Wednesday, April 13, 2016

AAC Universal Belay Standard

The AAC (American Alpine Club) released this video "AAC Universal Belay Standard". I'm a "Shuffle" belayer, but when I used this technique in a gym couple years ago, one of the staff members approached me and told me that I wasn't allowed to belay that way. I'm so glad to see that now its accepted!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Private Lead Ice Climbing Lesson - Day 2

first ice lead, lesson, thresher, cathedral ledge
On the sharp end! Thresher (WI3)
Cathedral Ledge, NH

Today I had my second private lesson with Alexa Siegel of Cathedral Mountain Guides. We headed out to Cathedral Ledge for the day. It was warm and we didn't know if it would be good for me to start leading, but there were cold temps for several nights providing some good enough ice. So when we got there, we found that the conditions of the ice were ideal for learning to lead. I had good sticks and feet all day! I ended up leading two easy short routes at Cathedral; the North End slab (WI2) & Thresher (WI3).

At the North End Pillars I did a warm up climb on top rope, then a mock lead climb on top rope. On my warm-up climb I got to try out Alexa's Nomic Ice Tools and they were definitely aggressive and weighed differently from my Quarks. She also had pick weights on her tools. Following my warm-ups, I got a lesson in building an anchor with one ice screw and a v-thread.


After a quick snack and a lesson about "Harness Organization", we were off to the nearby North End Slab (WI2) to do my first lead. We turned the climb into a 2-pitch climb so I could lead, bring Alexa up and swap leads to finish. 

Leading up the North End Slab

My anchor. Oops, that rope is supposed to be in the right side of my belay device! I did have a bit of trouble with the v-thread.  At first, the two holes didn't quiet match up - the right side was just a wee bit higher than the left. After several unsuccessful attempts to thread it, I realized I should just take that extra 30 seconds and re-do the hole. Sure enough it worked. Alexa said I shouldn't rush. Also, once I clove-hitch into my anchor, I should let my second know that I'm "off belay".... forgot to do this on both my leads and kept Alexa waiting on my belay.

Happy lead!

Coming up on the second pitch

Hauling & Lowering
After our lunch, Alexa set up an anchor on a nearby tree and we went over more skills sets. We went over Lowering and Hauling again, but this time I really had to lower and then haul her up. Alexa set up an anchor onto one of the trees and we both tied in. We were on an incline and I had to lower her and then haul her up. And Alexa didn’t let up either….she put all of her weight onto the rope and made me haul her – it was a lot of work, even for just a couple of feet!

I have never liked extending my rappels and always attached my “third hand” to my leg loop. But Alexa said that setup allowed for possible tipping if stopped suddenly. And it was also possible for the leg loop to come undone. I learned how to extend my rappel with a Nylon (not Dynema) tether, and to connect my “third hand” onto my belay loop - especially handy/quick for multi-pitch raps. 

I got onto Thresher (WI3) for my second lead. By that time of the day there was so much water running. Alexa advised me to place a second piece of pro as high up and directly above my first piece of pro. If the ice is questionable, back up the first piece of pro in case it fails. I continued on and placed my 3rd piece of pro just below the bulge. Once over the bulge and on the ledge, I brushed away the snow looking to place another piece of pro, but all the ice underneath was baked. So I ended up running it out and set up an anchor on the tree in the back. Then I brought Alexa up, and we both rapped down. Such a mellow day of learning and climbing!

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

New Gear
On my last lesson I got the op to try out some OR gloves. Using the discount Alexa gave me, I purchased a pair of OR Women's Stormsensor Gloves which I received in time to use them in today's lesson. They are fabulous! They fit well, I don't have to remove them when using my iPhone, they are the perfect "lead gloves"! I also bought a Sterling Hollow Block 6.8mm to use in place of my Prussik cord. Faster for setting up Autoblocks for rapping, hauling and lowering! Yup! 

