Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Veyo Mittyz: World’s Best Mitten for Kids!

Initial reaction...definitely tolerable!

Her first impression: “Tolerable. I won’t rip them off.”

This post is for all of us out there that have had to endure the painstaking process of gearing up a child under the age of 5 to play outside in cold weather.  (If you HAVEN’T experienced the agony pleasure, tag along with a mom friend one morning at the park…it’s the stuff birth control is made of.)  But for those of you that are wrestling with boots, gloves, hats, scarves, coats, and cranky toddlers every morning, here’s a little something that might just rock your world a little bit.

They’re called “mittyz,” and they are made by Veyo Kids, a small family company out of Salt Lake City, UT.  I might not be entirely sure how to pronounce them, but I now pronounce them “world’s greatest mitten,” because this product has completely streamlined our getting-out-the-door process on cold mornings.  (I say mornings, because down here in the South we haven’t had too many “all day cold” days yet.)

Hands down these gloves are the easiest to put on that I’ve ever seen.  You just pull ’em on, and cinch ’em up!  No more battles with tiny fingers and even tinier thumb holes, and no more stuffing bulky jackets down narrow glove sleeves.  The Veyo website sums it up pretty nicely: “Win the thumb wars once and for all!”

But it takes more than just a few “easy-on” features to make a good glove.  It obviously has to keep little hands and fingers warm and dry as well.  And the Veyo Mittyz do just that.  Our testing conditions were admittedly not arctic, but what we lacked in snow was made up for in sub-freezing mud puddles.

Ordinarily Baby Zu is not too keen on any sort of glove, but these got a decidedly “okay” reception at first glance.  I mean, really, who could resist those little penguin faces?!?  Once she realized the gloves were there to stay, she decided to try to actually use her hands, and appeared to be pleasantly surprised.  She toddled around clapping her hands and stacking rocks all morning with a reasonable amount of dexterity.  Most importantly, when I took them off, her hands were toasty warm.

"Ok mom.  If I have to wear gloves, these are cool!"

“Ok mom. If I have to wear gloves, these are cool!”

There are two other features that we haven’t gotten to try out yet, but are worth noting.  First, the entire glove can be turned inside out for easy drying.  To me this sounds far superior than dealing with separate liners and outer shells that never seem to fit back together the right way.  Additionally, the entire glove is soft, as opposed to just one spot, which will hopefully go a along way to preventing chafing during the runny nose season.

That being said….who wants a pair?!?  To enter, all you have to do is enter your email below!


The Blessings of Jesus and Tequila

A lot of people tout that Jesus and Tequila 12b (aka “J ‘n T”) is the best 5.12 in the New River Gorge (and I wouldn’t disagree.)  Some people even argue that it’s the best route in the Gorge, period. I’ve even heard more than one person say it is the best route they have EVER touched.

Well, with that introduction, you know it’s not gonna be a gimme for the grade, right? While grades are of course highly subjective, J ‘n T has a pretty solid consensus that 12b is a big fat sandbag (unless you are my one friend that downgrades everything ;))  12c gets tossed around a lot, and I’ve even  heard 12c/d.  I can’t really weigh in that much, as I don’t have enough mileage at the 12c level to compare, and honestly I don’t really care.  Regardless of grade, it’s exposure, position, rock quality, movement, and overall “badassity” make it a worthy tick for any climber.

And for me personally it feels far more doable than a lot of other 12b’s I’ve tried, but that probably comes down to the style of climbing.  There are multiple cruxes, but individually none are insanely hard.  It’s the New, so there are of course some long reaches, but they are set up well for shorter climbers (and if anything, the high feet required for some of the moves might actually favor the vertically challenged.)

Although it’s been on my radar ever since I toproped it once a couple of years ago, my recent obsession with J ‘n T actually only began a week and a half ago. After unsuccessfully trying to tick New World Order 12a, I took a few toprope burns on it while my friend was working it.  It was pretty intimidating (hence the toprope), but darned if it didn’t feel like it might go…and soon!  And with that, what was supposed to be our last NRG trip of the season turned into our second to last, and just 6 days later I found myself standing atop the giant boulder at the base of the route once more.


I warmed up by going bolt to bolt.  It did not go well.  The rock was really cold, and the opening moves felt really slippery.  The crux felt scary, and I had a lot of trouble committing to the move.  But eventually I got to the chains.  Considering that performance, I didn’t have my hopes set extremely high for my next go – I would have been happy to get a 1 or a 2 hang out of it.

But you guys! (or ya’ll, if you’ll indulge my southern roots.)  I almost sent it.  I SHOULD have sent it.  (And actually, if the original anchors would have still been in place, I WOULD have sent it.)  It wasn’t pretty.  The first half went well, but i struggled with the heady 5th clip (next time longer draw!), and completely botched my beta for the crux.  I still have no idea how I managed to hang on.  The very next move almost spit me off as well, and the deadpoint up high was not a sure thing.  But miraculously I found myself stemming precariously under the final roof. I took some deep breaths and visualized the final sequence, which involves tiptoe-ing out across a wildly exposed face 80 feet off the deck, grabbing a pair of terrible sloping crimps, and lunging for a pretty good sidepull.  I DID IT!

All that was left was for me to get an awkwardly high left foot onto a point and rock up to a standing position, and the send would be mine.  Now the problem with that foot is that my body is so extended on those terrible sloping holds that I can only lift my foot so high before my butt is too far away from the wall and I lose purchase with my hands.  Going bolt to bolt I’ve always been able to do it, but barely.  However, any time I’ve come in even the slightest bit tired, I’ve had to smear my foot on a lower, much worse hold, then slide it over real quick once my momentum starts moving upward.  It’s more insecure, but it’s always worked…until this time.

I tried at first to get the left foot in the “right” spot.  One, twice, three times.  My toes were scuffing just left of where I needed to be, and I was starting to get pumped.  I needed to retreat back to the dihedral where I could stem and regroup at a no hands stance, but now that my left hand was up above the roof, I couldn’t reverse the move.  The clock was ticking, so I put my foot on the consolation smear and committed my weight to it.  And I slipped off.  Less than 10 feet away from the anchors, after having done every single hard move but one, I slipped off.  I was THERE…and yet I found myself dangling helplessly below the roof, looking up at that blasted foothold that had thwarted my send.

After taking a moment to collect myself, I jugged back up, finishing the route easily in a very awkwardly anti-climactic way.

“That was a great burn, I’m proud of you for going ‘a muerte'” one of my friends said (the same one that downgrades everything.)

At least one of us was psyched about waking up to snow the next morning.

At least one of us was psyched about waking up to snow the next morning.

He was right.  It WAS a great burn, far better than my expectations.  And I WAS proud of myself.  And since we still had a few more hours of daylight I was optimistic that I’d be able to get redemption before the day was out, but on my next attempt I fell at the crux…and by the time I got on it a 4th time I was too exhausted to even get to the crux clean.  The next day featured sub-freezing temps, gray skies, and even some snow flurries, so after exploring around under the bridge, we called it an early day and headed home.

But hey, at least I’m in good company.  The description in the guidebook reads like this:  “Getting pummeled on Jesus and Tequila is a rite of passage for every New River climber…the route used to finish at a station under the final roof, but Jonny Woodward moved it to the top, adding one more insecure crux that has foiled many redpoint efforts.”  

In a lot of ways, my performance on Jesus and Tequila pretty much sums up my fall climbing season.  I came back from Ten Sleep with psych that was out the roof, ready to take my east coast game to the next level.  But while I’ve nabbed a few good sends here and there, I feel like I’ve mostly had a lot of almost-sending-but-not-quite-putting-it-all-together moments, which had left me feeling frustrated at climbing, especially at the New.  (#firstworldproblems I know, just trying to be authentic here!)

But all that said, my almost-send of Jesus and Tequila has ended my NRG season on an ironically positive note that makes the entire season feel worthwhile.  I put in a lot of work on routes that have pushed me out of my comfort zone as well as taught me a lot.  Techman, for example, forced me to get creative to maximize my reach, whereas New World Order improved my coordination and agility skills.  Jesus and Tequila boosted my confidence and brought back some of the fight and determination to my climbing that I hadn’t even realized was missing.  And the most encouraging part?  Those routes will still be there 4 months from now, primed and ready to be ticked.  It’s gonna be a fun spring!  But for now, it’s time to get fat and happy with the fam over the holidays.  Happy Turkey Day everyone!


Sendless at Endless

Catchy title, but will probably make for a rather lackluster trip report!  Conditions were prime for sending…I guess my only excuse is myself!  Fortunately, however, our weekend in West Virginia was still “wild and wonderful.”

CragDaddy tackling Jesus and Tequila 12b...more on that below

CragDaddy tackling Jesus and Tequila 12b…more on that below

Saturday was spent at Snake Buttress.  After warming up on Muckraker 11a, I had hoped to tick New World Order 12a, which I had started working on a few weeks ago.  To be honest, heading into the weekend I’d been feeling less than confident, and with questionable motivation.

These guys are perpetually psyched...even at 6am on a Saturday morning.

These guys are perpetually psyched…even at 6am on a Saturday morning.

The crux for me on New World Order is a big deadpoint move that requires (for me, anyway) a LOT of precision and coordination.  Even executed correctly it’s somewhat of a low percentage move.  These types of projects (ie low percentage cruxes) can get frustrating very easily because it’s hard to predict how close you are to sending.  When it finally goes, the movement often feels exactly the same as it did every other time you tried…only that particular time you lucked up and didn’t get spit off.

So even though I had the moves worked out pretty well, the odds that all the stars would align when I was on point seemed 50/50 at best.  Not to mention I’ve been pretty distracted lately.  Baby Zu continues to be a twinkly, charming little toddler by day (or most days, anyway), and a possessed, screaming banshee by night (well, most nights, anyway.)  My workouts at the gym have been relatively mediocre, and motivation to try hard has been hit or miss, especially with the holidays (aka our “off season“) approaching in just a couple of weeks.  Add to all of that a random redness/irritation in my eye that cropped up the night before we left and ended up getting far worse before getting better, and it would be safe to say that perhaps the force was NOT with me on Saturday.  I found myself in a sort of strange and contradictory mental space, where I was more looking forward to the route being checked off than I was about the actual process of putting in time to work the route.

This guy's highlight of every Endless Wall day...the ladders!

This guy’s highlight of every Endless Wall day…the ladders!

So with all that said, you can imagine that I was thrilled with my first attempt of the day being a fairly quick one-hang.  I fell at the predicted spot twice before nailing the jug – the first time coming up too short, and the second time actually over-shooting the hold.  I felt that little flutter in my chest that happens in that magical moment when you first realize that a project is within reach.

Big brother isn't the only one who has fun on the ladders

Big brother isn’t the only one who has fun on the ladders

I felt pretty good about my chances next go.  But right off the bat I screwed up the opening bouldering problem.  I managed to stay on, but expended a lot of needless energy.  I shook out really well, moved up to the next clip, then promptly punted off in a random spot that I’d never had any trouble with before, thanks to a missed foothold.  Dangit.  I worked through that section and up through the crux (it took me 4 tries this time), and then lowered, since I had the top pretty well dialed.

That’s all right, 3rd times a charm, right?  Wrong.  My next go it was that d#$% boulder problem right off the ground that was giving me fits.  Eventually I figured out some heel hook beta (courtesy of the CragDaddy) that made the move significantly easier…but by then it was too little too late, and I once again punted off before I even made it to my crux.  Geez.  I wasn’t necessarily expecting to send, but I certainly didn’t expect to regress as the day went on. In hindsight I think the fact that I was climbing in my glasses for the first time ever (thanks to the weird eye thing) may have been playing with my depth perception a bit, considering that I am literally blind without corrective eye wear and therefore have zero peripheral vision with glasses.  But that was certainly not the only problem, and at the end of the day there was nothing left to do, except nurse my bruised ego with family and friends over a margarita.

A little Star Wars fun at the crag

A little Star Wars fun at the crag

Sunday was another gorgeous fall day – after all the rain we’ve had, the sun felt amazing!  We were back at Endless, but this time hiked in through the Fern Point side.  We warmed up on Euronation 11c before heading over to Jesus and Tequila 12b, which is arguable THE 12b in the Gorge to tick.  I’d toproped it once before when a friend of mine was working on it – I don’t remember a ton about it, but I do know the crux took a lot of work, and I was unable to do the final roof move without some belayer assistance.

There are a few pretty heady sections.  That, as well as my wishy-washy attitude about trying hard, prompted me to opt for the casual toprope once the rope was hanging.  But then I started climbing. THIS ROUTE IS AWESOME!  My lazy demeanor was slapped awake and my mind overflowed with adrenalized psych.  All of a sudden I found myself more motivated than I’d been in a really long time.  The movement is fun and unique, the position is amazing, and most encouraging of all, I did all the moves relatively easily.  After only falling once on my 2nd burn (at the crux), I’d love to think that a send will come soon…But I also am aware that this route is notorious for taking forever to send, as the real crux is not the individual moves, but linking all of them together (as well as a really tough clip) on point.

I wasn't the only one who struggled with motivation at times this weekend...

I wasn’t the only one who struggled with motivation at times this weekend…

That being said, I feel close enough to warrant another trip before our NRG season is done til spring.  Hopefully it’ll go. But if it doesn’t, it’ll be waiting for me in the spring.  (And it’ll be worth the wait.)  And as for New World Order?  It looks like it’s gonna have to be put on the backburner til spring…it’ll feel good to have at least one route “in the hopper” next March!


A Crag-Date in the High Country

Let's hear it for grandparents!

Let’s hear it for grandparents!

This past Sunday the Crag-Daddy and I got a chance to do something we hadn’t been able to do since some time in 2012 – climb outside together without kids!!!  We’d been looking forward to out crag-date for months (years?), and we actually ended up having to wait even longer than anticipated.  The original plan was for us to climb together sans kiddos at the Hound Ears Bouldering Competition on October 3rd…but then that, as well as the make-up day on October 4th got rained out.  No worries, it was rescheduled for a month later, on November 7th…but as the new date approached it became obvious that day was going to be a wash out as well.

With Sunday looking in the clear, Steve and I were hopeful that we would finally get to boulder together, but apparently the powers that be had other plans, because on Thursday morning the event was postponed until an undetermined time next spring.  Womp womp.  Cue sad trombone music.

Luckily we had a plan B.  After all, we still had a cabin in the high country (courtesy of some friends of Steve’s parents), and we still had some enthusiastic babysitters (courtesy of Steve’s parents.)  So after school/work on Friday, we headed up to the mountains of Western NC.  Saturday was a dreary, drizzly day, but was far from lazy.  The morning was spent tromping through the woods and hopping back and forth across the creeks around the cabin.  We made several interesting discoveries – a giant lichen on the side of the tree, a ring-necked snake, and believe it or not, stumbled across a small cliff with some established lines on it less than 200 feet below our cabin!  (We did some digging and learned some of the history of the area, which is basically a backyard crag. We didn’t try to climb there, and after finding out it’s on private property we most certainly won’t, but it was exciting making the discovery all the same!)

Just me, my man, and some rocks!

Just me, my man, and some rocks!

Sunday dawned cold, but dry, and after a leisurely breakfast, Steve and I said goodbye to our sweet kiddos and headed up highway 221.  We didn’t have any agenda other than to find dry rock and have fun, and both of those goals were pretty easy to meet.  And as a bonus, we managed a feat we’d never done before – 3 different crags in one day!

Our first stop was The Dump, which we frequent a good bit with the family, thanks to the high quality roadside craggin’ it offers.  Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the routes that were next on our tick list (Not Too Keen 12c/d for me and Black Jackets 12b for Steve) were running with water.  But there was still plenty of dry climbing to be had, and after only an hour, Steve and I had each done 3 climbs apiece – Voodoo Chile 11a, The Vermin 10b, and Slimen Hymen 10b.  A pace like that is an unheard of luxury with kids!

Another luxury was hiking around with packs that were only half full, and the ability to toss everything in and move to the next spot in less than 2 minutes.  (It almost made me wish there were other people there so we could see what it feels like to NOT be the last one ready to hike out.)

This dog came prancing towards us as we were packing up at The Dump.  "Look he's bringing us a stick," I say to Steve...YUCK!!!

This dog came prancing towards us as we were packing up at The Dump. “Look he’s bringing us a stick,” I say to Steve, who then says, “That’s not a stick…”

Stop #2 was just up the highway at Sunken Treasure, another small roadside crag, this one made up primarily of mixed routes.  We’d stopped there once over the summer, but only for a few hours, and had to leave before trying out what was supposed to be one of the best 5.10’s in the High Country.  This time around, Pegleg 10d was the only route we did at the crag, but it was definitely worth the stop.  We found it just as good a sit was rumored to be – incredibly steep for 5.10, and with an amazing lay down rest to keep the pump at bay!

Our final stop along 221 was Moon Rocks, an area we’d never been to before but always wondered about.  The cliff itself is really neat, and I couldn’t help picturing how much fun Big C would have had playing around in the narrow corridor that was between the cliffline and a giant (as in 30 feet wide, 40 feet tall) boulder that was parked just a few feet away from the cliff.  A lot of the stuff that was within our pay grade was wet, but we did play around on a very sandbagged 11d (         ), that was wet AND mossy at the top.

All in all we had a great day together.  It was refreshing to be able to talk without being interrupted, eat our food without someone else trying to take it, and have some down time in between climbs where we could sit down without a little person crawling on top of us.  The icing on the cake was squeezing in 5 pitches and 3 crags in just under 6 hours!

Savoring the Pegleg laydown rest.

Savoring the Pegleg laydown rest.

I don’t know when the next time we’ll have an opportunity like this will be, but it sure was fun, and I for one hope it will happen sooner rather than later.  But for the time being, there’s no one I’d rather have interrupt me, steal my food, and wrestle at the crag with than my own two kiddos…so I guess that means life is pretty good!



Post-Halloween Tips from the Archives

Back in the days when I actually had time to write (ie one child, who was in preschool a couple mornings a week), I loved writing seasonally appropriate posts for every holiday, Halloween included.  Now that I’ve got a toddler running me ragged a lot less time, those sort of posts have gone on the backburner.  Back when Baby Zu was a newborn, I threw all the blogging “rules” out the window in the hopes of keeping my sanity (it helped?!?)  While writing soothes my soul, not putting pressure on myself to do it means a lot less stress – and more time to do other important things, like make Halloween costumes!!!

Big C's ghost costume

Big C went old school with a ghost costume

But this year just for fun I did a search on this site for “Halloween,” to see what came up.  There were a few highlight-style posts (like this one from 2014) that basically summed up our family’s seasonal traditions – pumpkin patches, trick-or-treating, blacklight parties at the climbing gym.  Some posts offered logistical tips that would have been more helpful to share BEFORE Halloween – pumpkin patching on a shoestring bucket, and keeping Halloween night as healthy as possible.  But I found a couple of gems that are very applicable for post-Halloween antics.  They seemed worthwhile then, and if I can go out on a limb, I like to think that they could still be useful?

"WyldStyle" from the LEGO Movie and "Wez" from Mad Max

“WyldStyle” from the LEGO Movie and “Wez” from Mad Max

The first post was written after last year’s Halloween – Creative Ideas for that Leftover Candy Stash.  New readers can perhaps glean some good ideas…and for those of you “re-reading” it, maybe I’ve posted in a timely enough manner that you actually have leftover candy to use up!

The second post is an oldie, but still a goodie I think.  It’s from 2012, and entitled 5 Ways Pumpkin Season Can Last Past Halloween.  So before you kick your jack-o-lanterns to the curb, check it out!

And of course, what Halloween post would be complete without some trick-or-treating action shots!  Both kiddos (and both parents) went all in for the fun, and we were rewarded with an amazing night of laughs, memories, and or course, candy!  Big C’s highlight was “scaring” everyone with his ghost costume (a big thank you to all of our neighbors for acting scared every time he “boooooooo-ed”….especially since it was approximately every 15 seconds.)  Baby Zu, who was always scrambling up the stairs as the big kids were already off and running to the next house, most enjoyed pointing at all the dogs she saw barking from inside the houses.

After more than a few tears earlier in the week, Baby Zu was psyched to don her Elsa costume, from the movie Frozen.

After more than a few tears earlier in the week, Baby Zu was psyched to don her Elsa costume, from the movie Frozen.

By the time we rounded the corner and made the turn for home, both kids were exhausted.  Baby Zu, who insisted on walking herself, was alternating between walking 10 steps, and laying down in the street to rest.  The only thing keeping Big C going was a giant bag of M n M’s.  The next morning came early thanks to the time change (apparently 4 am is the new 5…ugh), but the memories (and the candy) will remain!