Sunday, March 29, 2015

Drone Camera - Standard Route - Multi pitch Ice Climbing



Standard Route  (WI3+)
Frankenstein Cliffs
Crawford Notch, NH

All last winter I had been asking him to go out ice climbing and he kept declining. So when I got Jeff B ’s email last week about ice climbing, I thought it was a joke and had to I read it several times. Jeff’s son Todd is a professional photographer/videographer and he needed some ice climbing shots/vids via GoPro Drone. http://toddjburgess.com/

I contacted Jeff S. and made sure to check the weather - Sunday was the better of the two. Originally I had chosen Cinema Gully but was told that it would be too thin. So when Frankenstein Cliffs was suggested, I choose the Standard Route because of its short approach and exposure. And I thought Todd should have no problems piloting his Drone for shots. Plus, it was “still in.” But I chose Standard Route mainly because it’s a very recognizable route at the cliffs. So Jeff S. lead both Jeff B. and I up the Standard Route. We had a perfectly beautiful day for ice climbing. The sun was out, temps warm and for the sake of the Drone camera, hardly any wind. Enjoy some photos taken of our climb.

At the tracks of the Standard Route

Gearing Up

Jeff S. on lead - 1st pitch

Jeff S. exiting the ice cave - 2nd pitch

Exiting the ice cave

Me at the 3rd belay station belaying Jeff S. up our last pitch

If we hadn’t been told that it was noisy, I would’ve thought that Todd’s Drone camera was a swarm of bees because that’s exactly what his drone sounded like. Yup, at time 0:37 our ropes are intertwined. But no worries, Jeff and I navigated around one another with no problems. It ain’t sketchy until it gets sketchy, right? :) 

Jeff S. (green jacket) on lead. With Jeff B. in dark blue jacket and me (light blue jacket & white helmet) cleaning pro. Here's the YouTube video!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Monkey Wrench & Upper Hitchcock - Spring Ice Climbing

At the base of Upper Hitchcock with Crawford Notch in the background

Left Hand Monkey Wrench (WI3)
Upper Hitchcock (WI3-)
Mount Willard
Crawford Notch, NH

Forecasts called for cloudy skies and some snow. But all that gave way to blue skies and sunshine by the time Jeff S. and I reached the base of the Hitchcock Gully. We pretty much broke trail up Lower Hitchcock, traversing right to Left Hand Monkey Wrench, then onto the base of Upper Hitchcock. It was slow going but we took our time anyways since there were only two other teams in the area climbing.

At the base of Upper Hitchcock






It was my very first time on Upper Hitchcock and it was a lot of fun, except when my calves cramped up. Attributed to, according to Jeff, dehydration and probably due to my just getting over a cold. I have had my calves ‘pumpy’ before but not so much that they cramped up. Had to have Jeff ‘take’ so I could rest.

Left: Looking down Upper Hitchcock from the Rap Station










Jeff and I at the Rap Station above Upper Hitchcock




I wanted to climb this second pitch of Upper Hitchcock. It's a short section just above the rappel station but didn’t want to take any chances with my calves cramping up again. So Jeff and I rapped the entire Hitchcock Gully, right down to the tracks.










Two weeks ago we couldn’t get onto Upper Hitchcock, but today was a different story. We had the climb all to ourselves and when we rapped down, Laura and Chris came up to check it out. They decided not to climb UH but took a couple of photos of Jeff and I before heading off towards The Cleft. 




East Face Slabs Left

I do cartwheels with Jeff's rope and he ends up untangling them. ;D

Jeff rapping down the Lower Hitchcock Gully. 
He stopped at this section to check out a piece of fixed pro.


It got warmer as the day went on and the sun stayed out until we got back to the parking lot. Surely a mellow day of Spring ice climbing up the side of Mount Willard!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cinema Gully, East Face Slabs & The Cleft – Multi-pitch Ice Climbing

Cinema Gully (WI2)
East Face Slabs Left (WI3)
The Cleft (WI2+)
Mount Willard

Crawford Notch, NH
multi pitch ice climb, Mount Willard
I love when Jeff S. takes me ice climbing with him - I get to do some freaking fun climbing on a little alpine playground! Mount Willard is home to some awesome ice and alpine routes. Today I had the opportunity to climb two more of those routes and then finish off on The Cleft.

Cinema Gully(WI2)
It was cool to see a bolt at the belay station of the 1st pitch. Jeff asked if I wanted to set a belay station there or walk up a bit to a thin sheet of ice. Since it would mean one-and-a-half roped pitches, I choose the latter and Jeff and I walked up to the next belay station where the ice was full of screw holes. It was a gorgeous day…see the sun and blue skies in our photos! :)  After topping off we ascended a bit more to sit and eat our lunches and then traversed over towards the Upper Hitchcock route.

