Erik Thatcher

For some people its shoes. Others, perhaps, baseball caps. Myself, I have a a problem with soft shell pants. I’ve discovered that they are the perfect pant for nearly any occasion. I have my standard pair for shoulder season rock, ice and mild mountaineering days. I have a pair with waterproof knees and butt for for backcountry skiing. I have an old pair I use for gardening and an even older pair (bought in high school) that I pulled out for landscaping in the rain. The benefits of soft shells are simply to great to list them all, but some of my favorites are that they’re durable, extremely comfortable, don’t get smelly musty or damp, and dry super quick. They’re such a huge part of my everyday wardrobe, that a girl I was seeing for a bit commented on the first time she saw me wearing pants other than soft shells, a few months in to the relationship.  Despite my affinity for them, I couldn’t find a pant to fit one particular niche. The summer climbing soft shell seemed to be an elusive pant.

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The Runbold Pant

This was a noticeable absence in my soft shell line up, as Im not a fan of wearing shorts when climbing. The perfect pant needed to be light enough to not overheat in on hot summer days, easy to roll up for long approaches, and preferably offer some sun protection.( read this if your curious why UPF rated clothes are better for sunny activities). Naturally Id want the pants to be stretchy and fast drying, after all, thats the whole reason for my love affair with soft shell.

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Stretchiness trial on The Groton High Grade, Marshfield VT

When I saw the Runbold pants on Mammut’s website they sounded like they’d fit the bill, even though Mammut markets them as being ideal for hiking and backpacking, and does not mention climbing. I’ve been using them for a few months now and can happily report that they’ve filled the void in my soft shell line up perfectly! My personal elasticity gives out far before that of the pants, and even if I did yoga 5 times a week I don’t think I could flex in such a way to find the limits of their stretchiness. The pants get wet at the mention of water, but this is to be expected for such a breathable fabric, and the upside is that they dry incredibly fast and don’t keep in your own moisture. The thinness of the material also makes this an incredible packable pant for a multi day climbing trip or throwing them in your pack just in case you want pants. The pants roll up easily and even have a tab and loop system to help keep the rolls in place. I’ve found this feature slightly superfluous and intent to cut it off soon, thought its never felt like it gets in the way. One of my favorite features that seems to be ubiquitous in soft shell pants is the right thigh pocket. This is the perfect place to keep a phone, camera, map or route topo, and my go to location for stashing things I want handy while climbing a multi pitch or guiding.

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The Dynamic Duo, Runbold Pants, Ultimate Light Hoody

The thing that cemented my love affair with these pants was their blue sign certification. This means the production of the fabric used in the pants meets strict human and environmental health standards as set forth and verified by an independent auditor. Third party certifications like this give the consumer faith that a product is being produced in a humane and sustainable way. By buying products with these certifications the consumer can tell businesses that they support environmentally healthy business practices. For more information on the process of getting BlueSign certified, read this.

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Shirt and Pants. Now the perfect summer combo

The other soft shells in my quiver give me a forlorn look now whenever I pass the gear room where they’e dutifully waiting their turn. They’ll just have to wait till winter.

-Erik

On any given week you could bet good money that the MMG crew is out at the cliffs introducing folks to climbing and or new climbs to them, as well as working on their own climbing and guiding progression. This past week was no different! Below is a quick collection of updates from the past week. 

Early on in the week Erik got out to Rumney Rocks for a half day of climbing with Jen and Amanda. These gals were visiting the area for the week, coming from Long Island. They’ve started climbing in the gym back home and venturing into Top Rope terrain when they travel. We had a gorgeous day for a sampling of classic pitches at Rumney!

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This weekend Mike got out with the Schildge family. While on vacation in the north country they joined MMG for a day on Square Ledge. This venue has great moderate climbing for a family outing, with what is possibly the best backdrop of any crag in New England.

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Earlier on in the week, Art was joined by Jerry “the Gale force” They had a couple of great days swinging leads at Rumney and reclaiming perennial classics on Cannon!

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On the personal training front, Alex has headed out to CO to take the Advanced Rock Guide Course through the AMGA, one of many professional development courses MMG guides are involved in this summer. The course, and his acclimatization are taking place in Eldorado Canyon and Lumpy Ridge in the Estes park. Back home, Erik is taking advantage of dry days between the rain to regain strength on some steep sport routes. Most intriguing of these days was at the Groton High Grade Wall, in Marshfield VT.

