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

Ten Sleep Canyon Part 4 – Superfly 12c/d

So after a patriotic day at the rodeo on the 4th, the next day was back to the canyon for business as usual.  As I said in Ten Sleep Recap Part 2, the 3rd day on in our 3 day chunk was spent scoping out the moves on Superfly 12c/d at the Slavery Wall, so let’s rewind back to there for a minute.  The main difference we noted between Slavery Wall and everywhere else we had climbed was that it was WAY hotter in the morning, due to the lack of tree cover at the base of the cliff.  Thankfully though, our main objective climbed an east-facing corner, so it went into shade earlier than everything else.  

Some new found friends on the 11a beside Superfly

On our reconnaissance day, we warmed up on a route everyone that ever climbs in Ten Sleep Canyon simply must do once – Beer Bong 10b.  The face climbing on it is pretty polished in places, and the movement is just okay.  But the exposure and position out over the chimney in the last 15 feet is what earns this route its stars.   For a more interesting perspective than the typical crotch shot at the finish, we decided to take the drone up to capture some better angles while waiting for Superfly to go into shade (video here.)  

Beer Bong 10b

Hanging draws on Superfly was exhausting – 100 feet of technical climbing that demanded focus for almost every move.  After an hour (and a lot of stick clip hauling), I gave up two bolts from the top.  CragDaddy took a turn, and while he was able to clip chains, it wasn’t without aiding through the crux lurking right before the anchors.  To be honest I was a little discouraged tying in again, this time on toprope so I could work the crux more efficiently.  But my second run went awesome – I actually linked most of the lower section.  And though my initial attempts at the final sequence were pretty dismal, I ended up finding a pocket that CragDaddy had missed before – it made the move juuuuuust doable enough for me (though I had my doubts as to whether that beta would work coming in hot on a redpoint burn.)

Big C shakin’ his money maker

Knowing that a 3rd burn on a 3rd day on would likely do nothing but further rip my skin to shreds, I opted to quit while I was ahead, in the hopes of coming back a muerte on our final day in the canyon.  So fast forward past the rodeo, and past another day at FCR.  Last day equals last chance, so nothing like a little pressure, right?  The morning dawned sunny and hot, as the temps had steadily been rising since we’d arrived 10 days prior.  Although it would for sure be much cooler in the canyon, highs in the town were forecasted at 100!  That said, no one was in a rush to get up there right away, considering the lack of shade.  So we took a nice drive through the old road in the canyon, stopping here and there to play with the drone and take some token Christmas card pics.  

When we finally made it up there, we opted for the Red River Gorge strategy of warming up – a bolt to bolt run on the project.  Superfly is not a terrible warm-up option – the difficulty builds very gradually, with nothing harder than 11a in the first 40 feet.  Then come two back to back cruxes, the first being a hard lock off, the second using a series of insecure feet.  More long moves on decent holds leads to a pretty solid rest stance at 80 feet , followed by a little more hard 5.11 filler before setting up for potential heartbreak at the anchors.  

Having only had one run at it before, and therefore needing more beta refinement than me, CragDaddy offered to hang draws.  A welcome gift, especially considering that a lot of my tick marks had washed away during the freak deluge of rain from the night before.  Using the new hidden pocket I’d found the previous day, he also was able to do the final sequence, and lowered down feeling more optimistic about his send potential.

Down low on Superfly

My strategy for the first run was to climb like I’m sending until it becomes apparent that I’m not – ie, don’t get sloppy, and don’t get flash pumped.  I executed well, remembering most of my beta.  I got stalled out in the 2nd hard sequence, but managed to make it through and up to the rest.  After getting as much back as I was going to, I proceeded, til I was one bolt from the top, staring down the gauntlet of the final sequence.  I took a breath, pictured the moves then executed – Crimp, crimp, pocket, mono, make clip.  Done.  Get feet up and reach high for the hidden pocket – got it!  

I was almost out – all I had left was to bump my left hand to a better hold, smear my feet really high, and toss to a flat hold where I could then mantle to the chains.  But in my haste to hit the hidden pocket, my feet were lower than they were supposed to be.  Also, my right finger was sliding out of the shallow mono, and I was way too insecure to re-grip.  Not to mention that ever present pump clock.   Despite the fact that one of the cardinal rules of redpointing is to STICK WITH YOUR BETA on a send attempt, I just knew my original beta was done for.  I needed to go Rogue.

Now Rogue Beta is a slippery option that can only end in one of two scenarios – you either feel like a genius for making a wise, in the moment choice, or you feel like a chump because you hesitated and didn’t execute correctly.  Honestly it’s usually the latter, but I felt like I had no choice.  Instead of going left hand to the better hold, I went right hand, which allowed me to leave the mono early.  However, the hand mix-up cost me.  Not only was the mantle more awkward, it also left me out of reach of the finishing holds!  Panic started to set in again – the chains were literally at eye level, but too far to the right to clip.  True confessions – I thought about grabbing the quickdraw, but I knew I would hate myself for it on the ground, and that after all the effort I’d just put in, I couldn’t count on getting there clean again.  It really was now or never.  I held my breath, stepped my right foot level with my right hand, and precariously started to rock over, praying a gentle breeze wouldn’t blow me off.  Right when I thought I was about to tip backwards, I felt my center of gravity settle over my feet, and I could stand up.  Clip chains = DONE!  

