Grit, Not Grits: The Pilot

Nick Hodder making big moves on the Linville Gorge river boulders. Photo by Mackenzie Taylor Perry.

Nick Hodder making big moves on the Linville Gorge river boulders. Photo by Mackenzie Taylor Perry.

John Gill writes in Art of Bouldering that until a climb is completed with grace, it has not been truly mastered by the pursuer.

It’s an interesting statement, especially considering many hard climbs are finished with pumped arms, exasperated breaths, bleeding fingertips, and a heady mantle that turns into a desperate “beach whale” move – a norm especially in the South. A send is a send at the end of the day, but nonetheless, the Alabama native’s wisdom goes far beyond the sport.

Climbing isn’t easy. I don’t know anyone who claims otherwise. Everyone is humbled the moment his or her feet leave the ground to enter the vertical world– and will be for the rest of their climbing career. Whether you’re a muscular sportsman, a retired gymnast, or 80-pound preteen, there is always a learning curve to climbing. Those willing to overcome these obstacles encounter something undeniably unique and beautiful to the human experience.

Britta Hardel climbing at Little River Canyon's Grey Wall. Photo by Elaine Elliott.

Britta Hardel climbing at Little River Canyon's Grey Wall. Photo by Elaine Elliott.

Gill’s perspective on climbing is one I try to incorporate into every aspect of my life. A notion that if you’re going to pursue something, do it in the most aesthetic way possible. Don’t half-ass something, conquer it. Until your project is overcome with unmatched dexterity, is it truly completed? Or are you going to continue improving your work until past objectives seem effortless? This site is an endeavor to bring the Southern climbing community together through a collective media outlet to prove quality surpasses quantity in storytelling, as well as stone.

In Stone Crusade, John Sherman recalls that even if the only thing the South provided to climbing was Mr. Gill himself, the sport would “still owe a great debt” to the region. Fortunately, many renowned climbers have sprouted from the area or arrived years later to find new roots. And embedded between the clay-enriched soil, and thick Appalachian canopy, there lies a terrain full of remarkable rock any climber will learn to respect and admire for its diverse features, textures, and gradients.

Steep South serves as an ongoing project to connect Southern climbers through regional news, personal stories, and photos to undercover what it is we love so much about climbing down yonder. Is it the supreme stone, diverse climbs, Appalachian views, or bona fide camaraderie? I believe it’s all of these aspects, and something more. There’s some special, unseen ingredient found amid the humidity and 480 million year old rock, and it’s not the recipe for your grandmother’s cooking. After all, climbing in the South is about the grit, not grits.

Lucy Foley warming up on  Trouble  during a hot summer day at Rocktown. Photo by Sarah Anne Perry.

Lucy Foley warming up on Trouble during a hot summer day at Rocktown. Photo by Sarah Anne Perry.