Monday, November 18, 2013

Brief: Rock Climbing in Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois

A few weekends ago, Agatha and I made a break for it to one of my favorite places in the whole world--The Shawnee National Forest.  At the southern tip of our long, long state lies a beautiful reserve of public land that bears no resemblance to the rest of our geologically infantile home.  Almost seven hours by car from DeKalb, it feels a world away and might as well be for how different and beautiful it is.  I have been going there with friends since high school to camp, climb, and generally fuck around out in the woods, and places like Giant City and Panther's Den are the places I learned to love the outdoors when I was younger. Agatha and I were feeling the grind of daily life and the and the cold onset of winter, so we set our sights south to Jackson Falls, a climbing area located in the National Forest.  Jackson offers no amenities aside from a pit toilet, which is a good thing. Camping is free and visitors are expected to practice Leave No Traces ethics.  We spent three days climbing, hiking, and relaxing out in the woods and had a spectacular time.  We definitely can't climb as hard as we used to, but we gave some old routes a try and survived to tell the tale. We did a lot of hiking around less traveled areas of the canyons and found some neat spots.  The Shawnee is an overlooked gem and the people who live in the area don't seem to mind one bit.  Very few published guides to the area exist, and I imagine "locals only" spots probably compose a lot of the potential climbing in the forest down there.  I love it, and if/when I make it out of the midwest, I will still come back to this place for the fun and memories it holds for me.

Agatha cleaning up after finishing a route

Bouldering the "Yosemite Slab"

Collapsed cliff overhang

Exploring under the collapsed boulders.  Pretty scary once we realized how precariously some of the house sized rocks were balanced.

I am the speck up top.  Climb known as Venom, 5.10a.  One of my favorites in the area.  Fun moves on small holds over the small overhang to delicate slab moves to gain the top.

Route-finding error resulted in some stupid climbing here.  Agatha laughed at me for looking like an idiot (which was deserved).

Beautiful cliff lines everywhere.  So much to explore.

Till next time...

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