NH Rock Climbing
For some people its shoes. Others, perhaps, baseball caps. Myself, I have a a problem with soft shell pants. I’ve discovered that they are the perfect pant for nearly any occasion. I have my standard pair for shoulder season rock, ice and mild mountaineering days. I have a pair with waterproof knees and butt for for backcountry skiing. I have an old pair I use for gardening and an even older pair (bought in high school) that I pulled out for landscaping in the rain. The benefits of soft shells are simply to great to list them all, but some of my favorites are that they’re durable, extremely comfortable, don’t get smelly musty or damp, and dry super quick. They’re such a huge part of my everyday wardrobe, that a girl I was seeing for a bit commented on the first time she saw me wearing pants other than soft shells, a few months in to the relationship. Despite my affinity for them, I couldn’t find a pant to fit one particular niche. The summer climbing soft shell seemed to be an elusive pant.
This was a noticeable absence in my soft shell line up, as Im not a fan of wearing shorts when climbing. The perfect pant needed to be light enough to not overheat in on hot summer days, easy to roll up for long approaches, and preferably offer some sun protection.( read this if your curious why UPF rated clothes are better for sunny activities). Naturally Id want the pants to be stretchy and fast drying, after all, thats the whole reason for my love affair with soft shell.
Stretchiness trial on The Groton High Grade, Marshfield VT
When I saw the Runbold pants on Mammut’s website they sounded like they’d fit the bill, even though Mammut markets them as being ideal for hiking and backpacking, and does not mention climbing. I’ve been using them for a few months now and can happily report that they’ve filled the void in my soft shell line up perfectly! My personal elasticity gives out far before that of the pants, and even if I did yoga 5 times a week I don’t think I could flex in such a way to find the limits of their stretchiness. The pants get wet at the mention of water, but this is to be expected for such a breathable fabric, and the upside is that they dry incredibly fast and don’t keep in your own moisture. The thinness of the material also makes this an incredible packable pant for a multi day climbing trip or throwing them in your pack just in case you want pants. The pants roll up easily and even have a tab and loop system to help keep the rolls in place. I’ve found this feature slightly superfluous and intent to cut it off soon, thought its never felt like it gets in the way. One of my favorite features that seems to be ubiquitous in soft shell pants is the right thigh pocket. This is the perfect place to keep a phone, camera, map or route topo, and my go to location for stashing things I want handy while climbing a multi pitch or guiding.
The Dynamic Duo, Runbold Pants, Ultimate Light Hoody
The thing that cemented my love affair with these pants was their blue sign certification. This means the production of the fabric used in the pants meets strict human and environmental health standards as set forth and verified by an independent auditor. Third party certifications like this give the consumer faith that a product is being produced in a humane and sustainable way. By buying products with these certifications the consumer can tell businesses that they support environmentally healthy business practices. For more information on the process of getting BlueSign certified, read this.
Shirt and Pants. Now the perfect summer combo
The other soft shells in my quiver give me a forlorn look now whenever I pass the gear room where they’e dutifully waiting their turn. They’ll just have to wait till winter.
On any given week you could bet good money that the MMG crew is out at the cliffs introducing folks to climbing and or new climbs to them, as well as working on their own climbing and guiding progression. This past week was no different! Below is a quick collection of updates from the past week.
Early on in the week Erik got out to Rumney Rocks for a half day of climbing with Jen and Amanda. These gals were visiting the area for the week, coming from Long Island. They’ve started climbing in the gym back home and venturing into Top Rope terrain when they travel. We had a gorgeous day for a sampling of classic pitches at Rumney!
This weekend Mike got out with the Schildge family. While on vacation in the north country they joined MMG for a day on Square Ledge. This venue has great moderate climbing for a family outing, with what is possibly the best backdrop of any crag in New England.
Earlier on in the week, Art was joined by Jerry “the Gale force” They had a couple of great days swinging leads at Rumney and reclaiming perennial classics on Cannon!
On the personal training front, Alex has headed out to CO to take the Advanced Rock Guide Course through the AMGA, one of many professional development courses MMG guides are involved in this summer. The course, and his acclimatization are taking place in Eldorado Canyon and Lumpy Ridge in the Estes park. Back home, Erik is taking advantage of dry days between the rain to regain strength on some steep sport routes. Most intriguing of these days was at the Groton High Grade Wall, in Marshfield VT.
Alex in CO
Erik in VT
There is a certain empowering feeling to teaching some one else the art and craft that you hold so dear. Whether its one day of sharing skills and techniques, or a multiple season long exchange of information, helping some one gain self sufficiency, empowering them to pursue this same craft on their own is a rich experience for both.
Dappled Sun at the Square Inch Wall, Echo Crag
Sawyer has been a student of mine on the Holderness School rock climbing team for two seasons. Her enthusiasm and energy for climbing and adventure as a whole was tangible from day one. In that program I’m able to get students proficient in movement on rock, belaying, and even leading sport. Unfortunately we don’t have the time or the terrain to get students leading trad, though they do follow from time to time.
Sawyer cleaning gear and examining placements
Sawyer graduated last month and wanted to get a solid foundation of leading in before heading off to college at the end of this summer. To that end, her dad gifted her a couple of days with Mooney Mountain Guides to dial in her technical skills.
Following Skeletal Ribs and placing gear, to be inspected on lower
For her day of Trad climbing Sawyer and I went to Echo Crag. This location is ideal for learning and dialing in gear placement and other essential skills for trad climbing. Despite the wetness we did a couple of great routes, mock leading, and assessing gear placements and proper extension while on a counterbalanced lower together. This way we’re able to look at and talk about the placements together, and look at alternatives.
Lunch Break Anchor Clinic
A quick lunch brake was an ideal time to talk about anchor construction methods on the ground. We were able to look at the standard, 3 piece equalized cordelette, the quad, and single piece anchors (i.e. big trees!)
A Commanding View of Franconia Notch from Profile Cliff
From here we made our way up to Profile Cliff, which sits in the sun above Echo, and was therefore much drier. We did a classic long 5.7 line here that requires a double rope rappel, exposing Sawyer to pre rigging, rappel back ups, and joining two ropes for a rappel.
Sawyer Climbing on Profile Cliff
Once on the ground we wrapped up the day practicing various top belay techniques, including how to release and lower with various devices, and the advantages and disadvantages to different techniques.
Releasing a weighted ATC guide with a redirected sling
Its impossible to retain every rid bit of information thrown at you in a day like this. What it does do is set a solid foundation. As long as the person trying to learn this continues to seek to educate themselves by playing with the systems they learned, thinking through scenarios and practicing in real life, then the progression will continue to move forward!
Thanks for joining us, Sawyer!
The crew at MMG has been making a solid transition into Rock Climbing over the past month so that our guiding game is tip top, and our arm strength is where we want it for personal climbing. We’ve had many morning and evening sessions at Rumney where pitches are done quickly to build miles, and harder routes are worked on to build strength. Many of us have been seeing some personal climbing gains there already this spring and are looking forward to carrying that into pushing ourselves later on in the year.
Alex Scoping out The Book of Solemnity
Just as we train our bodies for the transition to rock climbing in the spring, we train our minds for the transition to the unique challenges of guiding on rock that we haven’t faced since last fall. Here’s a snap shot of what we’ve been up to lately.
Evening view from Cathedral
Erik and Alex have had multiple outings to Cathedral this spring to lap the classic hard routes we might get on with talented guests, as well as scope out some new out of the way ones for that busy weekend day.
Alex on Raising the Roof
Alex leading up Raising the Roof
Sinker jams on the Liger
The Two of them also took a trip out to Albany Slabs, a premiere backcountry climbing site. This cliff, situated off the Kancamangus Highway has a real remote feel, and solid granite. It has a collection of moderate 1 and 2 pitch slab routes that make for a relaxing but new day, hiking in, climbing in a wild place and hiking out. They’re looking forward to taking some adventurous guests to this out of the way gem of a crag sometime this summer.
Alex heading up Rainbow Slabs
view from Rainbow Slabs
A good collection of the MMG crew met last weekend to sharpen up our technical skills. Luckily the day was rainy making us much more eager to work out the rope work kinks than grab a couple of pitches while at Rumney. We found a perfect site for the work under the overhanging cliff at Orange Crush. Its always great to have a gathering of the minds, to exchange different ways of doing things and bounce ideas of eahcother, let alone catch up with co workers and friends!
This summer will be filled with a lot of professional development or MMG guides. It’s starting with Erik taking a Rock Guide course in North Conway that is co taught by company founder and mentor-extrodianaire, Art Mooney. We’re a quarter of the way through this course and looking forward to a handful more courses and exams for the MMG guides who are hoping to up their professional game this summer!
Art instructing on the 10 day AMGA Rock Guide Course
Alain Comeau instructing on Erik’s Rock Instructor Course
Alain and some Atlantic Climbing School Guides on the Rock Guide Course along with Erik
The crew at MMG is stoked to keep refining skills and put them to practice this summer when you come to visit! thanks for checking in.
For the past few years MMG and Mammut have had a working relationship., in the form of mutual promotion of the goods and services that the two companies provide. Over the seasons of rock and ice climbing that relation ship has grown.
It has been an honor and a privilege to use the gear that Mammut produces to help me in my guiding craft. There is no question that together with Mammut, MMG guides have an extra edge when working in the field. An extra edge ultimately means, an improved guest reward.
This spring, the office staff of Mammut North America, decided to go out for some adventure. I was honored that they called on their industry partner, Mooney Mountain Guides, to help guide them through the terrain of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range. There were two objectives as part of this adventure. The first, a group of climbers would go for a summit bid on Mt. Monroe; the second objective, a ski decent of Monroe Brook.
Saturday morning dawned cloudy with a fresh blanket of snow (April 25th). It was still winter in the Presi’s. Our team, decked out in Mammut gear, made excellent progress to tree line. We made it a point not to talk shop, but rather take the time to build friendship between colleagues and between the two businesses.
Once above the trees, the famous bad weather of Mt. Washington made itself known. High winds, cold temperatures, and poor visibility were staring us face. As guides who work regularly in environments like this we know the importance of good gear. It was great to watch the Mammut staff put the gear they sell to the test, in the conditions the garments, boots, and backpacks are designed for. We all were equipped with the right stuff, making out objectives of a summit bid and ski descent possible even in these alpine conditions. So in many ways, the poor but manageable weather was a plus.
Standing on the summit of Monroe, feeling the alpine fury, the team was stoked to have achieved something together. At this point the skiers headed down into the ravine, and the climbers doubled backed to the Lakes of the Clouds hut, before there decent into the trees.
The ski team was blessed with 10 inches of new snow, on top of a very stable snowpack. Any avalanche danger was moderate, with potential for D2 avalanches in isolated terrain features. We stayed out of those pockets and we ripped it up out running our small sluffs down the 1000’ descent.
At the end of the day everyone was proud of there accomplishments and I was proud of the effort the two companies put forth to make this adventure happen. As I said before, the Mammut products MMG guides use in the field give us an extra edge. II was psyched to be able to share that with the staff at Mammut North America.
This weekend Milton Academy students ventured north to sample some of Rumney’s finest. Venturing away from the crimpy, vertical, polished rock of the Quincy Quarries, the students were anxious to test their abilities on some overhanging routes. Heading out early in the morning, the group made it to the parking lot early enough to beat the crowds. We headed up to the Armed and Dangerous wall to check out some of the steeper moderates. Despite the cold temps, sharp rocks, and numb fingers, the group climbed well. After they crushed The Big Easy, Toxic Gumbo, and Metamorphosis, we set up Armed and Dangerous, which presented a solid challenge for a number of the climbers.
Cameron grabbing the opening jug on The Big Easy
Malcolm working his way up the corner of Metamorphosis
Izzy provided a solid belay with the gri gri
Erik trying to warm his fingers up before the pumpy finish to Armed and Dangerous
Matt checking out the upcoming moves on The Big Easy
After a short lunch break, we headed down to the Meadows and were surprised to see a few classic lines open and available. Despite some fatigue, the group tested their skills on more overhanging Hippos on Parade, Lies and Propaganda, and No Money Down.
Izzy pulling through the crux of Lies and Propaganda
Malcom crossing through on No Money Down Rick chalking up
Thanks to the group for their motivation and positive energy and a fantastic day on the rock!
Mooney Mountain guides is proud to work closely with Mammut North America. we have a quality relationship with our friends at the headquarters in northern VT. Each year Mammut hooks us up with some of their quality product to use, abuse and test in the field. Recently, we’ve also been joining them in VT to share some technical knowledge with the employees and other groups and outfitters that they support. It’s a great two way relationship for all. Twice in the past few years Mammut has outfitted the guides at MMG with the mens Ultimate Hoody. 2 years ago we got them in red, while this past year we got the upgraded model year in an eye catching green.
MMG crew in Red Ultimate Hoodies
The following is a collection of thoughts on the Ultimate Hoody in general, as well as the changes for the new model. This experience reflects well over 100 days in the field ice climbing, mountaineering and skiing.
Erik on Hanging by a Moment
The most unique thing about the Ultimate Hoody is its inclusion of a Gore Wind Stopper membrane. In general we like to have layers that do one thing great (soft shell for mild conditions, wind shirt for windy conditions, hard shell for full on…). Often times by trying to make a layer that takes on multiple tasks you end up with a jacket of all trades, master of none. We’re not a fan of this compromise. The Ultimate Hoody has blurred this line by including the wind layer into the soft shell layer. I find that this makes the soft shell less breathable, but more useful in windy conditions, and has allowed me to stop carrying a wind shirt. It’s performed so remarkably that with roughly 20 days of Mt Washington’s worst weather I have yet to don my hardshell this season. The only sacrifice in the blending of these two layers has been a bit less breathability, which is compensated with large pit zips and opening up the front.
Art on Geographic Factor, Alex on The Promenade
We’ve found that there have been several key improvements in the new model year. All agree that they are slightly roomier in any given size than last year. The new thumb loop design is lower profile and more comfortable to use with or without mittens. Most of all, the addition of a chest pocket is a huge improvement as a place to keep essentials that need to be easily accessed. While fw of us put it to use, this pocket also has a port to thread headphones through, along with an additional keeper near the hood to keep headphone wires out of the way.
Alex testing the Ultimate Hoody’s wind and waterproof capabilities on Hillmans Highway and a secret woodsy powder stash
Art Mooney, one of Mammut’s sponsored guide’s and one of our lead guides had this to say about the Ultimate Hoody
“Comfortable, roomy yet lightweight, freedom to move, windproof, water resistant, need we say more?”
This weekend was slow on work for the Mooney crew, but certainly not on play. While two guides were in the field with groups, many of the others where out getting their own days in on snow and ice. Two group trips were running out of Lincoln this weekend, a two day Ice Climbing Basics course and a two day Intro to Mountaineering course.
Ben had a crew of three for the weekend of ice climbing. Day one was spent going over the basics in Kinsman Notch, our main stomping ground for intro days. On day two they upped the ante and went to the Flume Gorge not far away. This mini gorge freezes up in the winter providing a platform of ice to walk on and a wall of steep pillars to climb on. Here they were able to push themselves on steeper, more difficult terrain. Once the pump set in they were able to up the technical ante as well by practicing a rappel on belay
(click on any image to view in gallery mode)
At the same time, Erik was running an intro to Mountaineering course. A diverse group of 3 joined us for this as well. We had folks with relative inexperience all the way to folks training for Rainer in the group, and they were all able to take something valuable away from the weekend. Day one was spent on the flanks of Welch and Dicky. Here we warmed our bodies walking up through the woods to some exposed slabs with incredible views. Once there we dropped packs and pulled out crampons and mountaineering axes. We went over technical skills like how to use a mountaineering axe as protection and in what conditions its appropriate. We even practiced self arrest on a bullet hard slab of ice. After that we donned our crampons and went over various steps for descending and ascending steep slopes in crampons. Through out the day we engaged an ongoing conversation on how to manage layers heat and sweat thought the variable energy outputs of a full day, as well as necessary safety precautions, skills and items we should all cary in case of an accident.
Day two turned out to be one of incredible weather which allowed us to soar to the summit. Because of the beneficial conditions and extra time they afforded us we descended the summit cone on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail so as to see the impressive alpine terrain on that side of the mountain.We then took the Tuckerman Cut Across trail traversing the Bigelow Lawn back to the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, our main path. We got to see a lot of stunning terrain on this day with views stretching to Camels Hump and beyond in VT (100+ miles), and a tour of all aspects of the Presidential Range. Shortly after we got down clouds rolled in and dropped in elevation causing summit visibility to plummet to a 1/16th of a mile.
