And this is what happens when I try to write climbing rap:

Prior to leaving NC for the summer I spent a few weeks taking advantage of how close I work to bouldering areas and was able to meet the Boone crew for quite a few afternoon sessions after school.  When I initially left work I debated each time whether or not I would rather go take a nap or if I could manage to climb anything, but climbing inevitably won.  I didn’t send anything hard on those days, but after a full day of work I was pleased to send anything at all!  And every now and then I would put on my “try hard panties” and make a lot of progress on harder problems, which has me psyched on the fact that fall will roll around sometime and I will be back to living in a badass bouldering area.

If you’ve stuck with reading this post so far I appreciate your patience.  The underlying reason for this post was to kick-off the Climbing Rap Battle with Melise and anyone else who is interested.  A few weeks ago, my friend Melise shared her lyrical prowess at Grandmother Boulders.  I was inspired to write my first round of lyrics the next day, as I sat for over two hours giving an English end-of-course retest.  This attempt is pathetic, I know, but bear with me.

I’m really bad at rhyme and I struggle to keep time
but as a challenge from a friend I’ll ramble through from start to end.
You’ll notice I’m not tall; don’t even clear 5 feet at all,
sometimes my height might make me stall and then I take a wonder-fall…
from routes or problems, it matters not to me-
Southeastern temps guide me to climb seasonally.
I boulder when it’s cold ’til my digits do explode then I shift my game to sport and push ’til forearms scream abort.
Whining about temps, I think is kinda lame, cause we can’t control that- it’s Mama Nature’s sphere ‘o domain.
Your reason to climb is your will to find;
we’ve each got hidden factors within our own mind.
Fitness, competing, socializing, pleasure…
I hope whatever your reason you try with worthy measure.
To sum things up, spitting lines is not for me but I will climb them all day long with Southern hospitality.

It’s taken just about all of my patience to copy & paste blog posts to update this one, so I’ll wait just a bit to write a new post about my summer of climbing thus far.  I left NC on Friday, 5/25 and stayed at the New until Tuesday, 5/29.  I drove straight from the New to the Red, where I am living in my car at Miguel’s for pretty much the whole summer.  Again, I’ll update on my next rest/rain day!

Vow to be a better blogger

[The days mentioned in this post are now old, but I accidentally left it in "edit" state so apologies!]

The amount of time that has passed since my inaugural blog post proves that I am not a dedicated blogger…yet.  I suppose the root of this lack of commitment is that I had no convincing motivation for posting things.  I am a moderate-ability climber, don’t lead an exciting life on the road, and my writing is lackluster at best.  While talking with a friend the other day I realized that if I combine all of my life experiences then perhaps I do have a story or two to offer the world (or maybe just the climbing community).  So from now on, my aim is to keep you updated on my climbing fun and share some general life lessons I’ve learned.

I’ve been at the Red River Gorge for the past three weekends, climbing 9 out of the past 19 days.  So many aspects of my visits are different from past trips there: my travel time is just four hours now versus seven plus; I am traveling solo rather than with small groups; I have been staying at Miguel’s in my Forrester rather than in a tent at Linda’s; and I have no predetermined climbing partner.  This last difference is HUGE.  I began climbing in 2002 with my (now ex-) husband.  Sidenote: yes, I was married once upon a time.  I had a built-in route partner until 2006 when he stopped climbing.  I shifted to bouldering and apparently an independent mindset, as I emerged as a divorcee the following year.  Another sidenote: I can’t promise that his exit from the climbing scene did not affect our marriage.  But that’s another story.  Anyways, 2007 was also the year that I met Brooks, which brought a return to sport climbing and another built-in partner.  That relationship, both in terms of climbing and romance, ended amicably last summer.  So you see, in the 10 years that I’ve been climbing I have only been partnerless for about 15/120 months.

What’s the point of all this?  I have discovered that I am more motivated to get out, climb harder, and have a better attitude in general without a built-in climbing partner.  You want me to hang draws on that .11d for a warm-up?  Okee-dokee!  But I might take at every other bolt.  You need me to clean every route as I’m lowering that the entire group has been on today?  Fine!  But I’ll need a patient catch as I try the crux on a .13…having never climbed harder than .12b.  I’ve found that my once-overwhelming negativity and cynicism are completely controllable, and hope that others (ladies, especially) realize that we truly are in control of our attitudes, demeanor, and perception at the crag.

I climbed with a guy last weekend who I had climbed around in Little River Canyon, AL.  He said that I was more polite than he remembered and was pleased that I was psyched to send “just one more route” when his buddies had already deharnessed.  I didn’t clue him in as to why I seemed so different from what he recalled.  The truth is, I went through a period of depression while living in AL so when he encountered me I was most likely one of 3 things: crying, feeling like I was in the way at the crag because I had low self-esteem in terms of climbing ability, or an absolute bitch.  While I can’t rule-out some occasional sarcasm or some sass (that would be an abandonment of my glowing personality), I can say that I now treat each day climbing as something special and want whoever I’m climbing with to feel the same.  The bottom line: Negative Natalie was pushed out of my psyche.

Since last summer I’ve implemented 2 strategies for every route outing: try to onsight or flash as often as possible and try to send a new route each day.  There are so many routes at the Red that I’ve been able to achieve both goals at the same time, by onsighting my warm-ups.  Hey, don’t laugh!  For some of us it’s a big deal to be able to warm-up on 5.11′s!  I have no idea why it had never occurred to me that I would try harder on a route having not seen someone else on it first.  Part of it might be my height, because I know that if I watch a tall guy struggle on a route I often think that it must be reachy.  Not completely logical, but an issue nonetheless.  Finally being able to go through my RRG guidebook and check-off routes is an awesome feeling, as I think I’m finding the balance of send-new-routes-and-project-things-at-my-level, all in the same day.  FINALLY.

