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Archive for the ‘Featured Stories’ Category

Poke-O Access

Please respect the owners property rights and don’t trespass. Use the standard trails from the campground to access the cliff. Please see the information below and tell all your climbing friends. Thank You! – Doug Millen

Poko-Featured-Photo

Positive Thinking – Poke-O-Moonshine NY

 

Climbers should be aware that the land in front of the Main Face at Poke-O is private. Climbers need to use the main trail that runs from the [now closed] campground to the Main Face near Discord. Under no circumstances should climbers approach directly from the road. Of course it’s totally fine to scope out your routes from the shoulder of the road.

There have been several incidents where ice climbers have inadvertently wandered into the private property in front of the cliff. The local land owners have no tolerance for this and will close access should climbers continue to trespass. The Access Fund, with funds raised by The Mountaineer, have added signs to help delineate the boundaries and instruct climbers to stay on the cliff-base trail. Please be extra vigilant and stay on the trail that runs along the base of the cliff. -Jim Lawyer

Poko-Map

Poke-O-Moonshine NY

Renormalized at “The Lake”

Ah! The conditions are getting better and I am back to my normal state, once again, at “The Lake”.

The-Lake

 

Below are a few condition photos from our trip to Lake Willoughby VT on Saturday December 13, 2014. Plenty of challenging ice to climb. There is a good snow pack now for easy approaches, unlike years past where leaves covered  the frozen ground with a dusting of snow. The ground is now  insulate and plenty of water is flowing. When some real cold hits this place, it is going to go OFF!

Enjoy the photos!

 

~Doug Millen

Cover photo: Tom Yandon on “Renormalization” WI 4, Lake Willoughby VT.

All photos by Doug Millen

Rites of Passage

“So far this is type three fun,” Matt comments.

The first two pitches have been miserable. The ice is fine, or at least good enough, but the wind and low temperatures are BRUTAL. Up to this point, I’m kicking myself for getting out of bed and passing up on sleeping in with my girlfriend, wasting the day. My bed is warm, I am not. My glasses are completely frozen over and stuffed uselessly in my chest pocket. My eyebrows are adorned with ice sculptures. I can barely open them. I’ve already had at least one bout of mid-pitch screaming barfies.

“There’s a warm, beautiful woman in my bed… why are we here?” I laughingly reply.

But the next pitch beckons. Half of it is even in the sun, at least if the clouds hold off. Sure, I’ve been thinking of retreating all morning, but the reality is, in my mind, there’s only one way off this thing, and that is UP!

I’ve got this…

I take off from the 2nd belay into the crux pitch of Fafnir, aiming for the thin pillar directly above us.

Rites of Passage

Article by Patrick Cooke
 

I’m psyched to be moving again. I can feel my hands finally. The pillar is straight forward. Place one tool, move feet up, repeat… but it narrows down higher up, petering out where it seeps out of a corner above. There’s barely enough to swing into – definitely not enough for two tools. I can place one foot on the pillar, the other stemmed off of the bubbly veneer of ice on the left wall. I consciously think at the time “it’s cool how you can use so little…”

Ice gives way to powder snow and tools tenuously hooked on god knows what… I’m committing to big moves on unknown hooks. The blocks to my left afford some cracks but look detached and questionable at best. I use them.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…

2 solid cams and I can breathe easy again.

*****

Every winter, we’re itching to get out and swing the tools. We go to the usual places, usually up high, to find those first dribbles of ice. But the truth of the matter is, early season climbing is serious. The gear is questionable, the conditions are questionable, and our readiness is questionable.

Despite all the reasons not to, we venture into the unknown looking for a fix. We’re anxious, itching to swing the tools again. We don’t want the security of the known… we want the outcome to be in doubt.

*****

The Saturday after Black Friday, 310 am: the alarm is going off. “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccckkkkkkkkkk”

I’m heading towards the Rockpile, hoping to beat anyone ambitious enough to camp out by the Harvard Cabin. I don’t want to be behind anyone. Overnight temperatures were around 0, and I don’t have a partner… I need to be able to pick the best line and not worry about falling ice or waiting around.

There’s a party in Pinkham already at 445, but they clearly aren’t ready to go yet. Another party comes in while I’m getting my boots on, but I doubt they’ll be keeping up with me, though I don’t want to push the pace too hard on the approach. No one else has signed in yet.  At 5am I’m on my way out the door.

