Category Archives: goals

2020 Vision

2020 Vision…did you catch my pun?  😉  A little dad joke-ish, but I thought it was fun.  Eyesight jokes aside, however, it’s time for a list of climbing goals for the new year! As always, these goals are subject to change as the rest of the year unfolds.  But looking ahead, this is what I’m aiming for in 2020.

Line of Fire 12c, one of the more popular routes on the Hawsbill 12 wall (Photo Justin Hedrick)

FINISH THE 12 WALL AT HAWKSBILL:  There are 3 routes left unsent for me on the 5.12 wall at Middle Hawksbill, and I would love to finish out the wall.  The first one, Manifest Destiny 12b, is  the only one of these unsent three that I’ve actually been on before.  Though on paper it’s the easiest one on the wall, my previous attempt did not go well.  However, that was almost 4 years ago, and my power and core strength have improved dramatically since then, so I’m hopefully optimistic this time around.  The second one is Appalachian Spring 12c, a mixed route that looks like my favorite style of climbing – slightly overhanging crimps.  The final one will likely be the hardest – Triple Bypass 13a.  Never been on it, and don’t know anyone that has, but I guess there’s one way to find out about it!

STEALTH AND MAGIC 12d – I put 2 solid days in on this sucker last fall, and just when I felt pretty close, weather and holiday travel shut me down.  Looking forward to hopping back on this come spring!

HIT 100 LIFETIME 5.12’s – As it stands right now, I’ve sent 93 5.12’s in the course of my journey as a climber. It breaks down like this (not counting repeats, and rounding a handfull of “slashy” grades up or down accordingly):

12a – 56
12b – 25
12c – 9
12d – 6

I’m hoping that in 2020 I will hit the century mark with 100 5.12 sends!  While this goal isn’t really letter specific, ideally I would love to get those upper 12 numbers both in double digits while I’m at it!

TEN SLEEP 5.13? – We are headed back this summer – and this time we’re driiiiiiiiiiving!!!!!  Well, 75% of us are.  CragDaddy doesn’t have the PTO to make a long drive worth the trip, so to maximize our time, the kids and I are setting out several days early and making our way to Wyoming, where we’ll pick up our favorite partner in climb up at the Casper airport and keep right on rolling in to Ten Sleep.  My goal at Ten Sleep always tends to be more star-chasing than number-chasing, but at this point I’ve done most of the classics in my onsight range, so I’d love to pick something harder and invest several days on it this time around and see how it goes.  On a side note – we’ll be stopping in Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver – anybody wanna meet up and show us a good time?!?

Ten Sleep Round 4 – ETA August!!!

The Enneagram 1 in me would love to see those goals at 5 rather than 4 just because it looks better that way…but I think these 4 will keep me busy enough this year, so I’d better stop here!  I would love to hear what everyone else is hoping to accomplish this year though.  Please comment below and we can cheer each other on!


2019 Year in Review

Here Comes the Rain 12b, Photo by Bryan Miller

As I sat down to write out my climbing goals for 2020, I realized that despite a lot of personal reflection on my 2019 accomplishments, I never really summed things up on the blog, particularly when it came to projects from this past fall.  Even though I stopped writing here long about the time the weather got good, I actually got out a lot this fall, so there’s lots to catch up on!

One of my main goals for this year was to establish a firmer grip in the 12+ arena, particularly at the New.  Aside from the stray 13 that very much catered to my preferred style, my previous NRG sends up until this year had a definitive ceiling at the 12b mark.  This year I was able to break that barrier at the New, with two 12c sends and one 12d.  I also came pretty close on another 12d before weather and holidays forced a retreat until spring.  While maybe not completely consolidated at NRG 12+ just yet, I definitely feel like I have a little momentum in the right direction, and I’m psyched to bring some newfound confidence into some of the harder NRG classics in 2020.

Wall Drug 12c

A more general goal of mine for 2019 was to shop around for some harder projects – ie something that might take more than a few days worth of investment.  I enjoy picking one route and sticking to it for a day or two, but then I tend to assume it’s out of my pay grade and move on if I still can’t do all the moves after a weekend’s worth of work.  After looking back over the course of 2019, once again I’m not sure I can say I crushed this goal by any means, but I certainly put myself in positions where I could BE crushed way more than I’m accustomed to!  The result of that was that I have a small handful of projects that very well could be in the long term hopper for next year, the most likely candidates being those on local rock – Black and Blue Velvet (Pilot Mountain) and Pigs in Zen (The Dump), both 13a.

Something cool that just sort of happened without being a pre-meditated goal was that I placed more gear this fall than I had in a good long while.  This is entirely due to my 9 year old turning into a legit climber seemingly overnight.  Many times the best routes grade-wise for him that were also near our projects also happened to be gear lines.  While I’m not ready to set any specific trad goals for 2020, I wouldn’t mind seeing this back-into-trad trend continue!

As far as number specific goals, I didn’t really have many specifics in mind for this year, although midway through the fall I realized I was close to an “Around the Horn 5.12 Trifecta.” Despite a lot of concentrated effort in November, I ended up being just ONE route short of sending 3 of each, 12a through 12d, over the course of the year.  Here’s how that broke down.