Alex in CO  

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Erik in VT                                                                                                                                                                                               

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There is a certain empowering feeling to teaching some one else the art and craft that you hold so dear. Whether its one day of sharing skills and techniques, or a multiple season long exchange of information, helping some one gain self sufficiency, empowering them to pursue this same craft on their own is a rich experience for both.

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Dappled Sun at the Square Inch Wall, Echo Crag

Sawyer has been a student of mine on the Holderness School rock climbing team for two seasons. Her enthusiasm and energy for climbing and adventure as a whole was tangible from day one. In that program I’m able to get students proficient in movement on rock, belaying, and even leading sport. Unfortunately we don’t have the time or the terrain to get students leading trad, though they do follow from time to time.

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Sawyer cleaning gear and examining placements

Sawyer graduated last month and wanted to get a solid foundation of leading in before heading off to college at the end of this summer. To that end, her dad gifted her a couple of days with Mooney Mountain Guides to dial in her technical skills.

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Following Skeletal Ribs and placing gear, to be inspected on lower

For her day of Trad climbing Sawyer and I went to Echo Crag. This location is ideal for learning and dialing in gear placement and other essential skills for trad climbing. Despite the wetness we did a couple of great routes, mock leading, and assessing gear placements and proper extension while on a counterbalanced lower together. This way we’re able to look at and talk about the placements together, and look at alternatives.

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Lunch Break Anchor Clinic

A quick lunch brake was an ideal time to talk about anchor construction methods on the ground. We were able to look at the standard, 3 piece equalized cordelette, the quad, and single piece anchors (i.e. big trees!)

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A Commanding View of Franconia Notch from Profile Cliff

From here we made our way up to Profile Cliff, which sits in the sun above Echo, and was therefore much drier. We did a classic long 5.7 line here that requires a double rope rappel, exposing Sawyer to pre rigging, rappel back ups, and joining two ropes for a rappel.

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Sawyer Climbing on Profile Cliff

Once on the ground we wrapped up the day practicing various top belay techniques, including how to release and lower with various devices, and the advantages and disadvantages to different techniques.

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Releasing a weighted ATC guide with a redirected sling

Its impossible to retain every rid bit of information thrown at you in a day like this. What it does do is set a solid foundation. As long as the person trying to learn this continues to seek to educate themselves by playing with the systems they learned, thinking through scenarios and practicing in real life, then the progression will continue to move forward!

Thanks for joining us, Sawyer!

 MMG

The crew at MMG has been making a solid transition into Rock Climbing over the past month so that our guiding game is tip top, and our arm strength is where we want it for personal climbing. We’ve had many morning and evening sessions at Rumney where pitches are done quickly to build miles, and harder routes are worked on to build strength. Many of us have been seeing some personal climbing gains there already this spring and are looking forward to carrying that into pushing ourselves later on in the year.

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Alex Scoping out The Book of Solemnity

 Just as we train our bodies for the transition to rock climbing in the spring, we train our minds for the transition to the unique challenges of guiding on rock that we haven’t faced since last fall. Here’s a snap shot of what we’ve been up to lately.

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Evening view from Cathedral

Erik and Alex have had multiple outings to Cathedral this spring to lap the classic hard routes we might get on with talented guests, as well as scope out some new out of the way ones for that busy weekend day.

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Alex on Raising the Roof

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Alex leading up Raising the Roof

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Sinker jams on the Liger

The Two of them also took a trip out to Albany Slabs, a premiere backcountry climbing site. This cliff, situated off the Kancamangus Highway has a real remote feel, and solid granite. It has a collection of moderate 1 and 2 pitch slab routes that make for a relaxing but new day, hiking in, climbing in a wild place and hiking out. They’re looking forward to taking some adventurous guests to this out of the way gem of a crag sometime this summer.

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Alex heading up Rainbow Slabs

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view from Rainbow Slabs

A good collection of  the MMG  crew met last weekend to sharpen up our technical skills. Luckily the day was rainy making us much more eager to work out the rope work kinks than grab a couple of pitches while at Rumney. We found a perfect site for the work under the overhanging cliff at Orange Crush. Its always great to have a gathering of the minds, to exchange different ways of doing things and bounce ideas of eahcother, let alone catch up with co workers and friends!

