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Archive for the ‘Featured Stories’ Category

The Weekly UPdate!

From Cannon Cliff to Crawford Notch and Beyond

New Hampshire

blackdikeerik

Photo courtesy of Erik Thatcher

black dike

Photo by Art Mooney

It’s game on in the higher elevations this week!  Lines formed in Pinnacle Gully and other gullies in Huntington saw some action too, including Odells and Yale.  We even had our first minor epic (?) this week.  Yes, someone forgot their three screw anchor on Pinnacle.  So it’s business as usual on Mt. Washington.  The Great Gully in King Ravine got climbed as well.  Although perhaps the most exciting news was happening on Cannon Cliff.  The Black Dike got all sorts of traffic over the weekend.  Erik Thatcher and Art Mooney bailed off The Black Dike because of slushy conditions on Friday, but when Saturday rolled around, Eric Marshall and Jeff Previte found the freeze Friday night good enough, and fired it.  Erik Thatcher decided to return on Sunday with Alexa Siegel and take care of some unfinished business.  They got it done and he left his Nomic hanging on a tree as a flag of their conquest!  Too bad he had to return on Monday and do yet another lap with Art Mooney to retrieve the lone tool.

Also on Monday, Jeffery Dunn and Bryan Kass headed up on Cannon to the Dike, but took on a harder variation.  The duo climbed the Hassig’s Direct variation which had been looking good over the past couple of days.  Here’s Jeff’s report on the day.

“Already sleep deprived, Bryan Kass and I left NYC at 11:00pm Sunday night and swapped “leads” northwards through the driving rain. Pulling into the parking lot at 10am, the presence of another party’s truck was the only indication that conditions might be good on the cliff which lay invisible behind a billowing fog bank. With temperatures above freezing and a steady rain falling, there was no sense of urgency while we ate a breakfast of sausage and chocolate doughnuts and desperately tried to make sense of our wholly disorganized pile of winter gear.

Eventually, we disembarked the van and made our way down the bike path. Halfway to the approach trail we encountered the other climbing party, Art and Erik, who shared the promising conditions report; “soft”.

The first pitch took a screw in addition to the good cam and I set a belay under Hassigs. Unlike the last time we had come through, Hassig’s was in fantastic condition and sans large ice mushroom top-out. Bryan lead through and found good rock gear down low, a decent thread, and then a good screw. Already soaking wet, I was allowed some personal time to explore the fullness of a winter experience. The right side top-out, starting off with a nice ice curtain and moving into aesthetic moderate alpine mixed, brought us to the trees.

Arriving back at the van, there was only one suitable way for two NYC based climbers to celebrate starting the ice season in mid November: drive home immediately and get ready for work in the morning. The van stopped for 20 minutes to get gas and food, arriving in NY just over 24 hours after leaving.”

hassigs

Photo courtesy of Jeffery Dunn

Across the way from Cannon, others were finding enough ice to climb.  The narrow gully up in the Big Slide Area on the steep western slopes of Mt. Lafayette was picked at by Nick Yardley and David Crothers.  This great little gem of a route is a good early season option.  It’s a two second approach compared to other routes on Mt. Lafayette’s southwestern side such as the Escadrille.  You can bet that route, along with Lincoln’s Throat are in top notch shape.  Also, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Ammo Ravine on Washington is good to go.  Only one way to find out…

So with things blowing up, Doug and I decided to take a few practice flights in Crawford Notch.  WooKong 3.0 and ARDU buzzed by the forming ice routes in this video condition report.


 

Other Places

In the Adirondacks, Ian Osteyee of Adirondack Mountain Guides and Holly Blanchard of The Mountaineer got on a very thin Chouinard’s Gully over at Chapel Pond.  With snow in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday and temperatures staying below freezing into the weekend in Keene Valley, it’s go time!

Alden Pellett finding thin conditions on the Blind Fate column. Photo courtesy of Kel Rossiter/Adventure Spirit Guides.

Don’t swing too hard! Alden Pellett finding brittle conditions on the Blind Fate column. Photo courtesy of Kel Rossiter.

In Vermont, Steve Charest and Alden Pellett got some very thin ice in Smuggler’s Notch last weekend. The pair ticked off Jeff Slide and most of Blind Fate in very thin conditions but finding the finish pillar hadn’t touched down, they bailed from there. Pellett returned during the week with Kel Rossiter of Adventure Spirit Guides to finish up the job on the now freshly-formed free-standing column at the top of that route which they said was “not trivial”.  Pellett, afraid the foot-thick column might collapse with him on it, didn’t place any gear until 15-20 feet up when he was able to get a couple of stubbies in where the ice was attached to the rock.  For the latest conditions in the Notch, check out the conditions page. If you’re thinking of heading up to Smuggs this weekend, a good six inches of fresh powder has locals skiing the Notch road, so make sure to bring your boards for an easy run back to the car!

Down in Pennsylvania, it looks like a quick window of opportunity opened up for November in the Narrows! Climbers in PA had a stellar ice season last year.  Let’s hope for more of the same.

Back up to Ontario, the ice climbing season has started in the Batchawana Bay!  Conditions report courtesy of Superior Exploration Co.

By Courtney Ley and Alden Pellett

Special Thanks to  Erik Thatcher and Jeffery Dunn

Click on the images to enlarge

 

Back to Business!


The Season is On!

Let’s take a look at the conditions and reports from this past weekend across the Northeast and go over what to expect for the coming weekend.

New Hampshire

In Tuckerman Ravine, we saw a couple of climbers lingering around as we headed up Hillman’s Highway.  It was a fun day and we climbed some great ice!  YES, enough to satisfy our hunger.. for now!  The headwall ice was coming in well.  Here’s some photos from the day.

Photo credit: Courtney Ley, Nick Yardley, Doug Millen

In Huntington Ravine, Pinnacle Gully was climbed by at least two parties.  They “found more ice then expected and in much better shape… Thin in some spots with running water, holes and some detached ice, but then again its still November! But overall WI2+ and able to accept decent protection.”

Conditions of Pinnacle Gully 11-9-14

Pinnacle Gully 11-9-14 – Photo by ralbert20

And over to Franconia Ridge:  Climbers headed up Lincoln’s Throat  Sunday and Monday to see what they could find.  The headwall was super thin, so both parties backed off and headed right across to the slabs and up. Alpineclimb noted the headwall “could have gone with a few stubbies and cams.”

What to expect for this weekend:

The weather forecast for the White Mountains is calling for a slight warming trend through Thursday, but temperatures dip back down to the low 20’s and high teens on the summit of Mt. Washington starting Thursday night.  That’s accompanied by some snow flurries into Friday and the wind will persist all week. The warming trend should add some moisture in the high climbing areas as the snow melts slightly and the cold will return just in time to lock things back up!

Don’t expect any climbable ice in the lower elevations this weekend, but if it stays cold that could change. Look high, climbs with northern aspects and in shaded areas for the best ice.

Are you looking for a guide? For a Mountain Washington adventure? Contact one of our local Ambassadors and they will be glad to help.  Cathedral Mountain Guides – Mooney Mountain Guides

Vermont

In Smuggler’s Notch, things are still pretty scratchy as temperatures just didn’t drop far enough to build thicker ice.  At least one party got out for some drytooling action though.  Tim Farr of PetraCliffs Climbing Center says “All in all, the Notch is coming along with ice slowly forming all around. It was just above freezing and ice wasn’t well bonded so I didn’t want to knock any of it down yesterday. Things in the Easy Gully vicinity are starting to form. Jeff’s slide has a consistent thin flow for much of it’s length as well.  The road is closed and has a thin layer of ice on it from melting snow as of yesterday. With the approaching cold snap, things should shape up quick in the Notch for some thin climbing.”

panorama_2

Taking in the view in Smuggs! Photo by Tim Farr

What to expect for this weekend:

It’s looking like there will be more time to sharpen your drytooling skills as we wait for temperatures to drop below freezing, which doesn’t come until Saturday.  Even then, it’s a small window as the temperatures creep back up on Sunday.  There will be a rain/snow mix on Thursday night into Friday.

New York

In the Adirondacks, Ian Osteyee of Adirondack Mountain Guides reports: “No real ice yet. There have been lines of thin ice forming on all the usual suspects, but nothing that has survived the warm days. After tomorrow the temps will drop and I think we’ll see our first real ice to climb next week.”  Once things get going, look out for Ian’s Condition reports here!