Starry 12a (The Meadow)
Captain Fuk 12a (Hidden Valley)
Team Machine 12a (New River Gorge)
Blackbeard 12b (Hidden Valley)
Arrowhead Arete 12b (Hidden Valley)
Here Comes the Rain 12b (The Dump)
Green Envy 12c (New River Gorge)
Wall Drug 12c (New River Gorge)
Not Too Keen 12c/d (The Dump)
Bosnian Vacation 12d (New River Gorge)
Tweakend 12d (Hawksbill Mt.)

If I just look on paper at the 8a scores, this past year was at best par with the last several years, at worst, 200 points lower than other years.  Because we focused on staying in project mode most of the year, we tended towards areas we new well, which decreased my onsight opportunities dramatically.  Also there are no 13’s, despite ticking 2 back at the tail end of 2017.

Cruxin’ out on Bosnian Vacation 12d

But when I looked back at my climbing log, I saw that my overall sends from 2019 were actually a good bit higher than in 2018 – 70 versus 55!  So despite the fact that this year was dubbed more of a “quality OVER quantity” sort of year, I’m also psyched about the “QUANTITY of quality” projects I was able to put down!  While I would like to give training hard in the gym all the credit, I think just as much of it boiled down to putting consistent time in at the same crags, and not being afraid to get on something hard and stick with it.

Now that I’ve thoroughly dissected 2019 for me, I’d love to hear from you – don’t be afraid to spray!  What did you accomplish – climbing or otherwise – during 2019?  Be on the lookout for a 2020 vision post next week!



Breaking the 5.13 Barrier!

Rodent’s Lament 13b (although pic was taken last spring by Nick Hitchcock)

This past weekend I hit a huge personal milestone for me.  Though my climbing journey has more or less featured slow and steady improvement over the last decade (“more” during times of focused training, “less” during times of pregnancy/newborns), it has been FIVE WHOLE YEARS since I have broken into a new number grade.  But that all changed this weekend! 

It actually started this past spring on our kid-free anniversary weekend at Hidden Valley, VA.  We had decided that sans kids was the perfect opportunity to test out the hardman(woman) waters, so we went project shopping.  I was drawn to Rodent’s Lament 13b, a line on the Falcon Wall, home of everything technical and vertical…aka my favorite wall at Hidden Valley.  The crux was pretty short-lived and really boils down to one singularly desperate move  – a long launch to a good slot off a terrible sloper crimp (aka “slimper.”)  I could barely initiate the movement before popping off, and I walked away inspired to include hangboarding in my summer training regimen.  

Hangboard I did, but to be honest, I hadn’t given Rodent’s Lament very much thought again until recently.  Conditions took forever to get good this fall, then when they did, we spent a lot of time at the New.  When we did end up at Hidden Valley we were side tracked by the bounty of other awesome lines that are all a much shorter hike than the Falcon Wall (first world problems, right?!?)  CragDaddy, meanwhile, had slowly but steadily been putting in work on his project out at the Crazy Horse Wall (the 13a slab start of the 5.10 classic Spurs), and he was pushing for us to each have a project day.

Not a bad view from the clifftop!

I was “cautiously cool’ with the idea.  Three weekends ago my psych was out the roof after sending Coneheads 12c…but since then we’d had a gym weekend at home, and then I’d gone on a girl’s weekend that had involved far more eating and drinking than it did exercise.  I had no idea what to expect performance-wise.  But what harm could it do, right?  

If you’ve never tried s’mores with your leftover Halloween candy, you’re missing out!

My first attempt started out great – the initial V4ish crux felt a lot easier than I’d remembered.  But the one (and a half) move wonder crux still felt ridiculously hard.  I probably tried the move 5 different ways 50 different times, but nothing.  Not even really close.  I decided to pull through and take it to the top just to give my fingers a break, then practice some more on the way down.  The upper bit is easier but more sustained, with a long sequence directly after the crux that probably goes around 11d/12a.  That part went really well, so when I lowered back down, I decided to battle with the crux one more time 30 more times before giving up.

This time, however, I actually started making progress, first getting my fingertips even with the slot, then in it just a little, then a little more, until finally, I was able to hang on.  Shocked at this surprising new development, I started trying the sequence from a few moves earlier, coming in from the not-quite-hands-free rest 3 moves before.  It was hard…really hard…but I could do it!  Feeling good about both the start and finish of the climb, I now knew that if I could juuuust make that move once, I’d be able to send!  

All smiles on Pony 5.8

I was ecstatic that my next go was a one hang.  Even more exciting was that when I tied in for a final attempt, conditions were the best we’d seen all day.  No more cold mist, just fading light and dry, crisp air.  And apparently that’s all it took!  The crux felt the smoothest it had felt all day, and despite an adrenaline-induced elvis leg that started kicking in post-crux, I managed to keep my breathing under control and made it to the chains!

An interesting clipping stance…

We celebrated Saturday night with an epic campfire and Halloween candy s’mores, then went out for CragDaddy’s project the next day.  He made decent progress before splitting a hole in his fingertip – while there’s still one move he can’t do down low, he’s now got the upper slab dyno on lock down.  (Ironically I found a great sequence that worked pretty well for me on the lower moves, but I got nothing for the slab dyno…if only I could tag him in and we could go for a team send!!!)  Day 2 was also a great day for Big C – he got in 4 pitches, with 2 of those even being “mock leads.”  (He’s been dying to learn how to lead climb, so we allowed him to tie in to the other side of the rope so he could practice hanging quickdraws and clipping in while still safely attached to a toprope belay.)

I am of course ecstatic to break a new number barrier!  I’m also, if I’m being honest, wondering if the route is a little soft.  In many ways, while none of the individual moves compared to the crux on Rodent’s Lament, something like Coneheads seemed harder to actually link together for a send.  That’s why one-move wonders are so hard to grade, because there’s hardly any “putting it all together” work that needs to be done – basically once you can do the move, you can do the route!  (And this particular move on this particular route suited my skill set and height perfectly)

But soft or not, I’m going to (re)take the advice that an old climbing mentor gave me a long time ago when I was first breaking into 5.12’s and down grading them all simply because “if I could do it, it couldn’t be that hard.”  He gave me some wise words that I’ve since passed his along to many people – “TAKE THE GRADE GIVEN IN THE GUIDEBOOK AND CALL IT DONE!”  His point was that grades are completely subjective, and that one person’s “softie” is another person’s “sandbag”, and that it all evens out in the end anyway.  Don’t downplay a route simply because it potentially plays well to your strengths, and don’t automatically assume a route is underrated just because it feels hard to you.  

So there you have it – a 5.13 for me, and some words of wisdom about not going crazy analyzing grades, all wrapped up into one post.  Because despite how much we all love to debate climbing grades with fellow climbers (don’t act like you don’t!), at the end of the day it’s all just a bunch of arbitrary numbers.  But that said…5.13 is pretty rad! 😉

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Climbing Gym Workouts for Improving Endurance

January is a pretty popular time to start a training program for many people, what with the combination of New Year’s resolutions and falling off the exercise/healthy eating wagon over the holidays.  And for climbers, this time of the year is the perfect time to start building a training foundation with which to get ready for spring season.  A year ago at this time, I was starting my first training cycle with the Rock Climber’s Training Manual.  I saw great results from the program not only during the spring, but throughout the year, and I’m optimistic for similar gains this year.

For those of you not familiar with the program, the Rock Climber’s Training Manual (aka Rock Prodigy Method, reviewed here) takes the climber through 4 distinct conditioning phases – Base Fitness, Strength, Power, and Power Endurance.  The intended result is a peak sending season that can be appropriately timed for prime climbing seasons or special trips.  The goal of the first phase (Base Fitness), is to gradually build a foundation of endurance that the body can build on during the latter phases to come.

Another day, another auto-belay...

Another day, another auto-belay…

The following is a compilation of my favorite endurance activities to do during my Base Fitness phase, which usually lasts 2-3 weeks for me.   ***On outdoor days, I stray from the plan and just hop on what everyone else is doing :)

ARC TRAINING – Most efficient, and most boring.

This exercise is what the RCTM authors recommend for Base Fitness workouts.  ARC stands for Aerobic Restoration and Capillarity Training, but you don’t need to remember that word.  All you need to know is that for it do be done correctly, you need to feel kind of pumped, but not desperate, the entire time your on the wall.  The RCTM authors recommend that ARC-ing be done 2-4x per week (lower if you are also climbing outdoors during this time, higher if you are not), for 60-90 minutes per session.  As long as each set is at least 20 minutes long, you can break your total “on the wall” time up however you want – ie, three 30 minute sessions versus two 45 minute sessions.  I have found shorter sessions to be a lot less mind-numbing and easier to stay focused.

I’ve also found that changing up the type of ARC-ing between sets is helpful mentally.  For instance, doing one set by doing low traversing across the entire gym, and the next one on an auto-belay.  If you are lucky enough to have access to a tread wall, you can simply change up the angle.  It’s a lot more fun (but a little more time consuming) to ARC with a partner – choose a section of wall with several routes in your grade range, and take turns running laps both up and down, ideally not coming off the wall at all during your set, then be the belay slave while your partner does the same.

GYM MILEAGE – Moderately efficient, and is always fun.

Baby Zu doing a bit of her own traversing while watching big brother’s climbing team practice…

So maybe you can’t convince anyone to belay you for 30 minutes at a time.  Doesn’t mean your stuck traversing 3 feet off the ground for your entire session.  If you’ve got a partner, climb!  Choose routes that are challenging but still doable while tired, and log as many as you can with minimal rest in between.  Don’t get sucked into hang dogging a project, and don’t spend a lot of extra time talking in between burns.

BOULDER FOR POINTS – Least efficient, but always fun.