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This summer will be filled with a lot of professional development or MMG guides. It’s starting with Erik taking a Rock Guide course in North Conway that is co taught by company founder and mentor-extrodianaire, Art Mooney. We’re a quarter of the way through this course and looking forward to a handful more courses and exams for the MMG guides who are hoping to up their professional game this summer!

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Art instructing on the 10 day AMGA Rock Guide Course

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Alain Comeau instructing on Erik’s Rock Instructor Course

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Alain and some Atlantic Climbing School Guides on the Rock Guide Course along with Erik 

The crew at MMG is stoked to keep refining skills and put them to practice this summer when you come to visit! thanks for checking in.

Mooney Mountain guides is proud to work closely with Mammut North America. we have a quality relationship with our friends at the headquarters in northern VT. Each year Mammut hooks us up with some of their quality product to use, abuse and test in the field. Recently, we’ve also been joining them in VT to share some technical knowledge with the employees and other groups and outfitters that they support. It’s a great two way relationship for all. Twice in the past few years Mammut has outfitted the guides at MMG with the mens Ultimate Hoody. 2 years ago we got them in red, while this past year we got the upgraded model year in an eye catching green.

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MMG crew in Red Ultimate Hoodies

The following is a collection of thoughts on the Ultimate Hoody in general, as well as the changes for the new model. This experience reflects well over 100 days in the field ice climbing, mountaineering and skiing.

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Erik on Hanging by a Moment

The most unique thing about the Ultimate Hoody is its inclusion of a Gore Wind Stopper membrane. In general we like to have layers that do one thing great (soft shell for mild conditions, wind shirt for windy conditions, hard shell for full on…). Often times by trying to make a layer that takes on multiple tasks you end up with a jacket of all trades, master of none. We’re not a fan of this compromise. The Ultimate Hoody has blurred this line by including the wind layer into the soft shell layer. I find that this makes the soft shell less breathable, but more useful in windy conditions, and has allowed me to stop carrying a wind shirt. It’s performed so remarkably that with roughly 20 days of Mt Washington’s worst weather I have yet to don my hardshell this season. The only sacrifice in the blending of these two layers has been a bit less breathability, which is compensated with large pit zips and opening up the front.

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Art on Geographic Factor, Alex on The Promenade

We’ve found that there have been several key improvements in the new model year. All agree that they are slightly roomier in any given size than last year. The new thumb loop design is lower profile and more comfortable to use with or without mittens. Most of all, the addition of a chest pocket is a huge improvement as a place to keep essentials that need to be easily accessed. While fw of us put it to use, this pocket also has a port to thread headphones through, along with an additional keeper near the hood to keep headphone wires out of the way.

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Alex testing the Ultimate Hoody’s wind and waterproof capabilities on Hillmans Highway and a secret woodsy powder stash

Art Mooney, one of Mammut’s sponsored guide’s and one of our lead guides had this to say about the Ultimate Hoody

“Comfortable, roomy yet lightweight, freedom to move, windproof, water resistant, need we say more?”

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Erik heading up the Black Dike in wet early season conditions, yet staying dry and comfortable
A couple of our guides have had issues with blowing out pocket zippers. Mammut has been fast to respond and remedy the situation with free repairs. It’s good to not just know but to see a company stand by their product in such a way.
Ultimately, we think this is a great soft shell “hoody.” It doesn’t brake the bank, and yet it performs wonderfully. The jackets we got 3 years ago now are standing up wonderfully and have retained their quality properties through the years.
Thanks to Mammut for producing great clothing for alpine terrain and to Mammut North America for continuing to support what we do!

 

Alex and Erik just had what may have been the course of their 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 number 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.

If you’re getting tired of shredding groomers and riding lifts, or want to take your skiing to the next level, get in touch with us to book a custom back country ski day. NH is blessed with a wide range of terrain from historical backcountry ski trails at lower elevations, to big mountain lines in alpine terrain. The prime season for the bigger objectives is fast approaching!

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Twice a year Mooney Mountain guides offer’s and exceptional trip, ascending Mt Washington with an overnight in the observatory. This trip is great for those who want to summit Washington and aren’t sure if they can do it in a day, or those who have already done it and are looking for something new.

