All posts by Daniel Brayack

Red River Gorge in the Fall Part 1 of 2

The blessed kiss of death – aka Fall had not come the weekend before Rocktoberfest at the Red River Gorge.  It was still hot.  and humid.  mostly humid.  We fought the conditions.  Conditions won a few battles.  The conditions won the war.  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t that good either.

The weather report said rain and as promised, it poured.  But with the steep routes and tall nature of the cliff, rain doesn’t make much of a difference other than “getting wet on the hike” and sometimes “getting misted at the chains.”

Where’s the Beef 5.12c at Bob Marley – Photo Mike Wilkinson

We climbed at Muir Valley Saturday and I was feeling pretty ok.  I got on “Mirage” 12c as my warm-up, hanging the draws for my buddy in the group who wanted to do the route.  I was pretty surprised.  I had flashed the route maybe 5 or 6 years ago, but hadn’t been on it since and with my training, specifically my hangboarding, it felt pretty easy.  All of the “bad” holds were definitely much better than the Rock Prodigy Trango Crimp which I trained this summer.  I asked my belayer, David, “?Where is the crux on this thing?”  “You just did it,” was my response…Boo-Yah!  That was a good sign for my climbing for the weekend.

I’m weird and atypical in that I like to warm-up hard.  I’ve been climbing for 16? years now and my fingers are pretty strong and I know my limits, so I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone.  But…well…I just like to get on stuff close to my onsite/flash limit for my warm-up.  I find no value in doing a 5.10 to even a 5.11 to warm-up for a 5.13.  A lot of times, the limiting factor for me is skin; I have about 5 or 6 pitches in me in a day and I don’t want to waste them on routes that I’ve already done warming up for my project for the day.

There are a lot of crags for me at the red that are no-goes.  As I’ve talked about in the past, what I really like to do in climbing is new routes.  I’d rather climb a 5.7 slab then repeat a 12+ that I’ve done before.   I don’t know what it is about me, but I just… doing new routes.  The problem with the red for me is that I’ve already done MOST of the routes at all the older crags.  This makes the new route development a key to my happiness. 

At the “Solarium” there were two routes I hadn’t done:  “Bundle of Joy” 13a and “Urban Voodoo” 12d.  I tried “Bundle of Joy” but wasn’t able to do the last move.  I could complain conditions and stuff, but really I just think that I wasn’t strong enough for it.  Instead, I set my sites on “Urban Voodoo.”

I went up the route, but fell at the low boulder problem onsite.  The climbing here involved a couple REALLY small two finger pockets and a big move.  I figured out what holds I wanted to use on my next go, but didn’t do the move.  As I typically do with a project, I won’t do the crux until I’m on the go or at least I won’t put 100 percent effort into the crux until…I’m on the go.    

If you actually read my blog, I’m telling you – this is really important tactics for getting routes done fast and it really pays off for me.  If you know how to do it, and you are pretty sure you can do it, you’re wasting your time doing it off the hang over and over to “rehearse” it.  Total waste of time.

The guidebook says the crux is the upper roof section of the route, so I climbed up to there and took on the bolt since I had already fallen.  I felt the ticked holds and these didn’t feet very good.  I made a few attempts and wasn’t getting anywhere. 

Being a route developer, I’ve learned to “not just grab the ticked holds.”  I found a decent and previously un-used hold a bit left of the ticked sequence – a good two pad edge.  Getting to the hold wasn’t too bad either – with some heels, but a core intensive bump.  From this hold, I had to do a big move back to the “official” sequence and I actually did this move once to feel out the body position.  The sequence, however, relied on a key left heel-hook that was pretty bad.  My Tenaya Iati’s were brand new to me, though they had already earned their street credit on “Mirage.”  So far, the Oasi’s have been performed admirably for me, but if my heel blew – or even wobbled a little bit, I was out of the sequence.  I would have normally worn the Oasis on anything at the red, but I found the extra stiffness of the Iati’s pays off when toeing in hard on ripples and the heel on them fit my foot like a glove.

The Tenaya Iati

Another key-to-sending tip of mine is to shotgun the route.  It was chilly (though it felt hot and humid while climbing.)  I lowered to the ground, did a good shake, pulled the rope and got right back on.  I was essentially trading the pump and fatigue for warm-up and psyche.  For me, this trade is usually worth it.  I immediately fired the opening boulder problem, bearing down REALLY hard on a tiny two-finger pocket.  My hangboard training paid off and the hold – maybe a ½ pad felt like a jug to me and I stuck the good holds.  There was a good rest so I walked up to the roof, clipped the bolt, then came back to compose.  I wasn’t actually SUPER worried about the first crux, though the roof, I knew, was going to be pretty dicey.  And I was really worried about the heel-hook.

I took a deep breath and pulled into the sequence, sticking the shouldery jug crimp I found.  I crossed around, pulling over the roof and stuck a so-so crimper.  I looked hard at the sketchy heel-hook hold, said a prayer, and slowly placed my heel on.  My abs and core tension felt solid thanks to all the abs I’ve been doing.  As routes usually go for me, the move was easy.  I stuck the next good hold and my heel didn’t move a cm.  The shoes re-affirmed their street credit and I did the easy but pumpy section to the chains for my 446th 5.12 lifetime redpoint.

I’ve talked about this in several older blog posts, but I tend to “discover” holds and sequences at the red a lot.  Two notable routes are “Tuskan Raider” 12d and “Zen and the Art of” (I’m at work.) 12d.   On Tuskan Raider, I found a new pocket in the cheese-pocket section that made the route significantly easier.  All of my friends also used that hold last I checked, it’s now the obvious chalked pocket.  On Zen, I found a series of ½ to ¼ pad crimpers before the leftward traverse which takes that crux down a notch.  I don’t know if I’m just a bad person, but when it comes to climbing routes, I’ve found that “looking around some” instead of just blinding going for the chalked holds has paid off.  I don’t feel like I’m cheating – I mean…the holds are there, right on the bolt line.  …I know I know….I’m ruining climbing for everyone….

Our second day at the red for the weekend was definitely hotter.  I got an email from Mike Wilkinson asking me of he could take pictures of me climbing.  Being a climbing photographer, I have limited experience with other climbing photographers, so I was stoked.  We sorted out climbing plans and met up at the Bob Marley crag. “Bob Marley” is another crag where I’ve done most of the routes, though my last trip there, I scoped the line “Skinny Love” which is advertised to be the “Tuna Town” of the Bob Marley crag.  I found the route to be actually a much easier version or Tuna Town, but still pretty awesome. 

Skinny Love -12d starts easy.  Really easy – about 50 feet of 5.11- climbing through good holds.  It’s a new route, so stuff is still breaking off and some holds are questionable (please don’t blow please don’t blow.)  There’s a full on ledge rest after the initial 5.11 section and the stone turns bullet (more bullet at least.)  From the ledge, there’s a really neat V3 boulder problem that leads to an almost-no-hands rest.  From here the business ensues.  A 15 foot power boulder problem on smaller holds, culminating with a big move to a good holds and then a couple “don’t blow it moves” before the jug ledge.

I didn’t get it first go – I missed some holds, but after a long rest and some serious focus, I ticked this one off pretty easily second go.  (number 447.  I’ve always been an obsessive person.)  Standing under the final headwall in the rest, I realized the crux of the route was about the height and angle of our premier wall at the gym here in Charleston.  My power and strength were good for my training, I relaxed and fired the rig.

Having ticked off that route, and it being hot, there weren’t any routes that I was super stoked for, so I got on “Where’s the Beef” for Mike to shoot photos.   I had already done the route, so I wasn’t worried about falling or sending the route, so I just clowned around some for the photos, trying to do crazy things like throw my feet over my head and stuff.  Climbing IS suppose to be fun right? !!

Sorry – I don’t have many photos from this trip – it rained you know?  🙂
Here’s a preview for my next blog post coming soon:
Brenna Priest at the Gallery – RRG
Erica Lineberry at the Gallery – RRG

It Is Fall. But the weather didn’t get the memo. Jackson Falls.

Fall is here, but I don’t think the weather got the memo.  It’s been pretty miserable so far here in West Virginia. 

King Snake 5.12d.  Photo Lauren Goff

Two weekends ago, we made the long drive to Jackson Falls in Southern Illinois.  I haven’t been there since I put the finish touches on the guidebook I published for the area last fall.  It’s about an 8 hour drive for me.  Yusuf Daneshyar, my buddy and author or the book asked me early this summer if I could do a trail day and I told him that I would try.

Confirming the trip with the female administration, we set out late Thursday night after work for the long haul.  Though it’s a long drive, the climbing at Jackson Falls is AWESOME plus I really wanted to help out with the trail day.  I didn’t know what it would be, but it ended being right up my alley! I’m trained as a bridge engineer and we built a pedestrian bridge over the waterfall!

I promised Lauren all these awesome waterfalls and funny enough, it had been so dry this summer there that all the waterfalls were dried up! It made building the bridge a lot easier though.  Now, I stated I’m training as a bridge engineer, but that doesn’t actually mean that I can build a bridge.  Thankfully, there were several guys in the group who were carpenters and we snapped the thing together pretty quickly and efficiently.  Being a route setter, I’m pretty good at screwing.  So I just spent most of the time holding wood and screwing.    Yusuf promised me he would send me pictures of the bridge with water flowing, but until then, just use your imagination.

Though we had the trail day, we still had a crap ton of climbing time.  The way Jackson Falls is laid out, the camping is right at the crag, so once you’re there, you don’t really move your car at all.  The closest amenities are far enough away that climbers are better off just bringing in all their food/water for their trip.  Its pretty awesome not driving anywhere for such a long time and I think those 3 days may have been my longest “no driving” time of my life.  I’d really have to think about that…but yeah.  Kind of crazy to think about right?

Parking the Car for 3 Days.

I actually like climbing (I’m definitely not the best climber at the crag.)  With the conditions being so hot and humid, I backed things off and did a bunch of easier pitches for the most part.  I started strong and got a second go and onsite of two short 5.12cs – “Heavy Horses” and “Storm Watch.”  Both of these involved short but hard boulder problems on small monos and two finger pockets.  Because of my training and specifically my hangboarding, these are my greatest strengths.  I mostly stuck to cleaning up on the classic 5.10s and easy 5.11s, climbing as many pitches as I could convince my girlfriend to belay me on.

King Snake 5.12d.  Photo Lauren Goff

I set my sites on one route:  King Snake 5.12d.  Conditions and the holds on this one especially were just plain awful, but I strapped on my brand new Tenaya Iati’s which earned their street credit on this route.  I didn’t get the route, but fell, my hands slipping off the last HARD move of the route. I was really bummed, but also really stoked.  The route is really difficult for about 30 feet of super intensive power enduro bouldering – big moves between good and not-so good holds with really bad feet.  This route is now my main project at Jackson Falls!  To be honest, I was surprised I got that far.  I snapped a picture of my temperature/humidity gauge.

83 % Humidity.  66 Degrees F

It’s just so hard to climb in the mank.  I chalk like a madman and use a lot of isopropyl alcohol, but I still feel like I just got out of the pool!

All in all, I really banged it out at Jfalls, despite the bad conditions! (Almost all of these were new routes for me.)

What it Takes (for me) to Climb 5.13.

My climbing buddy Fred Gomez once asked me, “Who’s the best climber at the crag?”  I had not heard the expression so I looked around and said, “Well, you I think.”   “NOoooooooooooo!” he exclaimed, “The climber who is having the most fun!”

I thought about that and really I don’t think that’s true.  The best climber at the crag is generally that person that is one foot-slip away from a full fledged roid rage.  You know – the one who seems angry all the time and has his/her draws on that really hard route at the crag…and is blaring really bad euro-trash techno.


One of my friends once told me, “It’s pathetic that you need to train to climb 5.13.”  I guess that could be true in a sense, but it’s what it takes for me to climb hard.  My “don’t really care” baseline these days is easy 5.12, but I really need to push myself to keep in the upper 5.12 and 13- range.

The biggest thing I have going on in my life is rock climbing and I train very hard for climbing.  But I’ve been thinking a lot about my training lately.  What are my goals?  What is my motivation?  In the “Training Manual” which is the street name for “The Rock Climber’s Training Manual,” the Andersons prescribe to choose a goal route and then train for that route specifically.  But I have trouble really just focusing on one route.  I will typically make a broad decision – the Red River Gorge, or the New River Gorge (or 50/50) and my focus toward one or the other (more power or more power enduro.)  I just can’t focus on one hard route.  Why not? 

The Darkside at the Red River Gorge.  Me sending “Tuskan Raider 12d”

I’ve come to realize that I train for the sake of training.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a better climber, but I really just like the beat down!  My typical strength phase is a very demanding and grueling part of my life.  I wake up between 400 and 430.  I run between 5-10 km (30 minutes to an hour.)  I then go to work for 10+ hours.  If it’s a training day I will do a 2-hour hangboard workout including warm up, then come home, play some Mario Kart and go to sleep.

While running, I’m not dreaming about the crimpers on my 5.14 life goal route.  I’m thinking about it time to time of course, but most of the time I’m just thinking about normal life things.  My dog.  My girlfriend.  Whether or not I can afford a new engine for my boat.  Whether someone is going to run me over with their car.  It’s 4 in the morning and I haven’t eaten yet, so I’m thinking about donuts (just kidding.)  The run is very demanding of me, but the motivation of the run is just pushing myself.  If I just tried to think about climbing the whole time, I’d just hit the snooze and go back to bed!

I made my list of routes that I want to do this Fall season. I feel a little awkward sharing it though.  There aren’t any big numbers or anything.  I do have in my mind a couple “big numbers for me” that I want to try though – things that I have trouble even writing down in my climbing journal.  Here is my short list of routes for the season:

Ryan Smith – The Pod 13a/b
Erika Thompson on Apollo Reed, her first 13a.  She climbed “Slash and Burn” 12d, though which is considerably harder last season!
New River Gorge:
  • ·      Sweetest Taboo 13b
  • ·      Travisty 13a
  • ·      Dial 911 13a
  • ·      Diamond Life 13a
  • ·      Nude Brute 13a
  • ·      Logotherapy 13a
  • ·      Original Crankster 13a
  • ·      The Pod 13a
  • ·      B52 13a
  • ·      Krag Kommander 13a

Mercy Seat 13a.  Not on my project list, but on my “Do it so I never have to do it again list”
Red River Gorge:
  • ·      Darth Mall 13b
  • ·      Golden Boy 13b
  • ·      Paradise Lost 13a
  • ·      Convicted 13a
  • ·      40 oz of Justice 13a
  • ·      Calm Like a Bomb 13a
  • ·      Dog Fights and Fist Fights 13a
  • ·      American Dream 12b (seriously this one is hard)
And of course, my dream routes (don’t tell any of my friends though):
  • ·      Kaleidoscope 13c
  • ·      Mango Tango 13d
  • ·      The Project 13c
  • ·      BOHICA 13b
  • ·      Proper Soul 14a

Ten Sleep – Part 2 (the meat and potatoes)

When we last left the action, our tragic hero had decided that he wasn’t a crappy climber and it was time to “Tie one on” to poorly-quote Stephen King’s – Lisey’s Story.

The Cigar at Ten Sleep

With my Spanish buddy, David, we hiked our butts up to the “Slavery Crag.”  Did I ever mention how tough the hikes are at Ten Sleep?  Well.  After doing the hike to the “Ark”, the hike to Slavery really only did take us 15 minutes!  I was feeling STOKED.  PYSCHED.  CRUSH MODE.  I warmed up on “Head Like a Hole” (12a) by hanging the draws.  This route is pretty popular so I figured I’d do the nice guy thing and leave my draws on it for the day. 

Calm Like a Bomb 12d climbs the right of center crack

My goal for the day was to try and send the fairly steep “Calm Like a Bomb” 12d.  The route is one of the non-descript pitches at Slavery.  Most people spend their time on “Happiness in Slavery” 12b and “EKV” 12c, but I had already done those pitches.  “Calm Like a Bomb” climbs a crack that peters out toward the top.  The first half of the route is pretty easy – maybe 10+ or 11- climbing, but then it gets real, really fast.  I had the pleasure of hanging the draws as well, and started pulling pretty hard – semi-small moves between really small holds and bad feet.  As with any onsite climb, the details are pretty fuzzy, but I definitely remember hanging a draw on a really bad right-hand pinch and clipping.  I think this was right in the middle of the crux!  I managed to hang on though.  I did a few more hard moves and was moving over into the “vert section” and I had one more hard move. 

Once again, the details were fuzzy, but I remember being really out of balance on some pretty bad holds.  I looked down, saw a really bad looking smear, and made the instant decision to trust my Tenaya Tarifa.  They stuck and I stuck it!  I spent some time on the last rest before the final boulder problem shaking (I was onsite) but the move to the anchors ended up being only 12- or 11+ and BOO YAH!  I was so stoked.  It was my Third 12d onsite and probably my second legit one.   

Georgie Abel on Shut the Duck Up 13a at Pyschoactive
Lena Moinova – Go Back to Colorado 12b at Psychoactive.  Lena swears that move is totally necessary.

The next day I took a semi-rest day to shoot photo and hang out with my fellow Trango teammate Ethan Pringle and his gal Georgie Abel.  We climbed at the “Psychoactive Wall” which stays in the shade almost all day (just in the early and late day sun FYI.)  Last year I sent the 13a pitch “Shut the Duck Up” so I had no problem warming up on the route with a few takes to get the line rigged for images.  I was pretty proud of myself – doing all the moves first try on it (off the hang for the crux.)  I shot some images of Georgie working the route and did “Mirth” 12a onsite.  Remember my prime directive – climb as many 5.12s as I can (that was number 434 lifetime.)

Did you see that cow?????? WOOF!

The next day, my friends and I checked out the “Sidewalk” area at Ten Sleep, a notable and atypical morning crag.   I warmed up sending “If Dreams Were Thunder” 12b hanging the draws.  THE route to do, however is the super duper luper long (25 bolts) route:  “Sheep Reaction” 12a.  This one just goes on FOREVER.  I’m a pretty good enduro climber and this one felt easy for the grade – I was never pumped and not a single move felt hard.  It was a really nice and good experience though.  It was great to get so much climbing in!  I certainly recommend this route to anyone who is looking for adventures.  I don’t really like adventures myself, but every now and then, its good to get into one so you can remember why you try to avoid them.

Bob Value on Sheep Reaction 12a at the Sidewalk
You said 25 draws right?  Plus anchors yeah.

The next two days were hard going.  Its rained on us, and we couldn’t climb :/.  The end of the trip was approaching quickly so I really had to get some routes done. 


We went up to the cool kid’s crag and I decided to try a new route that Eric Horst bolted at the Sphinx.  It was a good pitch and he rated it 12b.  I got the onsite pretty easy – it being small holds and big moves, both of which suit me well.  

I then set my sites on the “Tangerine Fat Explosion” 13a. 


I heard that this route was a total gimme and a pretty easy onsite, so I tried it.  The bottom of it was wet and it was pretty humid out, but I managed to fire through the boulder problem pretty easily.   Coming out of the boulder problem (it climbs over a small roof) I made a dead-point move to a sloper hoping it was good and it turned out to be…good enough.  The next sequence involved (I think) some smaller holds and maybe a mono with good feet and then a rest.  Then there was a run-out section; there are generally two types of run-outs on hard sport climbs: 


1.  The climbing is so easy that it doesn’t matter. 

2.  The climbing is so hard, you can’t stop to clip. 


Well.  It was one of those cases where the climbing was hard :/.  But I managed to make it through the boulder problem.  Having good grip strength is one of the most important aspects in climbing and thanks to the Mark and Mike Anderson training program, that is one of my strengths.

Another hard day at camp

There was some butter and bread climbing for a few bolts with big holds to stand on and incut jugs to rest, though I continued to climb conservatively.  On routes like this, I’ve learned there is usually one more big punch at the end.  And so was the case.  Guarding the last bolt and some obviously easy flow-stone climbing, there were a series of chalked holds.  I went up off a big lock-off and felt several of them and immediately sorted out my strategy.  I made a big lock-off (skipping several holds) going up right hand to this right facing sidepull and stepped my feet up.  For the second time on the trip, my onsite depending on standing on a small really bad smear.   My Tarifa came through for me and, out of balance, I made a dead-point move for the hold below the bolt.  I remember thinking…….please let it be good please let it be good, though I was prepared for it to not be good.  And the hold was – a nice ¼ pad incut crimper!  BOO YAH!  Onsite baby!  And also hanging the draws.    

This is where they put bad people who downgrade Tangerine Fat Explosion

The trip was quickly winding down and I had one more day.  I was feeling good and we headed up to the “Downtown Area” which contains the phallic free-standing pillar…the…uh..cigar…yeah…Really doesn’t look like a cigar to me ;).

The previous two years, I worked the route “Sleep Reaction” 13a to no avail.  Conditions weren’t super good, but after about 30 or 40 tries, I finally got route!  For me, sending the route revolved around a single movement – grabbing two of the worst holds I’ve ever grabbed in my life.  I was actually quite close to being able to just hold the holds and do a pull-up, but I couldn’t and I had to actually use my feet which was quite hard.  When I got it, it was pretty anti-climatic for me.  I was happy to get it of course, but it really didn’t feel like a major accomplishment for me. 

Sleep Reaction 13a
Sleep Reaction 13a
Sleep Reaction 13a

I think my most memorable send was also my last major send of the trip: my onsite of “Heart Breaker” 12c.  This route starts off pretty easy as it shares the start with a 5.11.  “Heart Breaker” however, busts out of the dihedral left directly into some seriously HUGE moves.  I’m good at big moves.  I have long arms and I have a lot or power, so the first couple big ones were pretty easy for me – I didn’t have to jump or anything, just make big reaches.


At one big move I felt that I would have to jump.  I was going from a good hold to another (seemed to be) good hold but at the last second, I intuitively dropped a really high back step and just reached.  OMG….that’s right OMG.   Not a good hold.  Not a good hold at all.  “OH DUCK OH DUCK OH DUCK.”  Yeah.  I did that a few times when I grabbed the hold, matched up, then fired for a good glory jug. 

Don’t forget the dog!
Where’s Raina?

And that’s when the pump settled in.  I was on a really good horizontal rest with so-so feet (the option of too high feet or lower, but worse feet.)  I took a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng rest here, but really couldn’t get the tingles out.  It looked like there was one more hard move before the glory section.  (Seems to be a theme at Ten Sleep?)  I made a exploratory move up to what looked like a mono.  It was a VERY deep drilled mono that was big enough for me to two-finger stack.  I committed to the move and hiked the feet going for a left-hand sidepull….which was crap.  Totally crap.

Our campsite

I was red-lining and couldn’t hold the sidepull so I WENT HARD again left to what ended up being a ½ pad jug crimper!  Glory!  I was still super pumped, but the rest was cake. Back to “OH DUCK OH DUCK OH DUCK OH DUCK OH DUCK.”  I couldn’t stop saying.  That route just blew my mind.  That was for sure one of the best experiences of my climbing career. 

After climbing, we crawled back to the camp site and started packing things up.  We had to leave in the morning and I had a 24 hour drive to do.  It was sad to leave the campsite – my home for the past two weeks.  I took a few photos, jumped in the creek naked on last time for good luck and waved good bye to Ten Sleep.  Maybe forever?  Maybe just for another year. 

Who’s ready for some beeeeeer!

This could be all yours for 350k  Its for sale.
The cup cakes at Dirty Sallies are excellent

Ten Sleep – Summer 2015

The summers in West Virginia are brutal.  The rain, heat and the oppressive humidity make it off-season.  We have very little respite and for the most part, I just fish and route develop during the summers.  I’ve taken a trip out west every summer to escape the heat, and for the past 4 years, we’ve gone to Ten Sleep Canyon in Wyoming.
Joy of Heresy 5.11d in Ten Sleep Wyoming
The drive out is mind numbing – 24 hours according to google earth, but after stops and all, it ends up being more like 30 + hours with two drivers.
On the way out this year, we decided to check out Spearfish Canyon which was on the way.  According to google earth, its best for us to come across I 90 (I had to pick someone up in Cleveland) – however, the tolls across that way are ridiculous and with all the roadwork, we made better time on our way back across I 80.    Just an FYI.
I will generally do a “day here or there” on a big trip to prospect for future trips.   My overall impression of Spearfish was….kind of cool and maybe worth a trip!  From my one day, it seems like a “mini version” of Ten Sleep.  The rock is about the same or maybe a little better, but it seems a lot smaller – both in quantity and in height.  Unfortunately, I’m starting to run out of routes at Ten Sleep so I need to start looking for new areas! 
And that’s why we come out west!!
At Spearfish, we climbed at the Big Picture Gully which was suggested to us by a friend.  The hike here was pretty horrible.  We were fresh out of the car and on little sleep, but it seemed particularly hard!  The canyon itself was pretty neat – with lots of excellent fly fishing stretches (that’s a big plus for planning a trip.) 
Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon
Flowers in Spearfish Canyon
I warmed up on “Drip Dry” 5.11c onsite pretty easily.  I don’t remember too much about this route other than it was “pretty easy limestone pulling.”  It was said to be one of the better pitches in the area.  My prime climbing directive is to climb as many hard routes as I possibly can and I am gunning for 500 career 5.12s, so I got on “Dirk Diggler” 5.12a to get a feel for the area and got the onsite, then followed it up with the onsite of “Lung Butter” 5.12a which felt significantly harder.  But boom.  Mischief managed.  Spearfish next year?  Maybe……..
Dirk Diggler 5.12a at Spearfish Canyon
We finished the drive that night to Ten Sleep and set up camp, the same exact site we’ve had for 3 years now at Leigh Creek.  I immediately adjusted as I set my tent and cot up to regard this as my home away from home for the next two weeks.  When we left, it was indeed a tearful moment for me.
I spent the next few days at Ten Sleep adjusting and picking off some low 5.12 onsites.  I have already done MOST of the book-starred 12-s at Ten Sleep, so its getting harder and harder for me to find new pitches.  I returned to “Captain Insano” 5.11d which I had tried my first year at Ten Sleep.  This 100 foot pitch includes lots of difficult climbing up this imposing steep wall.  It seems like this one goes on forever with no easy climbing on it:  hard boulder problem, then rest, then hard boulder problem etc.  The route culminates with a very difficult boulder problem going to the anchor.  The actual movement itself isn’t that bad, but with both the pump and the mental shutdown, its pretty hard going.  This is where I fell onsite several years ago.  Knowing what I was in for, I took a BIG rest right before the final section and did it easily.  I’ve climbed a lot of 5.12s in my life (my count as of today 442.)  Trust me.  This pitch is 12a all day long and I updated my book.  You all should too.  Its an AWESOME route though!!  If you’re looking for an adventure route, then this should be at the top of your Ten Sleep list.
One thing I noted this trip is that almost ALL the routes at Ten Sleep climb at least one bolt into the “blue” flowstone rock.  The “good clean rock” on Limestone is the white stuff that doesn’t get hit by rain, but where the water runs, you get the “flow stone” which is much sharper and less quality for climbing (pain pain pain.)  Very interesting indeed.  You like…..always get to do some flow stone moves and you also get to clip the anchors from it.  Life is (painfully) hard.
On the fifth day of our trip, we talk ourselves into the long …. very long…. very long…hike to “The Ark.”  We heard about this crag from some Canadians who raved about it!  It is quite distinguishable from the Mondo Beyondo area or pretty much any of the cool walls in the canyon.  It’s the “big one way over there” pretty much.  
The hike into “The Ark”….this is the gravy part.
They said the hike was horrible though.  It was really horrible.  But boy were the routes worth it!  It was this day of my trip where I really settled in.  For some reason on trips, I always have low self-expectations – like I feel like I’m a crappy climber and that I can’t climb hard at all.  But man.  The Ark, I just kicked butt.  The stand-out route there was “Joy of Heresy” 5.11d which was a full long pitch with lots of excellent climbing and two super deep monos (probably drilled, though…)!
Jully Jihad 5.12b onsite at the the Ark
Joy of Heresy 5.11d at the Ark.

I ticked off 4 5.12 onsites at the Ark easily and was super stoked!  I only left one starred 5.12 there, but it had some really jingus fixed draws.  From here, I was ready to crank up it for the second half of my trip!
Lena Moinova climbing Atheist Childhood 5.11b at the Ark
One of the 5.10s at the Ark…quality is womp womp 🙁

Tick Mark Island

I’ve always been a person who can’t stand sitting around devoid of constructive activities.  Combined with my obsessive personally, I always have to be doing something and I work hard to do my best at what I do.   I’m particularly hard on myself when I’m working on something that I think is important.  Thus, I’ve spent my life jumping maniacally from activity to activity with the goal of mastery.   This all makes for a crazy life, but it is my life and I really enjoy it.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on several major activities, one being route developing at Summersville Lake.  With my bolt gun and several motivated friends, we’ve been turning a previously untapped area of cliff line into a worthwhile sport-climbing destination.

When developing routes, grading is difficult.  Through the bolting process, you get a sense of the route.  You are trying to figure out where the route should climb and what holds/sequences you want to incorporate.  Therefore, you spend a good bit of time feeling things out, sorting though moves, figuring out clipping stances etc.  Long story short, you know exactly what the moves are long before you even tie in to send the route.  Also, of course, all the draws are already hung and most importantly, all the bolts are exactly where you want them.

Zak Roper – Raina Terror 5.12b second ascent
Tick Mark Island

We’ve been trying to come up with a name for the new climbing area at the lake and we aren’t really telling anyone where it is.  We want to keep it under wraps until we finish up all the good routes there.  Am I worried that people will find it?  Nah…its been my experience that even though you wave something in front of people’s faces, they’ll never go looking for it.  I’m pretty sure that we’re safe – at least for a while.  The name seems to be sticking though.  We were thinking of calling it “The Fayette County Dump” or “The Profanity Crag” or something like that, but “Tick Mark Island” seems to be the sticking name.  This is equivalent to the “John Galt Line.”  Basically a tongue and cheek response to criticism. 

**note** all grades are guesses.
1.     Childhood Memories 5b       5.12b
Follow the bolted crack up to the slab and a stance.  Crimp your way through small edges culminating with several long moves on decent holds to the exciting finish.
2.     Stranger Danger       5b       5.12a
Stick clip and follow the clean face to some easier climbing.  Make an extremely long move on tiny holds to the anchor.
3.     Amber Alert               5b       5.12b
Stick clip and trend left through thin moves to the ledge.  Move left, the up the bulge.  Tackle the long moves on tiny holds up the impeccable rock to the anchor.
4.     Sh&t Echoes               6?b      5.12c
Stick clip and boulder to the ledge.  Clip, then climb really difficult moves up the short arete.  Power left out the roof to a stance below the roof.  Pull the roof and finish through some techy face moves.
5.     Project                                    (13+?)
6.     Chuffer Town USA    7?b      5.12b
Stick clip and climb the 11+/12- slab to the base of the room.  Power through jugs out the roof to a difficult move which leads to easier climbing and the anchor.
7.     Raina Terror              7b       5.12b
Stick clip and climb crispy rock for a couple moves, then continue up impeccable stone over a short roof to a long power move crux.
8.     Project                                    (12c/d?)

The “right” wall is themed around the route name:  “Childhood Memories” which was a “gym route name” that circulated at Climb North – my childhood climbing gym in Pittsburgh.  They always had a route named that or talked about naming a route that and it stuck in the back of my mind through the years, though the exact context or frequency may be inaccurate… I mean…I was a punk little kid at the time.  Funny enough, my dog’s name “Raina” came from that same period of time.  I remember hearing a kid had the name “Rainy” which I always liked. 

The name $hit Echos comes from my flash attempt on the route.  I stuck the first crux which involves precise dead-pointing on some bad holds.  I screamed (my Danno scream) and it echoed across the lake and came back like 10 seconds later.   My buddy Zak roper, knowing that I was through the crux said “I better not hear and ‘$hit Echos DAN.’”  Of course, I broke a hold off and did in-fact hear those echoes….I got the route second go though.

Bouldering at the New River Gorge

If any of you know me well enough, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of the bouldering at the New River Gorge.  Sure.  There are some really….really……(really) good problems here.  I’ve traveled extensively throughout the country to boulder and though my passion IS route climbing, I love the heck out of bouldering.   I just have never really found that special place in my heart for the bouldering here (it’s nice to be wrong about some things.)

We had a new person at the Energy Rock Gym last night, a traveling boulderer.  We do not get “new” people at our gym that often, so when we do, we spend a lot of time climbing with them and getting their perspective on things.  He RAVED about the bouldering at the New and we talked a good bit about it.

Because of the climbing gym in Charleston (WV) the community has here has grown a good bit, though because of the training nature of the gym (no ropes just bouldering), all of our new climbers have gravitated toward bouldering instead of route climbing.  I liken this to planting a whole bunch of tomato seeds and getting a bunch of daisies!

Lauren Goff rocking her Stonewear clothes at the Energy Rock Gym last Fall.

Bouldering?  You guys want to GO BOULDERING??  ARE YOU SERIOUS???  Why not put on a rope and go bouldering!  It’s called sport climbing!!!

So we’ve been bouldering a lot this Spring season.  As I talked about in a few previous blog posts, I’m in really good bouldering shape right now.  That’s a nice way of saying “I’m not in very good route climbing shape right now.”  Since I’ve been giving the boulders some attention, I’m starting to come around to the fact that the bouldering locally here is actually pretty AWESOME! (though somewhat limited?)

Dan Brayack climbing at the Energy Rock Gym in Charleston WV

Hawk’s Nest has historically  been the place to boulder here.  The mostly flat (though long) approach, coupled with the “Stephen King’s ‘It’ ” feel to the area makes a nice balance of convenience and sketchiness.  The boulders are directly below the Hawks Nest Dam are are “underwater” after any significant rainfall, making it pretty hard to climb here during spring.

I would say (without looking at the book) there are 20 good boulder problems here with an even distribution up to V5 and one of the better V7s in the area: “White Eyebrow.”

My climbing buddy David Statler (he owns the gym) sent “White Eyebrow”, so I just HAVE to do the thing…can’t let my bro one-up me like that!

White Eyebrow (V7) is all about the first move. The problem stand-starts on two “decent to not-bad” positive small edges under the steep portion of the bulge.  The starting foot is very very bad and way under the bulge.  Some people opt to “campus” the first move, but I found it very difficult to not “kip” to the starting hold so I decided that a static start from the bad foot hold would be what I considered a valid send for myself.  (I bet a lot of people who have this one checked off in their book jumped a little, but that’s their prerogative.)

Once established, a dead-point to the deep pocket leads to a long move to the right-facing gaston.  This is the iconic move seen in most images.  From here, the problem isn’t too bad – just a little scary.
The jump-start to the good pocket (skipping the first move) is maybe soft V5 or hard V4.

Here’s a series of images from the problem – I did not send, but jump-started to make sure I could do the finish.  My excuses are (in order) 1.  It was hot.  2.  It was humid.  3.   It was greasy.  4. It was hot.  5.  I suck at bouldering.  6.  It was hot.  7.  It was sunny out.  8.  It wasn’t sunny out.  9.  It wasn’t windy enough.  10.  It was hot.

“White Eyebrow V7”
“White Eyebrow V7”
“White Eyebrow V7”
“White Eyebrow V7”
“White Eyebrow V7”

Some other classics at Hawk’s Nest:

Stella Mascari on “Son of Easy” V2
Jared Thomas “Son of Easy” V2
Amber Journell on “??” V2
Brady Journell on “FCA” V4 (I think)

On a separate day, we did the “Gorge Driving Tour” hitting up several bouldering areas on the one-way loop that drives through the canyon of the New River Gorge, directly under the iconic bridge.  We started at the “Bridge” area which boasts two climbable boulders.  The first boulder, the “Jaws” boulder has a bunch of moderate problems, the best problems being on the vertical front face of the boulder.

Over near the “Love-Shack Cave” there is a boulder that I had not noticed before, though it was really impressive.  It had one obvious line:  “Wild Bill’s Zen Bitch Slap” V5.   This problem starts low in this cave and climbs maybe 15 feet of rock up and right through two boulders, finishing with a big dead-point move (or some tick-tacks) to the top.  It is a super excellent problem!

Dan Brayack on “Politically Left” V3
Sarah Canterbury on “Citizen’s Arête” V2
Sarah Canterbury on “Butch Goes to Indochina” V4
Dan Brayack “Wild Bill’s Zen Bitch Slab” V5
Dan Brayack “Wild Bill’s Zen Bitch Slab” V5
Dustin Canterbury “Wild Bill’s Zen Bitch Slab” V5

Further down the loop, there is a new bouldering area that I had never been to called “Teay’s Landing.”  The hike into this boulder is pretty horrible.   (We only saw one boulder that worth climbing, but we didn’t look that hard.)

“West Virginia Hot Pocket” V6 is one of the coolest boulder problems I’ve ever done.  I would say hands down, it is the best problem I’ve done at the New River Gorge when I didn’t have a rope.

This problem climbs a mostly blank and smooth, slightly steep boulder that is punctuated with just enough pockets to make it “go.”  The problem itself is a high-ball with a slanted landing and rocks in all the wrong places.  Though the middle of the problem is the crux, my buddy Dustin Canterbury and I were both able to do that section pretty quickly and consistently.  We struggled on the “GO FOR IT TO THE TOP” move.  Each of us kept pushing it a little higher and higher each time before down climbing and jumping.

I’ll save you the pain of going through the beta move-by-move on this one, but I’ll assure you, I’m not show-boating in the images.  The easiest way for me to this one was to do the full on rose move.

Finally – Dustin just WENT FOR IT, though missed and fell….He didn’t die (or get hurt or anything.)

For what was probably my last go of the day, I just blanked out the thought of falling and stuck the top!  I screamed my head off and topped out….then laid on top of the boulder trying to decide if I was stoked or if I was pissed at myself for being so dumb and going for it!!!!!!!!

It really was a safe and the landing legit, but sometimes high bouldering is just so mental for me!

Dustin Canterbury “WV Hot Pocket V6”
Dan Brayack “WV Hot Pocket V6”
Dan Brayack “WV Hot Pocket V6”
Dan Brayack “WV Hot Pocket V6”

Spring Climbing

Spring is definitely a hit and miss kind of season for us here in the East.  The problem of course, is rain…..and snow….and rain….and more rain!  During the fall, we get a pretty long stretch of consistently good weather, but this time of year…getting a nice day, let a lone a nice weekend is like getting dealt a flush in 5 card draw.  When it happens, you bet your house.

We had an exceptionally good weekend last weekend and my climbing mentor Bob and a couple friends from Pittsburgh came down to the New River Gorge to enjoy the good weather.   Bob just loves Bubba City and I love that!  It is really hard to get folks to climb with me at Bubba City.  It gets a bad rap of being a “chuffer” crag.  I’m not going to lie, there are a prevalence of sport climbs that are easier than 5.12 and those routes are also well bolted and not death routes, BUT if you can get past THAT, the routes in the 5.12-5.13 range are excellent.

Bubba City is different from the climbing at the New River Gorge because it tends to be more macro featured – like buttress with lots of arêtes and small roofs and cracks…thats sort of thing.  The rest of the gorge is more often than not, a long straight wall with smoothed out features (not sharp corners.)

I set my sites on a route I had previously tried:  “Dream of White Horst” 5.13a.  This short routes revolves around a low boulder problem crux.  Apparently, I’m in really good bouldering shape, despite being about 8 – 10 lbs over my normal fighting weight (funny enough, I’m still climbing super well.)  I did “Hubba Bubba” 5.9 to warm-up and to hang and tick the route.  It actually finishes up Hubba Bubba making the process easy.

With Bob’s beta, I took a short rest and managed to fire the rig first go (of the day) – my 37th 5.13!

The crux involves a long move (reach is nice) off a supposedly bad sidepull (nicknamed “the grizzler.”)  With my training though, the hold felt like a really good hold and with a key heel-hook, I stuck the long move pretty easily and took it to the top.  BOOM!  Not a bad way to start the weekend!

If you’re in good bouldering shape and have a decent reach, I 100 percent suggest this route.  If you aren’t in good bouldering shape and have a decent reach, I suggest this route.  If you are in good bouldering shape and are a t-rex, I suggest this route.  If you’re not in good bouldering shape and have t-rex arms, I suggest trad climbing.

I did some easier routes, including a couple of gear lines.  Since I have trouble getting to Bubba City, when I do get there, I try to really get a lot of pitches in!  

Bob waved the route “Pump and Circumstance” 5.12b in front of my nose.  The hardware on the route looks absolutely atrocious and a foreboding bail biner hung from the last bolt below a sea of lichen.”

I rappeled the route, ticking and brush and hanging the draws (and scoring the bail biner.)  The route didn’t look tooooooo bad; the stone was good, but the bolts were really bad.  I reminded myself that I had whipped on similar bolts at Endless Wall….but I could not help but visualize what would happen if a single bolt on the route failed (it would be bad…really bad….)

I climbed up the opening moves and managed to find some decent holds to get into a stance.  From here, though, a old scary rust pin protected an otherwise ground fall move.  Standing on the ledge, I was BARELY able to reach a sloper/jug and do a pull up, looking at a ground fall to clip the second rusty bolt of the route.  From here, the next sequence, a traverse left across the top of a small roof on ok holds to the stunning arête (the show case of the route,) was fairly easy and straight forward and I clipped the third bolt.

This bolt was very scary.  A rusty spinner.  When a bolt rusts, it basically seals itself from more rust, but with a spinning hanger, the hanger rubs that layer of rust off when it moves and a new layer of rust forms, quickly reducing the cross-sectional area of the bolt.

Not a good sign…but by this point I was committed to doing the route (in my mind.)  I launched into a fairly difficult boulder problem to an OK clipping hold for the next bolt.  This bolt, once again, was in really bad shape and from my rappeling I figured this was going to be the crux.  It was.

A really long move climbed into a dual sidepulls, one on each side of the arête with no down-pulls.  I grabbed the first sidepull on the right side and immediately realized I couldn’t really pull down well on the hold.  I started to grease on it….once again imagined what would happen if my bolt blew and turned on the jets.  I slapped HARD for the left arête, just palming it.  The actual hold was high and out of reach and I wasn’t planning on this move but it luckily worked and I was able to slab again to grab the other sidepull.  I was starting to sketch at this point, and didn’t see any feet except a very very high foot on the arête.  No time to think, just do, and I did, I high-stepped and rocked up for a pretty small crimper, but at least I was on my feet again.

The last move boulder problem, itself, I was somewhat concerned.  It involved a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnng lock-off to a ??ok?? hold.  On the way down, it looked…like …well….ok….but I was pumped.  I committed to the move and the hold felt “good enough but go quick” so I did, then managed to dig the bone with my feet and stick the top of the cliffline, clipping the anchor.

The whole time my heart was throbbing and I was scared out of my mind…but alas….I made it…I thought about crying a little but then realized that my GF was watching…real men don’t cry right?

I guess its no Danno Blog without at least one here’s a picture of me bouldering at the New…maybe I’ll talk about this in my next post?  Probably not though ;)…Everyone knows that the bouldering at the New is ok to not OK…though after several trips, I’m starting to waver.  By the way, you all should buy the New River Gorge Bouldering Guidebook when it comes out!

Dan Brayack – White Eyebow V7 at Hawks Nest

Route Developing

Its been a pretty hectic spring for me.  Between working my normal job and working on guidebooks, I am probably working a 70 hour week each week and then coupled with climbing and being a good boyfriend.  Life is very hard indeed!

I forgot how difficult bolting roofs is.  Back in 2007 Matt Fanning and I re-discovered the “Other Place” at the Meadow River at the New River Gorge and spent the next 3 years developing that crag.

Matt for the most part, picked all the crazy roof lines and I picked all the face climbs.  It was physically possible for me at that time to put up 4-5 routes and sometimes 6 routes in a day.  Matt bless his heart would spend an entire weekend bolting and cleaning a single route, though his routes always ended up being the awesome routes!!!  Depth Charge (12c) for example took Matt two full days of bolting and cleaning with only spare time to belay me.

Matt Fanning Climbing “Depth Charge” 5.12c on the First Ascent in 2007

I found a new crag at the Meadow.  We’ve decided to keep this one on the wraps until we are completely done with it.  A lot of locals were very upset with us for developing the “Other Place.”

So I’m basically not going to tell anyone where this new crag is so we can preserve the sanctity of the Meadow.   I’m tossing around names…either the “Fayette County Landfill” or maybe the “Reticent Wall.”  We all know that I’m Dan and I can’t help myself so the latter would be almost a ridiculous joke similar to the “Ministry of Peace”, “Ministry of Truth” etc from Orwell’s 1984.  But I think I can keep this one on the wraps for a year or two….

1984 by George Orwell from Wikipedia:

the Ministry of Peace deals with war and defense.
the Ministry of Plenty deals with economic affairs (rationing and starvation).
the Ministry of Love deals with law and order (torture and brainwashing).
the Ministry of Truth deals with news, entertainment, education and art (propaganda).

I spent my Friday bolting and cleaning two routes – both of them steep and the one being a “cave” route.  Bolting a cave involves a lot of tricky aid climbing.  It is not aid climbing like you see in videos, but basically rap bolting with aid gear to keep you in place while you drill.  This involves a lot of hooking and some pretty spotty cam placements, but the hardest part is just the actual physical labor of it – swing into a piece of gear, getting clipped in direct to it, getting the rope in it then unclipping from it….half way through it all rips and you take a king swing…drill, hammer, wrench.  10 bolts and hangers and a full wrack all swinging with you.   I actually have a 3/4 ring of bruises  around my body where my harness sits from Friday’s work.

I still have some cleaning work to do on the routes…basically brushing sand dirt and removing loose rock…life is hard.


Also, getting to the top of the cliff and then finding the correct top of the cliff is horrible.  Through my pants, I still have enough cuts to make my friends question whether or not I cut myself.  I spent almost an hour in the Rhody jungle until I found the top of the routes.

Despite all the pain and soreness….(Drilling OVER your head with a 30 lb drill is hard too) it is totally worth it and full filling.  The quote the masochist’s handbook, the pain makes the experience.

These are two routes out of maybe 20 or 30 that will hopefully go up over the next couple of years.

In the East, Winter is Bouldering Season.

I am a route climber at heart.  I train to route climb.  I live to route climb.  When I dream about climbing, I dream about route climbing (though sometimes I realize that I’m naked half way up the route and everyone is looking sometimes.)
Blue V6
I take my route climbing very seriously, but in the winter, its really too cold in my area to route climb.  Enter bouldering season.  Bouldering for me is just fun – I take it serious and try to boulder as hard as possible, but the level of commitment for me for individual boulder problems is a full order of magnitude less than for routes.  Also, for bouldering, I can perform fairly well a little heavy, so I relax my eating and dieting during bouldering season.  But best off – bouldering is REALLY good for route climbing.
Over the past two months, I’ve had three major bouldering trips (with one two week trip coming up soon.)  The ongoing training using the Rock Climber’s Training Manual has contributed to a major gain in my climbing and that gain has also translated over to my bouldering.  Also, I am truly appreciating the quality of my Tenaya shoes. 
Through the New Year, I did a trip to Rocktown.  For me, the ideal bouldering trip is either 3 days including travel or two weeks.  A trip shorter than 3 days, I feel rushed and don’t get enough time to boulder to my limit.  Any longer than 3 days and less than 10 days is a waste without ample rest time to grow back skin.  I have two different modes and will describe them:
On a 3 Day Trip, I try to pick problems that I can do in about an hour or less.  I will do a cursory attempt on a problem and feel out the moves and holds and try to determine if I can do the problem quickly.   On a short trip, skin is a super precious commodity.  I priority problems that suit my strength which right now is really small holds and big lock-offs.  If I don’t think I can do the problem, I will write it off and consider trying it some other time when I’m strong.  I will try to get as many problems done as efficiently as possible keeping as much skin as I can.  Problems that are “shoe” problems – techy etc, are perfect for this kind of trip because they are typically very easy on the skin.  Also, “big muscle” problems are good because they are usually palm and hand contact problems and not tips.  
I typically consider day one to be my peak performance, with the second day being my “clean-up” day where I try to go and send the stuff I was close on but didn’t have to strength.  My second day and possible my third day (if its not a travel day) is also my “scouting” day where I put minimal effort into a handful of problems for my next trip – seeing what they are about, whether I think they are possible for me and what their requirements are (and of course, whether I like them and think they’re cool.)
On a long trip, I pick stuff strategically and plan to climb them multiple days with the first day or two on the problem being a “scouting” trip where I learn the movement and then rest hoping to send them when I’m the freshest. I rotate through problems that work different parts of my body so I can try to send them all somewhere in the middle of my trip.  I supplement these hard problems with a good bit of easier “fun” climbing as well.  I will talk more about this while I’m on my two-week Bishop trip.
At Rocktown, I set my sites pretty high.  I had not climbed there since finishing the book there a couple years ago.  We went full comfortable style and got a hotel room which was very nice. 

My primary problem goal for the trip was the “Sherman Photo Route” V7 which I had tried a good bit on my last trip there, but was unable to do.  I made a tick list for the trip. I’ve always been a list maker.

I love technology.  I put a few goes into the “Sherman Photo” feeling out the holds.  I was happy to see that I could hold the holds and could make all the reaches; the difficulty of the problem would be putting them all together.  I wasn’t super sure with the beta so I googled “Sherman Photo Video Rocktown” and BOOM.  There it was.  Straight from my smart-phone, video beta of the problem.
I fell twice at the last move going for the lock (once you get this its over), but using this beta I was able to do the problem.  I was pretty worried and I fell several times but I sent this one after about 15 or so tries. 
Sherman Photo Route V7
Sherman Photo Route V7
Sherman Photo Route V7
I then felt out both “Tractor Traylor” V8   So I next stopped at the Comet Boulder.  I had never really tried many of the problems on the Comet Boulder, except for the easy one, but there was a big group there with lots of pads and I did every single problem on the Comet Boulder, except the Comet Dyno (V7.)  In succession without falling!  Gang Bang baby!  I loved every one of those problems too J
I next set my sites on a problem that I had tried extensively: “Tunnel Vision” V6.  This problem climbs out this super cool steep roof, with body tension being the winning suit.  I really wanted to do this one and sort of broke my “tried it too many times” rule, but really really wanted to do it.  I FINALLY workout out the minutia of the tricky feet beta to do the problem only to fall on the topout move several times.  Probably my last good go on it, I actually got it! 
I then (being completely beat by now) go on “Splash Back” V6 and worked this problem a bunch – working out the beta as well.  This problem was a “big muscle group” problem with good holds so I spent some time on this one, not really losing skin.  My best effort, I made it to the topout which isn’t super hard, but fell because my shoulders were too beat up.  I don’t think I could have done a pull-up at that point.

Splashback V6
Being completely beat up, I set my sites on another long-term life-goal project of mine “Blue” V6.  That doesn’t sound right does it?  I mean, I’m beat to crap so why not try “Blue” earlier?  Well….Blue is totally a shoe problem.  With my super awesome Tenaya Tarifas, I figured I’d have this one in the bag and I did.  With some body tension and excellent shoes, I did “Blue” several times in a row, once to send it and twice more for photos!  (I really really liked it a lot too.  So the photos were really just an excuse to do it over and over.) 
Blue V6
Blue V6
Blue V6
Blue V6
Blue V6
Blue V6
I finished the day with a surprising send of “Campus Punks” V5, a full on slab problem.  Once again the Tarifas performed for me admirably, getting me up it despite being beat to crap!
Campus Punks V5
Having such a good “Day 1” sending several of my long-term projects, I set out day 2 to try some of the stuff that I thought I was less likely to send.
I did some easier stuff at the Orb including “Double Trouble” V5 and “Breaking and Entering” V5, then heading straight over to the “Bad Boulders.” 
“Little Bad Boulder” for me is one of the hardest V5s in the world.  I love it.  But man.  Its just so hard for me!  I can get to the last move every time, but the last move for me feels super long.  Like most problems at Rocktown, this problem starts under a bulge, and climbs over the bulge finishing with a lot of bad slopers. 
Little Bad Boulder V5
Little Bad Boulder V5
Little Bad Boulder V5
I didn’t really think I was going to do this problem on the trip, but after several goes, I was getting close – almost sticking and partially sticking one hold below the top.  My hopes were dashed when I actually stuck the second to last hold, but then realized I had another hard move!
I dug deep though, and really focused.  This was one of my long-standing projects at Rocktown and with some motivation from my wonderful girlfriend Lauren “she told me to just freaking stop being a chuffer and do it” I did actually do it!! Barely.  Super Barely.  Like grovely.  But boom!  I was soooooooo stoked to do that one and despite it only being V5, it was my proudest send of the trip.
Feeling lucky and pretty stoked, I next set my sites on “Brown Eye Left” V5.  This problem was also very interesting and kind of cool for me.  The problem revolves around some tricky foot-work to setup on two bad holds, then a cut-feet, kick the wall and campus move to a jug.  I probably tried this one about 20+ times before I finally worked out the beta and got it!    I got a pretty nasty blood blister from it though!  (A month later, I still am having problems with it.)
Brown Eye Left V5
Brown Eye Left V5
Brown Eye Left V5
Brown Eye Left V5
Feeling pretty good and accomplished we hiked over to the “Police” area.  Of course we stopped at “Blue” and I did it again (I really like that one.)  I had “Police Brutality” V5 on my list, though there was a group on “Drug Test Policy” V7.  I felt out the holds and with their beta, almost flashed it!  I was like….ok….I can do this one, and did it super fast!  I tried “Police Brutality” and totally got my butt kicked on in first try.  No thanks!  Crossed it off the list for this trip.
I was feeling pretty sapped at this point but managed to connect the dots on “Mr. Stiffy” V5 first try (of the trip.)   I was trying some stuff on the “Asphalt” boulder (got my butt kicked) but walked around to see “El Bano” but some some dudes just finishing on “Golden Throttle.” V5.  I figured what he heck and flashed the heck out of this super duper scary high ball boulder problem!  I couldn’t believe I 1.  made it up this thing, 2, didn’t die. !!!   No photos or anything on this one as I just randomly walked around the corner with my shoes on, borrow chalk and beta and just did it!  I will NEVER get on that one again, I’m so glad I flashed it.
Mr. Stiffy V5


Mr. Stiffy V5
Mr. Stiffy V5
Mr. Stiffy V5
Mr. Stiffy V5
That night, it rained like crap, so we decided to check out the Chattanooga Aquarium.  FYI if you’re ever in Chattanooga.  DEFINITELY hit up the Aquarium.  It was one of the coolest experience of my life.  Lauren got to pet a sting-ray and they have a full-on butterfly room and a “jelly fish” room.  Wowzers!        !!!!!!!!


Daniel Brayack


Charleston, WV

Motivation to Climb

My motivation to rock climb is both travel - an excuse to see new places - and the love and passion for the gymnastic movement of climbing. Also, I've been climbing for so long, that it would be hard to consider doing anything else with my life :)

Most Memorable Climb

I was already through the crux, at least I thought. Until I grabbed the good hold and made a big move to what looked like another good hold. It had two tick marks on it - for the left and right and I went for the left. It was bad - 1/4 pad at best and I was out of balance, so I went with my right, hoping it was better. It wasn't. I was already 100 feet out from the belay and really wanted to do the route - I knew I would never get back to it. I was pumping out, the meter was running and the next hold was two feet away. I looked down, my feet weren't right....crap...well..crap crap crap. I looked up, saw a tick on a hold. Is it good? It better be. I dug down deep, used my momentum, and jumped for it. I caught it by the tips of two fingers and it was incut, but I was barely on it and I was extended on my feet. I dug deep and wrapped it, then did a bit of a one point pull up on it to latch it. BAM. crux done. and it was 5.10 to the anchors.It was Huecos Rancheros .12c onsite.

Favorite Climbing Spot

I am so torn between the NRG and RRG. It depends on the day the hour, the moment? I can never pick its so hard!!!!!


Dan Brayack is a climber, photographer and book publisher from Charleston WV. Dan travels to climb with the seasons, climbing at the Red River Gorge and New River Gorge during the spring and fall seasons with trips out west during the summer and winter and trips to the south east for bouldering in the winter. Dan has established over 100 routes at the New River Gorge and Meadow River. His photos have been published in 20+ books and all of the major magazines. He has published the Rocktown and Grayson Highlands guidebooks and authored the Coopers Rock Bouldering guidebook.

[full bio]


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