Sunrise on the approach

First hints of daylight on the approach.

I break trail all the way into Huntington Ravine. The going is treacherous… several inches of powder coats everything. I can’t tell if I’m going to step on flat ground, a rock, a hole, a stream… I manage to find all of these.

Pinnacle looks pretty good. Not fat, but doable. 2/3 of the way up I can’t tell if the wind is blowing snow upwards or if there’s water shooting out of a hole. Pinnacle was my goal, but this is day one. I’m coming off of a separated shoulder. I’m alone. I don’t know if I’d be able to downclimb if I can’t get past the potential geyser. I start the miserable slogging traverse/descent over towards O’Dell’s which at least has more ice, and the potential for sunshine.

 I’m up, I’m moving… swinging the tools… kicking the feet. The right side is steeper, and the left is probably the safer bet. But the right side is in the sun, and I’m fucking cold. I head up.

Swing. Kick. Kick. Repeat. It’s the first day out this season for me, but it feels natural. I’ve climbed enough over the years that it doesn’t take long to feel like I never stopped last winter. Conditions are pretty good, but i release two big water dams on the way up – a sobering reminder that I’m alone, unroped, and a long way from safety.

Worth the effort

Just Reward. No photos from below… too cold!

*****

Moving right, away from my cams, I’m feeling better. The climbing isn’t hard, it’s just awkward. Another icy step marks the transition into the blocky upper section of the pitch. If the ice came all the way down, it would be straight forward. If the ice above the block was thicker, it would be easy. It doesn’t come all the way down. There’s not enough to swing away at. I place a piece below the step but I’m doubtful about how useful it will be. I’m in don’t fall terrain.

The climbing is a puzzle. Where can I hook my tools? What blocks are solid enough for me to yard on? What can I step on? How can I move my feet up, since I can’t just kick away at the smear of ice at waist height.

A couple of false starts, up and down, and I make my way onto the next blocky ledge. I’m committed now. I’m not down-climbing that move.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…

*****

Sunday after O’Dell’s… the alarm goes off at 545 and it feels like sleeping in. A text from Dave says he’s running late… an extra 30 minutes of sleeping… After 2 hours of sleep before my 310 wake up the day before, I feel like things are looking up!

We’re across 93 from Cannon, pulled over on the side of the road. The DOT snowplows are pissed at us. We’re scoping the Dike and Fafnir with binoculars, waffling on whether we want to head up. We see a party coming down from the base. We try to convince ourselves it will be worth it, but the ice in the Dike should be yellow, not the white of fresh snow.

“I’m more of an ideal conditions fan for Fafnir… you know, temperatures below freezing” Dave quips. We head to Crawford.

Standard Route is not in. But we climb it anyways. It’s in fat… fat water conditions. It’s almost like climbing ice, only without the pro. But it’s fun, and it beats sitting at home or slogging back up to Huntington or Tux.

*****

More gear and I’m breathing again. Climb up, move right, move past that damn jutting block and I’m on the ledge. Sounds easy. Looks easy…

Man these hooks suck. Did I just imagine they were really good when I followed this last year, or was there just more ice to play with?

Motherfucker! the block that seems like a great hook is totally detached and moves… my heart is somewhere in my throat. I commit to an awkward mantle onto a questionably secure block.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…

*****

We follow Standard with a romp up Shoestring, my go-to early season route.

At the harnessing-up point, it’s clear this isn’t going to be much of an ice climb. We climb sketchy steps of slush, mixed climbing on Webster’s finest-quality rock. A bowling ball size block falls out of the wall above Dave as he’s topping out one of the sketchier steps in the gully. It stops about 6 inches short of his head. We opt out of the right hand exits. They’ve clearly been done that day, but why play with fire at this point? We head straight up into the trees.

*****

The block held, and I’ve found some good gear. Now, work up under the roof, move right. Make it past the before-mentioned jutting block and I’m home free.

I get a tool hooked to the left of the block, but my right foot is where my left needs to be. I hook a tool right of the block. It’s hooked, but on what? I move it a bit and torque it between another block. It’s secure, but I’ll never be able to get it out. FUCK!

I manage to bash it out of it’s wedged position and hook it back on the tenuous placement it was in before. I let go of the left and grab the block to pull off of it with my hand. It feels secure, but as I move up I momentarily panic, letting out an audible whimper, and move back down to the security of my tools.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…

This is it. If I make the moves, I’m at the top…

I remove the better, left, tool, and hook it with the right. Swap hands, mantle with the right hand on what seems to be a somewhat flexing pile of blocks… I commit and make the move onto the ledge above.

Don't let the blue sky fool you... it was @#$%ing cold.  Also, it may look like a WI2 gully from this view, but it doesn't feel like one when you're on it!

Don’t let the blue sky fool you… it was @#$%ing cold.
Also, it may look like a WI2 gully from this view, but it doesn’t feel like one when you’re on it!

*****

“Man, that was sketchy on second!”

I’m a bit relieved to know that I was justified in thinking it was hard. It wasn’t physically difficult, but it was mentally taxing for sure.

Cannon has become my go-to crag for the early season. Often, when there isn’t much else in, there’s great climbing to be had. It’s the perfect early-season experience: Conditions wont be ideal, but there’ll be just enough there to make it work. There’s no room for wandering thoughts, it channels that total focus that only happens for me when the outcome is in doubt.

A week later, I’ve still got some frostnip in my fingertips, but I’m glad I dragged myself out of bed. Those “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…” experiences are just a rite of passage each December.

Get Out and Get Some!

It’s the Start of December

The time when the sun begins to rise, it’s nearly set.  The nights are long and cold and the days are short and cold.  It’s the best time to catch the mountain gullies with abundant ice and perfect snow conditions. This past weekend I joined a crew up Mt. Lafayette’s Escadrille Route.  The day was cold and windy and the alpine in New Hampshire is in great shape!  Here’s a few photos from the day.

In Franconia Notch, down much lower on Mt. Lafayette, Ace of Spades is looking ripe.

Ace-of-Spades

12/8/14 Conditions  Photo by Doug Millen

And across the street…

The-Dike

Black Dike Conditions 12/8/14 – Photo by Doug Millen

Omega

12/8/14 Conditions / Omega Wall –  Photo by Doug Millen

With some very cold rock, cloudy weather and mixed precip this week, I’m sure this cliff is being watched carefully by some!

 

 

The drips are forming in the low elevation climbing areas, and even when the ice runs out, Bayard Russell of Cathedral Mountain Guides keeps going!  Here he is on a mixed variation of Kinesis at Cathedral Ledge. cathedralIn the Crawford Notch things are shaping up. The Twin Mountain crew and guests climbed “Read Between the Lines” on the upper east face of Willard and reported good conditions. They said “Damsel In Distress” is very thin but building. They also climbed “The Snot Rocket” at the Trestle Wall with a delicate top column. Dracula is not quite in but building fast.

To note: The first General Advisories by the Avalanche Center was issued for Mt. Washington’s ravines.  That was followed by the first reported avalanche incident on Monday in Yale Gully.  Keep an eye on conditions as more wintery weather moves in this week!

Over to the Adirondacks, local climbers have been getting out at all the standard venues.  There is definitely ice and mixed climbing to be had!  Check out the Adirondack Mountain Guides condition report HERE.  And don’t forget about the awesome alpine climbing arena that the High Peaks have to offer.  Just keep an eye out on the snow pack conditions.  The Adirondacks are getting slammed with snow this week, so give it time for the weather system to move through and the snow to stabilize.

In Vermont, Smugglers Notch updates have been coming in on an almost weekly basis on the Conditions page.  And all you need to do is click on the Photo Page to see Nick and Alden’s climb of a “lean and mean” Promenade at Lake Willoughby.

Bottom line, Get Out and Get Some!

By Courtney Ley

A Dose of Prozac and Some Positive Thinking

Let’s get right to it!  More noteworthy news coming out of Cannon Cliff again this weekend!

Jeff Previte and Matt Ritter made the second ascent of Prozac on the Omega Wall this past Friday.  The mixed route, finishing right of Omega, was first established by Kevin Mahoney and Ben Gilmore in 2002.

cannon-slideshow-16

The Omega Wall section of Cannon Cliff, showing (left to right) the Mean Streak (red); the Firing Line (yellow); Omega (green); Omega Variation Start (blue); Prozac (purple). Photo courtesy of Freddie Wilkinson, The Nameless Creature.

