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June 21, 2007
You may have heard that there was a fairly significant accident on Cathedral last Saturday. According to a variety of reports a 25 year old South Boston man took a leader-fall onto the ledge where you start the 2nd pitch of Poo, often used as the finish to Fun House. He sustained a significant head injury in the incident and was evacuated by the local Mountain Rescue Service.
Based on a description supplied by an observer, apparently the leader had some difficulty getting started on the pitch and "took numerous ground falls always landing on his feet". After finally getting up into the crack about a body length above his initial piece of protection he managed to place a piece in the right-angling crack. While shifting his feet he fell and in the process caught his foot in the rope and flipping upside down. Needless to say any fall isn't good, but his problems were compounded when his upper pieced popped right out, allowing him to fall about 15' right onto his head. On top of that he was not wearing a helmet! (no pun intended)
Fortunately there were several parties on the scene. One member had a cell phone and called 911, who alerted the Mountain Rescue Service, who showed up very quickly. The victim was littered off the ledge to the ground by Art Mooney, Alain Comeau, and Dave Lottmann, carried out and taken to Memorial Hospital. I haven't heard anything about his condition, but of course we all hope for the best.
Following a posting in the NEClimbs forum by the observer, the incident prompted a discussion. Of course the helmut issue came up, and my feelings regarding this are pretty well known so I won't go into that. One poster pointed out that in the various guidebooks Fun House, rated at a very moderate 5.7, is described thusly -
"Fun, stimulating, and well protected climbing, this is one of Cathedral's best intermediate routes."
"An enjoyable and well protected climb with good belay ledges and interesting moves on every pitch."
"Absolutely classic and really fun."
While I certainly agree with these descriptions, I think many would feel that they don't tell the whole story. I love Fun House and Poo, but I think that the combination makes for a difficult bit of climbing for beginning 5.7 leaders, and for beginning seconds as well. All of the things that I love about it - the opening moves up the open book, the finger crack off the pedestal, the hand jams to the right slanting finger-crack where the accident occurred, and the climbing up to the tree ledge aren't trivial for people who just climb at a 5.7 level. I have watched many leaders and seconds flail on various sections of the climb over the years and even I take it seriously. I guided it on Memorial Day weekend and watched my client and a number of other folks have problems on the start and on the upper sections.
There is a general impression that 5.7 is easy climbing, and in some ways it is. Of course one man's 5.7 is another's flail-fest. The good thing about this particular climb is that if you know how to place good protection and can hang in there long enough to place it you can be reasonably safe. The book start takes great gear before and after the pin, and the finger crack above does as well. Off the pedestal I always step up and put in a sinker nut in the little crack, clip it, step down to rest for a minute and then make the moves up onto the slab where I can get in a second piece. In the upper ledgy sections I put in a number of pieces in each crack, if for no other reason than all these little ledges are just there for me to fall and break an ankle on if I happened to slip. Of course I'm an old man and climb pretty conservatively these days. That said I discussed all this today with George Hurley, who has probably done this climb hundreds of times, and he agreed. There is more potential for a problem with all of these ledges than on something like the Saigons or Thin Air where you would more likely fall into space.
Another interesting topic was the question of "is there a safe, moderate, multi-pitch climb on Cathedral?" George and I agreed that this was actually pretty difficult to answer. Let's assume that 5.8 is the top end of "moderate". The following climbs were mentioned...
Standard Route - 5.6R/5.7+X depending on your choice of starts
Pleasant Street - 5.7R
Bombardment - 5.8 but with a 5.6R slab that scares a lot of folks
Three Birches - rated at 5.8 but is very often wet and always polished
Toe Crack - great 5.7, but you have to climb one of the R rated starts to Standard
Thin Air is probably the best, but getting on it in the summer or on a weekend can be a problem. On the other hand The Saigons are well protected and only have a couple of 5.8 moves. You can certainly walk around and across the tree ledge to the start of Upper Refuse for the 5.5 experience but again it's busy in the summer. George pointed out there are a couple of nice moderates that are worth checking out in the Hidden Wall and Glory Wall areas, on the far left side of Cathedral below the Barber Wall.
But you know, perhaps all this is just a part of the climbing experience. 5.7, or even 5.5, doesn't go without some level of danger. Shoot, if you aren't up to it you can die on a 5.3 or even scrambling. That said you CAN stack the deck in your favor by practicing a lot on a TR before you do a lead, working hard to get in good protection and possibly even placing than is absolutely needed in the beginning, and of course wearing that pesky helmet. I suppose if there were no risks there would be no rewards, and perhaps that is one of the things that attracts many of us to climbing in the first place. A little thrill goes a long ways.
IMCS and EMS are working together to provide a great weekend for ladies and New England climbers!
JUNE 23rd &24th - NORTH CONWAY, NH
This weekend is designed for women of ALL abilities at a great price. Climb for you first time, learn rock rescue, refine your crack skills, or get on the sharp end!
* Free goodies to our ladies from our sponsors!
* DJ, FREE BEER, and slideshow ($5) for EVERYONE! We want to bring New England climbers together for a really fun night! Yes, FREE BEER for EVERYONE! @ IME 4-7!
Slideshow: Caroline George- on first ascents ice climbing in iceland and first ascents crack climbing in Ethiopia!
Sat. night @ 7:30 next to Flatbread Pizzeria.
* Silent auction filled with goods to help a local women's shelter!
* EMS Pancake Breakfast on Sunday! $5 or free to participants! @ Flatbread!
So, everyone come up and ladies sign up to kick-start your climbing summer! It's THE weekend to be up here!
Thank heavens for the breezes over the past few days. Because of that we've actually been able to sit outside and enjoy our deck in the evening. On top of that the black flies seem to have mostly run their course for the season. Of course the ticks are still out there and the mosquitoes will get you in the woods. Still I have dropped the Bug Index to a 3 from a 4. Better still wear that bug dope tho.
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
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