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

Ups and Downs Climbing at the OBED

She sure is sweet...if only she would sleep at night.

She sure is sweet…if only she would sleep at night.

Last weekend was Memorial Day Weekend, which meant it was time for our 5th annual climbing trip to the Obed Wild and Scenic River.  Usually this trip marks the start of the humid sweatfest that is otherwise known as summer  climbing in the Southeast…but we actually lucked out with a spring-ish weekend.  Nights were cool, and midday highs were in the low 80’s with very little humidity.  Definitely the best Memorial Day conditions we’ve ever had!

But when the whole family is involved in the climbing experience, there’s a lot more to great “sending conditions” than just weather.  Without wasting too many words in this post, I’ll just say that we’ve been having some major “sleep issues” with Baby Zu in recent weeks.  (While she’s pretty much never been the greatest of sleepers at night, she’s recently taken to being awake and generally unhappy for hours at a time in the middle of the night.)  We’d hoped that fresh air and all that running around at the crag would give us a reprieve for the weekend, but no such luck.  And that meant that in addition to a dismally low amount of sleep, I spent large portions of the night bending over backwards keeping her quiet, completely stressed out about how the rest of our crew would feel about us/her the next morning.  By the end of the weekend I felt very drained, both emotionally as well as physically.

Best climbing crew ever.

Best climbing crew ever.

I start with all of that NOT to come across as a “Debbie Downer,” but to share that family dynamics aren’t always perfect, and if you put your life on hold until they become so, you’ll never venture out of your house!  So with all of THAT said, we still had a fabulous time!  (And thankfully our climbing crew still seems to be on speaking terms with us…)  Here’s how our days were spent.

Day 1 – Lilly Bluff

Paraphernalia (5.10b) – Great warm-up with just the right amount of pump!
Yakuza (5.12b) – I decided to give this one a go since Steve was working (and sent!) Gangsta (5.12a.)  Great route, but I was disappointed with how it went for me.  I put all the moves except for one together fairly quickly, but the first hard move completely shut me down and I couldn’t do it even once.  The move involved yarding on a crimper to pull over a bulge.  The hold wasn’t that bad, but I just couldn’t pull hard enough on it with my feet way up underneath the bulge.  After pulling through and doing the rest of the route twice, I know I could have sent had I been able to do that move, so that was frustrating.
Krieg’s Crack (5.11d) – By the afternoon the area was getting pretty crowded, so we hopped on this seldom-traveled line.  I’d gotten on it once before on a miserably humid day and it had felt darn near impossible, but this time around it was way more manageable, and a lot of fun!  The first 3 bolts contained all the business, a broken crack system that required footwork with a side of burly.  The rest was probably no harder than 5.10, but got pretty pumpy at the top.

Yakuza (5.12b) Photo: Chuck Bridgen

Yakuza (5.12b) Photo: Chuck Bridgen

Steve on Gangsta (5.12a)

Steve on Gangsta (5.12a) Photo: Chuck Bridgen

Day 2 – Little Clear Creek

Finders Keepers (5.10b) – Another great warm-up.
Losers Weepers (5.11a) – If you enjoy coming across odd-shaped holds and features, this route is for you! Great position, and coming out of the roof is probably easier (less awkward) the shorter you are.
Standard Issue (5.11c) – This is only the 3rd route I’ve ever tried in the Hangar, and it was epic.  Like the other routes, it starts 40 feet off the deck on a narrow shelf, and to be completely honest, I was so intimidated that I almost bailed before I even got started.  Getting off the ground and into the almost horizontal roof was by far the crux, but the movement was pretty in-your-face until a good jug stance keeps your forearms from exploding allows you to get some back.

Once I finally committed to the long reach and was able to reel my wildly flying feet back in, the climbing turned from intimidating to fun, although I pretty much went bolt to bolt on my 1st go.  I hemmed and hawed about whether to get back on it again – I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to send it, and wasn’t psyched on trying the start again.  But this was a perfect example of a mantra Steve and I always remind each other of: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE SECOND GO!


Pulling into the start of Standard Issue (5.11c) Photo: Chuck Bridgen



Reeling in the swing…



Trying to move efficiently through the roof. Photo: Chuck Bridgen


It was quite the battle.  There was a lot of yelling (usually I’m a fairly quiet climber), a lot of almost falls and desperate tosses, but I kept breathing and kept climbing.  (It helped that I found a couple of shaky hand jams that were just good enough to warrant a pause.)  At the anchors I didn’t quite get the distance I needed to to hit the clipping jug correctly and almost punted off with the chains in my face, but managed to keep it together for the send.

Trying that hard and succeeding felt very rewarding, especially on something that far out of my comfort zone.  Makes me psyched to get back to some of the steeper projects I’ve got at the New!

Electric Sky (5.12a)

Electric Sky (5.12a)

Day 3 – Lilly Bluff

We wanted to get back on the road before Baby Zu needed to go down for her nap, so we took advantage of the short approach at Lilly to maximize our climbing time.
Alien (5.10d) – Never done this one before…maybe it was the Day 3 exhaustion talking, but I thought pulling the bulge was pretty darn hard for the grade.
Electric Sky (5.12a) – Really interesting position on this one with some burly moves powering up the overhanging arete.  The rest of the climbing was pretty moderate until the very top.  On my second go I felt confident in the lower crux, and then watched the send slip right out of my hands when I couldn’t clip the anchors.  What a frustrating note to end the trip on!!!

But despite the frustrations both on and off the rock, our family still had a blast!  We had a huge crew, so the nightly campfire was always lively and entertaining.  The river was cold but so refreshing after a long day of climbing, and I loved hearing Big C’s squeals of delight every time he went in.  And as always, there’s nothing like spending a weekend outside and unplugged to clear your head and refresh your perspective.  Hopefully everyone else’s Memorial Day adventures were just as fun!




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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN