Mooney Mountain Guides
Chattanooga has become one of our favorite places to recreate in the spring and fall seasons. Terry and I made plans early as we knew we would be ready to escape the wintry march weather of the northeast. This March has been especially brutal in NH with cold temps and stormy weather for much of the month.
Lucky for us our timing was right, we arrived in Chattanooga with a sunny and seasonably warm forecast for our five day trip. The T Wall for trad and the Foster Falls sport routes were on the hit list.
The Tennessee Wall is a perfect place to warm up the fingers, hands, and body on the wide variety of moderate steep jam cracks and corners which are usually capped by a roof of some sort. The area is also south facing and we were on a mission to seek out the sunshine.
Foster falls is another favorite area of mine. The long sandstone wall has a few hundred sport routes – the warm ups start in the 5. 9 and 5’10 range and then its on to the harder testy sport climbs. The Crime Buttress is one of our favorite areas with a bunch of 5.11 and up routes on the steep slightly overhanging wall.
Chattanooga – the city is mid sized with plenty to do. Yoga is plentiful – we found an excellent studio called the Yoga Landing that offers a great variety of classes. There are lots of hikers, runners, bikers, climbers around – you can tell this is one of the better outdoor designations in the south east. Restaurants – we found excellent places to eat such as Sluggos, the Boathouse, and Mojo Burritos.
If you are looking for a quick three or four day adventure – I would say put this place – Chattanooga on the list
Foster Falls – in springtime condition.
Terry – first lead on the season – Golden Locks 5.8!!!
Terry sorting out the gear and the hand jams on Passages another 5.8 gem at the T Wall.
The T Wall is a shared area – copy this info you are planning a trip.
High Point Climbing Gym – brand new in downtown Chattanooga. Indoor and outdoor walls and a large bouldering section. We did not climb here as the weather was to nice – we opted for the outdoor fun.
Side walk activities.
Chattanooga has four bridges across the Tennessee River. We walked over the bridges in circuits each morning. The bridge in the photos has been closed to motor traffic and is now only a foot bridge for walkers, runners, and bikers
Our good friend Tim was spending the winter here. We met up and he showed us a quiet crag that is just being developed. Terry is seconding a very nice 5.11b route.
Tim D giving me a proper blue point belay.
The steep climbs at Foster Falls.
I’ve got to say we are now refreshed from all this southern fun.
Saturday brought on the entire range of winter conditions. I was surely surprised at the 39 degree temp outside our morning meet up at the Highland Center. Somewhat overdressed for the deep trail breaking mission that lay ahead Danny, Cindy and I entered the forest and began our ascent of Mt Washington on the Ammo Trail. The snow was as deep as expected, our only advantage was the MRS snowshoes we were footed with kept us afloat. We climbed steadily with shoes all the way to Lakes of the Clouds.
Once above the trees the winds picked up and the temps started dropping. The forecast was coming true with high winds and wind chill warnings for late in the day. With micro spikes now on our pace quickened on the supportive snowpack. Our moves were like those of a drunken person as we wavered to maintain balance in the high winds.
After a tough push on the summit cone the peak was reached just after the noon hour.
The weather gods gave us a break this time. Our upper mountain descent was uneventful and the temps and winds maintained a moderate level. We enjoyed our travels down the summit cone to Lakes of the Clouds with good views towards Vermont and New York.
Our final descent was a blast – the deep snow the Ammo Trail gave us the green light for the luge run of the year.
Thanks to Danny and Cindy for this fun Mt Rainier training day on Mt Washington.
Alex breaking the new skin track.
Mountain guiding is as much of a life style as it is a profession. Guides around the country and world not only dedicate their lives to climbing and skiing at high levels recreationally, they also train and learn how to share theses amazing experiences with their guests. Its a whole other ball game when climbing transforms into guiding. It takes a life time of training and dedication to learn the art form of the mountain guide.
Eric, above the trees on our ascent.
Thanks to Mammut for the Trion Light 29L pack, and windproof short shell (perfect for our objective).
There are however some really great perks. Other than traveling to amazing places, playing outdoors every day, and meeting wonderful people; guides get to have fun. Sometimes when everyone else is at work. MMG guide Eric Thatcher and I took a personal day this Friday to enjoy the fresh powder that fell across northern New England. Skiing fresh tracks is most defiantly a quality perk of being a mountain guide.
Alex on the ascent at the tree line.
Our mission was a ten mile tour that would take us through beautiful silent forrest, over the summit of 4,802 foot Mt. Moosilauke, and down a beautiful carriage road filled with fresh white knee high powder. Along the way we would get breathtaking views of Mt. Washington, Mt. Lafayette, the Sandwich Range, and Pemi-Wilderness.
The 4,802′ summit.
Breaking trail to the nearly 4,802 foot summit required consistent swapping of the leader position. For the person following in the skin track laid out by the leader life is grand and easy as Sunday morning. For the leader breaking trail, its more like a sweaty meditation. Good news is, if you higher a guide they do all this work for you. Never the less we were on top in 3 hours. Not break neck speed, but good considering breaking the skin track.
Eric and Colby enjoying the ascent.
Once on the summit we admired the view pointed out the different summits we could see on the horizon, then headed down. About another mile of touring with skins led us to the top of the carriage road. Once there the skins were off and we were ripping new tracks in the fresh powder. It only took us and hour to get down. Needless to say, skiing = pure joy; and getting first tracks is a big perk of living the life of a mountain guide.
Thank you to our guests who make this possible and to Mammut for the perfect packs and soft shells for our powder-day in the hills.
The past few weeks has been a pretty amazing guiding time for me. Very fortunate comes to mind, as my work as a guide brings me in contact with so many positive, energetic and interesting guests.
This photo blog shows just that – in the course of my recent work with Mooney Mountain Guides our guests, family members and friends have been turned on to adventure climbing events in amazing New Hampshire places. The climbing is plentiful and varied whether we are on skis, on the ice, or ascending a mountain. Smiles are plentiful with suffering common too – but one thing we all commonly enjoy, is reaching for the top!!!
Margie and Dylan – on an exciting adventure – out of the normal routine!
Roland buffing out his ski touring skills to prep for the Haute Route.
Conditions were icy but we made the best of a sunny day and had a full mountain tour.
Long time guest Aubrey getting after the steep ice at the Flume.
Aubrey is a technician on the ice and mixed – armed with Petzl Ergo tools and footed with Boreal Ice shoes.
Laurie – a mother, a professional, a mountain traveler, and now an ice climbing addict.
Laurie and I had three amazing days sampling ice climbs in the notches of NH.
Laurie – mixing it up from ice to the stone.
Lisa and Sylvain drove south from Montreal to ski tour on Mt Cardigan. We had an absolute blast spending the day together.
The ski tour turned into a mountain climb – with grand smiles on top of the summit.
Mike has been with MMG for twelve years – it all started with skiing. He brings his entire family on some events but this one was just for him. Steep ice was our goal and we had at it.
Two sunny but cold days one at Crawford Notch and the other at Newfound Lake.
Thanks to all of you for climbing with me – it has been a pleasure and I look forward to seeing you all soon.
At Mooney Mountain Guides we joke frequently that our company acronym (MMG) stands for Mountain’s, Mentorship, Guidance. In all seriousness, though, this is exactly what we provide. A day with MMG can simply be a day in the mountains pursuing a technical objective or experience, or it can be a day or days of learning and guidance. Our sport, mountain sports, have many intricacies to learn before one can safely pursue them on their own. A day in the mountains alone is fraught with potentially life threatening challenges that only experience and knowledge can help one navigate. Add the technical skills needed to climb in the mountains and there is a lifetime worth of learning.
A climber frequently navigates through this educational experience with the help of a mentor, some one older and more experienced who imparts their experiences, and helps the newer climber gain experience of their own, under a watchful eye. This is rewarding to both climbers, as the inexperienced get to safely learn how to navigate the challenges of the mountains and climbing, and the mentor gets to share their love of the mountains and climbing. At MMG, we are passionate about our sport, and love to share that passion and enable others to pursue it safely.
I consider my self blessed to have been able to do this over the past two winters with a student at Holderness School, where I coach rock climbing. Chance Wright was determined enough to get into the world of winter climbing that he successfully lobbied the school to allow him to pursue the sport as his winter sports option, and I was lucky enough to be able to coach him. Holderness, located in the same area as MMG operates, is ideally suited for such a sports option. In the winter, classes end around noon, giving us half the day to get out to a local ice crag or mountain and practice skills. Our weeks generally consisted of 3 days of climbing on ice, all over central and northern NH. These days often involved practicing technical skills as well, such as building anchors or setting up rappels. The remainder of the days were usually spent on a brisk hike on the surrounding mountains, building endurance for an end of season objective. Last year, that objective was Pinnacle Gully on Mt Washington. This year, we did the 9 mile Franconia Ridge Traverse in full on winter conditions. Additionally, Chance was able to wrap up this season by leading his first ice climb.
Progression: Chances second day on ice (Apocalypse Gulley), Pulling the roof on his first WI5 (Geographic Factor), and his first ice lead (Bloodline)
Taking skills on the road: A christmas vacation trip to Ouray CO
Last Season’s Objective: Pinnacle Gulley on Mt. Washington
This years original objective was Lincoln’s Throat on the Franconia Ridge. An unstable snow pack, and violent winds forced us to amend this plan to traversing the ridge. Having to change our plans was perhaps the most valuable lesson Chance learned in 2 years. Always listen to the mountains.
