Summer of Thousands & the BoB Push:

•May 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment
"Awenasa Roof (V9 FA) Photo by Kai Böttcher

“Awenasa Roof (V9 FA) Photo by Kai Böttcher

This upcoming Monday (May 12th 2014) I will be moving into my summer cabin at GHSP for my third summer session as an AmeriCorps park naturalist.

The cabin

The cabin

These summer seasons have been a time of solace, reflection, and an opportunity for me to focus in on Grayson projects, exploration, and first ascents. I have attempted to set goals for myself every summer in hopes that the pursuit of these goals will provide motivation and a sense of direction throughout my 5-6 months there. When the visiting climbers are few and I am out bouldering alone in the mountains, it is nice to have goals to focus in on

Canis Dirus (V6/7FA)

Canis Dirus (V6/7FA)

This summer, what looks to be my final GHSP summer, I have set some ambitious goals that if reached will surely stand as both park and personal milestones. I hope to document the 1000th boulder problem for GHSP, and also clean, climb, and document my own personal 1000th First Ascent. I certainly never expected to see either of these numbers when I began to explore the bouldering possibilities in Grayson years ago, after all, who in their right mind would ever think that a few years down the line they would have climbed a thousand unclimbed boulder problems? I knew I was growing close to documenting the 1000th problem in GHSP as I have eagerly watched the number of boulder problems listed in my notes and on Mountainproject.com grow ever closer to 1000. I’ve been excited to be a part of seeing Grayson surpass a grand for quite some time.

It wasn’t until recently when a friend asked me how many first ascents that I had personally climbed that I ever thought to pry into the subject.

Mint Julep (V6)

Mint Julep (V6FA)

I simply replied with a laugh and “I haven’t a clue” at the moment, but later I perused Mountain Project and my own personal notebooks to see if I could come up with a rough number. While I certainly have not established every boulder problem in GHSP, not even close, I have been the first to climb large amount of the listed problems at Grayson as well as having developed or been key in the development of boulderfields such as Nebo Mountain, Harkening Hill, Bluefield, Burkes Garden, the Cascades, High Knob, Guest, and Damascus. In my personal count I also included areas where I have collectively added only a handful of new problems such as the Bearfields, Boone, Stone Fort, Clito, Mountain Lake, and Mcafees Knob.

Matze Bär on the 2nd of the bold "Calamity"

Matze Bär on the 2nd of the bold “Calamity”

All of these areas collectively, alongside the new lines I seek to develop this summer should, with good fortune, put me at the 1000 mark.

I have been working hard recently in an area that will be key in realizing both of these summer goals; the Back of Beyond area (BoB). This location may pan out to be the highest density and one of the highest quality boulderfields in GHSP. The BoB is unreal. Quite and offset from any and everything, you have the feeling of being immersed in the wilderness and disconnected from the distractions of civilization. Since late last season it has been almost exclusively my destination while visiting Grayson. While I took five months off in the Winter to develop areas in Wise County VA, the GHSP season has recently taken off and it has been the subject of a massive push to explore and develop brand new climbs.

From the recent effort the Back of Beyond is currently the third most populated bouldering area in the park in terms of shear numbers of developed boulder problems. The LRT proper and the Boneyard are the only two locations that currently eclipse the BoB in total problem density, yet the BoB is much smaller in total land size by comparison, and far less developed than either other location.

Matze Bär gunning for the second of "Principia"(V7/8)

Matze Bär gunning for the second of “Principia”(V7/8)

Once I focus in on cleaning the easier and more obscure blocks in the periphery of the BoB, it is hard to tell how many problems will be listed here.

Just a few of the latest new ascents have been “Awenasa Roof”(V9) which is about 12 moves long and climbs entirely beneath a low, arrowhead shaped, beautiful horizontal roof via large moves, crimps, and tough moves. “Principia” (V7/8) was an unexpected discovery on a massive, ominous, overhung highball boulder. The line climbs similarly to “FSM” only it is a bit tougher. “Canis Dirus”(V6/7) is a fun, proud, steep block that climbs similar features as are found on the AVP Boulder. “Method”(V6/7) is a small, blank block with small ripples and pebbles and a big dyno move on a vertical face. These are just a taste of the 72 currently developed boulders in the BoB. Many boulders and projects remain un-climbed, but those are quietly and steadily being scaled as the weeks pass.

"Awenasa Roof (V9 FA) Photo by Kai Böttcher

“Awenasa Roof (V9 FA) Photo by Kai Böttcher

This summer promises to be both unforgettable for me personally and pivotal in the developmental history of GHSP bouldering, even if I fall short of reaching this goal. With under 100 boulder problems left to develop to reach the 1000th for GHSP and just over one hundred left to reach my personal thousandth, I couldn’t be more optimistic. No doubt some of the hardest and most classic Park lines have yet to be finished, and the BoB certainly has the blocks to facilitate this. This Monday will start the new week, and the Summer of Thousands.

 

A Good Start To March

•March 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So far the month of March 2014 has been pretty great!IMG_5853 March in Appalachia usually flip-flops in-between full scale arctic winter and the oh-so-nice, mild days of spring. This March, thus far, has been more along the lines of the latter. The early, milder spring conditions have afforded me a little extra opportunity to get outside and on the blocks. Spring Break has also been in the picture the past week, so I have been able to travel a bit. Altogether I have spent a small amount of time on Boone boulders, lots of time in Wise County on new boulders, and very briefly visited Rock Town, Georgia and Stone Fort, Tennessee.

In Boone, my friend Jeff was nice enough to escort me around a new-to-me area called Biscuit Rock, which houses a really nice and condense selection of quality blocks. Power Chord (v8) and Changing Lanes (v9) are just a couple of the must-do problems there. IMG_5858We didn’t have much time and the window of nice weather was behind us with cold winds increasing as daylight diminished, but I was able to put down the stunning Power Chord on my 2nd go, and do Changing Lanes in two parts. If time would have held out, and I hadn’t planned a visit to Wise the next day, I would have loved to finish up Lanes, but its not going anywhere and I’ll return for sure.

I drove out to Wise County and met up with Brad Mathison to work on some great new sandstone boulders. I did two new ones in the Gorge and opened an incredible new project. The project climbs out of a proud, steep roof from the sit. The sit is a tough lunge off of small, unique holds, to a large jug scoop ledge. From the ledge, an undercling crimp gives way  to a cross for the thin, diagonal, overhead “beaver  tooth” edge.IMG_5870 Off of the edge, you have to unravel into a horrible slot-gaston. From that tenuous stance, a big feet-off dyno to a small, steep, crimp-scoop leaves you dangling. A couple campus moves to jugs allows you to finish out. After doing all of the moves I had to walk out tired and without the send, but psyched to return. The next day in Wise Brad and I went to another cool sandstone spot in the area called the Labyrinth (Lab) to send some new highball lines in perfect temps (without a doubt some of the best conditions of the year). We put up 6 new lines, most finishing well above 20ft in height. My favorite new line of the day was definitely “Shawshank Redemption”(V3/4), which was a 20+ft vertical face that I had spied a long time ago but had never climbed. This one stand starts in a low pocket and higher undercling. You toss up to a so-so side-pull pocket and then a fat lobe pinch to reach the horizontal (the picture above).IMG_5864 From the horizontal you make a tough little move to a thin crimp, and gain the higher jug/lobe side-pull which takes you to the last crux way off of the deck. Nab the little crimp, and move out right to the iron ribbed lip of the boulder to top out. Brad put up several awesome new ones (on the boulder to the furthest left of the boulder I am on, in the left photo), one of which climbed a slab past beautiful side-pull seams, which he dubbed “Pappaws Bones.”

Following a rest day in Asheville, Sarene and I met up with my friend Jason in Rock Town GA. I love Rock Town, but I hate climbing on manky slopers in sunny 70 degree weather, regardless of how good the rock is. After slapping hot sandstone for a bit, I sought the shade of a steep roof climb I had always wanted to try. The Womb (v10) is an amazing series of iron crimps and pinches that lead to a fat sloper pinch at the lip, followed by a thin sloper/crimp before the finish jug. After about an hour I had done all the moves, and was able to to the line in two halves but simply ran out of juice and couldn’t do it clean from the start.Womb I had planned to return for the send the next day, but group consensus made the decision to visit Stone Fort the following day instead. I didn’t loose any sleep over not returning however, as my fingers were pretty destroyed and I ended up climbing terribly at SF, mostly sulking in the shade while wishing I were in NC or VA where the conditions were better. I did do a bunch of easy-going classics (I have no clue what they are called or their grade, just that they were awesome) to finish out the trip to the Dirty. I love climbing in the south but wish it had remained a little cooler for our visit. Ill be back next season for sure!

Yesterday I made a day trip back to the Lab in Wise to do some rainy (and snowy) day cleaning and prep work for the weekend ahead. Brad joined me at the Lab and we uncovered/discovered a ton of unseen and unrealized boulders and problems while opening up access between slots and channels that had been blocked by downed trees and limbs after several winter storms. These lines, ranging from 15-25ft tall, promise to be classics for sure. I couldn’t be more stoked for the weekend ahead!

Late December to “Love Johnson” (V10)

•February 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Since my last post in late December, I’ve spent a lot of time in Wise (an amazing location with tons of unclimbed VA sandstone), and more recently a lot of time bouldering around here in Boone NC.DSC_0113 At Wise, a small group of us (Brad, Adam, Emily, Sam, April, Aaron W, and Myself) have been methodically establishing boulder problems on incredible new boulders (and a few routes) in a new location that is perfect for winter bouldering and climbing. In this new location (we are working on securing solid and official access with the land manager for bolting, so until then I’ll refrain from disclosing names/locations) I have FA’d 20+ boulder problems from V1-V9, mostly problems that I can clean and climb in a day but with projects pending and ready to come back to. Some of my favorites thus far have been “Six Feet Under (V3), “The Viewing”(V8), “Class Five”(V5), and “Machine Gun”(V8/9).DSC_0130

Last month Brad Mathison and I have started working with a new non-profit called the Appalachian Spring Initiative which works to “develop and promote the world class outdoor recreation and natural resource assets of Southwest Virginia to create an international awareness of the region as a travel, and, ultimately, business development and living destination.” Our work there is to key in on the bouldering and climbing in this lesser known part of the U.S. (in terms of climbing opportunities) in hopes that ecotourism and the outdoor economy can assist some of the struggling communities dependent on the finite, extractive economy associated with coal and mountaintop removal in SWVA.DSC_0173 Obviously this wont be a solution to the struggle, but if it can help in the slightest than I’m on board.

Last weekend I went out to The Dump at 221 with Sarene and friends. I got to repeat “Druid Roof” “Black Magic Woman”, both V7s, and a few other fun ones. I added a silly but harder low start to “Druid Roof” that probably bumps the grade up a bit, but definitely isn’t a fun as the normal start as it starts on the low left foot holds (but I like it anyway)…DSC_0202

Yesterday I finished class and work at the university’s herbarium and had what I feel is a perfect example of some of my favorite climbing sessions. Days when you head out with no expectations, agendas, or distractions, and end up climbing at your best. After work and a nourishing, large BBQ sandwich I decided to head out to the mountains with about 2 hours of remaining daylight.DSC_0089 I wanted to check out and try some moves on “Love Johnson”(V10), and sent the problem with enough time to climb a couple of nearby highballs beneath the still lingering sunset before heading home for dinner. “Love Johnson” turned out to be one of my absolute favorite V10s in Boone. Big moves off of good holds and fat slopers, all dictated by and interesting heel-hook, and a thought provoking slab finish.

Looking forward, I plan to meet with land managers in both GHSP and Wise in the near future to discuss bouldering access and activities for the year ahead. I’m excited to get after some more Appalachian FAs in GHSP as spring ’rounds the corner, and also in Wise before it gets too warm there. While I’m in Boone I have my sights set on harder problems, and hopefully I can top a few projects out in the near future.

Here is a great video of Nate Draughn making “Love Johnson” look easy. Enjoy!

Recap: First Ascents in Wise County VA, Dec 18th-19th

•December 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Over the past week I was able to spend a few days in Wise, VA putting up some of the best Appalachian sandstone boulder problems I have ever climbed.

Continent Boulder

The weather was (mostly) wonderful, and so was my company.Mark Mellette and Jason Johnson, boulder masters from Lynchburg and Charlottesville, VA, made the long drive down to meet me in Boone NC. Once they arrived we went out to the Blowing Rock Boulders (from 9:00pm-Midnight). The temperature that night (17th of Dec) was about 25 degrees and the wind was furiously whipping across the ridgeline to the tune of multiple low-flying F-16 fighter jets. We all got to climb on some classics, and gave a few different problems some effort. After a warm-up repeat of “Left into Center 45”(V7) I tried repeating “Flagyl”(V10) but it just wasn’t happening and I needed to save my already thin and glassy skin for Wise Co. We headed up and climbed around on the Mushroom Boulder (occasionally taking shelter from the ever present threat of wind toppled trees and branches), and then left the mountain psyched for the following day on brand new sandstone.

Mark Mellette on the Continent BoulderWe arrived at the Knob to meet my friend and local stone master Brad Mathisen. We first toured the dizzying passageways and highball boulders of the Labyrinth, and then drove across the mountain ridges along snowy and icy dirt roads to Osborne, a location we just found on our last trip to Wise. Brad needed to run some errands in town, so Jason, Mark, and I decided to clean and warm up on an exciting new boulder we called The Continent. Mark Mellette on the Continent BoulderThis block was average height, but long and covered with pockets, slopers, ripples, and cool “alligator scale”-like waves. Despite the snowy landing and occasional ice cycle, the friction was perfect. After doing three new ones there, I felt warmed up enough to tackle my project from the prior week’s session; the “King Coal Project” on the Roadside Boulder. King CoalI called the project this because during my prior session I could hear the ominous blasts from the Mountain Top Removal operations on a nearby ridgeline. Standing on such an astoundingly tranquil, unique, and beautiful Appalachian mountain such as High Knob and hearing those powerful blasts is a sobering realization. If enough coal were found under those boulders, High Knob would be blown apart just to power our coffee makers.
We walked up to Roadside and I brushed up my project. After a few goes I was able to finish up the line for the FA of “King Coal” (V9).DSC_0059 While I’m never confident or really put much effort in to grades, Mark and I feel as though its somewhere near that anyway. King Coal starts low on two nice iron scoops and uses a sandy ledge for the initial feet. After reaching out the steep face to a thin sculpted crimp and a higher mono, the problem extends to a distant gaston pocket/pinch. After setting a finicky heel-hook on the start and matching the gaston feature, you blast to a slopey lip and follow through to several nice jugs for the top.
We FA’d a nice arête line called “King’s Corner” (V6) on Roadside, and then moved on to West Osborne.DSC_0082 West Osborne has unbelievable boulders lots of potential for both bouldering and short, insanely hard sport routes. We went directly to the Admiral Boulder which is a sweeping, wave-like, 25-30ft highball block. I was able to FA an amazing V7 called “Mono-y-Mono”, and as its name suggests, it utilized two tiny back-to-back mono pockets. The line climbs about 18+vertical feet and finishes off to the left of the apex, leaving about 10 feet of scrambling to the top (which was through snow, quite scary, and un-protectable). Mark followed suit with an immediate 2nd ascent. Then Brad, after figuring out his sequence and cleaning some key holds, got to the top of his proud highball line, only to get halted at the top by icy holds and slick feet. He took a long 15ft drop to the pads and vowed to clean the top and send the next chance he gets.