Jesse and Emilie, owners of Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides in the Adirondacks, just got back into town and are getting ready for the winter.  Driving through Cascade Pass with temperatures in the mid 40’s on Monday didn’t raise many hopes, but it appears the early season skiers are enjoying some turns already on the Mt. Whiteface Toll Road.

While you are chomping at the bit up in New York, you can pass the time reading a recent interview in this fun article, Ladies we Love, about mountain guide Emilie Drinkwater.

For a look at the current weather, the Mountaineers Web Cam in Keene Valley will let you know if it is snowing or raining.

 What to expect for this weekend:

gothcis

Gothics North Face on October 30, 2013. Photo by Emilie Drinkwater

While the forecast in the valleys and passes will be similar to that of Smugglers Notch, the higher summits are looking at temperatures below freezing starting on Wednesday night and precipitation will fall as snow.  So while the chances at Cascade Pass and Chapel Pond might be grim, the climbs in the backcountry alpine areas could be promising!

– For some more early-season stoke and thoughts on ice climbing,  see these articles on early season ice.

Get out and explore!  You never know what you might find!  And whatever you do find, tell us about it here on NEice!

 

~Courtney Ley

More Power!


WooKong 3.0

Meet WooKong 3.0

The Beast of the NEice Fleet – Built to meet the demands of flying, photographing and filming in the winter weather of the Northeast.

After two winters of  building, flying and filming with RC helicopters, I have learned a lot and had a ton of fun.  But, it wasn’t enough, I needed more. I needed a better machine to complete my dream. I realized first I needed a better camera. The Gopros are light and very durable and have served us well, but they have many shortfalls. The lens is too wide. It leaves climbers looking like they are a mile away unless the drone is right on top of them. The camera is also not good in variable lighting conditions.  It can’t handle fast changing or low light, where the only settings you have for creativity and enhancement is ‘ON!’  Here is where the Sony NEX-5N is far better.

“I needed a better machine to complete my dream”

Wookong-Camara

 

The Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP

This new camera is great. It gives DSLR quality still images up to 10 fps. When it comes to video, it pulls in full AVCHD at 60p with a 16.1 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor.  A Sony E-mount 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 lens rounds out this camera set-up providing NEIce with the lightest DSLR quality camera you can put in the air.  I can now point the camera up or down, rotate it, take a photo and turn on and off the video, seeing it all from my radio controller. Finally, I feel like I can properly film the action I have been dreaming of. The difference in quality still amazes me!

Last year we just turned the GoPro on, sent it up and hoped for the best. Courtney Ley, who edits footage for us, will be excited this year. With the remote I can activate video recording whenever I want to start and end, eliminating all the takeoffs, landings and other useless footage, saving her hours of editing time in front of the computer.

The still images are just as exciting, with the cameras’ ability to shoot RAW and  JPEG Fine files simultaneously. Plus, good photos require good glass. I now have many options with the wide variety of Sony E-mount lenses available.

But, getting the new camera also meant I now needed a bigger helicopter to lift it.  Putting all I have learned into this new build, I considered many factors in the new design – wind, power, reliability and flight time. The machine is a dream to fly and fulfills everything I have been looking for, lifting the Sony Nex5N with ease. In the past, wind was one of the biggest problems we encountered at the crags while filming.  I have flown the new WooKong in 25+ mph winds without a problem. You can see this was not the case with early models as this footage in Huntington Ravine reveals.

With eight motors spread out above the Sony, I now have reliability and lift. I can lose an engine without crashing dramatically into the ice and hemlock.  As entertaining as it might be to watch,  it’s usually not ideal footage. Many pilots flying Octocopters report not knowing that an engine was out till they land. As the gear and cameras get more costly, redundancy and backup of critical components becomes more important.

Now that I had the increased power I wanted, came the need for bigger batteries. I decided to invest in three 16,000 mAh batteries ($250 ea) that will give our bird 10 minutes of flight per power pack – twice as long as Wookong 2.0.  That’s plenty of time to film what I want and …believe me, when flying in the cold and snow, 10 minutes can seem like an eternity.

