For those of you that have been around a while, today’s history lesson might be unnecessary. But if you’re new around here, it might provide some helpful background.
When I started this website way back in 2009, I had no idea that 10 years later I’d still be at it. Initially, this site was born out of a desire to inspire healthy living for mamas-to-be. As an expectant mama myself, I was disappointed with the lack of information out there for those of us that wanted to continue rock climbing during their pregnancy. I began chronicling my journey into motherhood on the blog, both before and after my son was born. Those first early years of blogging and motherhood were filled with tips and tricks for all the “crag logistics” we constantly found ourselves running into on climbing trips – naps, diaper changes, camping, crag food, finding extra partners. Then eventually that turned into potty training, encouraging your child to hike on his/her own, etc. As my son grew, so did the topics I wrote about. You can find a lot of those “oldie but goodie” posts in the Creating a Cragbaby and Toddlers at the Crag sections of this site.
CragKiddo #1 in 2019
Then in 2013 our world was forever changed for the better when I found out I was pregnant with baby #2, this time a little girl. I was pleasantly surprised to find that much had changed in those 4 years since my first pregnancy. I now had access to climbing harnesses made specifically for expectant mamas, as well as MANY more options for maternity active wear. A few well-known female climbers started documenting their pregnancy journeys, such as Beth Rodden and Carrie Cooper. It became more and more routine to run into another pregnant climber, both at the gym as well as at the crag.
Cragbaby #2 in 2014
After my daughter was born, I found myself with a host of new material to write about, many of which were the “times two” version of older posts. (Some of those can be found here.) But once we began homeschooling in 2015, I realized I just didn’t’ have the time (or energy) needed to keep this blog rolling at the pace I’d been going. I had to prioritize, and family came first, so I backed off of my writing, sticking mostly with trip reports, and an occasional gear review sprinkled in here and there.
Fast forward to nearly 4 years later, and my adorable cragbabies have grown into amazing cragkiddo adventure buddies! And while I don’t have the HOURS of time to devote to my writing that I once did, I AM finding myself with a few more free chunks of time. And recently I’ve realized how much I’ve missed writing, collaborating with brands for gear reviews and giveaways, and all that great social interaction from like-minded adventurers.
Cragkiddo #2 in 2019
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’ve been with me for a while, expect more action on this blog than what you may have seen in recent years. And if you are a relatively new follower, hopefully you like what you see, because you’re about to get more of it! Look for some reviews not only of gear, but of experiences and activities, as well as a new feature called “Crag Profiles.
So for now stay tuned. And in the wise words of LL Cool J – “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”
When I wrote a re-cap of my spring climbing season 2 weeks ago, it was 95 degrees, and jungle status humidity. Today feels similar. But this past Saturday brought a rare respite from both heat and humidity. And I don’t mean an “it was a few degrees cooler” kinda thing. I’m talking, lows in the 50’s, high’s in the 70’s, and 30-40% humidity. Such a shocking departure from the norm that it seemed almost providential that CragDaddy and I rearrange our schedules to be back at the New on Saturday – because by Sunday it was going to be summer again!
That said, all the hectic-ness of Friday afternoon was well worth it on Saturday night when we drove back with a pair of sends in our pocket. After a quick warm-up on Workman’s Comp 10d that morning, we went straight to the project, Bosnian Vacation 12d. The one that I came up juuuust short on at the exit move of the crux a few weeks ago…and then thankfully stopped juuuust short of hitting the tree. Although we initially got on it a few weeks ago because it was literally the only dry route we could find, we stuck with it because it’s actually pretty awesome.
Mark Paulson sums it up pretty well on Mountain Project – “Bosnian Vacation is a smorgasbord of NRG features and styles, cramming just about every New River trope into a seemingly compact 90′. A V4 power problem right off the deck? Check. An immediate transition to a laughably thin technical crux on the tiniest of crimps? Check. A huge horizontal where you can get it all back? A requisite section of choss? Reachy 5.11 jug hauling? Crazy, exposed dihedral moves? A looong easy romp to the chains that protects well with anything from a blue to orange TCU? Multiple checks. Not a classic, but undeniably fun.”
This cutie got to be an only child for the weekend!
Worth noting is that a VERY key part of my crux beta involved a hollow pinch that doesn’t seem long for this world. CragDaddy felt pretty sure he would rip it off if he used it, and he was able to avoid it entirely, but with my (lack of) reach, not using it was not an option for me. In fact, I used it multiple times – first as a right hand undercling as I’m stepping my feet through, then as a left hand undercling intermediate to help me stretch to a right hand sidepull. So if you get on this route and find you need to use this hold, tread lightly!
Also worth noting is that the exit move out of the crux is a little scary, as implied earlier. My beta involves cranking off a so-extended-my-shoulder-isn’t-engaged left hand sloping dish and a terrible right foot smear to a hero jug flake for my right hand. Twice a few weeks ago that right foot slipped, swinging me closer than I wanted to be to a good-sized tree. With an aware climber and heads up belayer, it’s probably fine – just don’t jump “out!” The good news is that better conditions meant better friction, which meant significantly better contact strength on that sloping dish, and on Saturday I was able to stay a lot tighter to the wall for that committing move. (FYI CragDaddy’s taller beta enabled him to get to the good flake before having to smear on the bad foot, so by the time he got into “pendulum territory,” the moves weren’t as committing. Your mileage may vary, so just be aware!)
CragDaddy exiting the crux on a TR burn a few weeks ago.
After the crux is a big ledge traverse – endure the slightly awkward feet and the reward is a rest where you can get it all back before tackling the 5.11 face. The face is slightly overhanging – the moves are big, but so are the holds! Once you reach the 60 ft mark or so, the route rolls over into a wildly exposed dihedral (but first a no hands rest with a great view of the river!) The dihedral to the top is probably no harder than 10-. You’ll probably want some gear though – a blue Trango flex cam/.3 BD is easy to place from a pedestal under the final roof. Make sure you sling it long. Even with the gear you’ll probably want to avoid falling while pulling the roof.
After hanging the draws and rehearsing some of the harder moves multiple times, I was feeling great about every move but the last deadpoint on the 5.11 face – it’s a big windmill move for me, and though I don’t think I’ve ever fallen on it, it always feels desperate and lower percentage than I want it to be. After his run, CragDaddy was feeling great about all but the very first move off the ground – which he had yet to be able to do even once.
But after a quick lunch break and some snuggle time with the little one (the big one was away at church camp this weekend!), we both pulled the rope and sent! Not without some excitement though – I was blinded by the sun starting up the face, and my foot almost popped while heading to the final no hands rest. CragDaddy probably tried the starting move an additional 30+ times…then finally made it and just kept right on going up for the send (also amidst an almost fall mid-crux and a bout of sun blindness towards the top.) The moral of his story is to never stop fighting – he only ever made that move once, but when he did he made it count!
Afterwards we still had some time left in our day, so I figured I’d give Just Send It 13b a try – we were there, the route was there, and multiple people had recommended it to me as a potential longer term project. Maybe it was the previously exhausted forearms talking, but that thing is hard as nails! I wasn’t expecting to be able to do all the moves after just one lap of course…but I thought I would at least be able to visualize the harder sequences! I did fine until the double dihedral, when confusion and disorientation set in for a few bolts. I’m not going to write it off for good, but I’m not itching to get back any time soon. (Also all praise to the mighty Trango Beta Stick for getting me to the top!)
And now I think I can FINALLY say “That’s a wrap!” on spring climbing. Wanna know a secret? I’m getting an SUP for my birthday (which is in August but we’re getting it early so we can use it all summer!) So be on the lookout for some upcoming paddling posts!
A little over a month ago, I wrote a “here’s where things stand midway through spring” post. After enduring 90 degree temps in Kentucky over Memorial Day weekend, I’d say it’s time to officially close out the chapter on Spring 2019. Despite being riddled with rain seemingly weekend after weekend, I actually had a pretty successful season. Although the heat came way before I was ready to be done climbing hard, I’m currently finishing up this post on the back porch of my in-law’s beach house overlooking the ocean, so life isn’t too terrible right now! Here’s some highlights from the past month or so…
Here Comes the Rain 12b, Photo by Bryan Miller
HERE COMES THE RAIN 12b – Last time I mentioned this I was only 4 same day tries in. Since this one is a 2hr drive and roadside approach from my house, the kids and I were able to sneak away for a couple of mid-week day trips. On the first of those, I got in 2 beta burns before the rain ended our day early. I figured out some alternate beta for the finish, but couldn’t decide which option was easiest/better, and I still hadn’t managed to actually clip the last bolt without grabbing a draw. Then the next week we had a beautifully cool spring morning…but I hiked in only to discover that there was a waterfall running perilously close to my line. The good news is that the rock that was dry felt amazingly crisp. The bad news was that avoiding the handful of wet holds made a couple of sections a bit harder. More good news was that the waterfall answered my “which finishing beta” question for me , and that a double draw on the last bolt enabled me to find a fairly okay clipping stance using a soaking wet but surprisingly secure toe hook.
Ironically though, all of my clipping rehearsal was for naught, because when I got up there on the sending go, I couldn’t get into that position again. I tried to clip, dropped the rope, and decided to keep climbing. A couple of moves later I tried again, again no dice, and I barely saved my body from a big barn door. I only had 3 more hard moves left and I was about 80% sure I could do them, but the more I hung out trying to clip this bolt, the faster that percentage was being depleted. If this route was anything but a slab, I probably would have skipped the bolt in question and been at the top by now. I decided to smear my feet up a little higher, and if I still couldn’t get it clipped I was gonna keep going. I held my breath as I tiptoed up. The unclipped bolt was now at my knees, but the undercling I was on felt better with the higher feet, and I managed to get the rope in. A few moves later I was at the top – a little more epic than anticipated, but hey it’s done!
GREEN ENVY 12c – This milestone deserved it’s own post, so rather than rehash all of it, you can just go here if you missed the play by play!
Funky footwork on Bosnian Vacation 12d
KID FREE WEEKEND – Believe it or not, prior to earlier this month, CragDaddy and I hadn’t had a kid-free weekend at the New River Gorge since 2009 – before we had any kids to bring!!!!! True to form, our master plans of efficient and flawless crag-hopping didn’t exactly pan out. Temps were in the high 80’s with jungle level humidity, and the 2 inches of rain in the previous 18 hours made for some of the wettest conditions I’d ever seen. But all that aside, we managed to have a fabulous time – AND we found a new project for the fall!
BOSNIAN VACATION 12d – I’d be remiss if I failed to admit that I’m SLIGHTLY disappointed that this one is still a project. On the one hand, I certainly wan’t EXPECTING to send 12d in a weekend, especially a weekend with the forecast we had. Our intentions were to just have fun project shopping for fall, not really trying to send anything. But after doing all the moves on it Day 1, and allowing myself to get sucked back into a second round the next day, it did sting a little to come up half an inch short on the final move of the crux at weekend’s end. It also stung to graze my back against the wall during the crux fall, but probably not as much as it would have stung to slam into the tree, which was the other option. That said, I’m hoping that my efforts will painlessly pay off this fall!
Big C crushing Rorschach Ink Blots 5.8+
MEMORIAL DAY AT THE RED: Our spring season “grand finale” was a little anti-climactic. Conditions were more reminiscent of what we’d expect in late July rather than end of May. It didn’t stop us from trying hard, but it DID stop my sending streak…unless you count warm-ups, and even those weren’t necessarily a sure thing! The silver lining of the weekend was that CragDaddy not only put down Hippocrite 12a, but managed to do so before lunch on the last day, which enabled us to get back early enough for me to get a head start packing for our next day’s adventure – 4 days at the aforementioned beach house.
It’s times like these that I’m really thankful to live where we do, having both the mountains and the coast close enough to visit on a whim. And while I’m certain we’ll get our fair share of climbing adventures in over the summer, my guess is that we’ll probably spend just as much time in the water as we do on the rock. Tis the season for pools, kayaks, and trompin’ in the creek!
I am quick to profess my love for the New River Gorge. It is the gold standard by which I measure all other crags against. I’ve been climbing there since 2007 and it just never gets old. But for all that love, there’s just as much frustration, as the nature of NRG climbing seems to know just how to expose both my strengths and weaknesses, sometimes even on the same route.
Generally speaking, the New is known for being “reachy,” and is stereotypically harder for shorter climbers. This is the major reason why the really strong climbing team kids mostly go to the Red. This also helps explain why there have been countless female 5.14 ascents at other major climbing destinations, but only 2 women can stake that claim at the New. (And those achievements have only been in the last few years – prior to 2015, the New had seen one 13c ascent by a female, despite lots of 13b’s.) Obviously, as routes get more difficult, there is an expectation that the distance between holds could get larger. But at most other areas, there will often be intermediate handholds or a higher foothold to mitigate the height factor. The rock at the New is less featured, and it’s not uncommon for everyone to be making moves off the same holds.
Hangin’ around on Yowsah 12a
As for me, one of my only two 5.13’s was at the New – The Ruchert Motion 13a, sent in December of 2017. But aside from that, my hardest NRG sends were 12b’s. And considering that Ruchert is an 89 degree slab where the crux was all about footwork and terrible holds (aka everything I love), it has been easy for me to write that one off as an anomaly. With that obvious exception, I’ve sort of considered 12b to be my ceiling at the New, and have rarely ventured on anything harder.
But a season training with Power Climbing Company last year has inspired me to think bigger and try harder. Since then I’ve been throwing myself whole heartedly into working on my most obvious weakness – big moves requiring big power.
Spring rains keeping approaches exciting!
I was greatly encouraged to see my training paying off a few weeks ago when I was able to do all the moves on Green Envy 12c on my first day of working it. I even managed a 2 hang…but all on toprope. There is a fairly big, fairly swinging fall potential between the 3rd and 4th bolts, and I can sometimes be a fairly big pansy.
Anyway, after finally finding a 12c that seemed both doable and enjoyable, I was psyched to see a cooperative weather forecast this past weekend. Unfortunately, the rain from the night before had drenched all warm-up possibilities, which meant we had to warm up on the project.
There was a lot of stick-clipping, pulling on draws, and other shenanigans that are common when your warm up isn’t really a warm-up, but at least the rock felt great. Conditions were supberb, save one key jug with a puddle in it. We stuffed a microfiber towel in it to suck up the water, and it was good to go!
With my second attempt came the debate over leading vs toproping. After the “warm-up lap”, plus several crux rehearsals on the way down, I was feeling pretty good about all the moves except the initial boulder problem I’d had to skip (and couldn’t lower back to.) Most importantly, I’d yet to come anywhere close to linking the crux into the run out, and the thought of heading into that terrain pumped made me feel a little nauseated. If I led it, I was pretty certain that I would automatically hang at the crux bolt.
Hitting the jug slot after the runout.
After a lot of hemming and hawing, I decided to have one more “dress rehearsal” on TR before giving it a redpoint go. I knew I could give it hell on TR, and get a realistic picture of how the runout would feel physically when it’s go time.. Once I’m in redpoint mode, I’m not thinking about the fall anyway, and I figured the confidence boost of a long TR link might be more beneficial than a hesitant lap bolt to bolt. (Honestly you guys, the fall is probably not that bad. I’m not trying to make a huge deal out of it, just trying to be authentic on the blog!)
Sure enough, I TR’d it clean, with only a slight pang of regret when I made the final hard move and stepped into the rest before the 5.10 terrain leading to the top. It’s all part of the process. If I did it once, I could do it again – and most importantly, because my brain wasn’t cluttered up thinking about the falls, I was able to find a surprisingly good shake out stance a few moves before the runout, which assured me I wouldn’t be doing scary moves with a scary pump.
After a nice long rest, it was time to git er done. The initial boulder problem went well, as did the second crux just after that. I sunk down low in my newly found rest stance and slowed my breathing. I moved smoothly into the runout section, but when it came time to rock onto the high foot and latch the side by side crimps, the filtered sunlight blinded me for a second, and my right hand accidentally found the hold my left hand needed. I discovered my mistake when I tried to bring my left hand up and there was nothing there, but after a flash of panic I just flagged my left foot harder and locked off to the clipping hold…crisis averted!
The final test was a very powerful sequence launching out diagonally to a big pocket. The move requires every millimeter of reach I’ve got, and is exponentially harder to do when pumped, but this time it was more solid and controlled than I’d ever done it.
