climber

Category Archives: Camping

A Bit of “Pre-Season” Climbing…

Wow.  It has been TWO months since I last posted here…I think that’s a record!  Our summer has been busy, but mostly with family beach vacations and pool/water park adventures.  Exciting and fun?  Of course!  But fit for a climbing blog – not so much.  Speaking of climbing, fall is quickly approaching, and WE. CANNOT. WAIT.  Those first few fall trips are always like a bird being let out of a cage to see if its wings really work.  We’ve been gym rats all summer – hangboarding, core work, and even an impromptu bouldering comp.  Soon it’ll be time to get out and see if it did us any good.  

Getting horizontal during Mating Season 11d

We got a sneak peek at fall this past weekend…sort of.  With a few passing rain showers and a lingering mist over most of Saturday, conditions could hardly be called “crisp.”  But mountain highs in the 70’s at least made for more friendly temps than the typical smothering August heat waves.  We had no agenda other than to get back on a rope and get our family hiking legs back into shape.  

A happy little hiker with Mr. Nick, one of her faves.

Saturday morning the whole cliff was socked in with fog, and even rock that stays dry in a downpour was still wet due to condensation (aka “rock sweat.”)  But we managed to find enough pitches to satisfy us for one day.  Best route of the day was Mating Season 11d, a technical face that led to a big roof.  (You can also stop at the rainy day anchors before the roof for a great 11b face climb.)  We moved on after one attempt, but after seeing how wet everything else was, by the end of the day we were wishing we’d kept the draws on for a send attempt.  We also tried Trans-Vest-Tights on the Chocolate Wall, an 11a face climb with a 12a extension that climbs a steep, crimpy headwall.  CragDaddy bailed on the extension due to unforeseen wet holds, but his report was that it’s well worth returning to in dryer conditions.  (I, however, am not sold on the lower part…it was pretty heady in a reachy kinda way for both myself and our other climbing partner of similar height.)  Also worth noting on the Chocolate Wall was Fudge 12c, a 4 star route that was advertised as “probably 13a for shorter persons.”  Never hurts to try though, right?  CragDaddy and I were both feeling great on all the moves until reaching the last bolt.  Then we both got completely shut down.  Despite every combination of beta we tried, it seemed like we were always short one foot, one hand hold, etc.  I guess it’s back to the gym to train for that one…or maybe just not get back on it.  If I’m gonna put 5.13 effort into something, I’d like to get 5.13 credit for it ;).  

Big C contemplating life on the face of Stallion 5.5

Day 2 brought no rain and a lot more sun, and by the end of the day, all but the seepiest of routes were dry.  Turns out CragDaddy and I, as well as our extra partner, all got a second chance sending go at Mating Season (well, 2nd AND third chance for me due to a hand hold breaking mid-crux, but it eventually went!)  We also thrashed around on the classic Blues Brothers 12a.  Definitely a good climb worth coming back to, but I’ll wait til the fall when the giant, furry spiders are all hiding away too deep for my hands to reach.   

CragDaddy working through Blues Brothers 12a

Last climb of the day was Meatballs 5.12a/b, a short but sweet line on the (you guessed it…) Meat Wall.  It shares a start with another classic – Possum Tongues of Aspic 12c, that we are potentially interested in for this fall.  Both climbs begin with a full-wingspan move that was actually far easier than it looked, then the former takes a right across a sea of incut crimps, while the latter tackles the blunt arete.  Considering it’s still “pre-season” and my endurance is no where near where it needs to be yet, I felt really good about making it to the last bolt (crux) on my flash attempt.  Meatballs packs A LOT of movement into a relatively short expanse of rock – great for training finger endurance.  I rehearsed the upper half of the route as I lowered and got it all clean, so I felt optimistic about a 2nd go send, but I wasted too much time looking for a foothold midway through, and found myself falling just before I could latch the finishing jug.  I’ll definitely get on it again this fall, when hopefully I’ll be in better shape and it’ll go down pretty easily.  

Stretched out like spaghetti on Meatballs 5.12a/b

Can’t wait for SEND-tember!  What projects are YOU putting work into this fall?

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

Share

(FINALLY!) Back at the NRG

It only took us until the middle of June this year, but we FINALLY made it back up to one of our favorite places in the entire world this past weekend.  All spring it seemed we had one logistical issue after another – weather, partners, schedules, you name it.  The only other time we’ve gone this long without climbing at the New River Gorge was the year Little Zu was born, when we skipped spring/summer up there entirely and waited til fall.  But now all is right in the world.  It may be too little too late when it comes to enjoying “the season” up there, but at least we got one fix in before the summer heat and humidity takes over.  

Narcissus 12a

Considering the hot, sunny forecast, we opted to spend Day 1 at Summersville Lake.  Nothing like a gorgeous water backdrop that you can melt into at the end of the day!  We started our day getting some redemption on an area classic, Satisfaction Guaranteed 11a.  CragDaddy and I had both bailed off this route way back in 2010.  He was 50+ pounds heavier at the time, and I was just 5 months postpartum…but we had no issues with it on Saturday, and now we’re satisfied ;).

Kiddos playing pirates (and “shooting” passing boats with a “driftwood gun.”)

Next was Narcissus 12a.  I’d also been on this one before, back in 2012, though it was a bolt to bolt run that was nowhere close to a legitimate sending attempt.  This route is touted as a must-do for the grade, and after my recent successes on the steeps this spring, I was optmistic that it could go down in a day.  My first run, however, was not as smooth as planned, and I struggled more than I’d wanted to on a couple of sections.  My second run felt great – I was clean all the way up to the last deadpoint move.  

For me the line boils down to 3 hard sections – a long move off crimps, a choice between 2 boulder problems (one going left, one going right…I go right), and a big deadpoint off a small sidepull.  The finish is steep and pumpy, with giant, flat holds that SHOULD be good enough if you can just keep yourself together…but it’s by no means a sure thing, and I know at least one person that has whipped at the chains.  

Kaos 12c

My third go was shaky, potentialy because I tried out some new clipping beta for the 3rd bolt…something just didn’t feel right, and I fell moving into the boulder problem.  In the back of my mind I was thinking I perhaps had missed my “sending window,” but there was still plenty of time left in the day, so I hopped on it again.  I went back to my original clipping beta, and the lower moves flowed a lot better.  When I got to the deadpoint move, I made sure to get my right foot as high as it could go, and tossed for all I was worth…and it was enough!  The finish was uneventful, and I lowered off with a smile on my face, and a right forearm that continued to feel pumped for the next 12 hours.  

The rest of my day was spent in the water with the kiddos, while the rest of our crew finished up the day on the Long Wall.  Big shout out to Little Zu for hiking almost the entire way out of the crag…barefoot.  There were MANY hiking bears involved, but she powered through until the last downhill bit to the parking lot, where I carried her in my arms like a baby, and she went from hiking to sleeping in a matter of 300 feet.  

I’m not sure what’s going on here but it looks fun!

Day 2 dawned equally sunny and a smidge warmer even, so off to Kaymoor we went to find shade.  I hopped on Boing 10d, which is one of my favorites, then moved over to Control 12a.  CragDaddy had already sent Control on a previous trip last spring, so he decided to put in some work on Kaos 12c, and after a few burns, he was able to do all the moves and link the lower section.  I’d taken a couple of burns on Control once before (the same day CragDaddy had sent), so I was hopeful I’d be able to put it all together.  I took a run up to hang draws, and felt even better about my chances.  Then I proceeded to fall at the SAME FREAKIN’ MOVE on the next FOUR redpoint attempts.  Each story was the same – get through the opening bit, crimp hard on the traverse, get feet set for the crux move, lunge…..and fall.  Then hang for a few seconds, pull back on, and fire the move like it was no big deal.  For whatever reason, I just could NOT do that move on point!  

In hindsight, I think the problem can be blamed on “not enough NRG time” lately.  If you’ve been there, you know…the New requires so much more focus than the same grade at pretty much any other sport crag I’ve ever been to.  Each time I fell on Control, my crew and I noticed some sort of subtle nuance of body position that I was doing differently when I was coming in hot, versus trying the move off the hang.  Obviously, when you’re at your limit, every bit of technique helps no matter what crag you’re climbing at…but NRG is the only place where I consistently have to stay focused on so MANY minute details for the ENTIRE climb, as opposed to just one or two moves.  Nothing is a gimme at the New!  That said, I THINK I have the beta dialed down to the letter for next time on Control….that is, if I can get myself psyched to get on it again!  

Control 12a

The thing that I’ve learned about the New River Gorge is that it can be frustratingly unpredictable when it comes to doling out sends.  The day before, my efforts were rewarded on Narcissus.  The next day, not so much, despite putting in what felt like the same, if not MORE effort.  The great thing is that sending or not sending really has zero importance in the grand scheme of life.  😉

And with that said, I’m so thankful for his place, and I’m so glad we got a chance to go back before the heat got too ridiculous.  Hopefully the logistics will work out a little better for us in the fall, and we’ll be able to rack up some back to back trips during prime conditions.  But, until then, you can find us dividing our time between the gym and the pool for the next couple of weeks!  

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

Share

Rainy Red River Gorge Adventures…Round 2.

If I could pick one word to sum up spring climbing season this year, it would be “rain.”  We just can’t seem to buy any sun around here.  The good thing about that is that we haven’t had grueling hot temperatures.  The bad thing is that we’ve been limited as to our climbing destinations.  For example, we have been to the New exactly ZERO times in 2017.  Meanwhile, we just got home from back to back 3 day weekends at the Red, which we have never even considered doing before.  Don’t get me wrong, the Red is awesome…but the 6+ hour drive with two (sometimes screaming) banshees to get there is decidedly not as awesome.  But desperate times call for desperate measures…and it was totally worth it!

CragDaddy on 5.12 #50! Abiyoyo 12b Photo cred: Michael Chickene

The nice thing about a back to back affair at the Red was that for Round 2 we didn’t have to waste half a day getting our “Red mojo” back.  Since steep climbing is typically not our thing, it’s not uncommon for our first couple of RRG routes to feel discouragingly pumpy.  But this weekend marked the first trip in years that neither of us punted off the warm-up on Day 1.  

Since we were originally thinking we weren’t going to be rolling in until after 10, we booked a room at Lil Abner’s Motel for the first night, figuring that transitioning sleeping kiddos to a bed would be far easier than setting up the tent and risking everyone getting fired up with a second wind long about the time CragDaddy and I were ready to crash…but our plan backfired.  It started out well – CragDaddy actually got away from work earlier than expected, we hit very little traffic getting out of Charlotte, and our dinner stop was quick.  But then came the fatal error when Z fell asleep at 6 pm.  At first we didn’t think it was so bad – she had woken up early that morning, and had skipped the car nap, so an earlier than normal bedtime perhaps made sense.  But when she woke up again 2 hours later and it was still light outside, it became apparent that in her mind she was waking refreshed and rejuvenated from a restful slumber, and was ready to rock and roll the minute she got to stretch her legs.  

CragDaddy gets some Little Zu love in between climbs!

