Training & Fitness
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.
As I approach the climbs the smell of thick sweet crude oil reminds me of my location. The Red River Gorge area in Kentucky. The climbing is extensive with two new guidebooks loaded with sport and traditional routes and countless secret crags with more to be found. The locals are a friendly bunch of southerners welcoming us where ever we climb. The Red River is steep sandstone full of pockets, rails and huecos. The routes tend to be long with hefty run outs at the top, one must be ready to push onward above the last bolt to clip the chains.
Muir Valley area – sweet approaches to the climbs.
A favorite of Terry – Fire and Brimstone *****
Drive by Crag – with sports action all day long.
Getting started on a rain day – plenty of dry routes to be had.
Gung Ho, steep and pumpy – a project for me.
Sunny crags are rare in the deep woods of Kentucky.
We found some light at the Bruisebrothers Wall!
Great 5.10 routes on this wall.
Muir Valley is tricked out with crag beta, routes tags and rescue info. great area that well maintained by Rick and Liz Weber.
Awesome trip to the Red River – can’t wait till next fall.
The Man in the Mountain, or what remained of him, hung above me as I scraped my way up the climb. His absence reminded me of what many had said about the cliff: Cannon was an exfoliating onion periodically shedding its layers. I heard loose rocks in the near distance tumbling down, adding to the boulder field that stretched halfway to the bike path with rocks that previously comprised the cliff.
After pulling up to the ledge, completing the pitch, I rested my head against the rock and decided then and there that I was done. My climbing career was over. I quit.
Todd leading Pitch 1 Down east 2004
Unfortunately for me, I was only 150’ up a 1000’ climb. The physical retreat would not be so easy. There was no fixed anchor to use for a rappel. Ironically enough, the safest way off the cliff was up. My two partners stood below waiting for me to secure the rope and belay them up. I fiddled with some gear placements and clipped a fixed piton that I hoped was ok.
I quit several times more after that; I forget how many. The technical element of the climb was not the issue, for I had climbed “harder routes” with more challenging moves. The insecurity of grabbing a wobbling hold often rattled me, but today, the fear was especially strong. Though the fear dominated that day, I felt great satisfaction during sections of the climb when I had no choice but to push the fear aside and move from a secure position or off a ledge.
Todd on Pitch 2 – note the large rack of gear by his side!
We stood at the end of the final pitch and read the guidebook’s description: “Step left, face climb to a corner, then mantle to the top.” We had completed a mantle – pushing down with the palm of one’s hand like one would do when getting out of a pool – and looked up to see that we still had another few hundred feet of climbing above us. I cursed the author and wondered if this day would ever end.
Later, when we were safely hiking down, my friends teased me; in fact, they continue to tease me to this day. “When are we going back?” For years the question created uneasiness in my stomach, but it also reminded me of the physical and mental challenges I faced that day. Even though I wanted to retreat to the safety of the ground, I ventured upward until I reached the top. A few days later, we climbed at Crawford Notch on a route with the same technical grade; this time I took the crux pitch. Less affected by the difficulty of the moves and the sparseness of gear placements, I focused on the climbing, enjoyed the exposure, and savored the time with my friends.
Renowned climber and author John Long once wrote: An honest failure never haunts you because the body knows no shame. But if you let your mind defeat you, if you bail off because the “vibes” are weird and you let fear run away with itself, you have not truly failed, rather defaulted, and it will nag you like a tune till your dying day – or at least until you return and set things straight.
The passage struck a chord with me the moment I read it, and it has stayed with me to this day. It could be applied to so many climbing adventures, so many facets of life, in fact, but not “Down East.” This route was the exception: I would never want to climb it again. Then a few years back, I reflected upon my experience. I thought about the route and that day. I even wondered if I could lead the crux pitch. Though we did not “bail off,” and certainly not from a lack of wanting, I still hear that tune and want to “set things straight.”
In order to successfully climb the route, I will need more mileage on the rock so that I can regain the necessary strength and endurance. But unlike in previous years when the idea of climbing “Down East” scared me, I now look forward to the opportunity and the challenge…and to giving dear friends more fodder for laughter.
Sykes, Jon. Secrets of the Notch: A Guide to Rock and Ice Climbing on Cannon Cliff and the Crags of Franconia Notch. Huntington Graphics. 2001.
Long, John. Rock Jocks, Wall Rats, and Hang Dogs: Rock Climbing on the Edge of Reality. Fireside, 1994.
Todd Goodman MMG Guide
Right after my returned from the sunny and warm south west I was treated to a cold moist day on the Willys Slide. This was the beginning of a six day technical training session for a group of visiting PJ’s. Over the six days Alain Comeau lead this group through a series of train ups followed by practical sessions on the ice, the cliffs and over the rivers. I was along to assist and be the other set of eyes keeping the group on target with these new and highly technical skills.
A modified self arrest – note slider is picking up axe on the move.
Snow anchors – these should be the last of the season on Willys.
Ice bollard for rappels.
The twin rescue system in action.
Twin system on the top of Cathedral Ledge.
Getting started with the English Reeve system .
English Reeve system in action over the gorge.
Thanks to Alain and the men from the pararescue squad – it was a great week of learning with some additional fun hack sessions.
Today the Team took a new direction in the Red Rock area – a session at the Kraft Boulders. Armed with two pads we warmed up at the Wake Up Wall and then sampled a few nearby classic boulder problems. Potato Chips was a steep one that tested Derek and Art’s crimps strength and the Poker Chips overhanging hand rail with left heel hooks was dispatched by Mark and Chris. Kraft is an amazing place full of all types of boulder problems.
