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July 27, 2006
So I come back from 2 weeks cycling in a very hot France, looking for some nice moderate New Hampshire weather and it's just as hot and humid here as it is in France. You were in the Pyrenees you say, how hot can it get? Well let me tell you, it was HOT! For almost the entire trip it was in the upper 90's, and on some of the days I was working the hardest it was over 100.
Fortunately it wasn't as bad as in August of 2003, when temps pushed 104 and above, leaving almost 15,000 people dead. A majority of those affected were elderly or infirm. It was a major catastrophe for the country.
Though not as hot this year, it was certainly very uncomfortable. Exacerbating the problem is the minimal air conditioning in Europe in general. I stayed in nice small hotels in towns and villages and with one exception there was no AC available. The one place that had AC, it went off automatically at 10 PM. No problem you say? Well in spite of being in a town right next to the mountains, Pau, it never cooled off at night. We had to get oscillating fans from the market and use them so we didn't sleep in a pool of sweat. As I was going to be exercising heavily and in the mountains all of my trip, I had mostly bought lightweight clothing. However I did bring some fleece stuff, just in case. It basically never made it out of my bag. The only thing I used occasionally was a very lightweight windbreaker jacket, and that wasn't used very often.
Although I was there to ride my bike and see a little of the Tour De France, several people suggested that I do a little climbing while I was there. I did talk to several people about climbing in the French Pyrenees both while I was there and before. However it was just more time consuming than I could manage, especially as I was part of an actual group experience. That said I did have a very cool encounter with a French guide one day.
We had ridden our bikes up to the top of the Lac de Cap-de-Long. This is a 24 k continuous climb from St Lary-Soulan that takes you up 2161m to a beautiful lake formed by a dam. There is a small restaurant and gift shop at the top where we stopped to eat and refresh ourselves. The surrounding mountains were very attractive and the waitress spoke a little English and was quite a character. One of our party mentioned that they had seen a couple of climbers on a peak (relatively) nearby. I couldn't make them out but was assured that they were there, on a ridge that looked much like the Whitney Gilman. Very cool... There was also a major rockfall from that spring that had taken out the road that drove around the back side of the lake. This was very big.
We ordered our lunch and I went out back to use the WC (toilet). On the way I noticed some modern climbing gear hung up in the area next to a fireplace. There were also pictures of a guy who looked like the quintessential French guide (tanned and weathered face, longish hair, big forearms, big grin, bright eyes and bushy mustache), with what looked like a variety of clients. There was also a large very cool picture of the same guy in the door of an orange helicopter with someone on a rope being raised, obviously on some kind of a rescue. I was impressed.
When I came back inside, after finishing my private business, the guy from the pictures was nearby talking to our waitress. Rarely one to hold back, I walked over and introduced myself in my putrid French. He made an effort to understand, but had his work cut out for him. Still I got him to understand that I was a climber, did some guiding and was (very obviously) American. he took me over to where the pictures were posted and pointed out some interesting ones. He would show me a picture, and then point to a mountain out the window. He pointed to the one where the climbers had been spotted and then walked over to the corner, got a telescope and set it up. He focused on the peak and gestured to me to look. There were two climbers roped up in red and orange with packs near the top of the ridge. I grinned my thanks at him.
He then took me around the corner to show me a mountaineering axe and boot mounted on the wall. It was from 1936 and there was a plaque that told some story, but I couldn't read it. He got another boot, in perfect condition, and pointed out how the hobnails were pounded into the leather soles and the ones along the sides were stapled in. It was very neat. The boots and axe were in such perfect condition that they looked as if they could be used that day.
We kind of talked a little more and he communicated that he was a member of the local Mountain Rescue Service and wrote up the area accidents for the mountain guides association in France. Amazing because that is what I have been doing in this area for the past 6 years. We chatted for a little longer and then I went back to my friends to finish my lunch. As we were leaving he came over to me, took me by the hand back into where his climbing gear was hung on the wall. He took a French brand quickdraw from his rack and presented it to me as a "souvenir". I felt very honored and thanked him profusely. I plan on sending him a copy of the Accidents In American Mountaineering as soon as I get my copy of the new edition.
20 years ago I used to go to France on business all the time. I probably went a dozen times in a 10 year period. I always remembered how difficult the people seemed to me at the time and I had a bit of apprehension about this trip based on my previous experiences. But this time was a piece of cake. The people I met were great, and with the exception of a few episodes with whacky drivers, that could have just as easily happened up here in North Conway, I really enjoyed myself. Chalk it up to the French mellowing, my spending less time in the cities and more in the rural areas, and more likely me being more open and willing to reach out to them. Whatever it was I had a fabulous time and this meeting with the guide was only one of a myriad of great experiences that I had. Would I go back? You betcha. I'm already making my plans.
Here are some pictures of that day.
Mountain behind lake
Closeup of climber on mountain
Alpine axe and boot
Closeup of plaque
Boot with hobnails
I'm going to post a full story of my trip and slideshow on NEBikes in the next couple of weeks. I'll let you know when it's up there.
Join us for our 7th Annual Sterling Rope Women’s Climbing Weekend in North Conway, New Hampshire on September 16 - 17. Instruction and climbing to be conducted by athletes from the Sterling Rope’s Climbing Team, Julie Seyfert-Lillis, Lisa Hathaway, Claudia Beland, as well as top local female climbers and guides. Registration deadline is September 1, 2006 – space is limited, so don’t wait!
Registration: Meet at International Mountain Equipment (IME) on Main Street in N. Conway at 8 a.m. Download registration form, waiver, and schedule of events at
BBQ/Party: Saturday, September 16th at Ragged Mt. Equipment – Great food, entertainment, and prizes!
Cost: $75.00 for one day or $125.00 for 2 days – includes instruction, all equipment, gear, raffles, entertainment, and food
If you have any questions, please contact Sonya Becker at 800-788-7673 ext. 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org
From Chris Martin, NH Audubon, Senior Biologist
The 2006 peregrine falcon breeding season in New Hampshire was marked by heavy rain and poor productivity. While 17 occupied territories set a new post-DDT state record high, and 14 territorial pairs tied a previous high mark set in 2002 and 2003, other reproductive parameters lagged substantially behind recent years. For example, 6 successful nests and 14 young fledged both represent lowest reproductive levels documented in the state in the past decade, and this year's average of 1.17 young fledged/active nest was the lowest annual productivity reported for peregrines in NH since 1992. Of the 5 NH sites monitored under the USFWS national post-delisting peregrine falcon monitoring plan, 80% (4 of 5) were non-productive in 2006.
NH biologists and cooperators banded a total of 6 nestling peregrine falcons at 3 of the state's 6 productive falcon nests in 2006. Banding in NH was conducted by Chris Martin of NH Audubon acting as a sub-permittee on a federal banding permit issued to Michael Amaral of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). A total of 4 unhatched peregrine eggs, plus a partial shell of 1 additional egg, have been recovered as of 7/20/2006, with possibility of additional recoveries from a failed nest at Holts Ledge. All samples will be delivered to the USFWS New England Field Office in Concord, NH.
Efforts to determine the banded status of resident peregrines at breeding sites in NH in 2006 yielded the following results. Of 31 individuals (14 pairs plus 3 singles), banded status was confirmed for 20 (65%) and unconfirmed for 11 (35%). Of the 20 individuals where banded status was known, 14 (70%) were confirmed to be unbanded and 6 (30%) were confirmed to be color-banded. Positive individual IDs were obtained on 3 (50%) of the individuals confirmed to be color-banded, including a HY2000 male from NH, a HY2003 female from CT, and a HY2005 female from MA.
Cathedral Ledge, Bartlett, NH failed, probably before hatch
Eagle Cliff, Franconia, NH failed, probably after hatch **
Frankenstein, Harts Loc, NH single resident individual, did not nest **
Painted Walls, Albany, NH 6/6/2006 2 females, 1 male
Rattlesnake Mtn, Rumney, NH
failed after incubating at least 46 days,1 unhatched egg,
plus part of a second egg recovered
Square Ledge, Albany, NH failed before or after hatch
Webster North, Harts Loc, NH incubation not confirmed
** = signifies a nest site identified for special productivity monitoring during 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015 breeding seasons using a survey protocol developed under the USFWS national post-delisting peregrine falcon monitoring plan.
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.
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post some 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:
Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
|We'll climb with you and steal your women.|
|Todd Skinner and Paul Piana|