Tag Archives: Erik Thatcher

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)

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.

Intro To Ski Mountaineering

Alex and I just had what may have been the trip of our winter. Ski guiding is a relatively small segment of our business, and that of the NH guiding business in general, so when we get a day of this work, let alone a long weekend of it we’re excited. We’re currently trying to expand our ski programming to get more folks introduced to the world of back country skiing. The skiing and techniques required is not overly burdensome, but getting instruction for your first day out will greatly quicken the learning curve. As you get into the world of Ski Mountaineering their is a a slew of technical skills that need to be refined in order to participate safely.

This group of three was curious about getting into the world of back country and ski mountaineering, so we designed a three day curriculum to introduce them to the techniques and skills required. On day one we went over gear and clothing requirements for being in the backcountry. We practiced transitions ( moving up hill to downhill, which requires a slew of equipment changes) and beacon searches in case of an avalanche burial. On day two we practiced moving as a rope team, dug a snow pit and experimented with a number of stability tests, and what these testes tell us about the relative avalanche safety. On day three we combined many of the formerly learned skills to ski Hillmans Highway in Tuckermans Ravine! The weather kept us from covering all that we wanted, but that in its self is a great learning experience, and gave us ample opportunity to address not only surviving but thriving in those conditions.

A Climbing Bender

Climbing is a Drug. Well, at least there are lots of similarities. Maybe it’s more appropriate to say climbing is an addiction. This analogy isn’t new to climbing. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen T-shirts making the same statements and have read it in other places as well. I’ll be honest, the only thing I have to compare it to is caffeine and coffee, which I find my self addicted to mentally if not physically. Even without personal experience, if you pay attention, you probably know a thing or two about drug addictions and what drives people to use drugs. Drawing from that pool of knowledge, it’s not hard to see the similarities

 

You hear about people drinking to drown their sorrows, smoking to relax their stress, and the whole concept of psychadelics is to live, if only briefly, in an alternate reality. I’m attracted to climbing for the sheer joy of the activity, but it also fulfills all three of these needs for me. The high school I went to was an academically rigorous one in which your day from 8-10 was filled with school related responsibilities. It was the definition of stressful. The 2-3 hours a day where the climbing team escaped to the cliffs of Rumney was just that, an escape. For those 3 hours we were living in an alternate reality, where all that mattered was climbing. The act its self is so mentally engaging (if you think about something else you fall), that it is a form of meditation. Your mind is focused on one singular activity, and the rest of the days stress, worries, and happenings ceased to exist. I find that its the times when I am stressed, sad, or cynical about the realities of this world that I need climbing the most, and it means the most to me. Conversely, its the times when I can’t climb for an extended period of time (5 days off is a long time for me!) that stress, sorrow and depression creep in. Climbing is simply fun. There’s no real way to describe the joy I get from various climbing activities, but I’ve never questioned that either. Climbing is fun for what it is, but it’s also fun for what it isn’t, and that realization is what I’m pondering here. Climbing as an escape. 

 

As an addict of an illicit substance might, climbers sometimes go on benders, where you are consumed by your addiction 24-7 for days on end. After a month of illness and bad weather I went on just such a bender this past week when the weather was finally good enough to climb any day you want. These periods are marked by high stoke, both on and off the cliff, and usually accompanied by an abandonment of various responsibilities and relationships in favor of more climbing time (sorry mom!). In the past week I got to climb 5 days out of seven, forcing my self to rest the other two days only because I knew it would help me climb better on my days on. Those days at the cliff where high energy. I was thrilled to be back out on rock, no matter the route, and around other climbers, no matter wether they were regular or occasional partners, friends, new acquaintances or strangers. I guess more significantly is that over this week climbing also occupied almost every hour of my nights and off days. This time was filled with climbing related activities; perusing the inter webs of climbing, scouring youtube and my climbing DVD collection, or writing down climbing thoughts of my own (yes, this whole blog idea is a direct result of the bender!)

 

That week is over and a new one has begun. Hopefully the bender has served to balance, or at least, to move my life back towards the balance of work and play that was unsettled by the month off. Let’s face it, climbing isn’t reality; it doesn’t help others, it doesn’t feed you, and it doesn’t usually fulfill you’re intellectual needs as a curious human being. Climbing remains special in part for what it isn’t, which means you need to maintain the “isn’ts” of your life too. What that balance is for each of us I think varies from person to person as well as in time for each individual, but I’m adamant that it’s there.