10/5/10 - So it's been a while since I’ve posted a blog up here. Turns out having a baby is time-consuming… who knew? Canaan is turning into quite the crag baby—so far, he has been on four weekend trips to the New River Gorge, West Virginia, spent two weekends bouldering at Grayson Highlands, Virginia, two day trips climbing at Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, and most recently partook in one of the most anticipated weekends of the year for climbers in the Southeast—the Hound Ears Bouldering Competition in Boone, North Carolina! Not bad for a 6-month-old!
For those of you that don't know, Hound Ears is a private resort in Boone filled with giant vacation homes. The woods surrounding these gorgeous homes also just happen to boast some of the best bouldering in the region. Though seldom taken advantage of by the residents, this rocky playground sits mostly untouched for every day of the year except for the first Saturday in October, when more than 400 beanie-wearing men and women toting strange pads on their backs invade the peaceful neighborhood, speaking a strain of climbing jargon that is impossible to translate to the average listener without getting into ridiculous body contortions and inhaling more chalk than what’s good for you.
We skipped the comp last year because I was pregnant, so we were especially excited to attend this year with the little guy in tow! We rolled in to the campground with just enough time to set up our tent and socialize a bit before bed time. We were a little worried about how our little guy would do during the night, since our confidence in his tent sleeping abilities had been shaken by our last experience at Grayson Highlands (I won’t delve into the details, but it involved so much noise throughout the night that we were embarrassed to get out of the tent the next morning, for fear that our neighbors would be ready with their shotguns—it was southern Virginia, after all…). Plus, this time we had an added complication: it was gonna be COLD! At six a.m., my phone said it was 39 degrees! But even though this was the most extreme conditions Canaan has ever camped in by far, he was a champ and didn't make a peep until just a few minutes before our alarm was set to go off, thanks to his down sleepy suit, which should be a mandatory investment for any outdoorsy parents!
The morning dawned frigid, but within hours the sun was warming things up as one by one we all loaded onto borrowed rafting company buses and shuttled our way up to the rocks. After what seemed like forever, all the competitors had arrived and we were given the go ahead. We started out in the Champagne Area. Since we fancy ourselves roped climbers rather than boulderers, we warmed up on Champagne Jam (5.10), which is touted in the guide as the best crack in the high country. It was 40 feet of layback loveliness. Meanwhile the rest of the crew was working on stuff over on the Hamsling Boulder. Since we were there and it was there, I decided to have a few go's at Bleeding It Out (V5). I took several attempts on it, not really getting very far. I didn't want to ruin my fingers for the rest of the day (if you've never bouldered at H/E - the holds are SHARP!!!), so I gave one last try—and sent my first-ever outdoor V5!!! Woo-hoo!!! I was super-psyched, and Canaan was so excited that he realized he needed to eat ASAP, so after a quick feeding break, we all packed up our stuff and headed over to the Air Jesus area, in search of redemption...
So a couple of years ago, when I tried the lower start variation of Air Jesus (V4), I had no problems whatsoever with the harder start, but projected the first move off the V3 start until my fingers bled to no avail. This time however, I sailed through the whole problem on my second attempt, and the last move to the "Jesus hold" at the top out is every bit as fun as everyone says it is! At this point I realized that I probably needed to get rolling on the quantity as well as the quality of my score card, so I hopped on Roto Rooter (V1), a fun little highball along juggy rails with one giant move in the middle.
We decided to head up to the Main Area next, where there was quite a crowd, which meant plenty of spotters and plenty of pads! It was also a nice, flat, open area, so we spread the blankets out and let Canaan do some exploring. He was quite popular (evidently we're not the only ones that think he's pretty cute) and had many visitors, including one of the H/E photographers who did an impromptu photo session with him! In the Main Area, I was pretty pumped to flash Ripper's Direct (V2), as well as Iron Cross (V3). Both had tenuous starts, then Iron Cross traversed into Ripper's Direct, and they shared the same looooong move to the top (thankfully there's a small intermediate crimper for those of us who aren't six feet tall!).
A friend of mine had recommended that I get on Damage, Inc (V5) in the Main Area. I gave it a few tries, but kept getting shut down (we'll blame it on too late in the day... :) ) I'm glad I went up there though because what ended up being my favorite problem of the day was right beside it: The Claw (V4). At that point, we were all starting to slow down, so we headed through the Corridors to the Fire Wall, where we got on what is arguably the best of its grade in the boulderfield—The Guillotine (V0). We also did Burning Arete (V0), a really nice line on, you guessed it, an arete.
Time was starting to run out, so we zipped back up to the Horseshoe Boulder to get the last few ticks on our scorecards. I finished out my card on Horseshoe Nail (V2), and Blacksmith (V2). Both are short and sweet with reasonable topouts—exactly what was needed after a long day of crankin' hard! Canaan was so exhausted after sending so many of his projects all day that he conked out on my lap on the bus ride. We debated staying for the post-comp festivities and award ceremony, but we were looking at a 3.5 hour drive ahead of us and a baby limp as a dish rag that was obviously ready to head home, so we said our goodbyes and left before the results were posted.
We spent Sunday recovering both body and mind, which included a two-hour family nap in the afternoon. When I woke up, I had a facebook message on my phone from a friend telling me that I had placed 3rd in my division! Woo-hoo! I had been very happy with how the day had gone, having accomplished my goal of beating my previous year's score, but I never thought it would be good enough to place!
So what a great weekend! And what better way to follow up that weekend than with a four-day climbing trip to the Obed River in Tennessee later on in the week! My husband has got some vacation days to burn, we both have projects to send, and Canaan has been itching to see Mommy and Daddy on a rope again so that he can play with all that shiny and colorful gear!