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Category Archives: Endless Wall

NRG: Flashin’ or Thrashin’

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

The Honeymooner Ladders at Central Endless

The Honeymooner Ladders at Central Endless

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

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

Girl beta...

Girl beta…

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

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

Guy beta...

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

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

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

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

Happy kiddos!

Happy kiddos!

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[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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New River Gorge: It’s Fall Ya’ll!

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

Going big on Audiophering 12a

Going big on Audiophering 12a

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

The Zu gettin her climb on at Small Wall.

The Zu gettin her climb on at Small Wall.

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

Kiddo Base Camp

Kiddo Base Camp

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

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

My budding herpetologist.

My budding herpetologist.

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

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

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

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

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

CragDaddy showing off some flexibility on Audiophering 12a

CragDaddy showing off some flexibility on Audiophering 12a

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

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

 

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[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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NRG Round 1: Endless (Not Sendless) Wall

Techman 12c

Techman 12c

After a month of unseasonably wet and humid conditions, we were starting to think fall climbing season would never get here.  But this past weekend was about as good as it gets, condition-wise.  The air was cold and crisp, but the rock was still warm – one of those magical times where you can climb pretty much wherever you want, without having to chase sun or shade.  In other words, any excuses for not sending are your own fault!

Now when it comes to climbing grades at the New River Gorge, there can be some inconsistency, but the general consensus is that routes at Endless Wall are full value.  There are very few “gimme’s”, and the technical lines almost always feature a combination of the following: long lock-offs, tiny (and often incredibly high) footholds, heinous crimps, and amazing exposure and position.  The sport routes tend to be bolted with a good lead head in mind – you may not have as many as you want,  but usually they are right where you need them (however, botching your beta often means a pretty big ride.)

With all that in mind, it’s no wonder that Endless Wall is often referred to as “Sendless Wall.”  But I love it (usually), and most of my proudest sends have happened there.  So with what was quite possibly the best conditions of the year so far, we headed north to West Virginia on Friday night with an Endless agenda.

Saturday morning was a little chaotic due to Bridge Day shenanigans (when hundreds of adrenaline-junkies hurl themselves off the bridge while thousands of onlookers flock to view the carnage.)  We had to drive the “long way” around, which actually only ended up being about 15-20 minutes out of the way – well worth it to be able to enjoy a warm bed on the South side of the bridge.

Big C dominating the Honeymooner Ladders on the way out!

Big C dominating the Honeymooner Ladders on the way out!

My objective for the first day was Techman 12c.  It’s an okay route, but certainly not a classic.  To be honest, the crux traverse is hard in a “not fun” way – it’s sharp, abrasive, reachy, and most of the holds are held together with glue.  But it shares anchors (and an upper crux) with Freaky Stylee 12a, so I started working on it back when CragDaddy was working on Freaky.  Since then I’ve managed a 2-hang, but I was hopeful that Saturday would be the day to piece it all together and nab my first NRG 12c.

I warmed up by pulling through the crux, climbing the more moderate sections of the route, then rehearsing the crux moves on the lower.  A couple of the reach moves are a little low percentage for me because I’m so over-extended, but I got them dialed in better than I ever had before.  My first redpoint attempt of the day got off to a good start – I made it through the heinous crux traverse, but was unable to latch the deadpoint move that came directly after.  The next time it was my turn, however, I botched the crux, again and again, then botched the deadpoint move (again and again.)  My skin was feeling pretty raw so I took a nice long break.  Unfortunately that didn’t seem to help.  I tried two more times and was never able to make it through the traverse without falling.

I was pretty discouraged with the lack of progress…but the icing on the frustration cake was when one by one everyone else sent.  CragDaddy even had an epic battle with the route, almost falling off several times but managing to fight through, which earned him his first ever 12c!  I of course was proud of him…but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting just a little.

Crux time on Hellbound for Glory 12a

Crux time on Hellbound for Glory 12a

The next day my confidence (and psych) was pretty low.  Although Endless Wall has always been one of my favorite places to climb, I’ve found myself in somewhat of a love/hate relationship with it of late.  While it definitely makes me a better climber when I go to other areas, I get really tired of all the reaches.  It’s really frustrating to struggle hard on moves that my taller climbing partners easily reach past.  I realize that being shorter definitely has its advantages on some routes…but not the ones at Endless Wall (or anywhere at the New, really!)

