I recently returned from a bouldering trip to the south to sample the finest stone this side of the Mississippi . . . shit, I mean that side of the Mississippi . . . I’m not used to that saying being geographically inaccurate. Well whatever, regardless of the location of the Mighty Mississippi the southern sandstone was the best I have ever touched.
About 4 months ago we started planning a dude trip to Chattanooga, the type where you bring along those friends that make you laugh and don’t take themselves too seriously . . . b/c, after all, most of your time in the south is going to be spent sliding off slopers and looking like a damned fool anyway. We needed people who were just as concerned with practical jokes as climbing. We kept each other’s egos in check and spent most of our time on our toes worried that someone was going to poop or dump water/milk/bbq sauce in our chalk bag, smack/punch our food out of our hands or pull us off the boulder on our send go.
From Salt Lake City came Chad Parkinson (a real heavy weight in the climbing world . . . zing!), Marcus Cline (a vegetarian who we warned would end up with meat in his mouth at some point on this trip . . . spoiler alert: he did, albeit on accident, that poor guy all we ate on this trip was BBQ), and Jeff Richards (a silent crusher that I used to call “Mitts” before I knew his real name . . . spoiler alert: it’s Jeff) and myself (an old balding guy who looks like he has a lip full of Copenhagen at all times). I called my oldest climbing friend from college and one of the best dudes on this planet . . . at math, squinting and Tokyo drifting: Art Lim (he and I went to college together and began climbing at the same time, spoiler alert: he’s Asian).
From California came Jake Nelson (he has the biggest thumbs I’ve ever seen, I mean huge, like freaky huge, no you don’t get it like he’s a circus freak and it grosses me out, I can’t eat around those monstrous things, in fact I just threw up a little in my mouth thinking about them). Also along from California were Ryan Rougeux and Ryan Moon. The whole trip Rougeux had Prolonged Erection Disorder and sought medical consultation while in the south . . . at least this is what any of Rougeux’s friends thought as they saw daily status updates on Facebook the entire week we were gone. Of course these updates were compliments of Mr. Ryan Moon (a funny 16 year old kid who I guess happens to be like 27 or something).
The whole crew flew out on February 29th and arrived at different times throughout the day in Nashville, TN. We spent our time waiting for all to arrive by driving around and sampling some BBQ. The absolute, hands down, best place we found was called Pappa Turney’s. Papa Turney’s is a hole in the wall establishment owned and operated by a blues player of the same name. Genuinely humbled by our visit, he welcomed us with classic southern hospitality, a plate of free Cajun injected smoked Bologna (a delicious cheap alternative he invented), and even informed us he knew of the famous Alex Honnold.
With two rental vans we made our way to Chattanooga to rent bouldering pads from the Crashpad Hostel for the week. After a day sampling LRC/Stonefort/Whatever we drove the 45 minutes south to a cabin (complete with hot tub and stockpile of romantic comedies) that we rented in the Alabama hills. Initially, we planned of climbing everyday . . . but our skin would say otherwise and by skin I mean our old muscles that need a full days rest to recover now that we are all old. So, we climbed every other day for a week alternating between HP40, LRC and a quick stop at fantastic little zone called Zahnd.
Zahnd is the first area I’ve ever gone too without any prior knowledge of problems or a guidebook. While on our way to HP40 one day a buddy, Isaac Caldiero, texted me and told me we had to stop by some place called Zahnd. . . thank you Isaac because we had an amazing time climbing anything that looked climbable. There wasn’t even chalk on any holds and we ran around like kids giggling and hollering that you just “had to try this one, it’s so good.” The rock was some of my favorite in the south and having the area to ourselves was amazing. Problems not to be missed at Zahnd include Harvest Moon, Razor’s Edge, Bear Hug, Chisel Chest and Solar Flare. It was interesting to look these problems up AFTER climbing them and see where they started compared to where we thought they would start and to see what grades they were given compared to how they felt without the influence of knowing the grades . . . btw, starts and grades were pretty spot on . . . just thought it was an interesting aspect to find this info out later instead of prior.
Time spent at the cabin was filled too the brim with excitement, much like the hot tub water when we would sit 8 dudes deep in it. Our nights were kept busy, after a long soak in the hot tub we would gather around and watch 2 or 3 romantic comedies (supplied for us by the cabin. . . tip of the hat to you cabin owners) usually of the Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock variety. There is just something so very heart warming watching it all work out for America’s sweethearts while in the company of 7 good male companions. We cried, laughed, and at times related to J Robs and Sandy. . . how could we not.
The overall climbing experience was amazing and I can’t wait to return. Instead of talking too much about it simply enjoy the video from HP40 and Zahnd and then sit back and watch Part 2 from LRC edited by Art Lim. FYI: you can’t see it but at the beginning of the video Chad Parkinson pours a half gallon of water into Jake’s chalk bag. HAHAHA. Stupid Jake.