be difficult?

Stephen: I mean, the whole thing is going to be difficult. In terms of woodworking, a wooden boat like this is kind of the holy grail. If you can build a curvy, wooden boat, you can build anything. There is going to be no real end to the challenges. Right now we are trying to wrap our brains around lofting.

Alix: Which is taking the both of us.

Stephen: It’s taking the both of us and some friends and a lot, a lot of head scratching. Once we get through the lofting, it should be more smooth sailing for a little while. Right now we are sitting on a pile of giant  keel timbers and we’ll have to start joining those together. That shouldn’t be too too bad. We need to pour the ballast keel at some point. We need to round up 11,500 more lbs of lead. We’ve got 500 so far.

Alix: That’s one of our biggest first hurdles; finding that much lead.

Stephen: Once we have the lead we need to build a smelter and melt the lead and pour it into a mold that we make for the keel. At some point once we get the lead, we’ll have a cauldron with 12,000 lbs of molten lead in it over a gigantic fire. I think that’s going to be a little scary.

Climbing Together: How are you going to make the mold? 

Stephen: There’s a few different ways. What I think we’re going to do is make a male plug out of foam. We’ll take some measurements off of the lofting floor after we loft out the keel. We’ll get a big block of foam and shape it down to the proper size. Then make a big wooden box that fits into and then fill it full of concrete and make the mold for the lead to go into. We’ll put that inside a steel reinforced box, so that when all that lead comes in and that pressure pushes out the concrete is supported by something. It should take a week to a week and a half for that to cool because it’s so big, heavy and dense. Then we can cut the metal frame off, take the plywood off, smash the concrete apart, and we’ll have our 9,500 lbs block. We’re going to cast it in here some where. We have to move it as short a distance as possible.

Alix: That needs to get bolted to the wooden keel. Depending when we get to that lead, depends on how much work it’s going to be.

Climbing Together: Can you do this on your own or will you need help?

Stephen: We could do it just the two of us. People have built boats by themselves. We’re really hoping, and so far it’s proven to be more of a community project. I’ve had a lot of friends come over and help put up the building the first time before the building inspector asked us to move it. I had a bunch of friends come over and we stood the walls up. People have come to help with the saw milling and whole bunch of other parts. A lot of people are waiting until we’re actually working on the boat. They think that part is a little bit cooler. I hope to have a lot of people come, help out and lend a hand, teach them what we can along the way. Work will go faster, it will be more enjoyable, and it’s always good to pass on some knowledge. I guarantee anyone who comes and hangs out for the day will learn something.

Climbing Together: Are you making your own sails too? 

Stephen: I don’t know. We’ll see what happens when we get to that point.

Alix: We got a ways until we need to figure that out. It would be cool to learn how to make it, so if we are out on our own we can patch anything up or make a new sail if we need to, or if one gets shredded.

Stephen: Sail making is an art. There’s a lot that goes into it.

Climbing Together: I can imagine. What other materials do you need?

Stephen: There’s a full pile of silicon bronze fasteners. The lead keel is held to the wood keel with 7 silicon bronze rods that are an inch and a quarter in diameter. The whole frame of the boat will get bolted together with bronze rods. The planking will go on with copper rivets and the decking will go on with copper rivets or silicon bronze screws. I haven’t decided yet. Those will be the principal fastenings for the boats. It will mostly be the lead keel, bronze fastenings, copper rivets, and wood.

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Climbing Together: How will you transport it to the ocean when it’s finished?

Stephen: We’re saying he is going to grab the bow, I’m going to grab the stern and we’re going to walk to the ocean. We’ll have to take the building down, and more than likely we’ll have to get a crane to come in and scoop the boat up and put it on a low board trailer behind a big rig and truck it out to the ocean. It’s under the height limits and a little over the width, so it will be considered a wide load. We’ll have to get the permits and stuff, but it’s very doable.

Climbing Together: What are some things people might not realize would be involved? Like you mentioned permits?

Alix: Getting permits for the boathouse most of all.

Stephen: To us it’s a temporary structure. There’s no footings. As you can see the ridge line for the roof is held up by a steel cable between a mass that we erected out of a pine tree and a maple tree. It’s certainly not going to stand the test of time, but the building inspector didn’t like it being so close to the road where we had it before. We had to move it and spin it and get the permits. Other than that the only other permits we should need are putting it on the road and moving it.

Climbing Together: Do you need to get anything when it comes time to actually sail it?

Stephen: Not unless we’re going to charter it. At that point, we’d need to get a captain’s license and the boat would have to be inspected and stuff, but other than that, no. We’ll get it registered and if we want insurance on it, we’ll have to have someone come in and inspect it and assess it. Other than that no, as long as you have the coast guard approved safety equipment, and your toilet facilities and propane storage tanks are up to regulations. We’re pretty good. It sounds fairly simple.

Climbing Together: Yeah, it does sound simpler than you’d think.

Stephen: They care a lot more about the building than they do the boat. We could literally build an aircraft carrier in the hay field there and there’s no laws preventing us from doing it, but if we wanted to erect a 200 ft tent we’ve got to get a permit for that. Granby (MA) is not use to people building giant boats in the front yard.

Alix: Definitely an oddity

Stephen: A lot of people have been driving by real slow while we’ve been working on it. There’s been a lot of speculation about what’s going on.

Climbing Together: I guess people are probably wonder what it is.

Alix: Yeah

Stephen: We’ve put this plastic up this weekend because the lofting floor was starting to get wet. Now they can’t see in, which is going to be kind of fun. We’re going to start building the boat and then in the spring the walls will come down because I don’t want to work in a greenhouse all summer and at that point if things get wet it’s not as big of a deal. It will be kind of like a revealing in the spring. You’ll drive by and there’s just this and you don’t know what’s going on behind it and all the sudden the wall will come down and BAM! Boat.

Climbing Together: That sounds neat. So you can work on this all year round?

Stephen: Yeah it will be kind of rough in the heat of summer or dead of the winter, but as long as we can handle it we keep working on it.

Alix: We’re working on it all year though.

Stephen: We’ll finish closing it off before the winter comes and then we’ve got to talk to the building inspector and figure out what we need to do to put a wood stove in here. We’ll be able to warm it up a little bit. Then we have the wood shop and that’s got AC and a wood stove in there. It’s not that bad in New England most winters. January and February are going to be our roughest two months. We can go in the wood shop and there’s a lot of stuff we can build and work on in there if it’s really cold and nasty. Same thing in the summer when it’s brutally hot.

Climbing Together: What other type of wood working do you do?

Stephen: I’ve done all sorts of hodge podgey stuff. I grew up on the farm here, so there’s a barn over there we built when I was a kid. I grew up around that kind of stuff. I like to do usually gifts in the workshop. I often make stuff. I’ve made very few things for myself. Cutting boards, stools, I made a cider press, I have a lathe so I’ve turned a lot of bowls and plates and that kind of thing.

Alix: I’ve done a lot less wood working, but we used to work together. We’ve done carpentry work together and roofing together. I’m going to take up more of the back end of the project. The video work and stuff. I studied photography. I’ve never really done video, but I’m learning fast self-taught.

Stephen: As am I with woodworking and boat building.

Alix: That’s kind of the beauty of the project too. We’re teaching ourselves all of this. A lot of people have asked us “how do you know how to build a wooden boat?” I read about it. It’s kind of the same thing with these videos, kind of figuring it out. I want to show people you can do that too.

workshop-2

Climbing Together: What do you think will help keep you motivated since it seems like a longer project than what you’ve worked on in the past?

Stephen: The end result. Being able to get on a boat and go where ever the heck you want. To be able to go live that free and be able to explore and travel. For me, I don’t think I need any more motivation than that.

Climbing Together: That does sound motivating enough.

Stephen: Then accomplishing a life long goal. Building a sailboat that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. To be able to accomplish that and live a lot more of a free existence. To be able to go travel. We both are climbers, so to be able to do first ascents in Norway or climbing in Thailand and Indonesia. Go down to Terra Del Fuego. We could sail to Patagonia and go climbing. Go up to Baffin Island if we want to. The options are endless. There’s an incredible amount of motivation there.

Alix: The lifestyle is big for us. It’s huge. Working minimally but also being able to go and do the things we’ve always been wanting to do.

Stephen: Go see the places I’ve always wanted to see. I’d love to go swim with a whale shark and see the southern cross and the northern lights, and go up and sail around a glacier while Orcas follow around the boat. So many things to go see and do, and really the only way we’re ever going to be able to see and do them is if we build a boat and go sail around. Either that or win the lottery but even then I think we’d build a boat and go sail it. We’d probably just build the boat a lot faster.

Climbing Together: It seems like this would be great for photography too.

Alix: Oh, yeah. I’m thinking of taking all this and doing a documentary at the end. Starting photography as well this is going to be perfect. All these things put together. You’re asking are we going to be able to find odd jobs, oh yeah.

Climbing Together: It sounds like a good combination of all your interest. 

Alix: We’ve been saying we make a good team. I’ve got the carpenter on my side here, and I can provide the back end working all the computers which he hates doing.

Stephen: I could never make the videos. I would have hurdled the computer out the window two months ago.

Alix: We compliment each other pretty well for this.

Stephen: We don’t step on each others toes much either. Alix will show me stuff on the videos, but as far as I’m concerned that’s his department. If there’s something I don’t really like I’ll say I’m not fond of this, but at the end of the day it’s his call. If I don’t like it, but he says let’s go for it, great. We’re going for it.

Alix: That’s how it’s going to be with the boat too. I don’t much about carpentry, so if I’m like this doesn’t look right and he says no, it’s fine. Okay we’ll do it.

Climbing Together: That seems good for this adventure to work well together. How did you meet? 

Alix: We met when we were both going to the same school, Unity College. We both took a rock climbing class and started climbing together. That’s how we really met. We lived down the hall from each other, but I don’t think we’d really start hanging out with each other if we hadn’t started climbing together. Once we did that we were doing that every weekend.

Stephen: Then after that we just stayed in touch. Alix has traveled all around. I’ve bummed around here and there. I’m sure we’ve gone some good long times without talking.

Alix: That’s the coolest thing about our friendship. We’ll go a long time without talking and then reconnect and it’s like we saw each other yesterday.

Stephen: We kind of intend to do that with the sailboat too. If at some point we need a little space from each other we both backpack and hike and all that kind of stuff. We can go to Italy and be like you can walk across Italy, I’ll sail around and pick you up on the other side. We can take a month and go our separate ways. Which works really well with our vision of going somewhere and staying for a while. Alix can teach English, I can go to the boat yard and we can meet up at the end of the day and go climbing or what not. Living on that lofting floor together for months at a time is going to be cozy.

ships

Picture taken by me in Hingham, MA

Climbing Together: What are some other interests that you plan to explore on this adventure?

Alix: I don’t know where to start. We want to learn how to scuba dive and get the gear on there so we can refill tanks and

Stephen: I want to put a dive compressor on the boat so no matter where we are in the world we can charge our own tanks. We can go do some scuba and we can also use that to make money. If someone’s anchors get fouled or the bottom of their boat needs scrubbing. We will do it for you.

Alix: Climbing, hiking.

Stephen: We want to make some stand up paddle boards. Some nice wooden ones to bring with us so we can paddle those, surf those. Spear fishing. There are a lot of books I’d like to read. I’d really like to learn how to play a musical instrument. I’ve been toying with the idea of when the boat’s done, taking a little bit of time and making myself a violin. Taking it on the boat and teaching myself to play. That’s the kind of stuff that you don’t have the time for. I think going and living on the boat we’ll have the time for that.

Alix: I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar too. Never got to.

Stephen: I’d love to learn some languages.

Alix: That’s going to be awesome for me. I love languages.

Climbing Together: What languages do you want to learn?

Stephen: All I know is English. He knows Spanish and French so that would be a good place to start.

Alix:  I’ve tried learning Arabic, more of less understand Portuguese, Italian. Brushing up on all of those. I think anywhere we go, I want to learn some of the language and be able to at least communicate with the locals. I think that will be part of my job is the translator. I enjoy it too.

Climbing Together: That’s good. It shows respect to them. What needs to be done in sailing the boat? Does someone always need to be doing something?

Stephen: It really depends. So when we are living somewhere for a while, we’ll drop a couple anchors or tie it to a mooring and the boat will take care of it’s self. We don’t really need to worry after that. When we are actually sailing, going from point A to point B, someone always has to be on watch.

Other than that, it really just kind of depends on the weather. If you’re in the middle of the ocean and you get into the doldrums where there is no wind, yeah if you don’t have enough diesel or electric depending on what your auxiliary is to motor, you could just sit there and float for a week or two waiting for the wind. On the same side, if we’re in some narrow strait or channel or bay and the weather is bad and there’s a ton of shipping we might need three people on the boat going all the time to keep where we’re going and not hit anyone or get hit by somebody.

