NH Rock Climbing
I am reminded about how essential this type of training is for any climber leading groups, guiding, or just taking friends climbing.
Keep playing and keep learning!
Early in my teaching career, I was assigned the assistant coach of a junior varsity lacrosse team. I had never played lacrosse; I did not even know the basic rules. I felt well outside my comfort zone. Despite my trepidation, I entered the season determined to contribute positively to the team.
Fortunately, the program included a number of excellent and experienced coaches who would mentor me for the season. The varsity head coach explained the system they used from the freshman to the varsity team and the fundamentals they focused on reinforcing. The JV head coach assigned me certain tasks and responsibilities within my skill set that set me up for success rather than failure. Having previously coached other sports for several years, I was already able to help the players with the mental aspect of the game – readying oneself for a game and maintaining one’s cool in challenging situations – and as the season continued, I branched out offering more sport specific advice. That season reinforced in me the value of venturing out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to do so in the future.
Fast forwarding nearly twenty years, I found myself standing at the base of Kinsman Notch this winter working with an REI Ice Climbing group. Ice climbing? I’m more of a rock climber; how did I get here?
For years, I had gone out once or twice a season for an ice climb. While I enjoyed the sport itself and saw the cross-over of various skills, the cold discouraged me. I am not tough (anyone who knows me would heartily agree), but it’s more than simply not wanting to be cold. I love cross-country skiing and running in the winter, and I feel a great sense of empowerment enjoying these activities when the temperature drops. But for even longer than I have been climbing, I have had joint implant for my right ring finger. As a result, I need to tape my ring finger to my middle finger for support when I climb, and the poor circulation in my hand is exacerbated by the cold. My finger has turned blue several times in colder hockey rinks.
About four or five years ago, I followed the advice and encouragement of my friend and mentor, Art, and decided to expand my guiding repertoire. That winter I began to assist the MMG winter trips (though I had not signed on for the single digit temperatures at my first MMG winter training day). Underdressed because I lacked the proper clothing but anxious to learn, I soaked in both the big picture topics that we discussed that day as well as the subtle tips the more experienced guides provided. From others’ suggestions on how to swing the axe more effectively and efficiently to Mike’s advice of placing the carabiner in one’s teeth to avoid its sticking to one’s lips, I broadened my knowledge base. On the drive home, it seemed like an hour before I could feel my toes, but I left the day excited about the upcoming opportunities.
A couple of weeks later, I shadowed a weekend REI Mount Washington trip. Armed with a borrowed set of Gore-Tex bibs, a warmer puffy, and a set of proper mittens and gloves, the cold was a non-factor. In fact, I needed to take off a layer on the last leg to the summit because I was overheating. I spent the weekend absorbing all the tips that Art and Jim offered: adjusting the grips on the poles, carving out steps, and effective layering of clothes to name a few. By the time we returned to the truck on the final day of the trip, I was exhausted but hungry to learn and to experience more.
In the following few winters, I climbed more with my friends and helped out with the ice climbing trips for the school where I teach. This past year, I even invested in a set of boots and axes and took advantage of additional free time this January by climbing recreationally with friends and working with my more experienced colleagues on several of the MMG ice climbing trips.
Following a climb near the Greeley Pond
At the base of the pitch.
Happy to have the rope above me
Although more knowledgeable about the sport of ice climbing than lacrosse, I felt less sure of myself than guiding rock. However, I recognized that despite the different terrain and techniques between ice and rock climbing, the heart of guiding remains the same: build and maintain a level of trust in the guide and the safety systems to help guests venture out of their comfort zone by providing them with enough advice (but not too much) so that they can accomplish the task. Each day, I observed the way Alex, Erik, or Tim taught the fundamental skills, and I tried to apply those lessons to my own teaching. I learned so much conversing with each of them on the drives to and from the crag as well. And I learned from the guests on those trips. Seeing them struggle and succeed, I talked with them about the process. I reflected on what helped each climber most and saw a variety of effective ways to present an idea.
Erik teaching a lesson to a group
I have found through my experiences as a teacher, a guide, and a climber myself that stretching one’s comfort zones is when the greatest learning takes place. This past winter, I certainly applied this mindset to my own winter climbing, and I sought out situations where I felt safe but less confident in the past. Carrying these lessons forward, I am excited about this coming rock season and all that it will encompass.