But enough whining, back to the climbing.  Day 2 we found ourselves at Central Endless.  I took a lovely lap up Strike a Scowl 10a, which in my opinion offers the best view of the gorge.  My friends already had a rope up on Hellbound for Glory 12a…which looked terrifying, so I opted to tackle it next on toprope.

I could have done without the heady, zig-zagging start (traverse 10 feet left, then 10 feet right, step left onto the face, then traverse left 10 feet more.)  But once the route kind of “got going” it was great – technical moves that were surprisingly pumpy, but with pretty good rest stances.  The upper half was a typical Endless slab, with a stay awake move just before going for the anchors.

My toprope run went surprisingly smoothly.  However I wasn’t sure I’d be able to commit to the moves right before the 3rd bolt (a fall there would be a pretty nasty pendulum), so I toproped it again.  Turns out I’d somehow missed a gigantic rail that made the moves I was worried about significantly easier.  I not only climbed that section clean, but the entire rest of the route, earning me the dreaded “toprope send.”  Oops, guess I should’ve led it.  Now I had to do the whole zig-zaggy start again (which ironically felt a lot less sketchy on lead.)  Third go was a charm, and gave me my 7th Endless Wall 5.12.  It wasn’t the tick I’d been planning on walking away with, but a worthy line nonetheless, and I’ll take it for sure.

Despite the emotional ups and downs, there’s no place I’d rather be this time of year than the New River Gorge.  Combine family, friends, and epic climbing conditions and it’s hard to go wrong…and I can’t wait to do it again this weekend!

 

 

 

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[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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NRG Craggin’ Classic

Last weekend was the first official weekend of fall, and for climbers in the Southeast, that means it’s time for the Craggin’ Classic at the New River Gorge!  This NRG event is actually just one of a series of climbing festivals held across the country each fall.  The Craggin’ Classic Series (organized by the American Alpine Club), is a chance for climbers from all over to get together and play around on world class rock, all in the name of community, education, stewardship, and fundraising.

This was my 2nd time working this event for Trango/Tenaya (first time was back in 2012), and my first weekend long event since the 2013 Rendezvous back in the pre-Baby Z days.  Event weekends for me are always a chaotic blur of pure craziness.  As a climber, working these events is always a blast.  I mean, my job is to go to a great climbing destination, hang out and talk gear with all sorts of awesome folks, and usually walk away with some amazing photos of me doing what I love (courtesy of Dan Brayack) – seriously, what’s not to love about all of that?!?  But as a mom, these events also bring a whole lot of behind-the-scenes stress, usually surrounding mundane, but important, family logistics.

My favorite shot of the weekend - finishing up P2 of The Prowesse

My favorite shot of the weekend – finishing up P2 of The Prowesse 5.9R

Fortunately Steve and I have learned a lot from past events and are able to sort through most issues before they arise.  We’d secured extra climbing partners so that Steve and the kids could do their own thing while I was off galavanting around with Trango, and managed to find a crag that was suitable both for Trango’s photo goals as well as Steve and his “village” – which meant I could hike back and forth to check in with Baby Z a couple times during the day to nurse.  A friend of mine even let me borrow his car for the day (which could actually end up being it’s own separate post entitled, “Dirt Road Adventures with a Stick Shift and No Power Steering,” but I’ll leave that for another day.)   Somehow, though, despite our best-laid plans, it seems like there’s always an unforeseen glitch that sends everything into a tailspin.  This time around it involved the poorly-timed eruption of 2 canine teeth and a mysterious fever, both of which turned Baby Z into a clingy hot mess that wanted to be attached to mommy 24/7.

Brenna working her way up P1.

Brenna working her way up P1.

But in sickness and in health, this show had to go on, so on Friday afternoon we dutifully headed north in a van loaded down with kids, climbing gear, and demo shoes.  After a feverish night of enduro-nursing and restlessness, I headed to the AAC Campground for shoe demos while Steve and the kiddos headed to Endless Wall with our “village.”  I met up with them mid-morning and warmed up on The Upheaval 5.9, a great slab route that deservedly gets tons of traffic.  I was psyched to watch my boy dominate Totally Clips 5.8…well, maybe “dominate” is a stretch, but he did get to the top pretty quickly, where he lingered at the anchors for several minutes enjoying the view.  Upon reaching the ground, he proudly announced that he “used two quickdraws as holds because it was easier.”  I have no idea where he’s seen that before because neither Steve nor I have EVER done that (that’s written in sarcastic font in case you couldn’t tell.)  With everything going on, we unfortunately didn’t get a picture of it, but I’m pretty certain he’d be up for doing it again next time.