Chance is incredibly lucky to be going off to college with the skills and experience he already has in the mountains. I’m sure one of the biggest lessons he learned, as we all have, is that these mountain sports offer a lifetime of learning, and his education has just begun. Chance, I wish you the best in this journey, and am eager to see where it takes you! Thanks, for letting me be a part of that process.
Margie and Dylan were up for an unusual adventure. They both enjoy trying new sports and do like to push their limits. Margie is an avid runner and Dylan is in season playing hockey. Both were very fit and up for the task of a steep mountain approach to start the day. Once we accessed the ice climbs the ball was rolling and we climbed and climbed!!!
Usually a family outing is learning the moves on the slab route and climbing it a few times, then maybe the gully on the left for a finnish of the day. Dylan was not ready he kept asking for something steeper and harder. Our finale was the center route where both Dylan and Margie climb a line right up the steeper headwall.
It was an awesome day with two very energetic climbers.
Margie learning the ropes right away while Dylan climbs above.
Ready for the ice – Petzl Quarks in hand.
Time to replenish – the engines are running low.
Dylan on the ice, ready to climb inside the cave, and icicles to take away.
Thank you Margie and Dylan
Had a great day climbing with my brother Mike and Nephew Emmett at Kinsman Notch. Emmett recently saw some of my ice photos on Facebook and he really wanted to give ice climbing a try. I think he’s hooked on the sport and will be back again. We had an excellent day climbing, exploring, and sliding in the snow. It was a fantastic winter adventure for all.
Emmett – armed and dangerous!
Emmett learning the craft.
Time to climb
Emmett reaching the top on the Shamrock route.
Mike back on the ice – its been awhile but he got right into the swing of things.
Mike again on the steep pillar of ice – nice job on this one.
Kinsman ice caves – very cool place.
The Mooney’s – Mike, Emmett, Art
Happy ending the glissade.
Smiles all around – thanks to Mike and Emmett for making the long journey to NH.
The ski conditions are pretty nice in the NH area right now. This past storm blanketed the area with over a foot of light and dry powder and ski tourers are out and about on the mountain trails. Paul and I enjoyed a full day over at Mt Cardigan yesterday. We skied the Alexandria Trail and the Dukes Trail both from the top. The Alexandria was bumped out like a ski area but the Dukes had a nice carpet of snow that made turns a bit easier and smoother.
During our tour we met up with friends Missy and Jay and toured with them on the Dukes. Jay is a Cardigan regular and he took us into one of his secret stashes for a bit of untracked snow.
Paul getting into his stride skinning up the hill.
Paul topping out on our second run.
The upper Dukes area – great place for a transition, food and drinks, to ready us for the long downhill run through the forest.
Paul in the secret powder stash.
Thanks to Paul – great fun ski touring with you.
Nick. Doing what he is supposed to be doing. On a frozen alpine lake in the White Mountains
This week, Nick, a long time guest came back to New Hampshire for his annual Mt. Washington week. Each February for some time now Nick returns to Mt. Washington. Nick has climbed around the world and continues to set lofty climbing goals at home and abroad. Yet the one mountain he keeps coming back to is New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. There must be something special about this place.
Taking a moment to enjoy the sun.
Nick does not spend the entire week on the mountain. In fact during the week, he only spends one day on the mountain. Instead Nick and I have set smaller goals to help prepare our bodies and minds for the challenges of Mt. Washington and mountains abroad.
Preparing for bigger summits, Nick climbing the steep water ice of New Hampshire.
“Its about the process” Nick often states. Each day out helps me prepare for what lies ahead. “The mountains provide us a unique perspective”. “You are where your supposed to be, doing what your supposed to be doing” are other sayings Nick seems to live by. One thing I am certain of, Nick loves the mountains, he loves the people he goes there with, and the summit is secondary to the process.
The big picture.
It is inspiring to spend time with a climber who’s ego does not interfere with the enjoyment of each moment. To spend time with a climber who elation for simply being where he is matches the elation reaching the summit. Every climber could learn from Nick. What is it that keeps us coming back to the hills anyhow? Is it the summit? Or is it the process of getting there?
Documenting one of the views his process affords him.
Thank you Nick for an amazing week in the hills. Good luck this weekend on Mt. Washington.
Let me start by saying I’m a bit of a gear geek. I love knowing my gear, learning about new gear and what makes certain items better. Additionally, as with many people, there is immense satisfaction settling on a piece of gear that makes you happy when previous iterations have left you wanting more. I ordered the Mammut Togir Click harness this summer and have put it through many a trial over the last 6+ months climbing about 5 days a week for work and pleasure. I have been thrilled with the harness, and being the gear geek that I am, revel in the little things that make it unique.
