The weather cools down and the leaves crisp up, signaling that autumn is moving in with a vengeance. This time of year is a melange of outdoor senses, an awakening of newness despite the cycle of death urged on by winter’s approach.
It’s also prime climbing season.
With a friend who knows how to fly, escaping to a top-notch rock climbing destination couldn’t be easier. And so that is how I found myself at the base of a climb in the Shawangunks – an immense bedrock ridge within the great state of New York. The rainy morning set things back, but before long the sun came up signaling that it was time to ascend.
I climbed steadily, placing tiny pieces of metal into cracks and crevices, hoping that they would catch me in the off-chance that I fell. It was easy movement, and delightful views. I didn’t have to remind myself to stop and take in the scenery – once I escaped the tree line, I couldn’t help but pause regularly to appreciate the exposure. Things not only look different from up high, they smell and feel different as well. High places are a remedy for the suburban blues and an excellent way to reset one’s mental capacity.
Despite the energy needed to climb upwards, I am consistently surprised at the respite I find during my favorite outdoor hobby. There is peace in the natural world, one that never ceases to amaze me. Climbing allows me to access a whole new position and perspective in this natural world.
Before all the leaves drop and before the winter winds lay claim to the land, find a place to go that will reset and invigorate your spirit. Even if the mountains aren’t calling you, you can still go.
Kentucky: state of mountains, mines, and impeccable scenery. This region of Appalachia also happens to be one of the best places to rock climb on the east coast. Red River Gorge (RRG) features some fantastic routes in sandstone cliffs forged many moons ago by a tumbling river.
It was the perfect place to spend a long weekend.
Armed with bug repellent, climbing gear, lots of crag snacks, and two competent friends, I enjoyed hour upon hour in this wild space. Muir Valley, named after the “Father of the National Parks”, was a serene location with enough shade to make the Kentucky heat bearable.
I still sweated.
But it was so much fun to climb real rock – to be 100 feet above the ground hyper-aware of every movement and rock feature. The wildlife was present, but unobtrusive, although I did get to watch a snake eat a mouse.
Nothing quite beats climbing on real rock. While I thoroughly enjoy my local rock climbing gym, gripping raw granite while puzzling my way up a cliff face is a whole other type of adventure.
During my year of travels, I only climbed a handful of times. Getting back into climbing shape has been a gradual process, so Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland seemed like the perfect place. This local crag is short-ish (35 feet?) with easy routes and a simple approach. It was supposed to be hot, so Lauren, my climbing buddy, and I headed out early to avoid the heat.
On the hike to our spot, we passed a wild raspberry bush. I couldn’t help but pause for a little taste. They were cool, tart, and delicious – one of nature’s little surprises.
The next couple of hours passed along quickly; time was eclipsed by the flaking of rope, placement of gear, and the motion of scurrying up the rock. There is something so beautifully methodical about climbing outside. At the same time, the climbs I did at Sugarloaf felt so natural and rhythmic. I let myself relax, happy for the shade provided by the tree cover.
I was reluctant to leave, but knew that the high heat of the day was fast approaching. This trip rekindled by love for outdoor trad climbing. Over the past year, I’ve put in quite a few miles hiking in the wilderness – over 320 to be exact. Now, I feel like it’s time I put in some vertical miles. There’s simply so much rock to conquer!