 

Kevin recounts:

“We swapped the leads from the day before.  Not because we didn’t want to face the same gut-retching second pitch from the day before but because we wanted to share the clarity it offered.  Once at our high point from the day before I got to lead the last pitch.  This was the lead I had been waiting for all season.  The lead that required full commitment and willingness to shake the cob webs free.  The lead that would cure my sinking psych.  Knife blades with screamers, stoppers heads, marginal cams all added to the mix.  I dropped a tool (this was the time of leashes and I was trying the Android leash for the first time) fortunately ben was close by to tag a tool on to the rope.  Once at the trees I was different, not the same sulking man that my fiance was wondering if she should marry.  Those two days on Cannon had set me right.  Ben and I named the new route Prozac.  Nine years later I can still enjoy those two days with Ben on Cannon and hope conditions like that come again so Prozac can get a second ascent.”

You can find his whole story remembering that day, on his blog post, Around the next corner?

As Jeff and Matt made their way to the base of the climb, Majka Burhardt and Peter Doucette were already on the route.  Peter, just coming back from Nepal only 30 hours earlier, was leading the second pitch. Majka and Peter decided to call it a day after three pitches and rappelled down passing by Matt and Jeff. As they continued up, Matt described the third pitch as a “run-out muckle of ‘egg shell’ ice which gave way to a sketchy mantel and an awkward perch beneath the steep, more solid ice.”  Sounds fun eh?!

Prozac-Jeff

Matt Ritter on Pitch 3. Photo by Jeff Previte.

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Majka approaching the top of the third pitch. The ledge and belay are shared with Omega. The second party visible below. Photo by Peter Doucette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now they were perched at the Pitch three belay looking up at the last and final pitch which was waiting patiently, as it had for 12 years.  The sun was lowering and the cold air began to penetrate their now shivering bodies, but Matt didn’t need to think about the next move.  He was motivated.

As Matt started up the final pitch he wrote:

“There was no obvious path other than the gnarliest looking corners and roofs which got me pretty excited. Confident, I knew I could make this pitch go. I began by down climbing 15 feet after sinking a Lost Arrow just above the anchor. I traversed left to a stance and climbed  a techy vertical crack and T4 (turf ratings) front point placements. Getting situated in a sweet corner below a grooved roof I found a piton and a tiny fixed wire I assume were placed by Kevin. I took a while here making sure not to rush anything. Hooting, hollering, singing Taylor Swift, laughing maniacally, I found myself torqueing micro cracks perfectly designed for pick placements in steep terrain. Tiny cams and wires protected most of the tough bits decently well. At the crux I stopped laughing, and Jeff said he wasn’t gonna take my picture again due to the long encroaching shadows.  Locking off on a sinker left tool I found myself traversing right out of a shallow corner onto a steep face using elegant and technical foot crosses and a high step to a one inch gloved thumb undercling! A bit of aggressive snarling and soon enough I was in the Krumholz. I found a Spruce or a Fir with an old loop of rope and belayed Jeff up from here. Ecstatic, I thought about Kevin standing at the previous ledge scoping his line. Of the handful of in-obvious options, we had chosen the same path, and how 13 years ago he fished that dinky little wired nut into a constriction and cruised onward. I took a few moments to laugh uncontrollably. When laughter gave way to the largest perma-smile I own, I experienced a deep appreciation for life, for Cannon Cliff, (the old old grandpa cliff) for Kevin and Ben being supremely badass, and for the holistic nourishment these experiences provide.”

Nice work guys! To read his entire account of the day, check out his report on Walkabout Wild.

prozac-jeff

Mitt Ritter on the final pitch. Photo by Jeff Previte

If you are still feeling the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder after that dose of Prozac, here’s some Positive Thinking!

The next day, over in New York, Jeffery Dunn and Bryan Kass climbed Positive Thinking at Poke-O in 90’s fashion.  The route in early season mimics the days when the ice rarely touched the ground. They pulled some Patagonian-style tricks out of the bag and had a little fun with it along the way…


 

It seems climbers everywhere were heading to the hills this past weekend, taking advantage before the warmth and rain hit during the early part of this week.  Check out the Photo page for what got done.. including some sweet shots at Lake Willoughby!   In Crawford Notch, Mt. Willard offered up a taste of ice and in the Adirondacks, the climbs at Chapel Pond froze long enough to see some action.

Now if we can all sit still long enough, waiting for the warm front to move out of here and the cold to return later this week, who knows what we’ll find!

(CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE)

By Courtney Ley

Special Thanks to Majka Burnhardt, Peter Doucette, Jeff Previte, Matt Ritter and Jeffery Dunn.

 

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