The good news was that the early arrival meant CragDaddy could go ahead and head to the LOTA campground to claim our favorite spot for the giant orange dome otherwise known as our tent, which saved us from setting up in the rain the following day.  The bad news was that both kiddos stayed up far too late and everyone went to bed annoyed with each other…in fact, I’m pretty sure that Little Z was the LAST one out of all of us to finally close her eyes.

But kids are kids, and regardless of who slept or didn’t sleep, we still woke up at the Red River Gorge psyched to climb!  Day 1 was spent at Roadside, where our friends Dino-Mike and Sarah hopped on Ro Shampo 12a, resulting in a send for the former, and a first 5.12 lead for the latter! CragDaddy and I warmed up on Pulling Pockets 10d, then tried our hand on Tic-Tac-Toe 12b (awesome…but super hard boulder problem at the top!), and The Return of Chris Snyder 11d (a loooooooong journey through never-ending juggy pockets.)  We ended our day with a casual romp up Just Duet 10d, a super fun slab which was actually CragDaddy’s first onsight of the grade way back in the day.  No sends for us on anything hard, but good times all the same.  

Me going big on Super Best Friends 12b at the Solarium. Photo cred: Michael Chickene

Day 2 dawned surprisingly dry, as it had only briefly rained the night before, and the storms that had been originally forecasted throughout the day had been pushed back to the afternoon.  We headed to the Solarium at Muir Valley, which has always been one of my favorite places to climb.  Every route I’ve ever been on there has been awesome, and I still have lots more to try.  I warmed up by going bolt to bolt on Super Best Friends 12b, an incredibly steep line that I’ve been intimidated by/wanting to try for years.  The moves were actually not nearly as hard as I was expecting…though putting them together would pack more of a pump than I can currently handle, so I only gave it the one go.  

This picture embodies so much of what I love about my little girl – strength, happiness, femininity, and no fear of dirt!

There were LOTS of folks at the Solarium, so in order to get more climb time I turned my attention to one of the less travelled lines – Magnum Opus 12a.  For all of my strong boulderer friends, this one is considered a gimme…the business is all in the first 25 feet, with what basically amounts to a 75 foot victory lap atop a sit-down ledge.  But “the business” sure is hard!  Sequency power moves on 2 finger pockets and underclings, culminating in a toss from a pair of sloping crimps.  I had tried it one other time last year, then quickly gave it up in favor of Galunlati 12b and Mirage 12c, both of which for me personally seem far easier!  This time though, the moves actually felt doable.  I pieced it together pretty well, then my next attempt managed a one-hang with a fall mid-crux.  My 3rd go felt like it was the one- I powered through, feeling pumped yet secure, and was ALMOST out of it, when I slipped off one move before the big toss to glory.  My 4th go was dismally tired, so even though it was still early, I knew it wasn’t my day.

CragDaddy, on the other hand, finally got revenge on Abiyoyo 12b, a line that has haunted him for almost a year.  On previous trips, he has fallen SIX times after the crux, once a mere 10 feet from the chains, on terrain that was no harder than 10a.  But not this day.  While it may not have been mine, today was most certainly his day – he sent 2nd go making it look easy peasy, nabbing his 50th lifetime 5.12!  Woo-hoo!  

Magnum Opus 12a

Day 3 I was determined not to let CragDaddy get any closer to MY lifetime 5.12 count to tick a 5.12 of my own.  After much discussion, the crew had settled on climbing at Drive-by Crag, so I decided to warm-up on Naked Lunch 12a.  Based on the description, it seemed like it might be a good fit for a last day (5.10+ steep climbing to a short-lived crimpy crux at the chains.)  I gave it my best onsight go, but fell trying to get the last bolt clipped.  I’m gonna blame it on the seeping water streak to my left.  None of the key hand holds were soaked, but they were definitely pretty manky, and I had to do a lot of extra maneuvering to keep my feet dry.  I actually stick-clipped the top so I could try to safely navigate a way around the seepage, and eventually got it worked out.  

Meanwhile, as I was awaiting my next turn, the sun was working it’s magic.  By the time I went up again, the manky holds felt much better, and a very key foot jib was now dry.  My Day 3 guns weren’t firing on all cylinders, but like most end-of-trip sends, the battle was probably won more out of sheer determination rather than physical strength.  Rule #1 of Redpointing = just keep climbing!  After giving CragDaddy the complete beta spraydown, he managed to claw his way to the chains as well, claiming the flash (and keeping our individual 5.12 counts within 5 of each other… but who’s counting 😉 ).

I ended my day on what is perhaps my new favorite route at the Red – Hakuna Matata 12a.  I’d wanted to squeeze in one more pitch on the weekend, and another party graciously let me jump on their draws while they were resting.  This line is amazing – steep and pumpy enough to belong at the Red, but technical and crimpy enough it could easily fit in at the New.  Probably no move harder than V3, but very little fluff in between.  Basically lots of short boulder problems separated by good jug rests.  Definitely one I want to make sure to have my fitness up for this fall!  

The jungle that is the Southeast this time of year.

And that was that, folks.  A lot different than our original Memorial Day weekend plans thanks to the weather, but hey, if the Red River Gorge is sloppy seconds, life’s pretty good, right?!?

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

Share

Rainy Red River Gorge Adventures!

If there’s one thing you can count on when planning trips to the Red River Gorge in the spring, it’s rain.  While rain doesn’t generally equate to the best climbing conditions, there is thankfully one other thing you can count on at the Red – there will be dry rock NO MATTER WHAT.  And not just 5.12 and up dry rock – but dry rock at all grades.  So when we saw rain percentages hovering in the 80-90% ranges, we just tossed the rain gear in the van and hit the road as planned.  

