Every year, each season takes its own shape and form. This past ice season started earlier than I had expected, and I got in more ice days than I had in previous years. As the season nears its end, I was psyched to get in a few more enjoyable days with solid people.
I had the pleasure of working with an REI group on President’s Weekend. This course is listed as an introductory to ice climbing, but most of the individuals had rock climbing experience, so we were able to hit the ground running.
Tori picking a good route
On day one, they pushed themselves on the shorter but stout routes in Franconia Notch in sunny, 40-degree weather. We left the puffies in the bag, shed the layers, and took out our sunglasses for the day.
Henry starting up
Sehrish getting into the steeper stuff
They climbed so hard on the first day, I wondered how much they would have for day two at Kinsman Notch. They kept going. They applied and refined some technique we showed them and they made it up the harder climbs.
Nav and Meg at the top of their respective climbs
Every group has its own personality and bonds together in its own way. The individuals connected quickly, and their instant comradery was impressive. They offered belays without hesitation, took pictures of each other, and offered verbal support the entire weekend. The purpose of these weekend excursions is two-fold: to introduce/develop the ice climbing skills and knowledge and to have fun. This group accomplished both.
The next day, I took my two children ice climbing for the first time. We decided to get an early start at Kinsman to ensure that we would beat the crowds and get the route we wanted. Unlike the previous two days, the colder Monday temps resulted an icier approach. Instead of moving quickly up the trail with few layers on, as I did the day before, I moved more deliberately and spotted the kids at the many sections that had become slippery.
Watching my two young children battle both their fear and the ice, I marveled at their persistence and tenacity. Some of their struggles, like kicking their feet in or pulling the tool from the ice, are different than older climbers, but task of managing of fear remains present in us all. Seeing the juxtaposition between the two groups and the way each managed his or her own fear and excitement was quite insightful for me as climber, a guide, and a parent.
This recent warm stretch is melting most of the ice, resulting in a canceled trip this weekend and marking the end of my ice season. Fortunately, the rock season is around the corner. With more of these warm days, it might arrive early this year as well.
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.
Mammut Ridge Low GTX
Mooney Mountain Guides has been a long time user of Mammut equipment and clothing. In my opinion what Mammut produces matches very well with the rigors of guiding year round. Year after year I reach for the same gear with confidence that it is going to work every time. Although ropes and clothing have been my primary focus, I began using their footwear as well. The running shoes have been one of my favorite pair in years.
When in the field I enjoy talking about gear with guests and other climbers I meet at the crag, and I feel great about promoting Mammut. Earlier this November while climbing with a long time guest, I noticed he was wearing a pair of Mammut approach/hiking shoes (Mammut Ridge Low GTX). I asked him how he liked them, which produced a long conversation on how he wore them for the majority of his recent Appalachian Trail through-hike. He also said, “I’m never going back to any other shoe.” With such awesome feedback I asked George if he would mind writing a short review on the shoe for me to post on the blog. He obliged. Below is real, unsolicited, unedited, customer feedback on a quality product. Thank you to George and Mammut!
My new favorites: MTR 201-11 Low
(Words of George Brenckle)
In 2015, my son Ian and I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. We went southbound, starting at Katahdin on Memorial Day and reaching Springer Mountain in early December. I went through 4 pairs of boots in the process. My first pair, traditional hiking boots, did not make it our of Maine before they literally fell apart on me. To be fair it was a wet and cold traverse of Maine. I don’t think my feet were dry for a month. The uppers literally rotted away.
As a side note. I’ve done some winter hiking and have “post-holed” in snow before. However, I has never experience post-holing in mud. Unlike snow, the mud literally tries to pull your show right off your foot. Extricating yourself and you shoe is a slow and careful process.
I switched to a pair of trail runners in Rangely, ME and wore them until Massachusetts. They were not the best, but convinced me that a lower, lighter shoe had a lot of value. Another pair of trail runners got me to Pennsylvania.
