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June 17, 2004

Hi Folks,

This week was the annual peregrine banding on Cathedral Ledge. It was a week later than normal for a variety of reasons, making for a significantly larger and more aggressive chick this time. I'm always excited to be able to be a part of this process, and believe me, it's an unforgettable experience to watch a 6-week old peregrine chick attack a glove that has been laid on the ledge next to them!

Sometimes it's hard to for me believe, but I've been helping with this process for 4 years now. As the climber in the group it's my job to manage all the aspects of the climbing and rappelling portion of the exercise. I set up the ropes on top, rap down to wherever the nest is located and set up a safe and secure belay for the biologist, Chris Martin from NH Audubon in this case, and anyone else who is involved. In some cases this is an easy task, in others more difficult. Last year on the Painted Walls the rock was so bad and the position so precarious I couldn't allow anyone else down to the nest. So I ended up putting the birds in a rutsack and having Chris raise them to his more secure location.

This year on Cathedral it was much more reasonable. The birds nested on a small ledge located above a birch tree next to the niche at the end of the crack/flake on Retaliation. We met volunteer Ross Heald at the road and with his help and spotting scope determined exactly where the chick was and where the best place to rappel would be. We drove to the top of the cliff and walked around to the correct spot. Our other support person and friend, Toby Savage, set up the anchors using some of my 11mm climbing rope and I lowered the rappel rope and headed down. While we could do this with just Chris and myself, it's really nice to have another person involved in case there is a problem. And of course it's always helpful to have someone along to help schlep the gear. (Thanks Toby!)

The ledge above the birch looked good for Chris, and there was a nice crack with a small stance above to anchor me into. I got Chris' setup organized with a sling on the birch and had him rap to the ledge. Once he was secured to the tree and to a cordalette attached to my bomber 4-point anchor, he went to work. Meanwhile Toby rapped down to a position on a ledge above me where he could observe what we were doing as well as keep an eye on the very agitated parents.

The weather started looking like it was gong to close in, so Chris hustled a bit to get the bird banded and gather up any debris he could from the ledge. While he was working, I was taking pictures while keeping an eye on the parents who were agitatedly flying around nearby. Chris had been raked by a bird the week before so I was a bit nervous. Fortunately they didn't dive-bomb us as I was in a very exposed position. Instead of jugging the 30' back to the top, we decided to rap straight down to the Upper Refuse ledge and walk off. 20 minutes later we were back at our packs, all done for this year.

Here are a few pictures of the morning's fun. The first is of me taking a picture of Chris and the chick. The others are of the chick and/or Chris.

Al shooting Chris
Chick 1
Chick 2

I'm always honored to be able to be a part of the peregrine preservation project. It is a special thing that I look forward to being involved with every year. It makes me really appreciate these birds and the work that NH Audubon and Chris have been doing. The next time you are up on Cathedral, or the Eaglet, or over at Rumney and you see or hear one of these spectacular birds, remember that they are there through the efforts of Chris Martin and a bunch of volunteers. The minimal inconvenience of the closing of just a few climbs is well worth what we are gaining.

Here's Chris Martin's report on the process and progress -
On Monday, 6/14/2004, one 26-day old peregrine falcon chick was banded at its nest on the "Retaliation" climbing route at Cathedral Ledge in Bartlett, NH. If all goes well, this chick should be making its first flight around 6/30.

Volunteer climber Al Hospers of Conway, NH, led the rappel down to the nest ledge. Chris Martin from the Audubon Society of New Hampshire examined and banded an unusually aggressive chick, and recovered prey remains for later analyses. Volunteer Toby Savage accompanied Al and Chris to the nest ledge and provided climbing support. Volunteer Ross Heald provided radio assistance in setting up for the climb.

On June 4, volunteer observer Peggy Connolly last saw two chicks being fed on the nest ledge. On June 6, local climber Erik Eisele reported "a softball-sized bird covered with white fur" laying dead at the base of the cliff below the nest ledge. There was no sign of these remains on 6/14, but from the climber's description and the disappearance after 6/4 of at least one chick from the nest ledge, it seems likely that one of the chicks fell from the nest between 6/4 and 6/6.

This was the sixth New Hampshire peregrine falcon nest site that we have visited in 2004 to band chicks and/or recover unhatched eggs. So far this season, we have banded a total of 12 falcon chicks and obtained 5 unhatched eggs for future shell thickness and contaminant analyses and 2 feather samples for future mercury analysis by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Additional site visits in the planning stages include Russell Crag (6/16, or 6/17), and Mt. Webster (6/22 or 6/23). We also have confirmed falcon pairs incubating eggs or brooding young at Devils Slide and Holts Ledge. Other New Hampshire sites with confirmed peregrine falcon activity this season include Abeniki Mtn, Frankenstein Cliff, Osceola, Owls Head, and Painted Walls.

Peregrine falcon monitoring and management in New Hampshire is coordinated and carried out by ASNH with financial support and professional guidance of the NH Fish & Game Department and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the cooperation of other federal, state, and private land owners and managers, additional support from individual donors, and with the extraordinarily important help of many volunteer climbers and birders. Thanks to all who participate in this effort!

Interesting Stuff from the From the American Alpine Club E-News:
AIGUILLE DU MIDI CABLE CAR CLOSED - The heavily used Aiguille du Midi cable car above Chamonix, France, will be closed for much of the summer, following an accident in May. The two-stage tramway to the summit of 12,605-foot Aiguille du Midi is used to access dozens of world-class alpine routes in the Mont Blanc area, as well as the famed Vallée Blanche ski route. Workers were doing routine maintenance on the first stage of the lift when a huge length of cable dropped to the ground. The 2 million euro repair job is expected to take at least until the middle of July. Climbers and skiers now must approach this side of the Mont Blanc massif via the Montenvers or St. Gervais railways or the cable car from Italy — and they’ll have to walk quite a bit further.

YOUNGEST TO TICK SEVEN SUMMITS - On May 24, Britton Keeshan, an AAC member from the New York Section, succeeded on Mount Everest from the south to complete his quest to be the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits. Britton, a Middlebury College student from Cos Cob, Conn., was 22 years, 5 months and 23 days old when he reached the top — about six months younger than a Japanese climber who was previously the youngest to collect the Seven Summits. Britton is the grandson of the late “Capt. Bob” Keeshan, the originator of the “Captain Kangaroo” TV series, according to New York Section Chair Phil Erard. Britton faced some competition for the age record from New York Section member Dan Lochner, a University of Richmond student from New Canaan, Conn. Lochner summited Everest from the north on May 19. He now has six of the Seven Summits, and he’s five months younger than Britton. But to break the record he has to climb Vinson in Antarctica by early November — an unlikely prospect.

The 2004 editions of the American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering are headed to the printers and will be mailed to AAC members who are current as of Aug. 1. To ensure that you receive your copies on time, make sure your membership dues have been paid for 2004! To join or renew your membership, go here.

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Quantities are subject to change.
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New Route, Or Just Another Variation:
Brad White & I went over to Humphrey's for the morning a couple of days ago. I wanted to show him a new route I had put up last fall with George Hurley and Mike Khan, Hidden In Plain View. I had thought of it is a way to avoid the stacked blocks finish to Cakewalk. When we did it originally I asked George and several others if they had heard of anyone doing it. All said no. However Brad pointed out that it appeared to go right next to the last pitch of Let Them Eat Cake. From what I read in Webster's guide the LTEC finish goes straight up the small right-facing dihedral from where I am in this picture. However, what I'm proposing is to continue the exposed traverse to the left and then head straight up, staying right on the arete, and going left of the small pine tree to the top.

Picture 1
Picture 2
Picture 3

If you've done any of these, let me know what you think. Brad thinks that it's the same climb, I think it's somewhat different. If you haven't done them yourself, check them both out. They are much more interesting than the blocks & corner that everyone has been doing - and a whole lot safer! Oh yes, one other note. When you rap, be sure to rap to the right of the large blocks, not left of the gargoyle. Believe it or not with 2 - 60 meter ropes you can get all the way to the ground and there's little chance of getting your ropes stuck. Enjoy...

White's Ledge:
When I posted the pictures last week of the rockfall on White's Ledge I forgot to post this one. It was taken from a small ledge up and left of the main area where the ledge came down. It just shows you how much debris was deposited at the base of the cliff!

NEW on NEClimbs:
Check out our review of the Mountain Hardware Vertex jacket. If you're in the market for a lightweight jacket that's good for in least 3 1/2 seasons it might be a good choice.

Mobile Version Of NEClimbs:
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:

Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.

NEClimbs & White Mountain Report On Facebook:
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report in the season, tho certainly not the whole Report. Here's where you can check it out:

Remember - climb hard, ride the steep stuff, stay safe and above all BE NICE,

Al Hospers
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire

You've climbed the highest mountain in the world. What's left ? It's all downhill from there. You've got to set your sights on something higher than Everest.
Willi Unsoeld
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