Return of the Ragnarok: The Southeast's Only Endurance Climbing Comp

John Hardin
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It’s early morning of 2013 before the first annual Ragnarok Competition in Foster Falls. The sun hasn’t even begun to peak onto the longest day of the year when the sky opens up and rain pours all over the routes the competitors are to climb just after sunrise. Cody Goodwin, half of HardWin Adventures, is climbing with his partner, Jim, in this competition.

The day is the hottest of the year and the foot-holes are slick. So much so that Cody’s partner slips and falls 20 feet. On his way down he hits a tree branch that’s housing a hornet’s nest.

“Drop me!” Jim yells up to Cody, hanging from his slack line while hornets are swarming him.

Cody lowers him 20 more feet but the hornets are still buzzing around him. He yells up to drop him all the way to the ground this time. Once on the ground, Jim finds he has no less than a dozen hornet stings.

John Hardin

Cody laughs as he tells this story.

At 8 AM on April 3, 2015, the third annual Ragnarok Endurance Climbing Competition will kick off. But, this year Cody will be on the sidelines after competing the first two years. The other half of HardWin Adventures, John Hardin, is going to tackle the routes at Foster Falls on his own. And this year they will avoid the heat of the summer solstice, as they climb pitches that range from 5.4d to 5.14d. Because of the difficulty of Foster, only intermediate climbers and above are permitted to enter.

The duo of HardWin settled on the bullet sandstone of Foster Falls because it is the closest climbing area suitable for an endurance competition near Nashville. Cody ran into some temporary issues when setting up this year’s event. The first two years they didn’t need insurance. This year they did and he met some resistance at first.

 “The first time was a flat out ‘No,’” John reminiscences.

Luckily, one of the rangers is a rock climber. The other was not and needed the convincing. They all met and had talks to find out how things could work. The event couldn’t be during the weekend since the public park is at its busiest. Friday had to be the day. A relationship developed between John and the two rangers and they went above and beyond to ensure that the competition is covered by the State’s insurance.

John Hardin

Why this is relevant is important. After the expenses to put on Ragnarok are covered, John and Cody don’t make any profit. That cash goes back into the park to further help the climbing community, which is steadily growing in the Southeast. This modest growth can be seen by the addition of the Ragnarok—the only endurance climbing competition in the region.

“It’s all about the community,” John says, “and benefiting the city by giving them a great outdoor experience.”

Support from people like Andy Chastain, organizer of Arizona’s 24-Hour Horseshoe Hell (24HHH), is what helped this event come together. In fact, many of the rules in place at Foster come from the grueling 24HHH. Chastain also donated carabiners to Ragnarok. Another major helping hand came from Dick Dower—a 60-year-old who climbs in the 24HHH. Dower designed and wrote a custom scoring software for Ragnarok.

John Hardin

The rules of the event are fairly straight-forward. You climb as many pitches as you can in 12 hours. If one climb is two pitches then you get scored for each part. If you fall, then you start over again. Whoever climbs the most routes in half-a-day’s time wins in their respective categories.

Other awards include best costume and best team name, so even the witty can walk away with something from Ragnarok.

Over the last two years the competition has seen a humble increase. The first year 20 teams competed. The second was between 32-35 teams, not too shy of their 50 team cap. Of those, 60% are returning competitors from the last few years who obviously can’t get enough of this event. While a steady growth is great, John feels that holding the event on private land can bring a larger following. This way people can have a place to watch climbing movies the night before the event and wind down with beer afterwards. Until then, John and Cody will take whoever cares to join them out to Mexican food and cervezas following this year’s climb.

John Hardin

John is in the works of developing an area close to Nashville to hold future events. It will be private property which will allow those aforementioned activities to take place. There is potential for 100 miles of trail. This development is made possible by a large donation and is said to rival the Red River Gorge in Kentucky—which would be quite something, considering the Red is widely recognized one of the best climbing spots in the country.

John Hardin

There is nothing easy about climbing as many routes as possible in 12 hours. And while the third annual Ragnarok Foster Falls Endurance Climb is obviously a competition, it is also more than going to head-to-head against one another. It’s about coming together as a climbing community, celebrating goofy costumes, and challenging oneself to do better than they may have done last year.

“I think it’s a blast," Cody says with a chuckle, “A type-3 blast.”

Register at Ragnarok 2015 if you’re interested in being part of a testing competition.

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