Tag Archives: Mammut

JT and Amanda climb the Whitney Gilman with MMG

A week ago I got the opportunity to climb the awesome Whitney Gilman Ridge on Cannon Cliff with two inspiring teens. JT and Amanda tackled the physical challenges of the 600′ 5.7 climb with relative ease. Add on the hour long approach straight up a 1,000′ talus field, and the knee numbing hour long descent straight down (welcome to hiking northeast style) , and they had one heck of an outing. What really impressed me though was that coming with relatively little experience (first day outside for JT, one of the first for Amanda) they handled the “exposure” on this infamous climb as though it were nothing. To those who aren’t hip to the climbing lingo, exposure refers to how the hight of a climb feels. This being a ridge climb with a straight drop on one side, and truly being situated on the side of a mountain, the exposure is real. To get a sense of what I mean, check out the photos here…https://goo.gl/photos/RS7YUbdkeE5faX6KA

Here’s a little teaser!

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It doesn’t get much more exposed

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JT on the pitch 2 crux

P.S. the history of this route is pretty fascinating. See Yankee Rock and Ice for more detail, but it was first done in 1929! Hassler Whitney, one of the first ascensionists, was also a famous mathematician https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassler_Whitney

Brown Outing Club

I was lucky enough to wrap up this years odd winter guiding season with one of he most fun weekends of guiding I’ve had. Good friend and Co worker, Tim Mijal, and I got to guide for two separate Brown University Outing Club ice climbing trips. Mooney Mountain guides has formed a great relationship with the university that we hope to see grow, as working with their students and trip leaders is a great time.

On Saturday we had ten intrepid climbers of various backgrounds and experiences from freshman to nearly finished med students. The ice was borderline but we were able to get ropes on a number of the more entertaining steep lines, including Hanging By a Moment which has a puzzling mixed finish. The gang was psyched and climbed well into the afternoon getting as many laps as they could.

On Sunday we had another group of ten. Arriving at the cliff, it was apparent that the lack of freezing temperatures the night before really did a number on the ice climbs. The two lower angled ramps were still climbable and safe but unfortunately we weren’t able to offer this group the same variety of climbs. Despite that, they showed their psyche by running lap after lap on the climbs, sometimes only with one tool or none at all. They said I was making them, but really I think they were excited for the challenge. This group also had a couple of trip leaders who were eager to learn more of the technical side of climbing, so we were able to make an anchor and practice clove hitches and munter hitches. Hopefully everyone not only had fun but learned something new and will remember this trip for a while to come!

Below are galleries from the two days. You can click on any image and it will come up larger and allow you to scroll through.

Saturday

Sunday

 

Big thanks to B.O.C for coming out with us yet again. A lot of you guys shared some exciting climbing plans for the coming year, (Joshua tree, red river gorge, learning trad etc.) I hope all goes well and perhaps on next years ice climbing trip (or Mt Washington?) I get to hear how it all went!

-Erik

Return to Normalcy

Much Like America in the 1920’s, what I need over the next month is a return to normalcy, however much I hate to use a republican campaign slogan. The past two months have been filled with a significant change from my past winters and lots of time thinking of the idyllic job of running a high school climbing program. This work, while awesome and very meaningful to me, has made me soft.  Half Days in the field, not enough time to get above tree-line or on big terrain, regular sleep ins… What I need now is a concentrated block of activity and adventure to make me feel a little less sedentary. Luckily I got to kick off my March vacation in the perfect way, with three full days of fun adventure back to back.

Lake Willoughby – Friday

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Heading Home. 20 Below Zero Gully on the left, Glass Menagerie on the Right

My friend Andy shot me a message Thursday night to try and talk me into going to the Lake with him. I was hesitant at first because I’ve only had one full day of ice climbing this season, and am feeling out of shape for the hundreds of feet tall pure ice lines of the lake. I had the day off, as my students were taking practice tog et ahead on work for Saturdays adventure. After first saying no, I capitulated and we ended up having an awesome day.

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Andy getting to the belays on Crazy Diamond & 20 Below Zero Gully

We swung leads up Crazy Diamond and then 20 Below Zero Gulley.  Between the pouring rain two days prior, and a long season of sitting in the sun, the ice on these climbs had undergone some serious metamorphoses, leaving it in an odd state and resulting in some funky climbing. I haven’t spent much time in the lake but its awe-inspiring for so many reasons. The size of the pure ice climbs are an order of magnitude bigger than anything else in the region, and situated above a wind swept lake, the sight of which makes the area feel arctic.

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Andy on the final pillar of Crazy Diamond. 

Beyond the ice climbs themselves, the cliff is of a foreign nature. Its limestone, which we have very little of around here, and the resulting affect on the soil means the top of the cliff, and even the sides of it, are covered in huge, gorgeous cedar trees. While I see Cedars when climbing in upstate NY, these ones seem massive, old, weathered, and like they could come alive as if some creature out of Lord of the Rings. Sitting at an ice screw anchor 200′ up puts you in another world at Lake Willoughby, surrounded by an unimaginable amount of ice, foreign looking rock and unique trees, and often times in the sun, while you watch the wind hammer the brave (or stubborn?) ice fishers below.

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Big Ice, Limestone & Cedars. Andy on the second pitch of 20 Below 

Mt. Washington- Saturday

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My Ice Climbing/ mountaineering team has gotten a lot of good practice in over the past two months. The school schedule is ideal for this, as students get out of class around noon and I frequently have 5-6 hours to get them out in the field. That being said they hadn’t yet had a full day in the mountains. Luckily, I was able to get them out of class on Saturday to use a full day for our “culminating experience.”

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While trail conditions were some of the roughest I’ve experienced with this odd winter causing the trail to basically be a 4 mile long luge run, the weather was some of the best. With the weather being so good, and my students moving very efficiently, we were able to come back down a different trail and get a great tour of the mountain and its awesome features. We went up the Ammo and across the Crawford Path to the summit. Came down the Tucks side, and cut back across the Bigelow Lawn. Not only were my students able to see all of the terrain and potential for fun in the presidentials, but we were able to see various mountains they’ve hiked or might hike while at Holderness, and could even pick out Lake Willoughby where I had been the day before!

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View of the Southern presidentials with Mt. Carrigan just left of center. Many Holderness students will hike it during Outback, the schools 11 day winter backpacking trip.

More picture of this adventure on Holderness School’s Smugmug page: https://holdernessschool.smugmug.com/Sports/Winter-Mountaineering-Ascent/

Milton Academy Ice Climbing –  Sunday

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Two of the girls in particular were unstoppable, no matter how steep of lines we set up!

Sunday was my first day back working for Mooney Mountain Guides since before the start of my ice climbing season at Holderness. It was a fun reentry into guiding. I’ve worked with Milton Academies Outdoor Program in the past and am really impressed with what they have going on. Making it even more fun, the trip was lead by friend and co worker, Todd Goodmen, who teaches there. It was a great day of catching up with him, getting 6 young ladies on ice, and hearing of some fun adventures a few of them have planned for the near future.

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Milton faculty Matt Bingham taking a lap

Now I’m sitting back on the couch enjoying my hour long morning coffee time. The best part about it is that after 3 days on, waking up at 4:30 every morning, this time I feel like I’ve earned it!

coffee

Mammut Trion Light; the alpine everything pack

As a self diagnosed gear-geek I’ve come to realize that there are certain types of gear that I get more excited about than others. A rope? sure I’m psyched if it helps give soft catches, if it repels water well, and if the colors are sexy, but I’m not going to “ooh” and “ahh” at certain features, or in some cases its lack of features. I’ve realized that when it comes to gear, the backpack, one of the oldest pieces of outdoor equipment, can be the most exciting piece to me. Nowadays there’s a backpack for skiing, one for multi pitch rock, one for cragging, one for alpine climbing, and of course the all-arounder. This means there’s a plethora of features for each discipline, and an infinite number of combinations of features for a multi- use pack. How exciting!

An alpine pack at home on a desert big wall?

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James nearing the roof on pitch 2 of Levitation 29

As a New Hampshire native and home state fanatic I was climbing with packs made in New Hampshire. Two companies here make bare bones, durable packs that last forever and have a cult following. Neither of them use frames. To some this is a weight savings, and they feel that the pack climbs better than if it did have a rigid frame. I was in that camp until our friends at Mammut gave the Mooney Mountain guides the Trion Guide packs. I quickly remembered the other side of the frame vs. no frame pack argument and realized that, for me, the trade off in weight savings is not worth going frameless, and the new frame systems climb wonderfully and are easily removable, if so desired. After this reintroduction, I turned to Mammut’s alpine pack line to find a light weight alpine pack. Below is a run down of what I chose, the Trion Light 28L.

At home in the Alpine 

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Sunrise on Adams during Presidential Traverse. PC: Kurt Schuler

 

What appealed to me initially about the pack is how modular its various features are. It can go from full framed, padded hip belt approach pack (@990g), to light weight compact climbing pack (@690g) in a matter of seconds. This is crucial for alpine style climbs where you often have a hefty approach carrying a good amount of climbing equipment. Once on the climb, most of that equipment is on your harness and being used, while you then want a compact pack to carry for the climb. Just reading the description for the Trion Light made me realize that it was going to function well, but using it in real life  and seeing how easy the transitions are has still impressed me. There are essentially 3 components of a pack that need to be modular in order for the pack to be equally as well suited for long approaches to long climbs; hip belt, the lid and closure system, and for some people, the frame.

The Trion Light Stripped down for climbing

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The Armadillo, Katahdin. PC: Geoff Wilson

 

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James leading the crux pitch of Levitation 29, 5.11+ V

Hip Belt: Its common place now to see removable hip belts on climbing packs. What sets them apart is how easy they are to remove and replace, and if their ability to help bare the weight of the pack is compromised by their removability. The Trion lights hip belt slides through a slot formed by the back of the pack and the lower back padding. It Velcro’s into place there. The straps, which are permanently attached to the pack, then get passed through loops on the end of the hip belt padding and velcro into place there. The whole process takes less than a minute and is easy to do with gloves on. The hip belt in this design isn’t directly attached to the frame, meaning the load transfer isn’t ideal. That being said, since its only a 28L pack, I’ve never been able to load it down enough that this was an issue. A good trade off in my eyes.

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Starting up the Black Dike in Mid November PC: Art Mooney

Lid and Closure System: This is my favorite part of the pack, and what initially drew me to it. The main body of the pack has a roll top closure. This makes the pack more water resistant when the lid is removed. I also find I like how roll top packs function better than those with a drawstring closures when the lid is removed. Depending on the days objective I frequently leave the lid at home, fitting everything into the pack body and closing it up tight with the roll top. The pack still functions normally as there is a buckle on the main pack body to connect the front strap too even with the lid removed. That buckle system, plus a removable rope strap, allow you to easily carry items over the pack even without the lid. The lid itself has the standard mesh under pocket, and a large upper pocket. I found I have to be particular about what I put in the upper pocket because its so large you can really add a lot of weight to the top of your pack, which is not where you want it. So instead of keeping heavy food, GPS and other heavy items up there, I pack my goggles, mittens extra hat and other light weight items I might want quick and easy access to.

Kelley O., an MMG guest using her own Trion Light on an ascent of Mt Washington. 

The Frame: This part really surprised me as they do not mention how easily removable the frame is in the packs description. While I tend to just leave it in there,  all one has to do is un velcro the compartment and pull the frame out.

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Removing the “Butterfly” frame

The beauty in this packs design is not only how easy it is to remove the modular items, but how well the pack functions in either the stripped down or fully loaded configurations. There are a few other notable features of this pack. The main body is made out of a light weight triple ripstop nylon. This keeps the pack weight low and the overall durability reasonable. While I’ve put a few holes in it over the past two years of heavy use, the triple ripstop has kept those holes from growing to tares that would render the pack useless. The bottom of the pack is wisely made with 420 denier nylon, the standard fabric for pack making. The key use of sturdier material in bottom again adds to its durability. It also has reinforced ski straps, which seem to be standard on Mammut alpine packs and are great for carrying skis in an A-frame.While I don’t generally use a hydration bladder, this pack has all the features you need to use one, if thats your system.

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How I attache my hammerless Nomics. The other strap has been partially tucked into its “garage” to illustrate how they can be tucked away when not in use.

The Ice tool attachment system on this pack is the old school loop on the bottom with a velcro loop up top for the handles. We’ve all come to love the new pick sleeves and buckle system for carrying ice tools, but I think the chosen system is appropriate for this packs intended use. Some extra care is needed when attaching tools with out hammers (think Nomics) but once you figure out your system its no problem. Needless to say this set up saves a bit of weight and contributes to the packs all around streamlined, no frills appearance. Further to that end, the loops tuck into built in pockets when not in use, such as all of rock season, and really make the pack streamlined!

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Finally, the attention to detail really shines through in the packs compression system, and well thought out use of buckles. Seriously, this one caught me by surprise. I’ve already mentioned that the main closure strap can work with the lid removed, which is some what exceptional to this pack. The side compression straps also have alternating buckles, on one side the female end is on the straps, on the other side its the male end. This allows you to clip them in the opposite direction, strapping something larger to the very back of your pack. Similarly, the roll top buckles match up to the buckles that hold the lid on. With the lid on the pack you roll the top closed and clip the two ends of the pack top together. When the lid is removed, you have the option of rolling the lid closed and clipping either end down to the side.

 

The left picture shows the roll top closure as if you had the lid on, and the right shows the option of clipping it down to the side when the lid is off. Both illustrate the extra female buckle on the back to use with the main lid strap when the lid is removed. 

What I love most about this pack is its broad functionality with minimal bells and whistles. Instead of adding straps left and right, the designers paired it down to the bare essentials and made the necessary straps as versatile as possible. It seems to me that the Trion light is essentially two separate packs, one for the approach and one for the climb, seamlessly married together with no extra fluff.

At Home in the Desert

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James Otey in Red Rocks

In the market for a new pack? check out Mammut’s alpine pack line here. While I’ve only used a handful, they have all show the same durability and attention to detail that has so impressed me with the Trion Light, and at a very enticing price point. Can’t find Mammut packs in a store near you? While it’s always a good idea to try packs on first, if you’re looking online, Mammut now has an online store http://mammut.shptron.com

 

 

 

 

 

Ice Fest – 2016

The Mount Washington Valley Ice fest is an institution in the New England climbing scene. Many others have come along, in New York, and Vermont, but this festival, held for over 20 years in North Conway is the biggest and baddest (or best?) Growing up as an ice climber in New Hampshire I always held this event and those who ran it in high regard, so I was thrilled to be asked to be a guest guide this year.

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Jim Shimberg, friend, mentor, and clinic co-instructor amid the chaos of the morning meeting

Following will be a run down of my weekend, but first I wanted to reflect on a memory of of attending an ice fest during college. My good friend Paul and I made the trek up to climb, check out the apres hour and watch some slide shows. After the slide show we drove to the parking lot for Frankenstein. We figured camping there, in the back of my Forester, would give us a jump start on the crowds the next day. Being perpetually prepared and thinking ahead, Paul suggested we make Sausage Gravy and Biscuits the day before to warm up for breakfast before climbing. He woke a few minutes ahead of me and by the time my eyes were finally open he was bringing a pot of warm sausage gravy and biscuits back into the car where we sat in our sleeping bags dipping the biscuits in the gravy. Best start to an ice climbing day I’ve ever had.

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Standard Route with Paul as soon as the sun came up

We were on top of the first pitch of Standard Route by 7:30 that morning, well ahead of the crowds. We also climbed Hobbit Couloir to the Pegasus Rock Finish. It’s fun looking back on early climbing memories. The bar of what was “adventure” back then was so much lower that it seemed every day on the ice or on a mountain was exciting and pushing the boundaries.

