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May 3, 2012
I walk my son to the school bus stop down on Old West Side Road every morning at 8:15 rain, snow or shine. It's a part of our daily routine. It gives us 10-15 minutes of time alone in the morning and as an added plus the dog gets walked. Although we take the same path every single day, it's always different. The trees are bare, budding, flowering, green-leafed or golden. There are birds, or no birds at all to be heard or seen. The grass is green or brown. The sky is bluebird, foggy, rainy, high clouds, low clouds, dark or light. And the cliffs are bright or brooding. No matter what it is, it has an attraction - an emotional feeling - something to give to us if, and because, we are willing to be open to it.
This morning I walked out before him. It had been raining off and on since Monday night and had obviously rained overnight. Everything was wet and there was a low fog that obscured Cathedral Ledge, although you could still make out the outlines of the cliff through the heavy mist. In spite of the visual obscurity, sound was amplified. I could hear crows calling from up high, drips coming off the trees and the faint sound of traffic on West Side Road a half mile away. Then, just as Lewis came out the breezeway door, there was the screech of a Peregrine echoing of the cliff 300 yards away. I could not see the birds, yet I could tell that they were in the air, moving back and forth across the cliff. It was an eerie, yet stimulating sound. I am involved in helping NH Audubon in their raptor banding efforts and this was like them calling out to me - letting me know that their time is coming. I didn't have to point it out to Lewis, he already knew what the sound was. We walked down the street in silence, enjoying the sounds of the Peregrines interspersed with the calls of the other, more local birds. It was a special morning...
I was at one of my sons extracurricular classes on Tuesday when a woman I vaguely recognized came up to me and started talking. She said she had a question for me and then she asked me how I felt about helmets. She didn't say motorcycle, bike or climbing helmets, so for a minute I just looked back at her thinking about the question. Then I realized that there was really no difference, so I answered her: " I never climb or ride my bike without one, why would I?"
I've had this discussion many times over the years. I never ride or climb without a helmet, and I never ride or drive my car without wearing a seat belt. I feel naked without either. I see people flying down the Kanc or Crawford Notch on a bike with no helmet, going 65+ on the interstate on their Harley with no helmet and climbing the hardest climbs uncovered. I saw some pictures recently of local climber on one of the hardest climbs in the area, with no helmet. They took a fall and pulled 2 pieces of gear and were swinging around with no protection on the most delicate part of their anatomy. Last winter I saw someone climbing ice on Cathedral Ledge, sans helmet. I distinctly remember commenting to my partner Brad at the time about how "there you are, whacking at brittle stuff ABOVE your head, with no protection". It simply didn't make any sense to me then, or now.
One of the reasons that I choose not to read the climbing magazines, is that 90% of the pictures show climbers without helmets. I strongly feel that they are sending the wrong message to their constituency. That's it's cool, and even safe,to climb without a helmet. I'm sure that it's the same feeling that you get riding a motorcycle, flying down the road with your hair blowing in the wind, unencumbered by the reality of a helmet protecting that fragile melon perched on top of your head. Not to mention the idea that you are saying, in some way, that no one can tell you what to do and how to live your life. I suppose it's the same feeling that some people have about wearing a seat belt. "It's my life, and I can do what I want with it!" Until their teenager, who has closely watched what they do all their lives, gets into an accident and is ejected from the vehicle and is seriously injured or killed!
I was talking recently with a friend who is a ski instructor and avid backcountry skier. I brought up the question of helmets and skiing. He said he always wears a helmet. And then a minute or two later, he qualified it by saying "well…on lift-serv areas". So I had to ask, you don't wear one when you're out on Mt Washington on something like Gulf Of Slides, and he replied no. I probed a bit more, "How about coming down through the trees?" Again he said "No". I asked why, in several different ways. His response was always "I really don't know, I just don't!" this is from a highly intelligent, 64 year-old man!
To bring this rant back to the question from the woman at Lewis' class… I had this flash that of course she was there for her child's class and, she saw me and was asking me the question trying to find something to say to her husband to convince him to wear a helmet when he climbs because she knows it is not safe. Before I could say any more, my sons class was over and we had to leave and I said goodbye. I felt bad that I couldn't come up with anything more than the same old thing that I've said so many times. I felt as if I had let her down.
I got into the car, Lewis and I automatically buckled up, and as we were driving away I realized that there was something else that could be said… Perhaps the way to put it was that going without a helmet, or seatbelt for that matter, is a selfish choice. A choice that is all about YOU, with no regard or perhaps even a fully conscious DIS-regard for anyone else. You are saying that if something happens to ME, as you ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY KNOW that it can, it really doesn't matter to you. That your partner, your wife, your husband, your children will simply suck it up and deal with it. That you don't care if they go through extreme mental and emotional anguish when or if you are killed or extremely injured. Or that when they have to spend the next 20+ years taking care of a brain-damaged person or are financially devastated by your medical bills, that it was all worth it so that YOU could enjoy YOUR own personal freedom. The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is the correct way to think about it.
The next time I go to that class, I hope I see her there…I have some ammunition that might make a difference.
Local guides Silas Rossi and Peter Doucette have just returned from a successful trip to the Ruth Gorge in Alaska where they climbed two new routes on Mt Bradley. Looking forward to a full write-up and more photos coming soon. There are some pictures on Silas' Facebook page that looks fantastic.
Freddie Wilkinson summitted Ama Dablam and has been climbing other peaks with Ueli Steck. Steck is climbing a variety of routes while preparing for a solo attempt on Everest. You can read an interview with Ueli here:
Kevin Mahoney and Jackson Hole innkeeper Hans Johnstone spent eight days over spring break in the Alps climbing the north face of the Matterhorn, the north face of the Eiger, and the north couloir direct of the Dru!
