Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hard Knox



The rig we drove to Knoxville.  Impossible to reverse!  We know because we tried.
 I’ve got time.  That’s all I have these days.  That and loads of stress about money and a fruitless job search.  Sure I have been climbing a ton, but behind the fun are serious worries about the future.

On the first morning in Knoxville, we were locked out of our new apartment.  So we made breakfast on some abandoned furniture right in front of our place. What will the neighbors think!?
I knew moving wouldn’t be easy, and job searching was hard, but I was utterly unprepared for how lonely, scary and depressing change can be. 

Maybe it was because I had it so good in Boulder.  I had hundreds of friends that felt like family, a well paying, flexible job with a very cool boss, and lived in a town that had absolutely everything I wanted.

This is how the job search feels.
Fast forward to living in Knoxville, where I routinely stay at home all day, can count the number of people I know on two hands, and am slowly watching my bank account dwindle away.  Since we don’t have a good climbing gym and I am not commuting to work on a bike anymore, my newest job is making sure my jeans fit.

The most disheartening thing is failing to find work day after day.  Science jobs are few and far between in Knoxville.  I have tried thinking about this situation as a chance to reinvent myself professionally, but the right opportunity has eluded me so far. 

It's true, life moves a little slower in the South.  Except on the highway where everyone goes 20MPH over the speed limit!
On a positive note, the climbing down here is amazing and varied.  All the areas we have visited are sandstone and located on the Cumberland Plateau, but the diversity of textures, styles, holds, colors and angles is truly unbelievable.  

Rock Mushroom.
Josh on Shattered Minds V9 at the Minefield near the Obed.  Quality!
The Obed is the closest area, being exactly an hour away.  We sampled the area in September while it was still 90F and humid when we first arrived in Knoxville.  Doing 5.12 in crazy humidity is a proud achievement.  Everything feels 300% harder, and you lower off the warm-ups absolutely dripping with sweat.  It’s a bit frustrating, but taking a dip in the river at the end of the day makes it worth the struggle.  Although the roofy climbing is good, the Obed is not my favorite area.  Despite my unpopular opinion, it’s a bit too simplistic to keep my attention. 

This is what climbing in TN in September looks like.  Covered in sweat!
When the temps dropped, we went to the Red almost every weekend until mid November.  Then the weather got cold and climbing felt like a struggle, but we still had a good time.  This is where we first experienced the “coke bottle effect” which is an unfortunate phenomenon where the cold rock condensates water out of the warm, humid air- covering it with a coat of water.  Needless to say, this is still the best sport climbing I have done in the South.  We can’t wait to make the three hour drive when it warms up.

Thrasher on Charlie.  A rad 13b trad line at the Chocolate Factory.
Once it got too cold to sport climb, we transitioned to bouldering.  I started making the hour and twenty minute drive to Dayton Pocket during the week when I didn’t have anything going on.  I really enjoy 5 minute approach, the Vapor Roof and the wild feel of the boulder field near the parking lot.  It feels relatively unexplored and I have scrubbed and established a few really great lines.  The rock is a bit smoother than LRC and features lots of skin-friendly angular holds.

Leah on Torpedo V7 at Dayton Pocket.

Eventually, Leah and I made the two hour drive to Little Rock City AKA Stonefort.  This famous bouldering area hosts fine grained boulders with small, sharp edges that bite back.  Most of the problems tend to be just under or over vertical with all the cool features you expect from Southern bouldering like cool slopers, real topouts, water grooves, etc.  I really like this spot, but feel a bit stressed dropping $5 every time I visit.


We also made the two and a half hour drive to Rocktown for a weekend but got rained out after one day.  The rock seems pretty similar to Stonefort, but it’s steeper, and way more slopey.  In general, the grades also seem WAY stiffer.  I can usually make quick work of V6, but I struggled mightily on a few.  The Vagina also rejected my advances.  Typical.


Reflection.
Last weekend, we drove two hours to do some sport climbing near Chattanooga at Castle Rock.  This South-facing area is a really nice local crag that features slabby to gently overhanging routes with smooth, blocky features, and technical movement on edges and slopers.  I can’t wait to get back here and try some of the harder routes that tackle steep roofs on eldoesque rock.

Predator 12c at Castle Rock, TN.  Perfection!

That’s all the areas we have visited so far.  This is just the tip of the climbing iceburg, and I have a feeling there are three secret crags for every documented crag.   

I miss my friends in Boulder.  I miss having a training facility like Movement.  I miss the West.  I miss having an income.  However, I am with the one I love and life is pretty good.  Now, if I can just find a job… 

Why are we parked like this?  Well, every pump had a huge truck parked next to it and nobody was moving.  So we improvised.  The owners were all busy talking about hunting inside.

2 comments:

alex said...

Boulder misses you!

Redo said...

Start stripping!

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