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

Big C’s First Slab Climbing Adventure

If you’ve noticed that our family has been fairly quiet both around the blog as well as social media, it’s because there are big changes in the works!  Our family is about to open up a new chapter in our lives, and we’ve been pretty busy getting ready for it. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you the whole story in the next week or so.  And to slow the wheels of the rumor mill a bit, I’ll go ahead and give you a hint that our news has absolutely NOTHING to do with adding any new family members 😉

But with that said, just because we haven’t been posting a ton doesn’t mean we haven’t been getting outdoors and adventuring.  In fact, just this past weekend, we had a blast introducing Big C to some Stone Mountain slab climbing!

One of the cool things about slab climbing is that just about anyone can do it.  It doesn’t require large amounts of athleticism or physical strength.  Basically if you can crawl, you can slab paddle!  Slab climbing lends itself particularly well to kid climbers. Because there are virtually no holds, crag-kiddos don’t get frustrated about not being able to make the reaches.  Plus, kids are basically made of rubber bands, so the slab mantra of “step high, trust your foot, and stand up” is a very natural movement.

IMG_5311 IMG_5312

Anyway, the Crag-Daddy and I have been talking for a while now about how Stone would make a great place for a first multi-pitch adventure for Big C, due to the low angle and kid-friendly grades.  But of course, we want to practice lower to the ground first, so this past Saturday was an experiment.

We had a feeling he’d do well, but no one was prepared for just how much he would enjoy it.  He motored right up without hesitation, and at several points he stood up and literally jumped for joy (all somehow without weighting the rope?!?)


It was so much fun watching him have so much fun.  I can’t wait to come back without Baby Zu and try for a family summit, and I’m optimistic it will be soon!

For those of you with climbing-age kiddos, I’d love to know how old yours were for their first multi-pitch experience (and what routes you did!)

The smiling purple one thinks she's ready for a multipitch day too...

The smiling purple one thinks she’s ready for a multipitch day too…


Biking Gloves from WeeRiderz (and GIVEAWAY!)

Big C making his tough(?) face as he models his new gloves

Big C making his tough(?) face as he models his new gloves

The past few weeks haven’t been the most amazing biking weather here in Charlotte.  After rain, more rain, and then an inch of ice, the trails are all but floating away.  Luckily, we have a great neighborhood for biking and we’ve been able to squeeze in some laps here and there.  While we were out and about, Big C had a chance to try out a new riding glove from WeeRiderz, a small family company based out of CA.

WeeRiderz was formed after founders Eric and Rachel Ortlieb saw a gaping hole in the market when it came to biking gloves.  While adult gloves were available at every bike store and sporting goods in town, their search for a toddler glove came up empty.  The Ortliebs decided to take matters into their own hands, and WeeRiderz was born!

While these gloves may look like simply a pint-sized version of their adult counterparts, a closer inspection will reveal many features designed specifically with little rippers in mind.  Wide openings make it easy to get hands in, and the loops at the end of the fingers make for easy off as well.  The soft material at the thumbs can catch runny noses without chapping the skin.

Winter adventure biking in the neighborhood.

Winter adventure biking in the neighborhood.

The quality looks good as well – durable fabric all around, with comfort padding stitched onto the palm sides.  With 4 cute pattern options to choose from, these gloves would be the perfect gift for your beginning biker (or scooter-er, skater, or even to use on the monkey bars!)


WeeRiderz was generous enough to offer up a free pair of gloves for one lucky Cragmama reader!  To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below and fill out the Rafflecopter Widget.  I would love to know how old your tykes are, and what they are riding these days – balance bikes, tricycle, training wheels, big kid bike, scooter, etc?

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review: Solo Stove

Recently our family got the chance to check out a camp stove.  But not just any camp stove – the Solo Stove relies on innovative yet brilliantly simple design ideas to make an efficient, reliable wood-burning fire.  Here’s how it works (as taken from their website, which does a more concise job explaining it than I would!)

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

“The air intake holes on the bottom of the stove channel air to the bottom of the fire while channeling warm air up between the walls of the stove. This burst of preheated oxygen feeding back into the firebox through the smaller holes at the top of the stove causes a secondary combustion. This allows the fire to burn more complete which is why there is very little smoke during full burn. A more efficient burn also means you’ll use much less wood compared to an open camp fire.”

In other words, “The Solo Stove doesn’t just burn wood. It actually cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice!”

Our family doesn’t do much (really, any) camping in the wintertime, so we haven’t had a chance to adventure with it yet, but we did take it out in our backyard to roast some marshmallows.  The results?  In addition to some pretty amazing s’mores, we came up with a list of very impressive pros, and just a few cons.


-IT WORKS REALLY WELL!  Using only twigs and a handful of lint from our dryer, this stove boiled water in less than a minute! (And if you are wondering, we did not use any boiled water for our s’mores…we just wanted to test it out…)
– PACKABLE – The Solo Stove pot nestles perfectly inside the stove itself in a nice, neat little package.  Very easy to toss in a pack for an impromtu overnight, or even just bring along for a mid-trail hot chocolate fix on a day hike.
– LIGHTWEIGHT – The weight difference between this stove and our other backpacking stove + fuel (Jetboil) is quite substantial.
– AIRPORT FRIENDLY – On previous camping trips involving air travel, we’ve had to pack our stove sans fuel, then make a stop as soon as we arrived at our destination to pick up fuel…but the Solo Stove in it’s entirety is cleared for airport security.  So long as you’ve got sticks at your destination (and matches in your checked bag), you can head straight to the woods upon arrival.

Making the Solo Stove a family endeavor

Making the Solo Stove a family endeavor


NO INSTRUCTIONS – The design is pretty basic, and if you are familiar at all with camp stoves, it’s not too hard to  figure out how to use it, but we were surprised that the stove + pot came without any sort of instructions.  (I have since discovered that there are detailed videos as well as downloadable PDF’s on the Solo Stove website.)
HARD TO CLEAN BOTTOM PIECE – The very bottom part of the stove was not the easiest to clean, and I feel like would start showing some “sooty” type buildup after heavy use, similar to the way a used firepit looks.  Not a big deal for us, but perhaps a con for those who like to keep things squeaky clean and pristine.
STAYS HOT – This was probably the only real con that we saw, though certainly not a dealbreaker.  Because of the way the stove works (and since all of it is stainless steel), ALL of it gets hot, and stays hot, for a long time after putting the fire out.  So make sure you’ve got hot mitts handy (and most importantly, keep it away from the kiddos!)


If you are looking for a small but efficient camp stove to accompany you or your family on overnight adventures, this one is a good option.  It will really shine on adventures requiring air travel as well as backpacking trips where lightweight gear is a must.

Anyone else have experience with this stove?  I have a feeling it will earn a prime spot in our camping gear box this spring!


Climbing Gym Workouts for Improving Endurance

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

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

Another day, another auto-belay...

Another day, another auto-belay…

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

ARC TRAINING – Most efficient, and most boring.

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

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

GYM MILEAGE – Moderately efficient, and is always fun.

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

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

BOULDER FOR POINTS – Least efficient, but always fun.

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

COMBINING ACTIVITIES – Best balance of efficiency and fun.

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

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

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


The Tick List for 2016

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Until next time…Jesus and Tequila 12b.

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


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

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

Looking forward to more adventures with this kidcrusher!

Looking forward to more adventures with this kidcrusher!


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

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