Monthly Archives: February 2014
At Mooney Mountain Guides we joke frequently that our company acronym (MMG) stands for Mountain’s, Mentorship, Guidance. In all seriousness, though, this is exactly what we provide. A day with MMG can simply be a day in the mountains pursuing a technical objective or experience, or it can be a day or days of learning and guidance. Our sport, mountain sports, have many intricacies to learn before one can safely pursue them on their own. A day in the mountains alone is fraught with potentially life threatening challenges that only experience and knowledge can help one navigate. Add the technical skills needed to climb in the mountains and there is a lifetime worth of learning.
A climber frequently navigates through this educational experience with the help of a mentor, some one older and more experienced who imparts their experiences, and helps the newer climber gain experience of their own, under a watchful eye. This is rewarding to both climbers, as the inexperienced get to safely learn how to navigate the challenges of the mountains and climbing, and the mentor gets to share their love of the mountains and climbing. At MMG, we are passionate about our sport, and love to share that passion and enable others to pursue it safely.
I consider my self blessed to have been able to do this over the past two winters with a student at Holderness School, where I coach rock climbing. Chance Wright was determined enough to get into the world of winter climbing that he successfully lobbied the school to allow him to pursue the sport as his winter sports option, and I was lucky enough to be able to coach him. Holderness, located in the same area as MMG operates, is ideally suited for such a sports option. In the winter, classes end around noon, giving us half the day to get out to a local ice crag or mountain and practice skills. Our weeks generally consisted of 3 days of climbing on ice, all over central and northern NH. These days often involved practicing technical skills as well, such as building anchors or setting up rappels. The remainder of the days were usually spent on a brisk hike on the surrounding mountains, building endurance for an end of season objective. Last year, that objective was Pinnacle Gully on Mt Washington. This year, we did the 9 mile Franconia Ridge Traverse in full on winter conditions. Additionally, Chance was able to wrap up this season by leading his first ice climb.
Progression: Chances second day on ice (Apocalypse Gulley), Pulling the roof on his first WI5 (Geographic Factor), and his first ice lead (Bloodline)
Taking skills on the road: A christmas vacation trip to Ouray CO
Last Season’s Objective: Pinnacle Gulley on Mt. Washington
This years original objective was Lincoln’s Throat on the Franconia Ridge. An unstable snow pack, and violent winds forced us to amend this plan to traversing the ridge. Having to change our plans was perhaps the most valuable lesson Chance learned in 2 years. Always listen to the mountains.
Chance is incredibly lucky to be going off to college with the skills and experience he already has in the mountains. I’m sure one of the biggest lessons he learned, as we all have, is that these mountain sports offer a lifetime of learning, and his education has just begun. Chance, I wish you the best in this journey, and am eager to see where it takes you! Thanks, for letting me be a part of that process.
Learning to climb is a process. At some point in any our journey comes a moment when the seed is planted and we decide to pursue climbing as a sport. We all start with a concept of what climbing is and what it takes to move up the mountain. We begin with the basics of movement, foot work and equipment. We climb a little with these skills and develop new skills along the way. If all goes well its a lot of fun and the cycle begins. The more we climb, the more we learn, the more we want to climb, and the more we climb.
Descending in soft snow.
Ian, Mark, and George have decided that climbing is something they want to pursue, and have begun climbing on there own. The three decided to come climbing with Mooney Mountian Guides to build on what they have learned with some formal training.
Self-arrest and hip belays.
Our day began with a discussion on essential gear. From there we headed to Willies Slide an excellent alpine training ground. We learned and practiced footwork, ice axe skills, and self arrest. After basking in the sun it was time to put our skills to the test and complete a technical ascent and decent of the slide. By the end of the day our team had covered a large range of mountaineering skills. We all enjoyed our time in the sun learning and climbing together.
Enjoying the climb.
Ian, Mark and George I hope to see all of you in the hills.
Margie and Dylan were up for an unusual adventure. They both enjoy trying new sports and do like to push their limits. Margie is an avid runner and Dylan is in season playing hockey. Both were very fit and up for the task of a steep mountain approach to start the day. Once we accessed the ice climbs the ball was rolling and we climbed and climbed!!!
Usually a family outing is learning the moves on the slab route and climbing it a few times, then maybe the gully on the left for a finnish of the day. Dylan was not ready he kept asking for something steeper and harder. Our finale was the center route where both Dylan and Margie climb a line right up the steeper headwall.
It was an awesome day with two very energetic climbers.
Margie learning the ropes right away while Dylan climbs above.
Ready for the ice – Petzl Quarks in hand.
Time to replenish – the engines are running low.
Dylan on the ice, ready to climb inside the cave, and icicles to take away.