The sand pit at the base of the Buckeye Wall was dry as a bone in the midst of a downpour!

Thankfully, skies were clear when we set up camp at Land of the Arches Campground Thursday night.  However, thanks to a whopper of a storm that rolled in a little after 5 am Friday morning, our crew was up and ready to rock and roll by 6.  Not surprisingly, we were the first to the Motherlode parking lot.  At this point I should probably stop and confess that in 8 years of pilgrimages to the Red, our family had not once been to the Motherlode. Shocking, I know, but we made things right on this trip.

CragDaddy trying hard on Buff the Wood 12b

We started our day out warming up on Ben 11a, not a bad climb, but also not a good warm-up – reachy moves on holds that felt like they were coated in toothpaste.  The mist that hung over the entire wall did not help climbing conditions or our psych level, but we pressed on and all took a run up Breathe Right 11c, before moving on to the left side of the cliff.  We all got thrashed on Buff the Wood 12b before CragDaddy noticed that the narrow, blunt arete we’d been eyeing earlier was looking pretty dry.  You’d think a line as unique as this would have been named something a little more classy than Ball Scratcher 12a, but it is what it is.  The climbing was very un-Mother-lode-ish, following a slabby to vertical rounded corner at the end of the wall.  Very technical, very funky, and very much the style of climbing that we love.  It is a little heady – the bolts follow the corner, but the climbing sometimes steps to one side or the other, meaning that a fall in certain places will take you around the corner.  (For the record, however, CragDaddy took one of those whips when he unexpectedly popped off around the 3rd bolt, and while rather exciting, it was still a very clean fall.)

The movement was fairly sustained, but I didn’t feel pumped because I was on my feet the whole way.  It might be worth noting though, that CragDaddy felt pretty pumped at the top and thought the feet were really awkward, so maybe this one is better for the shorties?  The crux for all of us was at the top, but to be fair one of the key slopers was wet, so on a dry day that move might not be so cruxy.  Anyway, thanks to some great CragDaddy beta I flashed the route, but unfortunately the send train left the station before anyone else could hop on.  We’ll definitely be back though…apparently Ball Scratcher is a good warm-up for the classic Swahili Slang 12c, which looked pretty sweet, but was wet at the top.  

Keepin’ it classy on Ball Scratcher 12a

Friday night our big orange tent was assaulted by yet another wicked band of thunderstorms.  Thankfully, all the kids slept though it this time, and our only casualty was our pop up gazebo that we won at a Harris Teeter giveaway 15 years ago (We had some good, dry times under that little gazebo…may it finally rest in peace.)  Saturday we headed out to Roadside Crag – our first time there since they reopened and adopted the new permit system in 2015.  I’d forgotten what a great place this is for families.  Short hike, flat, sandy cliff base, and just about everything stays dry after days and days of downpours!  

After getting flash-pumped on our warm-up the day before, we started a little slower this time – AWOL 10a, before heading over to Up Yonder 11b.  It took me 2 go’s to put down Up Yonder – my first attempt of the day I fell making a move to what turned out to be the wrong hold towards the top.  Second go I made it through, albeit with a little bit of feet flying around at the top.  But the send was meaningful, since it was one of my first climbs ever at the Red, attempted on toprope when I was only 11 weeks preggo with Big C!  

Best cragkiddos ever!

We then decided to check out the hyper classic steepness of Ro Shampo 12a.  Ro Shampo is one of those routes that everyone that’s ever climbed at the Red seems to know about, whether you climb 5.8, 5.12, or 5.14.  It’s a very aesthetic line that rides up giant incut plates.  Although it’s a first 5.12 for many, I personally was pretty intimidated standing underneath it.  It’s relatively short, but while the holds are huge, so is the distance between them.  It’s got a reputation for requiring a lot of dynamic movement for anyone not blessed with the wingspan of an albatross.  

Initially, I wasn’t that psyched.  The moves looked big, with the fall potential even bigger, and it was my turn to hang draws.  But the wise CragDaddy was right as usual – we owed it to ourselves to at least try it.  So off I went, on a bolt to bolt exploratory mission.  And I felt pretty good on it!  I hung on every bolt but did all the moves first try save the crux.  The crux took a little bit of work to find something that would work for my body type, but I managed to figure out some pretty solid beta (that was, not surprisingly, COMPLETELY different than what we’d ever seen anyone else do.)  

CragDaddy looking strong on Up Yonder 11b

Our typical rule of thumb for attempting harder routes is that unless it is an absolute flail-fest, you need to try it a second time to really get a feel for how close you are to sending.  So although I was still a bit doubtful, I gave it another run, and managed to link enough together for a two-hang.  I fell at the crux, but refined my beta a little more, and also hung once more up high.  By now, I had apparently found my big girl panties and was starting to feel a lot more confident with the moves, and therefore having a lot more fun with it.  My third attempt was actually a decent redpoint burn – I made it through the crux, and fell trying to make the next big deadpoint move…however, after I pulled back up, I found some different beta that seemed like it would be much more of a sure thing when I was coming in hot.  The CragDaddy was also having a lot of success.  His tall man crux beta looked far cooler than mine, and his high point on the day was actually just two moves from the top.  We hiked out feeling thrilled with the progress we made pushing ourselves out of our technical face climbing comfort zones into the steep arena.  

Rebekah on AWOL 10a, while the cragkiddos do their thing below

The more we talked about it that night back at camp, the more and more sure I was that I could send it if I could just get another chance.  With a pretty much washout forecast for the next day, it wasn’t that hard to convince our compadres to head back there again.  So early Sunday morning, I found myself once again staring up at Ro Shampo, this time ready to give it all I had.  Now the CragDaddy and I have figured out a long time ago that when you have a project at the Red, it can often be beneficial to warm-up on it by going bolt to bolt.  Unlike our fave Endless Wall routes at the New, the Red tends to lack a lot of tweaky holds that would make starting out with cold fingers a bad idea (and even if there are one or two, it’s usually pretty easy to just pull through.)  Starting right in on the project allows you to re-familiarize yourself with the beta, going bolt to bolt prevents the dreaded flash-pump, and eliminating a different warm-up route potentially gives you an extra attempt later in the day.  (Not a big deal if it’s just two climbers…but for those of us with kids that often only get in 4-5 pitches TOTAL in a day, making the most of that first burn can make a HUGE difference!)  

Cruxin on Ro Shampo 12a

So that was our plan.  CragDaddy got things rolling with a smooth one-hang.  This route was gonna go down for him for sure.  I tied in and told my belayer that I was most likely not going to try hard, and was going to hang the minute I started to feel any sort of flash pump.  Off I went.  A couple of minutes later and I was clipping the chains!  I just felt too good to stop!  CragDaddy promptly followed suit on his next burn, along with a couple other people that were running laps on our draws.  Send train days are the best!  

Taking over the crag one hammock at a time.

I ended my day on the two lines I’d never attempted on the 5.10 wall – Dragonslayer 10d and Pulling Pockets 10d.  Both were good routes, but I enjoyed the latter a lot more.  Since CragDaddy hadn’t sent Up Yonder the previous day, he tried that one again and the 3rd time was the charm.  We hiked out around 3 and despite the rain, still made it home by 10.  

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend forecast isn’t looking much better, so we’ll see where we end up this weekend – where is everyone else headed?

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

Share

10 Alpine Climbing Tips

Are you dreaming of high alpine peaks? Beautiful sublime faces of rock and ice? Surreal corniced ridges and crimson sunsets? Alpine climbing is one of the most committing and unforgiving forms of climbing, but with a little practice and solid game plan it can be safe and extremely rewarding!

Here are a few tips that will help make your next alpine adventure enjoyable and fun!

1. Pick your partner wisely.

It’s one thing to go cragging for the day with someone. But going to Alaska for 21 days to attempt a nail-biting alpine climb is another story. The last thing you want is to argue and bicker like an old married couple. You might be the best of friends at sea level, but after a few days shivering on icy ledges, tensions can spin out of control quickly! I like to do some warm up climbs with potential partners–see how our personalities mesh, and how the vibe goes. I seek partners that are solid as a rock, cool under pressure, and can find comedy even in the most rugged and challenging of situations.

2. Leave your comfy lightweight inflatable mattress at home.

As tempting as it is to splurge on the expensive blow up mattress with a high R-value, you’ll be left trying to care for it like a fine piece of china. It will more than likely pop when you need it most, and leave you shivering and sleepless all night. Take a closed cell foam pad cut down to just provide coverage for your body.

3. Take extra gloves

Your glove quiver is the single most critical item on the mountain. By day’s end, after brushing off snow and belaying wet ropes, your gloves will be wet and soggy. And if your hands get cold, frostbite can set in quickly, rendering you almost useless, a very dangerous place to be. Gloves never dry out, not even in your sleeping bag, and will freeze over night. It seems ludicrous to bring 5-8 pairs of gloves for a 5 day alpine mission, but I do!
4. Drink your water cold to save critical fuel

Water is very important when you’re working 12-16 hours a day. It will help prevent cold injury and ensure maximum athletic performance. As delicious and soul-warming as it is to sip hot tea at every stop, save your hot beverage for the bivy. Remember fuel is heavy! I ration one medium 250 gram can of gas per day for two.

5. Mitigate objective hazard

I scrutinize a route for hours, days, even months! I am careful to note potential terrain traps and loose rock, keeping in mind prevailing winds and snow pack. I do my best to avoid climbing under seracs and am always considering my retreat options.

6. Bring at least one adze for the team

After climbing all day, the thought of spending two hours chopping a bivy platform is agonizing. But comfortable sleep won’t come until you do. Having an adze will streamline your efficiency and get you off to dreamland sooner so you can be fresh for your next day of adventure.

7. An iPod Nano or Shuffle can boost moral like no other!

I usually download half hip-hop and metal to get me fired up, and than some mellow reggae to cool me down. Additionally, my small point and shoot camera goes on a tether off my micro zipper and lives in my left chest pocket near my skin in a base layer. This ensures the battery stays warm and functional.

8. Take a lightweight sleeping bag and wear all your layers to bed

Sure, I strip off wet Gore-Tex if need be, but often I just crawl right into my bag with my whole kit on excluding my boots. This provides an extra layer of warmth and saves precious time. Often I want to stay tied in, so I sleep in my harness or use a sling around my waist. I sleep with my boot liners in my bag to keep them from freezing.

9. Master the art of the descent

Rappelling a 5000-foot face can seem daunting and downright terrifying. But with creativity and ingenuity, descending can be fun and rewarding. Often it’s safer then slogging down avalanche prone slopes. Slings and cordelettes can be cut up and equalized. Nuts, if placed correctly, can be bombproof and much cheaper than leaving a cam. V threads in the ice are the most efficient and low impact. I simply tie a loop knot in what ever I’m rapping off to avoid leaving costly carabiners. And remember, the Prusik back-up is paramount in the event you’re hit by falling stones or must fidget with your next bombproof anchor.

10. Most importantly, bring your positive attitude and be ready to adapt and overcome to what ever is thrown at you

The mental challenge is what I like most about alpine climbing. Like in life, things do not always go as planned. Successful people are good at improvising and can stay motivated even in uncomfortable and difficult situations. Stack the odds in your favor before going, and practice pertinent skills – ice and snow climbing, dry tooling, aid climbing, rope ascension, self-rescue, and first aid. And remember, if things start to go wrong, and you feel like you’ve gotten yourself in over your head, retreat and come back to fight another day!

Dirtbagging, Deserts, and Disaster: The Perfect Climbing Road Trip

I stood by the side of U.S. 191 waving my arms. Another car slid past. Then another. And another.

“Damn it!” I shouted after the fifth went by without slowing. “Stupid!”

Rain was beginning to fall, and the wind had picked up. The clouds hung low over the mesa. The La Sals were covered in snow.

I was 25 miles from Indian Creek, 40 from Moab, and the battery in my Honda Element was down to Empty.

I’m such an idiot sometimes.

The plan was for a rest day. After three days of sandstone splitters my fingers were shot, my hands were raw and my arms were spent. I needed a shower, a refill on water, some internet and a grocery store. But instead I was on the side of the road miles from anywhere hoping against reason to flag down a pair of jumper cables.

Sometimes the adventure on climbing trips has nothing to do with the climbing.

Everything began in April. First stop: Washington D.C., the climbing Mecca. Andre, my scheduled Red Rocks and Yosemite partner, offered a session at Earth Treks and to let me crash in his spare room. After a New England winter of ice and snow it felt great to pull plastic. Humbling, but fun.

From there I drove on to Wilmington, North Carolina, for a weekend of freediving, descending like a SCUBA diver but without a tank, holding my breath as the light faded through the meters of oceanwater. Stealth-camping in my Element, eating meals out of Wholefoods, it felt like any climbing weekend, except that the worst advice you can give is “BREATHE!”

From there I drove west, the favored direction for the next six weeks. The first real climbing stop was Eastern Tennessee and two days at a secret cliff a friend was developing. “It’s a mix of the Red and the New,” he told me, “more technical than the Red but fewer stopper cruxes than the New.” An oath of secrecy later I found myself below a 40-meter high cliffband stretching from hollow to hollow, perfect orange rock towering above.

“This route is five stars,” my friend told me again and again. He was right. Beautiful sandstone, and to ourselves. We put up a new 5.12 with a fun bouldery crux near the ground and bolt after bolt of devious climbing above, 16 bolts of perfection. The Southeast is still full of hidden gems.

East coast sending on the first leg of my cross country  road trip

East coast sending on the first leg of my cross country road trip

But I had friends to meet in the Red, as well as a project to attend to.

For Northeasterners the RRG is a transition ground, the place to switch from pulling on ice tools to grabbing rock holds. It’s a spring pilgrimage, one seldom observed fit for rock climbing.

A few years ago I caught a glimpse of Cell Block Six, a soaring line on the Midnight Surf wall. It called to me, a perfect transition route—big holds, big moves, lots of airtime—it seemed to shout “Welcome to sport climbing season!” I wanted on.

So day one: Warm up slow on 5.10, then head to where the cliff arches at angles that block the sun. Get on the project. Fall all over the project.

Day two: Recover from Day one.

It took two days of gravity testing, pizza dinners and sandstone buckets to clip the chains, but a pair of handjams after the crux unlocked the route. Desperate through the crux, I recovered enough in those jams to feel like the chains came too soon. The transition to rock season was on!

With the project in my pocket I turned west again, to Indian Creek. It’d been 13 years since I’d climbed in the Creek, I was due a visit. And after a few years mostly sport climbing the idea of splitters beckoned. Last fall I was part of an AAC exchange to the Caucus Mountains, climbing rock routes and alpine peaks in Armenia and Georgia. Our host was a strong and energetic Armenian named Mkhitar, and after the trip our group wanted to return the hosting favor. Mkhitar accepted an invitation from exchange member and famous alpinist Jim Donini to take a month-long tour of American rock, from the Creek to Red Rocks to Yosemite to the Black Canyon. Anyone who wanted to join was welcome to tag along.

Retreating after pitches upon pitches of Indian Creek handjamming

Retreating after pitches upon pitches of Indian Creek handjamming

That’s how I landed on the side of the U.S. 191 waving in vain at passing cars.

The Creek is buried in technological darkness. Indeed, that is part of its appeal—no services, no cell coverage, just coyotes and varnished sandstone. The camping is primitive, the climbing superb. After the noise of Miguel’s and 1,000 miles of highway I sunk into that darkness with relish.

Jim, Mkhitar and a small crew had already staked out a camp and were on the rocks when I arrived. I spilled out of my Element and roped up, barely 7 hours out of Denver. Mkhitar’s face was stretched thin in a smile as he looked at the walls surrounding him. It was going to be a good trip.

But two days later after pitch after pitch of steep sandstone I needed a break. I tumbled back into my car and headed north. Rain spat as I climbed out of the canyon to the plateau, occasionally unleashing in waves, then quiet. I turned on my wipers, then my headlights. Red mud rinsed the land around me.

The first cell signal popped up a short distance from where the road to Indian Creek intersects the highway. My phone buzzed to life; emails downloading, text messages vibrating. I pulled over and switched off the car, leaving the key turned one click to listen to the radio. Three days away and a lot had happened; I started sorting through the layers.

Half-an-hour later, still sitting by the side of the road replying to a Facebook messages, the radio went silent. My phone battery indicator went from green to white.

“NO!” I shouted, suddenly realizing I’d left my headlights on. “NO! You idiot! What are you doing?!”

Half-an-hour—roughly the time it would have taken to get to Moab, where I could have done all of this internetting in the library, surrounded by central air, electric outlets and comfy seats. Instead I was now the proud owner of a dead Honda, parked in a patch of mud along the highway, rain moving in.

I tried the key: Nothing but clicks. I tried waiting a few minutes, hoping maybe the battery would recover enough residual charge, but I was too panicked to let it sit more than 90 seconds. More clicks. Finally I accepted what I had done, what I would have to do. I pulled on a fleece and stepped out into the spitting drops.

The first dozen cars didn’t even slow. Then came the fleet of rentals. “No,” the driver’s would say, one after another, “I don’t have cables. This is a rental car.” One guy offered to send help when he got to Monticello, but that sounded complex and expensive. “At least let me call you when I get there,” he said. “If you are still here I can send someone.”

I relented and gave him my phone number.

Drivers would see other cars pulled over and would pull over themselves, but they too had nothing to jump a battery with. (I, of course, was in no position to throw stones—where were my jumper cables?) I started to grow worried this could get expensive. I had cell coverage. I could call a towing service for a jump. But that felt like expedition tactics, resorting to aid climbing when I had set out for a free ascent.

I have learned that sometimes you can tell a car that has jumper cables. Sometimes the giveaway is the vehicle, other times it’s the driver. This time it was both. Truck. White. Extracab. With a diamond plate toolbox in the bed. A Utahn in his 40s with sandy hair, a mustache and well-worn Levi’s.

He was coming from the other direction. He slowed down and made a u-turn, pulled over all the way to the dirt embankment, letting his truck handle the terrain. He drove towards me, standing small against the desert, but stopped a few yards away. He was on his phone, and he just kept talking. He held up a finger. “One minute,” he seemed to be saying, “I’ll take care of this in one minute.”

Other cars were streaming past. I could be out there flagging them down, I thought. But I had a feeling.

He hung up the phone and rolled down his window.

“Do you have jumper cables?” I asked. The feeling was growing.

He paused, answered slow.

“Yep.”

The feeling was hope. “Can you give me a jump?”

Another pause.

“Yep.”

Another handjam rest. Maybe this crux would go too.

 

A Weekend of Waterfalls (and Climbing) in the High Country

blog6

We may have had a cool and pleasant spring this year, but summer in the Southeast is shaping up to be H-O-T!  Here lately the thermometer has hit 90 before lunchtime and the humidity has felt downright smothering.  That meant that the only logical place for weekend adventures was the higher elevation areas in the western part of the state, where daytime highs were literally 20 degrees cooler than back home.

Our agenda was pretty open-ended.  We really just wanted to escape the heat and get some good family time together.  The past few weeks have been very hectic, and a camping trip in the mountains seemed like just the ticket for unplugging from society and plugging in to each other.

We arrived at the Grandfather Campground with enough time to relax a little at our campsite before bedtime.  The kiddos got to try out their new adventure jammies from Wee Woollies (review coming soon!), and we were delighted to still need long sleeves for most of the morning at camp.

Stream stomping in Little Wilson Creek

Stream stomping in Little Wilson Creek

Saturday was spent climbing at Little Wilson, a small short crag below Highway 221.  And I use the term “climbing” rather loosely, because we spent just as much time chasing happy kiddos through the stream as we did on the rock!  I did get 3 and a half pitches in on the day though – Climb With a View (5.10b), Code 3 (5.11a), Duty, Honor, Country (5.11a/b), and 2 moves farther on Aqualung (5.12b) than I got a couple of years ago.

blog15 blog14

The next day dawned just as gorgeous, and we set off to cross of one of Big C’s bucket list items for this summer – seeing a waterfall. We opted for one of the more off the beaten path options – Elk River Falls.  None of us had ever been there, but we’d heard rumors that it was a great swimming hole for both kiddos and grown-ups alike.  This hidden gem ended up being outrageously cool – well worth a visit if you are in the area.  The 50 foot drop into a calm, giant pool was spectacular!

blog3

Apparently the pool is deep enough to jump from the falls…but we didn’t do it, that’s only hearsay, so don’t blame me if you shatter your ankles trying it!  The big pool cascaded into several smaller areas that were great for both kiddos to play in, along with small boulders strewn about for Big C to scramble and hop around on.  The water was breathtakingly cold, but that didn’t slow the kids down one bit!

blog11

Happy kiddos at the base of Elk Falls

blog12

By this point Baby Zu was in need of some shut-eye, so we let her doze while we made our way back towards Boone to meet up with some friends at Sunken Treasure, another little mini-crag off Highway 221.  Our tick list was short, but quality.  Skin it Back (5.10a), a burly little number that felt kinda pumpy for the grade and Swashbuckler (5.12a), which in my opinion is one of the best routes along 221.

Proof that we actually did climb on this trip! Swashbuckler (5.12a)

Proof that we actually did climb on this trip! Swashbuckler (5.12a)

Crag Daddy on Swashbuckler

Crag Daddy on Swashbuckler

All that cool, crisp air (and frigid water!) was both physically as well as mentally refreshing.  The mountains are good for the soul!  We made an early-ish exit around 4:00, which put us home in time to not only get groceries but even make an appearance at a neighborhood block party…where it was still 85 degrees at 8 pm.  Ugh.  It’s less than a month before we embark on a family climbing trip to greener pastures (well, cooler, anyway) in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, and we are counting down the days!

What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods?  (And if the answer is “60’s and sunny”, don’t rub it in…) ;)

 

Share

A Family Sunday “SEND-day” at Kaymoor

Happy child in the dirt.