While taking a zero day in Hamburg, PA, we bumped into a fellow hiker, trail name “OneStep”, who had been waiting 4 days for a pair of Mamuts to be delivered. He swore that they were the most comfortable hiking shoes he had ever worn and were well worth the wait. He let me try them on, and I was sold.
I ordered a pair and had them delivered by the time we hit southern PA. I wore them to the next 1,100 miles to Springer. I’ve decided I’ll stick with them for all of the future. I’m not sure I would wear them in the dead of winter, but for all other seasons they are wonderful.
“Dos Equis” Maine to Georgia 2015
3:11…I rolled out of bed. My alarm was going to go off anyway in about a half an hour, so I didn’t think it made sense to try and fall back asleep. After making some coffee and gathering my gear, I headed outside when I heard Art’s truck pull into my driveway.
Last year the day after Thanksgiving, I was rock climbing. Christmas day, in fact, my wife and I climbed at the 5.8 crag in fall conditions. Today, we were headed to Cannon for the classic ice climb the Black Dike.
We were the first in the parking lot. Excited, we packed up and headed down the trail. Our headlamps shining the way, I noticed that Art’s headlamp was brighter than mine. He told me that he had changed the batteries the night before. Hmmm…when was the last time I changed the batteries in mine? Two minutes later, I realized that I should have done the same when my headlamp went out. Luckily, Art had a spare in the truck. We dropped our packs, picked up the spare light, and headed out again.
Over the years, I have hiked up the talus field, wondering which of the many paths to choose. This morning, however, I had the luxury of simply following Art’s footprints. Periodically, I would instinctively reach my hand out for a rock only to see Art’s mitt print, which felt reassuring. I couldn’t see the cliff initially, for the darkness and clouds shrouded its face. I wondered what John Bouchard was thinking when he first ascended the route, ropeless. For some, The Black Dike serves as a test piece; for others, it serves as a classic climb that people do every year. For me, I was planning to follow it for the first time. Over the years, I had seen it while I was rock climbing at Cannon, and it looked loose – blocks teetering on another – nothing in that area looked secure. My friend RJ once told me that winter at Cannon was safer because all the blocks were frozen together. I reminded myself of this theory as we neared the cliff.
By the time I had arrived at the base, Art had already stomped out an area, put on his harness, and was sorting through some gear. I tried to move quickly but deliberately. Looking up the route, I saw the line, but I had no idea of the conditions. I saw snow and some ice and hoped that we would make it to the top. I put Art on belay, and before I knew it, he was off. Moving smoothly through the lower section, he placed a piece and traversed out to the right. Before I knew it, he had set an anchor and put me on belay.
By the time I reached the anchor, I had knocked off some of the rust. The picks went in ok, but the feet needed some work. After clipping in, I looked up and tried to figure out exactly where the line went. When Art took off for the next pitch, the leader of the party below us started his way up. Art brushed snow off several places. Then brushed some more. Then some more. I looked down at my snow covered pack that was hanging from the anchor and smiled. I cleared some of the snow from my pack and myself. Luckily, I was nice and cozy wearing the hoods of the Mammut Ultimate Hoody and the Broad Peak Jacket. The former I would wear during the climb, the latter I used to stay warm at the belay.
Mammut Ultimate Hoody
Mammut Broad Peak Jacket
Art placed a nut, moved left, provided some beta for me, and worked his way up to a corner. The leader below me anchored to my right, and before I knew it, I was on belay. As I climbed to the stopper, I tried to remember what Art had said. I had a vague recollection, but I felt out of balance as I adjusted and readjusted my feet. I brushed some more snow from the rock ledges and found the flat surfaces of the rock. The party below me gave words of encouragement, reminding me of how supporting the climbing community can be most of the time. I took my time and moved past the awkward section and into a snowy corner. I turned around to see a perspective of Cannon I had never seen before. Snow covered the usually teetering blocks and talus below. The scene looked serene, a word I never thought I would use to describe this cliff. The light mist hung in the air, and I knew not to linger too long, for the weather could change quicker than you might think.