(click on any image to view in gallery mode)
This weekend was marked by yet another blizzard, this time with brutally cold temperatures and high winds. Here’s what the Mooney Mountain Guides were up to!
On Thursday, Erik and two lucky guests were able to sneak in a summit push on Mt Washington before the brutal weather rolled in. That being said, it was no walk in the park weather wise. Ted and John pushed there way up to the summit at a blistering pace, covered in rime ice and hiding from the wind, followed by world class glissading (butt sliding) on the way back down for a flashback to child like enjoyment of simple pleasures.
Saturday, Guides Alex and Erik ran an intro to mountaineering course on Welch and Dicky. This exposed guests to the weather conditions of a big mountain, and layering challenges of staying warm while hiking at various levels of exertion. At the pinnacle of the days hike we dropped packs and took out mountaineering axes to practice crampon and ice axe technique.
Technical Clinic on Welch & Dicky
On Sunday, a handful of these same guests who felt up for the challenge went to Mt Washington to test themselves against some of the worst weather we’ve seen on the rock pile this year. Through snow, bitterly cold wind chills and steep terrain, this group pushed the high point to 5,000 feet, just about tree line, before turning around and enjoying the slide back down.
The mountain conditioned folks at the MT Washington Avalanche Center had this to say about this weekend: “Mt. Washington will truly be putting on a show today and tomorrow. Its well-earned reputation for harsh winter weather will be on display, and I’d recommend taking a seat away from the action for this show.” Big props to this group. The summit was all but unreachable with the given forecast, and yet they were game to go out and punish themselves in these conditions for the mere satisfaction of experiencing the wrath of a big mountain.
I-phone screen shot of Mt Washington summit forecast for Sunday
This brought a good lesson back to the front of my mind. A lot of hype for mountain trips is to “summit, or bust!” This despite the fact that summits are often allusive, and when gained, are only done so at the will of the mountain. A saying that frequently comes to mind is “expectations lead to disappointment.” Of course this comes with a caveat about reasonable expectations. If you take off on the trail for Mt Washington expecting to get a great work out and enjoy the natural beauty of nature, then you will never be disappointed and you will often be rewarded with accomplishments that exceed your expectations. If you take off with the expectation of summiting with no other intermediary goals, then you are setting your self up for a very likely disappointment.
Over the course of Friday and Saturday, guides Alex, Tim, and Phil got over 30 graduate students from Dartmouth Universities Tuck Business School on ice climbs at Rumney. This was surely a good time for all!
Thanks to all the guests who climbed with us this weekend despite the oppressive weather! Suffering through these days together builds character and relationships.
This past week and weekend was heavy on the climbing education front for Mooney Mountain Guides. Guides Derek Doucet and Alex Teixeira continued their Red Rocks expedition with the Middlebury College Outdoor Programs, which Doucet runs. This college offers a slew of expeditions every year and this seems to be one of the favorites. Why not, when you get to escape New England winter for a week of sun and fun in the desert?
Back on the home front, Guide Erik Thatcher was teaching a weekend long 1 credit course in Ice Climbing for New England College. This course was mostly Outdoor Ed majors and minors, and Environmental science students, with a smattering of students from other majors. Students were introduced to the sport on campus where a brief history of the sport was given and everyone got prepared for the weekend ahead. This was followed by time in the field learning the intricate techniques and movement of ice climbing! Particular attention was given to sharing leadership tips and ideas with the Outdoor Education Students.
Also on the home front, guide mentor extraordinaire Art Mooney, was instructing in a week long Ice Instructor course for the American Mountain Guides Association. This group, which Art has been heavily involved in, creates curriculum and administers training and exams that are internationally recognized. A few years ago Art was part of a team of top American guides who created a curriculum for training guides to work on Ice climbing terrain. As the East is the premiere destination for this terrain in the country, this team designed the curriculum around the area of Crawford Notch in NH, where the course was held.
Many of the Mooney Mountain Guides are involved with leading trips and coaching climbing at various educational institutes outside of our work with MMG (Middlebury College, Lyndon State College, Holderness School, Olivarian School, Waterville Academy, White Mountain School, Kismet Rock Foundation…) as well as working through Mooney Mountain Guides with various colleges and outing clubs to offer educational experiences. We love to work out curriculum and be able to offer specialized educational experiences for an array of institutions. If you’re looking to do something with your college or high school give us a call!