To end this ramble (yes, I am jacked-up on coffee!) I will tip my proverbial hat at some folks:

-Congrats and good luck to Melise Edwards at CCS Nationals in Boston.  Crush it!

-Good luck, Brennen Bull, as you set-out to send pretty much all of the boulder problems in the High Country.  Let me know when you are psyched on the V2-V6 range and I just might join you.  But only if it’s not sport climbing weather!

-I’ve been sporting Evolv Cruzers as often as possible and they are comfy beyond belief.  I also just got a pair of Bolts and they beat my Merrell’s hands-down as approach shoes.  Lovin’ Evolv right now!

-Jill Sompel, you and I are climbing soul mates.  Hardest day of sendage for us yet on April 6th with a .12a flash each followed by another .12a redpoint (But remember, my guidebook has them both as 5.12b.).  I hope we keep one-upping ourselves and that you are getting mentally prepared for 24HHH.  We’re gonna need a badass team name…

A month’s worth of the High Country

If you had asked me prior to mid-November what I wanted to do with my life, my response would have been, “Finish grad school then go on a road trip, beginning with Hueco.”  I had been living in Birmingham, AL for 3.5 years and as a newcomer to single town, I was ready to move on with my life.  To prepare financially I was working 40+ hour weeks at Seattle Drip Coffee Co (a drive-thru coffee hut) then working nights at First Avenue Rocks bouldering gym.  Throughout late summer and fall I managed those jobs, grad school, and 3-day climbing weekends.  The result?  Horrible tendinitis, a fractured finger, and no love life.  But I digress…

In October my grad school advisor emailed me about an ESL (English as a second language) teaching job.  I had told her on multiple occasions that I would be willing to move anywhere that had mountains and climbing nearby, but that I was okay with not teaching again for a while (I had a really bad experience last school year).  This particular job was a random opening in Avery County, NC.  An interview and three weeks’ worth of waiting later I had myself a job in the region where I learned how to climb nearly ten years ago.  Its not often in life that you are in such a position that you can drop everything and move, which is exactly what I did.

I forgot I left my "soul" outside of my former apartment. Outside... that seem's about right.

Since I began my new job on 11/28 I have moved into a place in Banner Elk that I found on Craigslist, graduated with my ESL master’s in education, turned over the keys to my old B’ham apartment, and gone bouldering in my “new” (I lived in Boone during undergrad) area every possible moment.  Now that I’ve caught you up just a bit on how I wound-up here, let’s get to the climbing:

When I last lived here I did easy trad climbing in the Linville Gorge, on Table Rock, and Shiprock.  I bouldered at Blowing Rock boulders and went to Grandmother and 221 boulders maybe once or twice each place.  At that time in my climbing career I went to the New pretty frequently and down to my “home” crag of Crowder’s Mountain for sport action.  I was not good at or psyched on bouldering then, so every outing in the past month has provided me with fresh rock and tons of new problems.  The planets aligned at the HP40 leg of Triple Crown and I met the best local Boone guide I could have asked for.  Since my move, Leif has kept me in the loop and as a result, I’ve been enjoying bro power as much as possible.  I hope the guys are accepting of me as an addition to their crew!

I shall attempt to recap the classic climbs I’ve done since my relocation.  By that I mean these are problems I would take people to and ones that earned a place in my memory:

Rumbling Bald: Crescent Crack V2

Lost Cove: Patio Arete V4, The Hook (? problem to the left of Rent-all Arete) V4?, Lunatic Arete V3

Blowing Rock: Smart Tom V4, The Horn V2, Harvester V4

221: Dump Arete V4

I thought I had sent The Horn before. A kneebar and a bit of Elvis-leg later I realized I had not. But now I have!

I managed a quick send of Helicopter Sit at the Bald, and though its a rare occasion for me to do big moves so easily I can’t call this problem a classic.

In the spirit of New Year’s I’ll list my current projects as resolutions.  I’ve also read that it helps to put your climbing aspirations in writing so we’ll see!

Druid Roof – 221

Mike’s Face – 221

*this is THE prettiest boulder problem I think I’ve ever seen.

A Sign of the Times – 221

(this may be the wrong name; I’ve tried quite a few things lately)

Center 45 – Blowing Rock

*by the way, I’m upgrading this to V5.  Get over it.

Stonehouse – Blowing Rock

Sleeping in the Devil’s Bed – the Bald

Rotator Cuff – the Bald

Kung Fu Grip – the Bald

Lost Cove Cranks – Lost Cove

Matt’s Prow – Lost Cove

Mike's Face/Hijacker is gorgeous. I've got to figure out how to crimp my face off for this one, as a throw for the top is probably not going to work for me.

Finally, I realize that this has been a boring post but if I didn’t get this stuff out of my head at some point I was going to experience climbing-ADD, forgetting where I’ve been/what I’ve done/who I’ve done it with.  Haha!  See previous comment about how all of this grad school-moving back to NC-new teaching job-tons of climbing have prevented a love life and you’ll know I’m joking.

And today’s musing: Topping out new problems, especially classics, is an awesome experience.  Get over the grade attachment sometime and just climb a problem for its aesthetic value.  I may not have been climbing at the top of my ability on every single problem listed above but they were each memorable climbs.  It is great to finally live somewhere that I can enjoy sending classics!!!