Happy Holidays to you all from each of us at Mooney Mountain Guides.
The winter season is off to good swing and we are psyched. Ice has formed up in many locations, and the mountains are covered in snow. Our ice and mountaineering programs are filling up – give us a call to schedule your winter trip.
Our MMG winter training session was held at the AMC Highland Center with an outdoor skills refresher at Frankenstein cliff.
Cannon Cliff is choked full of ice, many of our advanced level ice climbing days are held at this fantastic alpine area.
MMG Guide Ted leading the crux pitch of the Black Dike.
Dark Crystal with MMG guide Andrew another Cannon testpiece.
Full ice conditions in the mountains of NH
MMG guide Andrew honing up his winter skills.
Long time guest of MMG – Jerry on an early season ascent of the Snot Rocket in Crawford Notch.
Guides day off Alex and Art climbing on Cannon.
Join us this winter for your adventure in the mountains.
Mooney Mountain Guides and Mammut teamed up for the very successful Mammut Alpine School ice climbing trip. This was MMG’s and MAS’s first trip with more to come. Each of our guests joined in for this weekend of instruction, followed by experience and mileage on the ice climbs. By the end of the weekend we all had climbed over 1000 ft of ice at Frankenstein Cliff and on Mt Willard in Crawford Notch NH. The Highland Center Lodge was fabulous, the food was delicious, our rooms were quiet, our meeting space was spacious and private and the staff was super friendly.
Join us for our next MAS trip on Mt Washington Weekend climb over St Patty’s Day weekend March 17 – 19, 2017.
Our MAS team of Art, Laurie, Jodi, Andrew, Sarah and in front MMG guide Mike. Smiles of enjoyment from the rewards of our first ice climbing day. each of us reached new heights on this warm and sunny day at Frankenstein Cliffs
Jodi and Laurie working together for Jodi’s first ascent the Trestle Slab ice climb. This was Jodi’s first experience on the ice and Laurie came with miles of mountain and ice climbing experience. This mix created a perfect situation for both ladies to empower and climb to the top.
Mammut, the brand is well known and highly respected. Mammut clothing and equipment is innovative alpine mountain gear that stands up to the rigorous test of day to day use in extreme mountain environments. Mammut is one of the finest mountain climbing product companies in the outdoor market.
Jodi climbing the steeper ice on the Standard Route at Frankenstein. Jodi learned the basic moves then she was able to turn on her focus and determination to ascend each ice climb with power and grace.
The AMC Highland Center – our meeting and lodging location.
The Highland Center nestled in Crawford Notch is a perfect location for easy access to a variety of ice climbs.
Laurie setting up anchors and the belay as she guides Jodi on the ice. MMG guide Mike is nearby coaching and giving advise as needed.
Beautiful ice on the East Slabs right on Mt Willard. We all climbed to the top then rappelled back down for another route nearby.
Andrew gaining comfort in this new vertical ice environment. Andrew learned how to place solid ice tools, how to place the feet by finding the small ledges to kick good steps into and also the importance of flexibility and balance.
Sarah having a blast, high on the ice above the roadway on the East Slabs area of Mt Willard.
Jodi and Laurie climbing side by side on the East Slabs right. Mike set up a parallel rope system so the ladies could climb together. This technique is faster, guests stay warmer, and its tons of fun for all.
Standard Route in the afternoon, one more ice pitch to complete our first day. Sarah and Andrew coming into the cave area belay station on Standard Route.
A very successful Mammut Alpine School weekend on the ice. The conditions were fantastic, the crew was awesome, all in all a very fun weekend full of excitement and challenge.
Thank you all!!!
Mooney Mountain Guides has a new ice climbing course which I termed the Mileage Plus+. This is a specialized course for ice and rock climbers seeking to fast track their movement and technical skills. Under the mentorship of Art, Laurie has developed a plan with a mutual commitment of time and energy. The Mileage Plus+ days are full of education followed by mileage which equates to experience. This winter Laurie and I have immersed ourselves together into the finer aspects of the ice world. Our instructional topics include movement skills, ice protection, ice anchoring, belay techniques, v threads and once again Mileage Plus+. Over regular intervals Laurie is quickly advancing, with a solid understanding of the many intricacies of the ice.
Kinsman Notch, a fabulous area for moving into ice leading. Laurie has set off on Lepricuans Lament NEI2. This route is perfect for Laurie to sharpen her mental focus to lead, to place ice screws at regular intervals,and then set up the anchor at the top.
The ice climber can never take a casual approach, stay connected to the tools, to the gear, to the ice. Laurie has three solid points of contact to free up her right hand to place ice screw protection on the pitch.
As Laurie approaches the top she is deciding where to place her top out ice screw. It is the rounded out bulges with thin ice above that may look easy but climb quite hard, thus need the extra attention and protection.
Laurie is climbing on Shamrock NEI3. Pictured is the lower crux which a very steep corner leading to a rest. Laurie is keeping her cool knowing that once on the above ice ledge she can rest and re energize for the remainder of the climb.
Laurie brought along these tasty home made energy bars of dates, walnuts, and cacao.
The Beast at Kinsman – here Laurie is testing her movement skills on a steep NEI4+
Multi pitch transitions is where the technical action takes place. Being able to swap leads with efficiency is key to keeping the flow, staying warm, reducing the time and risk on the climb.
A backed up V thread – a recommended technique before committing the entire team to this tunnel into the ice.
Last week was a huge break through for Laurie and I. We logged in many hours on the ice together, Laurie took on the task on leading the routes and we worked on fine tuning skills along the way. This all happened in the White Mountains of NH, one of the finest ice climbing venues in the world.
Thank you Laurie for this amazing experience.
Jerry Gale and I traveled to the Canadian Rockies for ten days of ice climbing in early March. This trip was our grand finale for our 2015/16 ice climbing season. Over the winter we climbed, we trained, and readied ourselves for the cold difficult ice routes of the north. Upon our arrival and through out the trip we both were truly surprised at what we found. The temperatures remained constant, hovering around freezing levels, the ice was generally fat and sticky, and the routes plentiful with so many to choose!!!
The Canadian Rockies viewed from Banff
Our first day we found ourselves walking up to this local favorite – The Pilsnar Pillar. This gem was our prize climb, right up the center pillar.
Inside the cave behind Pilsnar Pillar.
Wicked Wanda is located in the South Ghost area. The Ghost areas comprised of two main areas the north and south. Wicked Wanda was our first choice as it was the easier to get to. Easy being barred by a 10 mile dirt road, the infamous big hill, and gravel river crossings.
The north Ghost is another story. Both Jerry and I wanted this place in a bad way. Home to the Sorcerer pictured above and another classic called Hydrophobia. We settled on this unknown route, the Sorcerer. We were gifted with this picture as were rounded the bend early in the morning.
A spectacular afternoon on the Sorcerer!!!
My friend Dale made this Sorcerer journey possible. As you can see the a rental car would not make these river crossings. Dale had the right rig for the task the Toyota Tacoma in 4×4 low.
Snowline – the center, Moonlight the left were two long flows of ice in tip top shape. This ice climbing area was south of Canmore in the Evan- Thomas Creek area in the Kananaskis foothills.
Snowline – a skinny route that spiraled its way to the top
Mammut in action – the Nordwand GTX Boot, Trion Guide Pack, Neon Light Pack, Nordwand Gloves and much more. Thanks to the Mammut and the Vermont staff for all the help gearing up for this fine adventure.
Our grand finale was Curtain Call. A brilliant climb in our minds. We approached in the dark and the first light displayed this – a very technical looking ice route with an overhang at the top. We both new this would be our grand prize for the season.
This is our third and final pitch. Beautiful stemming up the corner leads to the imposing roof section. Picked out by others, the transition over the overhang was doable for us.
Jerry topping out high above the Icefields Parkway.
Wild ice formations on the Curtain Call – Canadian Rockies.
Jerry a long time partner who is committed to the sport. Whether it be rock, ice or mountain climbs Jerry seeks out the cleanest line. We both work together to climb the prize lines of the area together.
So much thanks to Jerry.
