Photos by Cirque Productions:
Brian Burnham & Leon Godwin

The Hound Ears bouldering competition has been running now for 15 years and I’ve been attending for quite some time, so I notice the subtle changes that take place on a year-to-year basis. First of all the competitors keep getting younger . . . or I keep getting older. But either way there were quite a few teens out there with long lanky builds, ferocious hand strength, and the ability to rack up some huge scores on sends of historically unclimbed problems.Clear skies were a change from previous years and the sun peaking over the mountains in the east accentuated just how absurdly wealthy the people in Hound Ears are; with impeccable golf courses and houses that resemble entire resorts. But the rays of morning light reflecting off the imported Italian marble reminded all of us crammed into school buses that the weather was indeed perfect that day. Can’t beat clear and 70 for a frictionful day of climbing on the sharpest rock in 500 square miles.

The other thing I noticed was that swag distribution was of course excessive and often, but this year it was also quite dangerous. At the event kick off, organizers Jim Horton and Chad Wykle assumed their standard perch on the ambulance above the competitors to announce the rules and work the crowd with some free giveaways. The big difference this time was the donations by Red Bull, so the packed crowd was peppered with cans of flying energy drinks. If you were laying out for a free T-shirt you could very likely end your climbing day by wearing a Red Bull in the temple. Much less glorious than busting an ankle on a wicked-high sketchy finish.

Somewhere in the distance Kurt Smith yelled Triiiiiple Crowwwwwn and it was on. 450+ climbers descended into the woods to begin what would be some very close competitions in the divisions. Fuc-Yo (V9) attracted an immediate crowd, being one of the top valued boulder problems, and saw a rare female ascent by Women’s Open winner Alex Johnson.

The men’s open division was much tighter than in year’s past as well. With Paul Robinson off the scene this year, it left some space for Jon Glassberg and Jimmy Webb to duke it out for a while. These two have obviously been training a bit since en route to racking up an impressive 12,000 plus points, they flashed some big point problems like Stupid Human (V9) and some other soon to be classics in Horton’s new set of boulders ominously named The Dark Area.

Local North Carolina up-and-coming Calvin Wagner returned to Hound Ears this year to defend his 2007 Junior title and with hopes of taking the 2008 Triple Crown crown. Calvin added ‘Larry Hitchcock,’ ‘Piss Ripple,’ and a couple other V5’s to his scorecard and it proved to be enough to secure the ‘08 Hound Ears trophy and keep his hopes alive for the Triple Crown.

Nothing about a day at Hound Ears drags, and just when we felt like we were getting warmed up, the judges announced that scorecards were due within the hour. This is somewhat of an exaggeration because anyone that has logged a couple hours of bouldering in the orange and red Hound Ears forest has the standard extremity abrasions and an exceptional case of bloodied tips brought on by the onslaught of notorious Hound Ears razor crimps. But a few extra wraps of tape and a few extra dips into the magical pot of chalk and climbers were ready to cram in a few more easy problems and try to fill up the scorecard before Jim Horton romped on the ambulance siren to announce the end of another glorious day in private country club paradise.

Once again we all crammed into buses, filled an entire large Penske truck with crashpads, and headed back down to Grandfather Campground for the awards ceremony and afta’ party. After 15 years in the game, the Triple Crown crew has perfected the art of the climbing comp party. Tons of food and five kegs of beer awaited the climbers as they stepped off the bus, the music fired up and everyone settled in for a slideshow of the day’s mayhem and the announcement of who would be the king of The Ear in 2008.

Kurt Smith ran the show for the evening and kicked off the festivities with a now expected Triiiiiiple Croooooooowwwwwn 2008. He shook down the crowd for all the cash left in their wallets so the CCC can buy another crag, and when he called someone up on stage they could ‘show him their moves’ for a new Sterling rope, or if they were too self conscious in front of a group of obnoxious and fun loving climbers he gave them a block of chalk and shoved them back into the crowd. As the evening progressed the music from the PA faded and was replaced by guitars and harmonicas at scattered campfires around the mountain. The fog settled in and climbers bid each other goodnight and farewell until the next showdown at HP40 next month.

Triple Crown Bouldering: Part II