5.11 at 9 Months: Cragmama Erica Lineberry

Erica Lineberry didn’t set out to climb 5.11s until the end of her pregnancy. But she surprised even herself when just a few days before giving birth to her son, Canaan, she climbed a clean 5.11, big belly and all.

Playing around at the base of the cliff at the Obed Scenic River (Canaan around six months old). Photo by Steve Lineberry.

Erica hopped on Skype from Charlotte, North Carolina, for her interview with me about being an adventurous parent. While I love the way Erica and her husband, Steve, bring Canaan (now two-years-old) to the crags to keep up their rock climbing, I was especially eager to ask Erica about those 5.11s she climbed throughout her pregnancy.

Becoming a Cragmama

Erica was outdoorsy growing up, but wasn’t always into rock climbing. Though she and Steve have enjoyed a lot of outdoor adventures together over the years, they didn’t discover rock climbing until 2006. It turned out to be something they loved so much that Erica feels that it may be one of the reasons why they waited to have a family.

Then, in 2008, Erica tore her rotator cuff and couldn’t climb for awhile. The injury made her realize that perhaps climbing had become too important to her. When it came to the prospect of having kids she came to the conclusion, “hey, what are we waiting for?” After seven years of marriage with Steve, Erica became pregnant in 2009.

Cragging at the New River Gorge. Erica is climbing, Steve is belaying and a friend, Norbert, is hanging out with Canaan. Photo by Manuela Eilert.

I asked her if she found there were resources available to help active women understand what they could or couldn’t do during pregnancy. Erica found these resources to be seriously lacking, which was one of the main motivations behind her starting her blog, Cragmama. The website has since caught on like wildfire and has grabbed the attention of climbers, outdoor adventurers, apparel companies and publications alike.

Experimenting with 5.11s

When Erica found out she was pregnant, she set out to climb as long as she could, knowing that if she stayed happy and active it would be good for the baby. When the fetus was small, she didn’t have much to worry about in terms of a belly getting in the way, but she did stop leading climbs and bouldering at eight to nine weeks to avoid taking bigger falls. When the pressure of a normal harness was too much for her abdomen, she moved into a full body harness (check it out here).

Canaan’s got new climbing shoes and a chalk bag for Christmas! Photo by Manuela Eilert.

Erica assumed that at some point, rock climbing would no longer be fun or she wouldn’t be able to get up more than a 5.5. But at 15 to 16 weeks, she was still climbing 5.11s on top rope, so she made an experiment of it to see how long she could climb a clean 5.11. Though some routes posed some logistical challenges for her growing belly, as long as the route was vertical Erica was able to climb 5.11 through to the very end of her pregnancy. Canaan was born on a Sunday and she climbed her last clean 5.11 just three days before.

“I felt really confident in terms of being able to assess my abilities,” Erica said. This was an important factor in ensuring that she didn’t overdo it, but also didn’t give up rock climbing entirely while she was pregnant.

What to Wear?

When I asked her if she felt that there was adequate apparel on the market for pregnant women who enjoy outdoor activities, Erica said that it wasn’t until her last trimester that Mountain Mama, a brand new company at the time, contacted her asking if she’d try out a few pieces for them. This company has emerged as one of the leading maternity wear companies for outdoorsy, active women.

“Until Mountain Mama came around,” Erica said, “there wasn’t really any athletic type maternity wear that was in a durable enough fabric that you could use it outside.”

Creating a Cragbaby

When it came to having a family, Erica said she and Steve had resigned themselves to the fact that the real adventures were over. But, as it turns out, she climbed throughout her pregnancy and, ironically, the pair get out climbing more now than they ever did before Canaan came along.

You can learn more about their story through this video, Creating a Cragbaby. It provides a great window into the world of Erica, Steve and Canaan.

Creating a Crag Baby from Jan Balster on Vimeo.

Thanks, Erica! 

Author: Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.

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