Big congratulations to all of these guys. I gotta say that we really do have some great climbers here in New England!
On Monday I took another pass at Found Ledge with Joe & Judy Perez. We had planned on running up there for a few hours and climbing our routes on the Little Slab. It was going to be a nice day, and we hadn't had any rain for a couple of days so we figured things would be dry. It looked as if someone else had been up there and the trail is definitely getting beat out a bit so it's pretty easy to find your way up there even tho the leaves on the trees are starting to obscure things. Surprisingly, the entire left side of the slab was seeping and basically unclimbable. We were kind of bummed, but fortunately we had a Plan B.
We had been wanting to climb Chuck Woodman and Jack Darcy's 2 routes on the Littlest Slab, the slab just left of the Lumberjack Wall. We didn't bring any gear other than a rope and draws, since all of the lines on the Little Slab are bolted, but our understanding was that the 2 lines don't take any gear, in spite of only having a paltry 1 bolt each! There was obvious chalk on the rock on both climbs and I decided to give the left-hand one (No Shake Left 5.5) a try. The rock was wonderfully rough and there were small dishes and nubbins a plenty. Once past the bolt the climbing eased up and after about 50' I just told Judy to take me off belay and I walked up the low-angle slab to the spruce tree in the middle of the slab about 90' up. I put a cordalette on the tree and brought Judy up. Realizing that climb was almost exactly half a 60 meter rope length, she rapped off and I followed. Joe decided to do the slightly harder No Shake Right (5.6) so we pulled the rope. We each took a turn on it and we agreed that they were both fun, tho assuredly runout. Still, if you are comfortable climbing at Whitehorse, you will have no problems.
I was the last one to climb, so I decided to talk over and put a TR up on the Lumberjack Crack. It seemed ridiculous since this is, as Jerry Handren says, a "bog standard" 5.11c. This is way above any grade I've ever climbed, but I figured at least we could all flail our way up it for a bit of a hoot. The direct start was all wet and slimy, so I climbed the face on the left and traversed right into the crack. Amazingly enough I was able to climb in and out of the crack all the way to about the halfway point. I could see where the gear would go and it looked as if it would be good. Then there is a blank section with about 5 feet of very thin face, with no gear. I took a rest and then figured out a move on the right, coming back left to where I could get to the crack. The gear didn't look as if it would be as good as below, but at least there was a stance. I took another rest and surveyed what was to come. Now the crack petered out, becoming little more than a seam all the way up to the wide funky looking crack at the very top. It really seemed as if this was the physical as well as mental crux of the climb. It took me two tries to figure it out, but then amazingly I was at the top. I was totally and completely surprised that I could manage it, even on a TR and I cannot remotely imagine leading it. The climb is gently overhanging all the way to the top and getting in the gear must be really tough. A BIG kudos goes to Chris Gill for pulling off the FA way back in 1987!
Joe started up and got into the crack and then decided that his elbow was bother him and he lowered off. He's a strong crack climber so I have no doubt that he could manage it. Judy was interested at all, so I walked around, took down the anchor and rapped off. We started up at about 1 and were back at the car by 4. All in all a fund day at the crag.
An top rope accident took place at the Gunks last Saturday, taking the life of a young new Jersey woman on her first day climbing. There is a thread about it on the NEClimbs.com forum here:
You can also find information on Gunks.com and other climbing sites. Unfortunately at this point it does not appear that there is any definitive information about the cause of the tragedy.
On May 8, 2012, Flatbread Company in North Conway will hold a benefit night for Kismet Rock Foundation (Kismet). Kismet, a non-profit based in North Conway, is a technical climbing school that serves economically disadvantaged students from eight schools in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. All students receive fully funded scholarships, which enable them to learn the joys of technical climbing and to live in the mountains for one week per summer, over a period of four consecutive summers.
The event begins at 5:00 PM. Flatbread Company will donate $3.50 for every large flatbread and $1.75 for every small flatbread purchased after 5:00 PM. Kismet will hold a raffle beginning at 7:00 PM with items generously donated by local vendors.
For more information about Kismet, to make a donation, or to volunteer please visit www.kismetrockfoundation.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-730-2715. Kismet Rock Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) and all donations are tax deductible.
Well the bugs are starting to come out, but they aren't in full force yet - at least for the most part. I've heard that a bit to our south, like in Pawtuckaway, they are brutal, but that's not the case here in the Valley quite yet. I suppose that's got to do with the chilly nights. That said, there are definitely ticks out so be aware for you and your pets.
Wildlife biologists and volunteers in New Hampshire work very hard to identify the specific nesting locations used by theses state-listed Threatened raptors as early in the Spring season as possible, and to develop temporary closures that accomplish our Peregrine Falcon management objectives with minimal impact to recreational climbers and hikers.
This 2012 seasonal closures in New Hampshire are as follows:
Cathedral Ledge (part of upper left only), Bartlett, NH
Eagle Cliff (Spire area OPEN!), Franconia, NH
Frankenstein (lower south-facing wall), Harts Location, NH
Holts Ledge, Lyme, NH
Owls Head (right end only), Benton, NH
Painted Walls, Albany, NH
Rumney Rocks (Main Cliff), Rumney, NH
Square Ledge, Albany, NH
Woodchuck Ledge (upper right only), Albany, NH
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
|My best performances often developed out of depression when I used climbing as a tool to forestall suicide rather than a method of achieving it. Dispair inspired three years of 'crazy' soloing.|