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Archive for the ‘UP’ 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

 

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


White Mountains and the Catskills – New Video Footage!

During the Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest and the Catskills Ice Festival, the NEice helicopter, ARDU, took the air to capture the some footage.  We are excited at Year Two of this project to be able to fly longer, farther and higher than ever before.  Our model ARDU, which was designed and built from scratch is flying very well and reliably.  Doug has become an excellent pilot.  He has practiced all summer and it shows. We’ve been able to get very stable footage from smoother flights.  Here is what we captured in New Hampshire at Cathedral Ledge and Frankenstein.


The next task was to find a camera with better quality for long range, as well as something with a better zoom.  The GoPro has worked well as far as being a small, lightweight camera but since it’s designed as a helmet cam, the wide angle and lack of clarity for distance shots is less than desirable.  After the New Hampshire festival, we added a Sony Handycam to our tools, it reduced the ‘fish-eye’ affect of the wide angle lens and allowed us to get the closer shots we were looking for.  Here is some footage we captured in the Catskills during the 16th annual Ice Fest.



Now it’s time to stage some climbers on the routes for the money shots!

-By Courtney Ley

 

 

UP at Boston Rock Gym

UP at BRG7

Thanks to all who came out to check out NEice’s presentation on building, flying and filming with our radio controlled helicopter fleet!  We had a great time.

 

Here’s a few photos from the event by photographer Joel Dashnaw.

The UP Footage: First Takes

It all started one night just this past October over a couple of beers. We looked at the ‘Mammut 150 Years Peak Project: Trango Towers’ video which used radio control helicopters to capture amazing aerial climbing footage. After the two-minute video was over, Doug looked at me and said, “Hey, we can do that!” If it had been anyone else, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it. But it was Doug Millen, and a short two months later, we were taking his first custom built helicopter out for its first test flight.

It has been nothing short of a journey getting to where we are right now. It started off by learning how to build them and then to fly them. If that wasn’t enough challenge, we ran into seemingly endless electronic issues, big crashes and the subsequent repairs and re-builds. Eventually we faced the inevitable video problems, worked through how to get good footage and then learning the video editing software. And we are still at the beginning of this journey because there is so much more to learn and troubleshoot. I wish there was a camera constantly rolling during these past months to film all that has happened up to this point. It has been an intense labor of love for Doug and it’s been an incredible experience being able to work with him and seeing our shared passion and vision turn into a reality.


I’d like to present the film we showed at the Adirondack Mountainfest and the Vermont Smugglers Ice Bash in a new edited format to everyone who is a part of NEice. I hope you enjoy a collection of the very First Takes!

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of making the UP Project such a fun experience so far and to Luke Cushman, Chuck Drew, Adam E. and all the climbers that let us buzz by.

-Courtney Ley

 

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