Franconia Notch and Echo Lake viewed from the Hounds Hump Ridge. The Eaglet and Flatiron are two of the many granite formations perched high above the valley floor. This area is absolutely amazing with alpine rock climbs of all types. The steep granite faces of the Flatiron, the wide cracks and awkward chimneys on the Eaglet, airy free hanging rappels all test a variety of movement and technical skills.
Aubrey and I were looking for a multi pitch climb of the unusual sort. A climb that we had not been on for a while would be nice and if possible a new pitch or two would top off the day. The Eaglet came to mind as the start to a perfect outing. The weather was good and it even held out for us. In the afternoon we bagged a new route ( for us) on the Flatiron Wall called Salt Packed Pig Sack a beautiful 5.8 climb.
The slab in center named the Flatiron and the free standing spire on right called Eaglet
Jagged formations loom overhead above our belay area.
Manky anchors – as they say buyer beware – we set up our own to be sure.
Chimneys and under cut overhangs – Aubrey in action.
Three points make and anchor – well maybe. These pitons are a piece of NH climbing history.
Aubrey busting a move on the crux of the final pitch.
Aubrey arriving on the summit – just enough room for two.
Me – prepping the airy rappel set up.
The descent from the Eaglet Spire – 180 feet rappel to the base.
Afternoon clouds boiled up around us.
The radar looked great so we opted for a few more pitches on the Flatiron.
Aubrey climbing Salt Packed Pig Sack – leave it up to Jon Sykes and you get a name like this.
The route is 5.8 and is one of the finest face climbs in the Notch. The protection is good and the vantage point is incredible.
Aubrey – very psyched at the top of this amazing pitch.
The approach and descent weave the way throughout this boulder strewn forest.
Hounds Hump Ridge as seen from the bike path.
The visitors center leads folks to the viewing point for the Old Man. We choose a different path one that offered a birds eye view of the entire Franconia Notch.
Thanks to Aubrey – it was an awesome day climbing with you.
One of the most celebrated parts of the climbing life is the road trip. Taking off on a vacation with the sole purpose of climbing in new and varied locations. I was able to spend the month of June doing just that. My climbing partner and I loaded up my truck on May 28th and took off for California where we were able to climb in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, and Lovers leap. On the way out and back we stopped briefly for a day in Vedauwoo WY, a run up the First Flatiron in Boulder, and a handful of days in City of Rocks Idaho.
Through out the trip I got to test out some new and old Mammut gear. Being the gear geek that I am, I was excited to see how new things performed, and put some of my tried and true favorites to new tests and applications. I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you below!
When I was in the market for new shorts last summer, home crag pride made it a virtual necessity that I buy these shorts. Named after one of the best sport crags in the world (there’s that pride), I expected these to be among the best shorts in the world. While I haven’t worn enough shorts to qualify that, they have not let me down. The have the longer cut that is necessary for me to comfortably climb in a pair of shorts. They are an incredibly lightweight material, and yet have held up remarkably well. Most cotton climbing bottoms I’ve had have had a life span of about one year before some serious tears and blowouts. These show zero sign of wear but for a small tear where I decked and hip checked a ledge last summer. They have great pockets for use with or without a harness. The 4 step closure system was a little complex for me at first, often leaving me with an unzipped fly, but I’ve grown to appreciate how well you can custom fit these shorts without a belt, in part due to that 4 step process and the built in draw cord. Finally, they’re wicked fast drying. A lot of our days in the valley involved a mid day siesta to beet the heat. We’d grab lunch, a beer and a quick swim in the Merced before a nap or some reading. By the time we were ready to climb in the afternoon they were totally dry.
