Dirtbag climbing: Family style

July 23, 2011 8 comments

Mt Rushmore

Taking my kids on their first road trip out West may have left me broke, but it was so worth it. Not only was it their first time west, but also their first time outdoor climbing and first time dirtbagging it.  We took I-90 out to Lander Wyoming and hit all of the attractions like Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Wall Drug then rounded it out with a (too short of a stint) through the Tetons and Yellowstone.

Being a single mom who doesn’t make a whole lot of money, I knew deciding to take them on a trip like that would be a stretch.  My plan? Do it as cheaply as possible!  Which meant choices like: cereal with milk on the back of the tailgate in the mornings in parking lots for breakfast.  The first morning of this my 12 year old showed her disdain by rolling her eyes and scrunching up her nose, “Really mom?”  Yes, really, my little diva!  We also lived on Nutella, PBJ, and other simple foods.

My son eating breakfast

Other dirtbagging tricks were on the way out sleeping in my truck.  My son was short enough to lie down in the backseat and my daughter and I reclined the front seats.  It was really pretty comfortable.  When we arrived to our destination, the International Climber’s Festival, we opted for the free camping, took $2 showers at NOLS, and I volunteered to offset the cost of my admission.

By the middle of the trip they pretty much embraced our hippie ways.  One of the funniest things was when we stopped at a truck stop in Rapid City for a shower.  My daughter was like, we can’t stop here, it is full of “burly men!”  I told her to trust me, it was perfectly legit.  My days from following the Dead taught me many tricks of living on the road.  She calmed down when she saw it was in fact clean and not at all sketch.  This trip reminded me of how much fun I used to have in the summers living like a hippie, I fully embraced it and had a great time, my attitude wore off on them and they started to relax and have fun with it too.

My daughter crushin' it at the Ok Corral

Road tripping out West is the quintessential American experience.  I am really grateful I was able to do this trip with my kids.  It is something they will always remember.  I giggle when I think of them at my age talking about it to each other, saying something like, “Remember when our crazy mom took us out West when we were kids and we lived like dirtbags?  That was so cool!”

Don’t miss my guest post on PembaServes detailing the International Climber’s Festival.



June 16, 2011 4 comments

A few weeks ago I went to West Virginia to rock climb, but instead spent the day falling.  On purpose.  I went to the New River Rendezvous Climber’s Festival and took a clinic with author/climbing guide Arno Ilgner.  For those unfamiliar, he wrote two books on mental training and climbing, The Rock Warrior’s Way and Espresso Lessons.  He links the mindfulness of climbing to the work of earlier authors and mystic like Carlos Castaneda and Dan Millman.

The clinic was incredibly eyeopening for me.  Ever since my whipper outside, I thought I was pretty comfortable with falling.  Arno asked us in the beginning of the clinic what we hoped to gain with this clinic and we had any fear.  I brazenly said I wasn’t really afraid, I just wanted to learn proper technique and learn the “right way” to fall.  Yet, I also know I am less willing to go for it when there are consequences (not on top-rope).  Arno told us several things to work on while falling.  We should take three breaths and on the third exhale, fall while breathing out, relax our arms and legs, look down and quietly let our feet brace the rock face.

After the first fall, I was shocked.  I actually grabbed for the rope.  I never knew I did that.  I was completely unaware. This told me I was more afraid than I thought; your body doesn’t lie.  It took me several tries to break this habit before I could successfully implement the other steps.  The point of practicing is that you will create new habits so when you do fall unexpectedly, your body will remember what to do.

I definitely recommend this clinic to all climbers.  Arno is quiet and gentle in his teaching, which is very effective in rock climbing.  The mindfulness needed in climbing is one of my favorite aspects of climbing, which is why I love Arno’s work.  It was such an honor to meet, climb and learn from him.

How Stella can cure a girl’s blues


Girls and trucks

I have secretly wanted an International Scout or a beat up old Ford pick-up truck ever since I can remember. But, seeing as how these vehicles aren’t very practical, I have been driving around in my mid-sized car and making it somewhat of a habit to date guys with badass, sexy trucks to get my fix; my favorites being of the Toyota family.

Now I know this will sound very stereotypical, but it seems to me that the quintessential outdoor vehicle for chicks is a Jeep, and for dudes, it is a truck. So for a long time it never really occurred to me to have my own truck. I was content to date guys that had trucks. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t exactly criteria, but it definitely helped their case.

I was also content to use other people’s rope and quickdraws when sport climbing. I told myself, naw, I don’t need to buy my own, I’ll just date guys that have all of the gear I’ll need.
So you see my flaw. I had made myself dependant on other people, usually men, to: 1. Climb anywhere outside. 2. Access remote climbing areas. I’ll admit, I may be slow at times, but I usually come around to reason and I now see that this is totally wack.

I pride myself on my independence. I love having my own place and am not eager to jump into a relationship just because a hot guy looks my way. Oh no, I am really picky and if the earth doesn’t move, it’s not worth it to me. So this behavior just did not fit me at all. I have been told by guys that I am intimidating. I don’t try to be. I am just me and know what I want. If they can’t keep up, or are insecure, it’s not my problem. So what was my problem? Why was I acting like Climber-Chick-Cinderella waiting for her knight to ride up in his Shining-Toyota-Armor to escort her to the crag? Ick. Things had to change and fast.

Rest assured this botched up fairy tale does have a happy ending. I am now the proud owner of a Petzl Nomad rope, half a dozen Black Diamond Hotwire draws, and, my pride and joy, Stella Blue. That’s right; I bought a 2008 Toyota Tacoma, who is so sexy and badass! But, most importantly: Mine. All, mine.

Puerto Rico mas fina

May 13, 2011 1 comment

Ahhhh. Yes, indubitably  that was a sigh.  I just spent 5 glorious days on the Island of Puerto Rico where I pretty much didn’t have to do anything.  It was wonderful.