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A favorite Link up; Hobbit Couloir to the Pegasus Rock Finish

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I got to start off Ice fest 2016 on Friday the best way possible. I had been paired up with my former climbing instructor and mentor, Jim Shimberg, to teach an Ice Climbing for Rock Climbers clinic. The idea of this clinic is that participants have already learned the basics of belaying, tying in and putting on a harness, and perhaps understand some of the body mechanics of climbing. The benefit to these groups is it often puts together folks who will accelerate a bit quicker through the learning curve. We had a great group with a range of abilities and dreams of where ice climbing will take them.

Perhaps one of the biggest take aways of the weekend wasn’t about climbing though. One of the guests commented “Jim has such a great perspective on life.” I reflected shared with them how I had a rough time freshman or sophomore year of college and was talking with Shim about it. I mentioned how climbing was so helpful for me at the time as it provided a mental escape from “real life.” He sounded surprised and commented that climbing is real life, and encouraged me to approach it as such. That’s advice I took to heart and has substantially contributed to where I am and what I’m doing with my life today. Its hard to express how rewarding it is to share climbing with others, and even more rewarding when you help them realize, or you reinforce, a more positive way of seeing the world and its opportunities. In this instance I was sharing in that revelation with the participants, provided by my co instructor 7 years apart.

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Kicking and Swinging. A big part of learning to ice climb is learning to use the tools

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Eager students wanted to learn more about ice climbing than just the climbing

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The group in “The Blue Room”

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A fun little flow

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Sunrise from Spruce Lodge

I consider myself lucky to have such good and generous friends in the climbing community.  From Shimberg who taught me so much about climbing and more, to Mikey and Alexa who graciously offered me a couch for ice fest weekend. It was great to begin and end the chaotic ice fest days with familiar faces in a friendly cabin. Several other friends were crashing there as well, and it was a good opportunity to catch up and escape the hustle and bustle of the fest for a few hours each day. Perhaps the nicest part of the whole experience was the sunrise over Double Head mountain each morning, as seen from the couch where I woke up.

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Saturday I was scheduled to offer an Alpine Style Climb. There’s two general ways of breaking down a day of guiding. The clinic style day, that is heavy on education and instruction, and the objective day where you’re getting people on a particular climb or mountain and trying to help them fulfill a goal. The Alpine Style climb was the latter. I ended up having two ice festers, Mitch and Tom, who I had just had in Ice Climbing for Rock Climbers the day before. Being relatively new to ice climbing, a link up of features ascending the East Face of Mt Willard provided a significant amount of adventure and challenge for these two. That being said, they moved quickly and efficiently on the ice and appeared to have a good time in the mountain environment. We were slowed waiting in line multiple times but their psyche never wavered, and we were rewarded with the incredible view down Crawford Notch.

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Sunday was my final day and I was instructing Ice 101 with Tim Farr of Petra Cliffs in Vermont. Teaching beginning ice climbers always reminds me of the significant difference in rock climbing and ice climbing. Most of the time beginning rock climbers are following intuition and the way their body feels to get up routes. Ice climbing differs in that first you have learn how to use ice tools and crampons. Because of that, teaching it feels much more like teaching some one how to work with tools the right way. Once the use of the tools clicks, folks tend to take of and fly through the learning curve.

This was a fun group of folks, with a friend of mine in the clinic, as well as a young crusher and 6 friends from U.R.I. A diverse group of folks who all seemed to enjoy the experience equally!

Thanks to the friends who organize Ice Fest for asking me to join this year, and all the participants and friends I got to spend the weekend with!

-Erik

Tranquility

tranquility means :

The noun tranquility means “a state of peace and quiet,” like the tranquility you feel at the shore of a quiet lake or inside a beautiful cathedral.

Alex embodying tranquility, at the top of Tranquility.

Now that my fall climbing team has come to an end I have a few days of reprieve before heading off to Red Rocks. Among my list of must do’s before leaving and not returning until “winter” was one day of required climbing for my self. Luckily Alex was psyched for the same.

