I handed over a wadded up ten dollar bill to the guy behind a
sign that said “Jersey Rail Jam sign-up.”
The woman behind the table ecstatically informed me that I was
the first female skier to sign up all day. I asked if there would be a female
category – expecting the usual “There aren’t enough of you. So no.”
At this point, I was pretty used to the “female at a local
rail jam” routine: Show up, be the only girl, compete in the amateur category,
get lumped in with the boys, feel a little weird but still have a lot of fun,
Sometimes though, there are other girls.
In one competition a few years back, there were five girls combined between skiers and snowboarders. A couple of them were quite young, about ten years old. I took it upon myself to ask the judge’s panel if we could have an overall girls category between skiers and snowboarders – we had the numbers for a podium. “Sorry, there just aren’t enough of you.” I pleaded “you don’t even have to give us prize money like the boys, just throw one or two of us a beanie as honorable mention or something.”
Nothing. We got nothing.
You Suck at Skiing
There are few casual female freestyle skiers compared to men. With an atmosphere like that previously described, it is not hard to see why. Combine that with occasional sexist heckling from the lifts and freestyle skiing becomes quickly unappetizing.
“Hey you suck at skiing, but you’re hot!”
These are actual words yelled to me off a lift line at my home resort. Generally, us female skiers are very grateful to receive such helpful feedback.
But tides shifted that day in New Jersey, as I was informed that not only was there a female category for both skiers and snowboarders, female skiers and boarders would also receive the same amount of prize money as the men. Suddenly, I felt a little bit like I mattered.
When it came time to practice for the Rail Jam, my second
surprise of the day came. I was not the only girl – there was another one.
When I saw her at the top of the hill, we locked eyes. My sole competitor opened her arms and we instantly brought it in for a hug. “I’m not alone!” I said. She echoed my sentiments. We agreed that this was going to be way more fun having someone to compete against.
Practice went on, we talked tricks. We watched each other, we sized each other up, we cheered for each other. It was wonderful to have a competitor.
Then came the actual competition.
What is a Rail Jam?
If you have never witnessed a rail jam, it works like this:
there are a series of features set up that the participants can use to do
whatever tricks they want. The competition is an open format and there is no
order – it’s a free for all. After you complete your run, you hike back up to
the top of the hill and repeat. We had an hour to “jam” and judging is usually
based on overall impression – how hard are your runs in terms of technical
difficulty, how clean, etc.
My competitor Jess and I went with the boys. Before the competition, I was a little worried about this. I was concerned that I wouldn’t get as many runs in as I wanted to since there were so many people – 98% of which were men (and by men I mean mostly teenage boys).
My final shock of the day was that at the top of the hill, I was treated with respect. I was not harassed, I didn’t feel “special” or “weird” or like I was on the verge of being asked on a date or something. I was just a skier competing, like everyone else.
First Place in Fun
One of the mothers on the sidelines commented that I looked
like I was having the most fun out of anyone. She might have been right. I was so
satisfied by the community I got to be a part of that day that it showed all
over my face.
Though I technically ended up in last place – I skied better than I ever had in a competition. I had never landed a front 270 in competition before until that day. And because rules are rules, as the second place winner for the ladies ski comp, I walked away with $150 and a neat little swag bag.
Make it Accessible
I know, I know. The second place male skier had to compete against way more people. He did harder tricks than me and admittedly, receiving prize money when you came in last place really doesn’t make any sense.
But consider that if we are ever going to increase female participation in action sports, we must figure out a way to make women feel like they belong there. Competitive skiing has increased my confidence and enriched my life in many ways. I think there are a lot of young girls and women out there that would really enjoy it too, but they don’t feel like they’re invited to the party. If competition sponsors decide they want to shell out the extra dollars to make the ladies feel like they’re worth a damn, then I truly do not see a problem.
For many, the 2020 Jersey Jam was simply a strange gathering
on the side of a small ski hill in New Jersey. For me, it was a win for the
women’s ski community.
Thank you, Mountain Creek for hosting this event. I had so much fun and it feels good to matter.
After visiting the magical island of Mallorca for the first time in 2018, I decided that I had to return in 2019. The second time, I brought my other half with me so he could see the island I had come to love so much.
Barely Made It
The adventure began with a startling automated text message the morning of our departure.
“Due to government intervention, your flight to Barcelona has been cancelled indefinitely.”
In the week before the trip, riots had broken out in Barcelona. The overall function of the city was severely impaired and the protests centralized around the airport. I had been nervous all week that we somehow wouldn’t make it to Spain. My fears were unfortunately realized.
A few hours and some phone calls later, Michael and I had
somehow cobbled together travel plans departing one week later only costing us
about $200 in flight change fees on the part of Vueling, the local airline that
would take us from Barcelona to Mallorca.
A week later, we were on a flight from Barcelona to
Mallorca, ready to start our island climbing adventure.
After getting picked up by the Rockbusters crew, the same guide service I used in 2018, we were taken grocery shopping and to the Hippocampo hostel. The bathrooms had been fully renovated since 2018 and the rest was as lovely as I remember it.
After getting settled, we sat down to dinner with chef Erin Lingle (who runs a restaurant in DC that is regularly featured in the Michelin travel guide) then went to sleep before our first day of deep water soloing.
How I Packed
After last year’s trip, I came with some wisdom about how to pack. Here are my critical packing list items for deep water soloing:
As many shoes as you can bring. I brought four pairs, some of them were pretty old/non-aggressive. It definitely helped to have a solid rotation of shoes so that you always have a pair that is completely dry.
A dry bag. I didn’t have one the first year, but it was really nice to have to ensure your stuff stays dry around the crag. Also nice to have if you want to swim over to the start of the route and keep your shoes dry.
Jackets. It got to be a little windy and soggy sometimes, so my favorite combination was to put my thin outdoor research rain jacket underneath my puffy. This allowed my puffy to keep me warm without drenching it in seawater.
Pro-Bro tip: I saw a lot of guys bring two pairs of swim trunks out to the crags. Seemed like it was nice to be able to change into different trunks halfway through the day. Alternatively, you can be like the Italians and wear a speedo, which seems to mitigate some of the swim trunk issues. Do as you please.
