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Category Archives: Climbing

(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!  

 

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Low Gravity Days at Hidden Valley

Crux move on Gristle 12a

For anyone that is interested in beta for sending the steeps at Hidden Valley, VA, here it is – 1.  Climb back to back 3 day weekends at the Red River Gorge.  2.  Go to Hidden Valley and try hard.  You won’t walk away empty-handed, I promise!

Our climbing schedule this month was planned out in detail very far in advance completely impromptu based on the weather, but it seemed to really work for us.  After all the steep climbing we’ve been doing lately, I decided I wanted another shot at Gristle 12a, a route I’d tried once before back in April.  The line starts with easier crack climbing, followed by a juggy traverse to a no hands rest in a corner.  From there the intensity picks up for a few moves until culminating in the short-lived, but bouldery crux that guards the glory jugs over the roof.  My previous attempt had featured a LOT of time spent danging from the crux bolt, with more hemming, hawing, and whining than legitimate attempts at the move.  Eventually I’d gotten through it, but the thought of doing the move on point had seemed so discouragingly unlikely, that I figured it’d be a while before I got on it again.  

CragDaddy’s 1st run up USDA #1 Choice 12a Photo: Mike Chickene

But straight off the heels of the Red, it seemed like if there ever was a time to try it again, the time was now!  Since the first part of the climbing is pretty easy, I decided to go bolt to bolt for my warm-up.  The first thing I noticed when I hung on the crux bolt was how much CLOSER the crux holds looked compared to how I’d remembered them!  I actually did the crux fairly easily off the hang (sans whining), and then on my next attempt, executed my beta perfectly for a send that required a rather anti-climactic amount of effort.  

CragDaddy, meanwhile, had put together a great 1st go effort on USDA 12a, a line that is advertised as “an awesome crankfest over 5 roofs.”  Ordinarily I would say that description alone would be enough to keep both of us away, but with the way things were going, we had nothing to lose?  So when it was my turn to climb again, I took full advantage of his draws and beta, and…I flashed it!!!!  Seriously!  All five roofs went first go!  I couldn’t believe it.  After I went, CragDaddy pulled the rope, and he looked pretty casual as he cruised up for the send.  

I ended our first day on Oregon Trail 10c, which was actually our very first route ever at Hidden Valley, back in March.  Back then, it did not go so well…cold temps, numb hands, and big roof was not the best combination for an introduction to a new area.  But I’m SO glad I got on it again, because this time it was more fun than a playground up there!

Another one from USDA Photo: Mike Chickene

The next day dawned surprisingly crisp and cool, and our goal was to make it up to Yabuisha 12a before the sun hit it just before noon.  CragDaddy and I both had a little history with this one, and we were both out for redemption.  Neither of us wanted to hang draws, so our strategy was for  CragDaddy to climb the neighboring route, Dynamo Hum 11c, then for me to follow on TR.  Yabuisha’s anchors are just a few feet away from Dynamo, so it was easy for me to clean one route, then step over to get the draws in on the way down.  

I rehearsed the crux move on the way down and it felt HARD.  I wasn’t at all sure it was going to go down that day.  But when it was my turn to climb again, everything went perfectly.  Conditions were so much better than they had been a month ago, thanks to all the leaves that are now on all the trees, and I’m certain that helped!  CragDaddy nabbed the send as well, making for a great start to our morning!  

The rest of the day we didn’t really have an agenda, so we just followed our friends around hopping on whatever, wherever.  The kids did a little bit of climbing, and CragDaddy gave another run at the direct variation of Spurs 13a.  I had a lot of fun onsighting Great White 11b/c as well as Goldrush 11c.  If you have the choice between the two, I’d highly recommend the former over the latter, as the climbing is a lot more sustained, and the rock quality is a lot better.  Goldrush did have a really cool boulder problem on the arete at the top, but a lot of rock in the roof was downright bad (make sure your belayer has a helmet!)    

Little Z getting her climb on!