Early in my teaching career, I was assigned the assistant coach of a junior varsity lacrosse team. I had never played lacrosse; I did not even know the basic rules. I felt well outside my comfort zone. Despite my trepidation, I entered the season determined to contribute positively to the team.
Fortunately, the program included a number of excellent and experienced coaches who would mentor me for the season. The varsity head coach explained the system they used from the freshman to the varsity team and the fundamentals they focused on reinforcing. The JV head coach assigned me certain tasks and responsibilities within my skill set that set me up for success rather than failure. Having previously coached other sports for several years, I was already able to help the players with the mental aspect of the game – readying oneself for a game and maintaining one’s cool in challenging situations – and as the season continued, I branched out offering more sport specific advice. That season reinforced in me the value of venturing out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to do so in the future.
Fast forwarding nearly twenty years, I found myself standing at the base of Kinsman Notch this winter working with an REI Ice Climbing group. Ice climbing? I’m more of a rock climber; how did I get here?
For years, I had gone out once or twice a season for an ice climb. While I enjoyed the sport itself and saw the cross-over of various skills, the cold discouraged me. I am not tough (anyone who knows me would heartily agree), but it’s more than simply not wanting to be cold. I love cross-country skiing and running in the winter, and I feel a great sense of empowerment enjoying these activities when the temperature drops. But for even longer than I have been climbing, I have had joint implant for my right ring finger. As a result, I need to tape my ring finger to my middle finger for support when I climb, and the poor circulation in my hand is exacerbated by the cold. My finger has turned blue several times in colder hockey rinks.
About four or five years ago, I followed the advice and encouragement of my friend and mentor, Art, and decided to expand my guiding repertoire. That winter I began to assist the MMG winter trips (though I had not signed on for the single digit temperatures at my first MMG winter training day). Underdressed because I lacked the proper clothing but anxious to learn, I soaked in both the big picture topics that we discussed that day as well as the subtle tips the more experienced guides provided. From others’ suggestions on how to swing the axe more effectively and efficiently to Mike’s advice of placing the carabiner in one’s teeth to avoid its sticking to one’s lips, I broadened my knowledge base. On the drive home, it seemed like an hour before I could feel my toes, but I left the day excited about the upcoming opportunities.
A couple of weeks later, I shadowed a weekend REI Mount Washington trip. Armed with a borrowed set of Gore-Tex bibs, a warmer puffy, and a set of proper mittens and gloves, the cold was a non-factor. In fact, I needed to take off a layer on the last leg to the summit because I was overheating. I spent the weekend absorbing all the tips that Art and Jim offered: adjusting the grips on the poles, carving out steps, and effective layering of clothes to name a few. By the time we returned to the truck on the final day of the trip, I was exhausted but hungry to learn and to experience more.
In the following few winters, I climbed more with my friends and helped out with the ice climbing trips for the school where I teach. This past year, I even invested in a set of boots and axes and took advantage of additional free time this January by climbing recreationally with friends and working with my more experienced colleagues on several of the MMG ice climbing trips.
Following a climb near the Greeley Pond
At the base of the pitch.
Happy to have the rope above me
Although more knowledgeable about the sport of ice climbing than lacrosse, I felt less sure of myself than guiding rock. However, I recognized that despite the different terrain and techniques between ice and rock climbing, the heart of guiding remains the same: build and maintain a level of trust in the guide and the safety systems to help guests venture out of their comfort zone by providing them with enough advice (but not too much) so that they can accomplish the task. Each day, I observed the way Alex, Erik, or Tim taught the fundamental skills, and I tried to apply those lessons to my own teaching. I learned so much conversing with each of them on the drives to and from the crag as well. And I learned from the guests on those trips. Seeing them struggle and succeed, I talked with them about the process. I reflected on what helped each climber most and saw a variety of effective ways to present an idea.
Erik teaching a lesson to a group
I have found through my experiences as a teacher, a guide, and a climber myself that stretching one’s comfort zones is when the greatest learning takes place. This past winter, I certainly applied this mindset to my own winter climbing, and I sought out situations where I felt safe but less confident in the past. Carrying these lessons forward, I am excited about this coming rock season and all that it will encompass.
