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Making History at the Red River Gorge

Dan Brayack climbs at the Motherlode. Photo: Lena Moinova

Reason to Celebrate

We are celebrating a huge victory in climbing access at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky as the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition and the Access Fund have finalized the purchase of the Bald Rock Recreational Preserve. This is an incredible milestone for climbing access at the RRG and adds another 102 acres to the 1,000+ acres of land that the RRGCC has preserved over the past decade.  Climbing access and stewardship are an integral part of Trango’s mission, so we have committed significant financial support to help ensure the long-term success of this project. Part of this commitment includes a sizable gear donation to fuel the campaign and provide donation incentives.

(read the Access Fund press release)

The preserve was secured through a Climbing Conservation Loan from the Access Fund and includes world class crags like the Motherlode, the Chocolate Factory, Bear’s Den, and Unlode. This project could not have been accomplished without the tireless efforts of these two organizations and the ongoing support of the climbing community (that’s where you come in!).

Tyler Yarbrough climbs “Snooker” at the Motherlode. Photo: Joe Segretti

You Can Help! “Own History” in the Red River Gorge

Access to this area is preserved, but the RRGCC needs your support to help pay off this $225,000 loan and keep the area secured long-term. The first year of the loan is interest free and provides the best opportunity to make significant headway. In addition to financial support, Trango has donated gear to encourage climbers like you to donate to the cause.

To support this project, visit the RRGCC website and make a donation or share this post to help create awareness for the cause.

Donate Now


Climbing access has been (and continues to be) a critical element of the american climbing landscape. Over the years we’ve learned that we should jump at any opportunity to help promote positive access relationships and to preserve access for future generations. We are excited for this opportunity to live out this part of our mission by partnering with our long-time friends at the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition and the Access Fund to secure one of the most iconic crags in the country.



Meeting Ari Novak, Trango Ambassador

Transformation comes from unexpected places and it was the moment I first swung into ice that that my life changed. It was like the world stop spinning and started going the other way, I was in love. I’ve been fortunate enough to climb all around the world but the one thing that’s common amongst all my assents is that it’s the people you are climbing with that are as important as the things you climb. Ice Climbing is a pursuit passed on by mentorship and climbing partners. I’m very lucky, I’ve had exceptional mentors and partners over the years. My climbing style and technique is steeped in lessons that were passed on to me from the masters, Gadd, Anker, Josephson, Roberts etc. Passing on these lessons and continuing the chain or as I like to call it “the unbreakable bond” always gets me stoked. I began skiing at age seven and climbing mountains in the Cascades in my early 20’s. Today, I’m a full time ice climber out of Bozeman, Montana. In addition to ice climbing I enjoy ski mountaineering and all things winter. I’ve put up first ascents in Hyalite Canyon that are now enjoyed as “classics” and explored ice in places that will probably never be touched again. My drive is to constantly elevate my game and share my knowledge and experiences with others. Just beyond the edge of our tools is a reality we can change and shape. I hope we do so for the better.

My passion for climbing ice is as essential as the blood in my veins or the air I breath, it’s elemental and apart of who I am. I don’t see climbing as a sport but as an art form. It creates the bonds that can’t be broken. Ice Climbing changed my life, the values of this sport / art form are much more then then events of it. Sharing that with others is truly a rewarding experience that always gets me stoked to boot up and tie in.

If it’s possible to have a single favorite ice climb on planet earth then Aims Ice Hose in Telluride Colorado is it for me. Aims, is a three pitch climb that can be mixed on pitch one and as hard as WI6 or as friendly as WI4 on the ice pitches. I recall the first time I did this route vividly. It was January 7th 2012 the night before I had dinner with Jack Roberts and Joe Josephson in Ouray. Joe told me I’d never even find the climb, Jack grabbed a bar napkin and drew me a map. Oddly he signed and dated it, little did I know a week later Jack would be gone. I love Aims because it so aesthetic, three pitches, each offering a different challenge and each one more enjoyable then the next. I also love Aims because it represents Jack’s belief in me. Pitch three is other worldly it’s 66 meters of the best ice I’ve ever climbed. If you’re even near Telluride grab your tools and go get it.

Without a doubt my favorite climbing spot is my spiritual home, Hyalite Canyon outside of Bozeman, MT. There’s nothing like it. You can feel the energy back there. 250 of the most exciting ice and mixed routs right out of the parking lot.

Season of Giving: Flatirons Climbing Council

In 2015, we launched our first annual Season of Giving and gave 10% of sales at through the holiday season to key local climbing organizations that work to maintain and improve access to our favorite areas. This year, we are continuing the tradition by supporting these local climbing organizations:

  • Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (November 21-27)
  • Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (November 28-December 4)
  • Flatirons Climbing Council (December 5-11).

We could not enjoy our iconic climbing destinations without the work of these volunteer-based organizations, please join us in supporting them over the next three weeks.


This week, we are supporting the Flatirons Climbing Council – here is some information on the FCC and their projects over the past year:

About the FCC

The Flatirons Climbing Council (FCC) is a local climbing organization in Boulder, Colorado, dedicated to preserving and expanding climbing access on City of Boulder public lands. Our specific priorities are to conserve climbing resources through trail building and stewardship projects, facilitate new route development and bolt replacement, and advocate for climbers.  More information about the FCC can be found here.

Accomplishments in 2016

The FCC had a successful and exciting year that included trail work, fixed hardware upgrades, stewardship and new routes that continue to help climbing thrive in the Flatirons.


Dinosaur Rock Trail Work:    In July 2016, the FCC and OSMP hosted a volunteer trail project at Dinosaur Rock and Der Zerkle in the Flatirons west of Boulder.  Some of our accomplishments include the installation of 5 gabions to create a flat, stable staging area at the base of the Dinosaur Rock, construction of 15+ steps and flat staging areas at the Der Zerkle climbing wall, and the elimination and restoration of multiple social trails along the Mallory Cave trail.

Trash Bash: In September 2016, the FCC celebrated its 16th annual Trash Bash.  Since 2000, the FCC has hosted this event, which has resulted in hundreds of bags of garbage and recyclables collected and has helped protect our climbing and natural resources.  The event is also a major community collaboration among the FCC, land managers, local climbing organizations, local businesses, and climbers.  This year’s Trash Bash was a big success, with more than 60 volunteers collecting garbage across Flagstaff.


Skunk Canyon Fixed Hardware Upgrade: On September 17th, 2016, the Flatiron Climbing Council hosted a volunteer bolt replacement day in Skunk Canyon.  FCC members teamed up with other volunteers from the Boulder Climbing Community (BCC) and the Action Committee for Eldorado (ACE), all armed with the latest technology in bolt removal.  Every bolt in Skunk Canyon, with the exception of one route that hosts a giant eagle’s nest, was replaced.  The majority of the new 1/2″ stainless hardware was installed in the original holes. With the addition of a new rappel anchor on The Achaean Pronouncement, a total of 60 bolts were installed.


Thulsa Doom, photo by Rob Kepley (

New Route Development:  The FCC facilitated the development of 6 new routes in 2016 including the stunning third pitch of Hasta La Hueco (5.13b), a 115’ rope stretcher on Overhang rock called Thulsa Doom (5.12c/d), plus Jade Gate, Hell in a Bucket and several other fantastic routes.   All told, there are now over 45 new routes in the Flatirons that have gone through the FCC’s Fixed Hardware Review Committee. 

Plans for 2017

The FCC’s main priority for 2017 is to renew our Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) with the City of Boulder with new formations for new route development.   Some of the formations on our wish-list include the Devil’s Advocate, Mickey Mouse Wall, Hillbilly Rock, Shanahan Crag, plus route caps lifted on the Maiden and the Matron.   In addition, we plan to continue our efforts to facilitate the development of new routes, upgrade aging hardware, construct sustainable trails to our favorite crags and host the Trash Bash.

Season of Giving: SLCA

In 2015, we launched our first annual Season of Giving and gave 10% of sales at through the holiday season to key local climbing organizations that work  to maintain and improve access to our favorite areas. This year, we are continuing the tradition by supporting these local climbing organizations:

  • Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (November 21-27)
  • Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (November 28-December 4)
  • Flatirons Climbing Council (December 5-11).

We could not enjoy our iconic climbing destinations without the work of these volunteer-based organizations, please join us in supporting them over the next three weeks.


This week, we are supporting the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance – here are a few of the projects that they have completed over the past year:

Lower Little Cottonwood Canyon Climbing Access Trail Work Continues

Over 300 volunteers have come out and put in ~1,500 hours of work to improve climbing infrastructure, protect the places we love to climb, and ensure access continues for future generations. This project has

Graffiti Removal and Clean up in LCC

The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) facilitated yet another graffiti clean-up on November 12th in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) along the popular Little Cottonwood Trail. This trail is enjoyed by bikers, hikers, and climbers’ year-round. On November 12, the SLCA along with dedicated volunteers, youth from the Momentum Climbing Team, Salt Lake Ranger District, Unified Police Department, Snowbird, LDS Church, Friends of Alta, Granite Community Council, and Williams Reality all supported the graffiti clean-up effort. Regardless, only a small dent was made in eradicating vandalism from lower LCC.

To donate directly to the SLCA, click here or visit, where 10% of all purchases this week will be donated to SLCA.

Summer Climbing and Training in the East

In the east (West Virginia), summer is the worst season.  The high temperature and more-so the high humidity is overwhelmingly oppressive.  That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and get some routes in, but what and where we can climb here is extremely limited.  The New River Gorge area has several separate gorge valleys for climbing.  The New River itself is hand’s down the most awesome and scenic climbing area, though Summersville Lake is God’s gift to the summer climber (more like the Corps of Engineer’s gift to climbers.)  In the heat, the lake keeps the temps down a bit and often offers a nice breeze.  That, and the fact that a quick, cooling dip in the lake is the best way to end your climbing day (it feeeeels so good) makes this the ideal summer location.

Instead of doing my normal summer hangboard session, I’ve decided to go off the Mike and Mark Anderson reservation some (The Rock Climbers Training Manual is my training bible.)  Some of the new(er) climbers at our gym (only been climbing for 3 years) came from a gym training background.  We have a pretty awesome training section to our gym, and those guys are always doing rings/pull-ups/ all kinds of weird stuff etc.  Some of the other “strong” guys in the gym do a series of gymnastic training including one-arm pull-ups, front levers, ring dips, etc.  Just for fun one day, I figured I’d try to do a one-arm and some ring dips.  It was bad.  Really bad.  Ditto with the front lever…pretty pathetic…I was really stoked!

Julia Statler on “Under the Milky Way” 5.11d at Summersville Lake in 2009.

In climbing you want to “train your weakness” instead of your strength.  Many training methods including P90x revolve around “initial gains.”  This simply stated is that if you’re really bad at “x”, if you train “x” for a short period of time, you’ll make dramatic initial gains.  As you continue to train “x” you’ll peak, then plateau.  The key is to stop at the plateau and move onto the next exercise.

I’m not recommending this training program for all climbers, but for me, I look at it as touching up in areas that I can use a lot of work.  I start my session by doing some project bouldering for about 30 minutes, including maybe 1 or 2 problems a grade below my limit.

Me on Mercy Seat 5.13a.  That move is a BIG pull of one-arm.

I then do a ¾ campus workout.  I go hard, but not too far past my peak.  (I don’t hammer myself into the ground.)  I then do the following exercises:

1.     Weight assisted 1-arm pull-ups (I use a thumb on the board to keep me straight in the 90-degree position.)
2.     Horizontal ring 1-arm (feet on ground, alternate 1-arm)
3.     Ring Dips
4.     Front Lever on Rings
5.     Toe Points (abs)
6.     Compression Band Training

The gains have been impressive (for me.)  The first time I tried a ring dip, I couldn’t even hold the “dip” position.  My last workout, I did 9 of them my first set!  And I went from barely able to do a 1-arm at -70lbs to doing 3-3.5 1-arms at -50.  My front levers are getting…well…almost to not pathetic which is a huge gain!

What I’m hoping to gain is the climbing equivalent of the 1-arm pull up.  There are several routes which I feel this is my limiting factor.  I can hold all the holds, but I just can’t do ONE BIG pull.  The route at Kaymoor, “Against the Grain” 5.13b is like that for me.  It’s a big move over the lip of the roof.  I can hold the hold, but I can’t let go with my other hand and pull hard to get the next hold (big punch!)  Dial 911 at the New River proper also has a hard move like that.  A lot of routes, really, require ONE BIG PULL off one arm. 

Last weekend at the lake, I climbed the route “All the Way Baby” 5.12b.  A short 15 move route.  I’ve done the route a bunch, but could definitely feel my increased pulling power! I was super happy to see the gains and I can’t wait for the fall season to roll in.

I’ve also been route developing.  More about that when I send the routes.

We managed to find a paper wasp next.  Poor Dustin got hit pretty bad.  I got one to the forehead.


Rule 1 of summer training – ice cream.  (With sprinkles.)

Don’t (try not to) Let Grades Intimidate You.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m the worst about this; I’m really writing this one to myself.  Or another way to take this one is to: “Do as I say, not as I do!”
I spent a lot of time as a 5.10 and 5.11 top rope tough guy.  Maybe the first 4-5 years of my climbing career.  I remember the first time reading through the guidebook of my childhood climbing area, McConnells Mill.  I saw the hardest route there was a 12d.  I was currently projecting (on top rope) the route: Sunshine 5.9+.   12d.  Wow.  That’s impossible!  I’ll never be able to climb that.
Matt Patterson on Mini Ovest 5.11d at McConnells Mill
 I’ve now climbing a lot of 5.12s and a handful of 5.13s in my life.  Still, though.  I will walk up to a route, see that the route is rated 5.12c or 5.12d and think….nope, its impossible.  I’ll never do this route.  Its just so hard for me, mentally, to get over that.  The only way is forward; I talk to my inner self (it puts the lotion on the skin), tell myself I can do the route…I’ll rationalize it to myself and say some of the following:
1.      You can do this route Dan, how hard can it be right?
2.     I bet I can find some sneaky technical beta.
3.     I’ve trained hard and it will pay off.
4.     I can always just stick clip past the crux, or bail (bail-biner.)
5.     If it IS impossible, I can sand bag my friends!
For me, tying in is the hardest part.  Once I get on the route and start breaking it down, then I realize that I can do the route…and then I typically do.  Breaking the route down is the best way to get it done.
Me climbing Five Fingers Arête – 5.8 at McConnells Mill
Lauren Brayack climbing Ross Boulder at McConnells Mill.
Last Friday, we had decent day at the New River Gorge.  I seem to be telling you all a lot that this is rare for this time of year.  It really is!  I think maybe God just loves me a little more than most people; I’ve sure been lucky lately.
Bob Value climbing on Ross Boulder at McConnells Mill
Barb Miller climbing “Laid Back” 5.10b at McConnells Mill
My friend Matt Fanning and I did the epic hike out to the First and Second Buttress at the Meadow.  Conditions weren’t dreamy, but a nice 65 degrees and 50% humidity and a cooling breeze is pretty good.  We did a couple easier routes to warm up, then set our sites on a route put up by Doug Reed in 1996, Red Bull.
Matt Fanning on Red Bull 5.12d at the Meadow, NRG.
Matt looked at me, I looked at Matt.  I go…so you wanna go first?… No….  I don’t want to go first….  Hmm…  Well…  I guess….  Well…..  OK I can always stick clip or bail.
I got on the route and fell at the first bolt, then climbed the route from bolt-to-bolt.  It turns out getting past the opening moves is the crux, with some easier moves leading to an almost full recovery, then one more boulder problem – hard-to-hold small, but positive crimp move and a long pull.  The second half of the second crux is pretty scary, a desperate pull over the roof to some small but positive holds.  This section of the route is pretty run-out, but I put an extended trad draw + a normal quick draw linked so I could clip in the middle of it.  Then its butter.
The route went down for me pretty easily the second go.  Boom! 

Though the next time I walk up to a 12d, I’ll have trouble convincing myself that I can do it.

It’s Nice When the Work Pays Off.

 We don’t get a very big “awesome” window in West Virginia.  This spring, we got more awesome days than one can expect – maybe a month’s worth of cool temps and low humidity.  Then it started raining.  And it really didn’t stop raining.  In-fact, over the past month and a half, its only stopped raining enough for me to cut grass twice.  Pretty bad right?
Sarah Canterbury on “Tar Baby” 5.12b – 1st Buttress, Kaymoor, NRG
Last Sunday we actually got an awesome day of climbing.  The temperature/humidity gauge read 55 degrees and 45% humidity.  That’s unheard of for May!
My past few days out had been pretty bad – conditions were terrible.  The previous Tuesday was our election day in West Virginia and being the good citizen that I am, I went climbing!  The roads in Charleston (WV) were dry, but as we got closer to Fayetteville, things got worse and worse.  By the time we were at the parking lot, the roads were soaked, even though it hadn’t rained.  That pretty much means that the rock will be soaked – even under the roofs – condensation – the worst for climbing.  Falling rain will typically leave a lot of routes dry, especially the steep ones, but condensation is the devil. 
Thankfully enough “The Tantrum” 5.12d was “dry enough” and the holds on it are pretty good anyways.  Despite all the holds feeling “sort of wet,” I was able to do all the moves off the hang and I hit it pretty hard.  Why try hard when the conditions are bad?  A fluke change in weather, and good conditions will make the route go down easy (at least, that’s what one would hope.)
David Statler at the slab crux of “The Tantrum” 5.12d, 1st Buttress, Kaymoor, NRG.
Saturday night was my bachelor party.  I don’t really drink; you know – empty carbs etc though we stayed up pretty late – which isn’t my norm (I’m usually in bed by 9-930 – I’m so boring) but what the heck right?  We slept in a bit and then hit the crag feeling pretty awesome.
I’ve talked in the past about how just “warming up on your project” is the way to go for getting routes done.  I did that, hanging the draws on the route.  Hanging the draws on “The Tantrum” is pretty tough, though once hung, especially with some long draws, clipping is pretty easy!
The route starts with a pretty rude and height-discriminating move right off the ground.  With my 6-foot wing span, I can make the long move over the low roof to an OK hold, scamper up and then get some good holds.  From here, there’s a few easy moves to a good stance and jug below the second clip.  This is where it gets crazy.  Now, the 5.14 climbers just grab some really bad slab holds and crank off of those.  Me not being a 5.14 climber, I have to use some tricky beta. 
From the ground, the slab looks “easy” and the roof looks “hard as crap,” but its really the other way around.  Though…maybe the roof isn’t exactly… “easy.”  An awkward undercling move leads to a key knee-bar and a hard stand-up move to a bad hold.  With my height and choking up on the undercling, I can then make a hard span move to a good hold.  Boom.  For me that was the crux.  I had done the move twice on the bad conditions day off the hang, so I was feeling pretty confident that I would be able to do it.  That just left the 10-foot horizontal roof and some ridiculous moves.
Ryan Smith on “Blood Raid” 5.13a, the Hole, Kaymoor
I’ve heard a lot of people argue that the Red River Gorge has the best stone in the country.  Those folks say that the stone at the red river is clean and super solid, the movement world class.  I would agree the movement there is excellent, but I can’t think of any route where you have to monkey out a roof, helicopter your feet out over my head, get a hand-jam, hand-foot match a foot-jam and hand-jam, then unwind from it.  That’s right.  You heard me right.  It’s perfectly ridiculous, though really, if this were the crux, I bet the route would only be 12b or so.  It REALLY does look ridiculous to watch someone do it…but it works.
Knowing what to do, I took a big long rest under the roof (and kicked off my knee-pad,) then launched into the sequence.  It went pretty easily for me, though I definitely grunted some and boom.  Another check mark in the book.  At the chains, I thought…you know, those check marks are pretty tough sometimes!
Matt Fanning on the crux of “Blood Raid” 5.13a, the Hole, Kaymoor
My current life goal is to hit 500 career 5.12s.  Its getting hard because I’ve done just about every 5.12- at the NRG. Also, a few years ago, I started climbing 5.13s too which don’t count toward the 5.12s.  Right now, I’m up to 473.  Maybe a fall trip to Rumney or somewhere else new will give me a new pool of 12- routes to climb!

