Archive for February, 2011

Bruceday et al

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

A small party tromped out to the Waterfall Wall today for some sunny, brisk climbing. Bruce and Eric, Eastern Mountain Sports folks, were looking for a relaxing day of climbing to get Eric back into the swing of things after a long hiatus. Val and Jaysen came out so Jaysen could work on his leading skills and of course, so they both could do some climbing.

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Gearing up at the base of the Waterfall Wall

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First time to the Waterfall Wall, first time on ice
after a long hiatus for Eric.

Since I was the odd-man out, I ran ahead to set up a top-rope on Fifi’s Frozen Fingers so we could all take turns on something a bit steeper than the lower three pitches of the Waterfall Wall. Soon, I heard footsteps below and exclamations, no doubt regarding the ice flow between us; Bruce and Eric had arrived. I rappelled down to the base and soon we were taking turns running up Fifi’s Frozen Fingers. I took the first run, trailing a rope to set another top-rope on a tempting mixed line next door. That chore took quite some doing, but before everyone else completely satisfied themselves on the ice flow, another rope was available. I took first dibs again – selfish me! – and found it enjoyable and challenging.

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My turn on the Mixed Route

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Bruce nears the top of the Mixed Route

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The new mixed route

As one person worked the new line, others turned their attention back to Fifi’s and began working harder variations. The left edge was thin and delicate, a bit hollow but firm enough to tap gently up it. At the top, the right side had a short bit of ice bulge, so Jaysen set a directional there and we worked that part as well.

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 Val ascends the right edge of Fifi’s Frozen Fingers

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Jaysen nears the bulge on the right side of Fifi’s.

We continued happily running between the two lines until the sun began nudge close to Crane’s shoulder. As our routes ducked into shadow, it became chillingly similar to a walk-in freezer roping up for a turn. Eric and Bruce had obligations elsewhere; with their exit and the dipping temperature, we all decided to pack up and descend.

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One last run before the sun sets behind Crane Mountain

A Summit Day

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Aaron came out to Crane for a couple days of ice climbing. The weather hasn’t been conducive to great climbing lately, what with massive amounts of snow covering all but the steepest ice and making the approaches exhausting. Fortunately, the agenda was heavy on learning skills rather than quantity of ice climbing, so we made the most, of two of the most polarized weatherwise, consecutive days in memory.

Monday dawned sunny and astonishingly warm. The mercury slid above freezing for the first time since the end of that New Year’s thaw, and continued rising. We went to the Waterfall Wall, ran through the fundamentals of a mid-ice belay, worked a tiny bit with double-rope technique, climbed the Tempest variation to spice things up a bit, then slogged through the next two pitches and over to Fifi’s Frozen Fingers. There, we had a quick lesson in top-rope set-ups and rappeling before heading down and putting Aaron on a faux-lead of that steep ice route. Gotta say, he did swell. Wish I had remembered the camera!

Tuesday, I did remember the camera, but the weather forgot its warmth. Overnight, it became seriously cold again. We woke up and it was well below zero. By the time we packed and headed out, it was all of two degrees. And windy. At least it was clear. Aaron hasn’t had a lot of luck with visibility on his summit days in the past; today would be an exception to that rule.

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Aaron smacks what little ice he could find on Tablerock Corner.

We lugged full packs of gear upward, so when we reached Tablerock Corner, I figured we would climb it, if only to justify the effort. The previous day’s thaw had dumped a lot of snow down the route, so much of the climb was reduced to swimming upstream through giant snowcones, but we persevered to the top, proving once again how much stubbornness coupled with stupidity and accomplish.

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Aaron rappels to the left of Tablerock Corner, WI3-. 

 We continued to lug all that gear, but would not use it again. We did keep the crampons on our boots, which was wise given the steep, hard condition of the trail. Once over the lower ladder, we postholed a bit more often than I would have liked; not a lot, but enough to wonder if the snowshoes might have been worth bringing along.

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Onward to the summit.

Before climbing the upper ladder, we stopped for a snack and drink, and decided to leave the packs there. Thus unladen, we practically skipped to the summit. Bright, clear day, not nearly so windy as I thought it would be; we looked around a bit, took the obligatory summit shot, chatted with the one other soul passing by, then headed homeward.

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Successful summit, full visibility, fair winds.

Well, it was a great day regardless of the paucity of climbing. We both got plenty of “training” exercise lugging heavy packs up Crane, climbed a bit of ice (admittedly, a very little bit), and before Aaron headed out, managed to get a good lesson on TR setup avec static line, in the sunshine and convenience of my driveway.

Project Condition

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

For those who are interested, I broke trail to the Black Arches Wall last Thursday. I took ice gear with me, but intended not to climb. This trip was for inspection and preparation purposes. I wanted the trail broken in hopes of making an attempt on this season’s pet project, Fr.E.D.:

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Fright-Emitting Divide, indeed.

It isn’t quite “in” yet. I hope the upcoming warm spell starts a good freeze/thaw cycle going, and things beef up bigtime in the coming weeks.

Consolation Flog to the Northeast Cascade

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Foul weather fouled up plans for our Catskill Ice Foray Tuesday, so Tom and I decided to try something close to home. After waiting out the worst of the weather, Tom slid into my driveway at noon. We packed up and headed toward the Waterfall Wall. A lot of snow covered the trail so carefully beaten clear just a week or so ago, but it wasn’t really too bad: what usually takes 25 minutes took us an hour, but the trail was once again, clear.

However, I had other plans for this excursion. Tom has only a few ice climbing trips under his belt, and so far, they’ve all involved the Waterfall Wall, so today I thought we would head to the Northeast Cascade, a low-angle flow with some vertical testpiece top-roping as well. We stepped off the remnants of the Waterfall Wall trail and immediately realized the next leg of our journey was going to be much tougher. What usually takes about fifteen minutes took us over an hour to accomplish: this was one of the hardest bits of trailbreaking I’ve ever done.

Still, two obstinate guys can accomplish with grit and guts what any sane person would quickly abandon, and we did indeed make it to our objective. Whence Tom began leading up the right side, clearing yet more snow as he did.

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Tom begins shovelling his way up the Northeast Cascade.

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The human snowblower nears the top of the Northeast Cascade.

Poor Guy: I doubt he ever imagined leading such low-angle ice could be so exhausting. The entire lead was a series of clearing a three-foot swath ahead, placing the picks, stepping up, and doing it all over again. I suppose it was a good learning experience, and in any event made the steep ice next door look ever more tempting.

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Tom tackles the overhanging corner.

We both had a run on each option, the overhanging corner and the vertical face, before impending darkness bade us head homeward. It would be dark well before we could get home, despite the fact that the path was now more trail than trial.

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Time to trot, it’s getting dark and cold! 

The last mile of our hike out was accompanied by enough moonlight to cast shadows, which saved us from needing the headlamps. And I might add, the entire trip back took less than an hour.

We’re still hoping for that trip to the Catskills before ice season ends. Stay tuned for that adventure!

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Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Providence (in the state of Crane)

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Not the Rhode Island one. Val and Todd braved the apocalyptic forecast for the day and came out to play on Crane. We took one quick lap up the Tempest variation of the Waterfall Wall, then trudged up to Providence for a go at it.

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Leading up the first pitch.

Jason Brechko and I made the same slog in 2006 for the first winter FA of this rock climb/ice route, and I’ve been itching to have another go ever since. When Tom Lane and I stumbled upon two guys climbing it last Friday, I was flumoxed – here were two guys I did not know, snagging the 2A of the line, without even knowing its name! We chatted awhile, and it turns out they were visiting the area, had flipped through Lawyer & Haas’ Adirondack Rock looking for climbing areas that might ice up. The Waterfall Wall sounded like the ticket, so they came out to Crane and began searching for that. A bit off their mark, they had nevertheless found good ice, and paid it a fine compliment. That compliment and the way the line looked that day made the decision to climb there today easy.

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Val and Todd reaching the base of Providence.

The snow was letting off as we reached the base of the route, but it had done the damage. With no trace of the platform those two intrepid climbers had stomped out on Friday, we had to build our own, and wallow through a refreshed giant snow cone to reach the route’s start.

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Spindrift cascading down the Slanting Cracks Wall…

Conditions were nearly optimum: the ice was a bit brittle at the edges, but took good sticks in the middle. Of course, we’re talking a band of ice that in spots was only six inches wide, so accurate swings and gentle footwork were necessary. No screws down low: judging where the deep ice lay was difficult, and regardless, it was such a narrow band of ice I didn’t trust it; however, there were plenty of cam placements in the right wall along the way. Up higher, I was able to get a couple screws in before heading right to belay, with almost 200′ of rope to reach a stout oak tree.

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…and onto climbers trying to go up the route!

We continued up the second pitch, a much less glamorous affair of low-angle, thin and crunchy ice under snow to a brief blip of steep ice before the finish. This gave us the opportunity to go stare at the much more difficult venues awaiting the bravehearted up on the Black Arches Wall. Hopefully, tune in soon for tales of one or two of those…

Thanks to Todd for the great photos, and to both Val & Todd for coming up to climb today.