Training & Fitness
The team just after setting out.
This weekend Mooney Mountain Guides, along with five guests, had the opportunity to spend a night in the Mt. Washington Observatory (OBS) on the summit of Mt. Washington. Growing up as a New England kid in love with his local mountains, Mt. Washington represented the pinnacle of mountain terrain. As I stared at its windy white summit, it was completely wild to think that people actually lived and worked up there. It seemed as cold and remote as the moon. My curiosity and imagination running wild of what it must be like.
It seems that this feeling I experienced since my childhood is not uncommon among others who go to the mountains. After all, year round weather observatory that has been manually taking weather observations every hour on the our, 365, since the 1930′s is quite unique. Why wouldn’t a mountaineer want to spend a night up there? Spending the night is only half the fun. MMG’s five guests and I had to climb the mountain to get there.
The trip begins with a leisurely meeting time of 8:00am. Followed by a discussion on gear, and itinerary. Typically we are hitting the trail by 9:30, prepared to spend the next 36 hours on the mountain.
Ascending the technical Lions Head trail.
After relatively laid back hike up the wide Tuckerman’s ravine trail providing us with lots of room to talk and get to know one another we reached the Lion’s head winter route. At this point on the trail, ice axes and crampons are used to ascend the steep semi technical terrain on our way to tree-line. Once above the trees on the exposed “Lion’s Head” our group began to feel the wind Mt. Washington is famous for; however, it was relatively light and the temperatures were warm with bright sun.
Ascending the summit cone.
We continued our traverse across the southern end of the Alpine Garden, our sights fixed on the summit cone ahead. The team was making such good time in the favorable conditions that we had time to ditch the crampons for some self arrest practice on the snow fields of the summit cone. Following some fine tuning of our technique, the team continued up the snow and rock towards the summit. The bright sun, mild temperatures, and moderate winds made our time on the upper mountain very enjoyable.
Taking a moment to enjoy the upper mountain.
We reached the summit and took our time taking photos and exploring the alpine terrain. On this particular day we enjoyed 130+ miles of un-OBS-structed visibility. Seeing summits in New York’s Adirondack State Park! For those of you who know Mt. Washington, you know how special this opportunity was.
Finally inside we were greater with warm soup and freshly baked bread. A magical sunset was followed by a delicious dinner. With some good conversation we called it a night with hopes of catching the sunrise the following morning.
Weather instrument tour.
Sunrise, breakfast, and a tour of the weather instruments left us prepared for the journey down the hill. The team made a slight detour to experience the stronger winds, spend more time in the beautiful sunshine, and explore more of the mountain. The team enjoyed a picture perfect descent. We all found it difficult not to smile following such a wonderful trip to the OBS.
Descending the upper mountain
Special thanks to Mooney Mountain Guides and our guests, Mammut for the gear the makes alpine exploration possible, and the Mt. Washington Observatory for being such gracious hosts.
I hope to see you all in the Mountains
To many of us skiers, especially us back country and ski mountaineering folk, the Haute Route is on our radar. On skis, it is a week long traverse from Chamonix in France, to Zermat in Switzerland. On this journey a skier will be greeted with breath taking mountain landscapes, high-alpine terrain, spectacular descents, and beautiful touring across glaciers. A skier will also be faced with all the typical mountain challenges, navigation, weather, avalanches, while traveling in glaciated terrain. In addition to these challenges, a skier must be prepared with the skills for skinning, moving in crampons, skiing steep slopes, and transitioning between each element quickly and efficiently.
These four ladies are headed to Haute route, but before they go, a training day with MMG was in order. Our day began with a discussion on packing and quickly transitioned into skinning. After practicing with our ski’s skins we did some touring practicing our kick turns and walking in crampons. A discussion on avalanches preceded our transition into descent mode. The skins came off and boots were buckled tight for the hard fast snow. Following our exciting descent, the team practiced a few more transitions before a beacon search demonstration. At the end of the day our team had covered a lot. In the process we had a blast, got to see some great views, and even got some skiing in.
I hope you all have an amazing trip.
The Northern Presidential’s from the Summit
Kevin is a mountaineer. Africa, Europe, Mexico, North America. He has climbed around the world. Even though living in New York, Kevin hadn’t made it to Mt. Washington. It seems from the pictures that he was having a great time. All climbers of the North East are lucky to have such an awesome mountain within driving distance. As a training venue or objective itself. Mt. Washington is a real mountain and climbing it will make you a better climber. If mountaineering is something you may be interested in, come check out Mt. Washington.
We are in the Mountains Now
Cloud cover changing as a front moves through
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.
Mountaineering is a term that encompasses many skills that all come together and enable us to climb mountains. There are no set rules and the creative have a clear advantage. Part of getting creative is climbing rock with ice climbing equipment (mixed climbing), and being able to climb ice and rock simultaneously. In the mountains there is no taped routes, it is up to the climber to decipher a route to the top. This route may require these mixed climbing skills. Aubrey and I took to the ice, and rock, to train, climb and have a great time. After climbing eight different routes the sun was setting on an amazing day of mixed climbing.
Fat in the cave.
Rock and Ice
Thanks Aubry for a great day on the rock and ice.
Jerry and I have been on the ice for the past five days at a variety of areas. Jerry was looking to refine, steep climbing techniques on pillars and corners, climb a new alpine gully, and spend some time taking on the lead end of the rope. We kept our focus for the week and were treated to some fine ice conditions.
The Penguin route.
Dracula Right and Left
Trestle Cut area.
Jerry on lead – Duofold.
Crawford Notch area
The week was sooo good – thanks Jerry much appreciated.
Jerry took the ice on lead today. Mount Willard was the perfect place for this. Hitchcock Gully and the Upper East Face Slabs were in fantastic shape. Jerry was in solid form as he steadily led all the routes. Protection was placed were needed and directionals were adding to keep the rope from freezing up in the running water. It is on days like these that all the hard work comes together and a new zone is entered. The zone is the lead area which requires focus, balance, power and a calm cool head.
Lower Hitchcock Gully.
The guides Jerry and Alex at the first belay .
Jerry on Upper Hitchcock Gully.
Rappelling Upper Hitchcock – to access one more climb.
Going for the summit – Jerry on lead on the East Slabs route.
Jerry – Great job leading today.
Brothers Nick and Zack joined me last week for an intro to winter travel. We had three days over the weekend to get them into the mountains and experience and array of their offerings. On day 1 we sampled some low angle ice climbing in Kinsman Notch. Nick and Zack got to learn the power of front pointing in crampons and pulling on ice axes, as well as experience the beauty of the White Mountains in winter. On day 2 we did an intro to mountaineering on Welch and Dickey Mountains, learning various techniques for ascending snow slopes of differing angles. The brothers got to dial in their layers and get practice in keeping their hydration and calorie stores where we wanted them. Day 3 was the main event, an ascent of Mt Washington. The boys where apprehensive of this plan at first, but gained excitement throughout the weekend. We were greeted with rather favorable conditions on our summit day. Wind chills in the teens and winds in the 40′s allowed us to get to the summit with minimal suffering!
Thanks for joining us Nick and Zack. Best to both of you in the New year!