This is similar to a bouldering interval workout that I like to do during my Power Endurance phase, but a lot less rigid.  Basically, climb as many boulder problems as you can in 45 minutes or so, giving yourself a point for every V grade you send (V1 = 1 point, V5 = 5 points, etc.  If I’m including V0’s, I will say that two V0s = 1 point.)  Start easy and slowly progress your way up to your typical onsight level, but not beyond.  You should aim to be on the wall for as much of the set as possible, and only doing problems that you can still send while tired.  (Problems that have been up for a while and you have wired are great for this!)  Set a minimum point goal to achieve, and then the next time you do the workout, try and increase your score.

COMBINING ACTIVITIES – Best balance of efficiency and fun.

Though it may not be perfect execution of the RCTM program, I’ve found that I stay committed a lot better when I have more variety in my workouts, so my typical endurance workout often features a combination of the above exercises.  After a couple of strictly ARC-ing workouts, I usually start adding some of the other activities into the mix, still aiming for 90 minutes of workout time divided into 3 or so sets.

If you are after a strict, regimented training program, you probably will prefer the RCTM program over my “hybrid-ish” methods.  Buy the book, and jump in full force so you can be crushing come spring time!  But if you are new to training, or like me, are constantly trying to find a balance between family, training, and everyday life, you can still be in plenty good shape for spring season.  While it’s still probably helpful to buy the book, use it as a resource to structure a loose training plan that works for you (and potentially the rest of your family’s) schedule, and then do the best you can with what you’ve got, switching things up as needed.

That being said, who else is boosting their endurance for the sending season ahead?

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The Tick List for 2016

For our family this year, the holidays have involved sharing a little more with each other than we had intended – our winter break started with a stomach virus that violently ransacked it’s way through our entire household in a matter of hours.  The next two weeks were a blur of family, friends, and Christmas cookies…LOTS of Christmas cookies.  As far as climbing goes, we did manage to squeeze in a few days at the gym here and there, as well as a laidback day outside on the first day of 2016.  But overall the ratio of Christmas cookies to climbing ratio was not good…for sending anyway.

But it’s a new year, and with a new year comes new training cycles, and with new training cycles comes new tick lists!  So even though I’m still wiping cookie crumbs off my face as I type this, here’s what I’m aiming to accomplish, both as an individual and with my family:

Psyched to see how this feels with the new kneepad the hubby got me for Christmas!

Psyched to see how this feels with the new kneepad the hubby got me for Christmas!


Towards the end of last year I found myself getting a little burnt out on climbing.  I had several heart breaking (in a 1st world problem way) almost-sends and came up short a little more than I wanted.  Many times the logistics of getting back the whole family (plus an extra patner) back to routes to finish them up often left me feeling more frustrated than psyched.  The annual “off season” our family always takes around the holidays was a much needed break.  My goal for this year is to focus more on the process than crossing something off the list.  This is not to say that I’m not out to send in 2016.  But I’m haoping to take a wiser approach when it comes to which routes are worth the efforts (physically, mentally, and logistically) to come back to and project, and which routes are okay to try once and leave undone for now.  In other words, my climbing time is at a premium, and I don’t want to waste it on routes that aren’t fun!  So the following are routes I have yet to try that I want to experience at least once.  If I’m feeling inspired, I’ll try for the send, if not, it’s on to the next!

Orange Juice 12c (Red River Gorge)
Twinkie 12a (Red River Gorge)
Amarillo Sunset 11b (Red River Gorge)
Ro Shampo 12a (Red River Gorge)
Gift of Grace 12b (New River Gorge)
Toxic Hueco 11d (New River Gorge)
Line of Fire 12c (Linville Gorge)
Tips Ahoy 12d (Linville Gorge)

Until next time...Jesus and Tequila 12b.

Until next time…Jesus and Tequila 12b.

I’d also be thrilled to send 12c at the New…Techman is the obvious choice, as I’ve gottten fairly close on that one before, but I’m probably more open to choosing something new that fits my style and putting in work.


While I meant every previous word about savoring the journey of a route, no tick list is complete without a goal to exact revenge on at least some of the ones that got away during the previous year.
Jesus and Tequila 12b:  If I only send one route on this list, this is the one I want.  Ever since our last trip of the fall in 2015 I have been haunted by the one foot slip 10 feet from the chains that kept me from victory on this amazing classic.  I’ve obsessed over visualized the beta sequences on just about every neighborhood run since then, rehearsing everything from the opening moves to clipping the chains as my feet pound the pavement (and burn off the aforementioned Christmas cookies.)  This WILL GO DOWN in 2016.
New World Order 12a:  My crux on this route taught me a lot about dynamic movement, and the line as a whole is an exercise in patience and pump management.  My best go was a one-hang last November, but I’m hopeful to dispatch it pretty quickly this spring.

While “exacting revenge” might be a little strong for the following routes, I include them down here because I’ve been on them all at least once, and would love another crack.
Mercy the Huff 12b (Red River Gorge)
Soul Ram 12b: (Red River Gorge)
Psychowrangler 12a (New River Gorge)
Blackhappy 12b (New River Gorge)

Looking forward to more adventures with this kidcrusher!

Looking forward to more adventures with this kidcrusher!


Another exciting goal for the upcoming year involves our aspirations as a climbing family.  Big C is starting to take more and more of an interest in the “family business,” so to speak, and this year we’d like to cultivate that interest as best we can.  It all depends on him obviously, as we don’t want to push, but potentially we are planning a few outdoor excursions as a team of 3 (Baby Zu can hang at home with the grands!) and possibly on having him join the climbing team at our local gym.

I’m sure these goals and plans will morph some as the year unfolds, but writing things down, whether it be via pen and paper or cyberspace, helps me stay on track.  So with that in mind, I’d love to hear from everyone else.  What are your goals and aspirations for 2016, both climbing and otherwise, and how do you plan to get there?  Don’t be afraid to think big!

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Climbing in 2015 – The Year in Review

For many of us, the end of a year marks a time to reflect on the goals we had for the previous year, as well as make new ones for the next year.  With regards to climbing, I’d left my goals for 2015 fairly open-ended, so as not to get bogged down with all the crazy logistics that go hand in hand with family craggin’.  I basically had 3 items on my list – take a “big” family climbing trip, find some 12c/d routes that played well to my strengths, and send some 12a/b’s that forced me to work on my weaknesses. Overall I’d say I did fairly well, and learned a lot in the process.

Last climb of my Ten Sleep Birthday Challenge - 35th lifetime 5.12 on my 35th bday!

Last climb of my Ten Sleep Birthday Challenge – 35th lifetime 5.12 on my 35th bday!

The first goal was the highest priority of the three, and because of that, received most of my attention.  Back in August we spent almost 2 weeks climbing out West – Wild Iris, Ten Sleep Canyon, and Logan Canyon, to be exact.  I trained hard for it, and crushed all my expectations.  I walked away with hard sends in the double digits, several of which matched my previous hardest onsight to date, and one of which pushed my hardest onsight up by a letter grade.

I made some solid progress on Goal #2, though if I’m being perfectly honest, not as much as I personally would have liked.  Part of the problem was that my goal to send hard 12 was hindered a little by my first goal – I knew my emphasis in Wyoming was going to be onsight climbing, so leading up to the trip I wanted to touch as many new (to me) routes as possible, and not get sucked in to a harder, multi-day project.  But there was definitely progress – I sent Center El Shinto 12b/c, as well as Hard Rock Cafe 12c.  I also gave several good go’s on Techman 12c, a route that is proving to have a frustratingly low percentage crux move on it for me.  The closest I got was a 2-hang, but to be honest, the line is not all that inspiring.  I’m not gonna rule it out, but it’s probably not gonna show up on the “must do” list for 2016.  I also came as close as you can possibly come to sending Jesus and Tequila – technically only 12b, but everyone treats it like such a sandbag that it seems worth mentioning here.

Shaking out on Center El Shinto 5.12b/c

Shaking out on Center El Shinto 5.12b/c

Goal #3 also got some progress, although again, was somewhat hindered by Goal #1 AND #2.  Preparing for the style of technical face climbing we knew we’d encounter on our trip meant logging lots of mileage on terrain that was the exact OPPOSITE of what I needed for Goal #3.  As far as steep climbing goes, I didn’t get a lot of practice but did manage some subtle but noteworthy improvement – Check Your Grip 12a at the Red went in 3 attempts, Standard Issue 11c at the Obed went 2nd go, and I got in one beta burn on Psychowrangler 12a.

That being said, Goal #3 wasn’t just about steep climbing, it was about working my weaknesses, which includes A LOT more than overhanging terrain.  Sticking to mostly face climbing throughout the year still gave me plenty of chance to work on another issue that consistently shuts me down – the dreaded “big move.”  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then you are probably aware of how often I find myself able to work through crux moves just fine, only to get stuck in a different spot on the route that ends up being a “non-move” for my (usually taller as well as stronger) climbing partners.

One of the few times I got my steep on this year - Standard Issue 11c

The campus start of Standard Issue 11c

Considering that the New River Gorge is one of the areas I’ve frequented most over the past few years, my lock off strength has slowly and steadily improved as I’ve progressed through the grades.  That ability is what’s seen me through on numerous sends this year – MENSA 11d, Modern Primitive 12b, Fine Motor Control 12a.  But this year in particular, I’ve been putting in a lot of work into the business of “trying hard.”  As in, really getting after it and moving dynamically.  While I’ve often found myself working Lost Souls 12a with a bunch of gym rats vying for their first 5.12, I’d never been able to successfully fire all 3 big moves while on point…until this past May, when I sent it on my 4th try of the weekend.  And though it may not show up on paper, I learned a LOT about coordination and timing on New World Order 12a.  No send (yet), but it will for sure be on the list for the spring.

