Rock Climbing at Crowders Mountain State Park

About a month ago or so I traveled down to Gastonia, NC to Crowders Mountain State Park to meet up with my brother and his roommate to do some rock climbing. They drove all the way from Savannah for the day. I had been climbing indoors at The Ultimate Climbing Gym in Greensboro, NC for a few months, but had not yet climbed natural rock.

Doing some preliminary research before the trip which came with less than a 24 hour warning I discovered that Crowders Mountain has a very nice website for a State Park. The park has more than 150 climbing routes including traditional (trad), sport, and top roping set ups.

We Spent the entire day at the Practice Wall section of the East facing Main Wall. I can’t imagine how long it would take to ascend all 150 routes. The routes on the Practice wall vary from 5.12 (Skunkpie) to 5.4 (Gastonia Crack). Gastonia Crack, has a gap in the rock face large enough for you to climb inside of. While it is not technically difficult by any means it is a fun climb.

We met up with several climbers all of whom drove well over an hour to get there. I believe I was the closest at around an hour and 45 minutes. We spent must of the day torturing our bodies on Burn Crack. Burn Crack is rated a 5.10. We have been told that the upper section of the route mellows out, but none of us would know. We spent a few hours taking turns and trying out different techniques.

I used this trip as an opportunity to break in my new Evol climbing shoes and a Black Diamond harness. All in all it was a fun and fulfilling day. It is a long walk out even when you are exhausted even though it is entirely downhill. The hard day of climbing left me feeling a little battered, but that was nothing that a little beer and Mexican food couldn’t fix.


Yerba Mate: That amazing South American Tea

Yerba Mate kit

Yerba Mate is an invigorating and nutrient rich tea from South America. It is broadly enjoyed in Uruguay, Paraguay, and some parts of Argentina and Brazil. I was first introduced to mate by high school Spanish teacher. I will be the first to admit that it is an acquired taste, but so are coffee, beer, tea, wine, and other beverages that so many people love.

Mate can be best described as a rich tea with a complex flavor that is earthy, bitter, and depending on the brand smoky. Mate is usually sold in 1 kilo (2.2 lb) bags. The two main varieties are Con and Sin Palo (with or without stems). The addition of stems mellows the bitterness some. There are too many brands to count, but my favorite are Canarias and Nobleza Gaucha.


Mate is prepared in a gourd also called a mate or in a horn called a guampa. A hot infusion is usually referred to simply as mate. A cold infusion often including fruit juice is called Tereré. The infusion is filtered through a metal straw like device called a bombilla. The whole set up is often carried around in a matera. Materas are traditionally leather cases with a shoulder strap, but ones made out of synthetic materials are gaining popularity on the streets of Montevideo, Uruguay.

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Expedition Uruguay: Planning my first trip to South America.

Discovery of Uruguay

I discovered Uruguay through my affinity for the popular local beverage called Yerba Mate. After reading Uruguay and Montevideo through a number of blogs and articles I decided to fly there this summer.

Booked Flight

I booked two round trip tickets on South West airlines to Miami from Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU) and then from Miami to Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco in Montevideo aboard Tam Linhas Aereas. The initial leg was originally booked aboard Skybus until they declared bankruptcy. The flight has an extended lay over at the Guarulhos Aeropuerto in Brazil. What exactly do you do in a foreign airport during an eight hour layover?

Where to go once on the ground in Uruguay?

We haven’t planned out the trip as we wanted to leave room to improvise as we went, but the following is our wish list:

  • La Feria de Tristan Narvaja- The large outdoor market that springs up every Sunday in Montevideo
  • The hot springs around Paysandu or Salto in Northern Uruguay.
  • Montevideo, Colonia, Piriapolis
  • An asado (Uruguayan BBQ)


We plan to use Uruguay’s extensive bus system as much as possible to move about the country. I will be carrying all of my luggage in a GoLite backpack used as carry-on.


We used the following books in our research: