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.
Finally springtime has made the appearance in the lower elevation areas of the White Mountains and most climbers are ready to put on the rock shoes in search of a warm dry climb. Mt Washington on the other hand is Easing the Grip ever so slightly. The snow pack is melting out at the parking lots (2000 ft) and the temperatures on the mountain have moderated but even so once you venture onto the mountain its a snowy white world all the way to the summit and its May 1.
Kelly has a Rainier climbed planned for this July. She has been working hard at fine tuning her skills in the mountains. This trip was planned for additional work improving overall fitness on long tough climbs, to refine footwork on snow and to gain comfort on the steep descents.
Conditions for Kelly’s goals were perfect on the mountain.
We planned for overcast the entire day – but the skies opened just enough for great views of mountains and the valleys below.
The summit cone was entered encased in snow.
Quite casual on the summit with a slight breeze and 25 degrees.
Kelly’s 2nd time on top of Mt Washington – Congrats to her for a great climb.
The descent was steep and slick. Kelly worked on the plunge steep and other moves to gain comfort while facing the downhill line. The following day Kelly and I climbed Cannon in under three hours and our descent was less than and hour. Kelly improved in all areas on this two day trip – she was able to Ease her Grip in the mountains.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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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The Mooney Mountain Guides were out in force this past weekend. below you’ll find a couple of snippets of what went on.
Lynn and Mike visited us from South Carolina for their third attempt on Mt Washington. In the past, bad weather has thwarted their attempts. This past Friday looked like the best weather window of the long weekend, so we made hasty plans and changed our schedule around to get them the best shot of success.
Sure enough the forecasts delivered. Fog and steady snow hampered visibility, but coupled with 15mph winds at worst, created an eerily calm atmosphere while on the belly of the beast.
Mike and Lynn finally got their white whale.
After a day to rest up on Saturday they rejoined us for a sunny morning of ice climbing on Newfound Lake
On Saturday, good friends Connor and Yaffe joined us for a bitterly cold and bitterly awesome day of ice climbing in Crawford Notch. Connor has climbed ice before, but not in a while, and Yaffe was a first timer.
We chose the Trestle slabs as our starting location. This is an ideal classroom for ice climbing, with a 100′ slab of low angle ice, and a wall of low ice bulges to practice swinging and kicking on, with a particularly fluffy crash pad at the moment.
Connor on the North Face of Everst. Ok, fine. It’s just a spindrift filled picture of the Trestle slabs, but hardcore nonetheless.
After our warm up there we went to Standard route to finish the day. This meant that Yaffe got in his first ice climbing and his first multi pitch climb in one day. Not bad, Yaffe. Not bad.
While I was on sunny south facing ice Sunday, another group of three was battling brutal winds on Washington. This tough group made the summit on a day when winds reached near 100 mph and the cold was COLD!
Hopefully some pictures to come.
With most of the crew staving off frostbite and hypothermia in what finally feels like winter, two MMG guides traveled to Red Rocks NV where they are staving off sun burn and dehydration!
Derrek and Alex are out there for a week guiding a handful of students from Middlebury College’s outdoor program.
This is the premier destination for winter time rock climbing, and Im sure a welcome reprieve from the cold of a NH winter.
Thanks to all our guests and students who joined us this weekend! We look forward to hopefully seeing you in the mountains again soon.
The Mooney Mountain Guide Crew
The winter season is here. It was quite a shift from the warm desert of Red Rocks, Nevada and into to cold of New England. Yet the psyche is high and MMG is is off to a great start. Routes include a few laps on the Black Dike, Standard Route, Shoe String, Kings Ravine, and routes in Huntington’s Ravine. Thanks to all the MMG guides and guests who made the first week of the ’14, ’15 ice season a amazing one.
There’s plenty to go around, come and get it!
Art enjoying pitch two of the Black Dike
Finding some good ice in Shoe String
Crossing the Presi-ridge in 80-mph winds
Early season = awesome climbing
Crossing the Alpine Garden after a successful day in Huntington’s
Topping out in Huntington’s
To Nick, climbing and mountaineering is less about achievement. Nick prefers to use the mountains as a place for discovery. He does not limit this discovery to natural places, and spectacular views; in addition to these, Nick takes time for self discovery and reflection. Knowing this about Nick I felt that a traverse of New Hampshire’s Presidential range was a perfect objective.
Foreground Mt. Adams, Mid-ground undercast clouds, Background Mt. Washington
New Hampshire’s Presidential Range is the loges exposed alpine ridge-line in the eastern half of the U.S. It also boasts eight summits, Mt. Washington being the tallest in the North East. There are some options on how to start and finish the traverse, however, our path would take us 24.5 miles over which we would gain and loose 7,200ft of elevation.
Our journey began at the Appalachia trail head where we walked 5 miles to tree-line, eventually topping out at the AMC Madison Spring Hut. With it being early season, Nick and I decided to stay in the huts operated by the AMC. This option allowed us to cary light day packs, as apposed to heavy overnight packs.
View from Madison Spring Hut
Our walk to the hut was beautiful, following a stream fed by an alpine spring made it even better. An easy pace with good conversation, gave us plenty of time to relax on the porch of the hut before we were served a delicious hot meal. One of the most stunning sunsets over a blanket of undercast clouds made a great ending to a even better day.
Sunset at Madison Spring Hut
Day two dawned bluebird skies, and 20% humidity. A perfect day to hike across one of the most stunning landscapes in the east. We passed deep glacial cirques, and craggy summits on our way south. After our hike across the the Northern Presidentials, we arrived at the AMC Lakes of the Clouds Hut at the foot of Mt. Washington. We sipped hot coco as we unpacked our packs and prepared for dinner. Another wonderful four course meal. Both tired, we headed to bed early for day 3.
Starting out on Day 2
Midway Point Day 2
Nick and I awoke to the sound of rain blowing against the window of the hut and coffee brewing in the kitchen. Two large bowls of oatmeal prepared us for our journey across the southern end of the range. Out the door we were met with rain, but it didn’t detract from the experience. We were prepared with rain gear to stay warm and dry. Over the summit of Monroe we went.
No more rain, and good visibility.
Nick and I had been out for two hours,when suddenly the rain slowed to a stop and the fog lifted. The skies remained cloudy and dark, yet the clouds were in the upper atmosphere and visibility increased to about 30 miles. We completed the final 2/3rds of our day with beautiful views all the way to Mizpah Hut. By this point in our travels we had gotten to know some of the other southbound hikers on the trail. Having dinner and breakfast with these other hikers, Nick and I got to know them a little. Walking into the hut, it was like seeing old friends at the local watering hole. Another hot four course meal was served. Desert of cream cheese brownies sent us full and warm to our bunks.
Final Summit in the Presidential’s complete.
Breakfast and goodbyes to the hut workers, then we were off down the trail. We were out around lunch time. On our hike out Nick and I reflected on how the mountains teach us about our selves. Our physical fitness becomes apparent, our decision making, and what is important to us. Nick and I promised to meet again for another mountain adventure in the future. Between now and then, Nick will go to Mt. Rainer in the Cascades of Washington, as well as Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasus of Russia. No doubt that he will have done some self discovery.
Thank you Nick for a great week on the trail.
Mooney Mountain Guides calls this blog posted trip the New Hampshire sampler – a day of sport climbing, a mountain adventure, and an alpine rock day on Cannon Cliff. This three day action packed event is not one for a week heart or mind.
Steve is a motivated man, when he sets his sights on a climb, a goal, a project he gives it 100+ percent. This was crystal clear from the beginning. United a not so favorite airline of his canceled his flight earlier this week and within a short time Steve was in the car racing from New York to New Hampshire. The weather pattern was solid, a mid week break from Peppercom was needed, and the body and mind were ready to climb.
Rumney Rocks was the first stop on Tuesday. The skies had cleared from the weekends low pressure and the cliff was drying out fast. A visit to the Jimmy Cliff got us off on the right tune, Bonsai was next with a fine display of sending a project by MMG guide Alex, and then to complete we ventured over to the Main wall for a steep technical face climb that put on the first of many pumps during the week.
A quick cardio workout romping up the Clippidy Do Dah!!!
Main Cliff action as Steve nears the belay.
Off to a good start.
The great weather continued on Wednesday which happened to be our Mt Washington mountain day. To both our surprise the mountain was in late winter condition with snow and ice covered trails from the Cog Station to the summit. There has been over 1 foot of new snow since May first which is quite unusual even for the rock pile. The new snow along with brisk temps and a stiff breeze make us feel like we took a step back in time by a few months.
Thanks to Julbo for keeping our vision in order – excellence with eyewear for mountain travelers and more.
Bluebird skies, wild rime ice, all in all a spectacular day.
The summit cone was tough – bear down and keep on trucking.
The prize Steve’s 13th time on the summit
The base area – four thousand feet lower – in spring time condition.
Our third day – time to ramp it up!!!
Cannon Cliff is New Hampshires finest alpine rock area. Our 1 hour approach to the Whitney Gilman wanders up the steep talus field to the base of the serpentine ridge. The WG ridge is a classic old school 5.7 route first completed in 1929. This was our last day objective and we were set to take it to the top.
All the movement skills are put to the test climbing on Cannon. Cracks, faces, loose shattered rock, wildy exposed moves as one works back and forth along the 600ft ridge climb. The Whitney Gilman Ridge can make one feel like they are climbing in the Alps.
The final pitch – Steve jamming and liebacking the final corner to the top.
The descent – snow and ice again?
Micro spikes on the Guide Tennies was the ticket home.
Steve and MMG guide Alex blasting home on the return.
Steve has come to New Hampshire many times to climb with MMG. This trip was one of the finest, it was
full of SERF – Surprises, Educational, Rewards, Fun time for all.
Thanks to Steve – for this amazing three day sampler.