Letting the feet fly on Lost Souls 12a

Letting the feet fly on Lost Souls 12a

Above all however, this has been a great learning year for me.  I successfully completed 2 (and a half) training cycles using the Rock Climber’s Training Manual (reviewed here), and that allowed me to really get a feel for how to structure my mid-week training for very specific outdoor goals.  And the more I progress, the more I’m realizing that some goals work better together than others.  For instance, I probably could have done a lot better on Goals 2 and 3 had I devoted an entire season for each one, as the training for powerful, technical face climbing is completely different than the training required for steep, overhanging enduro routes.  That approach would have honed a more specific skill set.  On the flip side, however, it could have been more restrictive when it came to finding partners (since we always need an extra person, we often end up simply going where “everyone else” is going, and generally can’t afford to be “picky” about what routes we want to do.)  My guess is that, like most things, there’s a balance in there somewhere.  One of my goals for 2016 will be to find that sweet spot where training specificity and family craggin’ meet in an efficient and fun-filled way.  Look for the tick list next week – and be thinking of your own to share as well!

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Wyoming Adventure Part THREE – Last Days in Ten Sleep

On our last trip to Ten Sleep (in 2012), we only had 3 consecutive days in on which to climb (and we were so beat on Day 3 that we only made it til lunchtime.)  So this time around, we allowed more time.  After two incredible days at Sector Shinto and Superratic (summed up here in case ya missed it), a rest day was most definitely in order.

Happiness in Slavery 12b

This route is called Happiness in Slavery 12b…

We started with a drive high into the Big Horn mountains to West Ten Sleep Lake, where we enjoyed gorgeous views as well as a short morning hike down to the Ten Sleep Creek Falls.  We probably could have dawdled the day away here, but even layered in the warmest clothes we’d brought, we still weren’t prepared for the 38 degree temps we found at such a high elevation.  So back down we went,where the rest of the day could be summed up by the words “sleeping” and “eating.”

Happiness in dirt.  :)

This picture is captioned, “Happiness in Dirt.”

On Wednesday morning we found ourselves back at Sector Shinto, eventually, that is.  Our creek crossing shenanigans continued, as the creek was significantly higher after the previous day’s rain.  All of the rocks to hop across were either underwater or wet, and the fallen log now featured slick, icy spots.  While Big C is normally pretty fearless, the icy log was where he drew the line (which was fine by me, since I was not particularly jazzed on toting Baby Zu across the log in the backpack either.)  We decided that the guys would cross the creek and go ahead and get up there, while I drove back down canyon and hiked up the long way with the kiddos.  Thanks to LOTS of singing and some motivational huckleberry licorice sticks I’d bought in town, we made it to Sector Shinto not only with minimal whining, but a full FIFTEEN minutes faster than we’d done it the first day (it helped that our lungs no longer felt like they were exploding at the slightest incline…)

Sector Shinto

Wyoming Flower Child 5.11d – Though it was more difficult than the 10a to it’s right, this fun little number was a much more pleasant warm-up.  The holds weren’t nearly as sharp, and the business wasn’t until just before the anchors.
Dope Shinto 12a – CragDaddy and Third Man Caleb still had loose ends to tie up with the Left and Center Shintos, I made it my mission to tick off the other starred routes on the wall, starting with the dopeness.  Though easier than the other 12’s on the wall, this one is just as fun.  A sequency little boulder problem down low guards fun 5.11 climbing to the top.  Hanging draws I botched the sequence and pitched off trying to reverse the moves, but I sent 2nd go.
Wutang’s Wild Shinto Ride 12a – This was the last 12 on the wall left for me, and it was definitely a wild ride!  A tad sharp, but great (relentless!) movement with a glory pocket right that showed up at just the right time!  I needed a send to keep pace with my “35th (5.12) on my 35th (birthday)” goal, and while it didn’t go down without a fight, I onsighted it!  (Shout out to Crag-Daddy for hanging a few of the draws for me as he was lowering down off Dope…it definitely made things easier!)

Dope Shinto 12a

Dope Shinto 12a

Left El Shinto 12b

Left El Shinto 12b

Slavery Wall

Our last day in Ten Sleep happened to fall on my 35th birthday, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to celebrate than the Slavery Wall!  I started the day with 33 lifetime 5.12’s, so I only needed 2 more to reach my birthday goal of 35.

Steve sending Asleep at the Wheel 12a

Steve sending Asleep at the Wheel 12a

Asleep at the Wheel 12a – We’d been averaging 4 pitches a day (kiddos around + climbing as a party of 3 = quality rather quantity!)  So instead of “wasting” one on a warm-up, I decided to get down to business right away.  I figured this would allow me 2 burns per 12, rather than forcing me into a situation where I felt pressure to onsight (I’d also already done the stand out warm-up for the area, Beer Bong 10b, back in 2012.)    This one was great – and the first few bolts weren’t that difficult so it ended up being a decent warm-up anyway!  There were 2 definite crux sections, but great stances to suss things out before each.  I almost punted off the top, but kept myself together enough to tick it first go!  With 1 down, 1 to go, I was feeling pretty optimistic about my chances for number 35!

These kiddos are awesome.

These kiddos are awesome.


This bull snake was pretty cool too!

This bull snake was pretty cool too!