The boat is a heavy displacement, so I’ve looked at plans for boats and this one is 30 ft on deck, that are 60 ft on deck and don’t weigh as much as this one. It’s a tank. My friend Jeff who sails describes it as a hippopotamus or sea turtle just plowing through the ocean. Atkin, the designer,  the boat’s plan is called Ingrid and he describes Ingrid as able-ness personified, equal to any situation, the kind of boat that will behave herself in rough weather and can be depended upon to sail herself. The design is pattered off the Norwegian lifeboats, which a designer from a long long time ago in Norway made popular these double ended heavy displacement boats, so they are kind of like a canoe where they are pointy at both ends. When other boats were sinking in the storms, these were the boats they sent out. This is kind of inspired by those designs. It’s a wide boat, a heavy boat, it’s double ended. So it’s not going to be fast. We are not going to go enter and win any races. She is going to more or less sail like it’s on rails. It’s got a big long heavy keel. Getting around Boston Harbor might be a bit of a nightmare, but taking off across the pacific is what this boat was made for and where this boat will really shine.

Climbing Together: So was this model picked for dependability? 

Stephen: Yeah, that and the ease of construction. The boat was designed in 1934, at the time it was designed for the amateur boat builder to be able to build it at home and be successful, and that’s kind of Atkin’s whole thing. Something about boats for unregimented yachtsmen is the kind of motto. When I was looking for boat designs the name Atkins kept popping up in different places, and once I started looking into the Atkin boat line and what they’re all about and the cult following they have, I decided alright we’ll build an Atkin boat. I started digging through all the Atkin plans.

It’s kind of like deciding what kind of house you want to build or car you want to buy. The options are daunting and everything is a compromise, everything is a trade off, especially with a boat. We started looking through their plans and reading through them. I knew I wanted a boat I could single hand, so you could sail it yourself, and I wanted a boat that was big enough to have two or three people on it pretty much all the time and for it to be relatively comfortable. It’s a boat, it’s going to be cozy no matter what, but not have it be too crowded. There’s five berths on it, five beds. I wouldn’t want to have five people living on it crossing an ocean, but if there were two or three of us and we were in port and two or three people wanted to come stay, that would be fine. Yeah, so between the relative ease of construction. No boat is easy to build, but it doesn’t have any crazy curves or anything that’s too wild about it. Between it being relatively easy to build, designed for a home boater, and designed to handle big waves and storms, I decided to build an Ingrid.

Alix: I just went along with it. I was like alright, sounds good.

Climbing Together: Do you know what the inside is going to be structured like?

Stephen: Yeah, on the plans they talk about their version of the lay out. Blue Water boats, I think it is, out of Washington state in the 70s, I believe, made a whole bunch of fiber glass versions of this boat.So there’s a whole bunch of interior configurations. Generally, standard is you have a cockpit in the stern of the boat and you enter it through the companion way and go down the stairs and then on your right hand side will be a chart table and your radio and all your navigation stuff, and on the left hand will be the galley, so it’s your kitchen, stove, sink, refrigerator, that kind of stuff, and then you go into the main saloon which is the living area. There’s a table that’s set up. On one side there’s a couch with a bed behind it, on the other side there’s just a couch, the two couches double as beds. Then you go through a bulkhead and there’s a little door and there’s your head and your toilet on one side, storage lockers on the other and then in the front of the boat is another cabinet with twin deep berths, so there’s two beds up there. But we can make the twin deep berths one big bed if we wanted. We can shuffle things around a little bit.

Climbing Together: Do you need to get all the stuff to communicate with other boats as well? 

Stephen: Yeah, well have to get radar and radar reflectors, and the radio and all that stuff. Absolutely.

Alix: Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of gear we need to get once the boat is actually built.

Stephen: That’s one instance where I’ll definitely take advantage of modern technology.

Climbing Together: It sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think it makes it even better to know you put all this together. 

Stephen: I like the fact that we are going to know every piece of wood, every bolt, every screw, every wire. I couldn’t imagine heading out across an ocean on a boat that somebody else built and not knowing if it was done as well as it could be, or if there’s an issue where exactly I need to look and what I’m going to encounter. So there’s a huge piece of mind to me sailing off on a boat that I know so intimately. We built it, if we break it, we fix it, as long as we don’t outright sink it.

Climbing Together: I think I remember seeing that you were planning to get all the wood from the local area? 

Stephen: Yeah, we cut all the trees down, milled all the lumber,  and it came from right back here on my family farm.

Alix: the only thing we don’t have is the cedar, right?

Stephen: Yep, for the planking, and the Spruce for the mast. We have all the White Oak for the frame and all the Pine for the decking and interior work. We’re going to put some Sugar Maple in there, some Cherry Burls, Black Walnut, some Butternut. We’ve got a bunch of fun stuff to work with.

Alix: It’s part of the cool thing about building it ourselves. We’ve got the time to do it. So we’ve got all this nice wood around to make the inside with really nice wood. Usually people build a boat and by that point they’re just sick of it.

black-walnut

Sample of Black Walnut borrowed from http://www.tedswoodworking.com

Climbing Together: How many trees does it take to make this?

Stephen: I honestly didn’t count. I think we cut down 9 or 10 oaks, and like 4 pines. We still have to outsource for the cedar for the planking and spruce for the mast. I would say all said and done, the boat will come out of 20 trees or fewer. They are pretty big trees. Most of the trees we cut were at least 2ft in diameter at the base and somewhere in the ball park of 80 to 100 years old.

Climbing Together: Where can people keep up to date with this project?

Alix: We have a website. http://www.acorntoarabella.com We have a Facebook page which will lead you back to the website as well: https://www.facebook.com/acorntoarabella. We have the videos up on a site called patreon (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3016693). That site was actually created for artist that are doing reoccurring work, so instead of doing something and raising one lump sum of money, people can put up work and you have followers who decide to donate a certain amount, and it’s their choice, for a piece of work that you put up. If people want to follow, the best way to help us is to subscribe to our Patreon page. Every time we put up a video, they will pay the amount they decided to pay. Depending on certain tiers of how much you donate, you get gifts or extra stuff. We’ll be putting those on as they come out and as the other videos start coming out, we’ll be putting them on YouTube and things like that.

Climbing Together: If people are really excited about this, is that the best way to help?

Alix: Yeah, that would be the best thing to do if they want to help us.

Climbing Together: Are there other ways to get involved? 

Stephen: We are on the hunt for lead. If anybody knows where we can find some lead, we will match what your local scrap yard will buy it for and we’ll come pick it up. Any and all things made of lead. The more the better. We need a lot.

Climbing Together: Any other things you’d like people to know?

Stephen: We really want people to be involved. If folks are super interested and want to send us an email, swing by, and lend a hand, and see what we’re doing, the more the merrier.

Alix: Don’t be shy. We love talking about it.

Stephen: A big goal of it is to hopefully inspire folks. A lot of people have said this is crazy or so ambitious, and I don’t think we really see it that way. Is it a big project? Yes. Is it a lot of work? Sure, but it’s been done before. It’s been done hundreds if not thousands of times over the course of history. I had so many people I’ve talked to about it say that’s so amazing or I wish I could do something like that, but I never could. If you want to do it, just go for it. Six years ago if you came to me and said I would be building a boat in my front yard with my best friend who quit his job and moved down here to help me do it, I would have laughed at you. I had that end goal and I kept plugging away at it, and when I pitched the idea to my friends and they blew me off and told me I was crazy, it only strengthened my resolve. I kept digging and did more research.

Alix: Sometimes the crazy stuff is the stuff that really can come together. I think people just get scared of that. It’s not as bad as it looks. Part of our wanting to do this is we feel like we don’t really fit into the kind of society we’re in right now. We want to get out that idea that you can do something different. You don’t have to work with what’s here. Think big and believe in yourself.

Stephen: When I was a kid my favorite books were My Side of the Mountain, Huckleberry Finn, Where the Red Ferns Grow. The premise in most of those books is being outside and being free. I think that’s an amazing way to live.

Alix: And it’s possible.

light-moon

Photo I took in Maine

Thank you both for answering my questions. It really was fascinating learning all about this plan and how practical the idea of bringing it to life is. Yes, it will take work, motivation, and determination, but it’s clear this is something they are passionate about and capable of doing. Good luck with your endeavors and hopefully we can check back in soon to see how progress is going. For all the readers out there, feel free to post any questions and I can see about getting answers in the follow up. Or if you have a similar experience, your own unique dream, or advice, we’d love to hear it. 