My friends and I have had many a discussion on how to manage harnesses. Some like ultra lightweight harnesses for sport and more tricked out ones for trad and ice. Others like a simple trimmed down design for ice in particular. Many have two harnesses to cover all of their needs. For my purposes, I like the simplicity of one harness. This makes it easier on me, and harder on the harness, as it has more roles in which it has to please me. The Togir Click appeared to fit the bill, and thus far has proven its self worthy. I’ll break the review down by section from here on out to make it easier for me to organize my thoughts, and for you to follow them!
All of the standard features we’ve come to expect in high end harnesses are present in the Togir Click. Adequate padding, wider waist belt and leg loops for comfort. Four stiff, supported gear loops, and 4 well placed ice clipper locations as well as “speed” buckles, the kind that cinch down and are automatically doubled back. In addition this harness has 3 little quirks that are big plusses to me.
1.) Belay loop protection: Every harness I’ve worn out has worn out in the belay loop/ tie in area. This happens from the tie in points moving back and forth over the belay loop as you climb, and even more so as you walk. Mammut has developed an ingenious little plastic protector that eliminates that nylon on nylon rubbing, thereby virtually eliminating the most common way of waring out a harness. They have patented this, and no other harness companies have come up with an alternative. Before I had a Mammut harness I use to pad these areas with Ducktape to prolong them. Not only did this look pretty gheto, but the chemicals on the tape probably didn’t do the nylon any favors. In case your harness does wear out here, Mammut has put in an indicator strip, so you see that you a contrasting red layer of fabric under the worn out layer, to warn you (Identified by tabs with red exclamation mark on them).
2.) “5th gear loop” in the back: Many ice climbers will tie some accessory cord between their back two gear loops to add an additional gear loop. A good place to clip things you don’t need quite as quickly. It’s a great spot to clip your belay gloves and/ or puffy, V thread tool, off belay knife, or spare cordalette. Mammut must’ve caught on to this as they put two holes in the bottom outside corner of the back two gear loops. This allows you to attach the accessory cord for your 5th gear loop, while keeping that cord out of the way of carabiners you’re clipping into your back two gear loops. there’s also a sewn in tag line type loop in the back of the harness, a great place for your prussic to take up permanent residence.
3.) “Click” buckles: Alright, the main event. What really sets this harness apart is the “click” buckles. In short, these allow you to quickly pull the buckle apart, opening the leg loops and waist loops completely. This is invaluable for winter climbing when you might put a harness on after crampons, or take it off before your crampons. Gents, it also makes peeing in the winter much easier. Unclick one leg loop, pull the harness to the side and you’ve removed one of far too many obstacle to relief! Some might find this a little gimmicky, thinking about how most harnesses can do this to an extant. What sets it apart in my mind is how versatile this makes the harness as a whole. Basic harnesses, where every buckle has to be threaded and doubled back come apart completely like this, but then are a pain to double back every time, and add one more thing to forget when looking to put a harness on quickly and easily while sport cragging. Even the speed style buckles can be completely taken apart, and re threaded as needed, but its a little to finicky in my experience because of the auto double back buckle. The click buckle is easy to remove and put back on, I’ve been doing it with mittens all winter long, and in the summer it goes on quickly and smoothly with the buckles acting like a normal “speed” buckle. To me this is what makes the harness such a great all around harness.
Over the past six months I’ve obsessively, hang dogged sport projects, spent all day hanging from multi pitch cliffs and worked 5 days a week coaching ice climbing in this harness (+ personal and guiding days). Throughout these experiences it has proven its self worthy, comfortable, durable and versatile. I never felt discomfort in this harness taking short hard falls or longer airy whippers at Rumney.
The true test of comfort came in trying the Prow multiple times this summer. To me, this climb had become infamous for its 5 kidney crunching hanging and semi hanging belays. In former harnesses my discomfort from hanging in my harness rivaled that of cramming my toes into tight shoes and my fingers into tiny cracks by the end of the day. This harness proved to be so comfortable that that internal discomfort was an afterthought. A very welcome change.
Finally, I’ve found this harness to be perfectly tricked out for ice climbing. As I stated before, the click buckles make it a cinch to put on after crampons and take off before. The 5th gear loop, with its out of the way accessory cord adds racking space, often eliminating the need to carry a backpack, and the ice clipper loops are sturdy enough to hold the clippers in place, but not so tight that you can’t easily remove them for a mid winter gym session. It’s the perfect jack of all trades.
Grade V comfort
NEI 5 versatility
Thanks to: Keyan Pishdadian, Geoff Wilson and Andy Neuman for photos, in descending order
Harness photos from Mammut: http://www.mammut.com/en/productDetail/211000891_v_7237/Togir-Click.html