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Cliffmama – A mommy who loves rock climbing, the Gunks, and her family

Cliffmama top roping at the Gunks on a 5.10 climb named Squiggles Direct

Cliffmama at the Gunks

I started climbing back in 1981, before we ever heard of indoor climbing gyms. My first trip was rock climbing at the Gunks in the Hudson Valley of New York state with the Syracuse University Outing Club. I grew up going to the malls and beaches of Long Island and knew nothing about rock climbing, but decided to go anyway because I really liked the people in the club and wanted to get to know them better. Little did I know that I would become totally hooked on the sport, and other adventures in the outdoors as well.

While I continued climbing occasionally throughout my adult life, it wasn’t until I was a working mother with two toddlers that I really dedicated more time to climbing. Seeing myself tired and trapped in a mundane suburban existence was taking its toll on me. I needed to find something I could do to make time for myself, something that I knew would make me happy. I realized I needed to climb more. And I did, with weekly workouts at an indoor gym and more frequent trips to the Gunks. When I got back into climbing shape and had enthusiastic climbing partners, I also was able to take more road trips while my patient non-climbing husband and our babysitter held down the fort.

Cliffmama helping her kid climbing at the Gunks in 2001.

Cliffmama & daughter, climbing at the Gunks 2001

As soon as they were able, I got my young daughters in harnesses and on the rock. We climbed in the gym, we climbed at the Gunks. I made friends with other families so we could help each other watch the kids and climb at the same time, while the kids had other kids to play with. Enough families were interested that I formed a mailing list for Gunks climbing families. The group grew, I met many wonderful people, and now our family climbing group has over 80 members. I discovered that being a climbing mommy wasn’t just an activity, it was a passion and the idea of Cliffmama as an identity was born.

Cliffmama was originally an online nickname for me – a domain name, a screen nickname – just for fun. The original website was very basic – just a way to share photos and stories with friends and family. However I seem to have developed an identity amongst my climbing peers as an example of how both motherhood and climbing can be accomplished successfully, and some friends suggested I blog about it. Between full time work and blogging for the Gunks Climbers’ Coalition, I try to find time to add more useful content about climbing with kids, trip reports and useful information about my home crag, the Gunks. After climbing at the Gunks for more than 30 years and spending many weekends looking for places to eat and sleep, I enjoy sharing what I know about visiting here. My little girls are now in their 20s and can climb harder grades than me, and my older daughter made it to the finals of the national championships with her collegiate climbing team. I am thrilled that despite having grown up in the shopping mall culture of the NJ suburbs, they have developed a passion for the outdoors and for climbing. In 2010 we moved near the Gunks full time to best appreciate all the outdoors have to offer. The adventures continue.

My teenage daughters at the base of Lover's Leap, Lake Tahoe.

My climbing kids at Lover’s Leap, 2011


Picture of my very young climbing kids carrying their climbing gear at the Gunks back in 2002.

My kids climbing at the Gunks back in 2002

Cliffmama and kids rock climbing at the Gunks, 2014.

Cliffmama & kids – Gunks 2014

My daughter climbing a 5.10 roof at Bonticou Crag, Gunks, NY.

My younger daughter pulling a 5.10 roof at Bonticou Crag, Gunks.

My daughter climbing in the USA Climbing Collegiate National Competition finals.

My older daughter in the USA Climbing Collegiate National Finals.


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