For me, the calculated risks that I took yielded tremendous success for myself as a climber, a guide, and an individual. I encourage others to do to same.
Good luck on the rocks in the coming months.
This past fall, our friends at Mammut were kind enough to let us test the Broad Peak Hooded Jacket. Having worn similar jackets from other companies over the years, I had expected a range of uses and parameters. This jacket far exceeded my expectations.
The Broad Peak Jacket
For starters, the snug fit tapered well to my body, insulating me from the cold and wind while still stretching enough so that I could add layers and still move comfortably. Rock climbing this fall, I found the Broad Peak packed down nicely so that it did not take up much room in my pack and served as a valuable piece when I was belaying on a cold day. The front collar and hood provide good comfort without making me feel claustrophobic. and the hood was snug, but not uncomfortable, effectively trapping in the heat. Especially when I wore a hat underneath, I felt noticeable warmer.
Alex sporting the Broad Peak on the summit of Mount Washington
When I was out and about this winter in cold, windy weather wearing the Broad Peak under a soft shell was plenty warm. Since this past winter was milder than most, I did not use it as a layering piece when active because it was, in fact, too warm the few times that I tried. Had I ventured out in the few really cold days, I certainly would have brought this jacket with me. In addition, the jacket worked quite well around town, standing or walking around in windy conditions (especially one cold winter night when we wandered the streets of Somerville looking for our car).
While I am hoping that the cold days are behind us for this season, I am not packing the Broad Peak away just yet.
Art staying warm for the belay
I expect to use it in the coming months when belaying on some of the colder spring days, and I plan to add it to my winter layering system next season.
Ice routes and conditions are vastly improving in NH. The warmer days and cold nights give the necessary water flow to the routes. At a rapid rate I am seeing the ice conditions ramp up.
On News Years Day I gave an ice tour of Mt Willard to my good friends Masia and Todd and to Terry. A bright and colorful day we certainly had. We climbed both lower and upper Hitchcock gullys and found the entire route to be in fine shape.
The colors on winter!!!
Terry working through the tricky rock step on Lower Hitchcock.
Terry and I had a blast spending the day with Todd and Masia. They are so psyched to be climbing ice on New Years day.
Han Chen and I met very early today Jan 2. Our goal was to be first for the NH classic Black Dike ice climb.
First place did not happen but we did meet friends on the route. Soon enough we were high on the ice enjoying a warm day, sticky ice, and building conditions.
So much thanks to you all for getting out climbing ice in the NH mountains. I enjoyed every moment and look forward to more good climbs together.
September and October climbing in New England can produce some of the best conditions of the year – no bugs, no humidity, and good temperature for friction. When November rolls around, we frequently have a dead zone where the ice has not yet formed and it’s a little cold for rock climbing. Though I and many others have ventured out on those colder days, I frequently question whether or not the climbing is worth the discomfort. This November, however, I have found the conditions fantastic! Many of the days at Rumney have been sunny and in the 40s, affording us the opportunity to climb in minimal gear and much less suffering.
Belaying in a short-sleeved shirt in November, and I’m not the only one!
Even with the warmer temps, I have found that a few factors help improve my enjoyment and productivity during the day: get a nice warm up, bring a range of cold weather clothes, and find a sunny crag.
Steve on the first pitch of the classic Rock du Jour
Especially in the cold, I have found that warming up helps to prevent injury and also gets me in a good mindset for the day. Sometimes I take a second lap on a route I have dialed; other times I go down an extra grade for the first route or two. In addition to feeling a little more in the groove, the sun has some time to warm up the rock.
Katie entering the crux of Sweet Polly Purebred
Eric heading for the “secret” hold on Underdog
While it has been warm enough some days to climb at the main cliff in a t-shirt, one does need to be prepared for colder temperatures. I have three staples in my late fall wardrobe: the Mammut Kala Patter Tech Jacket, an excellent mid-weight hooded layer that fits under my harness but stretches when I climb; the Mammut Pokiok jacket, a light softshell that blocks the wind and helps insulate me when I hike or climb (and I am amazed at how many layers I have fit underneath it and it still works great), and the Broad Peak Hooded Jacket, a recent addition to my wardrobe.