The nook for the next belay provided some shelter, and we stopped to refuel and hydrate for the final section. Art moved through the final pitch stopping periodically to place a screw or a piece of pro. He warned me of the sections that were steeper than they looked (I thought they looked pretty steep from where I was anyway).
When he pulled the rope tight, I took down the anchor and began to climb. Despite some awkward sections, I found movement quite enjoyable. I could hear Alex’s voice remind me to use “small, ticky tack feet” as I worked my way up the steep sections, which required precise feet and encouraged purposeful and deliberate movement. For the thin sections, I remembered Tim’s advice and tapped one of the picks with the other tool and delicately moved my way up.
Near the top, I even used an armbar to wedge my way up an off-width section. I hooked deep into a crack and felt a decent sized rock shift and begin to pull out. “Of course,” I thought, “what would a trip to Cannon be without at least one loose rock?” By the time I had reached the top, I felt elated about finishing the climb and slightly disappointed that the climbing was over.
We ate some more food, coiled the ropes, packed our gear, and headed down the trail. We reached the truck and headed home. Later that night, I reflected upon the day. Many friends had spoken about the climb for years, and some even suggested we climb it, but the timing never seemed to work out. While I had tried not to build up the climb for fear of being disappointed, I had wondered for years what it would be like to climb it. I am pleased to say that it lived up to the hype.
To start the ice season climbing the Black Dike in November is encouraging. I am excited for the coming months and the adventures that lay ahead.
Get out there and take advantage of the season. I hope to see you out there!
For years I have been in search of a garment that fills a specific niche in my layering system. How many times can you recall being too cold in you base layer, and too hot with your shell on? You are forced to battle with yourself between sweating and shivering. On nearly a day-to-day basis for the last 15 years I have been out in the hills playing. From morning trail runs with the dog, guiding in Franconia Notch, or skiing off the summit of Mt. Washington; no matter what the objective a light weight hoody that blocks the wind without adding insulation is essential.
Me in the SO Hoody on the right. Andrew in the Ultimate Hoody on the left.
My criteria for this hoody is rather straight forward:
1) Must be light and compressible enough to fit in my pocket, or bullet pack.
2) Must be thin enough to allow perspiration to pass through without becoming soggy.
3) Must provide protection from the wind to prevent too much evaporative cooling.
4) Must have a hood that fits over my helmet while at belays.
Seems simple? Well a quick internet search will show you that, finding that simple hoody that fills the 4 requirements listed above, is a tall order. That is until I picked up the “Wall SO Hoody” by Mammut. https://www.mammut.ch/US/en_US/B2C-Kategorie/Men/Wall-SO-Hoody-Men/p/1010-19840-4075
MMG guide Erik and I in our SO Hoodies, Sundance Wall Estes Park, CO.
Until I was acquainted with the Wall SO Hoody I would have given my other choices in wind-shirt hoodies a C for a grade. They always did the job I required, but with some undesirable side effects. They blocked the wind. They were compressible. However, I always struggled to zip the zipper when I had a hood on over my helmet. These hoodies did an okay job of allowing sweat to pass through, except for under my arms; where after a long day of work they would often leave my underarms damp and raw. I never thought I had a choice. I wasn’t going to carry a soft shell in July, and I wasn’t going to skin up Mt. Washington in my Gore-Tex. So, all things considered I had it pretty good.
MMG guide Todd, Guiding in his SO Hoody, Franconia Notch, NH.
This spring the Wall SO Hoody entered my quiver of layers. Since then it has been with me almost every day. I just cant help it, its perfect for everything. It excels at all 4 of my requirements, even adding a few benefits that I never knew I wanted.
First, It is made with Mammut Soft Tech Windstopper fabric for the maid body of the garment. This not only blocks the wind, but when climbing the garment can stretch providing full range of motion, all while staying tucked into my harness.
