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Rock climbers travel for new challenges

Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Updated: Friday, December 2, 2011 01:12

Shea climbing

Clay Carnes

Rock climber Shea Harris (above) has traveled to different states to follow his passion. Harris and fellow climber Clay Carnes are traveling to Kentucky soon to climb at Red River Gorge.

    Everything is packed up and it's time to go home. The driver's arms feel too heavy to lift. Struggling to wrap his fingers around the steering wheel, he gathers one more push of endurance. He is on the road, his truck filled with his energy-deprived companions, driving back into responsibility. Only one thought is consuming his mind; he could have climbed harder.

     Jonesboro is not the first place someone would look for a community of rock climbers; there must be something to climb before someone can call themselves a climber.  Yet, a group of about 10 to 15 climbers have settled in Jonesboro despite the lack of climbable rock in the area.

    Jamestown Wildlife Management Area near Batesville is the closest area to climb for a Jonesboro resident, which requires a little over an hour of travel.

    Other popular areas in the state are Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper and multiple areas scattered throughout Mt. Ida, all about four hours from Jonesboro.

    On the website for Horseshoe Canyon Ranch it says that multiple outdoor magazines have claimed it to be "one of the best climbing areas east of the Rockies." Shea Harris, an ASU alumni and climber from Tyronza agreed saying, "Arkansas is a hidden gem."

    Climbers are always seeking a new challenge. Rocks don't move, so they have to go to them and traveling becomes essential. Clay Carnes, an ASU alumni and climber from Jonesboro said, "I would say the general consensus is: if you're a climber, you're on the road."

    Some just can't get enough when it comes to climbing, so they load up their vans and give up their jobs and homes to pursue climbing 24/7.

    There is an unspoken bond between climbers. No matter where they travel, a new friend is waiting. The climber's network is vast and welcoming.

    Harris traveled to Wyoming to climb and lodged with a friend he met while climbing. On the road he stopped in Springfield, Mo., to stay with another friend he met while climbing.

    Carnes traveled to Spain for six weeks with a main objective of climbing, meeting many people in the process and staying with a fellow climber that he met. He said that climbing is just part of their culture. Rock walls were in the public parks and rock holds were on the bridges in Madrid.

    "The climbing style and energy was so different," Carnes said. "I came back with better technique and am an overall better climber."

    Experiencing new rock and locations make a well-rounded climber.

    "It's like a puzzle, you have to be able to put all the pieces together, but sometimes you physically can't do it," Harris said. "It's improved my problem solving skills, and I see things more simplistically now."

    The initial cost of gear and the rise in gas prices may steer Jonesboro natives from pursuing the sport.

    Climbing can even cost less than other popular fall activities. Gas, lodging, tickets and food must be included for the avid football fan. Add the cost of a rifle and its ammo for the deer hunter.

     "You could spend $70 for the entire weekend climbing and have a blast," Carnes said.

    Carpooling is an essential part for the traveling climbers of Jonesboro. It also adds an unforgettable aspect to the experience of the trip to the rock. Both Carnes and Harris agreed that the time will fly by on a road trip to Red River Gorge in Slade, Ky., with a group of friends in the car.

    "On occasion when we head out to climb, it can turn out to be terrible." Harris said. "The highlight of the trip can end up being the traveling."

    If a person is hooked on climbing, it can become a way of life. Everything is seen through a filter and situations in life can be related back to that time when they were hanging by their finger tips 100 ft. in the air on a rock trying to make the next move.

    Despite the hours of travel, it is all worth it to climbers. "You come back so drained, but once you recover, man, you feel great," Carnes said.

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