climber

Training Takeover: Intro to Campus Board Training

Last week we began our two week Training Takeover of the Trango social media channels. We laid out the framework for an 8 week training plan that will help you jump start your climbing training and push yourself to new levels. This program is an abbreviated version of the protocol laid out in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual and will help even the newest climbers delve into the world of climbing training.

The Details

This program consists of 4 training “Phases,” followed by an on-the-rock “Performance Phase.” The training phases are:

  1. Base Fitness – 1 Week
  2. Strength – 3 Weeks
  3. Power – 2 Weeks
  4. Power Endurance – 2 Weeks

Today, we’ll introduce Campus Board training and give you some working examples of how it works and why we use it.

What is Campus Board Training?

The legend of the original Campus Board is well-known and often re-told, not unlike the Epic tales of the ancient Greeks. The incomparable Wolfgang Gullich installed the first board at a Nurnberg gym known as “The Campus Centre” to help elevate his finger strength to levels that could only be described as “futuristic”. The board consists of a ladder of finger edges, and the training method is to move dynamically between these edges with feet dangling.

The concept behind the Campus Board is to apply methods of “Plyometric Training” in a manner that is specific to rock climbers. Plyometrics have been around for a while, originally developed by Soviet Track & Field coaches in the 1960s to help train explosive power in their athletes. Early plyometrics involved activities like jumping off a high surface, landing on a lower surface and immediately springing back up to the original height. Theoretically the landing causes an involuntary eccentric contraction in the leg muscles which must be immediately converted to a concentric contraction in a very short period of time. This type of training is still widely regarded as the best method for improving explosive power. Gullich’s visionary adaptation of these concepts proved to be the key to his ground-breaking ascent of Action Directe in 1991, amazingly still one of the hardest routes in the world.

You can find out more about the History, Theory, and Construction of Campus Boards in this post:

Campus Training Part 1: History, Theory & Campus Board Construction

 

The Benefits of Campus Board Training

Considering that (simplistically speaking) Power equals Force divided by Time, there are two key reasons Plyometric Training is effective at developing explosive power.  While it helps increase muscle fiber recruitment (key to maximizing the force element of the equation), there are many ways to increase recruitment some of which are likely more effective.  What sets plyometrics apart is the dynamic aspect of the training, which helps train muscle fibers to contract more quickly, allowing us to generate high levels of force in short order.  The obvious application to climbers is to use plyometrics to improve “contact strength” (if you’re unclear on the definition, read this), the key to performing difficult dynamic climbing moves (and often the key to success on hard routes or boulder problems).

In addition to the pure strength benefits of Campus Training, this method is very helpful for improving the inter-muscular coordination required for good “accuracy” in dynamic movements.  The more you practice dynoing or campusing, the better your brain gets at aiming for holds. In a few sessions I can pretty quickly get to a point where I’m basically deadpointing every campus move, which makes the moves much easier. This accuracy translates directly to the rock, although on rock, every move is different, so your accuracy on an onsight will likely never be perfect, but it should improve over time.  The more you practice dynamic movements, the better your body & mind get at remembering those types of movements, meaning you should find yourself better able to “dial” dynamic moves on your projects over time.

Finally, its well known that some climbers just don’t do well on dynamic moves.  This could be due to a general lack of aggression or a strong desire to remain “in control” on the rock.  Campusing can work wonders with these issues.  By encouraging aggressive and committing movement in a low-risk environment, climbers can overcome years of overly static movement after only a handful of short campus sessions.

For more on the benefits of Campus Board Training, read this post:

Campus Training Part 2: Frequency & Exercise Overview

 

Getting Started

Like any training activity, begin with a thorough warmup.  I like to start with 15 minutes of low intensity ARC-style traversing.  Treat this period like any ARC set, focusing on using good technique and smooth, relaxed movement.  Near the end of this period do some active stretching while still on the wall.

Next do what we will call a “Boulder Ladder” for lack of a better term.  Begin with easy bouldering (starting at V0 or whatever the easiest available problems are).  Complete one to three boulder problems at each V-grade before progressing to the next grade (the number of problems completed at each grade should depend on how many grades you need to step through, with the goal of completing the Ladder in 20 minutes or so).  Continue stepping up the Ladder until you reach your typical boulder flash level.  The goal is to do each problem first try, but if you fall off, feel free to repeat the problem or move to another problem of the same grade.  The goal is NOT to get entrenched in an epic project.  Take typical rest periods between problems, which varies between climbers.  If you rest a lot between problems, the set may take more than 20 minutes.  That is ok, this is not a race.  By the end you should have completed between 10 – 15 problems of increasing difficulty.