Second, the underarms are comprised of a breathable stretch fabric allowing the high moister areas to dry even more quickly than the main body. No more damp raw underarms!
Third, The hood fits over my helmet, and I can even climb with it on. This increases comfort drastically on windy pitches at the top of a wall.
Fourth, it’s compressible. Weighing in at only 305 grams it doesn’t slow me down.
The best part is its durability. I’ve put this thing through the ringer and it still looks good enough to wear to the pub or the coffee shop. It’s not showing any signs of slowing down ether.
The perfectly chilly canyons of Red Rocks, NV.
So far the Wall SO Hoody has been the perfect companion. If working sport pitches at Rumney, NH; Guiding on Cannon, NH; Exploring the Front Range, CO; or climbing a shady route in Black Velvet Canyon, NV it has proven its worth. The Mammut team deserves kudos on this one. I think I’m going to take my SO Hoody and go climbing now.
With the fall sports season coming to a close, the Milton Academy Outdoor Program brought a group of students to Whitehorse Ledge to sample some of the finest slab climbing in Northeast. The initial colder autumn temperatures and wind did not discourage the crew from testing their skills on climbs like Standard Route, Wavelength, and Sliding Board.
Thanks to our friends at Mammut, the guides, outfitted in The Ultimate Hoody, stayed warm and comfortable. The Ultimate Hoody was perfect for such a day: the Gore Windstopper material blocked the wind; it breathed well, particularly as the temperatures changed throughout the day; and it enabled us to move freely for climbing, belaying, and rappelling.
Some students, who were trying multi-pitch climbing for the first time, focused on the basics and took their climbing experience to new heights (both literally and figuratively). Going higher off the ground than usual can be intimidating for newer climbers, but the students trusted the systems and relied on their technique, reinforcing the skills they had worked on for the past few months.
The veteran climbers, on routes like Wavelength, reached new heights, executing moves further from the ground than usual. After completing their initial route in fine fashion, they headed over to Echo Roof to climb some more.
At the end of the day, the group stopped in town for a quick bite. Physically tired but mentally recharged for the coming week, the group headed home. Thanks to all the students for their energy and enthusiasm and to Kendall for organizing all the logistics and making the day happen.
For whatever reasons, I am harder on my harnesses than other types of climbing gear. After a few seasons of regular use with my Mammut Togir 3 Slide, I decided to purchase a new harness even though the Togir seemed to withstand more abuse than other harnesses I have used in the past.
The tie-in protector, a small piece of plastic connected to the lower webbing, helped minimize the damage from regular use, and the belay loop was only slightly frayed. Since it still had some life left, I figured I would ease the old harness into retirement while breaking in a new one.
The Togir 3 Slide in its new color: Pine Green
Pleased with the fit and the adjustable leg loops of the Togir 3 Slide, which made it easier to use with the wide range of clothes for both rock and ice climbing, I purchased the same model. The same functions that I enjoyed of the original version remained: the buckles made for simple and fast adjustments, the downturned plastic gear loops made it easy to clip and unclip gear, and the padding provided enough comfort without feeling too bulky. In addition, the harness has loops so that the climber can clip on four ice screw carabiners for the winter months.
A few subtle enhancements, however, left me even more impressed. Mammut added just a little more padding on the waist belt near the enclosure, making it more comfortable. At first I thought that it felt better because it was a new harness, but when I compared the waist belt to my previous one, I realized the slight difference. The belay loop is a little longer and rotates more easily so that the climber can spread out the wear and tear from the carabiners rather than using the same section of the loop. Like the other Mammut harnesses, the Togir contains the indicator technology to alert the climber if the belay loop is too worn down. In addition, the gear loops are shaped differently so that the carabiners do not stack together down at a certain point. This improvement has made it easier to unclip gear.
The Togir 3 Slide is a solid all around harness that has endured a good deal of mileage over the years. It’s a true workhorse and one that I am looking forward to using more and more in the coming year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.