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

Gear Review: Powerfingers!

Baby Z looking for some finger strength gains.

Baby Z looking for some finger strength gains.

If you’ve read this blog with any amount of regularity, you’re probably aware that our household is way into “pre-hab.”  I firmly believe it’s important for climbers of all ages and skill levels, whether you are projecting 5.14′s or struggling your way up 5.8′s on toprope.  A big part of prehab is training the muscles that do the OPPOSITE movement than the muscles you use while climbing.  When you climb, you pull, pull, pull.  So to keep your body in balance, it’s important to do some exercises that push – push-ups, presses, etc.  (For a whole post dedicated to antagonist muscle training, click here.)  

One of the most common “out of balance” area of the climber’s body is in the forearms.  All day long we close our hands, gripping the most miniscule holds very tightly.  Our forearm flexors get pretty darn strong…But our forearm EXTENSORS (the muscles on the back, non-palm side of your arm) are ridiculously weak in comparison.  Over time this can lead to all sorts of overuse injuries in the elbow, hand, and even fingers.  

In the past, I’ve incorporated everything from reverse wrist curls to rice bucket workouts into my routine to balance my forearms out.  But while dumbbells easily allow for varying resistance as you get stronger, they only work the extensors of the wrist, not the fingers. And while rice buckets are able to intricately engage all the extensors, varying resistance can be inconvenient.  Not to mention that bucket of rice is a pain to lug around and just plain messy.  That’s where powerfingers enter the scene.


Powerfingers are a system of rubberized discs in varying resistances that engage the extensor muscles of the entire forearm.  It provides the benefits of dumbbells and rice bucket workouts WITHOUT the cons of either.  The exercises are easy – just insert your fingers into the little holes in the disc, and start opening and closing!  I guarantee you will feel quite the burn in a very short amount of time!  (As with any other exercise, form is important to avoid injuries, so check out these videos from the Powerfingers website to see what to do/not to do.)

Yes, we really sit around at night and do stuff like this.

Yes, we really sit around at night and do stuff like this.

Beginners can start with the lightest color (for the lightest resistance), and work up to blue, then purple.  When that gets too easy, you can do the exercises with multiple discs at once, so the possibilities are really endless!  Do them watching TV.  Do them in the car to and from the crag.  Do them around the campfire after a long day of climbing.  The discs come in a small case that is easy enough to take anywhere, leaving no room for excuses about finding the time or opportunity to use them.  

This product is fairly new, especially on the climbing scene (it was originally designed to improve speed, strength and dexterity for musicians.)  But I personally think the design and concept is brilliant, and expect to see it sold in climbing gear shops all over the place very soon.  If you are looking for a convenient way to prevent/improve overuse conditions like tendonitis, Powerfingers may very well be your ticket! 


Labor Day at the Obed River


Me starting the day on Lounge Lizards (5.11b)

If you read last week’s trip report from Grayson Highlands, you may remember that lately we’ve been struggling with bad weather woes, as well as securing climbing partners.  Climbers sans kiddos can wait until the last minute to make their plans, and just head out the door on a whim to wherever conditions look best…we can’t!  For us, no partners means no climbing, so we’ve got to be proactive and plan ahead.  This time around, we ended up with a good-sized group for 2 out of the 3 days.  The weather forecast wasn’t stellar, but it ended up being a lot better than predicted (and if there’s anywhere I want to be when it’s raining, it’s under the steep, tiered roofs of the Obed crags!)

We spent our first day in the shade at Lilly Bluff, where Steve threw himself at Gangsta (5.12a).  That climb was once upon a time my nemesis, and it is quickly turning into a similar saga for him.  Between nursing and hanging with Baby Z, I only managed to squeeze in 4 pitches - Lounge Lizards (5.11b), Clyde the Mega-Dude (5.11b/c), Whippersnapper (5.11a), and Beach Ball (5.11a).  All were routes I’d previously sent, but the first 3 I hadn’t been on in years, so it was fun to hop on some classics again! 

The traditional post-Lilly dip in Clear Creek!

The traditional post-Lilly dip in Clear Creek!

We got a lot of rain Saturday night.  A lot.  The first band of storms came through right in the middle of dinner, and we were glad we brought our EZ-up to keep everything (relatively) dry.  The next wave rolled through during the night- kiddos slept right through it, but the Crag-Daddy and I were getting dripped on (apparently it’s time to add some seam seal to our tent…).  Steve got creative with hanging up dirty clothes to catch the leaks, and we were all back off to dreamland again.  

Day 2 we went where we knew we’d find dry rock – the Inner Circle at North Clear Creek.  The Rail (5.11c) is actually a great warm-up for the wall – V2-ish boulder problem at the start and about 60 feet of gentle 5.10 to get the blood moving before tackling the unique roof feature up high.  After that, I had planned to put in some more work on Keeper of the Flame (5.11d/12a), the only route I got on this weekend that I hadn’t previously sent.

Steve gettin' his Gangsta (not "gangster") on.

Steve gettin’ his Gangsta (not “gangster”) on.

Considering how pumped I’d felt at the top of every single route the day before I didn’t have my hopes set too high.  I’ve been doing a lot of bouldering in the gym lately since my schedule makes it hard to find partners to rope up with – so while my postpartum strength is coming back quickly, my endurance is lagging far behind.  The crux on Keeper is a doozy – a big stand-up move off of a matched full-pad undercling.  Off the ground the move wouldn’t be that hard, but it occurs after a big-lock-off-infested 5.11 face and a sequence of very steep tosses between jugs to get the forearms a blazin’.  (There is a no hands rest towards the top of the face, however…)  There is also a bolt mid-crux that is virtually impossible to clip without expending a load of unnecessary energy, so on a redpoint attempt it makes sense to skip it (the terrain is so steep that even a giant fall with rope out would be nothing but air.)

Just after the crux there is one more hard move – rocking onto a small ledge via a high heel hook and crimps.  The move is probably no harder than V2, but coming in hot out of the crux it feels ridiculously powerful.  (It’s also the move I fell at on my last attempt a couple of years ago.)  

EZ-up for the win! (Although this shot was taken the next morning...)

EZ-up for the win! (Although this shot was taken the next morning…)

My first go I hung at a few bolts to re-familiarize myself with the moves.  I made it through the crux and was ready for the last rock-on move, but when I threw my heel up, I felt something move and vaguely heard someone shouting.  Turns out I had accidentally dislodged a soft-ball sized rock and sent it hurtling towards the ground.  To everyone’s horror, it hit my friend Joy on the side of her head, but THANKFULLY it just grazed her as she was leaning away, leaving her with a good-sized gash as a souvenir.  It didn’t knock her out and she showed no signs of a concussion, but the gash was nasty enough that her day was over.  

More campsite breakfast fun

More campsite breakfast fun

Out of the 10 climbers that were at the cliff that day, none of us were anticipating that scenario.  In fact, we noted that in all of our years climbing (which collectively added up to more than 50 years), we had never encountered an injury such as Joy’s at a popular, well-traveled sport climbing area.  I don’t need to go into details of what could have happened had a rock of that size been a direct hit.  This was a very sobering reminder that loose rock can be encountered anywhere (not just in alpine situations or at “chossy” crags), and that it is IMPERATIVE to not hang out directly underneath a climber.  

Steve mid-crux on The Rail (5.11c)

Steve mid-crux on The Rail (5.11c)

Everyone was a little shaken up after that.  Joy hiked out (of her own accord) with her partner and son, presumably to get herself checked out at the hospital.  There was still a good deal of their gear left up on the wall (not to mention their packs at the base,) so we stayed there for a few more hours.  I will be the first to admit that I felt guilty staying there, but it obviously didn’t make sense for all 8 of us (including a baby and a preschooler) to wait around at the hospital for what could be hours.  As it turns out, she updated us not long after that she had texted pictures to a doctor friend of hers who gave her the okay to skip the ER, so she spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing around camp and then drove into town for a good dinner.  

Me navigating the steeps on Keeper 5.11d

Me navigating the steeps on Keeper 5.11d

She was supposed to be sleeping in this picture.  Good thing she‘s so cute...

She was supposed to be sleeping in this picture. Good thing she‘s so cute…

I got back on Keeper again (the only other time I climbed that day), and felt really good about it.  The face went well, and I felt strong through the steeps approaching the crux.  I was red-lining as I stood up off the undercling, but I skipped the crux clip and managed to power through to the jug (although I was pretty shaky making the post-crux clip…)  So now I was at my previous high point (and the same point where the rock had gotten knocked off.) Since I’d lowered directly when Joy had gotten hit, I hadn’t worked out the beta for that section, and in my pumped state I couldn’t make the move, so my run ended the same way it had a couple of years ago.  I jugged back up and found some foot beta that I think will work another time, but I didn’t have it in me to try again that day.  Hopefully next time.  

Our last day was pretty hectic.  We had plans to climb at Little Clear, but a snarling dog was blocking the entrance.  There was a random guy in a white truck (who we initially thought was a ranger) who hopped out with his shotgun to “take care of” the situation, which we didn’t really want to be a part of.  We ended up calling the park staff and headed back to Lilly Bluff, which was unfortunately still wet from the previous days of rain.

Debord Falls at Frozen Head State Park

Debord Falls at Frozen Head State Park

By this point our partners were ready to head home, which of course meant we were done as well.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed in the amount of actual climbing I’d gotten to do all weekend (only 7 pitches total), but we learned a long time ago that when you climb as a family you often can’t be choosy and should be grateful for what you can get.  

After such a hectic summer it felt great just to be outside on a rope again, and after the close call with Joy, I think everyone left with a renewed respect for these rocks on which we climb.  From now on I know our family will be definitely be even more hyper-vigilant about where we let our children play at the base.

On the way home we ended up squeezing in a waterfall hike at Frozen Head State Park – we’d always seen signs on the way in but had never stopped.  It was beautiful, and another time, would be a great place to spend a rest day!

Well that was our weekend – lots of excitement, of both the good and bad variety!  How was everyone else’s Labor Day adventures? (Oh, and several days later, Joy is thankfully feeling great and has nothing more than a tender noggin’!)




Grayson Highlands State Park, aka “Why Nature is Good for the Soul”

My favorite adventure partners.

My favorite adventure partners.

Up until this past weekend it had been a record breaking 9 WEEKS since we’d been to the mountains for a family adventure.  Between beach trips, rainy weather, and various other obligations, we had somehow turned into gym rats over the summer.  We’ve done our best to squeeze in pockets of adventure here and there, but it’s just not the same as getting out and away from everyday life for a couple days at a time.  

Which is why we were psyched last week to have secured climbing partners with a reasonable weather forecast in Grayson Highlands, VA.  But as the week went on, the rain percentages went up, and our list of partners went down.  With each passing day I felt my heart sink lower and lower.  We finally had a free weekend, and it looked like we would be spending it at home yet again.  After a lot of hemming, hawing, and weather-watching Thursday night, we finally decided to go for it and hit the road by ourselves, tossing everything from crash pads to umbrellas to plastic ninja swords into the van.  There’s no reward without risk, and although I can’t say that the entire weekend went smoothly, we certainly reaped enough family rewards to make the trip worthwhile!


Wilburn Ridge, overlooking Massie Gap

We arrived on Friday with just enough daylight to squeeze in a dinnertime hike up to Wilburn Ridge to see the wild ponies, which is something we hadn’t done since Big C was Baby Z’s age.  The ponies roam freely throughout the park, so you obviously can’t guarantee a sighting, but they (like most people) are creatures of habit, and tend to hang out on the ridge around dusk, and Friday night was no exception.  This time was particularly special because several of the mares had babies!  We watched them for a bit, then let Big C burn off some energy scrambling across the rocky outcrops and climbing some spruce trees, then headed back down to set up camp.  

Big C standing proudly atop Big Pinnacle

Big C standing proudly atop Big Pinnacle

It rained a lot that night.  A LOT.  I heard rain every time I awoke (which was plenty, since Baby Z did not have the best night…).  The next morning was cloudy but dry, and by the afternoon the clouds had given way to beautiful sunshine.  We attempted to boulder a bit in the morning, but it was just too hectic with Baby Z by ourselves, so we opted for a hike on the Twin Pinnacles trail instead.  The views from the highest points in the park were spectacular, and me and Big C enjoyed munching on wild blueberries AND blackberries along the way while the Crag-Daddy kept pace and Baby Z snoozed away in our new Bitybean carrier (review coming soon!)  

Me and Baby Z with the Bitybean...and a monkey photo bomber

Me and Baby Z with the Bitybean…and a monkey photo bomber

After a quick stop to get shut down on True Grit (V5) at the Contact Station, we headed back up the Rock House, hoping to rendezvous with our campsite neighbors who had said they’d be out there (and ironically, ALSO had children with swords!)  Sure enough, we suddenly found ourselves with plenty o’ pads and spotters.  Our tick list for the day did not include anything new for me, but it had been a loooong time since I’d bouldered outside, so it was fun to nab some postpartum sends…  

Indian Outlaw (V3) 
Papoose’s Rain Dance (V3) - 
Arrowhead Arete (V3)
True Grit (Stand) (V2+)

The next day dawned foggy and dreary, and after a short jaunt along the 1.3 mile Rock House Ridge trail, we packed up shop and headed home.  We enjoyed a pitstop picnic along the New River just over the NC state line, and even managed to make it home in time for a neighborhood block party.

Already bouldering...and looking the part with her beanie!

Already bouldering…and looking the part with her beanie!

Though there were certainly times where things did not go according to plan, the weekend as a whole was soothing to my soul. There’s just something uplifting about being out in Creation all weekend, connecting with each other as we disconnect from everything else.  I know my spirits are renewed, and the whole family is looking forward to the adventures we’ve got in the making for this fall!

Umbrella testing Sunday morning...

Umbrella testing Sunday morning…



Cragmama’s Featured #Kidcrushers (Issue 4)

The summer may be drawing to a close, but the crushing still continues for kids all around the country!  This month’s featured climbers are an impressive bunch.  Read on to be inspired by folks a fraction of your own age, and to hear more about this month’s sponsored prize from Bearded Brothers

This little lady (who also happens to be part of the Bearded Bros family!) recently tied in for the very first time outside!

This little lady (from the Bearded Bros family!) recently tied in for the very first time outside!

Next up is Sage, gettin’ it done on Loch Ness Monster (5.11b), at Bath Rock, Idaho.


Check out @TeamMesaRim kiddos Sebastian (climber), and Adam (up top) having some fun at the boulderfield.


Here’s Holly M. gettin’ after it in Leavenworth, WA.


A throwback shot of Victoria (featured last month), on her first trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.


Here’s 9 year old Mia on a 5.10 during a family climbing trip to Alaska.


 Pierce and Marianna Florine (children of Yosemite legend Hans Florine) working their way up Fairview Dome.


The three winners for this issue (hand-selected favorites from myself, the Crag-Daddy, and Big C) are….drum roll please… Sage, Mia, and Holly M!  Each lucky winner will receive a sample package of organic energy bars courtesy of Bearded Brothers.  Our family got the chance to try these out a while back (review here), and they are amazingly good AND good for you.  They are the perfect option for fueling a day of climbing as well as a great on-the-go option for breakfast or a large snack.  

As always, if you know someone who isn’t featured here, but SHOULD be, let me know!  Email me a picture and caption at infoATcragmamaDOTcom, or simply tag your instagram photos using hashtag #Kidcrushers.  Photos received by September 20 will be considered for next month’s issue, and eligible to win a fun prize!  So get out and get crushin’!


(For Pinterest purposes…)


The Freedom of Stepping Back

I learned a long time ago that any writing done when I am rushed and/or not inspired to write is writing that is not worth reading.  Which is why you may have noticed things have been a little quieter around here of late.  The arrival of Baby Z, combined with summer (meaning no preschool mornings for Big C…) has put a giant dent in the time I have available to write.  In fact, over the past few weeks I’ve seen the small windows of time that I previously had for myself shrinking away to practically nothing.  

While Baby Z is a CONSISTENT napper, the majority of her daytime shut-eye still happens in 35 minute bursts.  That leaves very little baby-free moments during the day, and by the time I share some one on one time with my 4 year old, eat, do laundry, and if I’m lucky, go to the bathroom by myself, that time is up.  Once the kiddos are in bed I may write for a few minutes here and there, but I want the larger chunk of my evening to be spent hanging out with the hubby (or for two nights of the week, my friends at the climbing gym…) 

I truly love writing, in particular for this blog, and it’s a therapeutic outlet for me in many ways.  However, I’ve had to prioritize a lot recently, and it’s one of the luxuries that’s had to go on the backburner.  I’ve also taken a step back (but not completely away from) many of the companies that have supported me along my journey climbing through motherhood.  

These are my people.

These are my people.

The past few months have been a little bittersweet, and it’s been hard passing up on several opportunities that have come my way.  But I must say it’s also been freeing.  I’ve turned my focus completely inward rather than outward, and in so doing, have felt a lot less (self-imposed) pressure to always be “out there” and talking (writing) about it.  We’ve had a lot of fun just doing our own thing, and discovering the best ways for our family of four to play together.  

Rest assured, Cragmama as a website (and a person ;) ) is still alive and well.  This is certainly not intended to be a farewell post of any sort.  And once school starts back up again, I’m hoping to be able to free up a few more moments in the nooks and crannies of my day.  But for the time being, I’m just going to let it go.  (Cue Frozen soundtrack…)  I’m going against all social media and blogging rules about posting “X” number of times per day/week/etc.  Some weeks you may still hear from me a lot, and others I might be silent.  If I have something to write AND THE TIME TO WRITE ABOUT IT, I will certainly do so with pleasure.  If not, I refuse to sacrifice time spent with family.  

In the mean time, we’re still going to be climbing, hiking, camping, and exploring as much as we can, so don’t forget about us! Please check back often for the latest tips and tricks about outdoor adventuring with kiddos (and the gear that makes it easier!)