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2016: Tis the Season for a Year in Review

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Mirage 12c

In my tick list for 2016 I stated that one of my main goals was to “focus more on the process than crossing something off the list.”  And by that I meant that I wanted to be more picky in the routes that I invest extra time on, choosing quality over quantity.  At the end of 2015 I found myself easily frustrated at the amount of routes I had “unfinished business” on.  Our family’s climb time is at a premium, and the logistics of getting back to certain climbs with an extra partner often ends up being a crux.  So this year I made a point of giving myself a free pass to walk away from routes I didn’t necessarily feel called back to – just because I believe I CAN send it doesn’t mean I HAVE to.  In other words, if it’s fun and feels worth my while, give it another go, train for it, etc.  If not, leave it undone for now…or forever!

Practically speaking, this meant spending MORE time on LESS routes, often choosing to try something harder that I knew I probably wouldn’t send rather than logging more mileage at a more comfortable grade/style.  The result was that I wound up with far fewer ticks on my sending belt than the previous year…but the ones I did get are a lot more meaningful.

It’s also no surprise that many of my year end highlights did not result in an updated 8a card.  But the following are my top ten climbing moments of 2016.

10. “TRY HARD” BOULDERING:  This summer the CragDaddy challenged me to step up my bouldering game at the gym.  Power tends to always crop up as a weakness of mine, and I’ve decided that it’s actually just as much a movement/coordination issue as it is strength/power; ie, I default to static movement that often times doesn’t allow me to “tap in” to any power that I might already have.  Anyway, I surprised myself and actually had a LOT of fun throwing myself around the boulder problems at the gym, and I’ve seen some really good gains.  Who knows, maybe next year’s tick list will include some boulder problems?

9.  LEGALIZE IT 12a and WAKE AND BAKE 11d (Red River Gorge) – After blowing the flash right at the end of the 12, I redeemed myself with a pretty casual second go send, and an onsight of it’s slightly easier next door neighbor.  Not my hardest onsight ever, but hardest one in at least a year, probably since Ten Sleep last summer.

8.  GALUNLATI 12b (Red River Gorge):  This is the route that made me fall in love with the Solarium, which is now my favorite crag at the Red.  Not only is it awesome, but it was my first (and so far only) 12b at the Red.

Enjoying the view from the Tree Ledge

Stone Mountain multi-pitch with the CragKiddo

7.  BLACKHAPPY 12b (New River Gorge) – I knew I wasn’t going to send this one on my 2nd go.  But it went a lot better than I expected, and I was happy that I gave it another effort rather than  finding something easier to end the day on.  It’s a long hike in for the kids, but I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to work on this one some more next spring.

Line of Fire 12c Photo creds: Justin Hedrick

Line of Fire 12c Photo creds: Justin Hedrick

6.  ORANGE JUICE 12c (Red River Gorge) – I’ve been dying to touch this route ever since I first laid eyes on it in 2012.  I knew I didn’t have the guns for it then (and I’m not sure I do now…).  But I sure was psyched to give it a couple of tries this past November, and after feeling how hard those upper cruxes were, I’m even more psyched I was able to execute all the moves on point.  No send, and no plans to come back any time soon, as neither the hike nor the cliff base are great for the kids.  But experiencing this 5 star classic that I’d wondered about for so many years was amazing!

5.  CRAGKIDDO’s 1st MULTI-PITCH – I wasn’t the only one that came to terms with walking away with unfinished business this year.  Big C experienced this when we had to bail just one pitch below the summit on his very first multi-pitch endeavor at Stone Mountain back in February.  Despite not making it to the top, I was so proud of how brave he was (and he was too, once he got down and saw where our high point was on the mountain!)

4.  MIRAGE 12c (Red River Gorge):  Did I mention that I love the Solarium?  This one was a completely unexpected send at the end of a fabulous spring weekend at the RRG.

3.  TIPS AHOY 12d (Hawksbill Mountain):  First ever 12d!  Sharp microcrimps on an ever so slightly overhanging face…if only I could find a zillion more like this.

Tips Ahoy 12dPhoto: Joe Virtanen

Tips Ahoy 12dPhoto: Joe Virtanen

2.  LINE OF FIRE 12c (Hawksbill Mountain):  Even though grade-wise this one is easier than the previous one, I think I’m more proud of this send.  In the same breath everyone told me I’d like Tips, they also told me that I probably wouldn’t like Line of Fire, due to the dynamic, bouldery moves.  My first time up, I agreed with everyone else, and I only got on it again because the CragDaddy was still working Tips.  It took a while to find beta that worked for me, but the 7th try was the charm, and when it went I had it so dialed in it almost felt easy.

1. JESUS AND TEQUILA 12b (New River Gorge) – Last year I said that if I sent only one route the entire year, I wanted this one to be it, and if that truly was the only one, I’d count the year as a success. I’ve got a lot of emotion wrapped up in this one, and I know that it’s one of those that I’ll still remember vividly when I’m old, gray, and can’t even toprope my kids’ warm-ups.  After multiple heartbreaker attempts, crushing this one in unexpectedly fine style this past November was by far the highlight of the year!

And that’s that!  Please don’t let me spray by myself…I’d love to hear about your favorite achievements this past year (climbing related or not!)  So comment below so we can cyber clink our glasses to 2016.

 

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Red River Gorge in November

Orange Juice 12c in all of it's fall glory

Orange Juice 12c in all of it’s fall glory

While my heart will probably forever belong to the New, I do really like the Red, and I so wish the Red was a lot closer.  I also wish it was a lot less crowded.  But one thing we didn’t have to wish for this past weekend was better climbing conditions…because it was darn near perfect!

