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New River Gorge: It’s Fall Ya’ll!

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

Going big on Audiophering 12a

Going big on Audiophering 12a

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

The Zu gettin her climb on at Small Wall.

The Zu gettin her climb on at Small Wall.

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

Kiddo Base Camp

Kiddo Base Camp

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

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

My budding herpetologist.

My budding herpetologist.

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

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

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

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

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

CragDaddy showing off some flexibility on Audiophering 12a

CragDaddy showing off some flexibility on Audiophering 12a

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

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

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Humidity + Humility = Reality at the New River Gorge

This weekend marked our first climbing trip back on the east coast since our big Wyoming adventure (summed up here, here, here, and here.)  And while it felt good to be back on familiar stone, the CragDaddy and I both took a giant dose of humble pie (served dripping in humidity!)

Getting out of my comfort zone on Psychowrangler 12a

Getting out of my comfort zone on Psychowrangler 12a

You know we’re going to get pummeled at the New this weekend, right?” I’d joked to Steve last week.  After a week of rest and a couple of bouldering sessions at the gym, we were still talking about the glory days of our vacation, where both of us had climbed harder than we’d ever expected – hitting personal climbing milestones left and right.  But while we came into the weekend feeling strong and confident, I had a sneaking suspicion that we were in for a rude awakening…

Me thinking that at Ten Sleep I never had to lock off this hard (MENSA 11d)

Me thinking that at Ten Sleep I never had to lock off this hard (MENSA 11d)

On our first day we climbed (or attempted to, anyway) at Kaymoor (White Wall), which I’d only been to one other time.  The hike is not terribly long, but by the time we got there, we were all drenched in sweat…welcome back to summer in the South.  We’d had a few fall-ish days after we’d first gotten back from Wyoming, but apparently that had only been a tease, because conditions were pretty darn terrible this weekend.  I sent the warm-up (Almost Heaven 10b)…and that was it.  In fact, that was the only route that I even got to the top of without pulling on a draw.

Day 2 was a lot better.  We climbed at Beauty Mountain, and I ticked off a pair of classic routes that had been on my list for quite some time – MENSA 11d and Disturbance 11d.  I’d actually been on both once before back in 2012, but had only toproped them, as that trip had been my first since breaking my ankle 8 weeks previously.  Both feature technical face climbing with long reaches between good holds.  The reaches on MENSA involve typical NRG lock-off strength, whereas the crux on Disturbance requires delicate foot placement with a little dose of aggro (ie, get your feet absurdly high and huck for it!)

After my dismal performance the day before, it felt good to remember how to rock climb again and I put MENSA down first go, although it felt a lot harder than I was expecting.  Disturbance didn’t come quite as quickly, as I really had to dial in my footwork and timing for the big deadpoint move.  But after a lot of flailing around beta refinement on my first go, I felt strong and solid on my second try, and sent fairly easily.  (Meanwhile Big C was throwing himself at the slab boulder at the base…and FINALLY sent it with a pretty sweet slab dyno!  We got it on video, so click here to see it.)

Yup, the New is reachier than Ten Sleep...Disturbance 11d

Yup, the New is reachier than Ten Sleep…Disturbance 11d

It was a treat to get a 3rd day at the New, as we usually take the opportunity to hit farther-away crags on holiday weekends.  Our crew decided to go to Cottontop, which to be perfectly honest, was not my first choice.  The most obvious route for me to tackle next is Psychowrangler 12a, which requires a skill set that is the complete opposite of mine.  It’s steep, powerful, and super badass…and also super intimidating.  Last fall I’d shocked myself by actually making it to the top…then I came in with guns blazing right before we left for Wyoming and got shut down at the first bolt.  The move is big, and getting higher feet is really awkward, but it’s from a good hold to a great hold, so most people just jump for it, or even campus.  I am horrible at both of those things (although I must admit I’m starting to enjoy some of my campus workouts!)  The CragDaddy urged me to try again, citing bad conditions as the reason I couldn’t get anywhere on it last time.  But once again, no dice.  I get all tied in and ready to roll and….DENIED!

Ninja obstacles at the crag.

Ninja obstacles at the crag.

After taking a much-needed break to play Batman with Big C, I took a walk with the guidebook, hoping to find something appealing that I hadn’t seen before.  There are several 11+/12- routes on the left side of the cliff that I never hear anyone talk about, although most of them get 2 stars in the guidebook.  The one that looked the best to me was Cotton the Act 11d, so I gave it a whirl. Things were going well initially – a couple hard moves to a good stance, then a long reach to another good rest, wandering back and forth across the bolt line.  But then up towards the top I got stymied by a (you guessed it) long reach at the crux.  No matter how many different ways I positioned myself, I just could not hit the right hand crimp that initiates the rest of the crux sequence.  I tried skipping the hold.  I tried going left and going right.  Nothing worked.  Finally i used the nylon jug (aka quickdraw) to get out to it, then fired the rest of the route to the top.  The route was awesome, but my frustrations continued.

I wasn’t going to try it again, but CragDaddy (once again), encouraged me to try it again.  On his onsight attempt, he’d discovered a tiny, shallow pocket out left that he’d been unable to use, but thought my little fingers might like it better than the long reach out right.  And sure enough, they did!  I could easily get 2 fingers stacked in it with a thumb wrap.  Cranking on that hold with a high right foot enabled me to get to the next clipping hold from the opposite direction everyone else had come from.  After I got it worked out, CragDaddy and I did back to back sending go’s while Baby Zu took an insanely long crag nap.

CragDaddy taking a run up Psychowrangler 12a

CragDaddy taking a run up Psychowrangler 12a

By this point in the day a lot of our crew had already left to head home, but CragDaddy wanted to try Psychowrangler…and convinced me to try it one last time.  Neither of us was anywhere close to sending…but I FREAKIN’ MADE IT PAST THAT FIRST MOVE!  Turns out I’d remembered my beta completely wrong (ie, get right foot up and flag left, as opposed to left foot up and flag right!)  Once I executed the correct way, it was like finding the missing piece to the puzzle, and it felt easy!  (AND we got it on video so that I won’t forget it next time we’re at Cottontop…which will probably be sooner rather than later, since now CragDaddy and I both have a nice project waiting for us there!)

THIS is my beta for the first move...someone remind me if I forget!!!

THIS is my beta for the first move…someone remind me if I forget!!!

So while the word “pummeled” may have been a bit strong, our trip definitely reminded me that grades are a lot stiffer at the New than they are in other places!  (My “12a effort” out in Ten Sleep felt remarkably similar to my “11d effort” at the New…)  And the handful of colored leaves I saw along the trail on the way out reminded me that while it may still be muggy summer conditions here in the South, those fall sending temps are just a few short weeks away.  And then our options will be “Endless” – both literally and figuratively, as I’ve got a mighty long to-do list once it becomes Endless Wall season!

DSC06131

 

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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