CragDaddy high on Superfly 12c/d Photo by @izzyjams

CragDaddy sent on his next go as well (with far fewer dramatics.)  After a nice long break, he got some revenge on another near miss from 2015 – Strut Your Funky Stuff 12a.  Even Big C got on the send train with his toprope onsight of Shake Your Money Maker 5.7.  I was hoping for a similar effect on Momma’s Mental Medication, also 12a…but I fell going for the final pocket.  Womp womp.  That said, nothing could dampen our day too much.  It was a grand ending to an even grander trip!

Me with my favorites.

Initially, we had thought that this 3rd time to Ten Sleep might be our final time.  After all, there is so much rock to climb in the United States, it hardly seems fair to keep our pilgrimage in the same spot…but guys, I just don’t know if we can give up going to this place!  Especially now that the kids are older and are so vocal about how much they love it.  One advantage to growing children however, is that road trips are a lot easier now…and with homeschooling, it’s pretty darn easy to take our show on the road.  So who knows, maybe next time we’ll drive?  Anyone got any fun ideas for stops along the way?  For now though, it’s good to be home.  See you at the New this fall!  


Ten Sleep Canyon Part 3 – Rest Days and Rodeos

Despite being a town with a population of 260, the town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming is actually a pretty good base camp for fun family rest day activities!  And for once, the weather cooperated really well with our plans!  Saturday dawned cold and dreary in town, which meant the canyon was no doubt frigid.  So what would have been a pretty yucky climbing day was actually perfect for exploring, geeking out over nature stuff, and picking up groceries, all while resting our tendons.  

Our first stop was the the Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site, where we had a lot of fun spotting the pictographs drawn on the rock faces, left by ancient human inhabitants.  A free map made finding the fainter, older ones a LOT easier.  A short walk along a nature trail gave us a chance to stretch our legs before heading south to the booming metropolis of Thermopolis.  

For the past several weeks leading up to our trip, our homeschool learning had revolved around 2 things – the Wild West, and DINOSAURS!  Fun fact: Thermopolis is home to one of the largest collections of dino fossils in the world. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the dig site due to rain, but the inside of the museum was more than enough to please an 8 year old dino-maniac like my son.  While the giant t-rex and brachiosaurs were impressive, it was the majestic plesiosaur, posed mid-swim that really floated his boat.  

Before stocking up on groceries, we made a final stop at Hot Springs State Park.  We took the token pictures by the waterfall, but passed up on the bathhouse in the name of good sanitation (to be honest, it just looked nasty…)  But our highlight of the day had to be catching the bison herd!  They roam freely through the expanse of the park, and we not only lucked up and spotted them from far off, but were able to drive out to them before they moved on.  We saw so many, literally right outside our car – baby ones, mommy ones, and great big daddy ones. (that last part said in a “deep” 4 year old voice.)

Our 2nd and final rest day was spent celebrating our independence the small town ‘Merican way.  Our morning was spent at the town parade, which might have had more participants than people that live in the town. It was very much fun, especially for the kids, since all the floats passed out candy…and at one point even ice cream sandwiches!!!   


The afternoon was spent at the rodeo, which was unlike anything I have ever seen.  It was amazing – the horses, the barrel racers, the cowboys, all of it.  We saw kids as young as both of mine out there riding and competing!  While I’m sure we, as well as the other climbers in attendance, definitely stood out compared to the locals, we cheered and whooped and hollered as if we’d grown up there all our lives.  It was loads of fun, and a wonderful chance for our family to get a glimpse into a way of life that is completely different than our own!  Post-rodeo, pretty much any free time back at our apartment was spent with one child trying to ride on the back of the other.  


Rest days are generally not the parts of climbing trips that we as grown-ups look forward to the most.  Although necessary, compared to the climbing excitement, rest days are slow and boring.  But I’ve discovered that sometimes these down time moments are what make for the best family memories, especially for the kiddos.  Yes, of course my kids loved playing outdoors all day in beautiful places – that’s the main event!  But they also loved recording all the license plates we saw on a map (and would you believe, we found all but 5!!!)  They also loved walking through the town, poking around at the general store, and stopping at the ice cream parlor for a “Ten Sleep Tornado.”  They loved meeting a REAL COWBOY named Cash, who was kind enough to talk our ears off about everything ranching and bareback riding…and then give one of his lariats to my son who carried it with him 24/7 for the duration of the trip. 


Sometimes as grown-ups it’s tempting to want to skip that down time and just go go go, whether it’s on an adventure vacation or just in everyday life.  But often times these are the moments that the memories are made of…and on a climbing trip, the moments that unbeknownst to us, give us the physical and mental break we need to (hopefully) put down that project when it’s main event time!




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?