"Not all those who wander are lost"

Southern Smackdown

Life must be rich and full of loving–it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone.

Jack Kerouac


I was excited to finally spend some time in the Red instead of having less than ideal conditions and less than a week which were both true for my previous three trips through the Red.  Van life at Miguels was great.  It’s a cheap and easy spot to be a dirtbag and a great place to climb.  In the past I had been unimpressed by the lack of diversity or technical climbing in the Red.  I quickly found that once you leave the Undertow wall, you can find a lot of diversity.

The pure volume of quality climbing in the Red is stunning.  When you add in the amount of rock that could be developed still, it’s overwhelming.  I started off taking it easy to get my finger healthy, but even after it stopped bothering me I found it hard to spend more than a few days on any route because there were so many to try.  I still only managed to touch a fraction of the routes I was interested in and left several things to finish.  I did manage to get a few sends including Heart Shaped Box, Stain, Demon Seed, and Gene Wilder.  Of course, the one and only 13 I sent was dead vertical, and therefore only took me a few tries; more than many pumpy 12a’s.  Mostly I got on a lot of great climbs and got a good smackdown on most of them.  A few great lines that I didn’t send:  Jesus Wept, Belly of the Beast, Cell Block 6, Tape Worm, Mirage, and countless more.

My plan to stay at Miguels until Christmas changed before Thanksgiving when the temperature dropped, the snow came, and the walls began collecting condensation every day.  We rallied a group of 10 and all headed south to boulder in Rocktown.  The weather was better, but not the most cooperative.  Luckily I had found a monstrous 60ft tarp which we used to cover a spot to hang out on rainy days.  The rest of the time not climbing was spent baking cookies in Mikael’s van and piling everyone into his bed.  When the weather allowed it, the bouldering was amazing.  Of course, I went from steep climbing to bouldering, so basically this was just an entire season of smackdown for me.  As a group, we were a complete junk show; climbing with 10 people and only 4 pads and even only two pads for a bit.  Regardless, it was a blast running around pebble wrestling and soaking in the bits of sun we could find.

A few days into December the weather took a big turn for the worse.  A week straight of rain drove most people away to seek better conditions or home for the holidays.  Unwilling to give up, I hid from the weather in Nashville and even ran into a friend from Kalymnos.  The crew had dwindled to two, but we spent the rest of the month bouldering on other people’s pads and searching for dry sport crags.  Being dependant on others for pads (and not having 10 people) made it much easier to meet lots of new people around Chattanooga.

Christmas neared and we headed north.  I dropped Emilie of in Montreal and headed home on the 23rd, only to make it 10 miles before my car broke down.  I spent the entire day investigating what was wrong with it and trying to find a mechanic to replace the blown water pump (once I realized how difficult it was).  Success eluded me.  No mechanic could fix my car in time.  Eventually I limped it back to Emilie’s, where her family let me essentially abandon it for the holidays.  Of course, no busses were running across the border that late, so I took a bus part way and was rescued by my brother driving 4 hours out of his way to pick me up on his way home.  We drove through the night and made it home at 6:45am on Christmas Eve.

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