The final warmup activity is 15-30 minutes of limit bouldering (again, the duration will depend on how long you rest and your level of fatigue.  For me, if I spend more than 50 minutes from the beginning of my ARC traverse to the end of my limit bouldering, my Campus workout will suffer, YMMV).  Pick 2-3 problems that you cannot flash and work them for 5-10 minutes each.  These problems should be right at your limit (in other words, avoid problems you can do 2nd or 3rd try), and they should be powerful, with one or two REALLY hard moves that you can’t do (as opposed to 10 consecutive pretty hard moves that result in a pump-managment challenge).  Its easy to get side-tracked during this activity, so keep your eye on the clock and stay focused on the big picture.  Once completed, take a good 5-10 minute break, get some water, then get ready to rage.

For a sample Campus Board workout, check out this post:

Campus Training Part 3: Basic Routine

Training Takeover: What is Limit Bouldering?

 

Yesterday we announced our two week Training Takeover of the Trango social media channels. We laid out the framework for an 8 week training plan that will help you jump start your climbing training and push yourself to new levels. This program is an abbreviated version of the protocol laid out in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual and will help even the newest climbers delve into the world of climbing training.

The Details

This program consists of 4 training “Phases,” followed by an on-the-rock “Performance Phase.” The training phases are:

  1. Base Fitness – 1 Week
  2. Strength – 3 Weeks
  3. Power – 2 Weeks
  4. Power Endurance – 2 Weeks

Today, we’ll introduce Limit Bouldering and give you some working examples of how it works and why we use it.

What is Limit Bouldering and why is it relevant?

Limit Bouldering is one of the best ways for rock climbers to train power.  When done properly, Limit Bouldering trains max recruitment, contraction speed, core strength and inter-muscular coordination.  If that weren’t enough, Limit Bouldering is also highly sport-specific, so the skills developed will translate directly to the rock.

The crux of Limit Bouldering is finding suitable training terrain.  If you have the luxury to set your own routes, the best option is to build your own Limit Boulder problems from scratch.  Even if you can’t set your own routes you can “make up” problems at your local gym using a system board, or any other part of the wall that has suitable holds and steepness (be sure to take notes on your made up problem so you can remember the holds each session).

So what makes a good Limit Boulder problem?

  • Dynamic movement, featuring dynos that are technically difficult, to holds that are complicated and difficult to latch (if you want to do simple, straight up dynos to flat edges that is all brawn and no brains, use the campus board!).
  • Representative of actual rock, in particular, your goal route(s).  Obviously that can vary depending on the climber, but in most cases that means:
    • Not particularly steep.  Problems in the range of 10 to 30 degrees over-hanging are sufficiently steep to mimic the vast majority of routes in North America
    • Low-profile hand holds, such as small edges and pockets, that are not overly incut and difficult or impossible to pinch.  Such holds are hard to pull “out” on, requiring good core tension and body position.  (Examples of ideal Limit Bouldering holds are discussed extensively here)
    • Small, but plentiful footholds (just like you find outside!) that are complex and require precise foot placements
  • One or two intense crux moves.  The key is really to focus on a few REALLY difficult moves.  This is in contrast to the typical gym boulder problem which may be as many as 15 moves long, with each move roughly the same difficulty.  That is power endurance, not power.  Limit Bouldering is about power.  Your problem can have as many as 8 or so moves as long as “the business” is 1-3 significantly harder moves (with the others being of relatively moderate difficulty).
  • Crux moves close to the ground, so that you can try them repeatedly, without a pump, without having to climb into position, and so that you can really “go for it” without fear of a long or awkward fall to the ground.

This post contains two examples of Limit Boulder problems I’ve used in my training.  Each of these problems literally took me several training cycles, spread over YEARS, to send.  If you can do all the moves of your Limit Boulder problem on the first day, it’s not hard enough.  The hardest moves should require many sessions to do in isolation, and linking the entire problem should take close to an entire Power Phase, if not several.

Training Takeover: How to Install and Use Your Hangboard

Tuesday we announced our two week Training Takeover of the Trango social media channels. We laid out the framework for an 8 week training plan that will help you jump start your climbing training and push yourself to new levels. This program is an abbreviated version of the protocol laid out in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual and will help even the newest climbers delve into the world of climbing training.

The Details

This program consists of 4 training “Phases,” followed by an on-the-rock “Performance Phase.” The training phases are:

  1. Base Fitness – 1 Week
  2. Strength – 3 Weeks
  3. Power – 2 Weeks
  4. Power Endurance – 2 Weeks

During the 4 training phases, you will perform the following training activities, some of which you may have heard of before:

Aerobic Restoration & Capillarity (“ARC”) Training
Hangboard Training
Limit Bouldering
Campus Training
Linked Bouldering Circuits

Today, we focus on Hangboard Training. Hangboards offer a wide variety of grip types of varying difficulties and are the perfect way to gain strength quickly and practice specific types of grips. Remember to focus your hangboard training on those grips that are critical to sending your project.

One of the most daunting things about starting hangboard training is installation. Below, we give a detailed tutorial on how to mount your hangboard for use.

Once your hangboard is installed, be sure you know how to use it properly. The video below highlights the features of the Rock Prodigy Training Center and also gives an introduction on hangboard use.

Next week, we’ll continue our takeover as we delve into Limit Bouldering and Campus Training.

Training Takeover: ARC Training Primer

Yesterday we announced our two week Training Takeover of the Trango social media channels. We laid out the framework for an 8 week training plan that will help you jump start your climbing training and push yourself to new levels. This program is an abbreviated version of the protocol laid out in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual and will help even the newest climbers delve into the world of climbing training.

The Details

This program consists of 4 training “Phases,” followed by an on-the-rock “Performance Phase.” The training phases are:

  1. Base Fitness – 1 Week
  2. Strength – 3 Weeks
  3. Power – 2 Weeks
  4. Power Endurance – 2 Weeks

Today, we’ll introduce Aerobic Restoration & Capillarity (“ARC”) Training and give you some working examples of how it works and why we use it.

What is ARC Training and why is it relevant?

How do you start ARC Training?

The Ruchert Motion 5.13a – Grand Finale at the NRG

This fall has featured some pretty goofy weather conditions.  October was hot, November was wet, and December is…perfect?!?  Our NRG season typically wraps up before Thanksgiving.  After that, the days are so short, with frigid mornings and evenings, and nighttime temps that drop below our enjoyable-camping-with-kids threshold.  It’s also not uncommon to contend with snow, so even a stray warm day can end up wet.  Not to mention the holidays are coming, and we want to focus on that!  But Thanksgiving  weekend brought fantastic weather we couldn’t pass up…and we both put good work in on The Ruchert Motion 13a.  And when we saw that the forecast was just as good for the following weekend, we had to go back and bring our try hard.

The press out move…thankful for every inch!

But the kink in our plans was poor CragDaddy, who rolled his ankle punting off a gym boulder problem just one move away from sending a sick new V13 in our backyard no one knows about and never will because it imploded back into earth upon CragDaddy’s impact. 😉 Thankfully the “incident” turned out to be just a minor sprain, and by the time the weekend rolled around, he was pain-free with just an annoying amount of swelling.  He could toprope all day long…but going “a muerte” on his project still didn’t seem wise.  So unfortunately for him (but very much appreciated by me), the only things he was able to bring to this NRG double bonus weekend were superior belay skills, encouraging pep talks, and camera management skills.   Actually, before you feel too sorry for him, he DID manage to sneak in some try hard on his toprope burns, and I’m confident that he’ll be ready for Ruchert Motion next spring.

But all joking aside, I am very grateful that CragDaddy was still up for making a trip that was undoubtedly more fun for me than it was for him.  I definitely owe him some “support services” time back out there this spring.  

And thankfully, I made it worth his while.  It took 4 go’s, but I finally put it down at the end of Day 1.  My confidence was a rollercoaster all day.  The first burn was a warm-up, and I yarded through all the hard moves – the opening move, a tipped out move in the middle that is hard on my wrist, and the entire crux.  There’s another kinda hard sequence after the crux but it’s not tweaky, so I went for it but came up a little short and took a fall on an extended right shoulder that did not feel great.  It hurt for a few minutes but then seemed fine (and left me thankful that I’ve been doing all those little stabilizing exercises on the regular!)  Once I clipped the chains, my fingers were a lot warmer and I rehearsed all the hard moves as I lowered.  

My favorite kidcrushers.

My 2nd burn felt awesome.  I made it all the way to the crux without too much difficulty. Things were actually going so well that I unknowingly got my left foot up higher than I had been, which threw off my balance at the end of the crux, and my right hand slipped off a split second before I could move it to the next hold.  After a quick hang, I finished it up, and lowered off feeling very optimistic.

But my 3rd go I didn’t even make it to the crux.  I fell in the reachy 11+ section on the move that is hard on my wrist.  This particular move has me completely pressed out to my fingertips, then making a desperate pop to a jug.  I played around with some different beta, and found a sequence that was a little higher percentage.  The only down side to the new beta was that it was harder on the skin, which at this point, was at a premium thanks to that sharp little hold I dry fired off of on my previous burn.  Rather than exfoliating my finger tip any more by trying the crux on a non-send burn, I opted to just come down rather than rehearse it again, since splitting a tip would mean game over for the day.  Confidence plummeted.  

Big C in action.

4th go.  The opening move, the one that thwarted me all but twice last weekend, continued to go well.  I winced as I cranked out the new beta for the press out move, but was relieved when I glanced down at my finger tip and didn’t see any blood.  There’s a great rest stance after that, and I stayed there a good long while.  I moved through the next moves smoothly, made the clip, and entered the crux traverse.  The holds are heinously small, so I went as quickly as I could.  I was red-lining as I got my feet up to make the big exit move to the jug, but I held on for all I was worth and stuck the hold!  

