After a long winter, rock season seems to be developing some momentum here in Vermont. Time to shake off the cobwebs. Last Sunday Heidi and I went to the crag to do some climbing and dial in some technical skills. The venue was Bolton, Vermont, home to some of the best schist climbing in New England. The goal was not only to refresh some older skills, but to also work on some current techniques and learn some new ways to add more safety and efficiency while climbing
We began the day at Lower West Bolton, a popular and easily accessible cliff with plenty of route options for every level. Both Heidi and I were psyched to have most of the crag to ourselves. Here we reviewed multiple belay techniques, focusing on the finer points of belaying with the GriGri. After some climbing and Facebook shots with the Iphone, we got more serious and moved on to cleaning sport anchors and rappelling with the use of the autoblock and extension.
To wrap up the day we hit The Quarry, another Bolton crag with a variety of sport climbing options (and awesome ice in the winter). Some of the routes were damp, but we finessed through the wetness and Heidi got to practice some of her new skills.
Awesome job Heidi, thanks for a great day of at one of my favorite local Vermont climbing areas!
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.
The team on approach to the Eaglet
Bagels and Espresso beans – fuel for the day.
Franconia Notch – a spectacular setting.
Steve on the summit of the Eaglet Spire then on the steep rappel.
On the summit of the Eaglet.
For alpine rock climbing -try the Eaglet Spire!!!
Thin Air is a classic NH rock climb. The routes follows cracks and ramps up the sheer east facing granite cliffs of Cathedral Ledge. The routes is a first lead for many who climb at the Cathedral Area.
Jerry and I had climbed Funhouse and Upper Refuse a weeks ago which made Thin Air our next objective. We arrived at the base early Saturday morning a readied for the climb. The weather report called for showers but we figured we had a short window of good weather.
Jerry racked up then led the entire route. The pitches offered interesting climbing challenges, a variety of gear for protection, and creative anchoring building for him. The route was an excellent progression in the exciting new leading area for Jerry.
Thin Air pitch one.
Steep climbing towards the upper headwall.
Jerry working through the upper flakes.
Excellent leading today!!!
Last summer I had the pleasure of climbing Moby Grape with father-daughter team Steve and Bridget Curley. You can check out the post here: http://www.mooneymountainguides.com/blog/cannon/riding-the-granite-time-machine-at-cannon/. On Saturday Bridget returned to Cannon with her sister Sharon for a fine sampling of granite cracks. Climbing is a family affair with the Curleys! The day was hazy, very hot and humid: more reminescent of mid August than early June. Never the less the motivation was high. We cranked out some true classics: The first few pitches of Duet, the first two of Union Jack, Reppy’s Crack, and Slow and Easy.
Sharon and Bridget at the base of Duet after cruising its
first few superb pitches.
Sharon launches up the wide first pitch of Union Jack
Bridget sizes up the steep and polished layback crux of Union Jack’s awesome second pitch
Hot, tired and happy! Descending Cannon’s massive talus field after a great day.
Thanks for a great day out, Sharon and Bridget. I look forward to climbing again with you soon!Cheers,
Derek Doucet, MMG
Spring is guide training and education time at Mooney Mountain Guides. While Art was off in Eldorado teaching a Rock Instructor Course, I got the Single Pitch Instructor season underway in Franconia Notch with Steve, Nadya, Paul and Matt. The SPI course is designed to serve as both a stand alone educational experience for those working in single pitch settings, and as a building block for higher level AMGA rock guiding courses.
Working from the top of the cliff or from a stance in middle of a cliff reached by leading is an essential part of the SPI curriculum. Effective stance management is crucial to provide the best possible guest experience in top managed settings. Above, Nadya has constructed a clean and organized lowering system using a munter hitch (out of the frame) backed up with an autoblock on her harness, positioned her rope stack neatly and out of the way on her side of the stance, and has great line of sight. Nice!
All climbing anchors need to be solid enough to withstand the highest foreseeable loads in a given situation. For professional guides and instructors, there is more to the equation. Professional anchors need to be clean and efficient in terms of the time and equipment used to build them. Above is a close up of a sound working anchor, constructed out of just 3 pieces of solid protection, the static rope, and a few carabiners. Note the crafty use of clove hitches to distribute the load between the 2 pieces on the left. As rigged above, about half of any load will be applied to the small cam on the right, which is perhaps less than ideal, but all of the placements, including the small yellow cam, are so good that it’s a non-issue here.
What goes up must come down, and so rappel instruction is a fundamental part of the SPI bag of tricks. Working from the same anchor shown above, Steve has assembled an ideal instructional work space. The line of descent he’s selected begins low angle and steepens only gradually to ease his guest’s nerves. He’s positioned himself with excellent line of sight all the way down the cliff and is securely clipped in to the anchor masterpoint. A separate belay is in the system as a backup. Finally, the rappel line itself is fixed in a releasable fashion to facilitate assistance techniques should anything become stuck in the rappel device.
Paul and Matt got in on the rappel instruction practice as well. Here Paul, in instructor mode, is providing clear and concise coaching to Matt, playing the role of student. Technical proficiency is of course essential for a climbing instructor, but a calm, professional demeanor and outstanding teaching skills are just as vital.
Thanks for a great course Paul, Nadya, Matt and Steve! I look forward to seeing you all at the crags this summer.
Derek Doucet, MMG
One of the best parts of my job is that guiding folks up iconic routes such as Cannon’s Moby Grape is like a granite time machine. It takes me straight back to my own first forays up New Hampshire’s most imposing hunk of stone, now more than 20 years and many hundreds of pitches in the past. Through the eyes of our guests, I get to experience the thrill of these early ascents all over again, which is a real gift. It’s all a new and grand adventure to them, and I’m fortunate enough to be a part of it. How cool is that? This past weekend, I shared ropes with father / daughter team Steve and Bridget. It was a stellar trip up the Grape, and brought me right back to my roots as a New England climber.
Here they are, psyched to be over the infamous Finger of Fate pitch. By this point in the route (4 pitches up) we’d left the parties below us well behind and enjoyed a nice break and some lunch on this spacious ledge. It was hot, but a pleasant breeze made it very enjoyable.
Bridget cruising the classic dihedral of the Kurt’s Corner finish. This aesthetic left facing corner adds another clean 5.7 pitch with thrilling position to an already fine route.
Thanks for letting me be a part of the adventure, Steve and Bridget. I had a blast. Hope to see you both on the rock again soon!
Derek Doucet, MMG
I’ve been fortunate enough to climb all over the USA, and quite a bit abroad as well. There was a time when all I wanted to do was travel and climb. I’ve come full circle these days, and am more psyched than ever to climb right here at home in the North East. Among my favorite destinations anywhere is the Adirondack Park and Preserve in northern New York. One of the crown jewels of Adirondack rock is Poke-O Moonshine. I got out to Poke-O the other day with Garrett, and we had a blast, climbing a wide variety of classic traditional pitches from 5.8 to 5.11. Enjoy this series of Garrett sticking the intricate final crux on Pitch 2 of the Casual Observer. Poke-O at it’s finest!
I didn’t get the shot when he latched the finishing hold (which you then have to mantle to the belay!) so you’ll have to take my word for it: He stuck it.
Comparable in size and quality to New Hampshire’s finest, I’ll venture a guess that Poke-O sees less than a quarter the traffice. Maybe we’ll see you in the Adirondacks this season. It’s certainly worth the drive!
Derek Doucet, MMG