I hiked out of the crag this weekend grinning from ear to ear!  It was one of those rare and magical low-gravity weekends that happens about as often as a super moon, the kind you better take advantage of to the fullest whenever you get the chance! The past few weeks have probably been the longest, most focused effort I’ve ever made to improve my weaknesses in the steep arena, and it feels fantastic to see all the hard work and pushing myself out of my comfort zone paying off!  Maybe there’s hope for me yet at places like The Hole or the Coliseum…although I sure do miss Endless Wall.  We’re heading up to the New this season for what will unbelievably be the first time this year for us!  So to be honest, by the time we get up there, I will probably be so happy to be there that it won’t matter what I get on!  

Not a bad way to spend the evening…

 

 

 

 

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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?!?

 

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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?

 

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Camping, Climbing, and Salamanders!

Our family has been eagerly, yet anxiously awaiting the start of the spring camping season.  Eager because we love waking up in the woods…anxious because there’s one member in our family that loves being awake in the woods so much that she refuses to go to sleep.  However, now that nighttime temps have gotten up in the 50’s, staying in a cheap motel seems like an unnecessary expense.  So off we set on Friday afternoon, aiming for Hidden Valley Lake, a serene gem hidden high on a ridge above the town of Abingdon, VA.  We got there with plenty of light to set up camp as well as explore the lake.  (Note:  If you have a canoe/kayak/etc, definitely bring it!  We were sorry we didn’t!) 

Compared to last fall and previous years, bedtime was a breeze…both nights!  And I am proud to say that Little Zu slept better than she EVER has in a tent…both nights! Oh what a difference a night of sleep makes to your morning outlook.  But moving on…because any more on that and I fear I may jinx our next trip…

“Big Orange” is back in action folks!

We had cast a wide net for climbing partners this weekend (Climbing With Kids Strategy #86), and had one of those rare weekends where a lot of people showed up!  It worked out perfectly, however, because Hidden Valley is great for a crowd.  Saturday was pretty hot, considering the leaves aren’t fully out on the trees yet to shade the cliff, so we kept the grades down, so we wouldn’t have to try as hard (in theory, anyway.)

Did you know mayapple leaves make great parachutes for action figures?

You’ll Need More Charmin Mr. Whipple 11a – GREAT route at the first wall you come to, called “Butt City.”  (Yeah the kids think that one is hysterical.)  Sequency and very committing at the crux, my first attempt I got flash pumped getting my hands out of order…2nd go send for me. 
Deciduous Enema 11a – Another really good one, also at Butt City, if you couldn’t tell by the name.  Short but very steep with a really big stand up move at the top, I was really psyched to put it all together on the first go.  
Primetime Players 11b – This is a variation to the popular Farley 5.9 at the SNL Wall.  The first 3 bolts are shared, then PTP breaks off left and heads to the top of the cliff (great views, don’t forget to turn around!)  The crux is pulling a bulge via a sequence of surprisingly positive crimps.  My first time up I had my fingertips on the final crux hold and just couldn’t hold on.  Womp womp.  2nd go send.  
Rattleheaded Copper Moccasin 11d – This route was a very steep but very short little number that was super fun…but nowhere near 11d.  Usually I refrain from complaining about grades (see my confession below), but in this case it felt so off it might be a misprint.  Maybe it’s supposed to be 10d? Whatever the “real” grade is though, it was awesome and I highly recommend it – and certainly don’t let yourself be intimidated by the grade!!!

A little evening dip.

Day 2 we got out to the crag pretty early…and we were VERY encouraged to be able to each get in a pitch before any other partners showed up!  We are ALMOST in that magical time where we don’t have to constantly line up extra people!  The kids discovered a little cave they christened “Salamander Town” (much better than “Butt City”, in my opinion!) and played beautifully together while CragDaddy took his turn to hang draws on Dynamo Hum 11c. Considering my “flash” game may have been a little off the day before, I was super excited to win the battle against this one today.  (Non-climbers – A flash means doing the route with no hangs/falls on your first try, after either seeing or talking to someone else about it, as opposed to an onsight, which is a 1st go send with no prior info.)

Kiddos playing in “Salamander Town” while CragDaddy tries Yabuisha 12a

Dynamo Hum felt pretty darn hard for the grade, and I was more than happy to take some beta from the CragDaddy about where the best holds were.  There were two defined cruxes, one right off the ledge that seemed harder if you’re tall, and another a few bolts later that seemed harder if you’re short – so a little something for everyone!  

Salamander Town

We then moved next door to Yabuisha 12a…and stayed there all day.  CragDaddy got the draws in and figured out the beta, which he then spoonfed me move for move for the entire route….until the very last move to the chains when I fell.  Aaaah, so close!!!  (But, actually, after realizing how hard that last move was to figure out, I wasn’t nearly as close as I’d initially thought!)  Curses to those heartbreak finishes!  Despite coming up short, I felt really good about my flash effort.  My 2nd attempt I fell in a random spot when I bonked my elbow on the rock mid-move (?!?), yet I was able to link the entire upper half of the route, so I felt like a 3rd go send was pretty likely, so long as I had enough gas left in the tank at day’s end.  My 3rd go felt great – there are multiple cruxes to check off before earning the chance to try the last move on point, but I felt strong throughout.  I was coming in to the finish pretty hot, but had my beta dialed and didn’t hesitate.  I set my feet and popped up to a small right hand gaston, and stuck it!  All I had to do was go once more to a better part of the crack.  But something felt off.  The next hold looked a lot farther away than I’d remembered it.  I was locking off with all my might, but all of my efforts were simply keeping me in the same place, and there was no forward progression.  After stalling out for a couple of seconds, I slumped down on the rope.  Geez.  Back to the 4×4’s at the gym I guess.  

Stretched out on Yabuisha 12a

Trying real hard not to step on my finger in a hand/foot match.

Obviously, I wish I would have sent.  It’s frustrating to make it 5 feet from the anchors on my first try, then by the end of attempt 3 find myself only a half a move closer before falling.  Compared to the other 12’s we’ve been on at Hidden Valley, this one is head over heels harder.  And while I know we all like to say and act as if the numbers don’t matter, I’m gonna be completely transparent and say that if this particular grade was a little higher, I wouldn’t be so annoyed.  Ahh!  I don’t like the way that makes me sound, but if you can honestly say you’ve never once gotten sucked into a climbing grade debate, feel free to start throwing stones.  Ok, confession done.  

Bottom line?  Who cares about grades – every single route I touched this weekend was fun, and Yabuisha is definitely on my “best of the grade” list for Hidden Valley!  For sure a worthy opponent, and I will for sure be coming back for it SOON.  But first, back to those 4×4’s…

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Tuck Fest 2017: Deep Water Solo Competition

Two of my biggest fans. The little one cried every time I hit the water, while the big one kept requesting a cannonball finish.

It probably goes without saying that this week’s “Tuck Fest” post is far more fun to write than last week’s “Puke Fest” one. It’s an understatement to say that my days leading up to the Tuck Fest DWS comp consisted of a lot more “momming” than training.  By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, I really didn’t know what to expect, but while I was a bundle of nerves, I was pretty thankful no one in our family was throwing up.

The DWS facility at the US National Whitewater Center is the first and only permanent structure of it’s kind in the WORLD.  Couple that with the $15,000 purse up for grabs at the podium, it’s no surprise that the best competition climbers in the country showed up.  Considering that neither of those adjectives describe little old me (literally old…I was twice the age of most those girls!), I was actually just thrilled to be invited, and my goal was pretty simple – to try my hardest and savor every moment of the experience!  Here’s the play by play…

QUALIFIERS: (aka “qualies,” which is what the cool people call it…)

My friend Joe and I were the very first to check in, which meant we were the VERY first on the walls.  Personally I was psyched about that – the comp was an onsight format, which meant that we weren’t allowed to see anyone else on any of the routes before it was our turn.  So, in my mind there was no advantage to sitting in isolation getting more and more nervous by the minute…

Joe and I getting in the groove on our first routes.

Once qualifiers started, climbers were moved through 6 routes on the wall (3 for men, 3 for women) like an assembly line, so there wasn’t any time to think.  We had 2 minutes to climb, then 30 seconds to get out of the pool, 2 minutes rest, then 30 seconds to get to the next route’s start holds, and on and on like a well-oiled machine.  In fact, by the time I toweled off, changed shoes (it’s hard to take off wet climbing shoes!!!!!), and chalked up, it was time to get in position to go again.  From touching the first starting holds of route 1 until splashing down after route 3, only 8 minutes had passed!  

My first route went really well.  I sent it pretty easily, and felt a surge of confidence coming up out of the water.  I also felt a surge of breathlessness – every time I hit the water the wind got knocked out of me, and swimming to the side of the pool (in climbing shoes), was actually pretty difficult.  But what a rush!  Route 2 was a little harder, and I stalled out a little at the beginning, but finished up the rest of it without any issues.  Route 3 was the hardest of the bunch, and taller.  There were multiple cruxes, and it took me a long time to figure out each, but I managed to make it til the second to last hold before punting off!  I exited the pool swirling with excitement, very happy about my performance.  As the night went on, however, I started to realize that I’d done even better than I’d initially thought; By the end of the night, I was in 12th place, which meant that I got to move on to the finals on Saturday!!!  FYI, you can watch the whole qualifying round for free from start to finish on the Floclimbing website found here, since I was lucky enough to climb first, it’s pretty easy to pick me out!  (You can also watch the finals…but ya gotta pay for it!)

SEEDING ROUND (Saturday morning)

At this point, most of the nerves from the night before had melted into giddiness – as far as I was concerned, earning a spot in the top 16 was the best possible outcome I could have imagined.  In my mind, the hard part was over, and I was grateful to still be along for the ride.  

Going big…and finding success!

Seeding round was a lot different than qualifiers – more low-key in logistics, but stiffer in competition.  We got 2 chances at one route, waiting back in isolation behind the wall in between turns.  We did get to preview it though, and I took one look at the route and knew I was out of my league.  The wall was steeper, and the moves were bigger.  Much bigger.  We were CLEARLY not in qualifiers anymore…

Turns out I was up first…again.  I crept out to the start holds, reeeaalllly hoping not to be the total dork that falls in the water before I get there.  Try hard.  Go big.  I kept repeating that mantra to myself as I carefully made my way up to what I had identified in my preview as the first crux.  Maybe the span between holds wasn’t as big as it looked? I set up on the holds underneath it and stared down a pair of purple holds that may as well have been a mile away.  Nope – still huge.  I finagled my feet here and there, trying to get set up to make the lunge. 

Let me back up for a moment…I’m an outdoor climber who prefers long, technical routes that require far more technique and mental strength than physical strength.  Not to say that I don’t train power – I feel like I’m CONSTANTLY working to improve my ability to make big moves…but power is not a natural strength of mine, and is always lagging behind in my personal repertoire of climbing skills.  

So back to these big purple jugs.  I knew my body didn’t have the coordination to just let go and leap, but it looked like I could potentially deadpoint the move and not have to dyno. (Non-climber translation: “deadpoint” is a lunge move where at least one body part stays on – you’re feet cut AFTER you’ve hit the next hold, or one hand stays on the whole time, as opposed to a “dyno” where all body parts are off the wall for a split second.)  Though not at all sure I’d have the arm span,  I sank down low on the holds, paused briefly, then lunged….AND I STUCK THE HOLD!!!  It made a loud slapping sound, and it took me a few seconds before I realized that I was still on the wall.  I kept going, but got stalled out and eventually fell just a few moves later.  

One move away from my high point at seeding. Photo cred: Bryan Miller of @fixedlinemeda

Turns out that move was a not-so-biggie for all the serious competitors, as there were only a handful of climbers that fell before my high point.  In fact, the majority of the women completed the entire route on both of their attempts.  But for me, onsighting that move was huge, and was potentially one of the hardest moves I successfully completed all weekend, so I walked away both satisfied as well as motivated.

FINALS!  (Saturday afternoon)

My mediocre performance in the seeding round landed me in 13th place for finals, which pitted me against nationally-ranked Atlanta climber Tori Perkins (seeded 4th) for the head to head final.  I’d seen her crush the seeding round, and was fairly certain I was about to be obliterated.  But I just couldn’t stop smiling – I knew I wasn’t going to win, and so did the 1000+ people out on the lawn spectating, so there was absolutely no pressure!  Not surprisingly, I got knocked out in the first round, although it ended up being a far closer match-up than I’d originally anticipated.  But oh what a thrill to be able to tackle that big wall in front of a cheering home crowd!  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be there and do my best to represent the home team!

First round of finals…photo creds: Jennie Jariel

In reflection, it was very interesting to experience a completely different form of climbing than what I’m used to.  Comparing outdoor rock climbing to competitive gym climbing is probably like comparing back country skiing to slalom racing…the skills sets are similar, but they really are two very different sports, and only the best of the best can be good at both at the same time.  I have a lot of respect for these little girls with far superior strength, power, and route-reading abilities than I could ever hope to have. (seriously for a couple of them, I’ve been climbing longer than they’ve been alive!)   As far as the competition scene goes though?  They can have it.  It was novelty fun for me, but I’ll take real rock any day over plastic…although jumping into a pool might sound pretty refreshing come summertime!  But for now, I’m looking forward to getting back to regularly scheduled programming this weekend!   

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Sending Spree: Drew Ruana takes on The New

 

Wow. I can truly say that the New River Gorge was one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever been to. I feel so blessed to have opportunities to visit special places like these. My dad had learned to climb at the New; he had always talked about it to me, telling me I needed to go there sometime with him. Until I actually went, it was hard to visualize just how stunning the area is- not just the climbing. The wildlife, the scenery, everything about this area is just beautiful. Day one back home, and I already can’t wait to go back.

 

Before I got here, I didn’t really have specific goals. I wanted to play around on some hard stuff, but when I got off the plane on the first day and got to the wall, all I wanted to do was climb. Climb climb climb. I decided that I would have a much more rewarding and fulfilling trip if I did more mileage- so I did that. I think I averaged around 9 pitches a day? Something like that. Most of them new routes, and in new areas. I managed to send 20 new 5.13 routes, and 4 5.14s in my 6 days of climbing there.

A couple of the routes I tried stood out to me. I know I’ll remember them for the rest of my life. One of them was Puppy Chow, 5.12c- I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun climbing on a route as I did on that. If you’re in the area, get on the route. I don’t care how hard you do or don’t climb- it is 100,000,000% recommended. Also in that area is Mango Tango. This route is the most strikingly beautiful arete I’ve ever seen. It looks and climbs like pure artwork. Although a bit cryptic, figuring out the beta and sending was one of the most memorable climbs of my life.

The thing is that trips like these aren’t just about the climbing. They are made great by the people you’re with. Piper, Miriam, Quinn, and Laura were one of the best crews I’ve ever climbed with.

I met a bunch of my dad’s old climbing buddies, which was cool to see who he grew up with. The local vibes there are awesome – shoutout to pies and pints, the pizza and atmosphere is rad there.

Special thanks to Michael Williams for being the sickest guide/guru around. Can’t wait for another trip like this!

Here’s my ticklist for this trip:
5.14b
Still Life 2nd go
Journeyman 3rd go

5.14a
Mango Tango 2nd go
Sword of Damocles 4th go

5.13d
Natural Progression 2nd go

5.13c
The Project OS
In the Flat Field 2nd go
Satanic Verses 2nd go

5.13b/c
B.C. 2nd go

5.13b
The Racist 2nd go
The Pod FL
Crossing the Line OS
SR-71 OS
Against the Grain OS
White Lighting OS
Fuel Injector OS

5.13a
Quinsana plus FL
Apollo Reed OS
El Chapo FL
B-52 OS
Massacre OS
Skull Fuck Direct Finish OS
Mighty Dog FL
Next Time OS

Photos by Trevor Blanning

Easter Eggs, Climbing, and the Car Ride from Hell…

This week has been a rough one as I have been nursing a toddler with a bad case of the throw ups (see below), while trying to manage some bad spasms in my lower back.  That being said, writing a trip report has been fairly low on the priority list, but the blogosphere has granted me about an hour to bang one out tonight, so here goes.  Our weekend can be summed up pretty easily in 3 distinct parts, as noted in the title.  I’ll tackle them in order…

Easter Eggs –

It’s been our family tradition since 2013 to have an at-the-crag Easter Egg Hunt.  Although it’s somewhat of a pain to drag buckets of plastic eggs everywhere throughout the day, the kids look forward to it so much that we just can’t say no.  And this year, we crammed everything into Big C’s backpack anyway, so really the only trouble was keeping track of the exponentially larger explosion of kid stuff at the base of the cliff.  In previous years Little Z has been too little to really “get it,” and aside from placing a few token eggs pretty much directly in front of her, she didn’t really participate.  This year, however, she was READY.  We’d already gotten a decent amount of “hunting” done at friend’s and family’s houses, so she was anxious to step up her game.  After all, at-the-crag egg hunts are not for beginners; a good egg hunter needs to be willing to look inside holes that potentially house creepy-crawlies, and able to scale rock faces (with a grown-up spotter, of course!)  

Another Easter tradition we have at the crag is bringing resurrection rolls for any and all who would like to partake.  It’s nothing more than a crescent roll with a sugar and butter coated marshmallow melted inside, but the hollow result makes for a great visual of the empty tomb for the kiddos, and great sending treats for all!  

Climbing –

As you probably have guessed, our weekend also included a bit of climbing…though not nearly as much as we’d originally intended.  In between egg hunting and resurrection roll eating, we managed to squeeze in 4 pitches, only 2 of which are worth mentioning.  Pocketful of Rattlebugs 11a is potentially the best of the grade at Hidden Valley – definitely do it if you are in the area!  It’s a pocket-pulling, finger-locking good time if I ever had one – AND it stays dry in a downpour!  I ended my day on Gristle 12a, a steep, juggy line with a hard boulder problem at the top.  It took me quite a while to finally make the crux move, but I eventually got it worked out.  That one move is really hard for me, and I know it would be even harder coming in hot on point…but I always tell people that you never get a good picture of how close or far you are on a route until you give it a second go, so I should probably take my own advice and hop on it again next time.  Why didn’t I just get on it the next day, you wonder?  Well, that brings me to the final piece of this post…

CragDaddy starting the business of Gristle 12a

The Car Ride From Hell –

To get the full effect, we need to back up a bit.  CragDaddy and I had gone up to Hidden Valley for the weekend knowing we didn’t have any extra partners for Sunday to help with the kiddos, but we were up for going for it.  After all, with Little Zu being 3 now, we are sooo close to being able to fly solo, so long as we are at a kid-friendly crag (ie flat, safe base with no drops/water hazards/etc),  In fact, the past few times we’ve been out, there have been times that the kids have been so engrossed with playing with each other, they’ve hardly noticed whoever was on “kid-duty.”  Ironically enough, however, we DID actually run into some friends at the end of Day 1 with whom we made some symbiotic climbing plans with; the wife was 35 weeks pregnant and obviously not wanting to  catch lead falls.  Our mutually beneficial plan would have worked out great I’m sure, except that when we arrived at the base of the cliff the next morning, Little Zu promptly began puking her guts out.  

Just before the crux, Gristle 12a

I will spare you the details on the off chance you are eating dinner as you read this, but let me say this – if you think throw ups are gross at home, multiplying that grossness by a factor of 10 pales in comparison to what happened over the next 5 hours.  By the time we got back to the car, Little Zu had gotten vomit all over herself, all over me, and all over the backpack carrier.  Thank heavens for the Easter Egg bucket that we were able to re-purpose as a barf bucket in the car, otherwise the car situation would have been FAR worse.  Still, I lost track of how many times we had to stop to change her clothes, but we were averaging every 15 minutes or so for most of the drive, save the hour or so that she was able to sleep some.  By the time we got home, we were digging Big C’s shirts out of the dirty laundry bag, because she’d exhausted all of her extra clean clothes, her previously dirty clothes, as well as Big C’s extra clean clothes (there was a certain big brother who was NOT thrilled about sharing, but you’re never too young to learn what it means to “take one for the team.”)  

My poor, sweet girl.

Somehow during this whole debacle, I did something terrible to a muscle in my back.  CragDaddy hypothesized that it happened when I got my foot stuck in the seat belt while making a dive into the backseat, bucket in hand, in an attempt to catch a particularly projective-esque episode that had woken poor Z from a seemingly sound sleep.  

After a puke-free Sunday night and Monday, we thought she was in the clear, but Tuesday featured a reprise that, although milder, still made for a rough day.  Today, however – she woke up ravenous and has been eating all day and keeping everything down, so maybe NOW we’re in the clear?  For her at least…

Meanwhile, in between chiropractor visits, vitamin I, yoga stretches, and massages from the CragDaddy, my back has been slowly but surely loosening up.  I climbed on it yesterday, and it didn’t bother me at all – right now it just hurts if I’m standing up for prolonged periods.  I may not be at my best, but I’m optimistic I can at least bring SOME try hard to the Tuck Fest Deep Water Solo competition this Friday night (!!!)  That is, provided I’m not sidelined with my own barf bucket in the event my darling daughter decided to share her germs despite all my best efforts at disinfecting and quarantining.  So far so good, but it’s too soon to say…wish me luck!  

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Anniversary Trip to Hidden Valley

Although there have been a handful of daytrips scattered here and there along the way, the last time the CragDaddy and I were able to get away together for an entire kid-free weekend was almost 5 years ago, back when Big C was 2 and a half, and Little Zu was just a twinkle in our eyes.  Considering that the latter turned 3 a month ago on the same day we celebrated 15 years of marriage, we were overdue for an escape!  Our original plan was to stroll down memory lane at the New River Gorge, a place that we have been adventuring in for over a decade.  But with snow and all day rain in the forecast for most of the days leading up to the trip, we knew that our only chance for finding dry rock would be to change our destination.  

Cheesy love selfies totally allowed on anniversary trips.

So we opted for what has suddenly (and randomly) become our 2017 stomping grounds – Hidden Valley, VA.  We decided that in honor of the occasion we would step up our accommodations from our usual norm – no tents, and no $50 motels!  Instead, we spent two relaxing evenings and two delicious mornings at White Birches Inn, a bed and breakfast run by a delightful couple that made us feel right at home.  If there are any other climbers out there looking to splurge, please give them a call!  (FYI they are very reasonably priced…I’m just using the word “splurge” because most climbers tend to be dirtbag cheapskates…it takes one to know one!)  

Anyway, we took our time hiking in to the Falcon Wall Saturday morning.  For starters, it was pretty cold, and we also wanted to take full advantage of our opportunity to explore a still relatively new-to-us place at our leisure.  It was refreshing to be able to comb over the guidebook together and stop whenever we wanted to take a closer look, without worrying about distracting the troops and losing our “kid-hiking momentum.”  We found ourselves at the base of the Falcon Wall by late morning, however, where I warmed up on Thin Shells 10d (because it looked fun) and CragDaddy warmed up on Playing With the Crow 10d  (because he could swing over and hang draws on his project as he was being lowered.)  His plan worked out perfectly, as he sent DDT 12b in fine style on his first attempt of the day!  

A rare day that we BOTH get to carry in our Trango packs!

Our next move was a change of pace from our usual – we hopped on a 5.13!  For a while now CragDaddy has been saying he thinks we might be ready, if we found the right one that suited our climbing styles.  I didn’t necessarily disagree, but have been a little less psyched about the idea. To be honest, I remember all the “route shopping” I had to do when I was first breaking into 5.12 land to find lines that maximized my strengths and minimized my weaknesses, and the thought of going through all of that again with TWO kids in tow seems more exhausting and perhaps not worth the effort.  But what better time to test the “hardman” waters than on a kid-free trip, when both parties are willing to take long, patient turns at the belay.  

Rodent’s Lament 13b Photo: Nick Hitchcock

Though we’d checked out a few along the way, we settled on Rodent’s Lament 13b, which although harder on paper than some of the other choices, seemed like a good fit because we have done really well on the neighboring routes.  Not to mention it just looked more doable than some of the other options!  We both took FOREVER on it, far more time than we would have been afforded with the kids around.  Final assessment was as follows – V4/5 sequence down low to a no hands rest, with a really hard V7? crimpy crux, followed by some 5.11+ climbing to the top.  Neither of us could really touch the crux – I came close one time, but that was it.  I initially thought I’d be able to pull the moves, since the holds didn’t seem “that bad”, but I just didn’t have the finger strength needed to get my feet high enough to make the next moves.  Perhaps that’s motivation to get on a hangboard this summer and come back next fall with fingers of steel?  Maybe, maybe not.  The jury is still out for me on whether or not a load of extra training is worth earning an extra number grade, so we’ll see!  

The only other routes of note on the day were two 5.11c’s that I was really psyched to onsight – Kestrel, because it was so good, and Last Episode, because it was such a fight to hang on!  The former is on the Falcon Wall, and is definitely worth the hike even if that’s all you do there.  The latter is on the SNL Wall, and is relatively chill until the last couple of bolts…when the intensity turns way up and the holds disappear! 

Sorry for all the selfies…it was just so rare to be just the two of us!!!

It’s also worth noting that we didn’t stop climbing until 6:30!!!!!!  Unheard of with the kiddos, as we usually aim to be hiking out no later than 5!  

Our next day was more of the same – a little bit of sending, and a lot of flailing around on stuff that was too hard for us.  Routes worth mentioning are Spurs 10c, and Rainy Saturday 12a.  The former features steep jug hauling ending at a spectacular view (so if you get on it, don’t forget to turn around and look!)   The latter is basically a powerful boulder problem right off the deck to a juggy roof and laidback slabby finish.  CragDaddy scored the onsight, while my flash attempt was thwarted by the first long move (second go send though!) 

Even though we ended up having to go with our “Plan B” destination, we still had a marvelous time…and it looks as if we’ll be back this weekend, this time with kiddos in tow!  Though we’re dying to get back to the New, we just haven’t been able to get all of our stars in proper alignment – weather, schedules, partners, etc.  With that said, however, we are thankful for this new option that is both closer to us AND wet weather friendly!  Big props to the Carolina Climbers Coalition for making this access happen!

 

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Sending Spree at Hidden Valley, VA!

This time of year in the Southeast, planning weekend climbing trips can be a bit of a gamble when it comes to the weather.  It’s especially hard when a too-long-for-a-day-trip destination looks perfect one day, and sketchy the next.  We all had our hearts set on a round 2 at Hidden Valley, VA this past weekend, but while Saturday looked splitter, Sunday looked, well, pretty wet.  However, we’d heard from multiple people about how the bad weather often “hops” right over the mountain, even when surrounding areas are soaked.  That combined with numerous rainy day route recommendations from the new guidebook was good enough for us – and our gamble totally paid off!  

CragDaddy with his belay game on point while the kiddos play in the background.

Not only was day 1 just as gorgeous as forecasted, but it was an above average performance day for the whole crew.  After a quick warm-up on Powder 10d, we decided to make the long trek to the Falcon Wall, which the guidebook touted as the best technical face climbing in the Valley.  We were not disappointed!  Our first route there was Fledgling 12b, a stellar line with a thin crux up high, and a somewhat cryptic finish.  Perhaps a little soft (we all agreed Flavored with Meat 12a from a few weeks ago was substantially harder), but super fun nevertheless.  It was my turn to hang draws, and I was really close on the onsight, but botched it at the last bolt when I missed a hidden foot.  The CragDaddy scored his first 12b flash, fellow Cragmama Rebekah nabbed her first 5.12 send on her second go, and I sent second go as well.  Yay team!  

Cruxin’ on Fledgling 12b

Next on our list was DDT 12b, another area classic.  Definitely a step up from Fledgling; this route was NOT soft, and featured movement that was very sustained, technical and bouldery.  The crux beta was pretty intricate, and included a pretty tenuous clip, but after figuring out the beta on my first go, and rehearsing the harder moves again when I was lowering off, it felt pretty doable.  I sent second go, woo-hoo!  First time in a looong time I’ve nabbed two 5.12’s in a single day. 

Fancy footwork on DDT 12b

Next day we fought some drizzle in the morning, a random 3 minute monsoon in the afternoon, as well as our extra partner needing to leave early due to illness.  With all that said, however, we managed to make it a pretty good day.  It was the CragDaddy’s turn to hang draws, and he spoonfed me beta for a flash on “Never Seen a Man Beat the Snake Before” 12b.  Fun route, though not nearly as classic as the lines on the Falcon Wall.  Perhaps a little soft as well, but definitely worth doing if you are climbing in the Snake Garden area.  

First moments at the crag Sunday morning…(thanks for the rainsuits Biddle and Bop!)

Our day ended rather abruptly when I had to bail on the Meat Wall during the freakish rain storm.  We hiked out a little earlier than normal, but super psyched on spring climbing season.  Looking forward to spending more time in Hidden Valley this spring, as well as a…wait for it…KID-FREE weekend at the New for a belated anniversary celebration.  (Please, please do an anti-rain dance in a couple of weeks for us if you get a chance…)  Til then, where did everyone else adventure this past weekend?

…and an hour later, here’s CragDaddy sending “Never Seen a Man Beat the Snake Before” (Photo creds to Eric from TRC, didn’t catch his last name!)

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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