For me, the calculated risks that I took yielded tremendous success for myself as a climber, a guide, and an individual. I encourage others to do to same.
Good luck on the rocks in the coming months.
This past fall, our friends at Mammut were kind enough to let us test the Broad Peak Hooded Jacket. Having worn similar jackets from other companies over the years, I had expected a range of uses and parameters. This jacket far exceeded my expectations.
The Broad Peak Jacket
For starters, the snug fit tapered well to my body, insulating me from the cold and wind while still stretching enough so that I could add layers and still move comfortably. Rock climbing this fall, I found the Broad Peak packed down nicely so that it did not take up much room in my pack and served as a valuable piece when I was belaying on a cold day. The front collar and hood provide good comfort without making me feel claustrophobic. and the hood was snug, but not uncomfortable, effectively trapping in the heat. Especially when I wore a hat underneath, I felt noticeable warmer.
Alex sporting the Broad Peak on the summit of Mount Washington
When I was out and about this winter in cold, windy weather wearing the Broad Peak under a soft shell was plenty warm. Since this past winter was milder than most, I did not use it as a layering piece when active because it was, in fact, too warm the few times that I tried. Had I ventured out in the few really cold days, I certainly would have brought this jacket with me. In addition, the jacket worked quite well around town, standing or walking around in windy conditions (especially one cold winter night when we wandered the streets of Somerville looking for our car).
While I am hoping that the cold days are behind us for this season, I am not packing the Broad Peak away just yet.
Art staying warm for the belay
I expect to use it in the coming months when belaying on some of the colder spring days, and I plan to add it to my winter layering system next season.
An older post, saved from a while back. It seemed applicable to post it today as we enter rock season. Follow Steve’s lead, and get the whole family outdoors and rock climbing!
I have had the pleasure of climbing with Steve twice over the past few weeks. Once with a his son and two friends, and a second time with his son a daughter. Both days were spent on the beautiful granite slabs of Whitehorse in North Conway, NH. Whitehorse seems to be the superior area for a family rock climbing outing. The slabs offering a host of routes that everyone can enjoy together.
This inclusiveness is important to Steve. As a climber himself, learning the craft on the granite big walls of Yosemite Vally, he wants to pass on the joy he received from climbing on to his two children. Moving to New England less than a year ago and not knowing the terrain prompted Steve to seek out Mooney Mountain Guides. Together we decided that Whitehorse would be the proper venue for his goals.
In two days, more than ten pitches had been climbed from the Echo roof to Beginners Route. Lots of rappels, lowers, and funny pictures later everyone was happy to have shared the experience together. I was happy to have helped introduce the next generation of climbers to the sport.
Thank you Steve, family and friends for two great days on the rock.
David, an endurance athlete and mountaineer has had years of experience climbing in mountain ranges around the world. Coming from Great Britten, David cut his teeth in the Scottish Highlands and with frequent trips to the Swiss and French Alps he has built an impressive resume. Imagine my excitement when David called looking for a guide.
Recently relocating to the U.S. David was left missing his easy access to the Alps, and craving the alpine. Although our little White Mountains don’t quite size up to the Alps, they do offer many adventures that are well worthwhile. David and I had the perfect day to experience one of these great adventures “Pinnacle Gully”.
Mt. Washington and the Presidential range is the East Coast’s largest alpine expanse. Traversing the ridge from north to south or south no north can immerse the mountaineer in a world unlike the surrounding valleys and hills of the northeast. The crags, ravines, cirqus, and wind whipped landscape let you know you are in the mountains, and the 4,000 feet of elevation gain make you earn it. Our trip into this landscape didn’t disappoint.
This past weekend in the Whites felt more like late April than early March. An epidemic of warm temperatures, rain, and lack of snow has plagued the region all winter season. Despite this, many of our ice climbs remained in great shape, including Pinnacle Gully. In fact the first pitch was in the best shape I have ever seen. Warm hands and light layers, were just another added benefit to our climbing adventure.
David and I started up the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail at 7:15am; the first day of Daylight savings time, the sun was much lower in the sky than the previous day. The ground still frozen from the overnight temperatures’, we used micro spikes right from the start. We motored up the trail reaching the base of Pinnacle just before 9:00am ready to send. Did I mention David was a marathon runner?
Winds were still whipping up high, funneling down the gully with a vengeance. Fast enough that all climbing had to stop during the gusts. Somehow the Blue Bird skies and mild temperatures made the wind, not so bad… only adding to the joy of the experience.
The climbing brought us 4 pitches of perfect ice and neve’, only passing a few open holes in the ice. The final pitch, perfect 40 degree snow slope put us back in the sun. From there a fast paced traversing ascent of the east snowfields deposited us on the summit at noontime, just in time to meet another MMG team.
The weather was so perfect, David and I decided to head down the other side of the mountain with the other MMG team. Once down we would get a ride back over to the other side of the mountain. Down we went passing the great gulf, and down the ridge with beautiful views of the southern presi’s and Burt’s Ravine. Taking our time to enjoy with alpine, we were down by 3pm, and back to our cars by 4pm.
Thinking back, David’s training as an endurance athlete helped us experience the mountain in its entirety. I get tremendous joy out of covering a lot of mountain terrain quickly. There is something about the freedom of movement that provides this joy. Maybe it’s the alignment of so many factors; fitness, skill, weather, gear, conditions, partners. I think trying to describe it will never do it justice. I am glad to have shard this day with such a willing partner, and I look forward to next time.
Thank you David for a great day in the hills.
September and October climbing in New England can produce some of the best conditions of the year – no bugs, no humidity, and good temperature for friction. When November rolls around, we frequently have a dead zone where the ice has not yet formed and it’s a little cold for rock climbing. Though I and many others have ventured out on those colder days, I frequently question whether or not the climbing is worth the discomfort. This November, however, I have found the conditions fantastic! Many of the days at Rumney have been sunny and in the 40s, affording us the opportunity to climb in minimal gear and much less suffering.
Belaying in a short-sleeved shirt in November, and I’m not the only one!
Even with the warmer temps, I have found that a few factors help improve my enjoyment and productivity during the day: get a nice warm up, bring a range of cold weather clothes, and find a sunny crag.
Steve on the first pitch of the classic Rock du Jour
Especially in the cold, I have found that warming up helps to prevent injury and also gets me in a good mindset for the day. Sometimes I take a second lap on a route I have dialed; other times I go down an extra grade for the first route or two. In addition to feeling a little more in the groove, the sun has some time to warm up the rock.
Katie entering the crux of Sweet Polly Purebred
Eric heading for the “secret” hold on Underdog
While it has been warm enough some days to climb at the main cliff in a t-shirt, one does need to be prepared for colder temperatures. I have three staples in my late fall wardrobe: the Mammut Kala Patter Tech Jacket, an excellent mid-weight hooded layer that fits under my harness but stretches when I climb; the Mammut Pokiok jacket, a light softshell that blocks the wind and helps insulate me when I hike or climb (and I am amazed at how many layers I have fit underneath it and it still works great), and the Broad Peak Hooded Jacket, a recent addition to my wardrobe.
The Broad Peak is light and packs down to a small bundle, making it easy to fit into my backpack, and it is warm. It fits over my other layers when I belay, and keeps me from cooling down too much before getting back on the rock.
Art rockin’ the Broad Peak Hooded Jacket
Once the leaves fall from the trees, several Rumney crags get more sun than usual. As a result, the options for climbing on sunny days at Rumney increase.
Art starting up Sky Pilot
While 40s and 50s might sound cold, getting outside at a sunny crag allows you to leave the long johns at home. We have a limited number of these warm days left, so I plan to take advantage of them!
Hard to believe that there are so few cars in the small lot on a Friday.
Boasting 9,375 square miles, Adirondack State Park of New York is larger than the national parks of Yellow Stone, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, and Yosemite combined. For the climber that equals one thing…lots of potential. It’s no secret that there is lots of climbing within the park. Yet, it hasn’t taken off like Cathedral Ledge, Cannon, or the Gunks. Sure, as the sport grows so does the climbing in the “Dacks”; however, there is much, much more to the intrepid few who dare to venture into its wild reaches.
On my first trip to the Dacks, I was met by a local who had some words of advice for me. I was 19, about two weeks into my freshman year of college, and my trad-rack still glistened with the “fresh of the shelf” shine. No question, I was in for a surprise. “The Dacks will define what kind of climber you are,” I was told. “I hope you don’t mind a little lichen,” another stated. I retreated to my tent to await the morning when I would finally see what all the fuss was about.