Exiting the crux

All that was left between me and the last 20 feet of 5.10 land was the kinda hard traverse I’d fell at the end of on my warm-up.  The move getting into this traverse is never smooth for me.  The holds are an easy reach for CragDaddy, but it’s very awkward for me to get both hands established on the traverse holds, so I have to smear my foot on a very slippery hold and do a weird move that we christened the “donkey kick.”  Every time I do it, I’m afraid that foot is going to blow off, but it never did…until this time!  Luckily, it was just after both hands were on, so I managed to hang on.

The only other issue came in 5.10 land when I thought CragDaddy was short roping me, but it turned out to be my tail knot stuck in the bottom biner of the quickdraw.  ?!?  Never had that happen, never heard of it happening, but thankfully it was an easy fix. 

And…woohoo!  A perfect end to a fabulous fall climbing season!  Actually to be accurate, it wasn’t quite the end yet.  We climbed the next day too – CragKiddo got a chance to crush at the Meadow, and I got a chance for revenge on Stretch Armstrong 12a, the route I’d chickened out on the previous week.  CragDaddy looked longingly at Team Machine 12a, the route he’d “toprope sent” the previous week, but decided not to risk a lead fall, especially on that particular line, as its scary even with two good feet.

It’s pretty difficult to get good pictures when it’s just us and the kids, but CragDaddy did manage to set our camera up in a nearby tree to get some video footage.  Full disclosure, it’s not great – in order to get the whole route we had to shoot vertically.  And I climb painfully slow so it’s not exciting at all.  But it at least captures the moves and rad-ness of the line.  The zoomed in crux shots were taken on the sending go, but the rest of the footage is from other burns throughout the day.  We put it to music to make it less boring and also drown out the kids talking a little bit.  If you’d like to check it out, go here.  (And please excuse the try hard sounds on the opening move…)

I hope everyone had a great climbing season, and since it’ll probably be pretty quiet on the blog around here until after the new year, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season!  See you in 2018 and thanks for reading! 🙂

 

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Training Takeover: 8-Weeks to Rock Prodigy Status

Last night, the Rock Prodigy Training crew of Mark, Mike and Janelle Anderson stormed the Trango Social Media Headquarters and took the Trango Instagram hostage! Our plan is simple: over the next 10 days we will lay out a completely free, 8-week Introductory Training Program that will get YOU crushing at a whole new level (ideally before the authorities bust through our defenses of spring-loaded Big Bros, Squid-tipped Stick Clips and Cord Trapper Rope bags).

What Is This?

An 8-week program that will help climbers of ALL abilities, especially you! As an “introductory” program, it’s primarily intended as a sampler—a way to illustrate the value of systematic training to the uninitiated, while simplifying the process so that anyone can follow it, regardless of climbing experience. Think of it as a brief summary and trial-run of the world-renown Rock Prodigy Training Method.

How Can I Participate?

We will lay out the overarching program here, and then over the next few days provide video tutorials and demonstrations of each training activity, supported by links to reference materials, relevant research, and where the uber-psyched can go for more in-depth information. To participate in the training event of the year, simply follow us on Instagram  and check in on this blog daily for updated links to free additional resources.

The Program

The program is a slightly condensed version of the incredibly effective and time-tested Rock Prodigy Training Program (described in detail in the critically acclaimed Rock Climber’s Training Manual). On average, this program has improved climbing performance by 1.5 letter grades after just one season!  We will explain and demonstrate all of the same training exercises used in the standard program, but the length of training “phases” will be shortened slightly to provide the maximum training benefit in the shortest period of time.

When Do I Start?

You can start training whenever you’re ready! We will provide the first workout tomorrow on the Trango Instagram feed. That said, it’s a good idea to think about your climbing schedule for the coming year. For most of us, winter is the perfect time to start training in preparation for the spring climbing season. I’d recommend trying each workout once over the next two weeks, then enjoy the Holidays, build your psych and prepare your training equipment in anticipation of starting the program in early January. That will set you up to hit the crag cranking in early March.

The Details

This program consists of 4 training “Phases,” followed by an on-the-rock “Performance Phase.” The training phases are:

  1. Base Fitness – 1 Week
  2. Strength – 3 Weeks
  3. Power – 2 Weeks
  4. Power Endurance – 2 Weeks

During the 4 training phases, you will perform the following training activities, some of which you may have heard of before:

  • Aerobic Restoration & Capillarity (“ARC”) Training
  • Hangboard Training
  • Limit Bouldering
  • Campus Training
  • Linked Bouldering Circuits

Some of these activities may seem intimidating now, but the workouts we will present have each been tailored to suit those new to training, and any activity can be replaced with less-intense alternatives if desired (or if you lack the appropriate equipment).

The Performance Phase can last as long as you want, but typically you will see the best performance during the first 4-6 weeks after you finish the Power Endurance Phase.

What’s Next

Tune in tomorrow on the Trango Instagram Feed, for your primer on ARC Training for Base Fitness. We will update this page with links at the top of the page expanding on each day’s topic. Follow along, get psyched, and get ready to start crushing!