Many of the crags I visited in
Mallorca required downclimbs to start the routes. For many people and sometimes
myself included, the downclimbs are scarier than actually climbing the routes
However, keep in mind that the grades of the downclimbs are pretty low. Additionally, there is usually some sort of way to completely sit and relax before actually starting the routes. It is not as if the route is a combination of a downclimb and an upclimb of the routes.
This is not true for all of them however, some start with a convenient cliff edge or can be accessed by boat.
Obviously, the falls are the
hallmark of deep water soloing. If you are planning to go on a deep water solo
trip, I would recommend ensuring that you are comfortable taking falls while
leading. Additionally, if you can take any of these falls while on steep,
overhanging routes in the gym or outside, this is great mental preparation for
a trip to Mallorca.
Rockbusters does a great job of taking you to good “warm-up” crags on day one to help you adjust to the ropelessness of deep water soloing. Mentally, I get better and better throughout the week. It fascinates me that usually my hardest sends seem to happen at the end of the week long trips. Despite increased fatigue, because I am very comfortable with trying hard and taking falls by the end of the week, I climb my best. I would love to see what I could do if I had time to spend a month there, but alas, duty calls and I can only get a week away from work.
Getting heckled by Germans. Nothing like getting beta sprayed at you from two fat, German guys on a dingy.
Halloween. The Hippocampo campground went from deserted to full of about 10 local families with their kids – all dressed up for Halloween and trick or treating at our hostel rooms. Sorry kids, all I had was protein Clif Bars!
Sending Metrosexual and Bisexual.Since I had seen these two routes on my first trip, I knew I wanted to do both of them. They are located in the Cala Barques crag. Felt really, really cool to send 5.12 while deep water soloing.
Why Go Deep Water Soloing in Mallorca?
Aesthetics and Vacation Quality. Let’s face it, most climbing trips do not boast the glamour of a beach bar on the approach to the crag, surrounded by gorgeous limestone cliffs and turquoise water. At best you are staying in a pretty nice cabin probably without cell service. At worst, you are in a tent clutching bear spray after you cooked dinner in the dark on a rock for two hours. Getting the vibe of a beach vacation with the exertion and thrill of a climbing trip is really nice.
Projecting is extra hard. Projecting is hard when you deep water solo. There is no “working the moves”. Once you make it farther on the route than you have before, you need to take whatever beta your buddy gave you and make it go first try, lest you fall into the water for the 50th time. It can be extra frustrating, but I think it makes you a better climber overall – and the sends are very rewarding when they come.
Improve your mental game. Taking falls on lead can be scary, getting yourself to be OK with falling into water is a different challenge. Though objectively, you know that falling is mostly ok (depending on how high you are…) getting your body and mind to believe it is a different story. Deep water soloing is a great challenge in convincing your brain to deal with risk. It is both thrilling and extremely satisfying.
So go on, get out there. Mallorca is a climbing trip you won’t ever forget. If you have any questions about using Rockbusters as a guide service, feel free to shoot me an email. I have been on three trips with them and they have all been an amazing experience.
Please note that if you decide to book a trip with Rockbusters and you book through the links in the above article, I get a small credit that helps keep this site up and running. However, I was not financially affiliated with them before adventuring with their guide service.. Rockbusters is a friend of this blog and they wanted to find a way to help me keep it running. Additionally, there are links to Amazon for the products that I packed, used and enjoyed. If you choose to buy any of them, at no cost to you, it gives this site a little kick back to the blog as well.
Mondays after a weekend of climbing are uniquely exhausting and blissful. Because when you go back to your job on Monday, you carry the residual joy of spending two full days outside doing what you love the most. But you are also exhausted and your job requirements are probably indifferent to how badly you need a nap.
Since moving to New Jersey in 2018, my boyfriend, Mike, and I have adjusted to many things: living together, East coast traffic, and the haul of a drive to get to the nearest sport climbing crag: Rumney, New Hampshire. Despite the long commute for a short weekend, we make it work. In both 2018 and 2019 we have gotten to Rumney many weekends in a row. It’s tiring, but it’s totally worth it.
It might be that you don’t have any aspirations of climbing harder or better, but perhaps you might set the goal of climbing outside more and doing a better job of getting more pitches in when you do.
With that here are some tips I have for you to help you with your own weekend warrior adventures. I hope these help you get more days of climbing outside this season and many to come.
Tip 1: Have Your Gear Ready to Go All the Time
This seems simple, but packing all your shit up on Thursday or Friday night when you are tired from work sucks even more if your gear, camping supplies, etc. are all over the place. A strategy that has worked well for Mike and I is to keep a camp box in our car during climbing season. Anything we need for outdoor climbing weekends lives in a box in my car in the Fall. When we need to get ready to head out for the weekend, we pack a cooler, some clothes, shoes, harnesses, chalk bags. Packing is quick, painless, and our stuff is where it needs to be when we are ready to hit the road.
Streamline the process of climbing outdoors. Eliminate hurdles and excuses. Spend one weekend organizing your camp box and be done with it forever.
This is the camp box that Mike and I use: It fits everything pretty well.
Tip 2: Set Expectations on Your Schedule with Family and Friends Ahead of Time
I love my family. I love my friends. I also love rock climbing. So I make sure to find ways to spend time loving and enjoying all three. My recommendation is to communicate to your loved ones way ahead of time that you are “booked” to go climbing for certain weekends. Mike and I have a google calendar that we share with our family/friends and we have reserved the weekends that we will be climbing on the calendar. If you don’t make the time for it, you’ll never get to do it.
Tip 3: Meet New People and Make Outdoor Climbing Opportunities
I know I am fortunate to have a car, a live-in climbing partner, and a job with guaranteed weekends off. With that, when Mike and I decide it’s a climbing weekend, we are set to go. However, if you are car-less or partner-less, or you still don’t really feel confident in climbing outdoors without friends to “show you the ropes”, the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” comes to mind.
