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

Rocktober at Breaks Interstate Park + Red River Gorge

Big C crushing J Rat’s Back 12a

It’s been quite a long time, but welcome back to this little corner of the interwebs! For quite a while now I’ve been wanting to get back into blogging on the regular again, and a trip report about our most recent family adventure seemed like a perfect place to dive in! When I polled some of you on Instagram about specific topics you were most interested in reading about, an overwhelming majority of you all voted for “a little bit of everything!” So I’ll try my best to hit all the highlights from our trip without going down any epic long rabbit trails! (And for those of you that specifically requested Crag Profiles similar to these from Hidden Valley and the New River Gorge, don’t worry, those are in the works for later posts!)

First off, why the combo of Breaks + Red? Our original plan had actually been Horseshoe Canyon Ranch…which then morphed into Chattanooga…and THEN the Red. This was chosen in the name of redemption since our May trip featured terrible conditions that were barely even climbable most of the time! The Breaks was tacked on to the front end when we all had some climbs left “in the hopper” from a trip over Labor Day weekend the month prior. Logistically, the add-on made a lot of sense as well. It’s 2 hours closer, which made the Friday night drive easier. It is also NEVER crowded at the climbing areas, which would make weekend cragging a lot less hectic (as opposed to spending Days 1 and 2 at the Red during Rocktoberfest!)

Our preferred strategy for trips is to climb 2 days on, followed by 1 day off. That schedule allows us to climb fairly hard most days of the trip, and also lets us have some relaxed days to explore non-climbing offerings (which is especially helpful for Zoe, who doesn’t climb as much as the rest of us.) Last May we did a cave kayaking tour with Gorge Underground, and this time around we went UTV-ing with Out the Top Adventures. It doesn’t always work out that perfectly, but this time around we nailed it!

Keepin it Real 12a


This could probably be a whole series of posts in and of itself, but the CLIFF notes version (see what I did there?) is that we doubled down on endurance work about 6 weeks out from our trip. Our weekly training consisted of one day with LOTS of laps on our Treadwall, one day of LOTS of volume pitches on the new 55 ft walls at our gym, and one try hard bouldering day to keep strength/power topped off. (We also sprinkled in a handful of outdoor days on ropes, as well as some lifting sessions.)

We felt both fit AND strong
. For comparison, when we went to the Red in 2020, the gyms were closed leading up to the trip, and we ONLY had the treadwall…I’d never been more “fit” in my life, but the cost was losing a LOT of strength and power. It was great for the Red, but not so great for the New and other places I love to climb. Another data point was when we went to the Red this past May. Awful conditions were definitely a factor, but all that aside, I still think we swung a little too much the other way – hoarding power for fear that we’d lose it, so we ended up not feeling as fit as we’d hoped. This time around we hit a good balance for a week long trip to the Red that will (hopefully) still leave us with enough power for some hard projects at the New the rest of the fall!
Our tactics were dialed in. Though we don’t typically spend much if any time on ropes indoors leading up to a season (time/logistics w/kids/etc), bad weather + work schedules forced us inside most weekends. That led to some epic family enduro sessions on Sunday afternoons. These sessions afforded us a chance to not only work on redpoint skills like pacing and beta execution, but the influx of a new set every week let us practice pump management skills such as active resting on climbs that we DIDN’T ALREADY HAVE MEMORIZED. That last part is important, b/c that provided something that our treadwall training (or other traditional interval means like 4x4s) could NOT.

UTV Rest Day!

I mean, you can’t have TOO much fitness at the Red, right? Had I known earlier in the summer we were planning on the Red, I likely would have kept a little more lower-intensity time-under-tension in our programs. Also though, I knew most of the objectives we had chosen for the trip were more technical in nature, rather than the mega-steep pump fests the Red is known for. As NRG climbers at heart, we can’t help but find the New wherever we go haha! That said, had we put ourselves against some of the enduro test pieces in the region, I think we might have come up a little short?


If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me say that logistics are often the crux, especially for climbers with kids, and ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY for climber families that all get outside together! Luckily for us, each of our goals for this trip were fairly simple to combine together.

Z atop Simon Says 5.7

ZOE: On any given weekend day, she may or may not climb, but for these longer trips, she is more likely to want to tie in., This means we need something sub 5.10 nearby. We were able to make that happen on 3 out of our 6 climbing days (along with an epic rope swing on one of the other days!) Her tick list included toprope laps on the following:
Simon Says 5.7 A very thoughtful TALL face with an amazing view at the top! (Pinnacle Overlook, Breaks)
Jacob’s Ladder 5.9 (Sunnyside, Muir Valley, RRG) We all warmed up on Machete 10b, then set directionals on the shorter anchors of this one for her.
Chocolate River 5.9 (Chocolate Factory, RRG) Zoe’s 2nd route on the Gloop Slab (our previous trip in May we all took a lap up Augustus Gloops 5.9+). It was pretty reachy and she had to get hauled through some of it, but she enjoyed it a lot and has told many people about it since 😉

CANAAN: This kid’s main goal was to climb on at least one 5.10 and/or 5.11 each day, as well as start to toprope some harder stuff when available just to see how it feels. Notable sends for him included:
Weed-eater 11b (Sunnyside, Muir Valley, RRG) 2nd go, he stayed at the laydown rest so long we’d thought he’d fallen asleep.
Conscription 11c (Curbside, RRG) Also 2nd go, also with big laydown rest!
Dual Track 11b (Velo Crag, RRG) Flash! This was a rough warm-up for the day, but it was the only thing that was dry after the 30 min downpour that hit the minute we arrived at the crag! C was the only one out of the family to get the big move at the chains correct on his first try!
J Rats Back 12a (Chocolate Factory, RRG) FIRST 5.12 SEND!!!! And he did it second go!

CragDad on Ponies in the Desert 12a

Crag Dad + Cragmama: Our goals were basically the same so I’m lumping us together! Steve has been slowly but surely chipping away at a significant lifetime climbing milestone – 100 unique 5.12 sends. His main goal for this trip was to tick as many as possible on this trip, so that he would be in a good position to finish out that goal by the end of the year. He needed 5 at the start of the trip, and was able to add 3 new ones to his list. After spending the past several seasons with hard projecting agendas, I was psyched to support him on his goal while knocking back as many low 12s as possible. ,
Mass Hysteria 12a (Lower Lodges, Breaks) We both tried this one for the first time over Labor Day and couldn’t quite make it happen. This one is a banger. Even with amazing conditions compared to the sweat fest of Labor Day, we each still took 3 burns on the day to make it happen!
Suppress the Rage 12a (Sunnyside, Muir Valley, RRG) Another redemption send for both Steve and I after previously trying with terrible conditions! (Can you tell that weather on the east coast is a crux in and of itself?!?) I really enjoyed this route – crimpy, compressiony boulder problem down low, with a cool deadpoint move up high!
J Rats Back 12a (Chocolate Factory, RRG) Steve has had this one sitting in the hopper since 2017, when I sent, but he only had one chance on it b/c he’d been working something else. Back then who woulda thought the next time he got on it, he’d be sending alongside his then 7yo son?!!?
Keepin’ It Real 12a (Chocolate Factory, RRG) I’d already done J Rat as well as it’s neighbor to the right Mike Teavee, so I decided to try this line that I’d never seen anyone on before. It is decidedly not as good as the previously mentioned ones (sharp in places, very sandy in others), but the movement was actually quite cool. I’d say it’s definitely worth doing if you like hard crimpy cruxes!
Summer Solstice 12b (Velo Crag, RRG) This one was a bonus for me on the last day, and ended up being the highlight of my whole trip! A techy testpiece that would be more at home at Endless Wall than the Red, this one is 90 feet of precision, tension, and lockoffs. I loved all the movement except for the reachy first 2 bolts, which were non-moves for Steve, but for me featured awkward moves from feet so low I’m generating momentum from my tippy toes. The rest of it though…..absolutely amazing! I had to dig super deep at the top of this one, and I’m really proud of this 2nd go send to end our trip!

If you are reading this right as it is published (and you live in the Southeast), we’ve probably got just under a month left in the fall season. As for our crew, CragDad is hoping to hit lucky 100 before the end of the year, as well as do battle with an old nemesis from a few years ago, The Ruchert Motion 13a (more on our history with that route here). I’m gonna do a little bit of project shopping as I follow CragDad around, while Big C has a serious case of 5.12 fever (he actually just nabbed number 2 this past weekend at the New with a 2nd go send of Morning Dew!) Tell me in the comments how YOUR fall has been, and what you are hoping to accomplish in the last few weeks of fall!


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