There Goes The Fear

This seems to be the norm for approaches at Little River Canyon:

Class 4?

This weekend, I learned about hiking classes. I’d heard of them before, but as a budding adventurer I was unfamiliar with how hardcore hikers graded their routes. According to my seasoned outdoorsman friend Charles, the basic breakdown is this:

Class 1: You’re walking.
Class 2: You’re still walking, but it’s a little scarier and you have to be careful.
Class 3: You’re on your hands and feet.
Class 4: You’re on your hands and feet, and if you fall you might die.
Class 5: You’re climbing, and you probably need a rope, because it you fall without one you will probably die.

And that’s why sport grades start with a 5!

The friendliest terrain around.

This Alabama crag is worth the scary death-hike. It’s hard to find anything below a 5.11, but the climbing is great, and the canyon itself is beautiful. Best of all, you can climb there in the rain.

Just follow me on Instagram, already.

Friday, I went to Lizard Wall with Evan and Charles. I was pretty sore from a workout a few days prior, and I couldn’t stick two moves toproping Lemonade (5.11a) or Bon Voyage (5.11b) without getting pumped. But I had fun anyway and learned things! For instance: you can use a Grigri as secondary protection when you’re cleaning a route and lowering off one anchor. Who knew? (A guy on Mountain Project did.) I recommend learning how before you’re at the anchor.

So Friday was fun, and the guys worked on things and probably sent some, and I remember the name Robyn’s Route (5.12b) but not much else besides pumpy forearms and these delicious lil cocoatmeal nuggets:

Nugget recipe coming soon!

But Sunday was when the real try-hards happened. I’d been psyched all week for the girls’ trip Caroline, Lucy and I were planning to take to Rocktown (alluded to here), and Evan + 3 were planning to hit up Lost Wall for some trad. But then the forecast crushed our dreams. So Sunday morning, we all rode up to the Canyon.

Mandy was everywhere.

We goofed off a bit on the damp Mushroom Boulders, waiting for Beckett to eat her breakfast.

The Greatest Dane.

Stan Slab.

It was frustrating to see such beautiful sandstone defaced with people’s terrible handwriting. Beatles quotes, declarations of love, pleas for Instagram followers (really) — we keep running into this. Remember the Shaking Rock graffiti? Sand Rock has tons of it too. And last Sunday at Rocktown, someone had written “cum” on the Orb boulder.


Fortunately (I guess), I think it was done with charcoal and not paint. But still. Just why? Why?? Whyyyy???

Anyway. After bouldering a bit at the ‘shrooms, we made our perilous way to the Toomsuba wall. Everybody was awesome! Our new friend Thomas onsighted a 5.11a called Combat Zone, and Evan onsighted Courtesy (5.12a). Elaine, Lucy, Caroline, and I warmed up on Cheesecake (5.9). Elaine onsighted it, first-time outdoor-leader Lucy flashed it, and I…didn’t.

Caroline and I are kindred, height-fearing, helmet-wearing spirits.

I took a pretty scary lead fall on the Sand Rock classic Misty (5.10b/c) in April, and since then I’ve developed an unfortunate fear of heights. But Sunday, I decided it was time to conquer my lead-fear. I knew I was ready to flash this 9, but I wigged out near the top and took my first lead fall since that one. It was for the best, though; I needed to fall again, this time correctly. And it wasn’t that bad.

And later, when I sent the route, Charles told me to pull up a bunch of slack and then jump from the anchors. It’s the second-scariest thing I’ve ever done, and I took a minute to work up the courage. The moment before my feet left the rock filled my entire body with fear, but the thirty feet down were exhilarating. Trusting the gear and my belayer was weirdly empowering in the way it freed me from “what-if” thoughts. Qué será, será, you know? You’re already flying through the air, you have no control — might as well enjoy gravity. It took my body like, ten minutes to stop shaking, but I couldn’t stop smiling either. I highly recommend this technique for anyone trying to get over a fear of falling. (Thanks, Chuck!)


After that, we did a 10a called Vogue that really felt easier than the 9 (but whatever, burly route-setters). Lucy, Elaine, and I worked an 11c on toprope after Chuck and Thomas put it up. Lucy was the only one to make it up, but I think we should all work this one again when we’re fresh and a little bit stronger.

Some call her Cruisey.

Elaine was kind of a crusher after taking like, three months off.

Now that I’ve reined in The Fear a little, I can’t wait to get back to the Canyon (specifically Grey Wall, where the 5.11s Obsession and Easy Out are awaiting my send). I’m psyched for bouldering season to begin, but I’m starting to get the hang of this sport thing. I think even when “The Season” is here, I’ll keep climbing higher…and occasionally jumping down.





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