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May 31, 2012
Last week I was in Boston on some family business. I rarely get down there except to play music or take one of my instruments to the repair guy that I've been using for over 25 years, so I'm always in a hurry or there at night. I lived in the western suburbs of Boston from about 1985-1997, mostly in the Newton/Needham/Natick areas. It was a nice place to live and when I got back into climbing rock, around 1990, it instantly became a great place. Although there really weren't many possibilities for lead climbing, there were tons of possibilities for top-roping or bouldering.
When I lived in Chestnut Hill, right behind what was then called the "Lower Mall", I was only minutes by bike or car from a wonderful resource known as Hammond Pond. There are numbers small crags in this small preserve that have been used by generations of area climbers. My favorite haunts were the Alcove, the Main Wall and the Ham & Eggs Wall, all 3 offering some short but sweet climbing. For many years I would go there almost every day after work or at lunch and spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours playing on the well trodden problems. While we have almost all granite up here, the rock in that area is a funny conglomerate called "pudding stone" - a dark rock with embedded pebbles ranging from .25 to 3 inches across. It's really cool stuff.
I hadn't been there in quite a few years, so since I had a couple of hours in-between seeing my daughter for lunch and picking up my bass in the early evening, I decided to head over to Hammond Pond for a little R&R. When I pulled into the parking area at 2:00 PM there were only a few cars. First I headed up to the Alcove, an aptly named area with many well polished and overhanging boulder problems. It felt good to climb there, but in a way it was a little depressing. Several of the climbs that I had wired back-in-the-day were out of my reach now. And some that I were able to do made me very nervous with no spotter, and in fact no one around at all! Still, it was really cool to pull up on overhanging jugs and then pull over the top on little solution pockets. Although I used to solo right up the middle of the larger wall, this time I chickened out at the horizontal in the middle. Regardless it was fun to do all the shorter problems on the left and right.
I decided to head over to check on the Main Wall, a ~30' high face with a few cracks. As I remembered, the crack on the right has a total finger lock on every move. It felt so good that I did that twice, just because… I remember leading it, and the one to its left, many years ago when I was working on placing nuts. You could almost throw a one at the crack and have it set perfectly.
After a couple of hours I'd had my fill and was happy to pack it in and head off to battle the Rt 128 traffic to Winchester to pick up my bass. I'd forgotten how great a place Hammond Pond is and how much you can do in a short time. There are several other small crags in that area, including the Temple Overhangs on the other side of Hammond Pond Parkway. I know that I have Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges literally right in my back yard, but I do wish there was something a little more like Hammond Pond. It truly has something for every level of your energy and ability. For those of you who live down there, count your blessings. Many urban areas have nothing quite as nice.
I raised the BugCON rating to a 4 this week, and arguably it should be a 5! I was on Cathedral on Thursday afternoon and when I got home I was covered in black fly bites - in spite of wearing DEET bug dope!!!! The mosquitoes are bad, the black flies are horrendous and there are lots of ticks out there! SHEESH!
SPECIAL NOTE - As of Thursday May 31, the closing on Cathedral has been lifted. By request of NH Audubon biologist Chris Martin, I rappelled down where the birds had been nesting and they are gone. In the process I removed all if not most of the warning signs.
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
|This is a group of people I used to go walking with. (long pause) That's me on the left. (even longer pause) On the right is the woman I married, Audrey. (very long pause, speaker looks at shoes) Which just goes to show that danger lurks where you least expect it.|
|Don Whillans commenting on a B&W slide showing a group of smiling hikers|