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

10 5.10’s in 10 Sleep at 10 Years Old! (aka Big C’s Experience)

The Band is Just Fantastic 10a

That’s a mouthful to say, right?!? It’s even more impressive to do, considering that said 10 year old only started lead climbing 7 weeks before our trip to Ten Sleep! Considering his lack of experience on the sharp end, the CragDad and I weren’t really sure how he would do, but we were certain that the experience would be invaluable for him. While the bolts in Ten Sleep tend to be a lot closer together than at our crags back home, limestone can be notoriously hard to read. And while he didn’t have much experience climbing on pockets before this trip, we correctly presumed his little hands wouldn’t have too much of an adjustment.

Considering the hectic and frazzled start to the actual climbing part of this trip (see social media or this post for our altitude-induced ER visit with Zoe), we were ALL up for low-key, low elevation areas for the first few days. We pointed Big C in the direction of easy but classic routes, encouraging him to opt for quality over quantity. However, after the first 3 days on of climbing, he was already learning a ton and had accumulated a surprisingly big tick list already!

Day 1

Home Alone 5.8
Soup Sandwich 5.9+
Plea Bargain 5.10a

Day 2

Water Into Wine 5.9 Amazing position right next to the waterfall on this one (check out our drone footage of
Big C’s send!).
Redneck Woman 5.10d Hardest send to date….
Country Cutie 5.11a ……until this one! First 5.11! (video here)

Water Into Wine 5.9

Despite the emotional highs that came from sending his first 5.10d AND first 5.11, my perfectionist son still hiked out in tears that day, emotionally distraught about giving up and bailing on a 5.10b at day’s end. Dinner time discussion that night included a story telling round where the CragDad and I both recounted the (many) times we have lowered off a route in a flurry of intense fear/emotion, only to immediately regret that decision upon reaching the ground. We explained how adrenaline can make everything seem far more intense than it really is, and why analyzing risk/mitigating fears from the ground is such an important piece of the mental game. After being cheered up by hearing about our own personal failures and what we learned from it, he went to bed happy, but dead set on getting redemption on that same route later in the week.

CragDad and I continued the analysis, noting that the main difference between Big C’s failures and successes earlier that day seemed related to route length. His harder sends, the 10d and 11, while physically difficult for him, were very short-lived – both were no longer than 35 feet or so. From a mental standpoint, he didn’t have to “keep it together” for all that long. In contrast, he had bailed on the 10b after bolt 11 out of 13. The route was close to 100 feet tall, was baking in the sun by the time he got on it, and was the last route of the day for him, so he had to be getting tired. We decided that when it came to harder routes for him, we should probably stick to shorter ones for the time being.

Plea Bargain 10a at the Home Alone Wall

Day 3

This Band is Just Fantastic 5.10a Have you ever had a breakthrough in your climbing (or any other activity, really), where you applied a new concept to something you’d been struggling with….and it worked?!? This route was definitely that for Big C! After hanging draws for him, we talked through it together. I told him where I thought the cruxes would be for him – moving past the 1st bolt, and the final sequence to the chains. We mitigated the first by stick clipping the 2nd bolt. For the latter, I gave him the same advice I’d give a grown-up climbing partner – “Towards the end the holds won’t be as good as you are wanting them to be. But there are giant jugs waiting for you at the anchors. Don’t hesitate or you’ll get pumped.”

Country Cutie 5.11a

Sure enough, the early crux took several tries, but once he got his beta dialed he lowered to the ground and did the moves clean. When he got to the last bolt, he started to stall out a bit. Climb a little, then down climb back to the rest. Up a slightly different way, then back down. Each time he seemed a little more desperate than the last. He started to panic a little. “This is going to end up like yesterday…” is what I thought. “I think you’ll be really proud of yourself if you keep going!” is what I shouted. Something clicked. He chalked up, grabbed the less than ideal holds, and kept moving. Next thing we knew he was shouting for joy from the anchors! When I later asked him what was going through his mind in that moment, he said, “I just didn’t want to feel like I did yesterday when I gave up. I knew I would regret it if I did, so I just kept going.” YES!!!!!!!! Parenting win!

Day 4

Rest Day at Meadowlark Lake

Day 5

Lucky Bozo 8
I Love the Big Top 9 Not gonna lie…I was a proud mama when Big C crushed this onsight after I had
previously overheard a grown man complaining about how polished it was.
Shadows of Crows 10c

Since this day coincided with my 100 5.12 goal (more on that here), Big C started reflecting on his own goals. He realized that he had sent 4 5.10’s so far while on the trip, and decided that since he was 10 years old, and in Ten Sleep Canyon, that he wanted to send 6 more to bring his 5.10 count up to 10. It was a lofty goal considering we only had 3 climbing days left, but it did have a nice ring to it, so why not?!?

Rest Day finds!!!

Day 6

Death Metal Navajo 10b
Purple and Yellow Blast 10a
Nebuchadnezzar 10a

Wow, 3 in one day?!?!? It’s amazing how having a specific, tangible goal can provide motivation!!!

Day 7

Rest day at Ten Sleep Creek…his highlight was finding a gigantic T-rex cow skeleton.

Day 8

Honky Tonkin’ 10a
Wagon Wheel 10c
Boot Scootin’ Boogie 10b
How poetic that his 10th 5.10 of the trip would be redemption on the very route
that had sparked tears on the second day of our trip!!! This time around he stormed up it without any
hesitation, and later said it was his favorite route of the entire trip! (And the CragDad later said he thought it was the most physically demanding route Big C has sent to date.)

Also worth noting is that once again, after an amazing day at the Honky Tonk/Powers Wall, Big C hiked out in tears. Despite the THREE awesome sends he had acquired, he only saw the 11b that he sent all the way to the very last move….and then bailed. Twice. More dinner time conversations about been there/done that scenarios from our own climbing journeys, as well as talk about focusing on success rather than failure.

Even with all that climbing, he still had plenty of time to play with his sister!

Day 9

While he might disagree, I definitely think our last day was his best day. Or at the very least, the day that showed the most growth and maturity as a climber. From hanging on the warm up and not getting upset about it, to toproping all the moves on Mr. Poopy Pants 11b…to then choosing to lead Mr. Poopy Pants, getting scared at the top, coming back down and NOT losing his mind about it, to finally giving House Party 10b everything he had and flashing it in epic style, with everyone at the base of the crag cheering for him, Big C showed so much growth as not only a climber, but also as a growing little boy, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Thankfully, while he was disappointed about backing off the 11b, he was in a good place about it…and besides, he could still tell everyone at home about why the route is called that. (If you don’t know, you should ask him on social media @canaan_climbs….I’m sure he’d love to tell you!)

Having a new leader around has added an interesting dynamic to our family climbing agenda. We’ve had to plan out where we want to climb a little more carefully to ensure there was enough for everyone. We are also learning to navigate parenting a kidcrusher with lofty goals and sometimes unrealistic expectations of themselves. It’s interesting to see a child process the same emotions outwardly that we as adult climbers usually feel inwardly. At times it was a rollercoaster of emotions, but like all good rollercoasters, we came away happy, adrenalized….and ready to ride again!

Boot Scootin’ Boogie 10b – Redemption!!!


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