I’ve already written my praise for the Togir click harness here. I’ve had it for over a year now and If I were to rewrite the review it would only be filled with more praise. The unique benefit of the click is the ability to completely and easily undo the waist loop and leg loops, to more easily put it on over crampons. After ice season I briefly stopped putting my harness on this way. Why do it when not wearing crampons? This felt weird though! I quickly reverted back to using the click feature instead of putting it on one leg at a time like a normal harness. This feels much less cumbersome, like putting on a work belt as opposed to the cliffside-balancing act that can feel more like trying to put your pants on before your first cup of coffee. With the increased ease of putting a harness on and taking it off, I started to leave more and more gear right on my harness, making transitions between climbing and approaching/ descending much quicker. As if that weren’t enough Mammut makes a matching chalk bag for most of their harnesses. While I’d like to pretend that I don’t care that my chalk bag matches my harness (as well as my lockers, and jacket, and pants…) I have to admit it feels kind of cool. It’s like a professional sports uniform, for climbing! More important than the style bonus is the little pocket on the back of the chalk bag. I’ve used this to carry my phone for pictures and route beta, a headlamp for fright of being benighted and an energy bar to stop from getting hangry. Putting something large in the pocket affects its utility as a chalk bag a little bit. I’ve found that making sure its well stocked with chalk counteracts that well enough! A friend who forgot his chalck bag at the crag the other day needed to borrow mine. Unsolicited, he offered up, “I know this is silly, but this is a really nice chalk bag.”
The Trion family of packs is an example of perfection. I have and love the Trion Light, and have a number of friends who are in love with their Trion Guides, but the go to bag for Mooney Mountain Guides is the Trion Pro in 35L. If in need of a one pack quiver, this would be the pack. It’s burly enough to with stand the plethora of sharp objects that are part of ice cragging, or even sport cragging at a place like Rumney. At the same time it’s light and compactable enough to be taken on a multipitch alpine climb in the mountains. The suspension system carries wonderfully for the approach, and the pack can easily be stripped down (hip pads and brain removed) and compressed for the climb. One of my favorite things about this pack is such a little detail! The buckles on the compression straps are opposite on either side so that you can strap something large to the very back of your pack, keeping it nice and balanced in the middle.
If jeans and a jean jacket is considered a Canadian Tuxedo, then would SOFtech jacket and pants be considered a Swiss Tuxedo? Whatever the proper terminology, this material is a bomber soft shell fabric for jackets and pants. For much of the trip I was wearing The Fiamma Pants and Pokiok Jacket, both made with Mammut’s in house soft shell fabric. While I’ve only had the pants for a couple of months, I’ve had the jacket for a year now, so feel comfortable making some remarks on the material. I tend to like a more waterproof material for my main jacket, but the Pokiok has been great as a warm weather Ice climbing or skiing jacket, or a cold weather rock climbing shell. The Fiamma pants are sure to become my favorites. I generally ice climb in a thinner soft shell pant, like this weight, as well as doing a fair amount of my shoulder season rock in pants of this weight. These pants have a sizeable thigh pocket for maps a camera or food, and all the regular pockets for functioning as a normal pair of pants when off mountain. One of my favorite things about switching to these pants, from a similar pair by another brand, is the ankle cut. On similar soft shell pants the ankle taper downs very narrow to minimize crampon snag. The Fiamma pants instead have a simple way of cinching down the cuff when so desired. When climbing in the mountains you frequently go through many temperature changes, both from external sources and internal. An easy example is setting off in the lowlands, where it’s nice and warm, and approaching your climb high in the mountains, where wind and elevation make the mercury drop. In this scenario it’s an awesome option to be able to roll up your pants to cool off your legs, as seen in the picture above. The taper around the ankle of previous soft shell pants I’ve had have made this impossible, where as the Fiamma pants easily open wide at the ankle and roll up high, then roll back and can be cinched down again once in the mountains.
Oh do I love a skinny rope! Its my impression that any one who does multi pitch climbing let alone alpine climbing, needs a skinny. Mammut ropes are top notch. Their thorough dry treatment repels not only water, but dirt as well, increasing the life span of their ropes. We used the Revelation as our main rope for everything but wall climbing with Aid pitches. After a month of almost daily abuse it shows hardly a sign of wear. My love for skinny ropes comes from the fact that they make my life easier! At 57 grams per meter, this rope is almost a full pound lighter than a similar 9.8 rope. That adds up on long approaches, or when hitting cruxes at the end of a pitch. Equally as significant is the reduced friction in a belay device. Lets do some basic math! The most classic multiptich climb we did on our trip was the Regular Route on Fairview Dome. 1,000 feet of granite gloriousness and elbow destroying belaying! Swinging leads, Paul and I each pulled roughly 500’ of rope through a belay device that works on friction. Say each motion of the arm through the top belay movement brings up 2 feet. That’s 250 individual weighted movements on your elbow, in half a day! Its no wonder guides can easily develop repetitive use injuries in their elbows if not careful when belaying. Skinnier ropes mean your pulling up less weight each time, and with less resistance through your belay device. The difference is incredibly noticeable!
Carabiners and Slings
The Mammut Contact slings have been a staple of my rack since I started fantasizing about its existence based on what my mentor’s used. One can have a lengthy debate on the merits of nylon vs dyneema slings. Ultimately, when used in the right application, having a rack of dyneema slings reduces both weight and clutter. While the weight is often sited as the selling point, the clutter is just as important in my mind. When wall climbing, alpine climbing or multipitch rock climbing, harness racking space is at a premium, and the less bulky dyneema slings take up considerably less room than their nylon brethren. I usually rack two 4-footers for slinging horns and trees or use in an anchor, and about six 2-footers for use as alpine draws.
One place I feel comfortable investing money is in my carabineers. Even the skinny lightweight ones will last you a long time, getting your moneys worth in weight savings over many years. The Mammut Wall (formerly Moses) carabiner is a great example of such an investment. At 27 Grams a piece you can save over a pound of weight on your harness by going with this lightweight wire gate over a typical wire gate for your standard carabiner on a trad rack ( 10 draws + 8 cams +2 4’foot slings)
Finally, I like to have a mix of lockers to match their needs. Low profile lockers like the Wall Micro are awesome for where you just need a carabiner that locks; attached to your gri-gri, connecting your haul bag and haul line, or on your jugging set up for example. They’re lightweight and less bulky, reducing clutter. I usually carry two to three lightweight, medium profile lockers like the Bionic Mytholito for applications where you need to put a knot or hitch on it, such as cloving in at the anchor, or belaying a second on a munter. These are still lightweight but a bit bigger to accommodate the hitches and knots. Finnally I like to carry one lightweight large profile carabiner like the Bionic HMS. This allows you to “stack” things on to it at an anchor, often reducing clutter. It would have been killer to have 6 of these for wall climbing, where you generally have three lockers on bolts for an anchor and are stacking all sorts of items on them from the lead line to multiple haul bags and everything in between.
This was truly an every man’s climbing trip. While we did a smattering of routes in the 5.9-5.10 range, the vast majority of pitches we climbed where at the attainable grades of 5.6-5.8. The lightness and ease of use of these products probably doesn’t mean the difference between send or sail until much harder grades. That being said, the same attributes can make big days in the mountains and on the cliffs much more enjoyable and comfortable, and the multifaceted use of many of them justifies their place in the limited space one has living out of a truck on a month long climbing trip!
A big thanks to Mammut for their support of Mooney Mountain guides!
For a trip report and photo gallery from my trip, please vist my personal blog here
After a long winter, rock season seems to be developing some momentum here in Vermont. Time to shake off the cobwebs. Last Sunday Heidi and I went to the crag to do some climbing and dial in some technical skills. The venue was Bolton, Vermont, home to some of the best schist climbing in New England. The goal was not only to refresh some older skills, but to also work on some current techniques and learn some new ways to add more safety and efficiency while climbing
We began the day at Lower West Bolton, a popular and easily accessible cliff with plenty of route options for every level. Both Heidi and I were psyched to have most of the crag to ourselves. Here we reviewed multiple belay techniques, focusing on the finer points of belaying with the GriGri. After some climbing and Facebook shots with the Iphone, we got more serious and moved on to cleaning sport anchors and rappelling with the use of the autoblock and extension.
To wrap up the day we hit The Quarry, another Bolton crag with a variety of sport climbing options (and awesome ice in the winter). Some of the routes were damp, but we finessed through the wetness and Heidi got to practice some of her new skills.
Awesome job Heidi, thanks for a great day of at one of my favorite local Vermont climbing areas!
Mooney Mountain Guides is excited to offer a spring special. Our crag skills seminars will help you get ready for your best climbing session yet.
Crag Skills Seminar
Choose one of four options:
1) Top-Rope Construction.
2) Introduction to Traditional Climbing.
3) Gym to Crag Transition.
4) Self Rescue
Combine any two for a comprehensive two-day seminar.
Who: Learn from expert guides who not only teach these skills but apply them every single day in the field. Our guides are trained and certified by the AMGA and use the most up-to-date methods in the field. 4:1 guide to guest ratio.
What: You can expect to learn and apply the skills needed to perform independently at the crag with your friends or family.
When: Seminars will be held May 1st – May 20th.
Where: Seminars will be held in four different locations based on interest and availability. These areas include Pawtuckaway State Park, Rumney, Echo Crag, and Crow Hill in Massachusetts.
Why: Climbing can be dangerous, especially if a climber is unprepared and underestimates the risks. Receiving training from experts allows a climber to choose the appropriate technical systems for the situation, make conservative decisions when evaluating risk, and reduce the time to gain independence.
For more information:
Please vist www.mooneymountainguides.com
E-mail at [email protected]
or Call Alex
At Mooney Mountain Guides we joke frequently that our company acronym (MMG) stands for Mountain’s, Mentorship, Guidance. In all seriousness, though, this is exactly what we provide. A day with MMG can simply be a day in the mountains pursuing a technical objective or experience, or it can be a day or days of learning and guidance. Our sport, mountain sports, have many intricacies to learn before one can safely pursue them on their own. A day in the mountains alone is fraught with potentially life threatening challenges that only experience and knowledge can help one navigate. Add the technical skills needed to climb in the mountains and there is a lifetime worth of learning.
A climber frequently navigates through this educational experience with the help of a mentor, some one older and more experienced who imparts their experiences, and helps the newer climber gain experience of their own, under a watchful eye. This is rewarding to both climbers, as the inexperienced get to safely learn how to navigate the challenges of the mountains and climbing, and the mentor gets to share their love of the mountains and climbing. At MMG, we are passionate about our sport, and love to share that passion and enable others to pursue it safely.
I consider my self blessed to have been able to do this over the past two winters with a student at Holderness School, where I coach rock climbing. Chance Wright was determined enough to get into the world of winter climbing that he successfully lobbied the school to allow him to pursue the sport as his winter sports option, and I was lucky enough to be able to coach him. Holderness, located in the same area as MMG operates, is ideally suited for such a sports option. In the winter, classes end around noon, giving us half the day to get out to a local ice crag or mountain and practice skills. Our weeks generally consisted of 3 days of climbing on ice, all over central and northern NH. These days often involved practicing technical skills as well, such as building anchors or setting up rappels. The remainder of the days were usually spent on a brisk hike on the surrounding mountains, building endurance for an end of season objective. Last year, that objective was Pinnacle Gully on Mt Washington. This year, we did the 9 mile Franconia Ridge Traverse in full on winter conditions. Additionally, Chance was able to wrap up this season by leading his first ice climb.
Progression: Chances second day on ice (Apocalypse Gulley), Pulling the roof on his first WI5 (Geographic Factor), and his first ice lead (Bloodline)
Taking skills on the road: A christmas vacation trip to Ouray CO
Last Season’s Objective: Pinnacle Gulley on Mt. Washington
This years original objective was Lincoln’s Throat on the Franconia Ridge. An unstable snow pack, and violent winds forced us to amend this plan to traversing the ridge. Having to change our plans was perhaps the most valuable lesson Chance learned in 2 years. Always listen to the mountains.
Chance is incredibly lucky to be going off to college with the skills and experience he already has in the mountains. I’m sure one of the biggest lessons he learned, as we all have, is that these mountain sports offer a lifetime of learning, and his education has just begun. Chance, I wish you the best in this journey, and am eager to see where it takes you! Thanks, for letting me be a part of that process.
Learning to climb is a process. At some point in any our journey comes a moment when the seed is planted and we decide to pursue climbing as a sport. We all start with a concept of what climbing is and what it takes to move up the mountain. We begin with the basics of movement, foot work and equipment. We climb a little with these skills and develop new skills along the way. If all goes well its a lot of fun and the cycle begins. The more we climb, the more we learn, the more we want to climb, and the more we climb.
Descending in soft snow.
Ian, Mark, and George have decided that climbing is something they want to pursue, and have begun climbing on there own. The three decided to come climbing with Mooney Mountian Guides to build on what they have learned with some formal training.
Self-arrest and hip belays.
Our day began with a discussion on essential gear. From there we headed to Willies Slide an excellent alpine training ground. We learned and practiced footwork, ice axe skills, and self arrest. After basking in the sun it was time to put our skills to the test and complete a technical ascent and decent of the slide. By the end of the day our team had covered a large range of mountaineering skills. We all enjoyed our time in the sun learning and climbing together.
Enjoying the climb.
Ian, Mark and George I hope to see all of you in the hills.
Willies slide in New Hanpshires Crawford Notch, is a popular area for learning the ropes of technical alpine mountaineering. Beginning with flat fool crampon skills, ice axe use, an and belay systems, and full exposure to mountain weather Amber had a true mountain experience. The days final lesson came to us as we topped out the slide, “sometimes in climbing, a little hard work yields a great reward.”
Amber, starting up a steep snow pitch.
Beta photo: The water ice head wall & technical crux of Willies Slide.
View nearing the top. Amber is in the bottom center of the photo.
Thank you Amber.
Hats off to Dustin, Derrek, Grant and Will for their dedication, performance and excellence in guiding!!!
For each of these Gents this AMGA Rock Instructor Exam in North Conway was the culmination of many years of education, training, and mentorship. The finale being a week long assessment of guiding skills and expertise while leading teams up multi pitch rock climbs.
Any exam can be a stressful experience, to pass or to fail runs through one mind. The ego can set in, the nerves get racked both which alter ones performance. As an AMGA examiner it is my job to manage and mitigate the overall risk, critique and grade ones performance and at the same time develop a positive learning environment that will allow each student to perform at their peak level of guiding.
Sound easy its not – for me or the students.
This group of Gents worked long hours, they trained on difficult climbs and learned how to balance the soft client skills. This was a key factor during their preparation for this week long examination process. It showed and was noted on the exam. Alain and I were both highly impressed with the top quality of technical guiding skills and the solid professionalism brought forward.
Dustin on the tricky final pitch of Inferno – Whitehorse Ledge.
Will running two ropes on the sparsely protected Sea of Holes.
Scenic NH – Mt Washington Valley.
“Guides Guiding Guides”
My Experiences with the AMGA Rock Instructor Exam
I had been considering doing the Rock Instructor exam for quite a while, and this year I finally decided to commit and go through with it. I know quite a few people who skipped the RIE and went straight into the guide program, and that was what my original plan was. Having just finished the instructor exam, I am certainly glad that I went through with it. I think that I may have learned more on the exam than I did during the course, and I also think that I will be able to better and more confidently serve clients now that I have completed it.
After signing up for the exam, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since I do not know that many people who have done it. I got quite a bit of exceptionally vague advice, and my imagination ran wild with expectations of obscure routes, girdle traverses, heinous descents, and examiners that were going to be constantly trying to untie their knots or undo their harness buckles. Needless to say, none of that ever happened. The examiners work to minimize guide stress and bring out the best in folks, the routes are guide routes, and there were few tricks thrown at us. Having completed the exam, I have the same vague advice to offer to others as was given to me: Wait until you are ready—the exam shouldn’t be a test, but rather a chance for you to show the world what you can do. Be able to climb the grade comfortably, you should be able to focus entirely on guiding and not have to worry about crux moves. Lastly, keep it simple. Rock instructor terrain is straightforward and doesn’t require any guide tricks or rope work. The routes are short and there is plenty of time; take advantage of it and think through everything you do. Guide confidently, give the examiners the same experience you give paying clients, and believe in yourself.
Thanks to Will for the extra effort in providing this fine critique of his experience.
Dustin instructing us on the jam crack moves – Funhouse Cathedral Ledge.
Derrek – demonstrating solid, steady moves on the classic crack climb – Retaliation
Overall, the AMGA Rock Instructor Exam met or exceeded my expectations. I was very impressed with both the professionalism of the examiners as well as the examinees. This certainly aided in creating a less stressful atmosphere throughout the entire process. The feedback I received from the examiners during the exam was pertinent to my success and will help me continue cultivating my guiding technique. It is apparent the exam is designed both as an educational piece as well as a standard for certification.
Grant finding solid hand jambs on Inferno.
Thanks to everyone for an amazing week of guidance in New Hampshire.
It was a pleasure to meet up with each of you again.
Many climbers go to the cliffs seeking freedom. Freedom to go where you want, when you want to. You can choose the level of challenge, style of climb, even where in the world you want to go. There is no greater freedom than leading. Leading a climb requires the climber to not only be strong physically and mentally, but it requires an intimate knowledge of the gear and rope systems used to stay safe while on the cliff.
Nick and Rodger came out with Mooney Mountain Guides on a custom learn to lead course. It is important to have all the essential rope system skills in order to lead safely, and climbing with a professional guide is a great way to learn the most up to date information. Nick and Rodger are strong climbers, spending many days in the gym honing their climbing abilities. There number one goal was to take there skills into the outdoors and climb a cliff such as Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire.
Nick, Belaying after mock leading pitch two of Fun House, Cathedral Ledge.
Rodger Belaying top of pitch two on Upper Refuse, Cathedral Ledge NH.
Day one of the two day course was spent at Cathedral Ledge where we climbed from bottom to top discussing gear placements, belay systems, cleaning a pitch, mock leading (leading while on a top-rope), building anchors, and rappelling.
Day two was spent at Rumney. Rumney is a sport climbing area, meaning the protection for the leader is already placed in the rock. This allows for the climber to concentrate on the climbing and rope systems and not each individual gear placement. When learning to lead with a professional or highly experienced recreational climber, Rumney is an excellent venue to lead a lot in a short time. Nick and Rodger were able to lead many climbs, the goal to becoming proficient and then go out and climb at Rumney on there own.
Rodger leading, Rumney NH.
Nick leading, Rumney, NH.
Nick and Rodger are now ready to continue the learning on there own. As guides we are constantly learning and tweaking our systems to become better and more skilled climbers and guides. Maybe a custom course in “leading” is right for you.
Thank you Nick and Rodger for two awesome days on the cliff.
Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges in North Conway Nh are two prize rock climbing areas in New England. For those looking for multi pitch granite cracks and granite slabs climbs these are the spots for an excellent summer rock climbing adventure.
Victoria and Barry joined me on last years summer vacation for a climb on Cannon of the Whitney Gilman Ridge. I will say we all had and excellent time meeting and climbing together. A few weeks back Victoria and I made new plans for a 2013 summer climbing trip. The number one choice was Cathedral Ledge. It has many climbing routes, loaded with steep cracks, and its on the tough side which would make it an engaging experience for all of us.
Cathedral our first choice – since it was a wet morning we chose to drive to the top and hike down to climb the Upper Refuse route. This is usually a good climb in questionable weather, it has moderate climbing, climbs in three short pitches, and the exposure and views are awesome. We topped out just after noon and ate our lunch at the car. For the afternoon I suggested we make a quick drive to the Whitehorse Slabs for another type of climbing – friction and footwork.
By days end we had reached our fill of the stone. It was a nice blend of two of NH prize climbing areas.
Victoria warming up on Upper Refuse.
Victoria and Barry climbing together on Cathedral Ledge.
My Mammut 9.5 Infinity ropes were running smoothly today.
A fine type of Rest & Relaxation – enjoying a NH Rock Climbing Trip.
Topping out on Cathedral – my Five Ten Hueco shoes are awesome – all day comfort, good on the cracks and edges, and excellent on the friction slabs at Whitehorse.
View into North Conway from the top of Cathedral Ledge.
Whitehorse is one big chunk of stone. The smooth slabs are a great place to quickly cover terrain. Using the legs for power but keeping a close eye of the footwork is key to keeping yourself together on the long friction pitches.
Our choice was a fantastic route called the Sliding Board. We climbing four pitches to the headwall then rappelled to the base. The day was full of excitement and adventure, we learned alot , and we refined what we knew.
Great day climbing with Victoria and Barry.