Archive for July, 2010

Visiting the Empress

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Robin and I had the day off, and since it looked like the pick of the litter this week, we decided to make the most of it, head for the High Peaks, and climb for awhile. As we pulled off exit 30, Robin decided to head for Chapel Pond Slab and climb The Empress. We had been there earlier this month, during the terrible hot spell, and consequently, had turned back after two pitches.

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This time, the weather was spot-on wonderful. We climbed in sunshine the entire time, a strong breeze (OK, at times really strong wind!) kept us cool and the bugs away. We passed our previous highpoint in no time and continued, pitch after pitch.

We didn’t have to rush, either. One other pair of climbers climbed the Regular Route while we moseyed up our chosen line. Where all the summer climbers are is a mystery to me, especially when the weather is good after so much bad stuff. Maybe the Ironman scared them all away.

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We tarried at the belays, snapping pictures (I dragged my camera up the entire slab) as we ascended, snacking at the wooded ledge just below the crux crack, and in general making it a nice, laid-back affair.

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Despite our relaxed pace, we made the top in good time. Ra was psyched to get there.

Of course, we forgot to carry our shoes along, so rather than attempt the walk-off in climbing shoes, we opted to rappel. With a short rope (don’t ask), this took about as long as the climb up, and was a bit frustrating. Definitely bring shoes and use one of the walk-offs if you climb the Slab. Regardless, we managed the feat (and Ra learned how to rappel) without incident.

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After that long adventure, we headed for the Noonmark Diner for a great dinner and dessert. Perfect.

Potentially Big Day

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Our daughter’s wedding has passed, and despite two vehicle breakdowns, all went well. It was suspenseful, limping into the church parking lot in a choking vehicle. Who would stand in for the father of the bride?

I now have another son-in-law; my daughters did me right in seeking out young men who enjoy climbing. They are also responsible, hard-working, gentle, and kind people. I suppose those are nice characteristics as well! Sadly, this last addition will probably end up living in FL, a state which lies somewhere between last and not-even-on the list of places that hold my interest. Crikey, mate! With three kids, you would think one of ’em would settle near a climbing area.

My Dad spent four days with us, during which we hiked to the Measles Walls, walked through the Boulderwoods awhile, , visited Rocksport, watched the sun set from the shore of Lake George at Shelving Rock, and ate far more than we should have. The unshakeable urge to prove one’s worth to Father still holds, even when the son is pushing fifty and the father nips at eighty; so I was proud to show off the work that has been accomplished here on Crane during the past two decades. I would have liked to take him on a tour of the Black Arches Wall, but that was too far and too rough a hike.

Rather than plop Dad on a bus in Warrensburg for what ends up being a ten hour trip home, we drove out to Utica, stopping at Little Falls along the way for a quick tour of the climbing there and a chance to watch boats pass through the lock. We made it from there to the bus station on time, something the bus itself couldn’t manage: Dad ended up waiting at the station an hour for his first bus. The changeover in Syracuse was also late, so by the time he reached Binghamton, it was too late to go on to Owego. His total trip, excluding his ride with me but including the last leg, taken with the help of a friend, took about six hours; so much for mass transit efficiency.

Thunder storms rolled through the area last night, dropping buckets of rain and hail, and finally yanking our electricity for the night. Ra & I snuggled cozily amongst candlelight for the evening, making the most of the outage, so the loss was gain. This morning the power is back, which is a Good Thing – the happy mood would not have endured a morning without coffee and Internet.

It’s looking sunny and sweet here this morning; tentative plans for Tom L. and I to spend the day at the BAW working our respective projects. Jason B. should arrive around 5pm and perhaps we will send one or two of ’em then. I certainly hope so. I might then be able to focus on something easier for a change.

Still Kickin’ – well, Maybe Twitchin’

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Hot weather and swarms of deerflies have not deterred me from the goal of 100% climbing in July, but old age just might. One might hypothesize that climbing every day makes one incredibly strong. What I’m finding (OK, everyone told me this, I already knew) is that at some point, one starts going the other way. The body just can’t hold up under that sort of constant strain.

The stuff I’m doing isn’t helping matters. My focus since coming home has been on a project near Eatin’ Tripe & Lichen It that turns out to have some hard moves. It’s 5.8+ start seems easy enough now, as does the 5.9 layback following shortly thereafter. But the 5.10b moves after that – and the 5.8 face climbing above it – have yet to go without a hang. The 5.6 runout is OK, and the 5.9 roof is well-protected, but the 5.10a face above that is scary, and the pro is at my feet. In short, it’s a long, tortuous trip.

I threw a rope down Todd’s latest project last night. It starts out easily enough: nice face/slab moves to reach a good horizontal as things get steep. But right then and there the weather turns sour: either a no-feet traverse or a dynamic throw for side-pulls push things into 5.10 territory. They stay in that neighborhood the rest of the way: tips-crack laybacks and locks in some of the most painful crystalline rock I’ve ever encountered. It’s sort of like Gun Show, only harder. Ugh.