DSC_0108

After the session we all ate some delicious Mexican food in town. sadly I had to drop off Mark and Jason for their long drive back home. I drove over to Brad’s house and got to meet his wife Bess, who is likewise a great climber and all around awesome person. Brad, Bess, and I went out to a really cool bar and resturant in town called Magnolia Kitchen where we hung out with several other fantastic local climbers and friends. The bar serves great beer and food!
The next day Brad and I headed back out to West Osborne (after a little exploring) and the conditions couldn’t have been any better.t a jug, so the height makes this boulder fairly thrilling, but safe and attainable at the grade. After we but up 3 brand new classics (these were all 4 star classic at any boulder field in the U.S.)DSC_0151 we hiked over to East Osborne for more new boulders.
At East Osborne Brad and I first stopped at the Theotókos Boulder and started working our own problems, his on the front corner and mine on the back face. 14 The line I began working was one that has stuck in my memory from the last trip. I thought it would be a moderate, but my memory had failed me. This thing is hard. The “Theotókos Project” likely goes and v9 or 10, and I didn’t have the energy or skin left to finish the last crux moves. Starting on slopers at the lip and moving past a crystal covered pinch and crystally mono divot,1 the problem requires a gymnastic high heel-hook and balanced rock over to gain the last bad hold before a nice side-pull break. After that there is still 13ft worth of delicate slab, but the holds seem to improve. I decided to leave the “Theotókos Project” until my next trip and spot Brad on his new rig. Brad was psyched on a line that I initially didn’t pay any attention to. When I rounded the corner I was astounded by how amazing it was. Slopey pinches and rails angled out from under a near-roof up into huge pinches and a massive slopey gap at the top. 13ft worth of awesomeness.
Brad decided to work the obvious stand start, which ended up being harder than it seemed as well. Brad sent the stand of “Mother Mary”(V4) and I figured out the sit and climbed it as well, which we called “Proud Mary”(V7). After this, with fading light, Brad sprinted down to the ravine to look at another nearby block. After a moment he yelled out “dude, you’re gonna want to climb this one” which is always great to hear. The Ravine boulder has a low roof and steep face covered with iron plates and jugs. The very bottom is pebbly, the mid-section has the iron rails and ribs, and the top half is high-friction perfect sandstone. With night setting in we climbed four new lines there, all in the V3-V5 grade range.

5
This ended my most recent trip to Wise. On the drive back to Boone I reflected on the 15 amazing new boulder problems we did, and tons of new projects I was leaving. I honestly couldn’t be more excited. I would turn down a trip to almost anywhere for another two days on High Knob. “King Coal” (V9), “Mono-y-Mono” (V7), “Proud Mary”(V7), and every line on Dr. Seuss are all some of the best problems I have done in a very long time.

This is just the start for the Knob, VA, and a very exciting time to be a bouldering in Appalachia.

Six Months

•December 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Excuses:

Its been almost 6 months since I last wrote about my personal climbing. I suppose it has been a mixture of my hectic jam-packed graduate school schedule. The smaller pockets of time that I have due to my schedule results in me instantly leaving the house to climb every chance I get (so less time for personal writing). Also, starting GraysonHighlandsBouldering.com and being the Administrator for Virginia on MountainProject.com has taken precedence over personal writing recently… But these are all excuses for being lazy and not writing something here and there. My friend Spencer from the RV Project asked if I have given up on Edges to ledges not long ago. “No” I thought, “But I suppose it does look that way…” The long story made short is that I have had my hands full and not given myself the time to write, but I have been quite active. I have spent my free time during the week working Boone Area projects, and the weekends developing new blocks in GHSP and Wise County VA. I’m on my holiday break now, and in effort to not forget all that I have been up to over the past half year, here are the highlights:

Back of Beyond:IMG_5741

Late in the summer I began exploring an area that I have long known about in GHSP, but had put off in terms of development due to all the other amazing projects and boulders in the park. I had no idea how much was there however…  As the green leaves turned to brilliant fall colors, the blocks and boulders became more obviousIMG_5759 and the true scale of the area revealed itself. The area is immense, and probably on scale with the entire LRT. Well over 40 new boulders with as many as 200+ new problems. This location confirms the need for a 2nd edition by itself. Not to mention that many of the boulders are some of the highest quality blocks in GHSP. I’m not positive, but I think that as I host the next GHSP Bouldering and Trail Day, I108396132_medium_4332d7 might like to construct a climber trail to this location to expedite the development and to make access a bit easier. Highlights of this place thus far have been “Hang Ten”(V1) “Wildside”(V5) “Point Break”(V6/7) “Method”(V6/7) “Thunder Mammal” (V4) “Dorothy” (V4/5) “Apex Crack”(V2/3) “Burning Bright”(V4) “Ignition Sequence”(V4) “Infinity Focus”(V5) “Grayson Grimace”(V6) “As I Am”(V8) “Thunder Crack Sit”(V8)… But the project list has grown and several V9/10/11 problems have been scrubbed and dialed. Weather is hindering their completion right now, but spring promises many new and hard GHSP classics in the Back of Beyond.

Boone:

Living in Boone has been an amazing experience. Although I have not come close to getting the full “Boone local” perspective on the classics and clandestine areas, I have had the chance to work hard (for me at least), established test pieces during the week, and then developing new rock elsewhere on the weekends. It’s nice to have the option of working on1459716_10201009160773434_654095431_n established problems with confirmed grades, and then the ability to day trip to new boulders. It allows me to have a better idea of what specific grades feel like. I spent most of my free time during the month of September traveling to GHSP developing the Back of Beyond and Wise County blocks, then October and November working local Boone projects. I settled in1455147_10201009161173444_203128082_n on “Full Throttle” (V11) in November, and was able to send that one after 4 solid sessions (equating to a three week grad school timeframe). I really enjoyed this boulder problem as it was in no way “my style” (whatever that is… steep crimps?). Full Throttle is a gently overhung arête on one of the (if not THE) most iconic boulders on Grandmother Mountain. The1455985_10201009161213445_585666036_n problem sit-starts at the base of the striking arête on good holds. The sequence involves underclings, slopey pinches, REALLY bad feet, and a high-tension dynamic move to a really bad sloper. Keep all of that together and finish up an almost-highball top. I don’t know if James Litz or Chris Sharma did the FA, there are reports of both doing it first, but several have done it since. It is a true classic and I’m proud to have done it! I have since finished up several other proud lines in Boone, but I’m not sure what I will focus on next now that it is winter and Wise County first ascents are on my mind.

Robert E. Wone Award:

photoI was surprised to learn that I had been chosen to receive the Robert E. Wone Award for Exemplary Service for my work and climbing in GHSP. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that the Governor’s Commission or the State of VA would award a climber an honor of this caliber. The Wone Award is given to one person each year for service in Virginia. I received this award in recognition of the new bouldering trail I helped orchestrate in GHSP, for sharing and encouraging VA’s youth to experience the outdoors, and for writing the GHSP Bouldering Guidebook. I am very proud and feel quite honored to be the 2013 recipient of the Robert E. Wone Award, and it is something I will always cherish.

Letter from the Senate:

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As a follow up to the Robert E. Wone Award, about a month ago I opened a congratulatory letter to me from Senator Charles W. Carrico. I am not an overly political person by nature, although I do enjoy a good debate here and there, but I thought that this was pretty cool. Not so much that a senator sent me a letter, but that in the letter the word “bouldering” was used a few times… I mean, how many times do you think that a senator has used the word “bouldering” before? I’m pretty psyched to be involved with that political vocabulary.

