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

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?





1 Response to “Death by Chocolate and Coming Up Short”

  1. Ryan

    I love this post so much. The majority of our climbing is “failure”, but that is a necessary part of the process. Yet so much of what gets written about is success.
    Two discernment questions for you, based on my own experience: do you love this route as much or more than the grade? If so, go back and send it. If not, downgrade the climb in your mind to goal-chasing and reorient yourself to the love of the game.
    But if your first answer is yes, and skin and rest and the possibility of an extra training day before your trip, then you would want to ask what you want out of Ten Sleep and how that compares to sending this route. Consider, too, that this route will still be close while Ten Sleep will not be.
    Can’t wait to hear all about the next months!!!


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