If you are new to climbing and someone offers to show you around, take the opportunity. Meet new people. Introduce yourself at the gym. Someone is going climbing outside at your gym. Network your way into an outdoor climbing opportunity if you have to. In college, I had all fall break off from school and none of my friends were going climbing outside. I chatted around the gym until I found some people who were willing to let me tag along. Which was awesome because me and my friend Becca have been buddies ever since!
Tip 4: Good Weather is Hard to Come By
Maybe you live somewhere that has awesome weather all the time. But even if you do, when you are limited to Saturday and Sunday as your days to climb and the weather is good, you had better get your ass outside. And if the weather is just OK, but still manageable, you should go anyway. If you don’t, it will probably snow next weekend.
Tip 5: Pay for Convenience Where you Can
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you make some money because you work during the week which is why you are a weekend warrior in the first place. Now let’s talk about paying for convenience.
I love camping. I love cooking while camping. I love both of those things even more when I have plenty of time for them. However, when you have 48 hours to climb and drive, time is of the essence. Here are some of my favorite ways I like to spend an extra buck for significantly increase convenience in my short, outdoor climbing trips:
Paying $25 for a night in a hostel instead of setting up camp when I got to Rumney very late one Friday Night. I slept in a bed instead of setting up camp at midnight in the dark. Additional cost of convenience: $13
Not packing dinner to make at camp and grabbing dinner it at local restaurant: $25. Again, I love the outdoors, but cooking camp meals when it’s 30 degrees outside sucks. Not to mention that grocery shopping and prepping a decent camp meal can be a bit of a pain if you are pressed for time when packing.
I am not promoting that anyone waste money on convenience if they don’t want to. However, if dropping an extra $20 or $30 in a weekend can help make the whole trip a little less exhausting, then why not? What is important is that you’re going climbing outside, the rest is details.
Tip 6: Lower Your Climbing Area Standards
I used to live a two hours from the Red River Gorge, a world-renowned climbing area. People travel from Europe to climb there. Currently I do not live so close. However, there are a few scrappy places within 2-3 hours. When I can make a day trip and it makes sense, I go climbing there. If you want to get better at outdoor climbing, you need to climb outside. And if your best opportunity for outdoor climbing in a reasonable distance is a bit of a choss pile, it might behoove you to go enjoy it anyway.
Tip 7: Do a Little Planning
Have you ever had a day of climbing where you get out too late, you go to a crag, the thing you want to get on is taken, then you go to another crag and the same thing happens? Then all of a sudden it’s 2:00 and you’ve climbed one route? Yeah. That sucks. It is possible that a little planning would help you avoid that situation.
Though the logistics are a bit different in every place you go, it’s important to have some kind of a plan and some idea of what you want to get on. Even more important is to communicate with your group mates about this. I’ve spent mornings hemming and hawing over where to go in a parking lot, watching other people hiking in. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. Make a game plan in the car, have a back-up plan if you think you need it, then execute. No discussion needed once you’re in the lot ready to hike.
Tip 8: Find a Food Routine
Deciding what to eat and make on a camping trip is nearly as exhausting as the prepping of food itself. If you are trying to get outside a lot (and you are going on back to back weekends), having a simple grocery list/food routine can really help. When you don’t have to google 6 recipes and make a grocery list, the process of packing food for weekend camping becomes much easier.
Here’s a summary of my own food routine. Mike and I make overnight steel cut oats ahead of time. We have protein Clif bars, apples, and PB&J while we climb, and for dinner we either go out or rotate through a couple of standard camp meals that we’re good at making and that we enjoy.
Tip 9: Put your stuff away right when you get home.
Going back to tip #1, it really helps to have a place for everything and usually after a weekend trip, clothes need washed, tents need dried, food needs to be put away. My advice is to make sure you are back home with enough time to do these things, then just get it done. Monday is going to be exhausting enough without having to drag your smelly tent out of the car. So when you get back on Sunday, do future you a solid and start getting your stuff ready for next time. I’m not perfect at this and never will be. But even when I do an 80% clean-up job when I get home, it sure is better than procrastinating about it.
What are your biggest weekend climbing hacks? What motivates you to get outside and climb even when life is crazy? Leave a comment or shoot me an email – I’d love to hear your tips and tricks to getting outside more and making the most of it!
Please note that this post contains Amazon Affiliate Links to products I use and enjoy. If you purchase the book through my link it helps keep the information and articles on senderellastory.com in existence and free to access.
It isn’t often you meet up with old friends, make new friends, and accomplish a multi-year goal in the span of three short days. It is my great fortune that all of this happened Memorial Day Weekend of 2019. Despite the humidity, the time crunch, the sopping wet crags, and the holiday weekend crowds, in my three Days at the New I was able to finally take down my first 5.12 – and have a a great time doing it.
In a later post, I’m going to get into the nuts and bolts that went into my successful send that weekend, but for now I want to take you on a little journey through the New River Gorge. If you haven’t visited, I would highly recommend it.
In natural dirtbag fashion, my friends and I opted for the subtle joys of waking up to the crow of the rooster at 5:30 every morning, and going to sleep only went the campfire burns out. We really enjoyed our stay at Cantrell’s Ultimate Rafting. And let me tell you, I wish the shower head at my house was as nice as theirs. Overall, the accommodations were the level of glamping that I prefer during a weekend of climbing. Fire ring and picnic tables are a major plus. And at $10/person per night, it’s not a bad deal, either.
About a month before our trip, I went ahead and picked out this route in the New. Between the rave reviews on Mountain Project and promises of a short-person friendly crux – I was ready to give this route my best.
DAY 1: Beta Pirates
On our way into the crag we coincidentally met the only two other people that were at the parking lot at that time. We started talking to them and sure enough we were all piling in to work on the same route. These fine chaps from PA had already sussed a lot of beta the day prior and we were all pretty stoked to get to work together on the route. Unfortunately, Mike got a little more out of them than I did, since the two guys were a bit taller than me, but boy was it good fun.
Day one was totally dedicated to learning the beta – I didn’t try to redpoint on Day 1. All I wanted to do was get the moves dialed and wired into my brain (and scribbled in my notebook).
