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

Our Family is Getting Hi-Tec

Well, the shoes, that is.  As for the other, one person in our family has always been high tech enough to have the rest of us all covered.  But back to the shoes.  Recently I was contacted by Hi-Tec, a company that is probably a household name for anyone that likes to hike, backpack, or pretty much do anything outside that requires a solid pair of shoes.  They asked if our whole family (minus Little Z, since they don’t carry sizes small enough for her!), would be interested in testing out some footwear of our choice for review.  As if we would say no…

Anyway, we each chose a favorite pair, and have been putting them through the ringer ever since.  I was looking for a boot that would be a good crossover between morning playdates, afternoon hikes, and a casual evening out with friends.  I went for the Sierra Tarma, and it totally fits the bill.  Supportive, comfy, and surprisingly warm!  The first time I wore them was at a weekend women’s retreat in the NC mountains a few weeks ago.  They were the only shoes I brought and they were perfect – not to mention I got loads of compliments on them!

Cragmama's Shoes

Cragmama’s Shoes

The CragDaddy was looking for some approach shoes/light hikers, and went with the Bandera Low WP.  His review gave high marks in comfort and traction, even in steep terrain on slippery fall leaves.  He really appreciated that they were offered in wide sizes.  The one drawback he noted was that there was no loop on the heel to clip his shoes to his pack/harness with a carabiner.  Not a big deal for hiking or for the everyday craggin’ we tend to do as a family, but these shoes would not be a good choice on multipitch endeavors due to an inability to carry them with you on the rock.

CragDaddy's Shoes

CragDaddy’s Shoes

Big C got the Hillside Low Junior.  The traction is top notch, and the low tops keep his feet from getting hot and bulky when he transitions from outside to inside play.  They are equally great for playgrounding, neighborhood walks, as well as muddy hikes.  And the laces stay tied well, which is very convenient for beginning shoe-tie-ers and their frustrated ever-patient parents.

Cragkiddo's Shoes

Cragkiddo’s Shoes

Bottom line?  These shoes are durable and well-made, and my guess is that they will be in our shoe arsenal for years to come.  Well, for me and the CragDaddy anyway.  For Big C only if I can somehow figure out how to keep him from growing.  But if that doesn’t happen, they will make great hand-me-downs when they are done with round 1!

 

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Hey-o, Veyo’s Back!

Ok so this darling little company that makes amazing kid’s mittens didn’t actually go anywhere, but I reeeeaaaally wanted that to be the title of my post, so indulge me please.  Although if you live in the South, you probably haven’t given winter gear a second thought since, say, February.  But it’s that time of year again, the time when you drag out all that winter wear and realize JUST HOW MUCH your kiddos have grown in a matter of mere months (and also how much you love that cute pair of super warm boots…but that’s for another post.)

Straight outta the box first impressions...

Straight outta the box first impressions…

So for those of you with kiddos that have completely outgrown their previous pair of mittens, let me reintroduce you to Veyo Kids, a small family company whose mission is to “end thumb wars once and for all!”  Designing a mitten that is easy on and off for baby/toddler sized hands that actually keeps hands WARM and DRY is no small feat, I am certain.  We loved this mitts last year…but the updates they have made this year means this little piece of gear is shaping up to be a winter favorite.

First off, the mitts dry even faster than before.  I love that we can come inside at lunch, turn them inside out, and they are dry and ready to go again after naptime.  What’s more, these mitts are not just water resistant during snow play…they kept Little Zu’s hands dry even when submerged in a bucket of ice cold water!!!  To be honest, I would have thought that a water dunking challenge would be too much to ask from any glove, but Veyo Kids actually suggested that we try it to test it out!  (And as a side note, please tell me that my children are not the only ones who dig the water table every season of the year…)

Last year Little Z had penguin mittyz, while Big C got tiger paws.  But this year Little Z is psyched about the newest pattern designs, so that she can be a little pink tiger right alongside her big bro!  Anyone else want a pair?  Veyo Kids has graciously agreed to give out a pair each to not one but TWO lucky Cragmama readers!  And if you can’t wait for the contest to end you can get these mittyz for 25% off AND free shipping through Cyber Monday.  (And if you buy some for your child and end up winning a free pair…no worries, the extra pair would make a great Christmas gift for a niece, nephew, or neighbor!  To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter widget below.  Comment on the blog with your favorite Veyo Kids design, and be sure to visit their facebook page for an extra entry!  Contest will run thru December 1, and the winner will be contacted and announced via social media shortly thereafter.  Happy mitt-ing!

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Red River Gorge in November

Orange Juice 12c in all of it's fall glory

Orange Juice 12c in all of it’s fall glory

While my heart will probably forever belong to the New, I do really like the Red, and I so wish the Red was a lot closer.  I also wish it was a lot less crowded.  But one thing we didn’t have to wish for this past weekend was better climbing conditions…because it was darn near perfect!

Our first day was spent at Funk Rock City.  Yes, our motivated crew of 3 adults and 3 children (two of which are under 3) did the 45 minute slog across the creek and up the mountain side just so that I could finally try a route I’d been drooling over since 2012 – Orange Juice 12c. (Thanks guys!)  My trip got off to a great start with an onsight of OJ’s easier next door neighbor – There Goes the Neighborhood 11c.

Orange Juice ascends a beautiful, vertical, orange face littered with pockets and small edges.  There are 3 cruxes on the route, with fairly mellow (11a?) climbing in between.  The first crux is probably the easiest of the three, but also the scariest because it’s not that high off the ground.  The next one is a super long move from okay crimps to a jug.  Of the seven people who worked this route that day (yes 7…on a weekday?!?), all of them dyno’d except for the CragDaddy and I. The final crux was in my opinion by far the hardest – a slopey crimp/mono pocket combo to a big move off of a pair of “snake-eye” mono pockets.  Once again, CragDaddy and I did something completely different than everyone else, and only slightly different than each other (they all went right, we went left…)

CragDaddy on Abiyoyo 12b

CragDaddy on Abiyoyo 12b

Due to the crowds I only got in 2 burns, neither of which was anywhere close to a send, but I felt really good about being able to figure out my own beta for all of the moves.  It’s too bad it’s such a pain to get back to, otherwise I’d say this route would be on the short list for next spring for sure….and it still might be, even so!

Day 2 the CragDaddy got to choose the destination, and he chose the Solarium at Muir Valley, where he was hoping to earn redemption on his project from last spring – Abiyoyo 12b.  I had mixed feelings about getting on it with him.  The guide book says that the crux move will feel significantly harder if you are sub 5’8″ (I’m 5’5″).  On the one hand, I’ve been working really hard on climbing “tall,” and this crux would be a good test.  On the other hand, one of the reasons I love the Red is that it typically doesn’t have those giant blank sections of wall devoid of intermediate features (the ones that you see all the time at the New, even randomly on routes that are otherwise pretty easy.)

But after weighing my options, my curiousity got the better of me, as well as the fact that CragDaddy and I really enjoy working routes together.  The verdict?  “The move” is definitely harder for me than CragDaddy.  He can skip a nice row of sloping crimps that I have trouble getting established on without being too extended to move my feet up.  I actually ended up skipping those holds as well, and ended up doing a weird pinch thing off of two tiny pockets that were several inches below the row of crimps.  However, considering the huge jug rest right before the crux (and especially considering the sit down rest in the hueco 10 feet below that), the one move wonder didn’t feel any harder than V5 or so for me, which still seems very reasonable for a 12b, especially a “reachy” one.  If this route was at the New, nothing at all would be mentioned about the move being height dependent.

If fun was measured in dirt, these guys would have the most.

If fun was measured in dirt, these guys would have the most.

That being said…neither of us sent the route.  I kept falling at the crux, but CragDaddy got extremely close on his last attempt – the crux itself may be fairly easy for him, but the next few moves are long and powerful and pack a pump pretty quick.  Thanks to the crowds (again) we were both disappointed at the amount of climbing we were able to get in (6 pitches in 2 days…and we were first in the parking lot both days.)

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So for our last day, we opted for an area we’d never been to, but looked off the beaten path enough to avoid the throngs of forearm blasters – the slab/vertical climbing at Crossroads in the PMRP.  And what a great choice!  Our warm-up, Fairweather Friends 10d, was super fun, and I was able to walk away with two more great sends. Legalize It 12a was soooo close to a flash for me, until I botched a foot placement right at the last bolt.  It went 2nd go pretty easily, which allowed me to hit a milestone of 50 lifetime 5.12 ticks!  My last route of the trip also ended on a “high” note – a hanging draws onsight of Wake and Bake 11d.

There are no words for this much cute and dirt.

There are no words for this much cute and dirt.

All in all – such a great trip!  We all tried hard and stretched ourselves out of our comfort zone.  (And congrats to fellow cragmama Rebekah for ticking her first 11c AND leading her first 5.12!)  We had so much fun on our last day that we ended up staying far later than we originally anticipated.  Ordinarily getting back at midnight would just be mildly unpleasant, but walking into a 55 degree house at midnight (thank you, broken heater!) was downright miserable.  But it was still worth it, especially since our climbing trips for the rest of the year will consist of whatever days we can squeeze in amidst the holiday chaos.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

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NRG: Flashin’ or Thrashin’

Sometimes on a climbing trip, you have a “day of reckoning,” where you try hard and it pays off with a send.  Other times, you flail your way through a weekend and come out without any new notches on your sending belt.  This past weekend for me was one of those weird in between weekends.  I was either flashing…or thrashing.  There was no middle ground.

The Honeymooner Ladders at Central Endless

The Honeymooner Ladders at Central Endless

Being that it was November and we FINALLY got those crisp, cool, fall conditions we’ve been waiting for all year, the only destination for us this weekend was Endless Wall.  Since I’d sent my project on our last trip (finally!), I had absolutely zero agenda for this trip, and went wherever the CragDaddy wanted to climb.  He and our third man Caleb wanted to try Harlequin 12b (ironically on the same wall as my nemesis-no-more J&T), so off we went down to the Honeymooner’s Ladders once again.  Both kids actually REALLY like going down these ladders, so despite the longer approach hike, Central Endless is one of their favorite destinations as well.

On Day 1 we strayed from our usual Endless Wall warm-up options and started out on Bonemaster Gear Fling 11c, which is also right next to the ladder.  I’d tackled this one only one other time when I was 17 weeks pregnant with Little Z, and I’d remembered it feeling insanely hard for the grade.  I figured it was probably due to my belly getting in the way of all those high steps…which I’m sure didn’t help.  However, this time around it STILL felt super hard.  Lots of frustratingly long reaches that were non-moves for my taller climbing partners, who touted it soft for the grade.  I was psyched to pull out a first go send though, and my weekend was off to a great start…

Girl beta...

Girl beta…

Then I got on Harlequin and my confidence got torn to shreds.  I’d been told there was a big move at the 1st bolt that can give shorter people fits…but heck yeah, all that “try hard” bouldering I’d been doing in the gym meant I had no trouble with it!  However…that bouldery sequence at the next bolt?  Ugh.  Hard in a completely not fun way for me.  The good feet were so low that I could get no umph from my legs to power up, and the next available feet were ridiculously high compared to the rest of my body position.  I eventually figured out the move.  But after trying the sequence 25+ times, I only managed to latch the ending hold twice.  The rest of the route went fairly well for me, but my odds down low were do dismal that I was less than inspired to keep working the line.

But as I said, it was CragDaddy’s weekend to choose, so we found ourselves back at the Ladders on Sunday morning.  Our warm-up strategy had worked out pretty well the previous day, so this time we hopped on the NEXT route over from the ladders, Double Feature 11d, whom my tall friends had warned felt a number grade harder than Bonemaster.  There were some hard moves for sure (and one of the coolest slab cruxes I’ve ever done!), but all in all, the difficulty seemed on a par with Bonemaster for me, minus the heinous reach issues.  I mean, it wouldn’t be the New without some long moves on it, but I was able to use crux beta that was almost exactly the same as everyone else, so it seems like the playing field for this line was more level than it’s next door neighbor.  That said, another flash made me psyched to see what else the day had in store.