Labor Day Weekend Climbing

Josh GB

Hopefully everyone had an excellent Labor Day weekend. We understand that not all workers are fortunate enough to get days off during the holiday (sorry for that), but for many people this weekend meant a nice, extra day. With September just kicking off, many climbers are excited for the start of the fall sending temps season, which makes it good timing for a longer break. While the summer weather still lingers on, the temperatures were quite a bit cooler. We decided to take advantage of this nice weather with two days of climbing. One at Great Barrington, MA and one at Farley Ledges, MA.

Great Barrington, MA has some of the best rock quality in New England. Each climb is photogenic, sturdy, and simply fun. We were psyched to find out there is way more to the area than we ever knew too. With some helpful information from Tim Murdock, a local climber, we will soon be expanding what we personally know of Great Barrington. In climbing, having connections to locals in the area is key. There is often so much a guide book cannot cover, especially as the sport continues to expand. New areas are being discovered all the time, as some incredible individuals seek out all the rock they can find. Not everyone understands the developing mindset, but we should all be grateful to those who have it.

In any case, we had a blast climbing on some projects. The weather was beautiful, the company was perfect, and the psych was high. We had a nerf football we tossed around while hiking; the whistle loud and shrill as it whizzed through the trees. Turns out throwing a perfect spiral with a crash pad on your back is quite tough. Trying to figure it out is an enjoyable challenge though.

 

Alex GB

Alex, Great Barrington

 

will cornell

Will Cornell, Great Barrington

For me personally, it was a strong day of climbing. I got on some things that would normally be difficult and found them to be doable. Overhanging climbs tend to be a weakness for me (need more core strength, I guess), however, I was able to work on some overhanging cave problems with ease. One was a fun V4 that starts completely overhung and requires a graceful drop knee. The other was a V3 with a double heel hook start. It was a great day for Alex who was running laps on some challenging V7-V8 climbs. With the humidity still being high, the crimps were shutting a few people down. But overall, everyone seemed to be having a good day. We climbed until the darkness of night and our growling stomachs got us packing.

pete

Pete Cornell, Great Barrington

Josh GB 1

Josh, Great Barrington

We had a brief moment of panic that added some chaos to the day. Apparently, Great Barrington has a resident porcupine. Tim’s dog, Leelah was drawn to a shuffling in the woods, and chased after it at full speed. In the distance, we could see a slow moving animal about porcupine size, though it was never confirmed for sure. We called her, yelled, and whistled, but it seemed she was much too fixated on the hunt to pay attention. Luckily, right before the encounter, she backed away, reluctantly adhering to her owner’s call. We were all thankful she did.

me GB

After a day of rest, in which I spent visiting a friend home from London temporarily, and playing some mini-golf and discovering fantastic pumpkin ice cream, we ventured over to Farley Ledges. It wasn’t the best idea. We were pretty sore and beaten from our long day at Great Barrington. It is hard to resist the urge to climb though, and we figured even if it was only a few easy climbs, at least it was climbing.

Props to the Western Massachusetts Climbing Coalition. Farley looks beautiful. The trails are great, and the signs are perfect. The new paved parking is easy. The do a really great job keeping the area nice. http://www.climbgneiss.org/

me farley

I got on a fun climb, pictured above. I’m not sure what it is exactly. However, the way I do it, you match hands on a crimp, sit starting. Your feet are really not visible. They are tiny. There is a little thin ledge I used for the right, and smeared the left. You pull up to a small, but deep jug, and then bump to the top with your right hand. Then you pull your left foot up to match your left hand, which is a really fun move. Then it’s just a matter of toping out. Pretty simple, and maybe a V3? It’s clear other people have climbed this at some point, but not sure that’s the beta they use.

Josh Farley

Then Josh and I both tried the V5 above. Well, I tried. Josh was successful, though he said it felt hard in the humidity. I’m sure on a crisp day he would crush this effortlessly. He did send though. You start on a great uncling, with feet that are hard to see but feel solid. Then we pulled in and reached high to a small slopey dish crimp. Then you match, work your feet up. Reach over to a side pull and keep working your feet until you can top out. It was a fun, low ball climb. Just takes some figuring out of what feet work best for you. It was nice to get outside.

We worked on some other projects too. It was great being outside in the breezy weather. What adventures were you able to enjoy on your long weekend?

