4th Of July Climbing Foray

This past Holiday weekend I was joined by Tracey and Mason. Tracey is an incredibly well traveled climbing, having climbed with Mountain Guides all over the American West, as well as abroad. Work brought her to New England for the the week preceding the holiday, and she decided to sample the climbing here, as well as get her God-son, Mason, on rock for the first time.

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Day one for us was at Rumney. The climbing at Rumney is well suited to new climbers. The style on the easier climbs is intuitive even for those with little experience, (grab hold, step on foot hold, pull down and step up, repeat.) while still being engaging and fun for everyone. In addition, the leading and transitions are quick, so a lot of terrain can be covered in a day. We climbed at multiple cliffs, and Tracey even got on the sharp end some to hone her skills.

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Mason rocking some classic intro lines at Main Cliff


On day two we stepped it up a notch to experience some multi pitch climbing. Whitehorse is another ideal venue for introducing beginners to multi pitch, and Tracey was excited to sample some of the local Granite.

In the morning we climbed the first 3 pitches of Sea of Holes. This route ramps up from an easy first pitch to an engaging and interestingly featured third pitch. From here we rappelled back to our bags, some water and a well needed snack.

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Climbing, and Rappelling the 3rd Pitch

After our brief snack Tracey decided she wanted to practice her multi-ptich skills on another similar climb. The biggest crux to multi-pitch climbing, especially with a party of 3, is the rope management. Standard Direct is a prime route to practice this on. All but one of the anchors are bolts, and the climbing goes quick. In a brief couple of hours Tracey got to manage 3 transitions. The rust from not using those skills in some time quickly wore off. Mason and I had a great time following her up another fun route to about 500′, and she did an excellent job leading the way!

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Tracey leading Pitch 4, Standard Direct

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Mason enjoying the exposure 400′ up Standard Direct


What would a three day intro to climbing be with out a bit of crack climbing 101? Our third day was necessarily short due to play departures. Luckily, we have access to a great intro crack climbing area in Franconia Notch State Park. Echo Crag is roughly 40′ tall with solid granite and a variety and crack climbing styles all right next to each other. This technique is a bit hard for beginning climbers to grasp as its more reliant on balance, and refined jamming technique. Tracey did superbly well here, as was to be expected, and Mason took the new style of climbing in stride.

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Mason Climbing at Echo Crag

This was an especially great weekend of climbing for me. There’s a lot I love about guiding, but sharing the local crags with an out of town climber, and introducing new climbers to the sport, and especially the variety with in it, are two of the best.

Thanks for a great weekend!

Erik

The High Grade Wall

My buddy Jay has been stoked on trucking out to Marshfield VT to climb on the High Grade wall recently. A funky new .13a went up there with super unique climbing, and since he can effortlessly huck laps on every other 5.13 in the state, it makes it worth the drive for him to get on a new climb! In reality a day trip there is not that absurd. A 4:30 wake up and a 5:15 meeting time get us there right as its warming up, after a pretty drive through central VT and hike through the state forest. The cliff its self is rather long and 200’+ tall at its highest. The high-grade wall is somewhat of a diamond in the rough, A relatively short, clean overhanging section of rock sitting above a small ledge most of the way up the cliff, surrounded by sopping lichen and moss covered slabs. The approach involves jugging up about 200′ of fixed line to the ledge.

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Jay on the final Fixed Rope

The bulk of the climbing there happens on a somewhat dizzying cluster of link ups revolving around the mega classic, Groton High Grade 5.13a. This route climbs the overhanging wall on crimps, and then makes a crux move to the arete where the climbing eases. A harder alternative is to move left, instead of right into the arete. The ensuing boulder problem this way is hard enough to merit .13b, then finishing at the same anchors. Finally, High Grade the Hard Way starts right of High Grade with a difficult boulder problem, crosses High Grade at the rest jug before that climb splits, and then tackles the harder boulder problem on the left. When all is said and done that Hard Way clocks in at 5.13d

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Alex Descending the Second Fixed Rope

I had an awesome day of climbing there with Alex and Jay this week. After a couple of warm up burns, which happen on the projects for lack alternatives, Alex and Jay started to Crush. Alex sent the High Grade Direct at .13b and then proceeded to make progress on the High Grade and The High Grade the Hard way. Jay had a riveting send of the Hard Way  his first rip of the day, just pulling it off and leaving success in doubt until the final hard move. He then used some key beta alex had unlocked to send The High Grade, sneakily getting through a move previously too hard with his wing span. I got reacquainted with The High Grade and progressively worsened on it through my 3 burns. Luckily I also brought a spare rope and my camera, and got some pictures I was excited about. A successful day can come in many forms!

You can click on the first image in any of these Galleries and scroll through them. Its pretty fun to view them like this as some are a series of a single move that you get to follow from start to finish. Enjoy.

Jay

Alex

Erik (Photos by Jay)

Of Late…

A lot of random days of Late.

More Mastadons than the last Ice age!

More Mastadons than the last Ice age!

Last Saturday Alex, Art and myself guided our friends from Mammut North America on Mt Monroe. It was great to socialize and climb with these folks whom we often contact through email, but rarely see or meet. One group skied Monroe Brook while another hiked Mt Monroe. It was surprisingly full on winter conditions for this late in the season, with almost a foot of fresh snow and full on white out conditions. Art wrote up a great post on the day for the Mammut Athlete’s blog here

Malcom hanging tough on No Money Down

Malcom hanging tough on No Money Down

Izzy climbed super well, here on Lies and Propaganda

Izzy climbed super well, here on Lies and Propaganda

The Next day I was back at Rumney joining fellow MMG guide Todd Goodman. Todd is a teacher at Milton Academy near Boston, a school with an incredible outdoor program. He came up with a handful of solid climbers who were stoked test their strength from winter climbing on plastic, against the real rock at Rumney. The students were all solid technically and climbed well, being stymied only by the hardest routes we set up. Todd wrote up a nice blog on the day for the MMG blog here

Finally, my regular fall and spring routine has slowly been coming back together as the weather allows. Sneaking in morning and evening sessions with friends and afternoons with the Holderness Climbing Team. Yesterday was a breakthrough day for a handful of my students, with a couple of them tackling their first 5.8’s and one starting to learn leading skills. For my self, I’m happy to report that I feel surprisingly injury free on the rock. My finger injury from almost a year ago now isn’t haunting me, and the discomfort from a broken toe this winter so far has been bearable when crammed into my tortuously small sport climbing shoes. While my arms feel like lead on anything steer than 85 degrees, I’ve been climbing on my old projects at Wiamea and getting excited to regain strength and stoke throughout the summer!

Good to be back on this cliff after avoiding it last year due to injury

Good to be back on this cliff after avoiding it last year due to injury

The gorgeous Orange Rock of Beat Junkie. This is a favorite early season route of mine as it builds strength fast and isn't overly tweaky. Not to mention its  a blast!

The gorgeous Orange Rock of Beat Junkie. This is a favorite early season route of mine as it builds strength fast and isn’t overly tweaky. Not to mention its a blast!

After climbing Van sessions  with our friends from the South

After climbing Van sessions with our friends from the South

Matty Zane crushing hard on China Beach. So Close.

Matty Zane crushing hard on China Beach. So Close.

Third Time’s the Charm

The saying rang true For Khanitha. She originally joined us with a group over presidents day weekend. As some may recall that weekend had some of the harshest winter weather NH has seen in years. Due to bitter cold and hard winds that group had to turn back at tree line ( Write up here ). Then Khanitha came back with a friend to try it again. A combination of fatigue and weather once again turned us back, but not before making it to the lakes of the clouds hut above tree line ( Write up here). Somewhat last minute, Khanitha saw a weather window for this past sunday and booked a day for a third and final attempt of the season. The weather cooperated so we just went slow and steady making our way to the summit! before flying bak back down. It was a gorgeous day to be up there with many unique things to see due to the recent weather pattern of spring one day and winter the next! Congrats Khanitha!

Mammut Product Reviews

We’re pretty psyched to be able to work with Mammut North America at Mooney Mountain Guides. a couple of rainy days ago I spent a while reading up on Mammut’s corporate philosophy and how they act on corporate responsibility. These are major concerns of mine for any product I’m going to spend money on, let alone promote in any way. I think we all need to spend more time reading up on what we buy and what kind of corporate philosophy we are supporting by voting with our dollars. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, that this company which I didn’t know much about had taken some great social and environmental initiatives. To name a few, all of their ropes are manufactured in a wind powered factory in Switzerland, many of their products boast Blue Sign certified materials and organic cotton, and they have a whole section on their website dedicated to explaining their philosophy on their own self dictated corporate responsibility to people, communities and the environment (found Here ). In addition they have a wealth of knowledge on their website on how to use and care for the products you buy.

The last couple of years I’ve written a couple of reviews of their products for our company blog at http://www.mooneymountainguides.com . While I’m not personally sponsored by Mammut, the guide company is. Every season Mammut hooks the guides up with a given product to check out in the field. The most recent review I did was a collaboration of thoughts from all of our guides on the Ultimate Hoody which Mammut has furnished us with the past few years. last year I also wrote a review of the Togir Click harness which I went out and bought on my own. This harness is awesome and unique, and it surprises me how rarely I see it out in the field! If you’re a gear nerd like my self, check out the few reviews below!

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Alex T rapelling The Promenade in an Ultimate Hoody, reviewed here

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My self climbing Repentance with the Togir Click Harness, reviewed here

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A collection of quick Mammut gear thoughts from a road trip are gathered here

Wait a Minute

There’s a saying in New England about the weather, especially in spring. If you don’t like it, wait a minute. Today proved that point wonderfully! Yesterday we were out skiing corn in 50 degree weather. Today conditions on Washington ramped back up to full on winter. When Ben and I met at the Highland center it was drizzling rain, right at freezing at the base and with winds in the teens. By the time we hit tree line conditions had ramped up to 1″/hr+ snow with zilch for visibility and steady winds between 60-80mph. By the time we got back to Gem Pool the summit was recording gusts near the century mark and a -25 wind chill. Guess we have to wait another minute until spring returns.

Ben joined us, as many do, to train for an upcoming Mt Rainier trip. While the summit wasn’t in the cards today, we had all the conditions to train for the ultimate goal of Rainier. Heavy crampon use, layering and gear choice, and how to protect your self in extreme weather. We even stopped on the decent to practice mountaineering axe use and self arrest, before butt sliding to the finish line.

IMG_1269Blowing snow collecting on bare faces. A good time to don goggles and balaclavas

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Zilch, on the official visibility scale

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Gnarly

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The rarely captured, glissade action pic.

New England College- Avalanche Awareness.

Mooney Mountain Guides teaching for New England college continued this past weekend. Earlier in the winter I ran a 2 day into to Ice Climbing course for the college that was a 1 credit course for Outdoor Leadership majors. This past weekend Alex and built upon that with a 1 credit Avalanche Awareness course. We spent the weekend talking about how to assess avalanche potential based on observations of terrain, past history and current weather patterns. We then got hands on with practicing beacon searches and digging pits to look at stability issues and snow layers up close and personal. The west side of Washington turned out to be a great venue for this course, as many on the east side got a far to close education in avalanche dangers with 6 avalanches, mostly human triggered, being set off in a day.