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July 19, 2012
SUUU-WEEE-ETTT! After a week of brutally and unseasonably hot weather, yesterday we finally swung back into something resembling a typical northern New England mountain summer - moderate days (around 80), coolish nights (low to mod 50's) and generally low humidity. It really doesn't get a whole lot better than this. I rate the summer temps "good" when I can go out climbing and bring a single chilled Nalgene bottle of Gatorade, or take a moderate road bike ride and know I'll only need the 2 bottles I can carry on my frame. Not to mention the perfect sleeping weather when I don't have to have the fan blowing one me all night and I can actually pull my thin chennile bedspread over me at about 3 AM! This is just how I like it.
Just got back from a morning run over at Humphrey's with friends Grammy and Jeff L. Grammy took a run on one of my climbs "Can You Believe It?", a short little 5.8 that for some reason didn't make it into the new guidebook. If you have some small gear and a set of TriCams from pink through blue, you might find it entertaining. Then I took another run on African Queen, about 30' to the right, and just right of "Straight Up". At 5.9R it is definitely committing, but it's a really nice line that was put up by Kurt Winkler and Doug Madera 20+ years ago. It early gets done, but it's well worth the effort if you can get in the right head. There was a perfectly lovely breeze, temperature was in the low 70's, no bugs to be seen and the rock was totally dry. WOW
Last weekend, on the other hand, was pretty tough going. Daytime it was in the mid-90's, and it didn't get much below 78 at night. I had one opportunity to get out on the road bike over the weekend, on Sunday, so I had to grab it regardless. I knew it was going to be bad so I drove the the van up to the top of Hurricane Mountain Road and rode out to the top of Evans Notch. Yes, I know that was wimping out, but I knew I simply wasn't up for both sides of Hurricane that day. There weren't too many cars out there and the ride out and back, with a little pause at the top of Evans for some lunch, was nice - tho quite hot. I drank both of my large bike water bottles by the time I got to the top and refilled at the Basin pump. I put down one and a half by the time I got to the base of Hurricane and finished off the last bit by the time I got back to the van! I've ridden Hurricane many times, at many times of the year, but this was darn near the hottest I can remember.
I guided a camp group at Cathedral on Monday and unfortunately the weather wasn't any better. I had 2 13 year olds and a counsellor who wanted multi-pitch so we went over to do Thin Air. By 9:30 it was probably about as hot on the Thin Air face as it would have been on Whitehorse - full sun and no breeze! In spite of having done a week of climbing prior to our day, one of the kids really got wigged out on the traverse. No amount of encouragement by her counsellor worked so unfortunately I had to lower her off! Of course then I had to back-clean the pitch and rap off myself. It was awkward, but is a part of the deal. By the time I was down I'd already drunk more than half of one Nalgene jug of Gatorade. Man, I was sweating bullets! I don't have any problem remembering to drink, but as is often the case with kids, you have to be on them all the time to drink enough.
I though that perhaps something vertical would be easier, so we walked up the 30' to the base of the Saigon's. Although it's harder in many ways than Thin Air, I've done it with kids before and it's not as tricky for them as a traverse. Some clouds had some in and it was a bit cooler so I led up pitch 1 and set up the anchor. The girl who had difficulty on the traverse came up first and altho it took her a while, she managed it OK. She was clearly a reasonable climber and was a lot more comfortable on the vertical terrain. Then the second young girl came up, albeit a bit slower, follower quickly by the counsellor. I was pleased with how well they had all done, and they were happy as well. It was funny to hear the first girl say how much easier pitch 1 of the Saigons was, compared to the Thin Air traverse.
While the counsellor was climbing someone over the top of the Airation Buttress to the left of Camber threw off a beer can and then a good sized stick! Needless to say I did a lot of yelling and it stopped, but I was pretty PO'd. This was not the first incident of its kind this year. The other one, that I know of, took place earlier in the season when our climbing school (IMCS) also had a camp group on Cathedral. That time someone was throwing pebbles and some of them actually hit a few of the kids, fortunately not causing any real injury. There are enough things that can happen when you're climbing, without man-induced stuff like this. Fortunately this area is one of the very few areas where you really have to worry about the possibility of malicious conduct.
Just as I got the last one to the belay, a party who had climbed Thin Air traversed over to the anchor on above us with the intention of rapping off with a single rope. We had our ropes all set to rap so I let them come down and use our rope to go through. Just as they were coming down we got a little rain shower that passed through, not really soaking things, but definitely cooling us off. It was pretty crowded with 6 of us at the same belay station for a few minutes, but it worked out OK. By this time the 2 younger girls wanted to go down rather than finishing the last pitch. Since they had rappelled before, I set them up with a belayed-rappel and they went back down to the ground. The counsellor wanted to go to the top so I led that pitch and we quickly rapped off. I hadn't done the Saigons this season and as always I really like the climbing. It's got great moves on excellent rock in a beautiful location. IMO it's hard not to call it a 3 star route.
By the time we got back down the day was done and we packed up and headed back to the car. Temps had cooled a little with the passing shower, but the sun was back out and the humidity was high. From the weather prediction I knew we had one more day of similar conditions, but things were going to change for the better and we all were happy about that.
I think that the first time I came up to the Valley to climb was some time in the late 80's, probably '89. This was before Hale's Location and the White Mountain Hotel were there. You would park on Cathedral Ledge Road and hike over to Whitehorse on the logging road, past the big boulder and John Bouchard's cabin. This was probably in early July and there were literally hundreds, if not thousands, of these tiny golden-colored frogs everywhere. You would walk along and they would skitter out from under your feet. Honestly I don't know how we would avoid squishing them as we walked along, but I guess we did! If you went to Echo lake in the late afternoon to wash off after a day of climbing, as many of us fastidious types did, the sound of the peepers in the lake was s loud it was almost deafening.
Over the next few years we all saw fewer and fewer little frogs. Sure there were still frogs still around, like the toad that lived in the Standard Route arch for many seasons, but the numbers of little ones dwindled. I heard that it had something to do with acid-rain and was an indication of a change in the environment. I never read a real study of it, but it was a topic of conversation around the campfire over a few beers and it made some sense to me. Over the past several years I've noticed a resurgence of the little frogs, to the point of this season we're back to seeing tons of them on the trails around the cliffs. It's really a cool thing and one that hopefully indicates that things environmentally at least are getting better.
I keep wanting to lower the BugCON rating, and then I go out and get clobbered again. Out guiding on Monday and during the day they weren't bad, but then in the later afternoon they seemed to came back in force with those pesky tiny gnats, mosquitoes and deer flies on the attack! With the breeze today things were a lot better and with any luck at least one of these groups of annoying creatures die off a bit and we'll all be able to lay off some the bug dope a bit. Stay tuned -
I received the following note from Audubon biologist Chris Martin -
Just wanted you to know (and share with others!) that ALL the various seasonal climbing closures implemented for the 2012 peregrine falcon breeding season in New Hampshire have now been removed.
Thanks for your cooperation in our continuing efforts to manage both for productive peregrine falcon breeding and for outdoor recreation. Peregrine falcon breeding site management is conducted by NH Audubon under contract with NH Fish & Game and in cooperation with various public land managers and private landowners.
Just as a reminder, the 2012 seasonal closure list in New Hampshire WAS as follows:
Cathedral Ledge (part of upper left only), Bartlett, NH
Eagle Cliff (Spire area OPEN!), Franconia, NH
Frankenstein (lower south-facing wall), Harts Loc., 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
Have a safe and fantastic rest of the summer
Chris Martin, Senior Biologist
Conservation Department, New Hampshire Audubon
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.
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Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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