Training & Fitness
November is the month many Northeastern climbers travel south trying to extend the last couple of weeks of rock season, and pass the time until the ice comes in good back home. Along with the Chattanooga area of Tennessee (see T is for T-wall, below) the Red River Gorge in Eastern Kentucky is a popular season needing location. In the hills around Slade Kentucky lies a lifetimes work of climbing. While there is both trad and sport, the Red is known for it’s radically overhanging sandstone sport climbs. The style is almost pure endurance, where the main challenge is getting to the top. With prime climber accommodations throughout the Gorge ($2 camping), this area makes it easy to come and hard to leave. It’s no wonder many traveling climbers live here for months at a time!
There are two main strategies to learn in order to climb hard on the Red’s overhanging cliffs. One is to climb fast and efficiently, the other is to train to be good at recovering when you come to a good rest, as in the photo above.
Aside from the pump, the steep walls and rather run out climbs lead to some of the biggest whippers you’ll ever take. The “Red River Belay” involves a large loop of slack and a generous hop when your climber falls. Most of these falls are as clean as possible, and we frequently jumped from the chains to get some of that fun air time.
The Red is known for having the biggest holds you’ll ever fall off of. After climbing 80 feet of overhanging rock, sometimes it just doesn’t matter how big the holds are, you’re too pumped too hold on to anything! One of our friends melted off the top of this climb on massive jugs.
At the end of the day, The Red offers some of the most enjoyable, stress free climbing around. No frustrating cruxes or micro beta, no scary falls, and a large percentage of climbable days. I suggest every one find the opportunity to head down to Ole Kentucky and check their grip on the Red’s awesome Sandstone buckets!
This man, Steve, over the course of three days walked twenty + miles through rain, fog, near freezing temperatures, all above tree line, hopping from boulder to boulder and wind with gusts up to 50 mph… here’s the kicker, he did it for someone else, and he raised money to do it.
Traversing the Presidential Range in New Hampshire (a.k.a. Presi-traverse) is a coveted achievement among climbers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts all over the north east. It can be breathtakingly beautiful, and is always immensely rewarding. However, it is no secret that Mt. Washington and the surrounding alpine environment is known for its severe weather. Yet, maybe its this knowledge that draws us to the the mountain. The knowledge that even with preparation, skill, wisdom, and endurance, it may take a little bit of luck to be successful in climbing it.
There in lies the scale of Steve’s achievement. The fact that despite the adversity he faced up on the exposed ridge-line he kept moving forward and was successful in his journey across the “home of the worlds worst weather”.
Steve was climbing for an organization known as “Summit for Someone”. This organization raises money for inner city at risk youth, and uses that money to fund programing and opportunities for these children. Fundraisers set a goal of climbing one of many mountains around the country, and then fundraise and train to prepare for their expedition. It takes individuals like Steve to participate in these organizations in order for them to be successful. We all owe Steve a couple of nods; one, for being successful on his first presidential traverse, and two, raising all that money to benefit children.
Thank you Steve for an awesome adventure!
Aubrey has taken on a powerful approach and I am quite impressed with his dedication to the game.
Each time he joins me for a climb his goal is to clinic on the difficult routes at Rumney. Aubrey enjoys figuring out the complexities of the movements on steep, technical 5.10′s and 5.11s. All of these routes require the climber to think ahead, to use the power when needed and to conserve the energy for the final push to the chains. Our climbing clinics are lengthy lasting 5 or 6 hours on route after route.
Stacking the odds in your favor.
The preparation for these days should be well thought out. The body must be rested prior to the clinic – fresh and energetic is what one needs to push the body and mind to the limit. Equipment should be suited to the game, shoes are a personal choice but a highly important one.
My personal favorite is the Five Ten Arrowhead with Stealth Rubber.
A new standard in high friction rubber with unbeatable hardness for precise edging and stickiness for friction.
The Five Ten Elite team raves about the Arrowhead’s fit and performance. You will instantly feel the difference in the casually down-turned toe and heel cup that grips without pinching. The upper is a supple, breathable Cowdura™ that molds to the foot.
Gold bug Main Cliff another tricky 5.10 plus route.
Steep rock with wild moves up the flaring dihedrals.
Rumney schist – unusual grainy rock, with good friction, underlings – side pulls and many unusual holds.
Aubrey – great day working the routes with you.
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.
The Eaglet Spire is the only free standing column of rock in New Hampshires. The location is stunning, the Spire sits high above Franconia Notch in a magnificent alpine setting.
Team Cody with Erik and I as guides had this one on our to do list of climbs for some time. With the weather in agreement we were ready. The cool night followed by a sunny warm day made the very best climbing conditions – it felt like Sendtember had begun.
Steve aka Repman working the moves on the flaring chimney pitch.
The team on approach to the Eaglet
Bagels and Espresso beans – fuel for the day.
Franconia Notch – a spectacular setting.
Steve on the summit of the Eaglet Spire then on the steep rappel.
On the summit of the Eaglet.
For alpine rock climbing -try the Eaglet Spire!!!
Many folks celebrate their birthday with special friends over dinner and drinks - not so with Steve aka The Repman. Steve’s preference is to leave the Peppercomm office early on Thursday with the message - Gone Climbing for the Weekend!!!
This weekend weather was a bit fickle – if you have been following the northeast you know it’s been grim. Clouds, humidity, thunder storms, and torrential rains have been the pattern for the last week.
Steve, Adel and Sean hopped in the car and made the journey to NH. It was the right time to escape the heat and humidity down in Jersey and come up to the Live Free or Die state for a refreshing weekend of outdoor activity.
In the Mist – on the summit of Mt Lafayette!!!
Steve getting his pre climb stretch.
Adel – The Barr has been raised – he cruised to the summit in 2.45.
Sean – always reddy for a good climb.
Agility, balance and focus – the crucial elements for mountain travel.
Stairway to heaven – granite blocks laid out to the top.
On a mission – great pace Steve.
Steve and I on the summit – a Happy Birthday to you!!!
Charging back up for the descent – wet and slippery trail for the next 4 miles.
Erik passing out warm gatorade to charge up the team.
Amazing to have a break in the clouds – almost a view of the summit.
Greenleaf hut – a welcome spot for lunch.
AMC crew members – bringing goods to the hut.
Thanks for a great day on the mountain!!!
Its been a great week to be out in the NH mountains. Finally we are having sunny days with cool breezes and the climbs are mostly dry. Jason and I got lucky with our Cannon plans as our scheduled day was bluebird and crowdless. Getting back on the Whitney Gilman Ridge was excellent with fun climbing in the amazing and exposed location high above Franconia Notch.
This was Jason’s first multi pitch climb and he climbed the entire route in good style. No slips or falls just good solid movements with the occasion crux to ponder. Great prep for Jason who may be heading to the Tetons to climb the Petzolt Ridge on the Grand Teton.
Whitney Gilman Ridge – Jason.
Pemi Valley looking south.
Mid way up the route.
Splitter granite cracks in places.
Exposure high o the fourth pitch.
The final pitch – 600 ft of climbing done.
Thanks Jason, great to climb with you. Hope to see you this summer.
Join in on Saturday evening at Evolution Rock and Fitness!!!
Over the past three days Jerry and I gathered information and photos at Rumney Rocks for Evolutions presentation this Saturday. The prime topic is safety awareness for the climbing community. Rumney Rocks is the perfect place to take newly learned indoor climbing skills to the outdoor climbing world. Its also the place where many first time and experienced climbers make common mistakes. One goal of the clinic is to help new and experienced climbers raise their awareness to reduce the chances of future climbing accidents.
As outdoor enthusiasts – climbers and guides we can be stewards of the land. It is our responsibility to keep our climbing areas in the best shape they can be. This comes with understanding of the LNT principles. Lets all get together and minimize the impact on other climbers and the land – cliffs we are using.
The Rumney Climbers Association, local climbers, guides have set up Rumney Rocks Climbing routes with these fixed anchors. These permanent anchors are not for top roping they are for the last descent down the route. Please use these only for descending the route as you can see they do wear out.
Closing the system!
Take and active role in getting all climbers to close the system – many climbers have been injured while be lowering off the end of and unclose rope system
Rope stacked and system closed – ready for climbing.
Figure eight – Classic, Elegant, Simple.
Mammut Smart belay – assisted dynamic breaking for the leader and top roper.
Petzl Gri Gri Belay device – another assisted breaking belay device.
Note closed hands over rope – proper bracing position for leading or lowering
Anchors set ups for Rumney Sport routes. The above is a top choice top rope anchor system for MMG Guides.
Clipping gear the right way!
Looking down at the quick draws and bolts.
Terry enjoying the fun climbing at Rumney Rocks.
See you at Evolution Rock and Fitness.
Over the past ten days I worked for the AMGA with Larry Goldie of North Cascade Mountain Guides teaching 6 students guide skills on the AMGA Rock Instructor Course. This RIC is the first level multi pitch instructor course. The course is spread out over ten intense days, the curriculum is varied and in depth, and the venus host a variety of multi pitch rock climbs.
The Rock Instructor Course (RIC), is the 1st step in the Rock Guide education and certification process and is designed for aspiring guides who have a strong rock climbing background and for instructors who are interested in improving their skills and increasing knowledge. The Rock Instructor Course places strong emphasis on maximizing client rewards while effectively managing risks.
The Eldorado Canyon gorge is narrow, the sandstone rock is steep and fractured, and the fast flowing river adds to the excitement. It’s amazing how just a few miles outside the Boulder city limits one can quickly climb on variety of high quality traditional rock climbs in such a surprisingly wild environment..
First photo views looking down canyon with West Ridge, the Redgarden Wall on left and Bastille formation on lower right.
Second photo host the amazing Naked Edge rock climb up the center rib.
The AMGA team!
First row – Brett (Estes Park), Andrew (NOLS), Matt (Seneca Rocks Climbing School)
Second row – Andrew (Outward Bound) Larry Goldie (North Cascades Mountain Guides) Colin (Apex Ex Guides) Joe (NOLS)
Approaching the Front Range Flat Iron formations we climbed the second one.
Larry adding info to students during our daily morning guide meetings.
Rescue techniques for the Rock Instructor
Matt – ready to travel with kiwi coil, providing a seated hip belay on a short down climb to start.
Joe leading our guide meeting on the final day.
Joe starting the Bastille Crack on a cold and windy morning.
Andrew taking the lead on the final pitch of Hand Cracker – Long John Wall.
Andrew cruising on the climb.
Colin of Apex Ex Guides guiding the team on Long John Wall.
A close encounter for us!
Rocky Mountain meltwater – the river is raging at this time of year.
Using the I Phone – one technique to have route topos and a description on hand.
Adam enjoying the varied climbing on Icarus.
Brett topping out on the final pitch of Icarus.
Fantastic times with a great group of guys.
Thank you all,
AMGA IFMGA Licensed Guide
The Mountains are a common bond with climbers and guides. This is the place we all love to spend our days, climbing high on the rocks, ascending ice routes or traveling amongst the high peaks. For this years Mooney Mountain Guides training day I decided to hold the rock climbing training session on Cannon Mountain. Cannon is an amazing place. The cliff face soars high above the valley floor of Franconia Notch. The views of the Pemigewasset Valley to the south and Mt Lafayette to the east are spectacular.
The MMG Guides and myself have rock and ice climbed on this granite face hundreds of times. For me the Cannon experience is always exciting and full of amazement. This mountain is alive and each time I climb here I sharpen my senses, bring respect and focus to the area, and make decisions based on the time, place, and the current events around me. Maintaining this type of awareness is needed for Cannon, this higher end NH alpine rock climbing area.
View of the Whitney Gilman Ridge and Cannons big wall section.
Exposed climber on the Whitney Gilman Ridge.
Classic Rock Climb – Whitney Gilman Ridge – first climbed in 1929.
Mooney Mountain Guide team.
The Mentorship is a crucial part of the development and training of all climbing guides. Alain Comeau of New England Mountain Guides was my first instructor with the AMGA certification program. I feel Alain has mentored me over the past 20 years. To this day we are in touch, working together and bouncing new ideas and guiding issues off each other. Much thanks goes to Alain for all the mentoring and sharing of his mountain expertise.
“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less”.
Mentorship comes is many ways. I led the MMG training with assistance from MMG Guides Derek Doucet and Matt Ritter (AMGA Certified Rock Instructors). Our focus was on general discussions pertinent to guiding on the rocks this summer. In addition the above photos picture the MMG guides solving specific technical problems and brushing up and practicing rope techniques.
Guidance is what we do. To do this well a guide must have strong climbing movement skills. Part of our training day was to have fun on the rocks. Derek and Erik led and set up two of Cannons base area routes Slow and Easy and Sticky Fingers. The MMG team followed with multiple laps of rock climbing fun.
Mammut styled us with new Pokiok soft shell guide jackets. Being a very warm sunny day we did not need to use them today but this soft shell will be in our packs for the fickle weather on Cannon this summer. Thanks to Gribbin and Mammut for the ongoing support of MMG Guides and myself.
Julbo hooked us up with cool new shades for this event. Keeping the guides eyes sharp on Cannon is a must. Thanks to Julbo and Nick Yardley for the continued support of the MMG Guides.
Dave traveled over to Cannon to meet the MMG staff and present new Petzl products and valuable technical info on many products in use today. In Daves kit was the new Sirocco helmet, the Ange carabiner, Spirit Express Draws, and new this season Petzl ice screws.
The wall – Cannon Cliff!!!
Great day on the mountain – Cannon that is!!! Thanks to all the MMG guides for taking time on a sunny Saturday to join in on this training day.