Adam Henry, 39, one of the Southeast’s leading access and new-route advocates, was born in Houston to an engineer father who passed away when Henry was 9. His mother did whatever was necessary to keep life comfortable, despite money struggles. At 14, Henry worked 12-hour days in construction — earning $20 a day — to help pay the bills. From age 5 to 18, Henry played football, leaving the sport after he discovered climbing at the Palisades, Alabama. He quickly helped put Southern sandstone on the map, in the 1990s discovering the Horse Pens 40 boulders and contributing to route development in the Little River Canyon. Henry now lives in Oneonta, Alabama (10 neighbors in 10 square miles), with his daughter, Sky, 4; and Lea, his wife. A no-bullshit Southern boy, Henry’s one of those people you either love or hate.
ACCESS TO ME IS ACTIVISM. I go with a guerilla activist approach. You see a problem, you fix it. Lots of people see themselves as proactive [because they give] their 10 bucks a year to the local or national cause. I see that as a load of crap.
I RECENTLY FINISHED the first HP40 bouldering guide [greenergrasspublishing.com], the first guide to any Deep South area . I am selfish and would prefer no one else in the boulderfields, but the Schultz family wants more people to enjoy HP40. I want to make sure climbing is the main draw; a guide will make this happen.
WHAT’S EASY FOR ME might be impossible for others, and vice versa. I plan to shrink-wrap the HP40 guide to include a bottle of Wite-Out, so people can change the grades to whatever the hell they want .
WHILE IN FONTAINEBLEAU IN 2004, my friends and I worked out a grading system specific to the Horse Pens style. It was based on a 0-to-6 scale, and we all agreed on every problem and were super psyched to use it. Regretfully, wine clouds the mind, and no one remembered the basis of the system, so I let it go.
I’VE TOLD A THOUSAND people that if you don’t grab a sloper right the first time, don’t keep pawing at it. It’s not going to get any better.
I’M EXTREMELY SUPERSTITIOUS. If I drop my chalk bag before climbing, it’s bad. I’ve been known to leave for the day. If I have a bad day wearing certain clothing, I won’t wear it again.
AROUND THE 1880S, two mummified Native American chiefs were found beneath my property in wooden canoes, along with some warriors and copper in the Crump Cave, named after the first settlers. They took those artifacts to the Smithsonian, then the Smithsonian lost them. It became this huge conspiracy theory. I’ve also heard Sasquatch lives there. I like that one better.
LEGENDS IN BOULDERING are Gill, Sherman, and the like. Thirty years from now, my name will wash out just like everyone else’s. That’s the way I want it. All legends die anyway.
YOU CAN GO TO THE CRAG AND ENJOY IT, but you have to realize, ‘Life’s coming!’ As the great Ian MacKaye (Fugazi) sang on ‘Bad Mouth’: ‘You can’t be what you were, so you best start being just what you are.’ You can get by and be a bum, but who wants to live like that? There’s more to life than climbing. You find that when you come home to your family. I’ve done something right to deserve this, but I don’t know what.