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Ten Sleep Canyon Part 2 – Superratic

Big C crushing Boy Howdy 5.9

Our typical “vacation climbing” (ie, more than a weekend) strategy involves a smattering of rest days in addition to climbing days, so that we can climb as close to our best as possible whenever we are on the wall.  We generally try to avoid crowds by planning rest days for a Saturday, when the crag would be most crowded from local day trippers.  For this trip we also wanted to make sure we were in town for the 4th of July celebrations, so we ended up climbing in 3 “chunks” – 2 days on, 1 day off, 3 days on (with the 3rd day being short), 1 day off, 2 final days on, then home.  

The first two days of that middle “chunk” were spent at Superratic Wall, an area that, while absolutely stacked with classics, we’d not spent much time at prior to this trip.  Our 2015 trip had featured Tricks for You 12a, and Great White Behemoth 12b.  So for this time around, we started at the other end of the wall, with a relatively short but seemingly holdless line called Black Slabbath 12b

Now sometimes the routes at Ten Sleep, especially the very popular, classic ones, are accused of being soft at the grade, and sometimes I would agree…but not this one!  This one packed quite a punch in only 50 feet – starting with just getting onto the wall.  The holds were microscopic, the feet were barely there at all, and the climbing was so insecure it seemed as though the slightest hint of a breeze would blow you right off.  On my first go, I think my stick clip hung more draws than I did, but I rehearsed the harder sequences on the way down and managed to rally for a solid 2nd go send!  CragDaddy took a few more tries, but eventually put it down (video of his send here.)  In between his redpoint burns, I gave Tetonka 13a a couple of toprope tries.  Boy was that thing sharp!  It wasn’t pretty, but I did get up it, and I did do all the moves – although I have no idea how on earth I’d ever make the 3rd clip.  

Working on my ninja moves on Black Slabbath 12b

Big C’s climbing highlight of the trip was Boy Howdy 5.9, a juggy but steeper-than-it-looks little number that he got on both days, and was psyched to “toprope send” on the second day (video found here!)  His motivation for climbing can sometimes be hit or miss, and we certainly don’t want to push, but there was no question he was having a blast on this route.  Mental note – find more just like this for that boy!!!  

Same route, different climber!

Our second day at Superratic was even better than the first.  We decided to up our game a little bit with Walk the Dog 12c – while significantly longer than Black Slabbath, this one did have both better holds and better rests.  We both thought the grades should be switched?  It was CragDaddy’s turn to hang draws, and I was psyched that his tick marks left me a pretty good road map to follow.  My first attempt featured some hangs, but I was able to methodically figure it all out, and on the way down, I rehearsed the moves in chunks between rest stances.  And…we both sent! (video of me sending here.)

This much fun is exhausting….

We still had some time left, and CragDaddy wanted to take a turn on Tetonka since he’d missed out the day before, so I volunteered to hang draws.  I wanted to see if it felt any more doable now that I’d worked out the moves.  I actually was able to link a surprising amount of the bottom section, making it through the first crux section clean, but my power meter struggled hard around the 3rd bolt, and I ended up having to jug through to finish. In hindsight, considering how shredded my skin was after this end of day attempt, I probably should have left this one alone and opted for something easier, but it ended up being fine.  CragDaddy had a similar experience…

Sending smiles!

The close of our second day at Superratic marked that we were somehow already over halfway done with our trip.  We decided that our 3rd day on would be a reconnaissance mission to the Slavery Wall, so we could suss out the beta for Superfly 12c/d, a route that had been recommended to us earlier in the trip.  More on how that went later, but the next post will be all about our rest day shenanigans!  



Ten Sleep Canyon, Part 1 – French Cattle Ranch and Valhalla

CragDaddy working through the opening boulder problem on Pussytoes 12d

Not sure about your summer, but ours has been nuts – especially the month of July. Last Friday I had vocal cord surgery (don’t worry I’m fine), and the week before that we were at the beach with extended family. So it’s hard to believe that it was just a little over 3 weeks ago that we were living the climber’s dream out in Ten Sleep, Wyoming! Since Ten Sleep is one of my very favorite places in the world, I could go on all day about it, but I’ll spare you the day’s work, and try to limit myself to just 4 blog posts – 3 parts for the areas we concentrated our climbing efforts on, and 1 part for our around town/rest day shenanigans. Sound good? Here’s part 1…

FCR offers some of the best rock in the canyon, but as for most areas in Ten Sleep, you gotta work for it to get there.  Make no mistake, this hike is long.  Guidebook suggests 45 minutes, which seems about right if all members of your party have grown-up sized legs and hike with purpose.  But if you add in a pair of 8 year old legs, along with some 4 year old legs, and your focus is more intent on meandering through fields of wildflowers, plan on around an hour and a half to get up there.  It’s worth it though, trust me!

Now the way most people do the south-facing side of the canyon is to sleep in late,  show up around lunchtime when the wall goes into shade, and climb until late, as the sun doesn’t set til around 10 in the summer.  But coming in with kids on East Coast time didn’t provide us with that luxury – ie, our first morning began at 430 (630 EST).  Our strategy was more of a get-out-early-and-suffer-through-the-warm-up, then enjoy the shade until 5 or so.  As my fellow east coasters know,  heat WITHOUT suffocating humidity is really no big deal.  Besides, the base of the cliff in most areas has plenty of tree cover for shady hang outs, and often times even filtered shade on the lower part of routes.  

Beauty as far as the eye can see!

We’d tackled all of the super classics on the Shinto Wall on our last trip, in 2015, so our main goals for day 1 at FCR was to shop around for potential projects later in the trip.  (CragDaddy also wanted to wrap up some unfinished business with Center El Shinto 12b/c from last time.)  But getting accustomed to the limestone was harder than we anticipated – on previous trips, we’d always climbed somewhere else first to get acclimated, either Spearfish, or Wild Iris, and were always feeling great by the time we rolled into Ten Sleep.  This time around, we probably should have factored in a little more adjustment time.  

Jedediah 12a

I did manage to send a 12a on Day 1 called Who the F*** is Jedediah?  And let me tell you, I don’t know who he is either, but this route felt pretty darn hard.  Multiple long, sustained cruxes without a hint of chalk…probably would have felt different by Day 10, but this one took me 4 valiant efforts to put down.  Other routes of note were Tutu Man 10d – a fabulous warm-up that climbs a shaded corner, and Euro Trash Girl 10b – a decent warm-up that unfortunately didn’t climb as good as it looked.  

As far as project shopping, we tried a few, but more or less struck out on Day 1.  We did end up going back to FCR on Day 8 with a little more success.  CragDaddy was able to put down Center El Shinto first try of the day, but still got shut down on Pussy Toes 12d.  Second time around I found I could in fact do the boulder problem on Zen Garden 12c, but it also felt very sharp and tweaky, and by that point I wanted to save my skin (and tendons) for our final day.  I bailed on it in favor of an onsight attempt (and success!) of Crazy Wynona 11d – I’d done 2 of the other 11’s on the wall during our 2012 trip, and this one was just as good as I’d remembered the others! 



Big C on Macaroni 5.8

The 2nd day’s main goal (along with more project shopping), was Cocaine Rodeo, one of the few five-star 12a’s we’d yet to touch.  The hike was a good deal shorter (estimated family hiking time = 50 minutes.)  After warming up on the super fun Heroin Hoedown 11a, we got down to business.  CragDaddy onsighted like a boss!  I unfortunately blew my flash by getting sucked into his tall man beta at the 2nd bolt, but was wisely told to come back down, wait a few minutes, and start again.  I did my own thing the next go and got through, and with the CragDaddy beta hose spraying me down for the rest of the route, the next go send came easily enough…although I did get stalled out for a hot minute in the middle, as the big mono move was NOT a sure thing!  (Had I not been on point, I probably woulda hung!)  

Also worth mentioning from Day 2 –Dicken’s Cider 12c and Last Dance with Mary Jane 11b/c.  After waiting out a freak hailstorm in the middle of the day, we attacked both of these in the afternoon.  I was psyched to nab the flash on the latter, but the former kicked both of our butts.  Great movement on some really cool holds, but didn’t feel doable for a short term trip.  

If you’ve followed us at all on here or social media, you are probably aware that in addition to being climbers, we  are certified nature dorks.  One of our favorite things to do on any hike is to identify any flora/fauna that we see, then go home and draw it in our nature notebook.  We were looking forward to being in a new environment with new critters and wildflowers to observe.  In fact, my 8 year old has such an exciting memory of us stumbling upon a moose on one of our hikes here in 2015, that he said the one thing he absolutely wanted to see was another moose.  And, wouldn’t you know on our hike out Day 1 from FCR, we almost literally ran smack dab into a mama moose with her “teenager” looking calf!  We kept our distance, but they didn’t seem bothered by us in the slightest.  We shared the trail with them for at least 5-10 minutes, until they finally got tired of us following them and loped down off trail into the meadows below.  Amazing experience, and one that I hope both kiddos will remember (at least via photos) for the rest of their lives.  

There are moose on the loose!

Part 1 = done!  Stay tuned for our adventures at the Superratic Wall coming up next!



Death by Chocolate and Coming Up Short

As much as I would love to have this post be a final “send”-off trip report (see what I did there? ;)) before we head west to climb in Ten Sleep, it just didn’t happen for me this past weekend at Hidden Valley.  Certainly not for lack of trying.  Maaaaybe for lack of good conditions.  But I think more than likely I’m just mid-way through the process and it’s not my time yet.  

Wishing that pinch was a little better…

Let me back up – my last post mentioned a route that CragDaddy and I played around on called Death by Chocolate 12d.  It’s only 40 feet tall, so as you can probably imagine, it packs quite a power punch.  At first glance, it seemed like it would be a good fit for me – Technical 12a for the first 20 feet?  Yes, please.  Balancy and fingery arete crux? Bring it on!  But once I started working it, I began to feel like I’d bit off a bit more than I could chew.  

For starters, the most straightforward way to do the crux begins with a wider-than-my-wingspan reach to an okay sloping pinch that would probably be better than okay if and when the humidity is not at 90%.  My first weekend on it was focused on hitting the sloping pinch, and by the end, I was pleased to be able to consistently do just that using an undercling block and an awkward high foot.  However, solving that problem created a new one – since my new beta used every bit of my dead even ape index, it didn’t leave very much room to move my feet up without barn-dooring wildly.  I played around with various options, but couldn’t find anything that I could do without any toprope assistance.

Then there’s the issue of the last bolt…and the fact that there’s not really a clipping stance for it.  Thankfully the bolt below that is pretty close, but considering how hard the moves are to the finish, not close enough to consider skipping a clip.  CragDaddy eventually figured something out, but the same body position didn’t work for me because my legs were too stumpy to reach both footholds at the same time.  

CragDaddy looking smooth with the recommended crux beta.

So fast forward to this past weekend, where CragDaddy and I both came in ready to put another couple of days work into it.  Progress was going reasonably well, and when CragDaddy nabbed the send on his 2nd go of the day (watch video here!!!), I was psyched for a potential send train.  I kept at it, and by the end of the day I accomplished three things:  I found a toe hook in the crux that could control the barn door just long enough to allow me to move to the next hold, found a clipping stance for the last bolt, and twice was able to get from bottom to top on lead doing all the moves!  But no send.  

No worries, I figured, I still had the entire 2nd day ahead of me.  Now that I knew I could do the moves, I was optimistic that a send would come, and CragDaddy and I would both hike off into the sunset with a nice 12d under our belts to boost our confidence right before we head out west. 

Sticking the battle with the toe hook.

But I just couldn’t make it happen.  The psych was high…but 4 burns later, the best I could come up with was a one hang.  The frustrating part is that I can’t figure out why I couldn’t do the move on point.  I’ve got the first section so dialed in that I don’t feel pumped when I get to the crux.  There must be some subtle nuance to the beta that I’m missing.  From my end, it feels like I’m going up and executing exactly the same way every time….and sometimes I feel locked in and solid, other times I just peel right off.  Like a couple of dorks, CragDaddy and I have been analyzing the video footage, comparing my successful and failed attempts to see what looks different.  It blows my mind how similar they both look – there’s no obvious mistake that I’m making on the times where I fall.  My guess is that it’s gotta be something with the timing and how hard I’m engaging with the toe hook.  I’ve decided that next time I’m going to switch shoes – from my edging/technical favorite Tenaya Masai, to the Tenaya Mundaka, which has a LOT more rubber on the top.  I’m hoping that will help give me more purchase on that toe.  

Its not a Cragmama post without at least one shot of these awesome people.

But in the mean time here’s where I’m at.  4 days in and 13 attempts.  Already twice as many as Steve – not that we’re keeping score, but I’m sure his psych to hike back out there is not high.  I’ve lost a lot of skin, a little bit of pride, and maybe my temper a time or two.  I’ve pushed myself physically and mentally and (hopefully) come out stronger for it.  I’ve seen my power training pay off in big ways, only to discover more weaknesses (I guess boulderers aren’t the only ones that need to know how to toe hook…)  

All that’s left is the question of whether to try for it this weekend or not.  My chances are good NOW…but I’m worried about potentially losing more skin so close to Ten Sleep.  Pushing it back til fall means having to get back in shape again after spending the rest of the summer doing things other than climbing (namely, melting in the Southeast heat.)  The great news is that this is totally a 1st world problem, and in the big scheme of life, doesn’t matter one iota.  That said…what would you do if you were me?





