By Brian Burnham

The stage was set for some serious competition in the open categories.  Both Jimmie Webb and Jon Glassberg had a victory under their belts, and Alex Johnson and Kate McGinnis each had one win as well.  The mood was set on Friday night when everyone gathered to watch the new film Heart of Stone at Rock Creek Outfitters.  This new short by Andrew Kornylack and Josh Fowler highlights all the preservation work that’s been done in the Southeast by the SEC and the CCC and made us all truly appreciate the climbing mecca where we live and climb.

The information super-highway made bold claims of sun and 50 degree temps for comp day, but the cries were mixed between joy and despair when snow began to fall in the early morning.  Climbers were bundled up and tried desperately to keep the tips warm between attempts.  The cold crisp air did bring about friction of epic proportions and rumor has it that not a single foot smear slipped during the entire day.

Jimmy Webb came out with guns blazing and set the bar quite high for the day.  I followed Jimmy to The Shield (V12) and while I was getting my camera out he took his first burn on the Stone Fort classic.  I should have gotten there a couple minutes early if I wanted the shot since he flashed it first try, and added himself to the short sendlist.  He later went on to send The Chattanoogan (V12) and in the meantime Jon Glassberg was racking up points on Instinct and Biggie Shortie.  In the end, Webb tallied a staggering 16,608 points which was enough to secure a victory for both Stonefort and the Triple Crown.

Alex Johnson had some hard sends, which also included Biggie Shortie, and were enough to give her the Stonefort victory. But in the end, the mild mannered, hard pulling, east coast hero Kate McGinnis had consistently high scores over all three events and was able to renew her Triple Crown for yet another year.

Calvin Wagner continued his domination of the Junior division, going for a sweep in this year’s series.  He started the day making short work and flashing a series of V4’s and V5’s, which included the arching classic Green Machine.  Calvin kept the sending streak going to fill his scorecard by mid afternoon and took the victory at Stonefort and remained undefeated for the entire Triple Crown.

As the day wore on, and many fingers wore down to bloody tips the sun eventually popped out.  Climbers split their time between warming up in the sun, and warming themselves by the fire and with chili dogs in the golf pro shop overlooking the mix of pristine golf landscape and a wonderland of boulders. Back in the boulderfields climbers huslted to fill out their scorecards.  As they raced the 4:30 pm deadline, climbers often had to step aside for the blur wearing a red jumper and a black toboggan and flashing everything in site.  The mysterious character was later identified as Ryan Johnson, and event organizer Jim Horton declared him as the climber that had the most fun that day since he won the ‘star chaser’ category with 132 stars on 70 sends…..that’s right, 70 boulder problems in one day, talk about some shredded tips.

After tallying scores and turning in card, the climbers descended back into Chattanooga for the afterparty.  Everyone enjoyed the abundance of eating options offered by the bustling river front scene, not that Huddle House as a sole option at HP40 was a bad thing, its just that choice is a bonus.  We all tried to cram into the super small awards ceremony building down by the river, a venue change from previous years at the big pavilion in town.  In contrast to seven flowing kegs at the last comps, we weren’t allowed any beer at this conservative downtown park.  In fact, rangers were vigilant enough to storm the awards room and dump bottles of beer that were lying among the crash pads, ropes, and swag.  But the always-resourceful climbing community wrapped up the awards and hit up downtown Chat for a series of after parties.

Between partying and pulling down, everyone must have tuckered themselves out rather completely.  I strolled through Stonefort on Sunday morning and I was many hours and many problems into my session before even one other climber rolled through the golf course and into the forest packed with crisp, frictiony boulders to sample any of the hundreds of problems with most excellent landings.  I suppose everyone was off beginning their 9 months of training before the climbers once again gathered in the Southeast for the 16 Triple Crown….at least that meant there was no line at the Shield and Dragon Slayer for the few of us there.