I’ve done all the other routes at 1st Buttress at Kaymoor except for two, both of which I think I will never be able to climb, so I spent the rest of the day taking pictures.  Its nice when you send your project early right?.  I never seem to get climbing images of myself since I’m the one always taking the pictures….Maybe I’ll get some pictures of me at my own wedding coming up this weekend!

What to Do When the Rain Just Won’t Quit!

Its been a pretty hard going spring season here in the east.  The first half of spring was awesome – lots of great climbing days, low humidity and no rain.  But we are paying for it now.  I swear, it has rained almost every day and heavily for the past three weeks, making climbing outside quite unpleasant.  Between rain storms, the humidity has been so oppressive that conditions would just be terrible.
Bouldering at Moore’s Wall.  (I’m working on the guidebook.)
So what do you do?  Well, there area a few options.  Gym climbing aside, when the season turns on you, its good to focus on another aspect of training and health.  Myself, I’ve been running.  Running a lot.  You can run in the rain, and I have been.  I’m tentatively planning on running a half marathon in August.  Not that I really care one way or another about it, its just an excuse to put in some miles (well I run kilometers.)  I got a new Garmin watch.  My old one finally bit the big one…but after using it for 5 years, I didn’t hesitate to get a new one.
Here’s a log from Seneca Rocks:
And another from Coopers Rock:
Me personally, though, I’ve been route developing.  I equipped a line at Area 51 at the Meadow River in West Virginia on one rainy spring day (before the current rainy stretch.)  There’s been a lot of debate recently about gear/sport routes and mixed routes.  I’ve never been much of a gear climb climber myself, but I love equipping and sending clean, hard, technical face climbs.  The routes I bolt typically have little enough gear to bolt on, let alone, climb safely on.
Walking down the cliff, I noticed an excellent, blank-looking section of white rock.  Exactly what I look for in a new route.  Though blank-looking from the ground, the rock here in West Virginia typically has enough features to go, albeit in the 5.12 or harder range.
I equipped the route and had some doubts about whether I would be able to do it.  The crux itself was located in the white rock; All the holds seemed to be facing the wrong way, positive, yet small.  It turned out that the crux section comprised of 3 distinct sections.  Two of the three cruxes turned out to just be “really technical” and once I figured out the sequence on them, I was able to do them maybe 2/3 or 3/4 times off the hang.  The third crux, however alluded me the day that I equipped the route.  I just simply couldn’t figure out how to do the moves!  Nor be able to brute strength my way through it.
I knew I was pretty beat up though.  Equipping the route itself takes as much out of me as would climbing half a dozen routes.  Bolting routes is hard work! 
I came back the following weekend.  It felt like it was going to be the last good spring day so the pressure was on to send the route. I warmed up by going bolt-to-bolt up the route and was able to do the first two cruxes fairly easily off the hang, and I spent a good 20 minutes working the third crux.  I just linked two draws together and clipped directly into the bolt so my belayer could just chill and not pay attention.
The sequence was really balancy and technical; the feet were mostly good.  However, no matter hard I tried, I couldn’t find a static way to finish the crux – a move to a ¼ pad crimper.  I finally gave up trying to climb static and settled on the plan:
A right hand gaston on a good hold, an ok right foot.  The sketching part – standing up on a terrible, off-kilter left foot smear and a precision dead-point (more like a jump) to the ¼ pad crimper.  I was able to do that move 1/10 times off the hang…actually…I tried it about 15 times, got it once and kind of half got it once.  Not very good odds….
I took a long rest, waited for the route to go into the shade, then tied in for what I thought would be a long shot attempt.  I even tied a project tag on the first bolt as I climbed up it.
I managed to make it through the first two cruxes fairly easily (Oh….boy…really put the pressure on myself.)  I was so surprised to even be at the crux on red-point…. poised to set-up for the crux, got into it and got to the point of the jump…amazed I was even there…..  I looked at the hold…focused all my attention down to that pin-point moment…..and was like…please get it, please get it, please get it….My heart was fluttering and I was really nervous, almost shaking.  I really had to focus to not shake myself off….. I put my trust into my left Tenaya Iati.   It held and I went hard for the crimp, sticking it perfect…oh so perfectly….I screamed of course, but it was my “I know I got it, but TRY HARD.”  I did. I matched, and then did several more moves to a good jug.  Boom!  I figured it would be exciting to have a bit of a run-out on 5.12- climbing after sticking the crux jump…well…I usually curse myself for that sort of thing, but this go it went no problem.  The final roof pull was a little difficult from what I remember but I just tried as hard as I could and did it fairly easily.
The grade on this route was pretty hard for me to determine.  I would previously just have called it 13a or maybe 12d, but a recent discussion among locals here at the NRG has me starting to question route grades.  I don’t want to be soft, so I figured I’d just say 12c and call it good.  How do you grade something that you feel like is impossible for you?  I still can’t believe I got so lucky as to send that route. Everything went right.  I feel like my MAX is like 12c or 12d (V5 or V6.)  But how much should I include luck?  The first boulder problem, the odds were 2/3, the second 3/4, the third 1.5/15.  I just always feel like I get lucky on stuff like that…
I equipped another route at Cotton Top on a rainy Friday morning.  This route is short, but climbs up this really neat arête feature.  Coming down the route, I wasn’t sure if I was going to equip it, but once I saw the features, I knew I was going to love it!  The route starts with an easy/broken start (ledge) but immediately fires out a body length roof (pretty easy.)  A really tough power move establishes the climber on the left side of this really pointy arête.   There are so so to OK holds on arête (right hand), but there is hardly anything on the slab for the left and and very little holds to pull down on.  After the big power more, the route does maybe half a dozen really balancy and techy, core intensive high-step and body position moves.  I was able to climb this one second go with the help from my friend Ryan who told me that he was going to take me off belay if I fell (just kidding, he gave me great beta!)  I decided to call this one “Two Girls, One Tomahawk” 5.12a (or b?)

It looks like another week of rain here in West Virginia….So running, gym climbing and route developing.  Life is hard.

Tactics for getting it done. Aka. Stacking the odds in your favor.

Anyone who has read my blog or talked to me knows that I’m straight forward with my motivations for climbing. Climbing is my life and I work very hard to climb as hard as possible.
Sticking the crux on “The Beast in Me” 5.12a R.  Photo Jared Musgrave

I will note that I am referring to sport climbing and bouldering. When I gear climb I will typically try to climb the route “well” as in not be a chuffer with my gear, climb efficiently etc.

