Monthly Archives: March 2014
Mark enjoying the sun on the Willard summit.
It may be late March, but many of the ice climbs in Crawford Notch remain in great shape. In fact, many of the climbs are larger than I have ever seen them. At least Mark seemed to think it was “the best day ever.” The bright sun didn’t hurt ether.
Alex in the Cleft.
I often say that climbing ice is something special. We are climbing on a medium that only exists under the right circumstances. This is part of it. However, climbing with someone who is positive and loves climbing. Makes climbing anything special.
Mark after doing battle with the flow above.
Thank you Mark for an awesome day on the ice.
Chattanooga has become one of our favorite places to recreate in the spring and fall seasons. Terry and I made plans early as we knew we would be ready to escape the wintry march weather of the northeast. This March has been especially brutal in NH with cold temps and stormy weather for much of the month.
Lucky for us our timing was right, we arrived in Chattanooga with a sunny and seasonably warm forecast for our five day trip. The T Wall for trad and the Foster Falls sport routes were on the hit list.
The Tennessee Wall is a perfect place to warm up the fingers, hands, and body on the wide variety of moderate steep jam cracks and corners which are usually capped by a roof of some sort. The area is also south facing and we were on a mission to seek out the sunshine.
Foster falls is another favorite area of mine. The long sandstone wall has a few hundred sport routes – the warm ups start in the 5. 9 and 5’10 range and then its on to the harder testy sport climbs. The Crime Buttress is one of our favorite areas with a bunch of 5.11 and up routes on the steep slightly overhanging wall.
Chattanooga – the city is mid sized with plenty to do. Yoga is plentiful – we found an excellent studio called the Yoga Landing that offers a great variety of classes. There are lots of hikers, runners, bikers, climbers around – you can tell this is one of the better outdoor designations in the south east. Restaurants – we found excellent places to eat such as Sluggos, the Boathouse, and Mojo Burritos.
If you are looking for a quick three or four day adventure – I would say put this place – Chattanooga on the list
Foster Falls – in springtime condition.
Terry – first lead on the season – Golden Locks 5.8!!!
Terry sorting out the gear and the hand jams on Passages another 5.8 gem at the T Wall.
The T Wall is a shared area – copy this info you are planning a trip.
High Point Climbing Gym – brand new in downtown Chattanooga. Indoor and outdoor walls and a large bouldering section. We did not climb here as the weather was to nice – we opted for the outdoor fun.
Side walk activities.
Chattanooga has four bridges across the Tennessee River. We walked over the bridges in circuits each morning. The bridge in the photos has been closed to motor traffic and is now only a foot bridge for walkers, runners, and bikers
Our good friend Tim was spending the winter here. We met up and he showed us a quiet crag that is just being developed. Terry is seconding a very nice 5.11b route.
Tim D giving me a proper blue point belay.
The steep climbs at Foster Falls.
I’ve got to say we are now refreshed from all this southern fun.
Saturday brought on the entire range of winter conditions. I was surely surprised at the 39 degree temp outside our morning meet up at the Highland Center. Somewhat overdressed for the deep trail breaking mission that lay ahead Danny, Cindy and I entered the forest and began our ascent of Mt Washington on the Ammo Trail. The snow was as deep as expected, our only advantage was the MRS snowshoes we were footed with kept us afloat. We climbed steadily with shoes all the way to Lakes of the Clouds.
Once above the trees the winds picked up and the temps started dropping. The forecast was coming true with high winds and wind chill warnings for late in the day. With micro spikes now on our pace quickened on the supportive snowpack. Our moves were like those of a drunken person as we wavered to maintain balance in the high winds.
After a tough push on the summit cone the peak was reached just after the noon hour.
The weather gods gave us a break this time. Our upper mountain descent was uneventful and the temps and winds maintained a moderate level. We enjoyed our travels down the summit cone to Lakes of the Clouds with good views towards Vermont and New York.
Our final descent was a blast – the deep snow the Ammo Trail gave us the green light for the luge run of the year.
Thanks to Danny and Cindy for this fun Mt Rainier training day on Mt Washington.
Alex breaking the new skin track.
Mountain guiding is as much of a life style as it is a profession. Guides around the country and world not only dedicate their lives to climbing and skiing at high levels recreationally, they also train and learn how to share theses amazing experiences with their guests. Its a whole other ball game when climbing transforms into guiding. It takes a life time of training and dedication to learn the art form of the mountain guide.
Eric, above the trees on our ascent.
Thanks to Mammut for the Trion Light 29L pack, and windproof short shell (perfect for our objective).
There are however some really great perks. Other than traveling to amazing places, playing outdoors every day, and meeting wonderful people; guides get to have fun. Sometimes when everyone else is at work. MMG guide Eric Thatcher and I took a personal day this Friday to enjoy the fresh powder that fell across northern New England. Skiing fresh tracks is most defiantly a quality perk of being a mountain guide.
Alex on the ascent at the tree line.
Our mission was a ten mile tour that would take us through beautiful silent forrest, over the summit of 4,802 foot Mt. Moosilauke, and down a beautiful carriage road filled with fresh white knee high powder. Along the way we would get breathtaking views of Mt. Washington, Mt. Lafayette, the Sandwich Range, and Pemi-Wilderness.
The 4,802′ summit.
Breaking trail to the nearly 4,802 foot summit required consistent swapping of the leader position. For the person following in the skin track laid out by the leader life is grand and easy as Sunday morning. For the leader breaking trail, its more like a sweaty meditation. Good news is, if you higher a guide they do all this work for you. Never the less we were on top in 3 hours. Not break neck speed, but good considering breaking the skin track.
Eric and Colby enjoying the ascent.
Once on the summit we admired the view pointed out the different summits we could see on the horizon, then headed down. About another mile of touring with skins led us to the top of the carriage road. Once there the skins were off and we were ripping new tracks in the fresh powder. It only took us and hour to get down. Needless to say, skiing = pure joy; and getting first tracks is a big perk of living the life of a mountain guide.
Thank you to our guests who make this possible and to Mammut for the perfect packs and soft shells for our powder-day in the hills.
The team just after setting out.
This weekend Mooney Mountain Guides, along with five guests, had the opportunity to spend a night in the Mt. Washington Observatory (OBS) on the summit of Mt. Washington. Growing up as a New England kid in love with his local mountains, Mt. Washington represented the pinnacle of mountain terrain. As I stared at its windy white summit, it was completely wild to think that people actually lived and worked up there. It seemed as cold and remote as the moon. My curiosity and imagination running wild of what it must be like.
It seems that this feeling I experienced since my childhood is not uncommon among others who go to the mountains. After all, year round weather observatory that has been manually taking weather observations every hour on the our, 365, since the 1930’s is quite unique. Why wouldn’t a mountaineer want to spend a night up there? Spending the night is only half the fun. MMG’s five guests and I had to climb the mountain to get there.
The trip begins with a leisurely meeting time of 8:00am. Followed by a discussion on gear, and itinerary. Typically we are hitting the trail by 9:30, prepared to spend the next 36 hours on the mountain.
Ascending the technical Lions Head trail.
After relatively laid back hike up the wide Tuckerman’s ravine trail providing us with lots of room to talk and get to know one another we reached the Lion’s head winter route. At this point on the trail, ice axes and crampons are used to ascend the steep semi technical terrain on our way to tree-line. Once above the trees on the exposed “Lion’s Head” our group began to feel the wind Mt. Washington is famous for; however, it was relatively light and the temperatures were warm with bright sun.
Ascending the summit cone.
We continued our traverse across the southern end of the Alpine Garden, our sights fixed on the summit cone ahead. The team was making such good time in the favorable conditions that we had time to ditch the crampons for some self arrest practice on the snow fields of the summit cone. Following some fine tuning of our technique, the team continued up the snow and rock towards the summit. The bright sun, mild temperatures, and moderate winds made our time on the upper mountain very enjoyable.
Taking a moment to enjoy the upper mountain.
We reached the summit and took our time taking photos and exploring the alpine terrain. On this particular day we enjoyed 130+ miles of un-OBS-structed visibility. Seeing summits in New York’s Adirondack State Park! For those of you who know Mt. Washington, you know how special this opportunity was.
Finally inside we were greater with warm soup and freshly baked bread. A magical sunset was followed by a delicious dinner. With some good conversation we called it a night with hopes of catching the sunrise the following morning.
Weather instrument tour.
Sunrise, breakfast, and a tour of the weather instruments left us prepared for the journey down the hill. The team made a slight detour to experience the stronger winds, spend more time in the beautiful sunshine, and explore more of the mountain. The team enjoyed a picture perfect descent. We all found it difficult not to smile following such a wonderful trip to the OBS.
Descending the upper mountain
Special thanks to Mooney Mountain Guides and our guests, Mammut for the gear the makes alpine exploration possible, and the Mt. Washington Observatory for being such gracious hosts.
I hope to see you all in the Mountains
To many of us skiers, especially us back country and ski mountaineering folk, the Haute Route is on our radar. On skis, it is a week long traverse from Chamonix in France, to Zermat in Switzerland. On this journey a skier will be greeted with breath taking mountain landscapes, high-alpine terrain, spectacular descents, and beautiful touring across glaciers. A skier will also be faced with all the typical mountain challenges, navigation, weather, avalanches, while traveling in glaciated terrain. In addition to these challenges, a skier must be prepared with the skills for skinning, moving in crampons, skiing steep slopes, and transitioning between each element quickly and efficiently.
These four ladies are headed to Haute route, but before they go, a training day with MMG was in order. Our day began with a discussion on packing and quickly transitioned into skinning. After practicing with our ski’s skins we did some touring practicing our kick turns and walking in crampons. A discussion on avalanches preceded our transition into descent mode. The skins came off and boots were buckled tight for the hard fast snow. Following our exciting descent, the team practiced a few more transitions before a beacon search demonstration. At the end of the day our team had covered a lot. In the process we had a blast, got to see some great views, and even got some skiing in.
I hope you all have an amazing trip.
The past few weeks has been a pretty amazing guiding time for me. Very fortunate comes to mind, as my work as a guide brings me in contact with so many positive, energetic and interesting guests.
This photo blog shows just that – in the course of my recent work with Mooney Mountain Guides our guests, family members and friends have been turned on to adventure climbing events in amazing New Hampshire places. The climbing is plentiful and varied whether we are on skis, on the ice, or ascending a mountain. Smiles are plentiful with suffering common too – but one thing we all commonly enjoy, is reaching for the top!!!
Margie and Dylan – on an exciting adventure – out of the normal routine!
Roland buffing out his ski touring skills to prep for the Haute Route.
Conditions were icy but we made the best of a sunny day and had a full mountain tour.
Long time guest Aubrey getting after the steep ice at the Flume.
Aubrey is a technician on the ice and mixed – armed with Petzl Ergo tools and footed with Boreal Ice shoes.
Laurie – a mother, a professional, a mountain traveler, and now an ice climbing addict.
Laurie and I had three amazing days sampling ice climbs in the notches of NH.
Laurie – mixing it up from ice to the stone.
Lisa and Sylvain drove south from Montreal to ski tour on Mt Cardigan. We had an absolute blast spending the day together.
The ski tour turned into a mountain climb – with grand smiles on top of the summit.
Mike has been with MMG for twelve years – it all started with skiing. He brings his entire family on some events but this one was just for him. Steep ice was our goal and we had at it.
Two sunny but cold days one at Crawford Notch and the other at Newfound Lake.
Thanks to all of you for climbing with me – it has been a pleasure and I look forward to seeing you all soon.
The Northern Presidential’s from the Summit
Kevin is a mountaineer. Africa, Europe, Mexico, North America. He has climbed around the world. Even though living in New York, Kevin hadn’t made it to Mt. Washington. It seems from the pictures that he was having a great time. All climbers of the North East are lucky to have such an awesome mountain within driving distance. As a training venue or objective itself. Mt. Washington is a real mountain and climbing it will make you a better climber. If mountaineering is something you may be interested in, come check out Mt. Washington.
We are in the Mountains Now
Cloud cover changing as a front moves through