Gotta do some easier stuff!

Olympus Evolt 620 Macro

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Back and weary from four horribly hot days guiding at the Gunks. Clients were great; a few other details (weather being one of them) were aggravating. With today’s rainy weather, along with my need to rest and take stock of a few important items, I figured this was a good time to veer off tangent and play with photography awhile.

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A bit fancified via software, but this shows the detail at 1 to 1.

Robin bought me our first digital SLR, an Olympus Evolt 620. The kit we purchased comes with two lenses: a 14-42mm and a 40-150mm one. Being a “Four-thirds” image sensor, that translates to 28-84mm and 80-300mm, “traditional” 35mm equivalent set, which spans a lot of optimal usages. I would have preferred a bit wider angle at the low end, something closer to a 24mm equivalent lens, but pretty much every company out there uses this cutoff point for their “stock” and “kit” lenses.

While down in the Gunks, I had spare time every morning to walk around and take some pictures – but no way to review them until I got home. I love macro shots of flowers and such, and wanted to see what rig could do. The camera has a macro setting, which modifies the output image by sharpening it slightly as well as a few other slight changes. I took a few flower pictures to have a look.

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Extending the 14-42mm lens to its longest focal length, I can get pretty close (<3″) to a flower and take decent shots. Much closer and my shadow gets in the way, and focusing maxes out at about 2″. This chickory blossom photo is taken near that minimum distance. The sun was already up too high for best color rendition, but the camera does a decent job nonetheless. Of course, this image is highly downsampled; below is a close-up with as little of that as I could supply without sacrificing my life to uploading images. I’ve cropped a 720×540 chunk out of the original, 12 megapixel image.

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 Not bad. I would’ve liked greater depth of field, but until/unless I purchase a lens made specifically for macro shots, this will have to do.

I use the camera mostly for nature stills, scenics, and occasional climbing photos, and in these regards I’m very happy with it. Indoors, I’ve yet to figure out the flash settings. In that environment, I’m somewhat flabbergasted with its flash-assist focus system. The flash strobes in a jarringly distracting and irritating way whenever the focusing system cannot handle the job without it; which makes it a risky tool for any formal or ceremonial shots. More than once, I’ve had to forego using it in these situations. Unfortunately, my eyesight is bad enough that often, I can’t focus manually any better!

Casual Day Back Home

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

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The Coxing Kill, a.k.a. Split Rock, where a grimy Gunks guide can freshen up.

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A startled Jason Hurwitz caught in the act…

climbing Horseman with his lovely wife Christa.

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After three busy days in the Gunks, today’s schedule was casual. Spent the afternoon at the Measles Walls with friends Val and Kevin. They had already made several runs up Run for Rabies, Cracklosis, and Scared for Life when I caught up with them. I took one lap on the last route, then we moved round to the righthand face. I led H1N1 and we took turns TRing it (with one lap up I Am Lesion as well).

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Val struggles with a bad case of H1N1

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Kevin’s feverishly takes his turn on H1N1. 

Before calling it a day, I jogged over to the Upper Measles Wall for quick runs up Hydrophobia and El Muerte Rojo as well.

The shade and a breeze helped make the current heat wave easily tolerable, and although their were swarms of hikers, we had this little crag to ourselves today.

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Hey, the Indian Pipestems were just handy.

Jamie Sends Plumb Line Direct

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Saturday, Jamie and Alysia drove over to my neighborhood for another assault on Jamie’s project: Plumb Line’s direct start. When first established, Plumb Line utilized the first moves on Parallel Passage to reach a good rail for traversing to the crack. The bottom twelve feet were just too difficult for us to protect and climb.

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Not the best picture, but the best I could dig up on short notice. Pink line shows the original route’s approach to the main crack; the yellow line incorporates the direct start.

That small stretch of unclimbed rock remained a compelling, unfinished project for Jamie over the past year and a half. Protection placement is difficult and deceptive, and every step becomes harder as one ascends. Unlikely throws to even less-likely holds add up to an intense, if brief, section of climbing, followed of course by the “standard” route’s own difficulties. Jamie wanted to send this straight-up line originally, but with the SAdkRF 2009 almost upon us, opted to concentrate on the more reasonable line.

He also wanted to keep the line “trad”. The crack offers protection, albeit very tricky to place and on the small side. Placing a bolt would have made the climbing much easier, but would also have taken from the aesthetics of the route as a whole.

While I was down in the Gunks, they hiked out to the BAW, and Jamie sent the entire direct line flawlessly. Tentatively, he grades it 5.11c R. I’ve TR’d the moves (not without falling a lot!), and that seems pretty accurate. The “R” rating derives from the protection’s potentially deceptive qualities: one blind nut placement can feel good and resist a solid tug, but pop in a fall, and if it does, the leader will bounce. That same nut can be placed securely, however.

Congratulations Jamie! Now, there are those other projects…