Rain. “It always rains in the Dacks,” one of the local hard men proclaimed. Some of our group grabbed the canoes and fly rods and headed for the closest fishing spot. The rest of us headed up the mountain in search of something to climb. “Hey Alex, give this route a go, its 5.8 and the gear is great.” Happily I obliged and started up the route, plugging me brand new cams and stoppers as I went. My fellow climber was correct about one thing, the gear was good, but the climbing certainly felt harder than 5.8. I kept my mouth shut and climbed on through the driving rain. As I approached the top, my raincoat covered in green slimy lichen, I reached for the final hold crimped as hard as I could on the tripe covered quartz sloper-crimp. I moved my feet up, and slap. My hand popped, I hit my self square in the face, and I fell 12 or so feet safely onto the rope. Immediately I squirmed my way back to my high point and finished the move that I had previously fell on. I made my anchor and brought up my partner.
As Bill arrived to the cliffs edge, he stated, “good work, it was .10c.” “Welcome to the Dacks!”
From that day on I was both scared and enamored by the Adirondacks. I made a few trips, separated by months or even years. Throughout that time, I knew the land of plenty was right there a quick 30 min ferry ride across Lake Champlain.
Last week MMG Guides Derrek Anderson, Derek Doucet, Phil Tall-Hiker, and me made the ferry ride across the lake. In our sights was an area new to all of us, and we were looking forward to a weekend of on-sighting.
We were met with a stunning land scape. To our east, Mt. Mansfield and the Camels Hump. Our south, Poko-moonshine, Whiteface, and the Catskills, to our west, Mt. Marcy, and North… we couldn’t see, the cliff was in the way. Anyhow, the setting was stunning. On an approximate 3.5 miles of cliff ban sat 5 or 6 cathedral ledges worth of stone. Cracks, roofs, and perfectly dimpled slabs were there for the taking. Some of the best pitches I climbed this year were on this trip. Five star routes mostly within the 5.10 range. It was easy to see that the locals, truly loved this area. One even leaving a note offering a private tour of the area. (Sorry we couldn’t take you up on that!) Needless to say, the climbing was spectacular. The Adirondacks lived up to there potential, providing all the challenges they are known for. In the end, we were the intrepid few who ventured in, and were rewarded with an incredible experience.
I can hardly wait to go back.
Thank you Derrek, Derek, and Phil for a great time.
The ridge in its entirety.
Over the seasons I have had to opportunity to work with many individuals; young and old; highly experienced to complete novice. I typically find reward and incredible enjoyment out of my work, climbing with others. My guests ability has no baring on my enjoyment. 5.5 or 5.10, to me sharing the climbing is most important. I feel that the guide enjoying the climbing is fundamental to the success and enjoyment of the guest. I strive for each of my guests to drive home feeling accomplished and psyched.
This can be easier some days than others. Weather and conditions can have a large effect on psyche, my route selections and preparation, my relationship with the guest, and other climbers in the area can all effect the experience. For one guest, none of this matters, because every day out climbing is “the best day ever.”
Mark, high on the ridge.
I met Mark two years ago. It was January around his birth day, and Mark an avid adventurer wanted to try his hand at ice climbing. Out of chance, I was Mark’s guide. It was just he, I, and about 3 inches of rain. This was January and the ambient air temperature was around 31 degrees. Essentially, everything, including the roads were coated in a thin layer of ice, and as soon as the road crews put down sand, the rain would wash it away. The number of car accidents in the area set records, and kids were ice skating down the sidewalks. Thank fully the ice climbing was awesome the entire weekend, and with double layers of Gore-Tex, we were warm and dry.
That evening when it was time for me to head home, about 35 minutes down the highway, I couldn’t get my truck out of the parking space on all the ice. During my struggles there was a 5 car, slow speed pile up right in front of me. I decided that going home was a bad idea. Good thing Mark was there suggesting that I stay with him. I was super thankful for this kind gesture.
We managed to shuffle down the side walk to a local pub for dinner and refuel for the next day. The next day we saw a slight improvement in the weather and enjoyed many more pitches of blue water ice.
We were off to a good start.
