climber

Category Archives: Reflections

Alex Johnson on Projecting, Sending, and Lessons Learned

So much of climbing, especially projecting, is puzzle piecing. It isn’t whether or not you’re strong enough to do the climb, or do each individual move on the climb, but figuring out how to do each move, and configuring the most efficient way to combine multiple moves in a row while expending the least amount of energy. I think “projecting” is “perfecting.” Working something so much you get it so dialed that it almost produces imminent, consistent success.

Alex Johnson Red Rock

Alex Johnson Sending Monster Skank. Photo: Ray Davalos

That’s how it was for me working Wet Dream Right (V11/8A Red Rock, NV). When I first started trying, I could do a couple moves, but some were so inconsistent, I couldn’t link sections of the boulder in a row. By the time I wrapped it up, I had perfected the climb’s movements. I was able to do every move on its own 100% of the time, and so efficiently, that I even when I linked them, I expended very little energy by the time I got to the final hard move.

Sometimes after I send things, I feel weird. Like I don’t know why they take so long to finish… During the process, you forget where you started. By the time you send something you’ve been working for a long period of time, it’s hard to recall how difficult the climb in its entirety felt at the beginning. This is how I felt about Monster Skank.

Alex Johnson Projecting

Alex on Day 1 of the Monster Skank Project. Photo: Kati Hetrick

You spend a few days, weeks, months on something, and then when you finally do it, you could feel so inexpressibly victorious you almost cry… or you might feel unsatisfied. Like, “Hm. I wasn’t fighting tooth and nail for every move of this climb. Maybe it really isn’t that hard. Why couldn’t I just do this last season?” When in fact, it could be that you’ve so perfected each sequence, that when you eventually finish the climb, all you really had to do was execute, in exactly the way you know how—because you’ve been doing the same moves for months.

There’s also the typical cliched opinion that the more time you spend on something, the sweeter it feels to finish, and of course that’s true. But often for me, it’s the opposite, the previously stated lack of satisfaction, almost disappointment in myself for not completing the climb faster, sooner.

Alex Johnson Day 1 Monster Skank

Day 1 Try-Hard Face

And then all these other questions race through your mind (or mine, at least) like, are the temps better today? Am I stronger? Fitter? Climbing better? Is my breathing more controlled? Am I less afraid of falling?

What was it? What was the determining factor in today’s success, versus all the other days of failure?

I heard on a (non-climbing related) podcast recently, that there’s no such thing as a failed relationship, no matter the result, how shitty it may have been, or how epic it seemed in the end. The entire time you were in that relationship you were learning; about yourself, about how you deal with conflict, emotions, etc. You were growing.

I think I want to start applying that to working projects more. I mean, I know every time I try something I learn something new, even if I don’t send it… But I get pretty in my head about things sometimes, especially when I “can’t” do something. I hate not being able to do something. It’s probably the most frustrating personal issue in my climbing life; being shut down. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Alex Johnson Monster Skank send

Controlled Movement on the Send. Photo: Ray Davalos

And I’m not saying that by needing to project something I’m “being shut down” on it. I’m just saying that sometimes I lose track of the amazing process in my race to success with myself. Being able to climb awesome things is a gift, and if they’re difficult they require more time and commitment. Sometimes I need a little reminder that the process can be just as fun and exciting, if not more, as the end result.

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!

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

Share

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]

Share

From 1 Kid to 2…How Outdoor Adventures Have Changed…

At the summit of Seneca's South Peak, circa 2009, just before getting pregnant w/Big C

At the summit of Seneca’s South Peak, circa 2009, just before getting pregnant w/Big C

A couple of weeks ago I received a question from reader Patricia T. that really made me stop and think.  She basically wanted to know specifics about how life has changed for us since adding another child to our family.  In her words – “…I’ve had so many people tell me that the second one really shuts your life down.  Now, I’m trying to take that with a grain of salt, b/c I think we (I’m assuming she meant outdoorsy folks) are cut from a different cloth.  But it still worries me.  What’s your take on this?”  

I wrote a lot about the adjustments our family made to our routine during those early weeks of Baby Zu’s life.  I wrote some practical posts about how we find time to climb, and how we kept our sanity during the first month.  I also wrote some reflective posts about love and expectations.  I reviewed all sorts of baby gear, from Boba to PeaPod, and I got really sentimental once or twice.  I even wrote a post entitled “Why the 2nd Baby is Easier…and Harder.”  But now that I’ve got one kid that’s going to Kindergarten in the fall and another that’s morphed into a toddler seemingly overnight, I feel like I might have a little more perspective from which to revisit that question.  (And probably even MORE so when I’ve got a 6th grader and a 2nd grader, or a 10th grader and a 7th grader, or heaven forbid one in college and one in highschool…but don’t rush me!)

So with that said, here’s how our climbing adventures have changed over the years (and how they’ve stayed the same.)

IMG_1812

TRAINING:

Pre-kids.  Meet at the gym after work.  Climb until our fingers fall off, then go home and eat a late dinner.  Repeat once or twice a week.
One kid.  Meet at the gym after work with child in tow.  Alternate who watches child and who climbs.  If we have an extra partner we can rope up, if not, we boulder.
Two kids.  It’s now unmanageable for everyone to be in the gym at the same time, so we take turns.  Someone climbs after work, we eat a family dinner together, and the other person climbs after the kids go to bed (more on that strategy here.)

TRIP PLANNING:

Pre-kids.  No plan needed.  We climb wherever we want, whenever we want.  Outrageous, I know.
One kid.  Biggest change is that we need to make sure we have an extra partner lined up, preferably one that doesn’t mind extra belay duty.  This frees up hubby and I to take turns watching kid when we’re not climbing.  Multi-pitch climbing is obviously out, but as long as the base is not terrible (huge drop-offs, etc), we can pretty much go craggin’ wherever we want.  A long approach is not a big deal because kiddo rides in a carrier.  Gear space is at a premium.
Two kids.  We definitely still need an extra person, although mostly just for the baby, as the older child is pretty independent and doesn’t need constant supervision at the crag (if both kids are very young, this is where things could get crazy…a 4 year age gap between our children was NOT by accident!)  In addition to the cliff base, we also have to consider the fitness of the youngest pair of legs in regards to the approach.  Long hikes in will take us sometimes twice as long as our climbing partners (if climbing as a party of 3, one parent will usually go on ahead w/our extra partner, while the other strolls along with the kiddos.)  We didn’t think we could bring any more gear to the crag…but somehow we’ve managed to double it.  Quite often we work non-climbing outdoor activities into our trips as well – hikes, swimming holes, picnics, etc.  Sometimes those end up being the most memorable parts of the trip!

Ten Sleep Canyon 2012

Ten Sleep Canyon 2012

Family of ALMOST 4 in Feb 2014

Family of ALMOST 4 in Feb 2014

AT THE CRAG

Pre-kids.  We climb as long as we have daylight and sometimes end up hiking out in the dark.  We do what we want, when we want to.  Freedom!!!
One kid.  High mileage days are difficult to manage, except on days where baby naps a lot at the crag.  It’s impossible to predict which days those will be, so we have to take it and run with it when it happens.  We usually average 5-6 pitches per day, and tend to stay in the same area all day rather than flitting from one side of the cliff to another.  (This meant that we started shifting more into a “project” mindset – trying multiple times to send rather than just moving on after one attempt regardless of the outcome.) When the other parent is on kid duty, it’s pretty easy to relax.  We finish our day before sunset, and kiddo usually konks out on the hike back to the car, which is welcome because we’re probably having a late dinner and that quickie nap will hopefully get us through until bedtime without a meltdown.
Two kids.  If we can squeeze in 4-5 pitches over the course of a day, we’re psyched.  In addition to climbing, belaying, and caring for the smaller child, we also need to spend time with the older child; who, although very good at independent play, still needs to connect with mommy and daddy several times throughout the course of the day.  Things can get overwhelming pretty fast, especially if either child is feeling clingy, tired, hungry, frustrated, temper tantrum-y, etc.  We end up hiking out between 4 and 5 pm usually, depending on how difficult the end-of-day trudge will be for 5 year old hiking legs.  Both kids are running on fumes by the time we get to (later than usual) bedtimes, and we find ourselves so exhausted that we often go to bed at the same time they do.

Craggin' as a family of 4

Craggin’ as a family of 4

When it comes to our climbing lifestyle, it was far bigger of an adjustment to go from no kids to 1 kid than it has been for us to jump from 1 kid to 2.  Cragging with one kid required a major change in our planning with regards to how much we rely on other people, but we already had that mindset once #2 came along.  If I had to sum-up the hardest part at this particular stage of the game, it would be the stress of being pulled in so many directions at once at the crag.  (Baby needs to nurse.  Time for me to climb.  Child needs help finding a spot to poop in the woods.  Partner needs a belay.  Baby needs diaper changed, then help going down for nap.  Baby’s asleep, I should climb…right after I read with older child.  Baby’s awake and hungry.  That reminds me, I should probably eat something too! And so on and so forth.)

But despite the new level of shenanigans our family has risen to over the past year, the one constant has been that it’s always seemed worthwhile.  Both kiddos love being outside, and the older one starts asking when we’re going climbing again long about Thursday of every week.  And as long as everyone’s happy, we’re gonna roll with it!  There may come a time where our current lifestyle doesn’t work for our family, and if that happens, we’ll or course shift gears.  But for now, we climb on!

Sibling love...so many emotions in a span of about 5 minutes.

Sibling love…so many emotions in a span of about 5 minutes.

I’d love to hear from other families out there that have added 1, 2, or even 3 or more kiddos into their crag-family dynamic (and I’m sure Patricia T. would appreciate other points of view as well!)  So please, feel free to share some thoughts, tips, or experiences below in the comments!

 

 

Share

To All the Guy Climbers: A Rant and a Salute…

It was pretty crowded in the gym last Sunday.  The weather was crappy and there were a LOT of birthday parties going on.  I was patiently trying to maneuver through my fairly extensive warm-up routine before retreating to the training area to do some Power Enduro laps.  I was almost ready, just needed to do a handful of more challenging problems that I had really dialed. There was already someone (a 20-something guy) working one of the boulder problems I was interested in doing.  He tried several times, and kept getting stuck at the crux, 3 moves in.  I waited until he took a break…Read the rest of this entry →

2013 Year in Review and Climbing Hit List for 2014

This time of year in my climbing journey always involves a lot of reflection.  I look back on how well I accomplished my goals for the past year, and I look forward to setting new goals for the upcoming year.  But as soon as I saw two lines on a pregnancy test last June, it’s fair to say that my list of climbing projects got put on the backburner.  Pregnancy is obviously not the time to explore your limits.  That being said, I “failed” miserably at crossing off even half of what I set out to do on my 2013…Read the rest of this entry →

Life Lessons You Can Learn From a Rock Climber

The writer in me loves metaphors and analogies, which is one reason why I love writing about climbing.  Time and time again I’ve been able to apply concepts from the rock climbing world to my life as a mother, wife, and friend.  What a lot of non-climbers don’t realize is that there are actually several different disciplines, or styles, of climbing – some of us may have an end goal to climb Mt. Everest, whereas others of us may aspire to touch every piece of local rock that we can.  Each discipline has a different set of values, ethics, and…Read the rest of this entry →

A Year Ago Today…A Reflection on Health and Happiness

A year ago today I was not a happy hiker, camper, or any of those other cute little clichés used to describe outdoors enthusiasts.  A year ago today I bashed my foot into the  rock face and had to be carried away from the cliff like a sack of potatoes.  A year ago today I went to sleep in tears from frustration, pain, and self-pity.  But that was a year ago, and this is today.  Today I smiled as I thought about our family adventures from this past weekend.  Today I will laugh with my little boy outside in his sandbox. …Read the rest of this entry →

Hit List 2013

With 2012 in the archives, it’s time to look forward to another year…and another Hit List!  Each time I write out a year’s worth of climbing goals, I get a little bit nervous.  What if I fail?  What if I am nowhere close to any of these goals by the end of the year?  The truth is, that could easily happen.  Maybe the logistics don’t cooperate for me to be able to put in the time needed to cross some of these routes off.  Or worse, maybe I’m able to invest plenty of time into a project, and still come up short!  Goal-setting can be…Read the rest of this entry →

Greatest Hits 2012 (and Taking Requests!)

It’s tradition around here to designate the beginning of the new year as “Highlight Week.”  And I figured there was no better way to start the week AND end the year than with a “Greatest Hits” post. For those of you that are relatively new Cragmama readers (or for those interested in a walk down memory lane), here’s a look back at the most popular posts over the last year.  ”Popular” in this case means high traffic and a lot of overall buzz – via hits, comments, and social media.  I chose some from multiple categories… TRAINING:  This was a…Read the rest of this entry →

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

Meet the Team

Featured Events

There are currently no upcoming events.

All Events

Partners

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

Archives

Authors

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
eGrips Tenaya Fast Rope Descender

© Trango - All Rights Reserved