NRG at Thanksgiving

Did your post-Thanksgiving plans include shop til you drop or #optoutside?  As you might have guessed, ours involved the latter.  The forecast was beautiful for the early part of last weekend, so we squeezed in a quick visit to our favorite east coast climbing destination for a half day Friday and full day Saturday.  

Reachy 11+ section on Ruchert Motion 13a

All we had time for on Friday afternoon was a couple of pitches each at Bridge Buttress, and despite our best efforts, we just couldn’t pull anything together.  I tackled an old nemesis of mine – Stretch Armstrong 12a, while CragDaddy tried his hand at Team Machine, also 12a.  I’d been on Stretch before a handful of times, but never felt close to sending it.  The route is very appropriately named, and my crazy beta was far too desperate to link on point.  This time however, I was able to work out a slightly different sequence that felt a lot more doable.  It was very committing, and felt every bit of 12b/c, but it seemed like it would work.  Unfortunately, when my turn was up again, I just couldn’t get the job done.  The kids started arguing, the sun never quite came around so my hands got really cold, one kid started crying, I wasted a lot of energy trying to remember a sequence down low, other kid starts crying, and so on and so forth.  By the time I got to the crux, my head was far too distracted to commit to the moves.  I hung, then did the moves first try.  Ugh.  

The 1st world problem woes continued with CragDaddy’s turn on Team Machine.  Due to fading light, cranky kids, and several scary sections, he opted to toprope rather than lead it.  The crux had taken him forever on round 1, and he figured it was still so low percentage he might as well toprope it…but of course he did it clean, earning him the dreaded “toprope-send.”  Womp womp.  

CragDaddy, aka “toprope toughguy”

But despite the fruitlessness of our Friday endeavors, everyone woke up Saturday in good spirits, ready for the main event.  For over a year, we’d been eyeing The Ruchert Motion 13a out at Beauty Mountain.  With newfound confidence from our last couple of trips to Hidden Valley, I was ready to give it a whirl.  Conditions were darn near perfect – low 40’s in the morning, low 50’s by afternoon, plenty of sun at the base of the cliff for the kids to “bask” in.  (During the morning hours, they laid around on the rocks pretending to be king cobras waking up from hibernation.)  

My first run, however, was far from perfect, and I was actually pretty discouraged.  In hindsight, it probably would have made more sense to warm-up on something else first, but psych was high so we jumped right in, knowing it would take us a while to get the draws in. The Mountain Project entry describing the first few bolts as “reachy 11+” also played heavily into our decision to skip a proper warm-up…but that description proved to be wildly inaccurate, at least for CragDaddy and me.  

You know, just bassssking around at the crag.

After flailing around for about 15 minutes, I skipped the opening moves and THEN climbed through a couple of bolts worth of what I could see described as reachy 11+.  Then came the crux, and my first attempts were dismal.  I stick-clipped my way through, then flailed through the next sequence that, while easier than the crux, was still pretty hard.  The last 20 feet was really fun 5.10 climbing (the kind that makes for a great, actual warm-up), but by the time I got to the top I was more exhausted than warmed up, and lowered straight down without trying any of the moves again.  

CragDaddy’s experience was similar, and when he got down, we took a nice long break to eat leftover pizza and “bask” with our King Cobra children.  The kids then moved to a different game involving catching “crabs” on an island boulder stranded in a sea of leaves, so at CragDaddy’s encouragement, I took the opportunity to have second go on Ruchert.  This run was decidedly better.  I still couldn’t touch the first move, but my fingers were a lot more warmed up by this point, and and I WAS able to do the crux moves. 

Psych.

 

I was feeling very encouraged after my 3rd burn, especially when I actually was able to do the first move when I tried it again on the way down!  My 4th go, however, was the best yet – I only hung in two spots!  (And it should have been just one, but I botched a foot in one of the reachy moves before the crux.)  When I got to the crux I was pretty tired and starting to get a little sloppy with my feet, but I managed to get through it after a few tries, and was then able to shake out enough post-crux to finish the climb clean.  

The weather was forecasted to be drastically colder and cloudier on Sunday, so we headed back home Saturday night.  Judging by how wrecked my arms felt when I tried to rake leaves the next day, it was the best decision!  But that said…it feels awesome to have something “in the hopper” at the New again!  So many times I feel like I have such a love/hate relationship with the New because of all the times I get shut down on long moves.  But this one is gonna go down!  And hopefully sooner rather than later! Fingers crossed for this weekend, because if it doesn’t go down Saturday or Sunday, I’m gonna have to wait til spring!  

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Mom Guilt and Type 2 Fun…aka Making Lemonade

“Well, this sure is some slip-sliding fun!” I said with my best fake smile to both of my kids as we made our way down the gully to the base of the cliff.  We’d been hiking for about an hour along a trail that featured a steep incline, several hundred wooden steps, and LOTS of wet leaves.  Our pace had been slow but consistent, in a cold, misty drizzle that didn’t look like it had any intention of letting up any time soon, despite what the radar/forecast showed on my phone.  We were on our way to meet up with a photographer friend of mine who wanted to get some rad “climber amidst fall foliage” photos at our local crag.  Actually, we were supposed to have gone out there the day before… but had rescheduled for the following day since it was raining off and on and “conditions would be better tomorrow.”  (Said in quotes because conditions were in fact no drier, and 20 degrees colder.)  