Wookong---Monitor

The Black Pearl 7″ High Definition LCD Screen

Last year, I found the goggles were too restrictive and hindered my ability to keep the helicopter safe and out of trouble. So, with the new rig on the flight pad, a new way of keeping connected with what was going on in the air was needed.  A new high definition monitor is my dashboard and the OSD (on screen display) system gives me vital feed back, such as height, speed, rate of rise and descent.  That’s right, now I can compose the photos and video from the ground, and still keep an eye on the conditions around me. I can also double-check the camera information to make sure I am shooting with the right settings.

Since it first lifted off early this summer, I have logged over 100 flights with WooKong 3.0. Posted below are a few photos I have taken during tuning and testing.  The photos and video just keep getting better with more training flights. I am light years ahead of where I started two years ago with smoother video and sharper stills.  I can’t wait to start filming winter and ice climbing  in the Northeast and bringing it to you here at NEIce.com.  UP!

Octo Twin Mt Alden

Testing at Twin Mt. – Photo by Alden Pellett

Work in progress: I am configuring a new gimbal that will have different settings for different lenses and a finer resolution. New Gimbal


WooKong 3.0 – Some Test Photos

*Click photos to enlarge.

~Doug Millen


Orange is the New Rack

NEIce_gearreview_wide655x440

NEice Gear Review for 2014/2015

The cool gusts of Autumn are blowing in, scattering a kaleidoscope of leaves. The first snow flurries of a new season sift down through the mountain air.  Rock climbing seems a mere distraction now as the cold seeps into numb fingertips trickling down to chilled toes, hinting at what will soon arrive – the ice is coming. Eagerly, we await that first good thunk of our favorite ice tool sinking into soft early season ice. The thought of it, harkens up a familiar sensation of security and the satisfaction that comes from knowing you couldn’t fall from the steep blue ice at that moment.

“We await that first good thunk of our favorite ice tool sinking into soft early season ice.”

As memories like these bring on the promise of new adventure, we pull dusty gear out of the dark closet depths and sort and re-sort it all. Tool picks are sharpened. Ice screws inspected in a pre-season ritual.

simond chacal ice climbing tool

An earlier straight-shaft model ice climbing tool.

Our minds wander back over the years of ice climbing, maybe to our earliest terror-filled winters bashing a line up a route too hard for us, almost certain that death lay just a little higher. So, illogically, we just swung harder and gripped tighter.

Over 20 years ago, on one of my first stout leads at Lake Willoughby in northern Vermont, I nearly lost an arm placing a screw.  Untested ambition had put me there, high on the grade 5 crux, my stomach flipping with a lurch from the fear and overexertion. I tightened the twist leash on my left hand one more turn, cutting off more vital circulation, and using a tool pick in my right, turn the tube threads further into the ice. The fearful sound of that screw screeched in my ears as it resisted the effort. Burning up too much energy, I quit before it was even close to safe. I clipped the hanger and sucked in a frigid measured breath of partial relief and leaned my forehead against the ice, still too proud and scared to take on the rope.  There I was, filled with aching terror when fresh powder lay on the easy slopes in the next town over, just a cozy lift ride away. But, I kept going back for more of that fear. Exactly why, I can’t tell you. But, with experience, it improves. With time, the joy overtakes the fear. Things change. Life changes.

 

Huntington Ravine ice climbing photo

NEice member Rockytop in the mid-90’s on Mt. Washington, running around Huntington Ravine with straight-shaft tools, twist-leashes, plastic boots…and yes, that’s a mullet hairdo.

Along with us, the gear changes too. It was nearly 20 years ago, Grivel purposefully bent the shaft of their latest ice tools – giving us the Machine and essentially taking one whole grade of difficulty off the routes. A few years later, Beal gave us lighter, skinnier ropes – their Ice Lines. Our clothes got lighter, warmer, better. Ice screws actually went in like rock gear – fast. Leashes got quicker, then disappeared with Petzl’s Ergo tool, and have sort of come back again as tethers. This sport is now much easier and safer. Even without our training harder, technology has made us faster. Yes, death is still waiting, only a fool would deny it, but now I can smile at yesterday’s memories and fear no longer fills me while I’m walking up to that same steep route at Willoughby.

“Even without our training harder, technology has made us faster.”

As this season arrives, and you finish another set of pull-ups… maybe you’re dragging a file across the worn pick of your old ice tool, and perhaps you can’t help but wonder – will a new change in gear eclipse all that hard training? Only you will know really…all your training and preparation could take a back seat to that new piece of equipment that just clicks with your climbing style. Now you flow with it, as you start up a steep column, swinging smoothly. The tool thunking firmly in soft ice, again and again, and suddenly you’re at the top of that serious line you always dreamt of leading and you smile clipping into the anchor. The game has just changed for you…and life is even better.

 

THE GEAR

There’s nothing worse than bad gear –  It’s too heavy, it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t do what you want it to, or worse yet, it breaks and leaves you stranded.  There’s a lot of really good gear out there nowadays so it’s tough to pick out the best of the best.  Starting out on our first real gear review, we decided to mostly look at what’s new or nearly new this season.  We gave up some precious climbing time to delve into the real meat and potatoes items of the sport, checking out the latest in tools, crampons, ice screws, jackets, harnesses and gloves. The more we looked, the more we realized, a lot of it is orange (or most of it is available in caution-type colors anyway) Thus our headline, a play on the TV series, Orange is the New Black.  So, go forth with the colors of caution, maybe whether you like it or not.

 

TOOLS

CAMP X-Light Alpine Tool

The new CAMP X-Light Alpine Tool

 

CAMP X-Light  (new)  –  $199.99   A superlight and versatile tool for the technical alpinist, with a hot-forged aluminum alloy head that allows for multiple set-ups.  The removable X-Alp grip has a soft hand for good grip and can be swapped out with the X-Dry grip.

Petzl Summit EVO – Due out January 2015.   This tool should find a similar niche to the CAMP X-Light.

Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tool (new) – $259.99  A high-performance, all-around cragging tool that’s at home on steep ice and overhanging rock. BD says the Fuel is the quiver of one for the modern winter climber.

Grivel Tech Machine (new) – $249.95   A nice technical tool for mixed and big steep ice. The new round clip hole in the head makes it easy to clip on and off your harness. The Tech Machine comes with their Ice Blade (3mm tip) but it also takes an optional mixed pick for more extreme drytooling.

 

 

TECHNICAL CRAMPONS

There are some great standby ‘poons’ that hardmen and hardwomen of the Northeast have been crushing with over the past few years (Grivel C4, Petzl Lynx &  Dart, BD’s Stinger) so not too much has changed recently or dramatically other than CAMP’s new setup.

Camp Blade Runner Crampon

The business end of CAMP’s new Blade Runner crampon.

 

CAMP Blade Runner - $349.95  Not really new to start this season but when these crampons came out late last season, they were making quite a splash during the ice festivals in the Northeast.  CAMP athlete Ian Osteyee put up a new severe test-piece at Poke-O Moonshine with them last winter. Yup, they’re pricey, but hey, so is a good single-malt.

 

 

 

 

ICE SCREWS

Petzl Laser Speed Light Ice Screws

Petzl’s new Laser Speed Light ice screw. Be careful where you point your lasers.

 

Petzl Laser Speed Light – $74.95  If light is right, these just might be the screws for you. The speed light is an ultra-light screw with aluminum tube, an ideal weight-cutting tool for mountaineering. These screws seem to start as easy as the BD Express screws that are very popular.   The folding crank works well and folds away reasonably quickly, perhaps not as easy as one might prefer. Hey, we’re spoiled compared to 20 years ago.  Durability over the long-haul of hard climbing use through multiple seasons remains to be seen. They’re pricier than regular weight screws but several long-time NEIcers admit they’re going to add at least a handful of these to their racks.

 

 

 

 

 

JACKETS

New materials continue to improve the outerwear available for ice climbers on the move. A number of companies have come out with softshell tops that work great for keeping the sweat from building up too much and keep you cruising with one of the new wool-blend layers underneath and a belay jacket over them in harsher conditions.

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell - $349.00  A minimalistic softshell jacket, the Dawn Patrol LT Shell uses Schoeller® stretch-woven softshell fabric to handle the demands of fast-and-light alpine climbs.

Mammut Nordpfeiler (men’s and women’s) – $350    This has a new WINDSTOPPER® fabric. more breathable and stretchier with pit zips for added cooling.  This is a prime GORE® WINDSTOPPER® jacket for high alpine use, offering high abrasion resistance and good stretch, ideal for colder conditions and as a second layer. This is not an insulative jacket so you’ll want to choose the right layer to go underneath depending on conditions.