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So in synch we even dressed the same! Mooney Mountain Guides logo’d Mammut Ultimate Light Hoodie’s

We went to the South Buttress of Whitehorse, which has some of my favorite climbing in North Conway. The good thing about the South Butt right now is that it’s south facing. The bad thing about the South Butt most of the season, is that its south facing. Because polished granite only feels greaser in the sun, and I work a lot in the fall and spring, I rarely get to climb here.

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Views of Cranmore, Echo Lake and more from the South Butt

We were able to quickly tick off Hotter Than Hell (5.9 face climbing), Inferno (5.8 hand crack) and Tranquility (5.10 glorious finger locks).

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My Lady Slippers, and Alex following one of the cleanest hand cracks known to Conway Granite

With a twin rope set up you can easily zip around here combining climbs up to and off of the large ledge in the middle, and get back down easily in one 60 M rap for each section.

Mammut 7.5 Twilights felt super light on long pitches and allowed us easy full 60 meter rappels. Coupled with Bionic Screw gates and the Wall alpine belay device, we were light and fast.

Mammut 7.5 Twilights felt super light on long pitches and allowed us easy full 60 meter rappels. Coupled with Bionic Screw gates and the Wall alpine belay device, we were light and fast.

After leading Tranquility, which just flowed incredibly well for me, I hollered down to Alex that I got in that “Flow State”, a moment of being experienced by climbers, skiers, surfers etc. where you simply ride the rock, the wave or the snow, and seem to effortlessly work with nature to tick off your objective. Its’s a state of Euphoria, and that combined with a warm blue bird day and a killer granite crag all to ourselves made for a day of Tranquility. Rightfully so.

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Alex starting up the final pitch of Inferno

The only blemish on an other wise perfect day lay at the base. A monument to human wastefulness in the form of a golf course replete with 5 star hotel, swimming pool, luxury housing complex and engines of various lawn machines buzzing in the back ground all day long.

Alex topping out with views of the Golf course below.

Alex topping out with views of the Golf course below.

Fall

The end of summer and through the fall has been chaotic. Lots of coaching once The Holderness School year started, and free time spent in the garden, and even a bit climbing. With not having the time to dedicate to projecting, most of my recreational climbing has been put into alpine-esque multi pitch routes.

Going all the way back to August, my good friend Geoff and I did a mini road trip to Katahdin, the premier Alpine climbing area in the east. As a freshman in college i hiked the classic knife’s edge traverse. Along the way I snapped this picture of climbers on the most climbed feature in the Cirque, the Armadillo.

Climbers on the Armadillo

Climbers on the Armadillo

Since then I’ve wanted to go back and climb it. Geoff, having gone to college not far from here has done the armadillo and many other adventure climbs in the in glacial cirques on the mountain. On the hike in two other climbers caught up to us and we chatted the rest of the way to Chimney Pond. Luckily they were nice folks and we were easily able to share the route with them. Geoff and I decided to approach the climb from the left hand side, gaining the top of the large flake by a 5.9 crack called Wind in the Willows. We did an opening 5.8-ish Chimney pitch to get to the base. After wards I realized there was a picture of this chimney in Yankee Rock & Ice. It was one of the original routes on the Armadillo formation, dating back to the mid thirties!

The route in its entirety was about 400-500′ of technical climbing followed by another few hundred feet of fourth class ridge scrambling to where it intersected the Knifes edge.

In addition to Katahdin I’ve been spending a fair number of days on Cannon. I’ve been up the Ridge twice with two groups of friends as Batchelor parties. Had a fun outing on the VMC Direct Direct with Alexa, another on Vertigo with Alex, and pre work laps on Moby with James and Weisner’s with Geoff. Its great being able to call this cliff a crag, and walk up to do a half day of dragging on the awesome granite. Or, in some cases, the not so awesome granite.

Needless to say a good amount of time was also spent harvesting from the garden and farm.

Most time of all has been spent coaching at Holderness. The team has had an exceptional year…pictures on the team website: https://www.holderness.org/rock-climbing