Our first day was spent at Funk Rock City.  Yes, our motivated crew of 3 adults and 3 children (two of which are under 3) did the 45 minute slog across the creek and up the mountain side just so that I could finally try a route I’d been drooling over since 2012 – Orange Juice 12c. (Thanks guys!)  My trip got off to a great start with an onsight of OJ’s easier next door neighbor – There Goes the Neighborhood 11c.

Orange Juice ascends a beautiful, vertical, orange face littered with pockets and small edges.  There are 3 cruxes on the route, with fairly mellow (11a?) climbing in between.  The first crux is probably the easiest of the three, but also the scariest because it’s not that high off the ground.  The next one is a super long move from okay crimps to a jug.  Of the seven people who worked this route that day (yes 7…on a weekday?!?), all of them dyno’d except for the CragDaddy and I. The final crux was in my opinion by far the hardest – a slopey crimp/mono pocket combo to a big move off of a pair of “snake-eye” mono pockets.  Once again, CragDaddy and I did something completely different than everyone else, and only slightly different than each other (they all went right, we went left…)

CragDaddy on Abiyoyo 12b

CragDaddy on Abiyoyo 12b

Due to the crowds I only got in 2 burns, neither of which was anywhere close to a send, but I felt really good about being able to figure out my own beta for all of the moves.  It’s too bad it’s such a pain to get back to, otherwise I’d say this route would be on the short list for next spring for sure….and it still might be, even so!

Day 2 the CragDaddy got to choose the destination, and he chose the Solarium at Muir Valley, where he was hoping to earn redemption on his project from last spring – Abiyoyo 12b.  I had mixed feelings about getting on it with him.  The guide book says that the crux move will feel significantly harder if you are sub 5’8″ (I’m 5’5″).  On the one hand, I’ve been working really hard on climbing “tall,” and this crux would be a good test.  On the other hand, one of the reasons I love the Red is that it typically doesn’t have those giant blank sections of wall devoid of intermediate features (the ones that you see all the time at the New, even randomly on routes that are otherwise pretty easy.)

But after weighing my options, my curiousity got the better of me, as well as the fact that CragDaddy and I really enjoy working routes together.  The verdict?  “The move” is definitely harder for me than CragDaddy.  He can skip a nice row of sloping crimps that I have trouble getting established on without being too extended to move my feet up.  I actually ended up skipping those holds as well, and ended up doing a weird pinch thing off of two tiny pockets that were several inches below the row of crimps.  However, considering the huge jug rest right before the crux (and especially considering the sit down rest in the hueco 10 feet below that), the one move wonder didn’t feel any harder than V5 or so for me, which still seems very reasonable for a 12b, especially a “reachy” one.  If this route was at the New, nothing at all would be mentioned about the move being height dependent.

If fun was measured in dirt, these guys would have the most.

If fun was measured in dirt, these guys would have the most.

That being said…neither of us sent the route.  I kept falling at the crux, but CragDaddy got extremely close on his last attempt – the crux itself may be fairly easy for him, but the next few moves are long and powerful and pack a pump pretty quick.  Thanks to the crowds (again) we were both disappointed at the amount of climbing we were able to get in (6 pitches in 2 days…and we were first in the parking lot both days.)

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So for our last day, we opted for an area we’d never been to, but looked off the beaten path enough to avoid the throngs of forearm blasters – the slab/vertical climbing at Crossroads in the PMRP.  And what a great choice!  Our warm-up, Fairweather Friends 10d, was super fun, and I was able to walk away with two more great sends. Legalize It 12a was soooo close to a flash for me, until I botched a foot placement right at the last bolt.  It went 2nd go pretty easily, which allowed me to hit a milestone of 50 lifetime 5.12 ticks!  My last route of the trip also ended on a “high” note – a hanging draws onsight of Wake and Bake 11d.

There are no words for this much cute and dirt.

There are no words for this much cute and dirt.

All in all – such a great trip!  We all tried hard and stretched ourselves out of our comfort zone.  (And congrats to fellow cragmama Rebekah for ticking her first 11c AND leading her first 5.12!)  We had so much fun on our last day that we ended up staying far later than we originally anticipated.  Ordinarily getting back at midnight would just be mildly unpleasant, but walking into a 55 degree house at midnight (thank you, broken heater!) was downright miserable.  But it was still worth it, especially since our climbing trips for the rest of the year will consist of whatever days we can squeeze in amidst the holiday chaos.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

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NRG: Flashin’ or Thrashin’

Sometimes on a climbing trip, you have a “day of reckoning,” where you try hard and it pays off with a send.  Other times, you flail your way through a weekend and come out without any new notches on your sending belt.  This past weekend for me was one of those weird in between weekends.  I was either flashing…or thrashing.  There was no middle ground.

The Honeymooner Ladders at Central Endless

The Honeymooner Ladders at Central Endless

Being that it was November and we FINALLY got those crisp, cool, fall conditions we’ve been waiting for all year, the only destination for us this weekend was Endless Wall.  Since I’d sent my project on our last trip (finally!), I had absolutely zero agenda for this trip, and went wherever the CragDaddy wanted to climb.  He and our third man Caleb wanted to try Harlequin 12b (ironically on the same wall as my nemesis-no-more J&T), so off we went down to the Honeymooner’s Ladders once again.  Both kids actually REALLY like going down these ladders, so despite the longer approach hike, Central Endless is one of their favorite destinations as well.

On Day 1 we strayed from our usual Endless Wall warm-up options and started out on Bonemaster Gear Fling 11c, which is also right next to the ladder.  I’d tackled this one only one other time when I was 17 weeks pregnant with Little Z, and I’d remembered it feeling insanely hard for the grade.  I figured it was probably due to my belly getting in the way of all those high steps…which I’m sure didn’t help.  However, this time around it STILL felt super hard.  Lots of frustratingly long reaches that were non-moves for my taller climbing partners, who touted it soft for the grade.  I was psyched to pull out a first go send though, and my weekend was off to a great start…

Girl beta...

Girl beta…

Then I got on Harlequin and my confidence got torn to shreds.  I’d been told there was a big move at the 1st bolt that can give shorter people fits…but heck yeah, all that “try hard” bouldering I’d been doing in the gym meant I had no trouble with it!  However…that bouldery sequence at the next bolt?  Ugh.  Hard in a completely not fun way for me.  The good feet were so low that I could get no umph from my legs to power up, and the next available feet were ridiculously high compared to the rest of my body position.  I eventually figured out the move.  But after trying the sequence 25+ times, I only managed to latch the ending hold twice.  The rest of the route went fairly well for me, but my odds down low were do dismal that I was less than inspired to keep working the line.

But as I said, it was CragDaddy’s weekend to choose, so we found ourselves back at the Ladders on Sunday morning.  Our warm-up strategy had worked out pretty well the previous day, so this time we hopped on the NEXT route over from the ladders, Double Feature 11d, whom my tall friends had warned felt a number grade harder than Bonemaster.  There were some hard moves for sure (and one of the coolest slab cruxes I’ve ever done!), but all in all, the difficulty seemed on a par with Bonemaster for me, minus the heinous reach issues.  I mean, it wouldn’t be the New without some long moves on it, but I was able to use crux beta that was almost exactly the same as everyone else, so it seems like the playing field for this line was more level than it’s next door neighbor.  That said, another flash made me psyched to see what else the day had in store.

Guy beta...

Guy beta…and congrats on the send CragDaddy!!!

Then I hopped on Harlequin again, just to see if maybe my crazy beta for the 2nd bolt would feel more doable fresh…wrong.  This time I couldn’t even pull the move.  So I decided to get on Sacrilege, denoted in the guidebook as 5.11 climbing to “the hardest 12b move you will ever encounter.”  I didn’t hold out much chance of doing “the move,” but was cautiously optimistic after having talked to a girl about my size the day before who had figured out a sequence that worked for her.  Besides, there was nothing else on the wall I really wanted to try, so I figured I had nothing to lose…

Nothing but a shiny bail biner at the crux, that is.  (So if you’re up there this weekend, it’s all yours if you can unlock that sequence!)  I bailed only after punishing myself on the face far longer than I’d anticipated.  Apparently neither Harlequin OR Sacrilege are in the cards for me right now.  But for all the thrashing I did, I’m still happy to walk away with some good flashes (well…technically one flash and a 2nd go send that felt like a flash since I’d forgotten pretty much everything about it from my preggo toprope episode.)

Tomorrow we are bound for the Red!  It will be interesting to see if our inconsistent performances at the New this fall can add up to anything noteworthy in the land of pump.  The forecast looks great, and we can’t wait!!!

Happy kiddos!

Happy kiddos!

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Jesus and Tequila = SENT!!!

“…I’m not sure when, but one of these days I will pull the crux on Jesus and Tequila and not take the swinging whipper.  I’ll stay clean through the dihedral and nail the deadpoint move.  I’ll teeter out across the roof and plant my foot exactly where it needs to be, and execute the final sequence.  I’ll stand at the top and savor the magnificent view of the river below…”

Iphone sending shot, courtesy of Rebekah MacNair

Iphone sending shot, courtesy of Rebekah MacNair

I wrote that exactly 6 months ago in a blog post…And guess what you guys – Saturday was the day!!!  I am absolutely giddy with excitement!!!  Back in January I’d told the CragDaddy that I’d count the entire year as a success if I could just send Jesus and Tequila.  Why?

First off, it’s on the short list of best 5.12’s at the New River Gorge.  And considering the world class quality climbing at the New, that’s saying A LOT.  The guidebook sums it up rather nicely – “...getting pummeled on Jesus and Tequila is a rite of passage for every New River climber…

But for me it’s more personal than just that. It started when I took a casual toprope burn on it at the tail end of the fall season last year.  I instantly fell in love with the unique movement and fantastic position this route offers.   So much so that we completely rearranged our schedule the following week so that I could go back and try to send it.  After botching multiple sequences but somehow still hanging on for ALMOST the entire climb, my luck ran out at the final roof sequence just 10 feet below the chains.  I tried a couple more times that day, but could never make it past the crux on point again, and I was haunted by my almost-send the rest of the winter.

Once spring rolled around we had a hard time finding partners to go back out there with us (probably the hardest part about climbing with kiddos in tow!), but I did manage to spend another day on it back in April.  I felt a lot stronger and more confident on the route, and even figured out much better beta for the roof move I’d previously fallen on.  However, I was ironically unable to get back up there on point.  I made it past the crux once, only to fall on a random move that I’d never had trouble with before.

These two ragamuffins had a great day!

These two ragamuffins had a great day!

One of the things that makes Jesus and Tequila unique is that it’s so “involved.”  There are a LOT of hard moves, and the beta is intricate, so it’s a lot to put together all at once.  It’s tall, and each attempt takes a lot out of the tank – not the kind of route you can try over and over again in the same day. My previous “best go’s” had all come on my 2nd attempt of the day…with subsequent attempts getting progressively worse, until I eventually had all I could do to get to the top of it to get my draws back.

All that said, I knew my window of opportunity this fall might be small, so when I got the chance to go down there on Saturday I jumped at it.  Better yet, a friend of mine wanted to try for the onsight, which meant I didn’t even have to rap in and hang my own draws.

I stepped off the starting boulder and onto the route, and was pleasantly surprised at how well the opening moves went.  Soon enough I found myself shaking out at the 4th bolt, and preparing to head into the crux.  I felt good, but wasn’t sure about my odds at the crux. I’ve fallen on that move more times than I’ve actually made it, but it still feels scary to me, and I usually hem and haw for several seconds before committing to it.  But this time I just powered right through without hesitation.

At this point I panicked a little on the inside.  All of a sudden realized that this was the “time to send.”  I wasn’t ready for this to be “the time.”  I’d assumed that my first go of the day would be more of a beta-confirming mission than an actual redpoint attempt!  I’d wanted to rehearse that move at the roof like 5 times in a row first before it was “time to send.”  But this was only the third time I’d ever made it through the crux without falling, and there was no guarantee it would happen again later that day, so like it or not, this was it.

Little Z and her new friend R.

Little Z and her new friend R.

The next move has a reputation for a redpoint spoiler… it’s not THAT hard, but it’s a big ask when your post-crux forearms are still tingling.  But I got through it as well as the deadpoint move, which was my high point this past spring.  (Thanks to the CragDaddy for shouting out the move for move beta I’d written down for that section!)

All that was left was redemption at the roof.  I executed the new beta I’d figured out in the spring, and it worked like a charm.  I had ZERO trouble getting my foot up (why was it so hard before?!?!?), and before I knew it I was clipping the chains and taking in the view of the river down below with a perma-grin on my face.

Sending smiles...one of us may be more excited than the other.

Sending smiles…one of us may be more excited than the other.

Sure, it would have been pretty sweet to send it by the skin of my teeth last fall.  Had my story with Jesus and Tequila ended then, my memories of it would have been those of fighting hard and desperation, which is not at all a bad thing.  A send is a send, right?  But, after having been given the opportunity to invest more into this route, I can definitely say that the delayed send is a prouder one for me.  The best routes are the ones that push you to train harder.  There is no comparison to the way I climbed this route a year ago and the way I climbed it this past weekend. It was still hard.  Really hard.  And it wasn’t a sure thing until I clipped the anchors.  But I climbed it really, really well.  The way a classic route deserves to be climbed.  Jesus and Tequila has always been a worthy opponent.  But it wasn’t until this past weekend that I was able to step up and prove that I was too.

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The 2016 Craggin’ Classic

It’s the middle of September, and that means it’s time for two things – migrating north for the Craggin’ Classic at the New River Gorge…and my kids getting sick.  Last year, it was a mysterious fever for Little Zu.  This year, it was a tummy bug that left its mark on several family members before heading elsewhere…but that’s probably all you need to know about that.

Mutiny 11d

Mutiny 11d

Anyway, by the time the event was underway, everyone was (mostly) okay, and our logistical plans (always the crux when climbing with kids) went off without a hitch.  The kids and I had headed up on Thursday afternoon, and managed to squeeze in a hike at Beauty Mountain before heading over to the Sponsor’s Dinner.  The first 10 minutes went well.  Then Little Zu took a digger to the face on the blacktop, leaving her with a giant fat lip and bloodied-up face as a souvenir.  The rest of the night pretty much went downhill from there, but by the next morning everyone was psyched and ready for a day of climbing and photos at the Lake with the rest of the Trango gang.

Yay climbing!

Yay climbing!

Our resident photog, Dan Brayack, had his eye on Mutiny 11d, a gorgeous arete that is easily recognizable even from the highway.  The only “catch” was the water level, since the first 10 feet of this route are submerged during high water.  Usually by mid-October the water is low enough to be climbable, so we were a little bit early.  As it turns out, however, the water was juuuuust low enough for us to sneak in and get some amazing pictures.  A foot higher and we would have been soaked.

My belayer and I rolled our capris up as high as we could, I clipped my climbing shoes to my sports bra, and we waded out across the thigh-high water to the arete.  Conveniently enough, one of the boulders at the base was sticking out of the water enough for us to drape the rope across.  We pre-clipped the first bolt, I put my climbing shoes on while dangling over the water, and away I went!  Climbing out over the water like that was a surreal experience, and the route itself was amazing.  Big moves to big holds down low, then a thin face crux heading to the anchors.

Somehow, despite my best efforts, my shoes had still gotten a little bit wet.  That combined with the flash-pump that comes from not warming up properly meant I pretty much went bolt to bolt first time up.  Luckily though, Dan wanted to shoot the route again from a different angle, and I was able to send fairly easily second go.  A BIG thank you goes out to Everett from La Sportiva for keeping the kids corralled back on the beach while I was climbing.  By the time I waded back across, Big C was “fishing” with a pole Everett had helped him procure using a stick and some string, and Little Zu was sitting contentedly in his lap with some gummy bears.  Three cheers for the village it takes to climb with kids!

Upper sequence on Hot n Bothered 11d (aka Six Dollars)

Upper sequence on Hot n Bothered 11d (aka Six Dollars)

We then moved down to Long Wall at the main area, where I got a chance to tick another classic 5.11 I’d been wanting to get on – Hot and Bothered 11d (aka 6 Dollars.)  This one took two goes as well.  Pretty sustained crimping, with some finishing moves that could easily botch a redpoint attempt.

A sweet little girl with her Daddy

A sweet little girl with her Daddy

By this point it was time to head back down to set up our booth for the event.  The CragDaddy rolled into town shortly after we got back, so I tagged out of kid duty and put my “athlete hat” on for the rest of the evening.  It’s always fun having conversation after conversation with other like-minded folks.  In fact, talking to random people is one of my favorite parts about doing events like these.  Catching the Reel Rock Film Tour was also a bonus.

SUP fun!

SUP fun!

Saturday brought even more heat and humidity than the day before (seriously, where is fall?!?)  My crew headed back to the lake.  The CragDaddy and I hopped on a few routes in the Coliseum, but our performances were far from noteworthy.  One highlight was an impromptu hangout with a SUP family from Ontario (the dad was competing in a whitewater SUP competition the following day.)  Big C scored multiple rides, and if he and I wanted a family SUP before…we sure as heck do now!  (#gearjunkies)

We attempted to get out Sunday morning, but got rained out after just a couple of pitches at Bridge Buttress.  As far as the weekend as a whole, I might not have gotten in as much climbing as I’d wanted, but what I did get on was classic.  And, I won’t lie, it felt good to get back into town at a reasonable hour on Sunday!  Thanks again to Dan for taking some awesome pics, and the rest of the team for a great event!

 

 

 

 

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New River Gorge: It’s Fall Ya’ll!

I’m baaaaaaaack!  (In case you haven’t been missing me, this is the longest stretch of blog silence I’ve ever had since the dawning of “Cragmama” back in 2011!)  With weather too hot for climbing, and revving up our homeschooling again for the year, there has been too little to write about in not enough time anyway, so everything just went on the backburner.  But now that Zu (no longer Baby Girl Zu!) is at preschool a couple mornings a week, and fall adventures are upon us (!), I’ve got plenty to write about, and hopefully juuuust enough time to do it.

Going big on Audiophering 12a

Going big on Audiophering 12a

That being said, it felt GREAT to get back to the New River Gorge for Labor Day!  To be honest, the past handful of trips to the New have been lessons in frustration for me.  A couple of them I didn’t even write about because I had a hard time finding a positive spin after getting constantly shut down.  My weakness at the New has ALWAYS been POWER.  The moves are long, often without a lot of features in between, and the higher I go in the grades, the more trouble I have with making reaches.  My natural climbing style is very static, and it’s much more comfortable for me to just lock off hard rather than jump, which doesn’t always work.  But over the summer I decided to try and change that!

The Zu gettin her climb on at Small Wall.

The Zu gettin her climb on at Small Wall.

Rather than going through a periodized cycle of “Base Fitness, Strength, Power, Power Endurance” to get ready for fall, I decided to focus solely on power and dynamic movements all summer.  The typical prescription for training power is a campus board, but I felt like I needed to go back to even more basics than that.  I did movement drills with easy dynos (easy, as in the distance between holds is not far enough to warrant a dyno, but gave me a chance to practice form.) I did a lot of bouldering.  On moderate routes, I tried to do the problems as “big” as I could – skipping holds, never matching, etc.  I also did a lot of what the CragDaddy calls “Try Hard” Bouldering.  While sending outside is always extremely motivating for me, sending indoors is…..not.  My first inclination is to give up after just a few attempts, so the majority of my session tended towards onsighting and repeating other problems I’d previously onsighted fairly easily.

Kiddo Base Camp

Kiddo Base Camp

But the CragDaddy challenged me to really TRY HARD in the gym this past month.   I’ve been projecting problems that don’t come in the first few tries.  I’ve been getting creative with finding my own beta when the intended way doesn’t work for me.  I’ve been re-sending problems that I’ve previously projected, even though sometimes they feel just as hard subsequent times.  And you guys…I think it worked!!!

Our first day was spent at Area 51 of the Meadow.  We climbed with two other families, and between the 6 adults, there were 5 kids running around, ranging in age from 12 months to 6 years.  It was chaos and it was awesome.  The kids had a blast together, and the 3 littlest ones even managed to take their naps ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  I got to climb with some strong women, and I even got to trade belays with the CragDaddy, which hardly ever happens!  To top it all off, I flashed Safety Word 12a (first ever 5.12 flash at the New!)

My budding herpetologist.

My budding herpetologist.

On Day 2 I only got in half the pitches from the day before, but they were twice as long (and a lot more sustained).  Combined with the long hike out to Fantasy Wall at Endless, I was pretty zonked by the end of the day.  However, I did manage to resend Aesthetica 5.11c (not an ideal warm-up…but all the easier routes were mobbed.)  I also got in two really good working burns on Blackhappy 12b.  This is my new favorite climb.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s second only to Jesus and Tequila for “Best 5.12 at the New.”  I went bolt to bolt the first go round, and managed a 3-hang on my second go.  What I was most pleased to see was that I had no trouble with any one move, which is a rarity for me at the New, especially since the book describes this one has having “full-span reaches.”  I’m optimistic that with a few weeks of weekend trips and mid-week 4×4’s I’ll be in good shape to send it later on this fall.

Our last day was spent at Cotton Top…along with what seemed like everyone still left in the gorge.  It was a madhouse.  After a quick lap up Cottonhead 10d, I got in line for Psychowrangler 12a, and was happy to make the first hard move on the first try, which has never happened before.  I came down after a few falls trying to get into the dihedral.  I hate taking a long time on routes when there are a ton of people behind me waiting their turn to climb.  The CragDaddy felt the same way, so we moved on to Audiophering 12a, a lesser-known route on the main wall that never gets any traffic…although after getting on it, I’m not sure why, as the moves are cool and the rock is bulletproof!

Big C slabbing (not crack climbing...) his way up Doce Do 5.6

Big C slabbing (not crack climbing…) his way up Doce Do 5.6

I wasn’t super confident heading into this one, as the guidebook mentions a “jump move” for shorties.  But as the CragDaddy pointed out, it fit well with my m.o of late, and would be a good way to put my training to the test.  It took a while to get my beta dialed in, but I pulled the rope, and sent 2nd go!  And FYI, if you’re thinking of getting on it, don’t let the “jump move” scare you away.  It’s a solid deadpoint for sure, but while I “felt” like I was jumping, one foot still stayed on…barely.

CragDaddy showing off some flexibility on Audiophering 12a

CragDaddy showing off some flexibility on Audiophering 12a

With all the bouldering I’d been doing before this trip (and all the roped climbing I’d been NOT doing), I hadn’t come into the weekend with a lot of sending expectations.  So to walk away with a pair of 12’s and another one in the works felt awesome.  But what felt best of all is that I can tell my power and “try hard” training has been working.  Almost every one of the routes I got on this weekend (even some of the easier ones), had individual moves that potentially would have given me fits earlier this year.  But all the movement drills and limit bouldering has really upped my confidence on bigger, more powerful crux sequences.  Regardless of what projects go down this fall, I’m looking forward to a renewed confidence in my NRG climbing as a whole.  It feels good to be “able to play.”

Oh…and sorry about the lack of pictures.  The camera only came out once while the grown-ups were climbing.  But we at least got some kidcrusher documentation!  Happy Fall, ya’ll!

 

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Spring Climbing Grand Finale…and Time for a Break!

If you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while, you may be aware that our family generally takes a break from climbing twice a year, during the “off season.”  I put that in quotes for the term off season because here in the Southeast, it’s actually pretty easy to climb year round, so long as you chase sun/shade effectively.  In fact, some of my best  climbing days have been on a sunny winter day, or a cool cloudy day in late summer.  But generally speaking, prime conditions for climbing on a rope tend to happen during spring and fall.  That means our off season breaks land around the holidays (which is nice because it’s always so hectic then anyway!), and during the throes of summer heat (when the only fun things to do outdoors involve water or the wee hours of the morning.)

Approaching the roof crux, Line of Fire 12c

Approaching the roof crux, Line of Fire 12c

When we first started doing this, it was hard to make ourselves take a complete break from climbing.  We miss the social aspect of weekend trips and mid-week training sessions.  It’s also hard to walk away from a project left undone.  But after doing this for several years, we’ve discovered that the physical and mental benefits far outweigh any temporary strength/endurance loss that occurred over the break.  Nagging soreness in elbows/fingers/shoulders subsides as we give climbing-specific muscles a chance to repair from any repetitive damage done during project season.  We get the chance to catch up on all those around the house projects that were either neglected or left in a various state of “undoneness” for the past few weeks (ie landscaping, deep cleaning, gutters, raking, etc.)

Some seasons are easier to walk away from than others.  It’s hard to stop climbing when you are climbing strong!   But it helps to keep in mind that taking a lot of strength into the summer months is often a waste of effort and skin down here in the humid South!  I’ve learned the hard way that it’s usually easier to just wait until the cooler temps of fall rather than battle it out in the heat!

On the other hand, sometimes even after a good season I find myself feeling a little burnt out, and welcome the break.  To be honest, after a frustratingly sub-par trip to the New River Gorge over Memorial Day, my psych level was pretty low and I was ready to take my focus elsewhere.  The CragDaddy, however, had absolutely crushed it that same weekend, and still had plenty of stoke for his sending fires.

I went into what we’d assumed would be our last spring trip of the season just looking forward to having a day with the CragDaddy sans kiddos.  However, I surprised myself and almost sent Line of Fire 12c.  Since CragDaddy was also close on his project (Tips Ahoy 12d), we opted for ONE MORE daytrip last weekend…and we BOTH sent!  It was the best (and most unexpected) way for us both to wrap up a season that involved loads of fun with family, friends, and even some personal bests for us both!

Our current fave way to celebrate a send - milkshakes after the kids go to bed!!!

Our current fave way to celebrate a send – milkshakes after the kids go to bed!!!

With all that said, it’ll probably be a few weeks until you see another trip report on here.  In just a couple of days, we’ll be heading up to New York for a combo wedding/Niagara Falls trip, then it’s off to the beach with family for a week!  After a couple of weeks completely off, we’ll probably get back into our gym routine, and may even plan a few low-key outdoor days here and there, but we probably won’t start bringing our “try hard” pants to the crag until end of August at the earliest!

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A Weekend Escape to the NC High Country

Although we’d had plans made for the past few weeks already, I was pretty pleased when I saw that our weekend getaway to the NC mountains aligned with Charlotte’s first (of what will hopefully not be TOO many) 100 degree days. This particular escape was one of my favorite types of trips – a hybrid family/climbing/hiking weekend that makes for all sorts of fun and variety.

Pulling the initial roof crux on Line of Fire 12c Photo creds: Justin Hedrick

Pulling the initial roof crux on Line of Fire 12c Photo creds: Justin Hedrick

After enjoying a gorgeous Grandfather Mountain view with our morning coffee, the CragDaddy and I headed up to the Linville Gorge for a “crag-date” at Hawksbill Mountain.  (Thank you to Bebe and Papa Joe for entertaining both kiddos!)  On his agenda was Tips Ahoy 12d, while I had my eyes on Line of Fire 12c.  A long term goal of mine is to systematically work my way through the 5.12 wall, and I’d saved Line of Fire for AFTER Tips Ahoy (more here on that send), because I knew it would push me out of my comfort zone a bit.  Even though grade-wise it’s a letter grade easier, both Line of Fire cruxes are bouldery and powerful – loooooong moves requiring some dynamic movement.  Bouldering and moving dynamically are things that I am decidedly NOT good at, so I envisioned having a harder time with this one.

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I’d gotten on it once before, the same day that I’d sent Tips Ahoy, and to be honest, was not optimistic that a send was gonna happen any time soon.  But my first run up went really well, and I had no trouble getting the draws in bolt to bolt.  My second go was SO close – I was clean all the way to the upper crux, when I came up just short of the glory jug 2 moves from the anchors.  And as it turns out, my second go was also my BEST go…I tried 2 more times, and each time I nailed the first crux, but then fell a few moves later.

Wish I would have sent, but to be honest, I’m just psyched it feels doable, because I thought some of the individual moves were going to give me a lot of trouble.  Plus, since CragDaddy didn’t send either, we now BOTH have an excuse to get back up there sooner rather than later!

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Next morning we drove back to the Linville area, this time with the whole family, and this time to visit the falls.  We started out hiking along the “tour de overlooks” on the rim of the gorge.  Beautiful, yes, but also a little crowded.  We then decided to check out the view along the bottom of the gorge.  This hike was longer and much more strenuous, but the view from the bottom was breathtaking.  A picnic lunch followed by a dip in the clear, cold mountain water made the extra effort worthwhile!

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By the time we got back to our car, we had two exhausted kiddos, the younger of which was growing crankier and more desperate for a nap by the minute.  We assumed she’d fall asleep on the way to our next stop, Linville Caverns, but she didn’t get that memo.  We next thought she’d crash in a babywearing nap as we toured the cave…wrong again.  After what seemed like hours (but was really 15 minutes) of constant wrangling and screaming, Baby Zu and I bowed out of our tour and hung out in a patch of shade while the rest of the family finished up.  I’d say the caverns were a bust….except that Big C loved EVERY minute of it!!!  He has not stopped talking about all the “cool things he saw underground.”

We wrapped up the evening with some live music back in Blowing Rock, and dinner at a family favorite – Mellow Mushroom.  We came down off the mountain with exhausted bodies but happy hearts.  When we pulled into the driveway, it felt great to be home; but then I stepped outside into the heat and humidity…summer is here folks!

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Hawksbill Round 2: A New Personal Best!

Though my spring climbing season got off to a slow-ish start, these last few weeks have been unseasonably cool, and have allowed me to string together some hard (for me!) sends.  Since the CragDaddy had spent most of the previous week in NY on business, our family opted for the day trip this past weekend.  After accumulating some sending momentum at the Red the week before,I was psyched and ready to try hard on my project at Hawksbill Mountain.

Eyeing down the mail slot to clip the next bolt from. Photo: Joe Virtanen

Eyeing down the mail slot to clip the next bolt from. Photo: Joe Virtanen

I wrote about Tips Ahoy 12d a couple of weeks ago , when I hopped on it while a friend of mine was working it.  I’d given it 3 burns, and was pleasantly surprised at how doable it seemed.  It plays to my strengths (technical climbing on tiny holds), without featuring any of my glaring weaknesses (of which there are many, but the usual culprits involve slopers and big moves on steep rock!)  Anyway, going in I was cautiously optimistic about my chances.   In contrast to the 100 foot monsters I’d been battling at the Red, this line was only about 60 feet tall, which (hopefully) would mean that endurance wouldn’t be a problem.  Additionally, the weather could not have been any more perfect – temps were in the upper 40’s/low 50’s most of the day (yes 40’s at the end of May!), and the wall wouldn’t even see the sun until some time after lunch.

Crimping hard on one of the few holds big enough to match on the entire route.

Crimping hard on one of the few holds big enough to match on the entire route.

For me, the crux boils down to two moves – a precision stab to a pointy crimp off of two tiny razor blades, then a foot shuffle and long lock off to another pointy crimp.  There’s also a clip that needs to happen at some point from either one of the pointy crimps.  In isolation, the first move is substantially harder than the second move.  But for whatever reason, going into the second move directly after completing the first move feels darn near impossible.  In fact, I don’t think I’d ever successfully made both moves without falling between.  Such. A. Long. Lockoff.  Control is the key here, as moving dynamically to either hold will result in shredded fingertips pretty quickly…but practicing the moves over and over and over and over again to gain the muscle memory is a gamble with the skin as well.

After a quick warm-up a little further down the wall, I took a lap to get the draws hung on Tips Ahoy.  When I touched the two razor blades, I knew it was going to be a good day.  Not only did the holds feel crisp, but my fingers felt a lot stronger!  (thanks, 4×4’s!)  My confidence grew, and I finished the route bolt-to-bolt without much issue.

Funny how the whole wall looks completely devoid of holds...but theyre there! They arent big, but theyre there!

Funny how the whole wall looks completely devoid of holds…but theyre there! They arent big, but theyre there!

My next go was a send that happened so fast it was almost a blur!  The first few bolts went off without a hitch.  I made the first move of the crux, shuffled my feet around, and made the next move for the first time ever in succession.  I almost punted off initiating the traverse, but managed to stay on, then almost biffed AGAIN a few moves later, but once again, still on.  At this point my fingers were so cold that they were completely numb, but there are exactly zero holds big enough for anything to stop and shake out on, so all I could do was keep climbing, and trust my muscle memory on the last 5.11 crimp ladder.  Before I knew it I had clipped the chains and was back on the ground.  Tips Ahoy = DONE!  Woo-hoo!!!

And with that, it looks like spring climbing season has drawn to a close.  This weekend’s forecast is definitely of the summer variety, which means a lot more sweat and a lot less sending!  (But hopefully just as much fun!)

 

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A Red River Gorge Sending Spree!!!

“Some weekends everything falls together and you send.  Other times you work your ass off and walk away empty-handed.  But those “work” weekends are what make the “sending” weekends so magical.”

Those were my words exactly one month ago, after a hard-fought battle with Jesus and Tequila 12b, one of my (many) unsent projects from the New River Gorge last fall.  The “moral” of that post was that investing hard work into a project will EVENTUALLY reap successful dividends, even if you currently have nothing “on paper” to show for it.  That particular weekend was a “work” weekend.  So was the next one, this time on a new project at Hawksbill Mountain.  Both trips sparked a flurry of training in the gym – 4X4’s, roped intervals, core workouts, etc.  All in preparation for one of those “sending” weekends at some point down the road…

Creeping out of the hueco on Mirage 12c

Creeping out of the hueco on Mirage 12c

…which apparently was this past weekend at the Red!  I’m not sure whether it was the training, the SPECTACULAR spring weather conditions, or just a little bit of luck falling in my favor (probably a combination of the 3), but I just enjoyed what was probably one of my strongest climbing weekends ever…and days later I’m still finding my lips poised in a perma-grin.

 Trying to deflate my forearms in the upper hueco on Mirage.

70 feet down, 30 to go! Trying to deflate my forearms in the upper hueco on Mirage.

I drove up to Kentucky with one goal in mind: Galunlati 12b, a route I’d gotten on at the very end of our trip there this past April.  I drove home on Sunday with THREE 5.12 ticks, one of which very well might be the hardest route I’ve ever sent.  Here’s how it all went down:

It's red eft season in the Southeast!

It’s red eft season in the Southeast!

Galunlati 12b:  95 feet of awesomeness.  Tricky, technical crux down low, with a pumpy traverse on crimps halfway up.  No huecos to hop in, but I did find a decent kneebar to rest up before the last 30 feet of 5.10 jugs.  To save time, (at a premium with 4 climbers and two kids), I warmed up by going bolt to bolt…and it did NOT go well, probably because I should NOT be warming up on 5.12.  But I got the draws in and got to rehearse my beta.  Second go the crux felt way easier, but I botched the end of the traverse and fell.  I figured out a better sequence, and my third go was the charm (and send.)

Mirage 12c: 95 feet of even more awesomeness.  I’d wrapped up Galunlati with enough time to do one more route on Day 1, and my friend Bennett had suggested this one.  He’d just sent, and I figured I had nothing to lose since the draws were still up.  The climbing turns on at the 2nd bolt while exiting a big hueco, and does not relent until the 5th bolt.  The moves out of the hueco are precarious and balancy, and the bolt is a lot lower than you’d like it to be, which makes for an exciting combo rather low to the ground.  In fact, my first time up, I actually climbed with the 3rd bolt already clipped so I could work out the moves fear-free.  The next moves are equally tenuous, as well as the next clip.  The crux comes next, between bolts 4 and 5, a deadpoint move to the first decent-sized hold in about 20 feet.  After that, a few more pulls on small, but positive holds leads into a hueco you can lay down in.  The climbing post-hueco is a lot easier – probably no harder than 10a/b, but the angle is still pretty darn steep, and the route keeps going for another 30-40 feet or so.  I was super stoked to get to the top, and very excited to add this one to my tick list for the fall season.

The CragDaddy getting oh-so-close on Abiyoyo 12b

The CragDaddy getting oh-so-close on Abiyoyo 12b

But as luck would have it, our crew ended up back at the Solarium again on Day 2.  Since my “warm up on the project” strategy had been successful the day before, I decided to stick with that.  I struggled on the deadpoint move.  There are a lot of ways to do it, but each seemed ridiculously hard to do when I was pumped, as I most certainly would be on a redpoint run.  I worked the moves for a while until I had to come down out of sheer exhaustion.

A post-dinner hike to the Natural Arch

A post-dinner hike to the Natural Arch

I wasn’t feeling that optimistic for a send on my 2nd go of the day…I knew I could do the moves, but stringing them all together seemed like an impossible feat.  Not to mention that scary clip at bolt 3.  But I tried hard, and actually didn’t fall until the deadpoint move.  I hung, tweaked the beta, and took it to the top.

I waited a good long time before trying it again, cheering on the CragDaddy as he worked Abiyoyo 12b, and sprayed (solicited) beta at our newfound friends from Colorado as they took their turns on Mirage.  When I tied in again, I wasn’t at all confident that I’d even have enough gas to make it to my previous high point.  But before I knew it, I was there…and this time I executed my beta correctly and latched the deadpoint!  I came really close to punting off in the next section, but somehow managed to slide into the hueco with forearms flaming.

I stayed in the hueco until my neck just couldn’t take it anymore…then I moved up into the kneebar to shake out a little more.  The finish was not desperate, but it certainly wasn’t a sure thing.  The pump clock was ticking faster and faster but I just kept moving as fast as I could until both chains were clipped.  YAY!!!!!!!!!!!  An unbelievably amazing (and unexpected!) send for me!

Crossing the creek at Miller Fork.

Crossing the creek at Miller Fork.

On our last day, we decided to check out Miller Fork, a new-ish area that has recently come out with a new guidebook.  It was fun to try a new place, and the routes we got on were good…but the rock quality seemed inconsistent.  The routes we did were all great, but will probably be even better in a few years after more traffic cleans them up a bit.

Weird Science 12a:  This vertical climb was perfect for Day 3 – thin boulder problem down low to moderate climbing.  Very un-Red like (ie, no guns required, just technique), but the neon orange lichen only visible from the top made it worth the effort.

Witness the Citrus 11c:  Also worth mentioning was this monster of a climb.  100+ feet of pure jug haulin’ fun!  Definitely 5 stars!

Climbing can be a very fickle sport.  I’ve learned that having the physical and mental fitness for a certain route is really only a small piece of the puzzle to success.  Sometimes the real crux is having that perfect weather window occur on the days you are actually free to climb, rather than days you are stuck in the office/house/etc.  (And finding someone else that wants to climb at the same area you want to climb at!)  Fortunately for me, all the stars aligned and everything worked in my favor this time.  And with imminent summer heat and humidity on the way, I’m going to savor every minute of this “sending feast” while I still can, knowing the famine is just around the corner!  (And, right on cue, the forecast for THIS Saturday looks pretty dismal…)  😉

Crux moves on Witness the Citrus 11c

Crux moves on Witness the Citrus 11c

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