Mammut Morangun Jacket (new features)- $425    Mammut has given this a more durable surface fabric than before with the combination of a 2-layer GORE-TEX® face fabric and the proven OTI™ Element synthetic fiber filling. It is waterproof and excellent in cold temperatures.

Outdoor Research Clairvoyant (women’s model) – $324.95  Streamlined, durable and functional, the Clairvoyant is built for high-alpine climbing epics and aerobic backcountry tours. And unlike many waterproof shells, the polyester face fabric is soft, supple and quiet, yet easily repels unpleasant weather during all-out adventures.

Mountain Hardware Quasar Jacket – $400  A waterproof 3-layer shell is designed to be as compact and efficient as it is hardworking. Dry.Q™ Elite technology starts expelling excess heat and vapor right away for nearly instant breathability. A sleeker fit than most jackets.

 

GLOVES

Caution Man Climbs Again! Special thanks to Julbo, Mammut, Petzl, CAMP, and the Outdoor Gear Exchange for helping bring together gear and lots of orange stuff for the review and a fun NEIce photo shoot. Thanks to AMGA guide Tim Farr for his modeling services.

Caution Man Climbs Again! Special thanks to Julbo, Mammut, Petzl, CAMP, and the Outdoor Gear Exchange for helping bring together gear and lots of orange stuff for the review and a fun NEIce photo shoot. Thanks to AMGA guide Tim Farr for his modeling services.

For some of us, this is the business end of modern ice climbing. If your hands are frozen or you can’t feel the tool, you’re already half-finished. Most experienced climbers bring two or three pairs in their craggin’ packs. These are a few of what’s new on the scene.

Black Diamond Torque Glove - $59.95  A performance softshell glove with a tricot lining. BD says this model was built for high-end mixed climbing and drytooling, featuring a super-sticky palm and low-profile construction for unmatched grip and dexterity.

Black Diamond Punisher (women’s version) – $99.95  The company’s classic ice climbing glove but with a different fit for women. Maintains the  pre-curved construction with articulated fingers with a waterproof breathable BDry™ insert and EVA padded knuckles so you can still wrap your hand around a cold beer at the end of the day.

CAMP GeKO Light - $99.95  A nice leather-palmed technical glove for mixed climbing and warmer days on the ice.  The model forgoes insulation in the palm for better grip but offers a thin 4 oz Primaloft® insulation on the main body combined with box construction using durable and water resistant polyester fabrics for a precise and snug fit.

CAMP GeKO Hot Dry - $109.95   This medium-weight glove is a new upgraded version of their best selling G Hot featuring a Hipora® waterproof/breathable membrane for extra protection in wet conditions.  The palm and fingers feature their Grip’R technology to help with holding power and durability.

 

 

HARNESSES

CAMP Air CR - $84.95   If you’re looking to slim down, CAMP says it used the same lightweight design on the AIR CR model as the Air harness but added adjustable leg loops. Constructed from 2mm perforated EVA foam attached using edge-load construction to soft polyester mesh on the interior and durable nylon mesh on the exterior. The Air CR seems a good bet for any kind of fast and light climbing endeavors including advanced alpinism and ice climbing with two slots to accommodate clippers or carabiners for racking your tools.

Petzl Hirundos – Due out January 2015.  A lightweight high-end model, which the company says is ideal for sport and alpine climbing. Also features two slots for the Petzl Caritool holders for racking your ice tools.

REVIEW

First Impressions – Camp Air CR Harness:  October 13, 2014. AMGA member and guide Tim Farr - “The Camp Air CR Harness is light, real light. Previous experience with past harnesses in this category had me expecting an uncomfortable and hip-bruising fit for anything but an un-weighted stance. But the Camp Air CR Harness is comfy. Proving that an ultra-light harness doesn’t need to sacrifice comfort for weight. On long rock routes with hanging belays and lots of rappelling, I haven’t even thought twice about the fit except for in amazement for the surprising level of comfort. While this harness obviously doesn’t have the comforts of a marketed big wall harness, I still found myself grabbing for the Camp Air CR over my beefier all-a-rounder for just about everything. The three auto locking buckles, comfortable leg-loops and four good-sized gear loops on the Camp Air CR offer plenty of climb-ability and durability for everyone from the crag dweller to the weight conscious alpinist. Its light, packs small, has enough room for a large traditional rack and doesn’t restrict your freedom of movement.  From long rock routes on Cannon Cliff to cragging 5 minutes from the car, the Camp Air CR delivers. While the ice and mixed season hasn’t quit started here in the Northeast, I’m expecting the Camp Air CR harness to shine simply based on my experience testing it this summer.”