The Broad Peak is light and packs down to a small bundle, making it easy to fit into my backpack, and it is warm. It fits over my other layers when I belay, and keeps me from cooling down too much before getting back on the rock.
Art rockin’ the Broad Peak Hooded Jacket
Once the leaves fall from the trees, several Rumney crags get more sun than usual. As a result, the options for climbing on sunny days at Rumney increase.
Art starting up Sky Pilot
While 40s and 50s might sound cold, getting outside at a sunny crag allows you to leave the long johns at home. We have a limited number of these warm days left, so I plan to take advantage of them!
Hard to believe that there are so few cars in the small lot on a Friday.
Jerry and I completed a varied day of climbing on a few classic climbs at Whitehorse Ledge.
Wavelength – Seventh Seal – Loose Lips – Childrens Crusade 1st pitch.
We are in the middle of SENDTEMBER and it felt like it today. The climbing on the slabs and the central wall of Whitehorse Ledge in NH was exceptional. The morning temps were in the 40’s, the sky was cobalt blue thus the rock on the slabs was perfect for the sticky rubber shoes, the edges on the face routes were crisp and the jams in the finger cracks felt dry and and solid.
Seventh Seal and classic 5.10a finger crack on the Ethereal Buttress. Jerry approaching the crux which he cruised by with ease.
Our morning warm up on the first pitches of Standard Route.
The high end games began as Jerry took on the tricky leads of Wavelength 5.8.
Jerry styling the perfect granite finger crack leading up to Loose Lips.
Loose Lips – Wow this is an awesome route. The route is a personal favorite of mine and now Jerry. A techy 5.10 face leads to a traverse and then the finale, a beautiful long finger crack.
Today was the start of a week long trip for Jerry and I. Cathedral Ledge is our next stop and certainly a visit to Cannon Cliff will round out the trip. We are in certainly luck this time as the weather looks to be clear, sunny and cool for the entire week.
Thanks Jerry for a great day on the stone.
One of the perks of working for Mooney Mountain Guides is the opportunity to demo gear before it hits the market and to provide feedback. Recently, I have been using the new Mammut Multi-Pitch Chalk Bag, aka the Furman (in reference to the man who developed the concept).
Several years back while I was climbing at Cathedral Ledge, someone went through my bag and stole some of my gear from my pack, and adding insult to injury, took my approach shoes as well, leaving me to walk back to the car barefoot. Though theft at the crag is rare, since that time, I have been skeptical about leaving anything of value at the base of a climb. As a result, I would often climb with a small pack of valuables, even if I was going up just a few pitches.
Enter The Furman.
The Multi-Pitch Bag with a few items I packed in it.
The Furman, which uses a strap and clip to easily connect to your waist, is a larger chalk bag that contains two zippered pockets and a mesh pocket on the side. One of the zippered pockets, which held my wallet and iPhone 5, provides me easy access to take out the phone and snap some pictures at the belay stations. The other zippered pocket contains a clip for a climber to attach a set of keys and additional room for other items. I have used it for my watch when I remove it for a crack climb. Off on the other side, the mesh bag is perfect for a compact med kit, something you need but hope you don’t have to use.
Here is a better look at the way I packed some items.
On the bottom, the bungee cord and clip is designed to hold a light wind shirt. With the warm temps this summer, I haven’t felt the need to bring one along; however, I did try it out at Acadia last week with a regular short sleeve polypro. Though a little nervous about the shirt falling out, I cinched it down, and the shirt stayed intact without getting in my way at all.
Even with all of these features, it feels no larger than a normal chalk bag. The deep pocket also allowed me to chalk my entire hand easily, including the back, has been great for crack climbs. Unlike previous bags I have owned where the lining absorbs a good deal of chalk, The Furman keeps the chalk in the bag.
For me, it has been perfect in many places: from the Thin Air Face at Cathedral to Acadia, and even the few multi-pitch routes at Rumney.
So for a few shorter two to three pitch routes, I would strongly recommend the Mammut Multi-Pitch Bag, which should be out in stores in the spring of 2016.