In Jungles and in Floods…Trying Hard

Spring in the southeast has gifted us with just about the absolute worst weekend warrior climbing weather we could have asked for.  But we’ve got not choice but to go with what we’ve got, right?!?  Whether it’s Amazon-level heat and humidity at the New, or monsoon flood warnings at Hidden Valley, our cragfamily has been out there trying hard the past few weeks!  

Big C reaching high on Free Range Show Poodle 5.8

Our Mother’s Day spring-that-felt-like-summer weekend ended up being a lot more profitable than we’d first anticipated.  On our first day we went to Area 51 at the Meadow.  Amongst several moderate lines, CragDaddy and I were classy enough to dispatch “If You Lick It, She Will Come” 12a, a nice little technical line that probably deserves more traffic than it gets.  Big C got a chance to enjoy the view atop Free Range Show Poodle 5.8, and both cragkiddos got to frolic in the woods all day with the Old School Crag Kids of the McDermott CragFamily (their older kiddos even have their own climbing podcast – check it out here!)  

This kid is highly motivated by the promise of a great view!

Our second day, we ventured away from the crowds to try our hands at Wall Drug 12c.  The real business is all in the first 3 bolts, although the rest of it isn’t a gimme, as I could definitely envision falling pulling the final moves over the roof.  I did all the moves and made some decent links on my second go before melting in the sun on the upper face.  This one probably needs to wait for better conditions, but will be a great candidate for a fall project! 

Fast forward a couple of weeks (and a beach trip…and a wedding) later, and we found ourselves splashing around the base of the cliffs at Hidden Valley.  Seriously, it was a water park.  Routes that I’ve never ever seen wet were literally running with water.  There was even a roaring waterfall coming down out of a generally dry chimney.  Needless to say, our first afternoon was just spent hiking and scouting for the next day’s adventures.  Oh, and making a water slide for our Trolls figurines – not as fun as climbing, but a surprisingly interesting way to pass the time! 

Sunday was much better, though the aftermath from the torrential rains the previous day still rendered most routes unclimbable.  But we had pretty good luck in the Planetarium.  We got on 3 routes, one of which was a funky 12a that CragDaddy and I both sent 2nd go called Andromeda Strain.  (Seems like we’ve been all about the 2nd go sends lately…but we just can’t buy a flash/onsight!!!)  

We ended our day thrashing around on Death By Chocolate 12d.  It’s a short little number no taller than 50 feet, but it packs a LOT of interesting movement up a sharp arete.  The first couple of bolts are probably technical 11d/12a, then an okay rest with a cool heel/toe cam.  Then the route turns way up until the finish.  CragDaddy stick-clipped his way through, then I toproped…which we then did again. 

And again and again, the NEXT morning, because the last bolt is virtually impossible to clip!  In our many flailings over 4 burns we each managed to achieve a dicey-at-best clipping stance twice.  Lengthening the draw won’t help – the moves on the arete are just too barn-door inducing to take a hand off.  And short route + even harder moves above the last bolt means skipping it is not an option.  We THINK we did all the moves – although it’s always harder to gauge with toproping.  

When the rains came again around 2, our route was still dry, but with the super humid conditions we cut our losses and took the route down, in favor of an earlier home arrival and salvaging some gym time the following day.  This is another one that doesn’t feel like it’ll go down any time soon, but might be prime this fall.  

For now, however, I’m turning my attention to the last few weeks of gym training before we head out to Ten Sleep, Wyoming – where we will hopefully be living the high, crisp life of sport climbing at 9,000 feet while the rest of our friends are roasting in the Southeast jungle.  Aaaah, 27 days and counting!

Death by Chocolate 12d…sending rests entirely on my ability to get from the position on the left to the position on the right…so bring on the core strength workouts!!!


Kid-Free at the Red!

I have never been to the Red River Gorge without a child –  there’s either been one on the inside of me (like on our first trip in 2009), or one (or two) clinging to the outside of me (like EVERY other trip since then!)  So when CragDaddy’s parents graciously gifted us with a 3-day kid-free climbing weekend this spring, it was a no-brainer to head to Kentucky!  We had 3 PERFECT weather days…PERFECT.  It was so good I’m tempted to go on and on about it a little more, but I don’t want to jinx this upcoming weekend, so enough about that!

Cruxin’ on Mike Teavee 12a

Anyway, after a late arrival Thursday night, we were surprised to find ourselves only the 3rd car in the Muir Valley parking lot.  It’s amazing how quickly you can get up and at ’em when the only person you have to get ready is yourself.  We probably did just as much hiking as we did climbing on Day 1, though I still got in 6 pitches, which is still more than I normally get in with kids in tow!  We warmed up in the Boneyard before going all the way out to Midnight Surf, since CragDaddy wanted to try Iniquity 12b.  It was pretty hard and after falling way out into space up high, he opted to just come down.  Since he didn’t exactly sell it, I opted to move on to something else.  

We made our way down to Indy Wall, where I was really psyched to send Posse Whipped 12a hanging draws!  I’d given it a couple of burns at the end of our last RRG trip a few weeks ago, but was too tired to get it done on point.  This time, however, despite remembering very little about the long, intricate sequences, I felt great on it, and was able to keep the pump under control all the way to the chains.  Next came Social Stigma 11b, an easier version of Posse Whipped with a couple of long lock-offs at the end.  I ended my day on The Happy Fisherman 11d, on which I gave a great onsight burn, but fell at the last bolt because I was too pumped to hang the draw.  Once it was in, it wasn’t that bad to clip.  I tried the route again, but due to the desperate blitz I gave it on my 1st attempt, I remembered zero of the moves and botched a sequence near the top.  Oh well – good falls and good pump are good training, right?  

Day 2 was spent touring the Motherlode and the Chocolate Factory.  We warmed up on Snapper 11a, then headed over to the Buckeye Buttress to get on The Reacharound 12c.  Neither of those went particularly well for me – the former because my hands were super cold, the latter because the moves were super hard.  Think big wingspan compression…CragDaddy put in a pretty valiant effort on it, but then felt pretty thrashed, so we moved on.  The only other time we went to the Chocolate Factory, we got lost in a maze of little rabbit trails, so this time we decided to start at the beginning of the cliff and work our way over to get our bearings.  We ended up at the base of two nice looking 12a’s just as the sun went over the top of the cliff – J Rat’s Back and Mike Teavee.  

Hiking out of Muir Valley with my climbing date.

First assessment we thought that Teavee looked a little easier, so we decided to hop on that one first.  Turns out it was NOT easier…though it was definitely fun and worth doing.  A powerful move down low, some crimp moves in the middle, and a long run out to the anchors that is easy…except for the move to the final clipping hold if you are vertically challenged.  I stick-clipped the anchors, figuring I was just missing something…nope.  It was either a big deadpoint move, or a hand/foot match mantle – neither of which I wanted to do a full body length above my bolt, so I did what any sane person that values their ankles would do.  I extended the anchors and practiced clipping off the crimp (same height as everyone else, but minus the hand/foot match mantle.)

My 2nd attempt went great, though by the time I finished the low crux and the crimp section, I definitely needed the hueco sit-down rest that came next.  I clipped the chains guilt-free (and if any purists wanna fight about it, I’d probably let you win.)  

By this time, another party had draws up on J Rat, and asked if I’d be up for cleaning it, which was a no brainer.  Turns out this one was easier AND “funner.”  Long moves between deep pockets to a giant undercling move and some crimps, then more moderate climbing until the finish.  (Same runout to the chains, only this time the climbing was easy the ENTIRE way up. 😉 ) I gave a lot of try hard on the flash burn, but came up just short on the undercling move.  The rest of the route was pretty straightforward, and I felt like it would go the next day after a good night’s sleep.

Spiderman squat rest just before the business on J Rat. Photo: Michael Chickene @dtpmedia

I usually hate it when people like to casually toss the phrase “height-dependent” around, as there are so many more factors to making big moves besides height – ie, if you never learned how to lock-off, everything at the New will seem reachy no matter how tall/short you are!  However that said, the undercling move on J Rat might be height dependent.  I’m 5’5″ with a dead even ape index, and I could juuuust span the reach with my arms, using the highest available feet.  Next day, when my friend who is 2 inches shorter than me tried it, she could literally not have a hand on both holds at the same time.  Not saying there’s physically no way she could have done it…but the difficulty sure as heck wouldn’t have been anywhere close to 5.12.  

Day 3 started out a good deal cooler than the previous mornings, which worked out great since the routes we wanted got morning sun.  After a quick warm-up on Squirrelworker 11a, I dispatched J Rat without too much difficulty, save a little bit of back and forth action at the rest trying to remember the next sequence (Thanks to CragDaddy for hanging draws for me 😉 ).  My day ended on almost back to back laps on Oompa 10a and Loompa 10c…and doopadeedoo, that was the most pumped I’d been all weekend!  

Now if the weather would just hold out ONE more time, CragDaddy and I have ANOTHER kid-free weekend on the horizon coming up, hopefully at the New!