Strut Your Funky Stuff 12a – This one was aptly named, for both climbing style as well as being number 35!  The footwork was definitely funky, and the crux for me was finding the footholds.  The feet were actually pretty good, but since most of them consisted of small pockets that doubled as handholds, they were really difficult to spot once you moved up above them.  I wasn’t taking any chances on finishing my goal, so I enlisted CragDaddy, (who had just gotten off the route), to give me a complete spraydown of the holds in real time as I went up.  Definitely a gift-wrapped flash, but I’ll take it!

With the pressure to send off my shoulders, I decided it was prime time to hop on the area classic – Happiness in Slavery 12b.  I knew it was probably too little too late in the day (and trip!) to send something so bouldery and pumpy (especially hanging draws!), but I didn’t want to leave Slavery Wall without experiencing it.  It was hard, for sure, similar to Great White Behemoth but with slightly bigger holds on slightly steeper terrain.  I mostly went bolt to bolt, and even so I was running on fumes by the time I clipped the anchors!  I would have loved to have seen how it would have felt on a 2nd go, but I guess it’s good to leave something to come back for next time!

Getting funky on number 35!

Getting funky on number 35!

What a great present!  After one 12 in Wild Iris (recapped here), and eight in Ten Sleep, I bagged my 35th lifetime 12 on my 35th birthday, woo-hoo!  Happy birthday to me!  And while the end of this day marked the end of our time in Ten Sleep once again, we all walked away pleased with what we accomplished.  Besides, even though Ten Sleep was done, we still had to make our way back to the SLC airport…and we still weren’t quite done with our tick list for the trip!  Stay tuned for the FINAL edition of our Wyoming Adventure (the one that actually takes place in Utah.) :)

Initial boulder problem on Happiness in Slavery 12b

Initial boulder problem on Happiness in Slavery 12b

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Wyoming Adventure Part Deux: First Days at Ten Sleep

If you’re new around here, I’m recapping our family’s recent exploits in Wyoming, a few days at a time.  If you missed Part 1 (the Lander edition), click here to catch up!  For the deets on our first few days in Ten Sleep, read on!

After an easy Saturday drive from Lander to Ten Sleep, we awoke on Sunday morning psyched and ready to crank out the long hike to the Sector Shinto wall in the French Cattle Ranch area.  After a quick warm-up on an uncomfortably sharp 10a (Great Green Gobs…), we turned our sights to the main objective for the day, and possibly even the whole trip, Center El Shinto 12b/c.

Shaking out before the business on Center El Shinto 12b/c

Shaking out before the business on Center El Shinto 12b/c



This 5 star classic is one of the most popular 12’s in the canyon, and for good reason.  This route is technical face climbing at its finest – very sustained movement on stellar rock, and recently upgraded to a b/c “slashie” in the latest guide.  The crux is about 2/3 up, and includes a really difficult clip from a core intensive stance.  Having dogged my way up it on our last visit 3 years ago, I was hoping it would go down pretty quickly, considering I’m a lot stronger now than I was then…but after taking a crux beating while hanging draws, my confidence was more than a bit shaken.  But knowing that the 2nd go is ALWAYS easier (draws are in, moves are familiar), I got on it again, hoping to at least make it through the hard clip this time before popping off.

Creek-crossing shenanigans...

Creek-crossing shenanigans…

I made it up to the crux a lot more efficiently than before, and assumed the tenuous clipping position.  I did NOT feel secure, and for a half-second contemplated grabbing the draw (how I’d made the clip before.) But my belayer shouted, “CLIP IT!”, so I did.  The next few moves were thin, but I got through them to a decent stance.  The upper bit wasn’t nearly as hard the 2nd time around, and before I knew it, I found myself clipping the chains.  Woo-hoo!

We still had time left in our day, so I decided I may as well take a run up Left El Shinto 12b, another must do on the wall. and another one who’s grade was changed in the latest guidebook (this time downgraded from 12c.)  The initial boulder problem off the ground was really thin and balancy, and actually felt harder than the crux on Center, but the rest of the climbing was less sustained and with better rests.  It was a fight to stay on in places, but I made it through to nab my hardest onsight yet (further confirmation that it wasn’t really 12c ;)).

That evening as we sat around reflecting on our day, I realized that I had just had what was probably my strongest climbing day ever – first 12b onsight, and first time bagging two 5.12’s in a day.  Crag-Daddy noted that my lifetime 5.12 count was up to 29…we had 3 more climbing days in Ten Sleep, and if I could keep up my two-a-day pace, I’d be sending my 35th 5.12 on my 35th birthday!  As cool as that sounded, I thought it was probably a little ambitious for a road trip goal, but I kept it in the back of my mind just in case…


CragDaddy on his way to onsighting Tricks for You 12a.

The next day we hiked in to the Superratic Pillar, this time via the upper parking lot.  Although shorter in distance, it ended up taking the same amount of time to get there due to some creek crossing shenanigans.  We started on Tricks are for Hookers 11b, a fun climb that ended up being a great warm-up for our next route that was just to the right – Tricks for You 12a.  Tricks for You was an engaging and enjoyable journey up the center of the wall.  Nothing too powerful, but very methodical movement with calculated footwork.  We both sent 1st go (and props to the Crag-Daddy for his first 12a onsight!)

Caleb getting draws up on Great White Behemoth 12b

Caleb getting started on Great White Behemoth 12b

Meanwhile, our “third man” Caleb had been around the corner hanging draws on another 5-star classic – The Great White Behemoth 12b (or “12b+” as it reads in the new guide, whatever that means!)  And while Behemoth was in many ways just as technical as Tricks for You, it was also much more powerful and bouldery – big moves off small pockets and tiny footholds.  I went bolt to bolt to start with, and while I didn’t struggle too much with any individual move, the thought of putting the whole thing together seemed beastly intimidating, as there was a lot of sequencing that needed to be executed just right.  But since I’d put in the work, I knew I owed myself a 2nd go.

Guy beta

Guy beta

Girl beta...I promise my elbow is not out of joint, its just a weird photo angle!

Girl beta…I promise my elbow is not out of joint, its just a weird photo angle!

Round 2 on Behemoth started out surprisingly smooth, and soon I was at the last hard sequence.  I completely forgot my beta, but thanks to accidentally finding a hidden foothold, I muddled through it, and latched the hold our crew had dubbed the “5.10 jug.”  (Without considering the pump factor, from this point the last 20 feet of climbing was probably no harder than 5.10.)

“I’m gonna send it!” I thought to myself as I shook out, took some deep breaths and waited for some feeling to come back into my forearms again…but I quickly realized that I was pumped beyond the point of repair.  The pump clock was ticking and I needed to get moving.  You know those old school arcade racing games where the clock starts ticking down, down, down, and then you hit a checkpoint that gives you +5 seconds to get to the next checkpoint, and so on?  The last 20 feet of Behemoth felt exactly like that, as my sending mantra quickly morphed into “Oh sh#$ I’m gonna blow it!”

Trying hard not to punt off Great White Behemoth 12b

Trying hard not to punt off Great White Behemoth 12b

I was redlining the entire way, and just when I felt like my hands were going to involuntarily open up, I’d hit a hold that was just good enough to buy me a few more moves to the next decent hold, and so on…until I finally came screaming (literally) into the anchors.  I was in grave danger of punting off with a handful of rope when I remembered there was a good stemming stance to clip from…PHEW!  And thus went the Great White Behemoth…which, at 2nd go, was probably not the route I’ve worked the hardest for overall, but it’s a definite contender for the hardest fight in a single go.  I was incredibly excited that it went down, and also super psyched to still be on pace for my “35th on my 35th goal!

The requisite "Christmas card photo with stunning background" shot.

The requisite “Christmas card photo with stunning background” shot.


While that may have ended our climbing adventures for the day, the hike out was anything but uneventful. Remember the creek crossing shenanigans I mentioned on the way in?  We had to find a different way across this time, because as we came down the hill and around the corner, we came face to face with a large bull moose about 30 feet down the trail!  It was definitely a little unnerving, as thick brush on one side, a creek on the other, and a big hill to our backs didn’t leave a lot of room to get out of his way should he get feisty!  Thankfully he seemed more curious than concerned about us, and after posing rather stoically for the camera, went back to his grazing while we bushwhacked around trying to find another way to get across the creek.  In the process, we discovered that our handsome friend had a lady friend as well, which added even more drama to a sketchy log crossing over shallow (but frigid and rushing) water!


At the end of the trip, we all sat around and talked about which days were our favorites of the whole trip.  For me, it was a close call between the two days I just described – amazing climbing that shattered PR’s for both Crag-Daddy and I, and a spectacular nature encounter!  Pretty hard to beat, although there were others in our crew who voted for what was yet to come, so don’t forget to come back next week to check out the recaps from the rest of our time at Ten Sleep, as well as our brief exploits in Logan Canyon!


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Rock Climber’s Training Manual: Performance Phase (aka RESULTS!)

I’m writing this climbing-related post from just about as far away from the mountains as I can possibly get.  Hubby’s out of town on business, so me and the kiddos are taking the opportunity to hang out at my in-laws beach house in Sunset Beach, NC.  It’s the perfect way to enjoy my week of rest after wrapping up my very first Rock Prodigy training cycle. To catch up any new readers, since January I’ve been using the program outlined in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual, written by my fellow Trango athletes Mark and Mike Anderson.  This periodized program took me through 4…Read the rest of this entry →

Rock Climber’s Training Manual Part 1 (Base Fitness and Strength)

When I first started climbing, I didn’t bother with any sport-specific training of any sort. My formula for improving was to just climb.  However, once Cragbaby #1 came into the picture, our midweek climb time was greatly decreased, which meant the time we did have needed to be a little more efficient.  I started keying in on my weaknesses and choosing routes/problems/techniques that focused on those (for example, adding some off-set pull-ups and movement drills to increase lock-off strength.) Then I broke my ankle in February of 2012.  I knew I’d go nuts if I didn’t do SOMETHING, but I couldn’t…Read the rest of this entry →

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