Deivis traversing the warm up boulder.
Mark getting after one of the days high ball problems
Steve enjoying a well deserved rest after 5 days straight on the rock.
Here is a re-energized Steve with three great 5.9 runs on the Conundrum Crag routes.
Chris sending everything that comes his way – 5.10 tomorrow!
Elbow pain didn’t keep Adel down on this impressive attempt on the 45 degree wall.
Mark may have gotten a pump today?
Deivis working the complete loop traverse.
A Friendly Chuckwalla
Thanks to the team for a great day at the Kraft and Conundrum crag.
MMG Guides – Art And Derek
It was 4am and the Epinepherine move was on. Coffee was had in the hotel room with PB and J’s for breakfast. Jerry and I new this early start was needed for this long traditional route in the Black Velvet Canyon. The route proper is 1500 feet of technical climbing which leads to 700 ft of 4th and 5th class scrambling with high exposure – total route is 2200ft.
The Main Event of the route is the 300ft of chimney pitches which lead one to the stacked 5.9 corners which continue for another 700 ft or so. We prepared for the route by climbing the previous three days on the routes Group Therapy, Dark Shadows and Sundog. All had a small amount of the wide stuff to get us in the groove. One main goal was to have quick transitions to keep us move fast another was to be lightweight. We carried minimal gear in our small Mammut Neon Packs and the racks and ropes were on our backs.
The day was excellent, we ended up second in line with another party on our tail. The climbing was very physical in the chimneys and the corners were steep and technical. Over all good fun climbing in a wildly exposed setting.
Enjoy the photos of the Red Rock classic route – Epinephrine.
First light as we start up pitch one.
Early morning glow on the wall.
The Main Event – Chimneys and Corners!!!
The upper wall comes into view.
The exposure starts to get good on pitch 7.
Jerry – focused on the moves high on the wall.
Early afternoon on the summit of Black Velvet Peak.
Thanks to Jerry for joining me on this spectacular climb.
Glacier Travel and more.
It’s a lot of information for ones grey matter to take in. Four days of knowledge in two days is a circuit over load for anybody. When you are looking to plan a trip that requires a variation of so many skills such as what it might take to plan a trip, altitude concerns, belaying, rappelling, setting up tents, the importance of good kitchen skills, rescue skills, snow anchors and much, much more. It can be difficult to take in so much information in just a short period of time. In order to maintain everything we learned we all must keep doing the same thing……Practice, practice and practice. Did I mention we saw Fred Beckey too.
Technical systems galore.
Taking the skills up the climb.
The group still smiling after two long days.
Did I mention we saw Fred Beckey!
Thanks Nick, Ethan, Justin and Jenna for a great two days
Jim Gagne – MMG Guide
Superb weather, fantastic alpine and ice climbing, and motoring up Mt Washington all made this MMG climbing sampler another excellent adventure for the starting players of the Peppercom/Cody team. We did miss one player Mark aka Renaissance Man but a new player came off the bench – Sean aka Rookie of the Year did not only join in for the fun Sean crushed it!
Sean started off the weekend with steep grade 3 and 4 ice climbs, learned about 4:30am alpine starts the next day and to complete the game he stayed true by getting the final goal – topping out on Mt Willard in icy cold temperatures with a sharp wind frosting up our faces and numbing our hands.
Sean looking cool, calm and collected on Lower Hitchcock Gully.
Happy Birthday to Sean!
Holster your weapon Sean.
Sean at spring climbing camp – learning quickly about footwork and balance.
Another Mt Washington summit for the team on a beautiful day. The 7th time on top for RepMan
The Team – (left to right) Egyption Stallion, RepMan, Sean Dawg, Eric, The Gale Force, and Crusher Cody.
Repman – contemplating his next move.
Adel leading the team to the top!
On our way to the alpine area Hitchcock, Monkey Wrench and East Slabs of Willard.
Thumbs up – the day just keeps getting better.
Adel on the deck after sending the steep ice climb called the Red Headwall.
Making good time all in sync on the Ammo Trail.
Sean and Chris ready for the action to begin.
Chris sporting the Go Pro – sure would like to see the footage.
A big Thank You to Steve and the Peppercom team for another great game in NH.
Thanks to the MMG Guides Erik Thatcher, Eric Marshall, and Jim Gagne.
These great photos are part of our NH guide team. I arranged this day to take a group photo of the guides in their new Ultimate Hoody Jackets from Mammut and as a general information gathering and training session. Missing are a few other guides from NH -Todd from Plymouth, Bob from Portsmouth, Majka, and Mike from the North Conway area and the Vermont guides Derek and Derrek.
Each spring and fall MMG schedules a training session for the guide team. Having all of us in one spot churning up the information is mandatory to have a group of guides that are on a similar page with MMG info and all the types of mountain training and guiding we do in the field.
You may have thought we get together working frequently but thats not the case. Much of the time the guides are working alone in the field. This goes on all over the country and world in mountain guiding. Frequent get togethers are well needed for quality control. At the same time its surely a fun way to get out with other guides and do what we all love – our passion.
Eric, Phil, Alex, Art, Matt Erik Jim
Eric roping up for Hanging by a Moment.
Phil and Erik off and climbing.
Matt – trying to get one of us to climb his new route Pot Of Mold.
Jim happy on the ice or the mountain!
Phil – the red man.
Jim – the man of many jobs.
Me getting on Pot of Gold – a short steep pillar.
Thank you for all the guides taking their time to get together for this day. I / MMG is very fortunate to have each of you on the MMG team.