Here are a few tips to stack the odds in your favor: 
  • Work out beta; Look around too.  Don’t just follow the tick marks, look for new holds and new beta.  Especially at the Red River Gorge, I’ve found “new holds” many times.
  • Stack gear for dangerous sections.  If you are placing small gear, place more than once piece.  The extra energy is worth the headspace.
  • One sporty sport routes, consider hanging really long slings on bolts so you can clip, and then clip up. With some smart sling-work you can put a “bolt” anywhere you want it.
David Statler with the extended sling on “Harlequin” 5.12b.  Endless Wall, New River Gorge.

For a hard start and dangerous second clip, just stick-clip the second bolt.

Climb in good to ideal temperatures/conditions

For a difficult lead, especially a trad climb, work out all the gear and the moves, then try to send the rig.  Once you’ve worked it out, visualize the movements; chalk and tick key holds (I know people talk smack on tick marks…so brush them off when you’re done.)  When you’re climbing, you don’t want to have to think, but just connect the dots.  A great way to mess up a techy sequence is to try and change beta, or forget your beta half way through the crux.

For sending routes at your limit (grade-wise) pick stuff that is your strength.

  • If you’re in bouldering shape, then pick short, but hard routes.
  • If you’re good on pockets, then pick a route with pockets etc.
  • Stick to the steep juggy routes (if you’re good at those.)

Temperatures and conditions are huge. Ideal conditions make hard routes easy and bad conditions make easy routes miserable!  I will typically try to send the hardest routes (peak my training) during the ideal conditions window for the area.  Based on day-to-day conditions I follow:

  • When it’s cold, climb slopers
  • When it’s low humidity, climb crimpers
  • When it’s hot, go swimming and climb jugs!
Slopers on a cold day.  Chronic – V7 at Stone Fort, flashing the problem.  Photo Lauren Goff

I decided that I would try to climb the route: “The Beast in Me” 5.12a R at the New River Gorge this spring. I don’t think this route gets the “R” rating in the newest book, but by most definitions, it should.   The crux has a bolt but there are two cruxes before it (V3 or so) with long falls on good, but must-not-fail gear.

We set the route up on TR and I loaded up my harness with gear. I climbed the route as if leading placing the gear and I works out all the gear beta my first go (and the moves).  I figured out the crux sequence and brushed all the holds.  

“The Beast in Me” 5.12a R.  Photo Jared Musgrave

As I attempted to lead the route after top roping it, I had the gear on my harness in order with the draws already on them. I also sorted the gear on the left and right side of my harness based on the placement.  The plan was to have no extra gear and as I clipped the anchor I had no gear on my harness!

I was poised to “slam dunk” the crux before the crux. I was waaaaaaay over my last piece of gear, a good cam in a horizontal, and for a split second imagined what would happen if I shorted the long move. I quashed the thought and went hard!  Sticking the hold. ……woah boy !!!!…..that was a pretty sketchy 1/4 of a second.   If that cam were to blow, it’s would likely be a fatal or serious ground fall from about 40+ feet.  Climbing is dangerous.

I didn’t get it, I fell at the crux.  I didn’t listen to my own advice and tried to do a different sequence.  My buddy Neal was also working the route and between the two of us, we refined the beta (finding a key foot.)  I wasn’t going to try the frightful lead a third time so I sent the rig on Top Rope to get some confidence and muscle memory.

I wrote down the gear and sent the route my next trip out, once again clipping the anchor with no gear on my harness. I topped out and enjoyed the view before downclimbing and lowering.  I’m not sure if this is my hardest trad line, though it was definitely exciting.  When I climbed the route, it went pretty easy for me, but I was on edge the whole time.  As I went through the dangerous section, I once again imagined what would happen if I fell there.  On Neal’s previous attempt, he figured out better gear beta; we stacked two cams into the horizontal instead of the one.  Cutting the chances of death by falling on V3 in half is a good idea. 


I had a lot more on this, but figured I’d make it a “part two” where I talk about temperatures and bouldering! 

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