Wise:

“Wise Boulderfields” is a new addition to the bouldering development love of my life. Granted, I feel kind of bad having a new area that I can say competes with Grayson Highlands for my title of “best bouldering in Virginia” but this place certainly does. What eases my emotions for 1150909_10200352303672417_2086651301_n that title is that Wise bouldering is the antithesis of GHSP bouldering. Where GHSP excels in warmer months with its steep faces, high elevations, cool climates, and crimpy, edgy, not-slopey, volcanic characteristics, Wise is the bouldering opposite. Wise Bouldering, specifically High Knob area, is host to seemingly endless high crests of ridge-top sandstone outcrops. These outcrops have beautiful channels and blocks of Stone Fort/HP40-esque cliffs and boulders. With high friction composite sandstone and ribs of iron snaking through the texture, these blocks are a dream come true. Slabs, Vertical faces,1463999_676486409039775_2041384872_n roofs, arêtes, slopers, pinches, and plenty of wild pockets and iron features. Within a two hours drive of each other, you can climb endless numbers of boulders year-round (there are several other awesome smaller areas around of course, but these two are truly destination worthy locations). GHSP in the warm months, Wise in the cold.

Over the summer I stumbled upon a handful of pictures from my friend Amanda who lived in the area. She shared some info with me and sent a rough topo listing a few problems she hadDSC_0756 done at a really cool cluster just outside of town. She was obviously psyched, and encouraged me to check the place out. The topo she gave me had a 5 or 6 projects that looked cool, and a few really nice looking lines that she had cleaned and finished up. I decided to make the trip up in late August, visiting and crashing at Natural Tunnel State Park with my good buddy Seth Guy. I stayed for two days and discovered more amazing rock on that trip than I would have ever1488138_676485455706537_535287489_n thought possible. From the locations that she had pointed out, I drove further up the road and stumbled upon what is now known as the Labyrinth. I have made numerous trips since then, and never have I returned without finding more new boulders.

I climbed many problems on my first trip to the area, doing projects that were listed on the topo and sending a few other beautiful new lines at the park. The Labyrinth, on up the road truly blew my mind. MassiveDSC_0770 boulders and passageways between towering sandstone faces; all in high, tight concentration. Most of which were either super committing highball lines, or shorter top rope and trad routes. The last day of my first Wise trip was rained out, but I couldn’t resist exploration. With petrichor hanging in the air and freshly dripping boulders, I must have spent five or six hours meandering through the ridge top Labyrinth and surrounding crags.

My return trips have introduced me to an amazing group of local climbers. Shayne Fields, Brian Jones, Adam Wells, Brad DSC_0766Mathisen, Amanda Smith, and many others. I was shown another boulderfield that Brian Jones developed called Cliff Mountain and learned of the route development and history of the Lab, and the nearby “gorge.” Shayne, Brian, and others have put up numerous routes in at the Lab and at the Gorge, and Shayne has nearly single handedly constructedDSC_0778 mountain bike trails throughout the area. Amanda has put up several cool problems at the Labyrinth and the first small cluster. Brad Mathisen has just recently started developing boulder problems at Camp Rock and the Lab and exploring the area, but with his passion for the sport he will no doubt be a major developer of the mountain in the near future.DSC_0774

I retuned and climbed with many of these folks and climbed many Cliff Mountain classics from Brian Jones, and also put up several other cool ones at the Lab and on the Holy Moly Boulder. In a phone conversation with Shayne, he told me of a place that might be cool to check out called Osborne. After emailing with my friend Brad and Jason, we decided to scope the place out, but not before climbing at even more blocks that Brad had just discovered. It was a brumous, early December day (Friday the 13th) with a light skiff of snow on the forest floor. Despite the frozen moss on most of the top outs, we were able to put up five new boulder problems that afternoon. We were all shocked at how good both locations were. Brad had found amazing boulders in a drainage and formation called Camp Rock, and when we explored Osborne, it turned out to be the most unbelievable location yet. We felt numinous walking amongst the myriad of unclimbed boulders. We were, and still are, overwhelmed and inspired by the boulders we found just at those two locations, not including the expansive and numerous blocks at the Lab, Cliff, Reservoir, and Gorge… These blocks are some of the best boulders and crags I have ever seen… The story of Virginia climbing is continually being written, and we’ve just started a brand new chapter.