But anyway, after I flashed my best fake smile to the kiddos there was silence for a couple of seconds.  Then my oldest looks up and says, “This is actually not that fun.”  He then proceeds to burst out laughing, at which point his younger sister quickly follows suit.  I wasn’t sure how to read his comment…He was right, of course.  Maneuvering around slick, leaf-laden rocks was “actually not that fun.”  But why were they laughing?  Their demeanor was genuine and silly, not sarcastic.  Perhaps the great alpinist Mark Twight’s famous words “it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun” can apply to children as well as grown-ups?

Our weather woes continued once we met up with Bryan Miller of Fixed Line Media, and our friend Robert, whom Bryan had somehow convinced to meet us out there.  “Splitter conditions, right?!?” Bryan said (now that WAS sarcasm.)  Conditions were downright miserable.  While it was no longer actively raining, the fog was so thick you could hardly make out any trees, let alone delicate fall colors.  But what else could we do…here we all were, and the rock was (mostly) dry and actually significantly warmer than the air temperature.  Let’s take some pictures! 

In case you were wondering, there are 335 stairs…we counted.

I got the kids established on their blanket, and passed out candy bribes food bags and some toys.  Surprisingly, no one had complained since way back when we first started hiking in (the little one ALWAYS takes a while to get her hiking mojo going.)  Everyone looked warm, happy, and in the process of being well-fed, so I decided to take a warm-up lap while Bryan rigged the ropes on the route he wanted to shoot.  

I was about halfway up when I heard a commotion coming from the kids’ area, followed by my oldest shouting up to me that his sister had peed in her pants.  I looked down to see my youngest with her pants around her ankles.  Sigh.  “Mommy, I’m cold!  I need you to snuggle me!”  she shouted pitifully, extending her arms up as high as she could, as if she could pluck me from the wall.  That’s when the mom-guilt started in…”Why are we out here?!?!?  What mother takes her children out in conditions like this!?!?” I berated myself inwardly while I outwardly tried to direct big brother to the bag of spare clothes on the ground (as my belayer patiently waited.)  

I lowered as soon as I could and put fresh clothes on my daughter (since of course the only step towards clean and dry clothes that had been made while I was up was the taking off of her shoes…which did NOT help with the cold situation.)  After dry clothes and the requested amount of snuggles it was time to shoot photos.  I managed to release myself from the snuggler’s grasp in exchange for my soft shell AND puffy jacket.  The route Bryan had chosen to photograph was Energy Czar 10d, for the aesthetics of it’s features, as well as the backdrop behind it (the latter of which was completely invisible at this point due to fog.)  He’d wanted me to do 2 laps, so that he could shoot from both sides of the route.  The route is not very tall, and I climbed fairly quickly, but by the time I was starting up on lap 2, youngest child was no longer satisfied with snuggling with the “mommy jackets.”  The mom-guilt continued to build.  I pictured my daughter lying on the couch in her therapist’s office as an adult, recounting the time I abandoned her on a blanket in the cold, wet woods to scale a cliff.  

Z’s demeanor improved dramatically the moment I got down, but only so long as she was attached to my lap, which made packing up difficult at best.  By the time we were ready to hike back out my inner monologue had me convinced that I was an unfit mother for my children and that DSS could potentially be waiting for me in the parking lot.  But then we started hiking.  

Within 5 minutes we were back at the soggy, leafy scramble that had sparked my “slip-sliding fun” comment.  The giggling started up again.  Along with some very melodramatic “whoa-oa-oa-oah’s!!!!!” that turned into even louder giggles.  Both children transformed into Mexican jumping beans on the wooden staircase, and by the time my wobbly knees got down to the wider, main part of the trail, they were “gone.”  Said in quotations, because I could clearly see my 3 year old about 30 feet away, standing very still behind a tree that covered up approximately one third of her body, with her eyes fixated on a large rock that had a suspicious flash of orange puffy exposed on the far side of it that looked remarkably like big brother’s jacket.

“WHERE DID MY CHILDREN GO?!?”  I speculated loudly as I kept walking.  More giggling ensued.  “I can’t find them anywhere?!?”  I said, and paused.  Wait for it….

“BOO!”  They jumped out from behind their respective hiding places like a flock of wild banshees, hooting and hollering in circles around me for a few moments before taking off again to find another place to hide.  And so the hike went, for the next 30 minutes.  Their grand finale was when they caught glimpse of our friends, whom we hadn’t waited for to hike out, knowing that they would catch up with us at some point.  Both kids dove into opposite directions off the trail into a drainage ditch.  The stayed there for several minutes as our friends approached, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal themselves.  The moment finally came, and the last section of hike before the parking lot was littered with laughter on all sides.  

As our friends drove away and I loaded my crew into the car, I looked at the two dirty, happy faces smiling back at me and my heart overflowed with gratitude.  Gratitude for these little people who turned what should have been a miserable afternoon into a happy walk in the woods.  Gratitude for the chance to make memories with these people, even especially the type 2 fun memories that we’ll retell again and again, maybe even to their children’s children one day.  And you know what?  As they chatterboxed the entire way home, that mom guilt started to slowly but surely fade away.  Clearly none of us were any worse for the wear after our wetter-and-colder-than-expected adventure.  In fact, one could make an argument that we were even better off!

When I remember to look at life through those gratitude lenses, I become a lot less worried about being (or rather NOT being) a perfect mom.  While I am a far from perfect mom, I can say without any doubt that I am the perfect mom for MY kids.  And while they are most definitely not perfect kids, they are the perfect kids for ME.  And I hope that we always help each other remember how to make lemonade out of those sour lemon kinda days!

Many thanks to Bryan Miller for the photos, Robert Hutchins for the belays, and to both for academy award winning death scenes after being shot by a 7 year old with a capgun…all 457 times.  All things considered, I’d say the pictures didn’t turn out half bad!  (Oh, and if you liked this, you might also like this one from the archives – “Type 2 Mountain Biking Fun with a 4 Year old.”)  

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Tenaya Mundaka: First Look, First Ascent

My latest climbing project—a 5.14 wall of thin edges that gently steepens into a cresting wave of granite at Devil’s Head, CO—presented me with a significant dilemma.  The climbing is 80% Smith Rock, precise edging on micro-chips with your hips plastered to the face and most of your weight on your feet, followed by 20% Rifle, gymnastic moves on steep rock with feet toeing in and hooking on glassy features.

I began the campaign in my trusty Tenaya Intis.  These are the ideal edging implement, with a stiff and precise forefoot that excels on credit card chips.  I was crushing the lower sections, routinely climbing up to the lip of the steep wall, but struggling to make progress on the wildly dynamic exit.  I decided to switch to Tenaya Oasi’s, my go-to shoe for gym-style climbing, where sensitivity and flexibility facilitate monkey-style pulling with your feet.

My progress in the steeps improved instantly, but it came at a price.  Though I could still climb through the technical start in Oasi’s, I had to pull a bit hard with my hands, compounding the wear on my already heavily-worn finger skin. I needed a shoe that could excel on both types of terrain—technical thin walls and gymnastic overhangs.

At that pivotal moment I had the opportunity to test-drive Tenaya’s ground-breaking Mundaka.  It was just the shoe I was looking for.  The Mundaka is perhaps best described as a sock with rubber on it, although that’s not doing it justice.  The toe box is tight and stiff—ideal for thin edging.  Yet the rubber sole ends at the forefoot, creating a nearly-bare arch that is completely flexible (you can easily bend the shoe in half at the arch).  This enables tremendous toeing power on steep incuts, allowing the climber to wrap the fore foot around features and pull with your feet.  It’s almost like getting an extra pair of arms delivered in a 12” cardboard box!  Throw in a perfectly sculpted heel cup and it’s got everything a serious climber could ask for.

When I slipped the Mundakas on for the first time at the base of my project, I joked about how tightly the shoes formed to my feet, promising my toes would only tolerate a brief burn.  Yet amazingly I climbed happily for well over an hour.  The Mundakas are so well-shaped, pain was never an issue, and if anything, the shoes became more comfortable and sensitive the longer I climbed.  Also worth noting is the vastly improved Velcro tabs at the end of the adjustable closure system (similar to that of the roundly lauded Tenaya Iati closure system).  The new tabs offer so much sticking power I had trouble removing them as I lowered off the route.  There is zero chance of these coming un-stuck mid climb!

My new footwear gave me the confidence and peace of mind to focus on my climbing.  In a few more tries I finally stuck the burly dyno to the lip, mantled onto the lime green lichen-covered slab and waltzed up to the summit, finally completing the first ascent of Walk Tall Or Not At All, the hardest route at Devil’s Head at 5.14c.

It’s hard compare Mundakas to anything else I’ve climbed in.  Most shoes excel in one aspect and fall flat in another.  Not the Mundaka.  These shoes easily matched the performance of my best edging shoes and far exceeded the toeing/hooking power of my best gym shoe.  They will definitely be my new go to shoe!

Breaking the 5.13 Barrier!

Rodent’s Lament 13b (although pic was taken last spring by Nick Hitchcock)

This past weekend I hit a huge personal milestone for me.  Though my climbing journey has more or less featured slow and steady improvement over the last decade (“more” during times of focused training, “less” during times of pregnancy/newborns), it has been FIVE WHOLE YEARS since I have broken into a new number grade.  But that all changed this weekend! 

It actually started this past spring on our kid-free anniversary weekend at Hidden Valley, VA.  We had decided that sans kids was the perfect opportunity to test out the hardman(woman) waters, so we went project shopping.  I was drawn to Rodent’s Lament 13b, a line on the Falcon Wall, home of everything technical and vertical…aka my favorite wall at Hidden Valley.  The crux was pretty short-lived and really boils down to one singularly desperate move  – a long launch to a good slot off a terrible sloper crimp (aka “slimper.”)  I could barely initiate the movement before popping off, and I walked away inspired to include hangboarding in my summer training regimen.  

Hangboard I did, but to be honest, I hadn’t given Rodent’s Lament very much thought again until recently.  Conditions took forever to get good this fall, then when they did, we spent a lot of time at the New.  When we did end up at Hidden Valley we were side tracked by the bounty of other awesome lines that are all a much shorter hike than the Falcon Wall (first world problems, right?!?)  CragDaddy, meanwhile, had slowly but steadily been putting in work on his project out at the Crazy Horse Wall (the 13a slab start of the 5.10 classic Spurs), and he was pushing for us to each have a project day.

Not a bad view from the clifftop!

I was “cautiously cool’ with the idea.  Three weekends ago my psych was out the roof after sending Coneheads 12c…but since then we’d had a gym weekend at home, and then I’d gone on a girl’s weekend that had involved far more eating and drinking than it did exercise.  I had no idea what to expect performance-wise.  But what harm could it do, right?  

If you’ve never tried s’mores with your leftover Halloween candy, you’re missing out!

My first attempt started out great – the initial V4ish crux felt a lot easier than I’d remembered.  But the one (and a half) move wonder crux still felt ridiculously hard.  I probably tried the move 5 different ways 50 different times, but nothing.  Not even really close.  I decided to pull through and take it to the top just to give my fingers a break, then practice some more on the way down.  The upper bit is easier but more sustained, with a long sequence directly after the crux that probably goes around 11d/12a.  That part went really well, so when I lowered back down, I decided to battle with the crux one more time 30 more times before giving up.

This time, however, I actually started making progress, first getting my fingertips even with the slot, then in it just a little, then a little more, until finally, I was able to hang on.  Shocked at this surprising new development, I started trying the sequence from a few moves earlier, coming in from the not-quite-hands-free rest 3 moves before.  It was hard…really hard…but I could do it!  Feeling good about both the start and finish of the climb, I now knew that if I could juuuust make that move once, I’d be able to send!  

All smiles on Pony 5.8

I was ecstatic that my next go was a one hang.  Even more exciting was that when I tied in for a final attempt, conditions were the best we’d seen all day.  No more cold mist, just fading light and dry, crisp air.  And apparently that’s all it took!  The crux felt the smoothest it had felt all day, and despite an adrenaline-induced elvis leg that started kicking in post-crux, I managed to keep my breathing under control and made it to the chains!

An interesting clipping stance…

We celebrated Saturday night with an epic campfire and Halloween candy s’mores, then went out for CragDaddy’s project the next day.  He made decent progress before splitting a hole in his fingertip – while there’s still one move he can’t do down low, he’s now got the upper slab dyno on lock down.  (Ironically I found a great sequence that worked pretty well for me on the lower moves, but I got nothing for the slab dyno…if only I could tag him in and we could go for a team send!!!)  Day 2 was also a great day for Big C – he got in 4 pitches, with 2 of those even being “mock leads.”  (He’s been dying to learn how to lead climb, so we allowed him to tie in to the other side of the rope so he could practice hanging quickdraws and clipping in while still safely attached to a toprope belay.)

I am of course ecstatic to break a new number barrier!  I’m also, if I’m being honest, wondering if the route is a little soft.  In many ways, while none of the individual moves compared to the crux on Rodent’s Lament, something like Coneheads seemed harder to actually link together for a send.  That’s why one-move wonders are so hard to grade, because there’s hardly any “putting it all together” work that needs to be done – basically once you can do the move, you can do the route!  (And this particular move on this particular route suited my skill set and height perfectly)

But soft or not, I’m going to (re)take the advice that an old climbing mentor gave me a long time ago when I was first breaking into 5.12’s and down grading them all simply because “if I could do it, it couldn’t be that hard.”  He gave me some wise words that I’ve since passed his along to many people – “TAKE THE GRADE GIVEN IN THE GUIDEBOOK AND CALL IT DONE!”  His point was that grades are completely subjective, and that one person’s “softie” is another person’s “sandbag”, and that it all evens out in the end anyway.  Don’t downplay a route simply because it potentially plays well to your strengths, and don’t automatically assume a route is underrated just because it feels hard to you.  

So there you have it – a 5.13 for me, and some words of wisdom about not going crazy analyzing grades, all wrapped up into one post.  Because despite how much we all love to debate climbing grades with fellow climbers (don’t act like you don’t!), at the end of the day it’s all just a bunch of arbitrary numbers.  But that said…5.13 is pretty rad! 😉

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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