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September 20, 2013
What an extremely beautiful week this has been. One beautiful, albeit chilly day after another. The two mornings with hard frost were just predictions of the official change of season on Sunday. While in general the leaves aren't changing yet, the swamp maples are getting skittish and the birches in the upper elevations are showing flashes of bright yellows. The dry air and crystal clear skies are perfect conditions for almost outdoor activity. This is what makes the next 6-8 weeks a very special time in the New England.
An accident took place on the Tree Keys climb at the Geriatric Walls area of Humphrey's Ledge on Sunday. Reports indicate that a leader was on this popular 5.7 climb and pulled off a rock, lost their balance and fell. According to people in the vicinity, the rock fell down in the vicinity of the belayer, who tripped while trying to get out of the way and lost control of the belay, allowing the leader to fall all or almost all of the way to the ground. The leader was carried out complaining of back pain. Fortunately they only suffered soft tissue injury and were reportedly back at home on Monday.
George Hurley and were at Humphrey's on Tuesday and climbed Tree Keys. While there is often loose rock in the small chimney about 15' lower, this was apparently not the place where the accident took place. George and I could clearly see where a rock was missing about 4' below the first bolt on the upper buttress. This is about 35' above the ground and close to 20' above the last bolt. I our opinion, even had the belayer managed to not let go of the rope, the leader would have likely fallen to the ground due to both the distance above the last piece of protection and rope stretch. Although the climbing above the lower bolt and through the chimney is fairly easy, probably 5.1, there is no good protection until you clip the bolt on the buttress. It is simply the nature of this particular climb. As as reminder, climbing is by its nature a dangerous activity, it is always critical that leaders and seconds always test all hand and foot holds before committing to them!
Here is a picture of the place where the rock apparently came off and another of the view from that exact point down to the belayer. It is worth noting that there is a large tree where the belayer is standing. If the belayer had been there, it would have been relatively easy to duck behind it in case of rockfall. In point of fact I used it myself when George was putting up a new climb to the right of Tree Keys about an hour later. Several small/medium rocks came off as he was climbing and I was happy to have the shelter!
Information is still being released, but there was an accident on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail Thursday evening, resulting in a death. A 25 year old hiker was a member of a party of 3 descending the trail about 5PM. He stepped off the trail to look at a waterfall and get some water, slipped on some moss and fell ~150' onto a ledge partway down the headwall. The National Guard brought in a Blackhawk helicopter in an attempt to rescue him. Unfortunately he died on the way to the hospital after being extracted.
It's important to note that several deaths have taken place on the Tuckerman Ravine trail over the years, in this very location. While the AMC widened and cleaned it up several years ago, it remains a difficult area. I was up there 2 years ago in the early winter and I can see how this could easily happen. Caution while descending this trail is strongly advised!
I was at Humphrey's with George Hurley on Tuesday and as mentioned previously we climbed Tree Keys. While we were sitting at the base after we finished, George observed what appeared to him to be a possible line up a series of ledgy "steps" about 15' right of Tree Keys. I mentioned that I had climbed up that for about 30' several years ago. At that time it started raining, so I backed off. He said he'd like to try it, so he did and it turned out to be a somewhat reasonable route. I did quite a bit of cleaning of rubble as I seconded it, you can see some of it on the ground, however the leader should still be careful not to knock off stuff as they climb and I suggest hat the belayer stand off to the side so they could avoid any rockfall.
Originally we were going to call it Surprise, since we didn't expect it to be as good as it is. However, after I looked at the pictures from the day I decided that "Where's Waldo?" was more appropriate. [grin] Some of you may remember the kids' books by the same name.
Description: Yet another interesting climb by George Hurley. While it has all the earmarks of a classic Hurley "adventure climb", in reality the protection isn't bad and the climbing overall is entertaining. While not a 5.6 for beginning 5.6 leaders, it is an interesting outing for someone who is solid on 5.7 or above.
Directions: Start about 15' right of Tree Keys at a somewhat clean face with obvious ledgy steps.
Pitch 1: Climb up the face about 20' to a gray headwall, Go around the right side of the headwall and then back left on a good ledge. Continue up to a juniper and a small clump of maples and then continue up to the top. Belay from a moderately sized pine tree about 12' back from the edge. In some ways the crux is the final move onto the upper grassy ledge just below the tree.
Gear: standard rack with small cams, wires and Tricams
Descent: rap from a tree at the top
History: FA - George Hurley and Al Hospers 9/17/2013
Still the occasional mosquito or blackly, so I'm sticking with BugCON 1 'till it gets cooler.
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North Conway, New Hampshire
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