Trapped in the bunkers

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For some reason, whenever I talk about Foster Falls to my non-climbing friends, I tell them it’s this beautiful place in North Carolina. Every time. But it’s definitely in Tennessee. I don’t think I’ve ever climbed in a Carolina. Yet even when I’m AT the Falls, I forget I’m in Tennessee. Maybe Boone is calling?

Anyway, Foster Falls is quickly becoming one of my favorite climbing spots. I learned to toprope and to lead there (way back in April), and there are tons of moderates near the big kid routes, and the approach doesn’t suck, and everything is beautiful.

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So I was pretty excited last week when my boyfriend Evan asked if I wanted to go on Sunday. Uh, YES. Even better, we got a big-ish group of mixed-level climbers to come, AND we met up with some Athens ex-pats while we were there.

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It was already hot at 10 a.m., because it’s summer and this is the South. But too-hot is better than too-wet! We split up, and my group warmed up on “Ankles Away” (5.9). Once again I found myself questioning by the second bolt why anyone would ever want to lead climb anything. But then I finished it and was like, “THIS ACTIVITY IS SO FUN!” We moved onto — I think — “Narcissism” (5.10b), which I toproped after one of the guys worked it on lead, and I was going in direct to clean the route — maybe my fourth time doing that like, ever — when the day’s 5% chance of rain rapidly turned into a downpour.

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You may be thinking, “NOOOOO! Not after all that excitement and gas money and hiking and waking up so early, THE DAY IS RUINED!” But don’t worry, it wasn’t. Well, it almost was for my friend Charles, who kept leading “Ankles Away” in the rain, but he is fortunately strong enough that he could do that and not die.

Anyway, we shoved our stuff into random people’s bags and ran for shelter (well, walked quickly but cautiously for shelter) in one of the Falls’ bunkers. Apparently a bunker is not just a reinforced underground shelter for use in wartime, but a shallow cave with giant rock shards for a floor. It’s SO COOL and once I am 5.12 strong I will be working the supasick roof climbs some of the guys got on. Fortunately, though, there are a few more moderates in there too. I was frustrated because I couldn’t get past the burly first move on “Premarital Drilling” (5.10b), which I flashed on toprope and easily led in April, but some days it’s just not in you. While the supastrong bro squad worked on the 5.12s to the right (projects were ascended, but I can’t keep all the names straight. Good job, bro squad!), we worked on a somehow-still-dry alleged 5.11 just to the left of the bunker. No one knew the name of it, but it was really fun in spite of — maybe because of? — its crimpiness and balanciness, and toproping it gave me hope it could be my first 5.11.

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OH! And also, I wore my new Petzl Elia helmet! I think helmet use is way too uncommon in sport climbing, and I’m excited to have my very own — ponytail-conducive — noggin protection. Wish I had a photo to share, but next time. For now…

Lessons from the last two weekends:
– When in doubt, find the high feet.
– Sunglasses are a worthwhile investment.
– “Jugs” is subjective. If you can’t find any, broaden your definition.

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