Spring break climbing trip (HP40, Stone Fort, the Red – March 2014)

At an overlook at sunset. (HP40)

The long-awaited (maybe) pictures and words from my spring break trip. Figured I should get these up before my next trip.

Before I get to the climbing bit, a precursor. We drove down in two cars – my little Neon and my friend’s mom’s SUV deal. We made pretty good time. By the time we were an hour away, it was about 8 or 9 at night. We decided to stop and get our groceries and gas. I pulled into the parking lot.

Except I didn’t. I somehow ran into and up onto a very, very tall curb. I thought I ripped of my transmission or something terrible. As it turned out, it was just a flat (still not great in the middle of Alabama at nine at night), but I had my spare, so we popped it on with a little difficulty, asked some very friendly locals about getting a tire, and I started to drive back down the road.

Less than a block later, the spare went flat. AGH.

By now, I was kicking myself mentally for being such a bad driver and ruining the night/trip and figured everyone would hate me, but pretty much everyone (just one exception) was ok – the “It’s a road trip, something has to go wrong” mentality prevailed. So while I called a tow and waited for it, they went and got food. The tow, of course, took about an hour and a half to find us, but that was ok because we were waiting for our friend to circle back and pick us up. Had he not decided to drive down (a) alone and (b) earlier than planned, we would have been stuck in Ft. Payne, AL for the night. So we finally made it – and still got there before the other car, somehow. (They had been loitering.)

Which brings us to…

HORSE PENS 40 – We were there for I think five days, got in lots of solid climbing and had just one day of rain (during which we drove half an hour to the nearest theatre to see the Lego Movie. Would recommend.) It was pretty warm – some days it got up to around 70 – and sunny. I got a few little runs in, too.

V3 on Panty Shields boulder, I believe. Ended in a megamantle.

Slabby slab slab.

Somewhere in the crag.

Somewhere else in the crag (just for those who haven’t been to get kind of an idea of the feel of the place).

Slopers ahoy

Dat deformation tho. (I went with a bunch of geology majors, so while I was going OOOH COOL ROCK THINGS they were too. I wasn’t the only one this time, yay!)

STONE FORT – We were here for just a day. Definitely need to go back, the rock is awesome and it’s a HUGE area. Highlight: exploring the little slot canyon and stemming up to the top – then back down.

Cool rock thing.

Square rock thing.

I didn’t do much climbing here, I felt more just like exploring around. Just played with some 2s and 3s. Watching our friend highball things was fun.

That deserves a mention, actually. So at the end of the day, a couple of us had scrambled up this rock thing to watch the sun begin to set and just hang out. We were up there talking when my friend looked over and saw our other friend about halfway up a 45 or 50 foot wall. Casual. About the same time, our friends on the ground noticed and went and got a triple mad and, almost comically, put it somewhere under him – as if that would make a difference were he to fall. But he didn’t, thankfully – topped out and sauntered back down the other side, no big deal. (There were some local kids hanging around too, and when we said our friend had just climbed that they didn’t believe us. Then he came around the side and joined us. One of the kids walked up and said, “That’s damn impressive, I’d like to shake your hand.” And he did.) So yes. I have good friends.

We drove straight from Stone Fort on to…


Which was covered in snow and ice. It was a long drive, and at night, and through steep winding mountain roads. About half an hour from Miguel’s, we finally saw a gas station and stopped. Out of the night, a huge friendly fluffy dog came up and befriended us for a few minutes. Then it was gone. I was so tired I wondered if it had been real. (It was.)

But we made it, set up camp late late late and slept like rocks.

The approach. Yeah, it was colder here. Sad.

So very icy.

Did I mention the ice? All day, we heard dull crashes, cracks, and thuds in the distance (and not so distant) from huge icicles breaking off and falling. We were warned before heading out – “Watch out for icicles.” They weren’t joking.


I tried leading for the first time. It was way more fun than normal top-roping.

And of course, we left the crag late and it was dark and cold by the time we headed for the cars. We had been in the shade for most of the day, and since there was ice and snow everywhere and I have bad circulation, my feet were not happy.

This is what happens to a foot in a cold wet shoe from 11 am to 10 pm. 

We’re almost back to Ann Arbor. I’ll be looking through my hundreds of pictures tomorrow so I should have a few up then.

I’m tired and I love camping but once you’re headed back, a hot shower and a queen bed for you and your cat sounds damn nice.
“How was your spring break?” “Oh, it was great. I climbed and also got trenchfoot.”

But we hiked back and made it fine. There were stars, stars in the sky. Then we got heavenly Miguel’s pizza and had a fine night. Headed out the next morning after stopping at an arch for a bit. Stopped outside Lexington, KY for our last road trip meal. And it was a doozy. Burger bar deal, but fancy – but not too expensive. So this is what I ate.

Portobello sandwich, sweet potato fries (all the sauces were made in-house), with…

Giant delicious milkshake. I tried tying the cherry stem with my tongue and got it on the second try. New skills!

Horse Pens 40, AL.

peace love and climbing,

PS. Tent pic. (Contrail.)


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