My first climbing trip in years. After coming back to live in Gainesville, I only climbed intermittently at Reger’s wall. Constantly fighting with my finger health, getting to the cusp of feeling strong only to be forced to take months off due to twinges in my tendons. Throughout much of the pandemic, I diligently did Liliana Roa’s (the climbing specialized physical therapist I flew to Colombia to see years ago) rehab regimen every day. Whether it was that or the very extended time off, when the Palmer reopened the Gainesville Rock Gym as The Knot, my tendons held up. I kept the climbing load light, trying nothing harder than V3 for the first few weeks, increasing to V5, and not really trying anything difficult for months.
In March, I was brought on to help set routes. I set a V1 circuit the first week, but the next week I was tasked with setting a “gangsta” route, and ended up setting a V8. My tendons held up on the repeated attempts while fashioning the route, and I was quite pleased with how it turned out (though I was asked to tweak the beginning slopers). Confident that my body was at least well enough to try moderates, I arranged a climbing trip with Kevin, a new friend from the climbing gym.
I hadn’t been to Rocktown since 2003 or 2004. On that short trip we basically went to the first area, the Orb, and tried just that one problem a few times after a quick warmup. I remember doing it by matching the low sloper by crimping it. I also remember falling off Super Mario at near the top, in the other area we visited then – Hueco Simulator. How fascinating it is that memories came back to me at each spot. Rocktown was the perfect area to revisit. Notoriously difficult grades and terrible holds removed any ego or desire to send hard, and my unfamiliarity with most of the problems meant that I didn’t feel discouraged by my relative weakness.
Qianqian came with us the first day and proudly topped out a rather tall, non-trivial V0. Kevin and I were rather impressed (and a bit scared when she committed to the top out). We climbed lots of V0s, fell on some slopers, and laughed endlessly at the silly V2 The Scoop.
I felt at home in the woods, climbing with no rush, relaxing and chatting about many things with Kevin. We grew close over those days, finding that we held many similar worldviews (especially regarding climbing). This was probably the best part of the trip: making an excellent friend. I never tried too hard. Climbing with Kevin, particularly, was ideal, as I paced myself to climb just below his level. If he got to the next hold, so would I. If not, I wouldn’t pull that hard. His effortless climbing style matches mine, as well. We did try a few Vhards – Golden Harvest, in particular, was rather fun to fall off of as it took no strength.
We ate excellent meals – a Portuguese restaurant in Chattanooga, a carbonara I cooked at the AirBnB I stayed at with QQ, and a lovely pupusería. Then, on our last day, we rendezvoused at Little Rock City, or Stone Fort.
Stone Fort felt different. I last went there with dad as my senior project. The last thing I did with dad, really. He filmed me as I sent moderates at Horse Pens 40 and LRC. Being in LRC with Kevin acted more as a nostalgia trip, a set of memory triggers than a climbing expedition. Each area was rich in memories and images. I’d been to three triple crowns and many other trips in high school. And so I eagerly took Kevin to see the Wave, Thundafrumunda, Super Mario (another one), the Pancake Mantle, Dragon Lady, Tri-Star, Cyclops, Flying High. We set down to climb in the only area I’d never really explored – full of Vhards that I never felt confident enough to attempt when I was young. The bottom of The Shield flowed wonderfully and easily, and we were content to get to the crux rather than really try it with just three pads. We laughed at Barndoor 2000, I shot photographs as he tried Cyclops, and then we drove out to meet QQ back in Soddy Daisy.
A marvelous climbing trip, one so lovely and relaxed that we immediately began planning a second one.