ROAD TRIP UP: While most folks headed up earlier on Friday, Claud, Lauren and I all had to work so we took off around 6. Hit up Subway on the way, won a free cookie, and on the road we were. While driving at night isn’t my favorite, I was lucky to have three entertaining ladies to keep me awake. -1 for the lack of a mountain view (it was dark after all), and -1 for the crappy coffee experience at a small town gas station. Note to self: if there’s no Splenda and only packets of dairy creamer, pass it up. All in all we made great time, and survived several encounters with crazy drivers. I take no blame.
FABULOUS NEW TENT: 8. While several years ago I purchased a tent at Wal-Mart on one of our late night shopping sprees, it is what it is for $30. However, last year my former Program Director (my second year of teaching) was kind enough to pass down to me her own personal tent that she’s used for years. Super pumped, this was the first time I’ve ever actually taken it out! Smaller than my old one it was much easier to travel with, and super easy to put up (especially when you recruit others to help and end up standing around and watching). Minus one broken pole, and a missing footprint (which I shouldn’t even take off for because I lost the one to my old tent too) it was PERFECT. Great size for one person, and kept me super dry and warm all night (although I’m pretty sure my awesome sleeping bag had more to do with the warm part…). Thanks Amanda!
THE GOODS: 6.5 We arrived too late to register on Friday, but first thing Saturday morning we checked in down at the main area of the campground. Along with our registration forms, we also got our Hound Ears t-shirt (soft, American Apparel shirts that are pretty sweet), free magazines and TONS of fun stickers to decorate with. While not quite $50 worth of stuff, the fact that we got all that PLUS a days worth of climbing made me pretty pumped.
THE WEATHER: 9. Since we were up in the mountains it was obviously cold at night, but nothing wool socks and five layers of clothing can’t take care of. On the actual day of climbing there wasn’t a hint of rain, and it got continually warmer and sunnier as the day went on. Started off with four layers on top, and ended the day in just a tank top. Partially due to the nice weather, and partially due to our hard core climbing 🙂 All in all we couldn’t have asked for better. -1 for the rain the night before… some of the rocks were a bit slippery (every climber needs a good excuse).
THE ROCKS: 7.5
Some of the highlights:
- The variety! While originally in my head I pictured Hound Ears as one really giant boulder in the center of a neighborhood, it turns out it’s a giant forest of rocks. In fact, you need a map to navigate from one to another! We started at boulder 33, moved to 25, 23, 16 and eventually 10 (who knows if those are actually right, but it gives you the idea). Each was filled with problems, and we tended to focus on those rocks with a variety of V0-V3 so there was a bit of something for everyone. Some were tall high balls (I watched on those… even spotting scared me), others low overhangs. Even some right on the side of a cliff, meaning they had top ropes since there was no room for a crash pad below, only a belayer.
- The labels! While bouldering outdoors usually means seaching, and guessing a bit, to find the perfect routes, here they were all neatly labeled at the start. Included entertaining names, grade, and even directions as to where exactly to go, it was the perfect way to boulder. Plus, we were given a map to help us find all the boulders.
- The location. The rating must go up simply due to the fact that you only have once chance each year to climb these rocks, which made it that much more exciting. However, I’m tempted to take a point off because of the fact that all these incredible problems are wasted 364 days out of the year…
Some of the downsides…
- Rain the night before left some a bit slippery. Nothing a little sun couldn’t dry off later in the afternoon, but I blame the lack of morning climbs on that. (-.5)
- Apparently one of the best crack climbs in all of the high country (according to Bill) is here at Hound Ears. We tried it, and when we asked how it was he responded “Great if you like crimping on razor blades”. While not exactly true for all of them, they certainly did tear my fingers up. (-1)
- Danger. I suppose you could say I’m a bit afraid of heights when it comes to bouldering with no rope. And there were some seriously intimidating routes here. Some were probably 15-20 feet off the ground, with nothing but a crash pad to break the fall. Needless to say I avoided these routes… Thankful I witnessed no serious injuries. (-1)
My favorite route of the day… THE TUNNEL! Traversing, then topping out. If only I could have made the giant reach… that’s what next year is for 🙂 I have exactly one year to grow longer arms…
THE VIEW: 10. Three of the problems were on top rope, and when you got to the top you got an incredible view of Grandfather Mountain (seen below). Can’t come up with a thing wrong with this one!
THE PEOPLE: 10! This rating has several parts to it… First, and foremost, are the lovely folks I came with. The more the merrier, and I’m so pleased we got such a large group to head out for this one. Meant lots of carpooling, plenty of spotters, and endless entertainment.
The second part is the extended climbing community. While at most large competitions you’d hear trash talk, see competitiveness, and feel an air of rivalry, that is completely not the case at bouldering competitions. Scoring based on the honor system, you record your own points as you go, with witnesses for each. There were plenty of rocks, but you still end up with lots of people crowded around each. As a result, anyone who’s there will spot you when you hop on, offer you beta, and shout encouragement as you work it. Everyone shares crash pads and advice, directions to the next route, and general kind words, which makes it an incredibly friendly and supportive place to climb.
THE FOOD: 9. I must say Rachel has proven herself as the best camping chef ever. And this is coming from someone who missed breakfast (which apparently is her specialty). She hit up Costco the week before and stocked up like whoah, leaving all of us with fabulous packed lunches, granola bars, trail mix (see below- the mixed dried fruit and nuts were INCREDIBLE) and tons of snacks when we returned (with some help from Claud). All in all I was completely satisfied. -1 for missing breakfast 😦
THE CELEBRATION: 8. Afterwards we headed back to the campsite for the celebration. It involved Quizno’s dinner, booths giving away more free stickers, etc., raffles, Blowing Rock Ale and corn hole. Ended up losing at corn hole three times (-1), but did luck out when they changed the Pale Ale keg to Octoberfest (not a big fan of the ale). At the end they had a big ‘ceremony’ (I use that term loosely) where they gave prizes to the winners, pulled raffle tickets, and just gave out a ton of free stuff. I lucked out with a Patagonia climbing top they threw into the audience (okay, to be fair Logan caught it but couldn’t see himself pulling it off so gave it to me) that’s worth about $45. Plus Jean and Greg won some flip flops which was pretty sweet. We left a bit before it was over because it was getting pretty cold and my body was sore from the day of hard climbing. Loved the celebratory vibe, and it was cool getting to meet some more climbers.
MY NEW FAVORITE BAND: 3. I find myself regretting the fact that I don’t own a video camera yet again. Because I can write as much as I want about this band and I know you won’t believe me. You’ll think I’m exaggerating and it can’t possibly be true. But trust me, it is. At first I wasn’t sure the lead singer would stay standing long enough to get out a song, but alas, he wasn’t as drunk as I originally thought. Although he did, in fact, have a stocking on his head the entire time. You could barely hear what he was yelling, but you could make out the song about diarrhea. I’m hating myself for not remembering the other incredible topics they covered, but anyone who can help out with comments would be much appreciated. The drummer was rather quiet, and the other dude was wearing a hilarious hat and offered some random, yet interesting, commentary. All in all I have no idea how these guys got the gig, but it was rather painful. In case you can’t tell, I was being sarcastic with the title. Anyone who can play music should really contact them about next year so we never have to sit through that again…
EARLY MORNING DRIVE: 9. While everyone else headed out for a second day of climbing, school work and videos called my name so I headed back early. Packed up the car and took off at about 7:30, and was again reminded of how incredible mountain drives are when accompanied by some Enya. So I set off, Storms of Africa playing as loud as possible, and windows down with the heat on (you gotta make the most of the mountain air while you’ve got it), and a three hour drive ahead of me. With very little traffic, beautiful scenery and a quality soundtrack it was the most pleasant a drive alone could be. Only Boone could make that happen.
HOT SHOWER AFTER RETURNING HOME: 8. I think the dirty, sweaty, smelly feeling is one of my favorite parts of camping. No need to put on makeup, spend time blowdryign your hair, or worry even a little bit about what you look like. That being said, there’s something pretty incredible to be said about the feeling of getting clean after all the dirtiness. -2 for the intense stinging when the hot water hit my torn up hands. Plus, it meant the weekend was officially over.
Until next year, getting stronger and preparing to kick some butt!