Happy child in the dirt.

Our good luck with good climbing conditions has fortunately continued into late spring (which probably means we’ll be smothered by a hot blanket of humidity any day now.)  And while 80’s may not be ideal sending temps, the weather felt darn near perfect for June in the Southeast…so off to the New we went!

We decided to climb in the shade at Kaymoor on Day 1.  Steve was psyched to work Lost Souls (5.12a), and I figured it was probably about time for me to give that one another try.  I’d been on it several times before Baby Zu (most notably of which was during the NRG Craggin’ Classic back in 2012 for some Trango photos), and it never went particularly well.

For those not familiar with this classic, it’s one of those that gets the grade based on linking the sum of its parts rather than individual moves.  There are 3 cruxes, all of which are giant jug to jug tosses.  Very straightforward, and the very definition of power endurance.  It’s a very common “first 5.12″ since none of the individual moves are that “hard” compared to other similarly graded routes in the area (ie, anything Endless Wall.)  So if you are a tall climber that loves gymnastic movement, get out there ASAP for an easy send!  If you are vertically-challenged and/or lean towards more technical climbs…you should still get on it because it’s awesome!  (But bring your “try hard” pants and be ready to launch!)

Happy, dirty, child #2

Happy child in the hammock.

The Crag-Daddy (Steve) went up first and managed a one-hang even while hanging draws, so things were looking pretty good for him.  My first run, however, was dismal.  I started hanging before the 1st bolt, and struggled on just about every move.  My performance was so ridiculously bad that I almost didn’t get on it again.  However, of late I’ve been surprising myself on the 2nd go, so I thought I’d give it at least one more burn.

Steve made it through all 3 cruxes on his second go!  And also his 3rd and 4th go…unfortunately the pump factor kept spitting him off literally one move away from the no hands rest at the end of the traverse!  My 2nd go was decidedly better than the 1st – I did the 1st crux clean, and the 2nd and 3rd cruxes only took a couple of tries.  My 3rd go was even more progress – just one fall each at the 2nd and 3rd cruxes.

I was definitely in better spirits by that point, but still unsure whether I had a send in me or not.  I had crazy shortie beta for the 2nd crux, and I had never been able to link it with ANY of the previous moves, let alone coming in hot on a redpoint run.  Steve convinced me to give it one more try,, and I shocked myself with an almost send!  I made it clean all the way through to the last toss.  I had the distance…but my arms were so pumped that I couldn’t open my hand in time to latch the jug, and I ended up bashing my knuckles into the wall (FYI we refer to that phenomenon as “T-Rexing…”).

Flying feet on big move #1

Flying feet on big move #1

I was disappointed I didn’t send, but thrilled to know that my beta was solid.  It was the first time I actually believed that the route could go at the current fitness level I was at, rather than always thinking “Come back when you’re stronger.”  But lucky for us the whole crew had unfinished business at Kaymoor, so it was a no-brainer to come back the next day.

I did everything I could think of that night to maximize recovery – good food, lots of water, Arm-aid, finger acupressure, yoga, and as much sleep as I could muster in a tent with a 15 month old that hates sleeping.

Shortie undercling beta for Big Move #2

Shortie undercling beta for Big Move #2

Sunday dawned a little bit warmer, but the rock still felt surprisingly crisp.  Steve was up first and sailed through the first three cruxes yet again…but YET AGAIN fell inches before the rest!  I was feeling good, but not at all like a send was a sure thing, as any of the cruxes could easily spit me off if I didn’t execute them perfectly. But thankfully my first go of the day was my last – my beta worked, and the send was mine!  (And Steve sent next go as well, which made for a happy ride home for the whole family.)

One big, happy family!

One big, happy family!

After Lost Souls, there was still plenty of time left to climb, so I rounded out my day with Hardcore Female Thrash (5.11c) and Boing (5.10d).  Hardcore Female Thrash is a one move wonder that moves up a very cool dihedral feature (took 2 tries for the send), and Boing is a high-steppin’ slab climb.  Both are fantastic lines that are definitely worth hopping on if you find yourself in the area.

Share

Ups and Downs Climbing at the OBED

Last weekend was Memorial Day Weekend, which meant it was time for our 5th annual climbing trip to the Obed Wild and Scenic River.  Usually this trip marks the start of the humid sweatfest that is otherwise known as summer  climbing in the Southeast…but we actually lucked out with a spring-ish weekend.  Nights were cool, and midday highs were in the low 80’s with very little humidity.  Definitely the best Memorial Day conditions we’ve ever had! But when the whole family is involved in the climbing experience, there’s a lot more to great “sending conditions” than just weather.  Without wasting too…Read the rest of this entry →

A Wild and Scenic Weekend at Obed River, Tennessee

Family tradition mandates that we spend Memorial Day weekend climbing and camping at the Obed Wild and Scenic River, an area just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, and this year was no exception.  Despite my excitement to get on a rope again, I was a bit apprehensive about the logistics.  It was only our 2nd time roping up with Baby Z, and roped climbing can be a lot harder to manage than bouldering at this age since I can’t always just hop right down to get to her (although if I’m not there someone else always is.)  Additionally it would be Baby Z’s…Read the rest of this entry →

The vision for the Trango athlete team is to find climbers who embody our brand’s values and support them in their climbing endeavors. We focus on the character of the climber, their passion for the sport, and their desire to contribute to the community.

Meet the Team

Featured Events

All Events

Partners

The American Alpine Club American Mountain Guides Association Access Fund Leave No Trace - lnt.org

Archives

Authors

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
eGrips Tenaya Fast Rope Descender

© Trango - All Rights Reserved