Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Texas And The South

Last Tuesday my girlfriend Alex and I headed down to Texas to visit her family. We left Boulder after I got off of work at 3 p.m. and arrived in McKinney, Texas just before the sun rose on Wednesday. The drive was chill except for our accidental detour into Oklahoma.

We stayed in Texas for a few days and climbed at Alex's home climbing gym of Exposure. I always find it interesting to experience new gyms around the country. They each have their own style of routes and each possess different qualities that make them special. This gym was no different.

After a few days of plastic I started itching for some real rock again. All in good timing, we were set to leave for Horse Pens 40 early on Friday morning for the second leg of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series. I was psyched for the drive, because we would be crossing into three states I had never experienced before. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The latter of which was to be our destination. The crew leaving Texas comprised of Alex, her sister Casey, Dave Flores, and me. I was ready for some famous southern sandstone.

After a 12-hour drive, we arrived at Horse Pens 40 just before the sun set. It was a bit warm out for my tastes and I was definitely worried about the conditions for the comp. Nonetheless, I was just psyched to climb on some amazing problems. Alex and I took a walk around the boulder field to scope out the problems for a while, and watched some people night sessioning. We couldn't contain ourselves and had to join in on at least one problem before checking in for the night.

Alex enjoying Hammerhead in Uggs at night.

We awoke at 7 a.m. to crisp conditions and the rustling of people outside our tent. We grabbed some breakfast burritos at the food cart on our way to the pavilion and gathered our things for an exciting day of bouldering. They let us loose into the boulders at 9 a.m. and I quickly found myself at the bottom of the wall hosting some famous climbs such a Ghetto Superstar V9 and The Thief V7/8. Alex and I quickly flashed The Thief and set our sights on Ghetto. I was an idiot and fell on the last move of my flash attempt, but quickly settled the score on my second burn. Alex fessed for a while, but soon found her way to the top. It was a great start to the day. I quickly flashed two excellent climbs to the left of Ghetto and made my way over to God Module V11 at the other end of the field of boulders. The day was warming up fast and I was hoping that I would get a proper flash attempt. I put my shoes on, chalked up, and nestled my fingers into the odd rounded crimpers that comprise the start hold. I was told that if you could stick the start move properly, you were over half way towards a successful burn. I pulled on and stuck the first move nearly static. I pasted my right foot in the crack and gunned for the gaston. I stuck it as my feet cut from the wall. I whipped them back in and prepared myself for the next move. I reached for the crimp/pinch and just as I stuck it my hands blasted off the wall and I landed in an angry heap on the ground. Bummer. Soo Close! I came within a move of finishing the problem on almost every go for about 10 tries, but the rising temps were making my fingertips very greasy and I came to the realization that it just wasn't in the cards for me that day. I walked around the corner and flashed Slider v9 and did the left exit Beta Boy also first try. My day culminated with a fairly good list of two V9's, a bunch of V8's, and a couple V7's to round out the ten problems needed to fill my scorecard. I climbed most of the day with Ryan Sewell who proved to be a strong and motivating climber partner. I definitely look forward to climbing with him more in the future. Alex also finished out the day strong with a V9, three V8's, and numerous V6's. She took home a second place finish, while I disappointingly didn't end up in the top five after getting owned by some locals.
Overall, the day was amazing. I climbed lots of quality rock with lots of amazing people. The problems were fun, and the competition was very well run.
So here's my review of Horse Pens 40:
-Best rock I have ever climbed on.
-Best problems I have ever climbed on.
-Best setting for a climbing area (in the trees at the top of a hill).
-Nice people/locals.
-Extremely concentrated.
-Lacking in variety and number of double-digit boulder problems.
-Grades are soft in my opinion (could be a pro or con depending on who you ask).
-Probably enough problems to keep me busy for only a couple of weeks.
I look forward to heading back next year to settle my score with God Module and climb some more amazing southern sandstone. This weekend Alex and I head to Boston for the final leg of the Mammut/EMS Bouldering Championships. Psyched!

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