Deadpoint Magazine’s Destination: Grayson Highlands

•November 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Deadpoint Magazine’s Destination: Grayson Highlands

Although many aspects of this article are either dated or wrong, this is a very nice write up from DPM. Some corrections that I can point out are: There are 390 listed problems in the GHSP Guidebook (we cut down the number toward the end, there will be many more in the 2nd edition), James Litz did FA most every problem in the AVP Area, but after discussing the problems with James, I know of no double digit problems. Litz explained that he climbed most everything he could at AVP and he does not remember climbing anything within the park proper… I hope someday it comes to my attention that the legendary Litz put up a slew of V12/13s throughout the park however, that would be amazing! The hike to the LRT that Jim Horton explained, if you were to actually do that on foot both to and from the parking at the the Highlands Area, where it normally is closed, it is less than 4 miles round trip (dont ever do that however, its a really bad decision). If there is a massive snow storm and a gate is closed at the entrance of the park, congratulations on making it that far. Now turn around and go home.

The Church & The Hinterland

•June 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I have been living here in my cabin in GHSP since May, and for the past month and a half in-between trail building, other boulder projects, powerful thunderstorms, park programs,Preacher(V9FA, Church Boulder guide trips, multiple black bear encounters, and book-read rest days, I have been exploring and developing a truly spectacular new area. This area (home to well over 13 new boulders and blocks) boasts some of the most exciting new problems I have ever chalked up. Thus far I have been only been able to clean, send, and document close to 40IMG_4656 new lines here, and I have the overwhelming sense that I have touched only the outer edge of what is to be climbed in this obscure but easily accessed boulder strewn nook of GHSP.

I’ve separated the areas (check Mountain Project) into the Church Boulders area, and the Hinterland. The Church Boulders house a few easy-going blocks and a handful of bruiser lines on steep terrain. There are currently V-1 through V-9 graded problems that I have thus far been able to clean and do in a day session or less, and I still need to clean and climb many of the other (what appears at least) easy or warm-up problems. There are at least two projects that I suspect will go at V10 or more,hippytree_logo and I’m excited to devote another entire session to these very soon. I likewise have not explored the entire extent of this row of boulders to the base of the ridge (and much less above), so who knows what megaliths may lay in the lofty or deep…

The Hinterland is so good I feel almost embarrassed as to not have known about it all before now. That being said, I am at the same time glad to have been able to dedicate efforts to all of the other locations in GHSP, not having these boulders and projects brooding in my subconscious. The Hinterland is a wonderland of steepness.getgiddy It has AVP and Contact Station-like steepness with nice features and quality landings throughout. These boulders stretch both above and below the approach trail and litter the above hillside with a line and cluster, and then another tier of blocks above that. I have only developed 4 out of the 10+ boulders I know of, and I do stress the “know of” because I have not exhausted the landscape surrounding this area whatsoever. Problems here range from V0-V9, and that too corresponds with not having spent more than one session on the problems here excluding “The Declaration”(V9) which I did have to come back for the send (Mark Mellette and I worked this rig at the end of a session and it required some interesting,1016584_10201405757617025_1262044485_n taxing, and thought provoking beta which we worked out, but couldn’t quite put together. The following day I returned and sent 3rd go and grinning ear to ear).

This new area (Church and Hinterland) helped push GHSP to the 800+996842_10201405760377094_1507506867_n boulder problem realm, and I feel quite confident that it too will help the park surpass the 900+ in the near future. Dan Brayack and I have already begun compiling information here, and this place will no doubt grace the pages of the 2nd Edition GHSP Bouldering Guide. Looks like I will be spending another focused and solitary summer season, good health and luck allowing, in Grays-Land’s mountainous Appalachian boulder fields.

Mountain Project link to the area: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/up-area/108170330

 
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