Over the past two years Mark and I have shared a few adventures. Each one just as awesome as the last. Mark who has been climbing lots and building his skill set, has allowed us to climb larger and more complex objectives. So when Mark said he had a day to kill before catching a flight, I knew exactly how we should spend it. The Whitney-Gilman Ridge is a New England Classic 5.7 alpine rock climb. 5 pitches of stellar moves on high quality granite. Cracks, corners, lyebacks, crimps, exposure, slabs, and knife edge ridge are only some of the features that make up this stellar route. Since I knew that no matter what Mark has a great time, I knew that climbing the Whitney-Gilman would be a memorable experience.
One of the middle pitches, friction up the shady corner.
With blue skye and high friction the day was indeed a beauty. The climb seemed to go too fast. I would have enjoyed a few more thousand feet of climbing. However, after ever pitch Mark would exclaim, “best day ever.”
When people ask me who I think the best climber in the world is, I think of Mark. Why? Because he is having the most fun.
Thanks Mark for another “best day ever.”
Mark, on top of the W.G.
One of the perks of working for Mooney Mountain Guides is the opportunity to demo gear before it hits the market and to provide feedback. Recently, I have been using the new Mammut Multi-Pitch Chalk Bag, aka the Furman (in reference to the man who developed the concept).
Several years back while I was climbing at Cathedral Ledge, someone went through my bag and stole some of my gear from my pack, and adding insult to injury, took my approach shoes as well, leaving me to walk back to the car barefoot. Though theft at the crag is rare, since that time, I have been skeptical about leaving anything of value at the base of a climb. As a result, I would often climb with a small pack of valuables, even if I was going up just a few pitches.
Enter The Furman.
The Multi-Pitch Bag with a few items I packed in it.
The Furman, which uses a strap and clip to easily connect to your waist, is a larger chalk bag that contains two zippered pockets and a mesh pocket on the side. One of the zippered pockets, which held my wallet and iPhone 5, provides me easy access to take out the phone and snap some pictures at the belay stations. The other zippered pocket contains a clip for a climber to attach a set of keys and additional room for other items. I have used it for my watch when I remove it for a crack climb. Off on the other side, the mesh bag is perfect for a compact med kit, something you need but hope you don’t have to use.
Here is a better look at the way I packed some items.
On the bottom, the bungee cord and clip is designed to hold a light wind shirt. With the warm temps this summer, I haven’t felt the need to bring one along; however, I did try it out at Acadia last week with a regular short sleeve polypro. Though a little nervous about the shirt falling out, I cinched it down, and the shirt stayed intact without getting in my way at all.
Even with all of these features, it feels no larger than a normal chalk bag. The deep pocket also allowed me to chalk my entire hand easily, including the back, has been great for crack climbs. Unlike previous bags I have owned where the lining absorbs a good deal of chalk, The Furman keeps the chalk in the bag.
For me, it has been perfect in many places: from the Thin Air Face at Cathedral to Acadia, and even the few multi-pitch routes at Rumney.
So for a few shorter two to three pitch routes, I would strongly recommend the Mammut Multi-Pitch Bag, which should be out in stores in the spring of 2016.
Rock, ice and mountain climbs have kept my interest for over thirty five years. To say the least its my ultimate passion in life!!!
The movement over the stone or ice requires balance, flexibility, power and focus. The mindset is complete attention to gain control over the extreme situation. The motion is fluid along the path or climb. These are the three M’s that I try to achieve each time I head to rock face, the ice line or the mountain path.
Repman is back on the mountain. After a needed break from the activtity he is back into shape and ready to climb. He bought family along to join him on this trip. His daughter Catharine and friend Nicole came for their second time and it looks like they are both hooked on the sport too.
On a side note they all work at Peppercomm and this was a quick summertime break from their work. See the blog post Steve wrote about the trip. http://www.repmanblog.com/repman/2015/08/we-are-family.html
Steve leading the way up Whitehorse.
The three inline Steve, Catharine, and Nicole climbing the steep slabs of Whitehorse.
Success the team of five on the Whitehorse summit.
Repman viewing and coaching Catharine at Rumney Rocks.
Catharine to the top on the steep crack route at Rumney.
This was Steves fourteenth summit of the Mt Washington. Photo of him on the alpine gardens heading up.
A strategic partnership – Steve and Art on another amazing adventure together.
There you have it – Mt Washington.