We get a late start from Pinkahm Notch after going over clothing and equipment needs. This puts on on the summit mid afternoon. After the obligatory pictures and high fives we head inside to prepared coffee and snacks! After settling in and getting comfortable the head of the Observatory staff gives us a brief tour and intro to the building and the scientific work going on in the Observatory. We then have dinner with the whole crew, chatting up the volunteers and scientists and getting great stories. After dinner they were nice enough to open up the museum for us to learn more about the science and history behind Mt Washington. The next day we wake up at a reasonable hour, have a grand breakfast and mosey on down the mountain.

Doing the trip this way certainly lessens the technical demands of a usual day hiking up and down Washington. Despite that, its still an awesome accomplishment and an exceptional experience. We book these days far in advance each winter and spots frequently go fast. if you’re interested in joining us next year for one of our two over night Observatory trips ( 1 in Feb, 1 in March) get in touch early!

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This weekend was slow on work for the Mooney crew, but certainly not on play. While two guides were in the field with groups, many of the others where out getting their own days in on snow and ice. Two group trips were running out of Lincoln this weekend, a two day Ice Climbing Basics course and a two day Intro to Mountaineering course.

Ben had a crew of three for the weekend of ice climbing. Day one was spent going over the basics in Kinsman Notch, our main stomping ground for intro days. On day two they upped the ante and went to the Flume Gorge not far away. This mini gorge freezes up in the winter providing a platform of ice to walk on and a wall of steep pillars to climb on. Here they were able to push themselves on steeper, more difficult terrain. Once the pump set in they were able to up the technical ante as well by practicing a rappel on belay

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At the same time, Erik was running an intro to Mountaineering course. A diverse group of 3 joined us for this as well. We had folks with relative inexperience all the way to folks training for Rainer in the group, and they were all able to take something valuable away from the weekend. Day one was spent on the flanks of Welch and Dicky. Here we warmed our bodies walking up through the woods to some exposed slabs with incredible views. Once there we dropped packs and pulled out crampons and mountaineering axes. We went over technical skills like how to use a mountaineering axe as protection and in what conditions its appropriate. We even practiced self arrest on a bullet hard slab of ice. After that we donned our crampons and went over various steps for descending and ascending steep slopes in crampons. Through out the day we engaged an ongoing conversation on how to manage layers heat and sweat thought the variable energy outputs of a full day, as well as necessary safety precautions, skills and items we should all cary in case of an accident.

Day two turned out to be one of incredible weather which allowed us to soar to the summit. Because of the beneficial conditions and extra time they afforded us we descended the summit cone on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail so as to see the impressive alpine terrain on that side of the mountain.We then took the Tuckerman Cut Across trail traversing the Bigelow Lawn back to the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, our main path. We got to see a lot of stunning terrain on this day with views stretching to Camels Hump and beyond in VT (100+ miles), and a tour of all aspects of the Presidential Range. Shortly after we got down clouds rolled in and dropped in elevation causing summit visibility to plummet to a 1/16th of a mile.

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Its a rare day when guests are rope gunning for guides, but then i guess this was a rare week. Jerry the Gale Force continued his epic season climbing with Art. They had a stellar day on the on the east face of Willard. A few days before that, George joined us again and also took the sharp end on the east face of Willard with Alex. The snow is deep between the climbs, but the ice is great right now!

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Also this week, Erik and Alex chose to use some rest days to hunt down the last of the powder from last weeks storms. These days were just long enough to help work the lactic acid out of legs from the previous week of work, as well as to put a day long powder grin on our faces 🙂

Following our week of ice we transitioned right into a weekend of ice. On Saturday Alex ventured north to Lake Willoughby with guests Mark and Matt.

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This is the premiere venue in the east for big, bad, bold ice climbs! starting the day in -20 temps tempered the expectations some, but they still managed a couple of multi-pitch 4+ lines. Certainly a day for all to be proud of.

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On Saturday and Sunday, Erik had two couples for an introduction to ice climbing. Day one was spent at Kinsman Notch, honing in the basics. Day two was spent basking in the sun (first day temps were above freezing in almost a month!) at Newfound Lake.

Thanks to all our guests from this weekend! we hope to see you again soon.

The Mooney Mountain Crew