Technical Systems

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Laurie brought along these tasty home made energy bars of dates, walnuts, and cacao.

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The Beast at Kinsman – here Laurie is testing her movement skills on a steep NEI4+

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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.

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A backed up V thread – a recommended technique before committing the entire team to this tunnel into the ice.

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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.

Art Mooney

 

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

This pas weekend, MMG Guide Ben Mirkin was in charge of an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Exam. A big thanks to all the candidates on the exam.
Alex Teixeira
We had a fantastic group of participants in our AMGA SPI Assessment this weekend!  Our aspiring and re certifying guides included individuals from Atlantic Climbing School, the new Director of Carrabassett Valley Academy’s ALPS program.Like any AMGA course or assessment, the emphasis was on learning and bettering ourselves as climbers and guides – which I deinetly believe was accomplished this weekend.

I am reminded about how essential this type of training is for any climber leading groups, guiding, or just taking friends climbing.

Keep playing and keep learning!

Ben Mirkin

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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!

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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.

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

Last week was a stellar week on ice for the Mooney Mountain crew as well as friends. The bulk of our week was spent with students from the Olivarian School. This school, in Haverhill, NH has a week long electives period. A strong outdoor program funnels a handful of their students into taking an ice climbing course led by two faculty members for this full week.11009098_868334546563079_6150497706563275578_n

The bulk of the time was spent getting milage in on tope ropes around the state, while two days were spent getting students up on multi-pitch ice climbs in Crawford Notch.

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Our good friends Doug Fergusson (Mountain Skills) of New York and Matt Shove (Ragged Mountain Guides) of Connecticut joined us for the multi pitch days which was great fun for us all.

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Erik, Matt and Doug gearing up

Below is a gallery of some of the students having fun on this course. We’re thrilled any chance we get to work on a curriculum and multi day experience with organizations and groups. This week was no exception, and we can’t wait till next year!

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On Friday Erik got out with George. George use to ice climb on a somewhat regular basis up until about 3 or 4 years ago. He wanted to get back into it this year, including leading, with an eye towards swinging leads on Pinnacle Gully by the end of the year. To that end, he’s booked a handful of days throughout the winter with us to work towards that goal. This was the third day he got out with us, and we focused specifically on leading skills.

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We started with some warm up laps. George put up two of the easier lines at Kinsman and worked on making anchors on trees. We then had a quick ground school covering V threads, ice screw anchors and top belays.

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George then lead up the first step of the main flow at Kinsman, skillfully made an anchor out of the fall line of the second pitch, and belayed me up. We then talked transitions and I look the lead, bringing him up to me at the anchor. Once there, George lead a multi pitch rappel including making and rappelling off of a V-thread.

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These days of geeking out on technical skills are super fun for me. Not only is it another way of practicing our skills, but it is the clearest example of our ability to enable others to pursue their passions in the mountains. Hard to describe just how satisfying that is to us! Luckily we have a wealth of smaller, less busy crags on the west side of the mountains that are easy to access and offer incredible terrain for coaching and training of these technical skills.

Thanks for following our work, and hope to see you in the mountains!

The Crew at MMG

The guides at Mooney Mountain Guides are very pleased to be supported by Petzl. Over the years many of us have found favorites in Petzl’s line from the Nomic’s and Dart’s on ice to the Spirit Express draw and Gri Gri on sport climbs. One of the reasons the relationship between Petzl and MMG is so great is because both companies have a passion for sharing knowledge and spreading climbing education. At MMG it’s our job on many days to act as educators in the climbing realm, and it’s what we truly love to do. At Petzl, they go beyond making and selling some of the best gear on the market, they also produce and distribute educational literature in their catalogs and on their website, towards the end of a safer more knowledgable climbing community.

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 For that reason I was excited this week to pull Petzl’s latest catalog out of the mail and check out, not only the new gear, but the new tech tips they offered up. I was thrilled to see that they tackled a common safety hazard in cleaning sport routes, one we see almost turn dangerous at Rumney, far to often.

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The scenario starts when the final climber leads an overhanging, or traversing sport route. On the way back down they have to clean the draws as they lower. A standard practice is to clip a spare quickdraw from your belay rope to the line of rope running through the draws. This way, as you lower, you can stay close to the rope line to mor easily clean the quick draws, as opposed to lowering straight down and away from the wall. This works well until the last draw. We see two dangerous scenarios here.

1.) Climber stays clipped into belay line and unclips last draw. In this scenario the climber swings out from under the overhang like a pendulum. Since they are clipped into the belay line, as they swing they drag belayer with them, possibly dragging them across the ground or into an object.

2.) Belayer lowers out away from the wall with the first draw off the ground still clipped in. This causes a lot of slack as the rope goes up through first bolt, out to climber, up to anchor, and finally back down to the climber. At this point the climber makes the poor decision to unclip themselves from the belay strand. As that extra slack is introduced into the system the climber drops, possibly decking.

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Erik Thatcher on Social Outcast at Rumney. A prime sight for this type of accident.

In both of those scenarios there are several easy work arounds. The first, and safest of all, is to have the final person up a steep climb top rope the climb on the strand of rope running through the draws, cleaning as they go. For severely angled routes such as Peer Pressure at Bonsai, this is the best method. For scenario number 2, the climber can be lowered to the ground without unclipping, so long as there is enough rope (knot your rope end just in case!)

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For a lot of climbs at Rumney, the best way around this accident involves clipping into the second to last draw above the ground. I have to do this frequently at Bonsai, and select other routes like the Crusher or Cereal killer. I’ll take the draw connected to my harness, unclip it from the rope and clip it into the rope end carabiner of the draw on the second to last bolt. My belayer then loses me until my weight is on these two draws. Then you unclip the rope from the second draw, and reach down to clean the first draw from the bolt and rope. At this point your belayer braces themselves and you check behind you for obstructions you might run into, before unclipping and taking what should be a safe and moderate swing.

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Whitney Steiner on The Crusher, another possible location for this technique

Many climbers at Rumney are starting their progression at the gym and working up to climbing outside at sport crags. I see two primary groups coming out of this situation. Some are those who climb moderates, and cautiously transition into leading similar grades outside. Others are generally younger climbers who quickly progress to leading hard routes on plastic, and then jump outside to do the same, of course there are all sorts of people in between. Mooney Mountain Guides works with many people who would fall into that former group, giving them learn to lead instruction and facilitating their transition outside. The latter group, it seems, rarely seeks out qualified instruction, and frequently we see them struggling or dangerously making their way through the learning curve, where qualified instruction from guides coaches or mentors would have made that transition quicker and safer. This, and other small safety tricks are critical to a safe and enjoyable day out at the crags!

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MMG Guide, Alexa Siegel on Social Outcast

If you’re curious about seeing Petzl’s tech tip on cleaning draws in its entirety you can go here:

http://www.petzl.com/en/Sport/Recovering-quickdraws-in-an-overhang-while-descending?ActivityName=Rock-climbing&l=US#.VEklNDl4VQk

If you wish to geek out as the weather gets to cold or wet for climbing, here is the whole database of tech tips:

http://www.petzl.com/en/Sport/Activities?l=US

Erik Thatcher

MMG guide