Splash Out

By:  Lee Payne - Also published by ClimbXmedia

Splash Out Since not every climber has the money or time to fly to Mallorca, and not everyone has "Ceuse over the sea" in their backyard, we all learn to cope with our local provisions.  In New York City people climb in Central Park, in Los Angeles they climb on plastic in the sewers, and during Alabama?s sweltering off-season we go shallow water bouldering in Little River Canyon. 

If the essence of bouldering is unhindered movement on rock, then climbing over water seems to provide the perfect atmosphere for pushing your limits in a completely natural setting.  Then again, if your essence of bouldering is the community of motivation, then water bouldering will surely fit your style.  Water bouldering is all about fun  - a double whammy of recreation full of new experiences, chance encounters, and a creative twist on the vertical.

As with all summertime bouldering in the Deep South, water bouldering does not lend itself to particularly difficult climbing.  Due to the heat and humidity, all climbers must lower their standards.  However, when pulling onto rock from the water there are a few added challenges: no chalk, no climbing shoes, and the looming wet sloper on the horizon.  Because of these factors, it is easier for a water boulderer to desire movement on a classic line rather than a big number. 

Speaking of, classic lines and sculptured holds are plentiful in Little River, due to years and years of erosion of fallout from the cliffs above.  The running water forms all sorts of creations:  an overhanging face centered by itself below a waterfall, a tall slab on the bank of the river, and a one move wonder over a pool of cool forgiveness.  All on premium Alabama sandstone.

However, the most classic theme of any climbing trip in Alabama is random encounters with the locals.  Like a tribe of nomadic Cherokee, the ?redneck? takes in everything possible before approaching.  On one occasion, the chief of the tribe, who probably spent too much time on the peace pipe the night before, bellowed, ?There is an easier way up the backside.?  A novel proposal from a man sporting a nicely trimmed trailer mullet, yet only a prelude to the lack of intelligence soon to come.  With a beer belly, two cigarettes in one hand, and pair of MC Hammer jumper shorts for a bathing suit, one of the young bloods of the tribe hollers, ?My uncle ran down that once.?  Not too long after that, his brother, or maybe it was his before mentioned uncle, or maybe both, dove into the shallow water and pulled out a Copperhead (one of Alabama?s most poisonous snakes) barehanded Steve Erwin style.  This snake trapping capped off that day quite nicely, and convinced us to bail out before the evening show.

When the boulderer, someone intrinsically preoccupied with the summit, has just as much fun falling as he or she does climbing, then something is up, or, in this case, more frequently down.  When the purpose of climbing loses its oomph, the true spirit behind the sport will blossom.  It is the same spirit we seek everyday we go climbing on hard ground, a spirit much easier to find in the shallow waters of Little River Canyon.  A spirit of happy faces, content fingers, and a refreshingly new recreation. 

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