Smuggler’s Notch, VT

Touch the Sky

“Touching The Sky” V12

This weekend we decided to escape the heat and humidity, as best as we could, by giving alpine bouldering a try. We drove up to Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont, which is about 3-4 hours from where we live. The early morning drive was, for the most part, nice and easy. When we were in Vermont and getting close to the climbing area, there were a bunch of beautiful little towns filled with things I love like farms, cheese, glass blowing, and wood working/carving shops. It had a cozy feel to it, despite how largely abandoned a lot of it felt due to being an off season ski/snowboard area. Along the road you could see sprawling vibrant green fields and meadows of bright yellow, blue, white, and purple flowers. It is a very picturesque area.

We knew there was an impending storm, and the dark clouds that loomed over the mountain tops had us worried. We prepared a back up plan for how to enjoy the day if the storm gave way, and went for it anyway. This ended up being a good idea, because the storm held off until we left and the strong wind gusts felt incredible after weeks of oppressive heat. It was like being out at sea with the consistently strong whips of wind in all directions.

cloudy

The truck maneuvered it’s way through the winding, sometimes very narrow, road that led up to the boulders. If you are planning a trip to this spot, you want to be wary of possible road closures and what season it is. It is not always possible to drive up it, and Mountain Project warns of potential heavy fines. This was not a problem for us and we were able to park really close to the boulders, but it is something to be mindful of.

Once you are there, it is very obvious this would be a bouldering location. There are massive boulders everywhere! Some are right on the edge of the road, some jutting out and almost into the road. It is by far the easiest approach I’ve ever encountered. There is zero hiking required to get to some of these boulders. In the past, I have hesitated at the thought of alpine bouldering because I picture the very long hike I took to get to the boulders in Idaho Springs, Colorado. Lazy sounding I know, but some days you feel up to hike and some days you just don’t. Regardless, this is not the case for this area. The boulders are literally right there. If you do want more of a work out, there are some awesome looking hiking trails and bike paths. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to ride my bike as much as being in this area. It looks behind incredible for it.

There is very easy access to nice restrooms too, since the visitor’s center is also right there. However, this means the area is filled with tourists who are there for a plethora of different reasons. There’s a lot of space and it didn’t feel like anyone was particularly in the way. It is just that we saw people all over doing a variety of things from picnics to taking fake climbing pictures to screaming in excitement over who know’s what. It’s maybe the closest you’ll get to feeling like you’re in the gym while outside. It is such a gorgeous area though, and still holds tight that glorious feeling of being out in nature. I was too stunned by the impressive nature to notice the tourist all that much.

smugglers

Of course, the most important question would be if the climbs were worth the long drive. In short answer, after the day was done, yes! I look forward to going back and exploring more. I left feeling psyched to do much more, and wishing we didn’t have to leave yet. The day didn’t quite start out as love at first climb though.

We arrived, found a solid parking spot in the middle of the action and close to Josh’s goal boulders of the day, and warmed up with the no hangs. no hangs

Then we took the really short walk, like several feet, to the first boulders I wanted to try. These boulders were low to the ground, which is nice since the area has a bunch of intimidating highballs. These climbs seemed easy enough in appearance, but were deceptive. The schist rock of this area is high quality, with nice little quartz cracks and features. Some of it, however, is very slick and my initial attempts were complete shut downs. Such as this fine little climb here, which we believe to be about V4, but might need to look into more.

v4

The rock here, at least, is so smooth and appealing to see, but hard to work. I give it some solid tries wanting to make progress but also feeling a bit worried nothing would feel climbable. The hand holds felt smooth, but easy enough to grip, and the feet just felt hard to find or stick. We took a walk around to the boulders close to it and behind it, and things were much different. The rock quality was still solid, but other routes felt more manageable and engaging. Soon we started having a lot of fun and finding projects quickly. Whether the slick rock are your thing or you’d prefer things more similar to the grittiness I gravitate towards, it is possible to find things you’ll love. There is a seemingly wide variety and some very exciting routes.

me climbing

“Easy Road” V0

A V0 around the corner proved to be a better warm up, for the obvious reason of being an easier start, but also this climb was just a lot of fun. It had amazing crimps, which I love. The movement was fun, though it was one of those ones you will probably climb a little different each time you get on it. There are a lot of options.

me climbing 2

Next to it was a slightly harder option, but equally as fun warm up climb. This climb had some challenging movement on incredible jug holds. Really the difficult part was adjusting the pad to cover the protruding rock you could hit, while also keeping it far enough away from your body that you can actually climb. It happens from time to time, but it was well worth the minimal efforts. I enjoyed this climb a lot. You start on a sloper hold, big move out and left, then bring your body into the biggest under-cling jug there is. You can bump right hand,reach up for a large, jug crimp, gain a big foot hold and summit to an easy top out. At least, this is how I saw it.

josh

Josh quickly set eyes on this climb “The Impossible Problem.” He made quick work on it, but lost a lot of skin figuring out the beta and sending didn’t happen due to one hard move. He has figured it all out though, and I’m confident it will happen next time. This climb made for some excellent photos.

josh 2

josh 3

He then spent the rest of his efforts giving a few tries on “Touching the Sky.” That climb is gorgeous, but terrifying in the potential landings. From a lot of photos, it is hard to see how tall it is because people start on a boulder that is below it. However, with the wrong kind of fall, it could be possible to fall from both and tumble down quite a ways. To put in a little perspective, the warm up climbs I did and that were pictured above, are actually the lower boulder. People climb on top of that boulder to get to this one. The other side, where one would likely fall, is a bit lower than the side I climbed, but it is also right above a little hill. Next to “Touching the Sky.” is an iconic V2. I felt around the first few moves, but I’m a bit of a baby when it comes to huge falls so a send, honestly even a real go, was not in the works for me. I did capture a picture of a man I don’t know the name of doing a fine job with it.

v2

All in all, we got a great first taste of this location. I had a lot of fun and look forward to our return. We plan to do a lot more and make even more of a day out it by staying a weekend. It was cooler, the climbing was fun, and the rock quality was worthy of the trip. When leaving, we headed through Stowe and grabbed some food at Piecasso. http://www.piecasso.com. It was a fun little spot. Bright colors, interesting decor, and decent pizza. We got some by the slice and tried out a few interesting mixes. I had buffalo chicken with banana peppers and a mozzarella, pesto, basil, and sundried tomato slice that was drizzled in balsamic. It was mighty tasty.

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Normally, an initial trip is a bit on the easy going side for us. It can be hard to find things and know where to go. Now that we’ve looked at it, got a feel for the area, and tried out a few things, I’m sure our next trip will be a bit more extensive. I look forward to picking out some projects and trying hard. Leave a comment if you’ve visited and tell us what you think.

No Hangs

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Josh Villeneuve has created a system for training finger strength that I have really been enjoying. This “no hang” system is great because it focuses completely on the fingers. Doing hang boarding or campus board sessions can be helpful, but you are using other aspects of your body in those work outs. For instance, you are engaging your core. The no hang allows you to come really close to isolating fingers and getting a real feel for how strong they are. We are both much stronger at close crimps than open crimps, and this system makes strengthening half and open crimps much easier than some other training options. Like on a hang board it can be really hard to fight that natural inclination.

Another perk is that it is really easy to travel with. If you want to get in a good warm up before climbing outside, that can be hard to do. A lot of people consider the hike in their body warm up, but unless you’re fortunate enough to always climb with easier climbs near by, the fingers can be hard to warm up. A no hang system is easy to take with you. We used this in the parking lot before heading to the boulders, so all the weights were in the car and easy to access. It was really nice.

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So what is this made of? What are you even looking at? Well there is a plank of wood with crimps, you can pick the size you want, screwed in. This one has two different sizes, one on each side. There is a hole drilled in a central spot at the bottom to run a sling though. The weight you see hanging is actually a boat anchor. Josh uses this as a way to keep the weights level when they are added on. We use circle weights like you’d put on bar bells. They are stacked on top of the boat anchor. Most people who see it think they’d never be able to do it, but you’d be surprised how strong you are. The first time I ever did this, I was hesitant to try to pick up 45 lbs and then did so effortlessly. My max weight first go was about 65 lbs.

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It’s a nice work out because it’s easy to do at home, at the gym, outside or where ever you need it. It takes a very short amount of time. It can be an excellent training tool or warm up tool. Since I recently had a bit of an ankle injury, it is also a great way to keep strong while not being able to use your feet.

The first time you’ll probably need to just figure out your max. Start with a weight amount that you know you can handle, hold it for a few seconds and progressively add more weight. Take rests of a couple minutes between efforts, especially once it gets harder. Your max might be different on each hand. My right hand can handle about 5 more lbs than my left.

Once you know your max, you can start tracking progression by keeping a record and seeing if you can up it each time. So far, I really like this. It’s easy to do, it makes me feel strong, and it just makes sense to me. If it will improve my climbing, is still to be determined. What do you think? Would you try it? Have you tried something like this?