Another couple of lock offs and a bobbled clip on a twisted draw had me coming in hot to the last rest, but I was able to get it all back and finish it up. Yay for first 12c at the New! Also, if anyone is interested in the video, you can check it out below…beware, I climb like a sloth, so I’m not offended if you need to fast forward to the good parts! 😉
As for the next day, what better way to stay balanced after a hard send than to get on something that exploits all your weaknesses? After hanging draws for my man on Out of the Bag 11d, and trying out Not on the First Date 11c, I headed over to The Hole to get stomped on Yowsah 12a. It went about as I expected, although I made significant progress between my first and second attempts. I’m not gonna move heaven and earth to get back to it, but if opportunity presents itself, I will definitely get on it again! After all, who doesn’t love a long whipper that’s nothing but air!!!
Spring climbing season is always a little more finicky than fall. The weather is more of a gamble, and conditions are decidedly better at the beginning of the season (when you’re at your weakest) versus the end (when you’re at your strongest.) This is the opposite of fall, when conditions are steadily improving at (hopefully) the same pace you are. That said, completing your spring projects before the summer heat sets in usually becomes a race against rapidly deteriorating conditions.
This is typically the point in the spring where I realize there are so many good routes, and so little time!!! Even though the winter was so wet we got outside approximately zero times, I came into the spring fairly strong. Winter training consisted of a lot of “try hard” bouldering in the gym, and I am really getting used to (dare I say it, almost embracing) moving with momentum and power. I based my training off the personalized program that Kris Hampton from Power Company Climbing gave me last year, and in some ways, I feel like I’m getting more out of it this second time around. Maybe because I’m more familiar with the drills I’m able to apply the skills better? Who knows, but I’ll take it! (And thanks Kris, for the gift that apparently keeps on giving!)
So in light of all of that, here’s what’s been happening after about a month’s worth of climbing…
HERA’S BONDAGE 11d – SENT 3/23. Perfect route for remembering how to rock climb after a winter’s worth of plastic – more on that here.
HERE COMES THE RAIN 12b – Classic hard NC slab route at The Dump. Cryptic, committing, and a couple of hard clips. 4 tries on 3/30. Best go spit me off moving to the clipping hold of the last bolt. Most exciting go featured me falling with an armful of rope out when my foot popped off without warning at the 3rd bolt (yeehaw!)
Cragkiddo #1 looking casual out at the Meadow
STARRY 12a – SENT 4/6. This was a rematch continued over from back in 2016 when I punted off the last move. After a bolt to bolt warm-up hanging draws, I sent 2nd go of the day. The moves felt a lot easier than I’d remembered them…but I still only narrowly avoided the punt on that same finishing move. I tossed, came up short, managed to catch myself, shake out, go again, and latch. I’ll take it!
GREEN ENVY 12c – This is the one you guys. If I could choose just one route to send this season, it would be this one. Monster line that includes a good mix of things I’m good at (crimpy face climbing) and things I’m not (giant, bouldery moves.) Took 3 exhausting TR burns on it on 4/7. Opted for the TR b/c there’s a fairly scary (but probably clean) runout between the 3rd and 4th bolts, as well as just a TON of intricate beta to dial in. Best go was linking from mid-runout to the top. Time to tackle it on the sharp end.
SIGNED WITH BLOOD 12b – Of all the lines I’ve tried this spring, this is the one that was hardest to walk away from. Tried on 4/13, the delicate movement on the arete was everything I love, but ufortunately I got on it too late in the day to put it all together. Best go was a fall just before the last bolt, when stalling out for far too long around the 2nd bolt trying to remember my beta finally caught up with me. Too bad the next day was rainy.
HIPPOCRITE 12a – That next day rain day is what prompted us to head to the Zoo to get on this beast. Though it’s much steeper and far more powerful than our typical face climbing fare, it was dry and only 45 feet tall – plus it’s good to work your weaknesses, right?!? Unfortunately for both of us, however, we couldn’t quite get our Day 3 guns to fire on all cylinders when it came time for that giant undercling move at the crux. My best go out of 4 was a one hang.
Super Dad Ferry ride across the creek
So that’s what’s in the hopper for me this season. Nothing outrageous, grade-wise, but definitely some pushing out of the comfort zone style-wise for me. If all goes well and the weather cooperates, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think they could all go down. Or, if we get a slew of rainy weekends combined with a lapse of try hard on my part, I could easily be heading into the summer with zero new notches in my belt. But that’s how it goes. Sending season is unpredictable at best, right? In the meantime, Green Envy remains priority uno. Which means you can find me doing 4x4s in the gym mid-week and doing anti-rain dances as the weekends approach.