PSYCHED TO HIKE
The approach to the buttresses were SOAKED. So there was a lot of splashing and puddle avoidance going on. However, once you were out of the soggy woods, there was a lovely view of this bridge that you could take in before hiking up a moderately awful hill. The views and the climbs were well worth it.
DAY 2: Critical Rest Day
On Saturday I woke up totally sore and completely worked from the day prior. My body felt like garbage. I knew that if I wanted to send Starry, I was going to need to be fresh. The only climbing I did on Saturday consisted of me saving a girl’s gear from a surprisingly stout 5.10. The New definitely has a reason for it reputation for run-out bolts and height-dependent moves.
DAY 3: Riding the Send Train
Sunday was our final day and my last change to do this thing. I woke up nauseous. It was time to do my first 5.12 – at long last. I felt the way you might get the morning of opening night for your high school’s musical. Tingling, excited, tenuous nausea. I was so amped up that the morning is a bit of a blur. By the time I was at the wall, I was ready to go.
After I took my warm-up burn and hung the draws on Starry it was go time. Mike got into the zone and absolutely smashed it. Then it was my turn. Before I went up I literally said “I’m so happy you sent, it doesn’t even matter if I do.” The pressure was on, but I knew I’d be happy with how the weekend went even if I went home empty handed. Fortunately, unlike all of my other 5.12 projects, this one came together smoothly and swiftly. On try #4, I did the damn thing! And I’ll be honest I was sobbing happy tears when I clipped the anchors. When I got down I’d attracted some onlookers and they were pretty psyched for me too! And then this other guy that had been working on it, went ahead and sent right after me! The send train was in full force and the stoke was palpable.
Climbing is great but good friends are better
I am extremely happy for the send that weekend, but send or no send, a weekend messing around with your friends in the mud is worth the drive.
Overall, it was a solid weekend out and I couldn’t be more grateful for my supportive friends, the good times, and I am so unbelievably stoked to have gotten to send my first 5.12.
What was your first 5.12 like? Did it take a while or did you do it quickly? What route did you do? If you aren’t there yet – what routes are you eyeing up this season?Leave a comment or shoot me an email. I would love to support you in sending your goal routes!
Sometimes moving forward can make you pretty sad about what you’ve left behind. Since moving to the Northeast I have found myself becoming a bit nostalgic about my old home crag.
Previously my two-hour away weekend crag was the beautiful Red River Gorge. Replete with sturdy sandstone, excellent and plentiful camping, and more memories than I could possibly replay when I go to sleep at night. The Red River Gorge is my favorite place on earth.
I moved away from Cincinnati in 2018 and today I live in Hoboken, NJ. It’s a short bus ride away from Manhattan. My sport climbing options have changed drastically since moving. Instead of the Red, I can now go about two hours to Birdsboro, PA, 6 hours to Rumney, NH, 8 Hours to the New River Gorge, and as of 2018 – 3 hours to Thacher State Park in upstate New York.
Days outside are limited in the Northeast in the Spring – between rain and work and increasing temperatures, if a day out is possible, you need to go.
With a high of 70 and no rain in sight, my boyfriend, Michael, and I headed to Thacher State Park in upstate New York for the weekend. Between the glowing reviews in the Climbing Magazine article, local recommendations that “It’s better than Birdsboro”, and clear communication from social media that glorious views were guaranteed, we booked an Air Bnb and set out on our quest to wrassle some Limestone.
It took us about three hours to get there from Hoboken – the drive was scenic and there was hardly any traffic.
As we drove into the park the location of the Visitor’s Center was apparent and well marked with signs along the road. The buildings were new and the bathrooms were clean and very nice.
Note that May 1 – November 1 you must pay $6 for parking per day.
We had to sign a permit to climb there which didn’t take much time and then we were off.
Where to Stay
The most convenient option is to stay at Thompson’s lake Campground. I personally did not get to stay there since it does not open until May 1 and Closes October 13. It is about two miles from Thacher State Park and it looks like a nice place to camp.
There were plenty of affordable Air Bnbs to stay in around Albany – about 25 minutes away. Stay in one of these if you aren’t interested in camping or if you are climbing before Thompson opens. The one bedroom my boyfriend and I booked looked nice enough and only cost $50. Pretty affordable weekend trip, overall.
Enter Through the Squeeze
One of the many quirks of Thacher State Park is that to get into the climbing area you have to enter through The Squeeze. There is no other way to get to the crag.
Similar to Fat Man’s Misery in Hocking Hills State Park (for all you Ohio Folks out there), it’s a tight fit. In order to enter the crag you have to take your backpack off and slither sideways through 30 foot long seam in the rock. Here’s a video of someone else’s descent since I don’t have a video of mine.
PRO TIP! As you go down, once you’re a few steps in, take your pack off and slide it along the top of the shelf, then bring it down. Don’t worry about your pack fitting. Between the rope, my helmet and my many snacks, my pack fit just fine.
Navigating the Crags
There is an app you can purchase for $10 that is comprehensive and it is a bit more helpful than navigating the crag using Mountain Project. However, Mountain Project has plenty of helpful details as well. An added benefit of the app is that your purchase supports funding for the Thacher Climbing Coalition.
Coming out of the squeeze, to your left you will see a waterfall and the crag called The Cave. Turn Right and you continue down what is essentially a single path below the cliffs that takes from Mahican all the way to the East End. Traversing the entirety of climbable cliff face takes approximately 15 minutes.
My visit was on the opening day in the spring of 2019. The weather was nice. It had rained a little bit overnight, but nothing exceptional. Conditions were ripe for a very crowded climbing area.
Overall there were people on many of the routes and in most of the dry areas, it was not overly crowded. However, due to the nature of the crags, there isn’t much space to move around or sit near the bases of routes. If this place became overly crowded, I could see it being a frustrating and potentially dangerous situation.
I’m just going to put it out there: I ripped a football off of the wall and it beat me in the chest. Unpleasant. This was on top of knocking off smaller bits of limestone and yelling “ROCK!” all day.
I would like to note that it was the first day of the season. I imagine that in the winter, as ice forms in and on the rock, freezes, and subsequently thaws more unstable rock forms. What was once a clean route in the fall probably gets a little hairier once the spring rolls around. I am sure it will get better and better as the seasons go on.
While I truly appreciate the work that has been done to establish the area and I completely understand that cleaning up a climbing area takes time and traffic, visitors should expect to climb on choss and should be prepared for holds to break off at fairly regular intervals.
In comparison to Birdsboro, PA – a rock quarry turned climbing area, I would say that that Thacher is much more chossy. However, my sample size of time spent at each area is somewhat limited – so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
In short, helmets are highly recommended.
Everything is covered in a thin layer of dry mud. This makes foot placement a bit more precocious. I am not sure if this will clean up with more rain, more traffic, etc. A comment on mountain project clarifies that this usually happens after a spring rain which in consistent with my experience that day.
I only have a couple of comparison data points to work with: myself and my boyfriend Michael. However, at the time this is being written I would say that typically Michael can easily onsight 11c/11d. And personally, I regularly onsight 10d.
Michael tried putting up an 11c in Mahican and after about 30 minutes of hangdogging, we packed it in and headed to a new area. Perhaps many key holds have broken off since it was graded. However, it has been a very long time since I have seen Mike abandon something. I am not fully convinced that the route was 11c.
We headed over to the East End where we put up a slabby 5.10a. I did not enjoy it much since I am not a huge fan of slab; however I would say the grading on this one felt accurate.
Overall, the grading is a bit inconsistent and I plan to send some formal feedback to the Thacher Climbing Coalition – for whatever my opinion is worth.
“Save our Gear”
I then hopped onto the 11c next door: Pearlvana. The guidebook touted an 80 foot route, but in reality the route was really 35 feet up from a large ledge that has a bolt in which a belayer can secure herself.
I was extremely intimidated by a fairly blank section of rock on slab above the third bolt. However another group who had somehow been told that this route was a 5.10d had started the route, clipped three out of four bolts, and was looking for a gear rescue if possible.
I slapped around on the face of this wall for a pretty long time, putting in probably 15 burns in total. I wanted to save their gear, but I was unsuccessful. Considering that my hardest redpoint was 11d at the time and I had sent a couple of other 11cs, this route may not be sangbagged, it might just be tough. However, comparing to the other 11cs through 12as that I have worked – this crux seems like the hardest thing I’ve ever tried.
“This is 5.10d?!”
Determined to get some fluid, continuous climbing in, Mike and I headed over to a 5.10d we had seen earlier in the day. My objective was to finish out the day by doing some outdoor endurance training by getting some laps in on this 5.10.
This notion is hilarious because after working the crux of this 10d for a pretty frustrating amount of time, I went ahead and had my boyfriend bale me out. Lame. I know, but it was getting dark and we were both ready for a beer.
Mike too, was stopped by this crux and did not bag the onsight. I looked at him and said “I think that’s the first time you haven’t onsighted 5.10 in three years.”
Comparing this to Tweaked Unit – a somewhat similar route at the Red River Gorge I would say this one is a bit harder. Truthfully I would give this “5.10d” more like 5.11b or maybe 5.11c. However, I am 5’4″ and there were some very height-dependent moves on the route.
Overall, the grading is somewhat misleading and inconsistent.
The Bolting and Anchors
The bolting is generous and thoughtful and for all the choss, the bolts are very solid. From what I could see, most of the bolts were glue-ins.
Additionally, cleaning is made extremely easy due to the many pig tails at the anchors. Bolts and anchors are shiny, new, and intelligently placed from what I experienced.
The Climbing here isn’t world class, so don’t come in expecting to be in Oliana. However, the views and aesthetics of the environment were lovely. It really is an awesome area to hang out outside.
We ended our day in Thacher by headingover to a little restaurant in Albany. Shout out to the Methodist Church in town – we definitely changed clothes in the car in their parking lot. It was date night, after all. We needed to dress up! But onto the food.
The fried chicken was amazing, so was my Reuben, and the ramp pesto we had as an appetizer was delicious.
On top of that, the beer selection was local and had plenty of variety. For my second drink, I had an “Albany Sour” which is basically a whisky sour topped with a wine – a red blend if I recall. With that amount of alcohol, I was doing a fabulous job at forgetting that I had yanked five pounds of limestone pebbles into my shirt that day.
Personally, I will not be back. I would prefer to drive two hours to Birdsboro or drive 6 hours to Rumney, or go to two hours the Gunks (no sport there, but the bouldering is fun and hopefully I’ll learn to place gear soon).
However, there are a few situations where my risk reward analysis would lead me to recommend this place.
If you don’t have much outdoor experience and you just need to go learn to to sport climb and belay.
You live close by, it is a convenient day trip and you can get some time climbing outdoors here very easily.
You’re in the area for some other reason and you have some time to kill. E.g. my parents live in Albany and I was going to be up there anyway.
I am pretty hardcore about getting outside however and wherever you can. However for me, the effort, money, and time it takes to get to Thacher could be spent in other ways.
With Respect and Gratitude
Although Thacher is not my cup of tea, I saw countless groups enjoying the outdoors and I witnessed a couple of young ladies put up their first routes on the sharp end. They were so stoked and I was so stoked for them and that was really cool to watch.
Sure, I don’t love the climbing there, but it will clean up eventually. Either way, all the hard work that volunteers have put into the place is certainly appreciated. Those two girls will remember the feeling of clipping their first anchors forever and that is priceless.
I want to thank all the volunteers that have put time and effort into developing the area and fighting for the right to do so. Many people will get to test their limits and enjoy the great outdoors because of their efforts.
What do you think? Have you been to Thacher? What was your experience? Was there a route you enjoyed that I may have missed? Leave a comment or shoot me a note – and please feel free to share this post with anyone who is planning a trip there!
According to U.S. News, a record-breaking 112 million Americans are expected to travel for the Holidays. If you are like me, Christmas means piling presents, a suitcase, and maybe some local drafts in the car and hitting the road to head back to wherever family is.
It also means trying to figure out how to squeeze a workout in between the family functions and the consumption of one or two or ten of Aunt Jenny’s cookies.
If I am driving to whatever family/friends I am visiting and I know they don’t have any home gym options, nothing beats a portable, door frame pull-up bar. So if you have access to that, great! If not, no worries there are other ways to get strong without it. I love to get a good workout in before the holiday family mayhem starts, so if you are like me, take a look some of these workout options!
Workout #1: requires pull-up bar
I like doing what is known as a superset. You pair two exercises together, do them immediately after each other and then rest for a period after you have done both exercises. The workout below has three supersets of exercises and a bonus round.
Additionally, before getting into it any physical activity, I always to a 5 minute dynamic warmup of some sort. (jumping jacks, high knees, shoulder swings, etc. After that, you are good to get into the workout. See circuit below.
Explanations and Modifications
If you can’t quite do a pull-up/chin up (which is totally fine, you will get there!), I used to modify by either putting a foot on the back of a chair or tying resistance bands to the pull-up bar and put one or more feet in the band.
If normal pull-ups are too easy, you can always go the extra mile by bringing weights, a weight pin, a carrabiner and your climbing harness with you (I managed to squeeze in some very hungover weighted pull-ups when I was a music festival this past May. My friends on the trip were amazed at the motivation.)
Side plank can be done either on your hand or on you elbow–whatever works for you!
Yes. a Burpee pull-up is actually jumping up, doing a pull-up, coming back down, jumping your feet back into a plank, doing a push-up and jumping back up to the pull-up bar. If it sounds awful it’s because it is. Here’s a video of it
Workout #2: No equipment
Part 1: Upper body (follow the fitness blender video)
Part 2: Legs (mini leg blasters)
If you want to hit the legs as well, do some mini leg blasters. I still hold fast to my love of leg blasters as a useful way to spend 15 minutes and DESTROY YOUR LEGS without any equipment. (Especially if you are interested in ways to train for skiing.)
Try to do 10 mini leg blasters (see the circuit below) with 30 seconds of rest in-between. Credit to backcountry.com for their article on this leg workout that always has me ready to go for ski season!
So there you have it. Two workouts requiring minimal or no equipment that can help you break a sweat and feel like you’re still contributing to your overall fitness, even if you aren’t at home training on your usual wall.
In January of 2018 I found an attractively inexpensive flight: roundtrip to the island of Mallorca, Spain for $450. Without much thought, much of a plan, or anyone to go with, I booked a flight.
Ten months later I found myself waking up to the cuck-a-doodle doo of a rooster in a Mallorcan hostel. Accompanied by a familiar tour guide, some strangers, and an old friend from Ohio–I was off to my first day of deep water soloing.
What is deep water soloing?
For those unfamiliar with this genre of climbing, it is ropeless route climbing above water. Water deep enough, that is, that you are in no danger of striking the ocean floor when you eventually fall off the wall. Routes are like those you find at your typical outdoor sport crag, without bolts. The routes range in height from 30 feet (10 meters) to as high as you’d ever want to consider, really.
The Value of a Guide Service
If you’ve ever been anywhere new, the propensity to waste time getting lost, pick a restaurant that sucks, or be generally confused about how to prioritze your time can be pretty high.
Google all you want, it helps to have a savvy guide point your trip in the right direction.
That’s why, when I take international climbing trips I go with Rockbusters. Rockbusters ia a tour group headed by human guidebook, Jan Novotny. The first trip I took with them was in June 2017 to Rodellar, Spain. The climbing, the guiding, and the trip were all excellent.
Rockbusters makes planning an international trip easy. You show up to the airport with minimal gear, they pick you up, show you around, and offers some pretty stellar coaching in the process. Jan and his team have certainly earned my status as a repeat customer.
Accommodations & Food
I am accustomed to primitive camping when going on climbing trips, so I was pleasantly surprised. There were three bunk beds piled into one room Myself and the four other women on the trip fit very nicely into the room. These were simple, no-fuss accommodations where you could pay little money and rest your head after a long day of climbing. The pool was pretty nice too, although usually I was too tired and soggy to go for a dip after climbing.
Since it was the off-season for tourists in Mallorca the camp site dining area was completely empty. The ten or so of us in our tour group had free reign to enjoy this perk. One of the trip guides, Erin, owns a restaurant in DC called Mola where she cooks Spanish inspired foods. She has somehow found a way to spend a lot of her time in Europe with Rockbusters cooking delicious (and exceptionally nutritious meals) with a couple of camp stoves and some big pans.
I asked her if she had a bunch of written recipes that she used for her camp cooking. She politely responded “No, I usually just think of it and cook it as I go. I come up with new things to make all the time, otherwise I would get bored. I don’t like to repeat things too often.”
Needless to say, the food was exceptional every night and there was always plenty of wine to go around.
I had trouble sleeping every night and not because of the accommodations. I mainly enjoyed my fellow trip mates so much that I didn’t want to go to bed. When I finally did try to hit the hay, I was genuinely so excited to climb the next day that I stayed awake thinking about it.
Every morning in Mallorca felt like Christmas.
The good news is that most of the hikes into Mallorca are absolutely stunning. At least the ones that I did. Most of them are also on the beach. Even better–some of these beaches have bars.
The Daily Grind
I had never deep water soloed before and leading up to the trip I was pretty nervous that I was going to be so scared to do it that I would hardly get any climbing done.
Fortunately, I did get some climbing done–a LOT actually. Jan is an awesome coach and his high standards and hilariously excessive scrutiny are pretty effective for me. Jan is an exceptional climber and has coached me to achieve some of my best ascents. My first 11a and my first 11d, both of which occurred on separate travels to Spain.
Here’s a little run-down of how we spent each day.
We spend our time beautiful and low consequence crag to “get our feet wet”. Followed by dinner, beer and sleeping.
My and a fellow trip buddy (and fellow engineer!) found a project for the short trip–Hercules 11b. We worked it until sunset and kept getting bucked off the crux.
We took a break from DWS on day 3 to do some sport climbing. It was extremely hot. I love ropes, but wow, I could have used a little more shade and water that day–not exactly ideal conditions for pulling on vertical crimps. Still had a great time and got on some fun stuff!
Porto Colom Lighthouse.
Returned to Cala Barques and bagged the send on Hercules (11b). I laid at the top of the cliff and cried after I topped out. Sending a project as the sun sets in Mallorca was a moving experience.
Everyone split up on the last day to do what they really wanted. Some people were psyched on doing more sport climbing and the rest were on for more deep water solo. I was in the latter half of the group and I am very happy I chose how I did. Somehow, on my 6th day on, I sent my first 11d in three short tries. The route is not ridiculously long, but the moves were big and tough. Here’s some pictures of it.
Jan’s Rockbusters trips always attract really awesome people, and this trip was no exception. The gang I went with was supportive, fun, diverse in age and background and truly a remarkable group of people to go cragging with for the week. Everyone came from different backgrounds, careers, and locations. We were all different ages and from different places, but we got along famously. I don’t think that happens very often, so I definitely cherish that.
I think climbing with new people is really important. Sometimes you put yourself in a sortof mental hierarchy in your usual climbing gang and I think this can be oddly limiting. It was liberating to climb with people that had no expectations of me at all. It allowed me to throw off my usual hang-ups, and just go climbing. The unwavering support and stoke from everyone was palpable–I think that’s what made this such a successful trip.
Effective climbing trip lifestyle strategy: Be the last one on the wall, the last one at the bar. I heeded this advice from Jan and I think it was crucial. No one likes being hungover climbing overhangs.
The motivation to not fall when deep water soloing is more than the fear and failure. The motivation to keep your shoes dry and to not have to pull yourself up a godawful rope swing is almost equally powerful as the aforementioned.
Deep water soloing is horrifying and beautiful all at the same time. It makes you fight all your instincts and sending makes you feel like a superhero.
Photography credit goes out to Adam Pernikar (follow him @pernikphoto). He was our professional trip photographer for the week and boy did he do a great job. He literally sacrificed his skin to make sure we left Spain with some rad photos (he was very sunburnt after hanging out on this line all day in Porto Colom). Jan also did a great job taking photos throughout the week. Even though he sometimes got distracted started taking pictures of sexy tourist ladies.
In any case–having people around with awesome cameras taking pictures of you while you climb is a pretty cool perk and I’m super grateful to Jan and Adam for the photos they took.
Going in for round two
Needless to say it was an incredible experience. I’m psyched about my tics on this trip but boy am I motivated to go back for more.
It was also kindof a bummer to not have my main man on the trip, so he will be aventuring with me when we head back again next fall.
There’s a few routes I want to take down and these gorgeous cliffs are more than enough to keep me inspired through training this season.
We all do it. We take a look at our favorite pro-climber’s social media and think “Well gee, if only someone was paying me to travel to some far and distant land to climb at an incredible exotic crag. I could never afford to do that.” The problem is that this really isn’t true.
That attitude sucks. You can totally travel where you want to and it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think it might. Sure, you may need to save some money, and have a trick or two up your sleeve, but I think we can all agree that strategically saving some money to go on an amazing trip to Spain is a worthwhile thing to do.
Here is how I did a trip to Mallorca for a week and saved money where I could. Truthfully I could have been even more of a dirtbag and made this trip even more frugally, but I like to ball out, even when I’m on a budget. Either way, I had the trip of a lifetime and didn’t spend a down payment on a car to do so. Read on to see how I did it.
Getting Cheap Flights
Flights are obviously a big one when it comes to keeping costs
I use a service called Scott’s Cheap Flights to get deals on flights. My flight to Mallorca was a whopping $450 round trip out of Baltimore with baggage included.*
*Yes, I know that these kind of deals may seem related to the fact that the East Coast is a little closer to Spain than California, but there are still deals to be had from all over. See below. Booking far in advance definitely helps as well.
Here is an example email from Scott’s, showing you that flight deals to Mallorca (PMI) definitely crop up every now and again.
If you want to sign up-it’s a $40/year subscription. My boyfriend and I split the subscription. Buy one flight and you more than make up the subscription cost.
Round Trip Flight Cost with 1 checked bag: $450
Travel to the Airport and Parking
I will spare you the boring details. Because of a friend with a lot of points at The Parking Spot, I only ended up having to pay $18 to park for the week. It would have been $88 without the certificate. Hopefully you can just take an Uber or have a friend drive you to the airport to avoid any of this nonsense.
Gas Round trip to the airport (1 tank): $30 Parking: $18
Airport Transit and
Accommodations, Guiding, and Transit in Mallorca
When I travel internationally for climbing trips I always go
with a guided service. Not only is this beneficial from a climbing standpoint,
it is extremely cost-effective.
Airport food is expensive, and it sucks. I had two big meals during my entire travel (mostly when I was sitting around airports when I flew out on Friday). Mainly, I subsisted off of the in-flight meals.
Total food in transit: $63.79
Once I got to Mallorca, our group was taken to a grocery
store to buy food for breakfast, lunch and crag snacks. I spent a pretty
nominal amount on groceries.
Total groceries for the week: $66.39
For dinner we were fortunate to have pro chef Erin Lingle cooking for us and making sure we had plenty of wine and desert too. The cost was 15 Euros per night. I had six delicious and nutritious meals cooked by her. Also, the benefit of not having to cook after a long day at the crag was pretty incredible.
Total cost for 6 dinners cooked by Erin: $112
The last night we went out on the town. So we only really dined out for one night and it was really good. I definitely think Erin was a better chef than the food we at on the town, however.
Dinner and some wine on the town: $45.55
Breakfast the morning of departure: $10
Beers and Cocktails for the week: $30
Total Food and Booze:
Swimsuits and Chalk
I was mortified at the thought of climbing in a bikini—just seemed like a bad idea. So I bought a couple of pairs of swim shorts from Athleta on sale. Very glad I did.
Total for bathing suits $44.99
I didn’t buy liquid chalk, but I should have. Since this is practically a necessity, so let’s add this as an invetible deep water solo expense too. Friction Labs Liquid Chalk
Total for liquid chalk $19.
So how much did this grand adventure come out to be in full?
GRAND TOTAL $1491.72
So yeah, it is no small chunk of change, but I know a lot of people spend about $1000 just flying to Europe. Not bad what it is all said and done.
Here are some more thoughts and tips to frugalize your adventures in the Mediterranean.
Avoid Currency Exchange Fees & International Charge Fees
Before you go international, I would highly recommend two
Make sure you have a credit card with no international fees. I would recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Annual fee is only $95, it has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus (AKA nearly enough points for a free round trip flight to Europe), and it has a ton of other sweet perks! This is a great card for travel–even if you’re only going on one awesome trip to Mallorca. I use this card regularly myself, if you want to apply use my affililiate link below (in full transparency, yes, I will get points if you use my link. But the card is perfect for this trip and I wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t a smart move). As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions about the CSP at email@example.com.
I made the mistake of thinking we were camping so I brought a sleeping pad/sleeping bag, etc. Long story short I didn’t need any of that so I could have saved myself the trouble of checking a bag. So when you pack, pack light and you can avoid baggage fees too! My Gregory day pack holds an insane amount of stuff, so get yourself a nice back pack if you don’t have one already.
Buying airport food definitely sucks. I could have saved a lot of money if I had brought my own food to eat.
Travel rewards are also an awesome way to get free flights, etc. I won’t get into the weeds of travel rewards in this article here, but If you are interested in learning the ways of leveraging credit card signup bonuses to get free flights, I would highly recommend it. See below for a few resources that will give you a good start.
Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here’s 10 pictures that sum up what a blast I had this weekend on my first trip to Rumney, NH.
1. The “V8 boulder” that I was introduced to in the kitchen of our Air Bnb. Note the tic showing the starting crimp. I hadn’t met most of the people I was staying with, so this was a great and hilarious introduction to the gang.
2. Me belaying Mike on our warmup route in The Meadows. Felt great to be clipping bolts again.
3. My friend Cat and I having a blast taking in the views. (PS she just finished hiking the AT–check out her blog at seebagsgo.com)
4. Me having a very fun time flashing Waimea, 5.10d. Also, peep the guy a couple of routes over working his project–14c! He was so excited when he sent it! I was bummed I didn’t get to see it happen.
5. Views from the top of Waimea.
6. Getting Mike to take a nice picture can be very challenging.
7. Case in point.
8. Me putting in my first burn on my new project, Orangahang, 5.12a. This route is so fun and I’m ridiculously psyched about it.
9. Watching another climber send Predator, 5.13b. After he sent it, he unclipped the chains and took a MASSIVE victory whip. The whole crag was stoked.
10. The gang participating in some advanced stick clipping while we supported Scott (bottom of the pyramid) in his pursuit of Charlie Don’t Surf, 5.13b.
It was a stellar trip with incredible weather and I am beyond stoked to have made it up there this weekend.
If you don’t know what The Gunks are, they are a group of Mountains situated in upstate New York in near the quaint and kitschy town of New Paltz.
The area is haven for hikers, trail runners, bikers, climbers, and vacationers alike. Behind the well-maintained trails and lovely resort facade; however, lies a gnarly climbing area. It is an area where 5.5 will make you pee your pants and only the trad-daddiest of crushers are putting their pieces in a 5.9.
To my chagrin as a spoiled ex-Red River Gorge sport climber, there are no bolts anywhere. However, what the Gunks lacks in bolts, it makes up for in trad routes. According to my friend who has been climbing there for 6 years the Gunks has “more than you could hope to climb in a lifetime if you went every weekend until you died”.
On my trip, we kept it casual. Due to a lack of both trad experience and gear, we did an early morning sampling of the boulders on Undercliff Road. It was exceptionally good fun and I am very grateful to our new friend from our local gym for coming up on short notice, lending us pads, and serving as an excellent tour guide.
“So what you do is walk down Undercliff Road and boulder your way back.” Our buddy explained as we walked down the well-maintained path. Undercliff Road is long. The boulders and routes are on one side and an immaculate view of the valley is on your right. We couldn’t see it for most of the morning, but the fog was really cool!
We started out on box car boulder, doing some warm up routes–VO through V1. Our friend also explained that the grades were stiff. Take your gym grade and add three. I don’t boulder outside much, but this sounded about right. Going into this trip to the Gunks, I expected this ferocious gap between indoor and outdoor grades. I had made sure when I left my apartment that morning to leave my ego at home. It was much more fun that way.
After Box Car, we made our way down to Andrew’s boulder. I worked on it a bit. It’s classic V4, where, if you’re tall enough, you do this crazy move where you drop your heel hook to a toe hook so you can get the last couple of inches out of your legs to reach the next hold. It was ridiculous. I’m too short to get to do that move, but I am pretty psyched to keep working on it. Apparently you can keep climbing in the Gunks until December if you’re lucky. You might see me there.
A few mini-projects later, we made it to our final route. (See some fun mini-proj pictures below– I actually remembered to take pictures of these).
We then made it to the final route of the day, back at the beginning of Undercliff Road. It’s called the Lorax.
“It used to be fun, until they cut the trees down! It makes the whole route at least one grade easier.” Our friend reminisced about the days that there were two trees in front of the problem, making it exciting and absurd to negotiate. “It didn’t count if you touched the tree. If you even looked at the tree funny, you didn’t sent it.”
He also added “I prefer to climb without the crowds, so I like to get here around 6 or 7 a.m. By the time I’m done, everyone else is showing up.” Which was true. By the time we were ready to leave, the rectangle-backed afternoon boulderers were coming in droves. It was time to go.
We walked off of Undercliff Road sun-soaked, smelly, and happily exhausted. Mike and I smashed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before hitting the road. In two hours we were back at home, napping.
I’m a pretty lackluster boulderer and I don’t know anything about trad climbing, but I do know that I am very, very excited to get to know my new home crag–and maybe expand my horizons while I’m at it.