The 8th Annual Triple Crown Bouldering Series kicked off on October 2nd at the sacred boulder field, Hound Ears, near Boone, NC. Capped at 400 climbers, the event has raised nearly $7,000 so far for acquisition projects. Read below on what Rock & Ice writer Jeff Jackson had to say about the first leg of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series:
It’s 6:30 in the morning, October 2. Fall is starting off right in the North Carolina mountains–cold, dry, and thanks to the turning leaves, pleasantly colorful. Triple Crown judges–identifiable by their loved and loathed red shirts which read “Don’t be a dick”–are already at work stuffing crash pads into two big U-haul trucks. The early bird competitors who managed to crawl out of their expedition tents stumble around the venue searching for coffee and handouts at the vendor booths.
Eight years old and still swinging, the Triple Crown Bouldering Series begins like this every year. In a few hours, the sleepy, early-morning rabble gives way to a mass of over 400 climbers, all chomping at the bit to get on the rock and climb. Stuffed into vans, they’re whisked through the front gates of Hound Ears, an exclusive mountain resort community that allows access to this amazing area once a year, and they get busy trying problems on the area’s extensive and excellent gneiss boulders.
In the boulderfield, I see many familiar faces and smiles. Everyone’s obviously pleased to be here on such a perfect, sunny day. The competitive spirit is in evidence, mostly among the young guns, who stand out with their tank-tops and ghetto ball caps. The rest of us are just going for it, searching out good problems in the woods, losing copious skin on the Hound Ears’ infamous crimps, and trying to last until the end of the day.
The crowd is thick as thieves in the main area. It’s mosh-pit of pads, photographers and climbers stealing spots and turns on classics like Flash or Trash V5, Fuc Yo V9 and Bracheator V3. Slack-jawed gumbies gawk at the pros. Down the hill, a crater is forming under Heretic V3, as competitors fall and prostrate themselves before this impossibly good problem. Nearby, a few harness-clad climbers enjoy a rare taste of the area’s high-quality roped lines.
Later in the afternoon, the clock is ticking and people’s expressions run the gamut: resigned, distressed, elated. Some just give in and sack out, others run around like chickens with their heads cut off, frantically climbing anything to complete their scorecard. In the last hour of the day, a few of these desperate competitors push a little further into the boulderfield and discover quality lines like Disasteroid V6, Silk the Shocker V4 and The Blunted V7.
Like grits and greens, the Triple Crown series is an entrenched Southern tradition–for the climber anyway. It’s a ritual way of pushing out that oppressive summer humidity and bringing in the fall, a way to have an informal but essential reunion with friends, and of course, to enjoy climbing on some of the best boulders anywhere.
It’s also life-blood for climbing access in the South. The general hubbub of the event makes it easy to forget, but the competition began as a fundraiser for access–17 years ago at Hound Ears, as matter of fact. Access remains the series’ core mission.
Thanks to financial support from Triple Crown, organizations like the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition (CCC) and the Southeastern Climbers’ Coalition (SCC) have gone on to successfully open and even buy significant climbing areas like Laurel Knob, Steele, Asheboro, Stone Fort, Yellow Bluff and Rumbling Bald.
The evening awards ceremony goes on and on. Two local rock bands warm things up early. The second band, The Lenoir Swingers Club, combine a red wrestlers mask, menacing bush axe, whip, drums and electric guitar to give the kids a performance art/rock show they will never forget.
Event organizers, Jim Horton and Chad Wykle, work the stage like seasoned pros. And like pirates with booty, winner after winner goes away with armloads of prizes and gear. A few of the Open winners make out with an odd bit of cash.
Near midnight, the show’s over. Wykle, Horton and a few other stragglers sit around, crack jokes and try to decompress after a very long day. In the middle of it, Wykle and Horton briefly discuss something privately, then turn to a nearby volunteer from the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition.
“We need to write you a check,” says Wykle. Right then and there at about midnight, Triple Crown cuts a $4,000 check and hands it to the CCC volunteer.
“This goes to saving the boulders at Rumbling Bald,” Wykle adds. Another boulderfield saved with the help of Triple Crown.
Next stop for the Triple Crown will be Horse Pens 40 in Steele, Alabama on November 6, then Stone Fort in Chattanooga, Tennessee on December 4. Hope to see you there.
– Zachary Lesch-Huie
Photos by: Eric Heistand
* 8th Triple Crown Hound Ears event, 17th Annual Hound Ears competition
* Full to capacity with over 400 climbers in the event
* $4,000 cash donation from Triple Crown to Carolina Climbers’ Coalition for their Rumbling Bald Boulders acquisition, and an addition $3,000 raised at the event for the same project.
* Results here: http://triplecrownbouldering.org/results.htm
Make your hands sweat by watching the recap video of Hound Ears by Louder Than 11: