Although there have been a handful of daytrips scattered here and there along the way, the last time the CragDaddy and I were able to get away together for an entire kid-free weekend was almost 5 years ago, back when Big C was 2 and a half, and Little Zu was just a twinkle in our eyes. Considering that the latter turned 3 a month ago on the same day we celebrated 15 years of marriage, we were overdue for an escape! Our original plan was to stroll down memory lane at the New River Gorge, a place that we have been adventuring in for over a decade. But with snow and all day rain in the forecast for most of the days leading up to the trip, we knew that our only chance for finding dry rock would be to change our destination.
So we opted for what has suddenly (and randomly) become our 2017 stomping grounds – Hidden Valley, VA. We decided that in honor of the occasion we would step up our accommodations from our usual norm – no tents, and no $50 motels! Instead, we spent two relaxing evenings and two delicious mornings at White Birches Inn, a bed and breakfast run by a delightful couple that made us feel right at home. If there are any other climbers out there looking to splurge, please give them a call! (FYI they are very reasonably priced…I’m just using the word “splurge” because most climbers tend to be dirtbag cheapskates…it takes one to know one!)
Anyway, we took our time hiking in to the Falcon Wall Saturday morning. For starters, it was pretty cold, and we also wanted to take full advantage of our opportunity to explore a still relatively new-to-us place at our leisure. It was refreshing to be able to comb over the guidebook together and stop whenever we wanted to take a closer look, without worrying about distracting the troops and losing our “kid-hiking momentum.” We found ourselves at the base of the Falcon Wall by late morning, however, where I warmed up on Thin Shells 10d (because it looked fun) and CragDaddy warmed up on Playing With the Crow 10d (because he could swing over and hang draws on his project as he was being lowered.) His plan worked out perfectly, as he sent DDT 12b in fine style on his first attempt of the day!
Our next move was a change of pace from our usual – we hopped on a 5.13! For a while now CragDaddy has been saying he thinks we might be ready, if we found the right one that suited our climbing styles. I didn’t necessarily disagree, but have been a little less psyched about the idea. To be honest, I remember all the “route shopping” I had to do when I was first breaking into 5.12 land to find lines that maximized my strengths and minimized my weaknesses, and the thought of going through all of that again with TWO kids in tow seems more exhausting and perhaps not worth the effort. But what better time to test the “hardman” waters than on a kid-free trip, when both parties are willing to take long, patient turns at the belay.
Though we’d checked out a few along the way, we settled on Rodent’s Lament 13b, which although harder on paper than some of the other choices, seemed like a good fit because we have done really well on the neighboring routes. Not to mention it just looked more doable than some of the other options! We both took FOREVER on it, far more time than we would have been afforded with the kids around. Final assessment was as follows – V4/5 sequence down low to a no hands rest, with a really hard V7? crimpy crux, followed by some 5.11+ climbing to the top. Neither of us could really touch the crux – I came close one time, but that was it. I initially thought I’d be able to pull the moves, since the holds didn’t seem “that bad”, but I just didn’t have the finger strength needed to get my feet high enough to make the next moves. Perhaps that’s motivation to get on a hangboard this summer and come back next fall with fingers of steel? Maybe, maybe not. The jury is still out for me on whether or not a load of extra training is worth earning an extra number grade, so we’ll see!
The only other routes of note on the day were two 5.11c’s that I was really psyched to onsight – Kestrel, because it was so good, and Last Episode, because it was such a fight to hang on! The former is on the Falcon Wall, and is definitely worth the hike even if that’s all you do there. The latter is on the SNL Wall, and is relatively chill until the last couple of bolts…when the intensity turns way up and the holds disappear!
It’s also worth noting that we didn’t stop climbing until 6:30!!!!!! Unheard of with the kiddos, as we usually aim to be hiking out no later than 5!
Our next day was more of the same – a little bit of sending, and a lot of flailing around on stuff that was too hard for us. Routes worth mentioning are Spurs 10c, and Rainy Saturday 12a. The former features steep jug hauling ending at a spectacular view (so if you get on it, don’t forget to turn around and look!) The latter is basically a powerful boulder problem right off the deck to a juggy roof and laidback slabby finish. CragDaddy scored the onsight, while my flash attempt was thwarted by the first long move (second go send though!)
Even though we ended up having to go with our “Plan B” destination, we still had a marvelous time…and it looks as if we’ll be back this weekend, this time with kiddos in tow! Though we’re dying to get back to the New, we just haven’t been able to get all of our stars in proper alignment – weather, schedules, partners, etc. With that said, however, we are thankful for this new option that is both closer to us AND wet weather friendly! Big props to the Carolina Climbers Coalition for making this access happen!