V-Thread Tool
I also bought a new v-thread tool. Practicing threading the cordllette made me realize that the Candela v-thread tool wasn't for me. It couldn't catch the cordlette like the one that Alexa had. Her's had a pointy hook on it and catching just one thread on the cordlette was enough to pull it through to set up the v-thread. So I ended up getting the Cassin Scoprio V-Thread Tool. 

I don't know what I don't know
Which is why I took private lessons from a AMGA Guide for learning how to lead ice. I learned a lot in my two days of lessons with Alexa - she was patient, positive and clearly loves to teach! There was no "winging it".... I was confident that not only would I learn the skills necessary in order to lead, but learn the most current skills used in the industry. Alexa's services as a guide are invaluable and the one-on-one professional instruction was perfect for me. Not once did I feel overwhelmed, afraid or unsafe. I was indeed nervous when it came time to actually lead, but it was partly because I really wanted to do well at leading and hoping I wouldn't forget anything.

Like my first Private Lead Ice climbing lesson, I also got an outline of everything that was covered so that I can practice the new skills.

Thank you Alexa for an awesome two days of lessons, it was fun and gratifying to learn new skills for ice climbing. These private lessons were a milestone for me. I have been ice climbing for 5 years and seconding (both ice & rock) for 3 years. I wanted to be a "strong second" before learning to lead ice. And a final thanks to my husband for his love and support - these private lead ice climbing lessons were his Christmas (2015) gift to me!

Alexa Siegel works year round as a climbing guide for Cathedral Mountain Guides, Mooney Mountain Guides, The White Mountain Climbing Camp and The Kismet Rock Foundation. Along with Janet Wilkinson, Alexa started a Ladies Only Climbing Series with Cathedral Mountain Guides teaching women of all abilities ice climbing and mountaineering skills. She is a grassroots athlete for Outdoor Research and a member of Mountain Rescue Service.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Railroad Cut, NH – Ice Climbing

ice climbing, RR, The Cut, Keene, NH AMC-NH

Railroad Cut
SW4-Cheshire North Rail Trail
Keene, NH
AMC-NH Mountaineering

Got to work on my climbing technique and also do some mock leading. Joined Tom Sintros and Ben Greene of the AMC-NH Mountaineering group to do some laps on lots of vertical ice at The RR Cut in Keene, NH! At one point there were two dozen climbers and a dozen ropes set up for 5 hours of climbing. Great to see many old climbing buddies, also met many new folks! Just a few photos taken by Cristina and I - I managed to get in 12 laps so not many photos taken. Thanks Jason (aka Mtn Man) and Dave for the belays! And Mahalo nui loa to Tom and Ben for the great day! :) 

A bit of mock leading

"Even us New England ice climbers love Island Princess chocolates!"
says Tom Sintros.
island princess, hawaiian, chocolate, ice climbing

Michelle kicking it to the top!

Sticks and ice...endless fun day for cute pup, Roscoe!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Frankenstein Cliffs - Ice Climbing

Frankenstein cliffs, crawford notch, ice climbing

Frankenstein Cliffs
Lost In The Forest
Crawford Notch, NH

Hero ice is better than no ice! 

My buddy Geoff is a leader with the AMC Berkshire and organized an ice climb for today. We met up in the upper parking lot of the Arethusa Falls trailhead along with Steve, John, Dane, Toby and Graham. The day before NEClimb posted ice conditions which were very promising, so I was counting on getting in some laps! We hiked across the trestle and stopped to read the ice at the slab area - so thin in most parts and baked as well. So we continued down the tracks until we got to the bottom of Lost In The Forest. There were only two parties of 2 already climbing so we made our way up. To the left of Lost was a lower angle slab so one rope was set up and used for warming up, the other 3 ropes were set up on Lost. The rest of the day was pretty mellow with the 7 of us climbing. There was lots of fat ice, but it was soft and easy for the tools and kicks. It made it easy for me to practice my climbing technique that I learned during my lesson from Alexa the week before. Don’t know how much more of a winter we’ll have left. But sure am glad to get in as much climbing as I can! It was a great day for climbing hero ice! Enjoy a few photos taken of our day at FC! And thanks for the belays Steve!!! :)

Low angle slab to the left of Lost

Geoff with Graham on his belay

Graham and Toby

Dane and John

Toby taking a break on the rock behind me

Steep stuff to the right is really fun
John with Toby on his belay

Steve on the steep (short but sweet) stuff!

At the end of the day we rapped down to the tracks
Toby with Steve on his belay

On our way out, we came across Alexa Siegel & my buddy Laurie! 
Laurie was taking the 2-day, Ladies-Only Steep Ice Climbing workshop
through Cathedral Mountain Guides.  She was rocking the steep stuff!
cathedral mountain guides, alexa siegel

Friday, February 19, 2016

Private Lead Ice Climbing Lesson - Day 1

Crawford notch, ice climbing, trestle

A "technical" day on ice today! My lesson with Alexa Siegel of Cathedral Mountain Guides today was fantastic!! We spent the day at the "Slabs" area of Frankenstein Cliffs, an the area just past the trestle working on skills for leading ice. Alexa understood from the get-go what my goals were and what I wanted out of my private lesson with her. I wanted to learn new ice climbing skills such as leading ice and we covered everything on my list! I got to try out some Outdoor Research gloves...I really liked the OR Stormtracker gloves for leading! And I got an outline of what we covered in my lesson so I can practice these new skills every day. Thank you so much Alexa for an amazing lesson! Didn't get very many photos, just a few....

Learned how to read ice!
candling, baked, delaminated

Practiced placing pro with both my left and right hands

Also built anchors, learned to belaying a second as well as haul/lower a second. Went over Rope management at the belay station, Swing leads and Building V-threads.

I also did some mock leading, and my climbing technique
 was honed as both a follower and as a lead climber. 

At our lunch break, we got a little visitor. He isn't at all shy! He was trying to get into Alexa's backpack. He has probably been hand-fed.

At the end of the day I got some cool stuffs - couple
CMG posters, a cute pink beanie cap and a camp knife.
Put both posters in a frame and hung it up in my gear room/office.
ice climbing lessons

We couldn't cover everything in one day, so I've signed up for a second day with Alexa. Read here about my Day 2 of Private Lead Ice Climbing Lessons.

Alexa Siegel works year round as a climbing guide for Cathedral Mountain Guides, Mooney Mountain Guides, The White Mountain Climbing Camp and The Kismet Rock Foundation. Along with Janet Wilkinson, Alexa started a Ladies Only Climbing Series with Cathedral Mountain Guides teaching women of all abilities ice climbing and mountaineering skills. She is a grassroots athlete for Outdoor Research and a member of Mountain Rescue Service.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Railroad Cut, NH – Ice Climbing

cut, rr, keene, ice climbing, low temps, frigid cold

Railroad Cut – Ice Climbing
SW4-Cheshire North Rail Trail
Keene, NH

So here we go again....another single digit day, but the addiction is strong and I couldn’t resist, yet again! Was supposed to be climbing the Auburn Ice Canyon but that got cancelled because the floor wasn't hard enough and there was only one flow up compared to the 4 we climbed on two weeks ago. So Kevin and I drove up to Keene, meeting Jeff on the way. Nuno and his son David was in the parking lot when we pulled in. Later George Adams came by and climbed with us. The low temps were really tough on my asthma and breathing. It went from 13 to 7 degrees in 3 hours. Plus, The Cut is like a wind tunnel and as the temps dropped, it got harder for me to climb. At the end of our day I felt exhausted, like I had felt when I hiked to Lion's Head the weekend before. But my exhaustion was due to the low temps. I did get in 4 climbs but could only finish the first two, my hands were so cold. Just a few photos of our day at “The RR Cut”.

Jeff checking out the climbs
Climbs are in, but it's gonna be brutal!

Jeff gearing up

Nuno setting up

Jeff up top, Kevin & George looking on


Nuno with David on is belay



Jeff did a fine job on this flow but near the top, lost his right crampon

Kevin and I's too cold to smile!


George leading some real nice, thin stuff!