Training & Fitness

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.

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Dracula Right and Left


Trestle Cut area.


Newfound Lake


Jerry on lead – Duofold.


The Flume


Shoestring Gully


Crawford Notch area





The week was sooo good – thanks Jerry much appreciated.

Art Money

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.

NH Ice Climb Hitchcock Gully

Lower Hitchcock Gully.

MMG Guides - Ice Climb Hitchcock Gully

The guides Jerry and Alex at the first belay .

Upper Hitchcock Ice Climb

Jerry on Upper Hitchcock Gully.

Hitchcock Gully Ice Climb

Rappelling Upper Hitchcock – to access one more climb.

East Slabs Ice Climbs Mt Willard

Going for the summit – Jerry on lead on the East Slabs route.

Jerry – Great job leading today.

Art Mooney

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!

Ascending, with Mt. Madison in the background

Ascending, with Mt. Madison in the background

On the Summit Cone

On the Summit Cone

Pushing up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

Pushing up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

Training day on Welch & Dickey

Training day on Welch & Dickey

Summit Cone!

Summit Cone!

Kinsman Notch

Kinsman Notch

Kinsman Notch

Kinsman Notch

Thanks for joining us Nick and Zack. Best to both of you in the New year!

Erik Thatcher


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!

Seth Cohen warms up on Oompa 5.10a at The Chocolate Factory. The steep wall of Pure Imagination 5.14c is in the foreground

Seth Cohen warms up on Oompa 5.10a at The Chocolate Factory. The steep wall of Pure Imagination 5.14c is in the foreground

Mike Mastanduno resting on Tissue Tiger, 5.12b at Military Wall

Mike Mastanduno resting on Tissue Tiger, 5.12b at Military Wall

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.

Mike Mastanduno off Tuna Town, 5.12d at The Motherlode

Mike Mastanduno off Tuna Town, 5.12d at The Motherlode

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.

Chelsea Kendrick on Fuzzy Undercling, 5.11b at the Military Wall

Chelsea Kendrick on Fuzzy Undercling, 5.11b at the Military Wall

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.

Erik Thatcher on Steel Worker, 5.12c at Torrent Falls

Erik Thatcher on Steel Worker, 5.12c at Torrent Falls

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!

Erik Thatcher




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!

Alex Teixeira

MMG Guide.

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.

IMG_2181Aubrey on the ground after a run on Know Ethics 5.10 c.


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.

Thank you,

Art Mooney

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.

Thanks to Derrek for his review of the RIE. 


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.

Art Mooney

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.

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The team on approach to the Eaglet


Bagels and Espresso beans – fuel for the day.

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Franconia Notch – a spectacular setting.

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Steve on the summit of the Eaglet Spire then on the steep rappel.


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On the summit of the Eaglet.


Chris and Erik rigging their rappels.

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.

IMG_1505 Steve leading the team yo the top.


Stairway to heaven – granite blocks laid out to the top.


On a mission – great pace Steve.

IMG_1511 Sean, Erik and Adel nearing the summit


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!!!

Art Mooney

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.


Fun climbing.


The final pitch – 600 ft of climbing done.


Thanks Jason, great to climb with you. Hope to see you this summer.

Art Mooney