I accompanied a friend of mine, who won an all-expense paid trip through his job with  Best Buy;  and here is a shout-out to you, you are one of my new favorite retailers!

I cannot tell you how heavenly it was to be awake and lying in front of the ocean by 8am, only to be interrupted to eat breakfast at 11am, and not feel the least bit guilty!  I mean, seriously, if I attempt to go to the lake to catch some rays while at home, my mind is always reminding me of the millions of things I should be doing instead.  Or I am with my kids and want to be making fun memories for them instead of indulging myself.

The highlight of the trip was an excursion we took to the bio-luminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico.  Biobay is one of the few places on earth where the water actually glows green when you touch it.  We took a guided tour at night and paddling a kayak into a protected cove, through a canopy of trees, in the pitch-black night.  When you get far enough in, if you place your hand under water and swish it around, it emits a green glowing color.  If you lift up a handful, your hand is sparkling with green diamonds.  It was so amazing.  The quiet darkness, the serene water, the glow of the ocean, was truly magical.  Our guide explained the why the water does that but, I can’t remember exactly why, and honestly, I don’t care.  I am happy to think of it as a magical wonder of the world.

Photo Credit: Neall Dollhopf


April 7, 2011 4 comments

Miranda RayneClimbing is 85%-90% mental.  I realize that is a pretty bold statement, but I stand behind it.  And I can I prove it.

Last weekend I redeemed myself on a climb I took a whipper on last fall at the RRG (see Instant Karma).  It was at The Shire on Pee-Wee (5.7) which is a straight up easy 7 until you get to the chains where it gets a little creative, and, where I fell last year.  I was determined to send it this time.  The day before I was leading 5.9+ routes without a problem so this should be no big deal, right?

Wrong.  I was fine until I got to the spot where I fell and I started to shake and noticed I was holding my breath instead of breathing.  I called to my belayer to give me a take.  I shook out my hands, took some deep breaths, told myself I was being crazy, that I was fine.  I had this…I must have taken three takes before I convinced myself to just move on it.  And I got it, I clipped into the chains and clipped in my rope.  Giant sigh of relief.  Big smile. Cheering ensues.  The two people I was with were me last year too, including my belayer.  We came full-circle.

Now for proof that it is a mental game.  Right after that climb I went on to redpoint Audie (5.8) and a really nice four-star, 5.9, Miranda Rayne.  I was completely calm, focused and breathing.  I didn’t feel nervous or uncertain on any of the moves.  There is no reason why I should have taken so long or had been so scared on Pee-Wee, except for head telling me to be.

It is our thoughts that create our reality, but we are not our thoughts.  We are more.  This is true in all areas of our life, including relationships, read this insightful piece by eliz_climbs, it’s the same thing.  It’s all a mental game.

Looking ahead

April 1, 2011 4 comments

I can finally catch my breath again, almost.  So, I am heading out of town for 4 days of climbing at RRG.  Can’t wait to feel real rock again and use my new draws.  It will be so good for me.  I will also be breaking in Stella Blue, for those who don’t know what I am talking about, stay tuned to Geargals.net.

When I return I will only have 2 weeks left of school and I will finally have my B.S. degree, dang, it has been a long time in coming.  So I have been thinking about my goals and what I have to look forward when I return.

Looking forward to:

1. I will soon be a regular guest-blogger on Geargals.net.

2. I will be able to commit more time to my own blog.

3. No more school (for now).


1. Start doing yoga more.

2. Find an internship.

3. Be able to do 4 pull-ups.

Categories: Life as I know it Tags:

Getting my lead on

March 20, 2011 4 comments

I am finally certified to lead climb at my gym.  I have been lead climbing outside, but 5.8s and 5.9s; when I went to test at my gym last summer, I had just begun climbing 5.10s and I didn’t pass.  I didn’t pass because all of the lead routes at my gym are juggy, overhanging 5.10-12s and I couldn’t flash a 10 as a warm-up back then, so I failed.

It took me until now to get my nerve up to try again.  I am a solid 10 climber.  I can onsite 5.10bs (sometimes) but I like slabby, technical climbs more than the overhanging ones, and I am better at them.  Plus, I was not at all bored with top-roping at my gym; they change the routes frequently enough that I always have projects to work and feel-good fun climbs to send.  But, I have to admit it was a issue with my pride.  I wanted to be legit just for my own sake.

So I tried again.  I chose a route that also had a top-rope and top-roped it first.  No problem.  So I grabbed my buddy Travis to belay me and my friend Chris to watch/certify me.  I clipped into the first three clips, so far so good.  Then I got to the fourth and had to commit to a move that was a bit sketch and it put me well above my last draw, so there were consequences if I fell.

I climbed to the point where I had to go for it and chickened out.  I down-climbed to more a secure footing, shook out my hands, stretched my forearms and took several breaths.  I went for it again and, again wigged out, afraid to commit.  My forearms started to get pumpy so I yelled for a take.  Travis said no.  “Well,” I said “then I’m going to…Falling”.  And I fell.  But I fell with a smile.  I wasn’t scared.  I knew he had me and I have taken a bad fall outside, so this didn’t phase me.

I hung there for a moment, got my head together and then started climbing again.  This time when I got to the move, I just committed to it and went for it.  I got it.  Clipped.  And then moved on to finish the route.

When I was back on the ground I felt that rush I forgot about.  It is such an adrenaline rush to lead.  To take that chance and know you can take a decent fall is exhilarating.   Top-roping is great for dialing in technique, but you don’t have that fear or that rush. I am counting the days until I can lead outside again.  And in case you are wondering, it is 12 days.

Categories: Rock Climbing Tags: