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April 21, 2005
p class="textMain"> So I'm getting ready to leave the house to
meet Travis & Toby over at Whitehorse for a day of fun and
games on the South Buttress, but it's hard to figure out what to
wear. It's still fairly cool at 8AM, but I know it's going to warm
up later so I throw on some casual and comfortable clothes that
I figure would be appropriate when I get this comment from my wife. "You
aren't going out of the house wearing that outfit are you?" "Yeah,
you're not wearing that are you dad?" echoed the kiddo.
I poo-pooed their comments and walked out the door, dog in tow.
I threw my gear in my dad's old minivan (truck in the shop) and
headed out, but it should have been a bit of a tip off that the
dog insisted in sitting about as far away from me and looked the
other way on the ride! When I got to the parking lot Toby was already
there and Travis pulled in right behind. I shut off the engine
and got out and the Tob-meister almost fell to the ground laughing
and the dog moved over to the other side of the driveway. The first
words that Toby, my FRIEND, uttered was something to the effect
that he hadn't seen anything as bad as what I had on for a looooong
time. Travis just kept his head down, obviously to cover the smirks.
Well I have to admit that I am hardly a fashionable person. In
fact I basically just don't care about my dress. As long as what
I am wearing is comfortable, it doesn't matter to me. Unfortunately
(or maybe fortunately for my reputation) I don't have a picture
of me on that day, but here's the breakdown:
olive/gray Gramichi long sleeve cotton T
royal blue North Face fleece vest
10 year old charcoal gray Verve tights
pink & gray striped baggy shorts
510 Guide Tennie approach shoes
Hey I figured that the gray theme would hold it all together,
but I guess that the striped shorts put it over the top. Some Hotel
visitors told us about seeing a bear & cubs so we made noise
as we walked on the trail. We didn't see any bear so maybe my outfit
scared them away!
As usual Travis wanted to do something different and had his eye
on a climb at the Stake Sauce Crag. Apparently there was this finger
crack testpiece called Powderfingers that he wanted to try, and
since I'd never been there before that sounded good to me. I'd
heard about Steak Sauce for years, but I'd never checked it out.
Considering that it's a whole 100 feet off the trail on the way
in to the Inferno slab I can't believe that I'd never noticed it.
Basically, you just follow the "new" trail into the South
Buttress. Go through the rock notch, keep going uphill and bear
right on the trail as usual. 50' up the trail look over to the
right and there it is. A very short walk and you are there. So
why isn't is more popular? Well, the forest in there is all hardwood
and when the leaves are on the trees you would barely be able to
see it so most people don't even know about it. In reality tho
it's probably 'cause it's all hard stuff and not things that most
folks are capable of doing.
So we checked out the centerpiece of the crag, Steak
All I can say is that I would love to see someone do it. Hey, I
can't even imagine how you get off the ground. It's totally fingertips
and in your face climbing. Short but amazing. Kudos to Swain for
finding it and for Surette for sending it free.
Powderfingers is a left arching finger crack that, unfortunately,
has no lockers anywhere. I was impressed at how well Travis did
on-sight. There weren't any real rests on the whole climb. It's
short, but intense and just keeps on going. Even the last bit is
tricky with your gear below your feet. Travis did hang in the middle
but rallied and sent it.
Check out the difference of his expression between 26 and 30.
Think that he's happy to have that toe-twist?
After all that we weren't done. Unfortunately Toby had to leave
but went on up to Jacob's Ladder, up in the gully left of Cold
Day In Hell. This is one of my favorite climbs on the South Buttress.
With more varied climbing, a little harder moves and good protection
I find myself liking it better than Cold Day or Hotter Than Hell.
I took the first pitch and Travis the second.
We met up with Brian Johnson and Steve Nicopor on the ledge. Brian
was giving Coffin Nail a try. He was puzzling on the upper section
when we got there. When I mentioned that the upper bolts were all
pounded flat he decided to bail. I still don't understand why someone
did that. It is actually dangerous too, since you can't tell until
it's almost too late!
We still hadn't gotten our fill so Travis went up the Inferno
Crack and set up a toprope on In Your Face. This is a rarely done
Uwe Schneider route that goes up the slabby ramp to an unlikely
face 20' right of Inferno. While the book calls it 10d, don't be
fooled, that's an old school rating. Both of us thought it was
more in the 11b range and is very height dependent. After I figured
it out I actually had a bit easier time with the crux than Travis.
Not surprising considering Uwe is probably 2 inches taller than
me, making him close to 4 inches taller than Travis.
Since by now we'd had all the workout we needed, we finished up
the short final pitch of Inferno and rapping off. I'd certainly
worked up a sweat and given my fingers a workout. I should have
worried about being able to play bass later that night at the Parka,
but after such a great day I just didn't care.
Oh yeah...in case you didn't know. The cliffs are generally dry
now, except for the drips form the rain last night, there aren't
any bugs to speak of and very few climbers anywhere. This is one
of the best times of the year to live up here. You can do anything
from climbing to biking to kayaking to skiing in Tucks and it's
all perfect. This is why I live up here.
Still Ice - Naaaah:
Well we had about 1/2 inch of rain last night & it has been
wicked warm the past several days, even reaching 80 yesterday (Wednesday).
That has certainly had a major impact on all the hidden ice that
lurks above. I would imagine that most if not all is gone and will
finally declare ice-out, at least in the lower elevations. That's
not to say that it's not possible for something to lurk around,
but generally we should be OK at last.
I had posted a note on the Forum about an episode on Short Order
last Sunday. Apparently couple, a man leader & woman second,
were on the route. Neither were wearing helmets! As the leader
topped out a very large chunk of ice came down from up above, probably
from in the upper corner on Mistaken Identity which I have been
eyeing for the past few weeks. The leader was hit on the hand by
a large chunk and he thought at first that it had been broken.
The woman got peppered a bunch on the HEAD but is OK. They were
Here are a few more details about the accident 2 weeks ago at Shagg
from Paul Marcolini, one of the members of the rescue team.
"There were several of us from Mahoosuc Mountain Rescue,
(Bob Baribeau is our director) that were called in anticipation
of a technical component to the rescue. A technical rescue was
not necessary. An interesting point for us in Maine was that Brunswick
Naval Air was unable to get a crew together for the rescue. That
decision took almost two hours for them to make. The deployment
to Iraq is an issue for helo response. The climber was in an area
that would have offered easy extraction. The air ambulance service
LifeFlight, is similar to DART in New Hampshire, in as much as
it doesn't have lift capabilities. So, we all went for a nice walk
in the woods. The patient was airlifted to Central Maine Medical
Center from a field near the incident after a carry of a little
over a mile. The patient arrived at the hospital just before 01:00am."
"Bottom line is... this is one lucky fellow. The injuries
were not even as significant as you had mentioned. Apparently,
laceration to his head and sprained ankle were it. He was released
from Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston the next day."
Another person who is friends with the belayer commented:
"He (belayer) is relatively new to climbing but strong and
smart. Also, the climb was 'Meltdown' 12d. Sounds to me that the
poor communication and the relative inexperience of both the climber
and the belayer as well as the casual attitude of both lead to
the accident. The 9.4mm rope in a Grigri didn't help either."
It's important to note that Petzl states the following on their
web site and product info for the Grigri:
"For ropes of diameters from 10 to 11 mm (9.7
A lot of climbers think that just because a belayer is using a
device like the the Grigri they won't have a problem with the belay.
Obviously this isn't the case. a combination of miscommunication
and misuse of gear can easily lead to an accident. BE AWARE and
remember folks -
Only YOU can prevent belay errors!
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The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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