Thank you Margie and Dylan
Willies slide in New Hanpshires Crawford Notch, is a popular area for learning the ropes of technical alpine mountaineering. Beginning with flat fool crampon skills, ice axe use, an and belay systems, and full exposure to mountain weather Amber had a true mountain experience. The days final lesson came to us as we topped out the slide, “sometimes in climbing, a little hard work yields a great reward.”
Amber, starting up a steep snow pitch.
Beta photo: The water ice head wall & technical crux of Willies Slide.
View nearing the top. Amber is in the bottom center of the photo.
Thank you Amber.
Had a great day climbing with my brother Mike and Nephew Emmett at Kinsman Notch. Emmett recently saw some of my ice photos on Facebook and he really wanted to give ice climbing a try. I think he’s hooked on the sport and will be back again. We had an excellent day climbing, exploring, and sliding in the snow. It was a fantastic winter adventure for all.
Emmett – armed and dangerous!
Emmett learning the craft.
Time to climb
Emmett reaching the top on the Shamrock route.
Mike back on the ice – its been awhile but he got right into the swing of things.
Mike again on the steep pillar of ice – nice job on this one.
Kinsman ice caves – very cool place.
The Mooney’s – Mike, Emmett, Art
Happy ending the glissade.
Smiles all around – thanks to Mike and Emmett for making the long journey to NH.
The ski conditions are pretty nice in the NH area right now. This past storm blanketed the area with over a foot of light and dry powder and ski tourers are out and about on the mountain trails. Paul and I enjoyed a full day over at Mt Cardigan yesterday. We skied the Alexandria Trail and the Dukes Trail both from the top. The Alexandria was bumped out like a ski area but the Dukes had a nice carpet of snow that made turns a bit easier and smoother.
During our tour we met up with friends Missy and Jay and toured with them on the Dukes. Jay is a Cardigan regular and he took us into one of his secret stashes for a bit of untracked snow.
Paul getting into his stride skinning up the hill.
Paul topping out on our second run.
The upper Dukes area – great place for a transition, food and drinks, to ready us for the long downhill run through the forest.
Paul in the secret powder stash.
Thanks to Paul – great fun ski touring with you.
Nick. Doing what he is supposed to be doing. On a frozen alpine lake in the White Mountains
This week, Nick, a long time guest came back to New Hampshire for his annual Mt. Washington week. Each February for some time now Nick returns to Mt. Washington. Nick has climbed around the world and continues to set lofty climbing goals at home and abroad. Yet the one mountain he keeps coming back to is New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. There must be something special about this place.
Taking a moment to enjoy the sun.
Nick does not spend the entire week on the mountain. In fact during the week, he only spends one day on the mountain. Instead Nick and I have set smaller goals to help prepare our bodies and minds for the challenges of Mt. Washington and mountains abroad.
Preparing for bigger summits, Nick climbing the steep water ice of New Hampshire.
“Its about the process” Nick often states. Each day out helps me prepare for what lies ahead. “The mountains provide us a unique perspective”. “You are where your supposed to be, doing what your supposed to be doing” are other sayings Nick seems to live by. One thing I am certain of, Nick loves the mountains, he loves the people he goes there with, and the summit is secondary to the process.
The big picture.
It is inspiring to spend time with a climber who’s ego does not interfere with the enjoyment of each moment. To spend time with a climber who elation for simply being where he is matches the elation reaching the summit. Every climber could learn from Nick. What is it that keeps us coming back to the hills anyhow? Is it the summit? Or is it the process of getting there?
Documenting one of the views his process affords him.
Thank you Nick for an amazing week in the hills. Good luck this weekend on Mt. Washington.
This past weekend, MMG Guide Phil, and myself, had the pleasure of introducing 7 never-ever’s to the sport of Ice Climbing. We we’re lucky to have great weather, great ice, and great group dynamics! Day one was at our secret spot (Shhh!), a short flow that allows for lots of laps and easy coaching. For day two we went to Kinsman notch to test the groups strength on the steeps, as well as their footwork, sending them up lower angled terrain with no tools. Below are some pictures from both days.
Thanks for an awesome weekend gang!
Let me start by saying I’m a bit of a gear geek. I love knowing my gear, learning about new gear and what makes certain items better. Additionally, as with many people, there is immense satisfaction settling on a piece of gear that makes you happy when previous iterations have left you wanting more. I ordered the Mammut Togir Click harness this summer and have put it through many a trial over the last 6+ months climbing about 5 days a week for work and pleasure. I have been thrilled with the harness, and being the gear geek that I am, revel in the little things that make it unique.
My friends and I have had many a discussion on how to manage harnesses. Some like ultra lightweight harnesses for sport and more tricked out ones for trad and ice. Others like a simple trimmed down design for ice in particular. Many have two harnesses to cover all of their needs. For my purposes, I like the simplicity of one harness. This makes it easier on me, and harder on the harness, as it has more roles in which it has to please me. The Togir Click appeared to fit the bill, and thus far has proven its self worthy. I’ll break the review down by section from here on out to make it easier for me to organize my thoughts, and for you to follow them!
All of the standard features we’ve come to expect in high end harnesses are present in the Togir Click. Adequate padding, wider waist belt and leg loops for comfort. Four stiff, supported gear loops, and 4 well placed ice clipper locations as well as “speed” buckles, the kind that cinch down and are automatically doubled back. In addition this harness has 3 little quirks that are big plusses to me.
1.) Belay loop protection: Every harness I’ve worn out has worn out in the belay loop/ tie in area. This happens from the tie in points moving back and forth over the belay loop as you climb, and even more so as you walk. Mammut has developed an ingenious little plastic protector that eliminates that nylon on nylon rubbing, thereby virtually eliminating the most common way of waring out a harness. They have patented this, and no other harness companies have come up with an alternative. Before I had a Mammut harness I use to pad these areas with Ducktape to prolong them. Not only did this look pretty gheto, but the chemicals on the tape probably didn’t do the nylon any favors. In case your harness does wear out here, Mammut has put in an indicator strip, so you see that you a contrasting red layer of fabric under the worn out layer, to warn you (Identified by tabs with red exclamation mark on them).
2.) “5th gear loop” in the back: Many ice climbers will tie some accessory cord between their back two gear loops to add an additional gear loop. A good place to clip things you don’t need quite as quickly. It’s a great spot to clip your belay gloves and/ or puffy, V thread tool, off belay knife, or spare cordalette. Mammut must’ve caught on to this as they put two holes in the bottom outside corner of the back two gear loops. This allows you to attach the accessory cord for your 5th gear loop, while keeping that cord out of the way of carabiners you’re clipping into your back two gear loops. there’s also a sewn in tag line type loop in the back of the harness, a great place for your prussic to take up permanent residence.
3.) “Click” buckles: Alright, the main event. What really sets this harness apart is the “click” buckles. In short, these allow you to quickly pull the buckle apart, opening the leg loops and waist loops completely. This is invaluable for winter climbing when you might put a harness on after crampons, or take it off before your crampons. Gents, it also makes peeing in the winter much easier. Unclick one leg loop, pull the harness to the side and you’ve removed one of far too many obstacle to relief! Some might find this a little gimmicky, thinking about how most harnesses can do this to an extant. What sets it apart in my mind is how versatile this makes the harness as a whole. Basic harnesses, where every buckle has to be threaded and doubled back come apart completely like this, but then are a pain to double back every time, and add one more thing to forget when looking to put a harness on quickly and easily while sport cragging. Even the speed style buckles can be completely taken apart, and re threaded as needed, but its a little to finicky in my experience because of the auto double back buckle. The click buckle is easy to remove and put back on, I’ve been doing it with mittens all winter long, and in the summer it goes on quickly and smoothly with the buckles acting like a normal “speed” buckle. To me this is what makes the harness such a great all around harness.
Over the past six months I’ve obsessively, hang dogged sport projects, spent all day hanging from multi pitch cliffs and worked 5 days a week coaching ice climbing in this harness (+ personal and guiding days). Throughout these experiences it has proven its self worthy, comfortable, durable and versatile. I never felt discomfort in this harness taking short hard falls or longer airy whippers at Rumney.
The true test of comfort came in trying the Prow multiple times this summer. To me, this climb had become infamous for its 5 kidney crunching hanging and semi hanging belays. In former harnesses my discomfort from hanging in my harness rivaled that of cramming my toes into tight shoes and my fingers into tiny cracks by the end of the day. This harness proved to be so comfortable that that internal discomfort was an afterthought. A very welcome change.
Finally, I’ve found this harness to be perfectly tricked out for ice climbing. As I stated before, the click buckles make it a cinch to put on after crampons and take off before. The 5th gear loop, with its out of the way accessory cord adds racking space, often eliminating the need to carry a backpack, and the ice clipper loops are sturdy enough to hold the clippers in place, but not so tight that you can’t easily remove them for a mid winter gym session. It’s the perfect jack of all trades.
Grade V comfort
NEI 5 versatility
Thanks to: Keyan Pishdadian, Geoff Wilson and Andy Neuman for photos, in descending order
Harness photos from Mammut: http://www.mammut.com/en/productDetail/211000891_v_7237/Togir-Click.html
Each week is so different in the guiding I do. I move around NH and Vermont climbing on the ice climbs, different peaks and all over the rock faces. It is a very challenging and exciting line of work that I love. This past weekend after a week on the ice I met up with a great group of new climbers and headed to the peaks to learn and practice skills for a couple of winter ascents. Our prep led us to climb NH’s big one – Mt Washington.
Ten of us summited the mountain in whiteout conditions. Being on top with this group was a fantastic experience for sure. We were able to climb efficiently and safely up and down – and all came home with great memories of a weekend adventure that will last a while.
Enjoy the trip photos of our Mt Washington climb.