BOOTS

So many good boots out there to choose from! We should all feel lucky.  But, sometimes there’s always room for improvement.  We felt adding a custom liner, like Superfeet, could help improve the performance fit of all these boots.  Hey, they’re your feet, do what feels good!

LaSportiva Nepal Cube GTX - $575     LaSportiva says it’s a technical, warm, lightweight mountaineering boot with state of the art technology for mixed climbing terrain. If you’re a fan of their Nepal Tops, these are lighter but with a more flexible ankle. meaning less support but more mobility for technical climbing. It also comes with removable additional tongue padding for an adjustable fit under the upper lacing.

Mammut Nordwand High GTX - $595    Mammut says this double-insulated carbon insole full-gaiter boot is the lightest in it’s category. A double GORE-TEX construction in the inner shoe and on the gaiter provides plenty of protection for moisture regulation and water resistance. We found the built-in gaiter has more room to go over pants than the Scarpa Phantom Guide, if that’s how you roll.

Scarpa Phantom Guide - $599.00   Scarpa says it’s got the same materials and construction as their Himalayan boot, the Phantom 8000, for more warmth for extreme environments, but with the added sensitivity of a slimmed-down full-gaiter boot. One of our testers said this had a bit more room toward the front for wider feet.

Trango Extreme EVO Light GTX - $420   All synthetic, waterproof and insulated. The silver lining, so to speak, of this boot is a lightweight, warm technical mountain boot for ice climbing, plus the performance for mixed climbing and cold weather alpine goals.

 

ROPES

Stay tuned for a gear review on ropes. Get the skinny on the phattest alpine cords – Coming soon!

orange_mammut_rope_websz2_1024

Do you like your ropes fat or skinny?

 

BITS & PIECES (Some new and some favorites)

Black Diamond Peter Beanie (new) – $25   No, it’s not for your Johnson but we can’t help but snicker at the name a little. This double-layer beanie is for super-cold days. and ‘Yes’, it’s available in orange.

Mammut Nano 8 (new) – $14   Not for your everyday ice climbing outing but a very lightweight (and orange) rappel device that pairs well with their new 60M 6mm static rap line for going light on that solo climb and descent or for getting down past that gnarly section while ski mountaineering.

CAMP X-Dream Ice Tool- $279.99

Petzl Nomic Ice Tool – $299.99

Black Diamond Arc glove – $69.99 This is one sticky palmed light-to-mid-weight glove that performs great. Like a lot of grippy gloves, don’t rappel down with them, you’ll wear them out too fast.

Mammut Guide Work Glove – $109.99  A warmer leather glove for use when that light grippy glove doesn’t cut it but the big bulky ones are too much. The company says it’s ideally suited for mountain guides, patrollers, lift staff and everyone who works regularly outdoors.

Julbo Cortina sunglasses- $70.00 If you’re looking for a rad pair of orange retro 80’s-style sunglasses like on our model – they have Matte Orange.

 


 

Chronicles of the Overly Motivated

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Mud and fall leaves typically found on the boots of the overly motivated

By Courtney Ley

I’ve been inflicted by a disease.  It leaves my muscles constantly sore, my body screaming for sleep and my family and friends worried about my mental stability.   I become antsy and unable to sit idle for too long. I prefer the trunk of my car to my soft bed and prefer pre-dawn hours to high noon. The worst of the symptoms seem to arrive in late fall when the cold begins to settle in.

“All I need is a few cold nights and my mind begins the activation process”

 It’s not too far off to say that I become inflicted with an energetic state similar to what most animals succumb to during mating season.  In summary, ‘Out of my way! I’m fit and ready to get some.’   My doctors say that certain tendencies can increase my symptoms exponentially. Such as, the habit of thinking positively – all the time. Well, I am doomed for the foreseeable future, so I thought it best to reach out to others who have similar diagnoses.

All I need is a few cold nights and my mind begins the activation process.  Like a slideshow stuck in fast forward, images appear and disappear in front of my eyes. The darkening skies, howling wind, freezing fog, ice crystals forming and snow falling.  Then dawn breaks and that yellow ball strikes that crisp blue sky with intensity but no warmth manages to penetrate the atmosphere. The mountains hold on to the cold of the night, despite the light revealing their sharp ridges and smooth valleys.  When the temperature drops, I find myself on the move.

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May Ice. Why Not?

Sometimes this behavior is rewarded.  When it comes, it feels sweeter than anything you’ve had before. Late last season in May, I hiked into Huntington Ravine accompanied by a friend with a similar ailment. We were pretty damn positive there would still be ice to climb, even if it took climbing a few hundred feet of wet rock and precariously placed vegetation to reach it…and it did.  I had a grin on my face for the entire 80 feet of ice.  Yes, that was it, 80 feet. We were motivated to savor the last licks and it was worth it.  But for the afflicted, the most delicious reward is that first ice of the season. And for me, this comes early, just as the last ice had come late.

Sometimes though, your plate comes up empty.  That doesn’t deter the overly motivated, however. We only get hungrier.  This past Sunday, with my usual high hopes, I packed my gear the distance into the rocky depths of King Ravine.  Sitting on the north side of the mountain, the shade lingers.  This Halloween weekend, however, I didn’t need the shade as a low cloud bank parked itself above the summits.  With those clouds also came hurricane force winds.  Even better, I thought. It’ll freeze any water molecule that decides to visit the alpine arena.  My mind envisioned the drainage of Great Gully just frozen enough.  The slideshow of winter images played themselves out in front of my eyes as I started the approach.  Water slowing, ice crystals forming and snow falling.   Right away I noticed winter had greeted the mountains.  Snow clung tenaciously to the tree branches.  Further up, it hid the withered and wrinkled fall leaves.  Even higher still, the white crystals coated the cool rocks. By the time I hit the ravine, I was negotiating the boulder strewn floor with an inch of snow blanketing everything.  I was fully in the grips of my disease.

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The cloud bank settles in low.

Being overly motivated and yes, overly positive has many advantages, in my opinion.  I travel miles in beautiful woods before most people had even woken up.  I am able to spend time alone in the mountains.  Really alone without encountering any others.  Whether it be the time of day (or night), or the place I’m in for that time of year, I can be in the mountains with only myself or the people I choose to accompany me. When I’m walking up the trail on those approaches during early season, my surroundings seem quieter and I feel more meditative.  My mind clears itself of distractions without any effort on my part and my focus is simply on my breathing and my immediate surroundings in that moment.  The wind up high snakes its way through the stunted alpine spruce and produces a sound not unlike a distant river.   I linger blissfully in the idea that few had thought to see of there is ice there to climb and fewer still were motivated enough to trek that far.  When the walls of the ravine rise on either side of me, I feel small and humbled against the forces that created the mountains so long ago and the forces that are presently making themselves known. The wind, the cold air and the rough terrain.

Of course, the best prize of all is capturing the ice you’ve been hunting for.  On this day however, I stood in the half-frozen drainage looking at slush on top of running water.  Damn!  What was it?  Was there more water flowing this year than last?  Were the clouds blanketing the ravine and keeping it warmer than usual?  It was clear that the few cold nights just weren’t frigid enough.  In the end, the disappointment was brief as the morning had been sublime.  I made my way back down the trail and the air of late morning fought off the chill.  The ground radiated heat and melted the snow off the leaves along the path. I returned to my car having enjoyed the morning, but a deep rumble in my empty stomach would urge me back to the mountains soon.

No dice

No dice

Ok, maybe I am guilty of being too positive about the conditions.  But I’ll allow my disease to take over and I’ll allow my friends and family to call me crazy.  My body was glad for the sleep that night and my muscles were feeling the hours of climbing over giant slippery boulders.  Soon my episodes will become more frequent until I can get a few millimeters of metal into some thin ice.  And from that moment of hitting rock bottom with my malady, I’ll realize that from there, I’m only going UP.


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