Looking up at Cinema Gully from the train tracks

Jeff and I at the 2nd belay station

Looking up at our last pitch

East Face Slabs Left (WI3)
Our intention was to climb Upper Hitchcock but there were folks already on it. So we climbed the East Face Slabs Left. I thought I was being a good second, all hero and all. I spotted Jeff’s backpack at the base of a tree and thinking we were walking off once at the top, I had the genius idea to haul it up. But when I got to Jeff at the “rap station”, I found out that we were rapping down. I wasn’t paying attention when he mentioned that we were rapping down. 

The base of the East Face Slabs Left

Jeff at the rap station of East Face Slabs Left





It wasn’t easy hauling that backpack up. I hitched one end of a sling to it and the other end to my belay loop on my harness. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. On the vertical areas of the route that backpack became “really heavy.” It was a good workout pushing up on my feet to get up the vertical sections with that backpack dangling below me! And yes, I also had my own backpack with me! **Thinking back on it, I should've just shoved Jeff's backpack into mine. LOL!









The Cleft (WI2+)
Afterwards we traversed to The Cleft which Jeff led in one pitch. The Cleft is a geological gem-of-a-feature. There was more ice and snow in this slot since the last time Jeff and I had climbed it making for an easier ascent. We topped off, packed our gear away and headed to the Mt. Willard Trail. The last 10 minutes of our hike out was done at dusk. 







Definitely a mellow day of ice climbing Mount Willard! We got 5 pitches and a little over 900 feet of climbing in, hooyah!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My First Ice Lead – Ice Climbing

Willey’s Slide Center (WI2)
Mt. Willey
Crawford Notch, NH

Super stoked! Did my first lead on ice today! The second pitch of Willey's Slide (center) with Geoff N. Didn't go too far....about 40 meters to set up an anchor on the face of a fat bulge. Placed two pieces of pro (very snowy pitch).

The approach (steep uphill) wasn’t what I was looking forward to. But once at the base of the climb, it was all but forgotten. The Slide looked different. When Sean and I were here this past January, there were hardly an rolling bulges. It was a different story today. There were rolls and rolls of ice, most of it on the left side. Geoff decided on the center of the Slide.



There was a group of 3 in front of us and Geoff and I quickly set up to come up about 20 feet to the right of them. In the meantime, a group of half dozen showed up, plus two more teams which set up on either side of us. The entire climb went on without a hitch. It was a bit chilly and few periods of sunshine, but hardly any wind. At the first belay station I stayed focus on belaying Geoff, it made me less nervous not to think about leading the 2nd pitch. 



Once at the 2nd belay station Geoff asked me if I wanted to lead the next pitch. There was no pressure to do so. In fact, he told me that I could place a few pieces of protection and lower down if I didn’t want to continue. Or I could continue to a bulge and set up our 3rd belay station. I decided to go for it. We made sure I had all the necessary gear for my lead. At first I was a bit nervous and slightly anxious. But once I left the belay station and started climbing, I was able to focus and relax. I don’t know why, but there’s something about ice climbing that always relaxes me.  

The pitch was really snowy so I didn’t have to place much protection. Two pieces to be exact….in some small bulges where I found safe stances. My ice screws went in easily - love that color-coded handle that makes it so easy to place/remove. I also made use of a couple of my Yates Screamers. At the belay station I set up 3 ice screws for anchors, clove-hitched myself into them and attached the cordelette for the Direct Belay. I didn’t know it then, but I should’ve been much lower than my belay device. It would’ve made it easier for me to take up rope. Once Geoff got up to the belay station, he gave me feedback. He demonstrated how easy it was to take up rope when well below the belay device and he critiqued my belay/anchor system. It was a good day! :)

Geoff's GoPro vid of my lead up the 2nd pitch. At time 43/44 seconds the ax slips out of my left hand and I thought to myself, "c'mon, get your butt going!" LOL!

We ended up climbing the Slide in 4 pitches. That group of 3 (guide and two students) on our left took the “good tree” for an anchor so Geoff set up anchor just slightly right of the middle of our finish. We finished at the very tip-top of the Slide and that last pitch stretched out the 70m ropes to their very ends.

Back in the parking lot I had forgotten to hand Geoff his orange rope.  When I got home I didn’t empty my pack right away. I left Geoff’s rope and all my gear in my pack and weighed it….33 lbs! Didn’t realize I had hauled that weight up and down Willey’s. 



Overall, this was a fun day, but then again, any day climbing with Geoff is great! I do have to admit, however, it was tough. I thought climbing the Slide was tougher than climbing Lake Willoughby the week prior. Don’t get me wrong, the leading part was easy. But climbing that angle of the ice was tough on my calves. And shit, I even got a cramp in the arch of my right foot! LOL!  But I really enjoy leading ice, and look forward to doing more leading.