Three years ago on perfect late October day, I made my first trip to Jamestown. It was my first outdoor climbing experience and the beginning of a very “special” relationship with Jamestown. I’ve had amazing impromptu afternoon climbing trips, my heart broken, more than 50 chigger bites on one leg, and spent an entire climbing trip trying to extract my climbing partner’s car from the mud all because of Jamestown Crag. The Nomads rescued us from the mud and earned my undying gratitude–I still owe you guys a beer for that.
In the fall of 2013 signs prominently displaying a skull imposed over a compass outlined by the shape of Arkansas started appearing around Jamestown. These signs declared the Nomads would be developing the Jamestown climbing area. I soon learned through the climberverse the Nomads are the Christopher brothers of Northeast Arkansas. They took up Mark Mobley’s mantle and the task of caring for and continuing the development of Jamestown. Soon, they would host the first King of the Crag climbing competition at Jamestown.
A year later rain delayed the 2nd King of the Crag competition by a week. Then on October 18, 2014 the Rock Gods smiled showering the dual blessing of mild temperatures and clear skies on Jamestown Crag. Elisa and I had left Little Rock before sunrise to make the competition with time to spare and no mud! We arrived to a multitude of brightly hued hammocks strung through trees, and around tents adding even more color to the fall woods. Campfires still smoldered from the night before. Climbers, volunteers and spectators anticipated a great day of good climbing. I caught up with Kyle Christopher and asked him to explain the Nomads.
“Nomads is essentially 3 brothers on a mission to bring outdoor recreation into the mainstream in our area. Our resources are so over looked and ignored by locals yet treasured by folks from out of town. We work to develop and protect those areas such as Jamestown. The Crag will be the Horseshoe of Northeast Arkansas for sure. King of the Crag is first and foremost a fundraiser to support development of the crag. We don’t charge visitors so this [King of the Crag] is how we raise money. Secondly, it’s an excuse to get the amazing community of climbers together. I’ve never witnessed a group quite like climbers. No one is a stranger and everyone cheers for each other. It’ s refreshing.”
King of the Crag is a refreshing chill comp, yet there are still a few rules. The Nomads reminded all the climbers that only clean lead climbs count for points. Recreational division climbers can top rope climb for a 5 point score deduction. A climber’s top five climbs determine their score and a sixth climb would count in the event of a tie. Dogs are welcome. (Claire the Swedish Vallhund already had her repelling harness on). Bagpipes will signal the start of the comp. And have fun!
Around 10:00 a.m. strains of bag pipe music filled the air. Fred the piper, piped everyone down the quarter mile trail to the Dog Walk. I saw evidence of the Nomads efforts. There is now new safe-looking webbing bolted into the rock walls of the Dog Walk to help guide climbers and other brave souls into the crag. The Dog Walk is a fairly steep technical scramble through a two foot gap in the cliff down to the base of the crag, but not steep enough to stop a dog from being able to use the approach.
I attached myself to Elisa’s team. She was climbing with Kyle from the Russeville climbing gym. My adopted teammates started the day on newly bolted “moderate climbs” routes. Moderate is rock climber for comparatively easy to climb. I got shut down by a moderate 5.7 warm up climb–maybe climbing in the advanced division wasn’t a good idea…Our next climb was a 5.10a. Elisa and Kyle both sent the route with no trouble on lead; I used a top rope. Sometimes the rock wins.
“Robin Hood, come here!” (Robin Hood is a dog). And orangutan-like calls originating from the St. Louis climbers resounded throughout the crag. Elisa and Kyle, both climbed in the advanced division and picked a 5.10c route called Dodo Bird for the next climb. Kyle tried the route and figured out the beta. Then, I gave the route a go promptly forgetting all the beta and going for a swing when I reached the hard part. Returning to the ground sounded like a good idea. Maybe a tasty goat gouda cheese snack would help my climbing. I chatted with some Memphis climbers on the route next to us. They remembered something about Bat Man, Poison Ivy and a Crazy Cat lady in conjunction with me…I knew nothing. I cheered for Elisa as she climbed Dodo Bird with grace of a ballerina dancing up the rock with confidence and poise.
Next on the docket, F.O.A. Can you guess what that stands for? Beastly fortitude, feats of bravery and sheer indifference to bodily harm are required for a clean send. Kyle was game. First Elisa and I needed to transform into a human stick clip. I went down to all fours, like a cat, then Elisa stood on my back to reach the first clip and run the rope through. She was kind enough to dust the dirt of my back–team work at it’s finest. Kyle now had a rope to protect against a ground fall on the first seven or eight feet, the supposedly hardest part. He put out a hell of an effort, including an impressive throw towards a fingertip sized crimper hold. Unfortunately gravity won. We moved on and climbed some more.
As the five o’clock deadline loomed the St. Louis climbers were still making orangutan calls and Robin Hood, the dog, was in the vicinity, “here, Robin Hood.” My role at the comp had evolved from competitor to cheer leader and outdoor enthusiast. I did get one good lead climb in, Smarty Pants 5.8+. Thanks for the belay, David. Elisa and Kyle finished the day strong on some tough routes. Still the hardest climb of all was the scramble up the Dog Walk and the hike towards the keg. Our packs were full of gear.
Back at the campsite/registration/party area food and beer were served. Score cards were turned in. I renamed my unofficial division Beer League and turned in a rather vague score card with something about epic top roping. I didn’t win anything, although I’m sure I was the only person in that division.
Soon the Nomads announced the winners and handed out trophies, and swag. Congratulations to all those who placed: Eve, Samuel, Lore Aren, Nick, Cole, Kevin, Chris and Jo. Well done and well done to everyone who came out to King of the Crag. I hear the Nomads put on a good after party. The Nomads have been rocking it at Jamestown.
Dilan Willmuth took most of the photos. You can keep up with events and see more photos at the King of the Crag Facebook page.