Girl power :)

Girl power 🙂

Around lunch I got the call to meet my Trango peeps back down at Fern Point for a photo session on The Prowess 5.9 R.  I’ve only done a handful of the trad lines at Endless Wall, so I was psyched to try it (although admittedly a little anxious about the “R” part.)  The route actually begins on Freaky Stylee 5.12a and traverses across Stim-o-Stam 5.11c to the blunt arete.  This initial section is the part that warrants the R rating – the climbing is pretty easy, but gear is sparse, and difficult to protect for both the leader as well as the second.  (I guess one alternative would be to boulder up through the Stim-o-Stam start – a little less sketchy for your second, but also much harder moves.)  Once around the corner, the route tiptoes up the slab to the Stim-o-Stam anchors.  We split the route into two pitches so that Dan could get some “girl power” shots for Trango’s sister company, Stonewear Designs.  The finish was easier (5.6 ish) and marvelously exposed.  The only thing that could have made the view any more gorgeous would have been a backdrop of fall color!

Big C driving his cars over his "NRG Bridge"

Big C driving his cars over his “NRG Bridge”

After Brenna and I tromped barefoot across the top to the ladders and back down to our stuff (read: bring your hiking shoes!), we all headed over to Diamond Point, where I was able to reunite with the fam.  Baby Zu seemed to be feeling better than she had the night before, but was still not interested in doing much besides snuggling.  We played pass the baby while all taking turns on Fine Motor Control 12a.  This line is often overlooked, but actually has a lot of nice, varied movement all the way to the top.  (Don’t forget to bring a brush, there were a few sections that were pretty dirty.)  The business is powerful, bouldery, and right off the ground until the 3rd bolt.  The rest of the climbing backs off some as the bolts get farther and farther apart, and culminates with one final stay awake move several feet above the last bolt.  My first time up I got pummeled.  The moves down low are all really long, and it took a lot of creativity (and trial and error) for me to make the reaches.  I also may or may not have called for the stick clip at the top due to an inability to commit to the 5.10 finishing move.  My second go went far better – a one-hang, with my only fall coming at the end of the boulder problem start.  Not a send, but a good note to end the day on.

New favorite crag-tivity - Generric legos from the Target dollar bin!

New favorite crag-tivity – Generric legos from the Target dollar bin!

The evening festivities involved a dyno comp, hangboard contest, and general merriment and shenanigans.  By evening Baby Zu was feeling a bit better, and I was able to enjoy myself guilt-free once the kiddos were off to bed (thanks to the CragDaddy for holding down the fort!)

The next morning brought iffy looking weather, but a happy Baby Zu that was firing on all cylinders once again.  Aside from trying to fit the Trango tent in my van later on that day, I had no other “work” duties, so we headed back to Endless Wall again.  And this time, after warming up on Euronation (10b version), Fine Motor Control went down without a fight.  Must’ve been a combination of cooler temps and lower stress levels; my beta felt rock solid the whole way up.

We didn’t crawl into bed until late Sunday night…too late for a school night (yes, we have to worry about that now!)  But a slightly more chaotic than usual Monday morning was definitely a fair trade-off for our first family adventure of the fall.  Many thanks to Trango for being so flexible with the Lineberry family circus, and thanks to Dan Brayack for letting me post his awesome pictures up here!  And a thousand and one thanks to the village of friends that helped us get through the weekend unscathed!

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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New River Gorge, Round 2!

Another beautiful spring weekend means another trip to the New River Gorge.  And another trip to the New means another great weekend of family, friends, laughs…and of course climbing!  This was the second week of my Rock Climber’s Training Manual “perfomance phase,” and after the inconsistencies from the first week, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  Here’s how it went… Michelin Man Original Finish (5.12b) – After one-hanging this one last weekend, sending this was my primary goal for this trip.  I was hoping that hopping on it fresh as a daisy on Day 1 would feel a lot…Read the rest of this entry →

Fall at the New River Gorge – 17 Weeks Pregnant

After rain, rain, and more rain botched our plans to head up to the New last weekend, a high of 70 without a cloud in the sky was a welcomed sight this weekend!  We had a rather large crew, with a wide range of ability levels and agendas, so the real crux of the weekend was figuring out where to go!  We ended up deciding on the Upper Meadow for Day 1, and Endless Wall for Day 2, which seemed to work out well – all parties involved sent a little, flailed a little, and of course laughed a lot!…Read the rest of this entry →

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