Guy beta...

Guy beta…and congrats on the send CragDaddy!!!

Then I hopped on Harlequin again, just to see if maybe my crazy beta for the 2nd bolt would feel more doable fresh…wrong.  This time I couldn’t even pull the move.  So I decided to get on Sacrilege, denoted in the guidebook as 5.11 climbing to “the hardest 12b move you will ever encounter.”  I didn’t hold out much chance of doing “the move,” but was cautiously optimistic after having talked to a girl about my size the day before who had figured out a sequence that worked for her.  Besides, there was nothing else on the wall I really wanted to try, so I figured I had nothing to lose…

Nothing but a shiny bail biner at the crux, that is.  (So if you’re up there this weekend, it’s all yours if you can unlock that sequence!)  I bailed only after punishing myself on the face far longer than I’d anticipated.  Apparently neither Harlequin OR Sacrilege are in the cards for me right now.  But for all the thrashing I did, I’m still happy to walk away with some good flashes (well…technically one flash and a 2nd go send that felt like a flash since I’d forgotten pretty much everything about it from my preggo toprope episode.)

Tomorrow we are bound for the Red!  It will be interesting to see if our inconsistent performances at the New this fall can add up to anything noteworthy in the land of pump.  The forecast looks great, and we can’t wait!!!

Happy kiddos!

Happy kiddos!

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M.A.P. Footwear Review

Trying to sneak away with big brothers shoes...

This one caught trying to sneak away with big brothers shoes…

A few months ago our family got the chance to try out some children’s shoes from M.A.P footwear.  Each kiddo got to choose a pair (Troy for Big C, and Lillith Toddler for Little Z.)  Both pairs are similar in style to outdoorsy children’s shoes from other brands.  Cute, yet very functional, ie Mary Janes with a very thick sole.

Prior to this review, I’d never heard of M.A.P before, but after realizing their name stands for “Motion, Adventure, and Play,” it was a match made in heaven, because those 3 words are a few of our favorite things!

What first caught my attention was the price…while most other outdoor brands charge anywhere from $50-$100 for their offerings, most M.A.P. shoes are available for $30 or less at places like Target and Amazon!  I’ll be honest, at first I was a little skeptical about the durability of these shoes.  A lot of times, especially in the world of outdoor gear, you get what you pay for.  But both kiddos have been rocking their new kicks all summer and into fall.  And so far, both shoes are showing surprisingly little wear.  They’ve worn these shoes on the trail, on the rocks, in the creeks, and of course, in the mud.  The materials have held up well, and a “pressure wash” from the garden hose has been plenty good enough to keep the colors looking good enough to wear to other, “less adventurous” places (church, school, etc.)

Cool features worth mentioning for the Troy (boy’s shoe) are the slingshot lace system, complete with velcro across the toes to prevent the laces from flopping around.  Little Z’s favorite part about her Lillith’s are the sparkles, go figure.  😉

Big C's Troy shoes

Big C’s Troy shoes

The traction on both shoes is really good, and is great for hiking, scrambling, and rock hopping across a stream.  Since my kids sometimes (ie, ALWAYS) end up in the water during said rock hops, it’s nice to also note that both pairs of shoes dried really quickly, and didn’t rub any hot spots on tender tootsies, even when worn without socks.  (However, like with most shoes worn without socks, beware the smell factor after a long day playing outside!)

...this time with the correct shoes ;)

…this time with the correct shoes 😉

After adventuring with these shoes for several months, I would definitely consider purchasing a pair another time, and would for sure recommend these to a friend.  The jury is still out as to whether they will stand the ultimate test of time (handing down to another sibling or friend), but so far so good!  We sized generously so hopefully we won’t be ready to pass them on for a while yet.  But at this price point, the ability to go for another round seems like a bonus rather than an absolute necessity.

So if you’re kiddos need some new footwear for fall, check out M.A.P. here, or at a retail store near you!

 

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