Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Red Sox baseball is here!

Sam enjoying a game last season

The Red Sox win their first regular season game of 2008! I traded my usual Margarita for Coffee this morning since it was a 6 am game!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Climbing above the ice on the first roped pitch of Damnation Gully in Huntington Ravine, Mount Washington

I have been pretty busy as of late....So this could be quite long. I promise it will be a good ride. So read on and dream my dreams, walk in my footsteps, climb up and down with me...

I'll start with Monday March, 10th. I hired Marc Chauvin to guide me up an ice climb on Mount Washington in Huntington Ravine. Sure I have climbed there a lot in my life. I have done all but one of the gullies many times over. A few of them with out any rope at all and often solo. This trip was different for me, this was about finding peace within tragedy and relieving some forms of recent desperation in my life. Marc and I met in North Conway and drove together to Pinkham Notch where we started our hike up to Huntington Ravine. The hike was quick and the conversation about all kinds of stuff was great. There we were in the floor of the Ravine looking up at all the Gullies. It was an amazing day, light winds but fairly cold, certainly not a typical March day but, this is Mount Washington! The snow was very stable after a recent rain event and quick hard freeze on the mountain and the Snow Rangers had given Huntington a Low probability of avalanches for the day, so we felt good about heading up. I had initially asked Marc to take me up Odell's Gully to retrace my good friend Pete Roux's steps in some way but, when we got there Marc asked me if there was anything I had not climbed in Huntington's. Since I follow his blog in the winter when he writes about the ice climbing conditions up north, I know he guides a route called Damnation Buttress a lot. This route combines the lower section of the regular gully with some mixed rock/ ice climbing on the buttress. So we altered the plan. I feel he knew what I wanted to get out this day and so he decided we would go up Damnation and descend into Odell's Gully and down further into the escape route which leads to another gully called South Gully.

Climbing up the lower reaches of Damnation Buttress.

The climb up the Buttress was really cool! It was fairly easy climbing, then again, I was not leading it. I feel comfortable going back there someday soon to lead climb it. It had some great mixed climbing moves with some good exposure when you could see since it fogged up pretty quickly the higher we got. Marc made quick work of the climbing. He has been guiding and climbing on this Mountain for 30 years so he knows right where to set up the anchors and belay. I learned a lot from him on this climb up. I am happy to have been able to get this one in as well.

Topping out on the Alpine Garden at the top of Damnation Buttress.

We made our way quickly from the top of the climb over to the top of our descent route. Marc knew right where to go with out any delay in thought. I could have found it, but probably after some time. The fog allowed for fair visibility down into the various gullies along the way. We got to the top of Odell's and looked into it from an angle to see the very top from a good vantage point. We agreed it looked solid and given the day's stability forecast, it was an easy decision. Starting that descent into Odell's was really wild! We were roped together about 2/3 meters apart. The snow was bullet proof and very steep. As I stomped my feet aggressively with my crampons into the crusty snow, small chunks of ice and snow quickly went down the gully. A fall on this type of terrain with failure to self arrest instantly, could be deadly and that was a serious factor to consider. I held off major emotions due to the seriousness of the descent and Marc's careful plotting of our route via certain landmarks and terrain features as we down climbed. But, Pete was in my constant thought as I ventured where he spent his final moments on January 18th. I believe I found a spot on the way down where Pete was in some of his photos from his climb. To be there with him descending with me in spirit and look down that gully and think about him getting avalanched brought me a lot of peace with his death. As I told Steph on my drive home that night, I feel as if a ton of weight is off my shoulders. I hate that he is gone from all who loved him but, he continues to teach me even though I can't call him up at any given time.

Further down Odell's, Marc and I actually had to step down off of an 18 to 24 inch crown line from a recent avalanche that probably was pretty big considering the size of the crack which actually went from one side of the gully to the other. That was frightening, but fun in some twisted way. We made our way just to the top of the first ice section of Odell's and continued our traverse/ descent over to South Gully. A few quick maneuvers through some small trees and a quick belay from Marc down a steep but turning gradually lower angle snow slope and we were in South. We completed the loop, finding our only pocket of wind slab snow just at the base of South Gully. We took the time to dig a shallow snow pit to check the sheer plane of the snow. It was pretty firm and took some effort to slab away. We were completely in safe terrain and it was an interesting test of the snow stability. We made our way down the mountain very quickly. It was an amazing honor to climb with Marc and I am thankful for him showing me Odell's gully from a different perspective. I am plotting my next trip with him sometime in the near future.

Tuesday March 11th, Steph and I had the day off together so we went to Boston and saw the IMAX movie called The Alps. In some way, this story was kind of relative to my previous days adventure on Washington. I highly recommend this movie if you have a chance to see it.What amazing scenery, especially in the IMAX theatre. The Alps are certainly on our list of places to visit, maybe even be fortunate to climb there someday!

Steph inspired!

Before the movie, we also went to IKEA south of the city. I had never been, so Steph gave me the full tour. We had fun and even ate some Swedish meatballs! Well, I ate some anyway....YUM!

Momma Moose!

Saturday March 15th, I met my longtime friend Erik in North Conway for some Ice climbing in Crawford Notch. This was Erik's first climbing in two years, ice or rock, so he was pretty excited. We were hiking down the railroad tracks on the approach and I spotted a fresh pile of Moose droppings. I said to Erik, "I'll bet she is right around here somewhere"..Sure enough, just a few feet down just off the tracks there she was.

Me leading the Monkey

We started out by climbing up lower snow section of Hitchcock gully and traversing right towards a climb I did earlier in the year with my friends Todd and Liz, called Left Hand Monkey Wrench. This is a great climb and it was in big and blue! The ice was in classic soft condition but, good for placing screws. Erik ripped right up it, taking out my protection as if he'd climbed just the day before!
"Just like riding a bike" he said....

Erik climbing out of Hitchcock Gully

After the Monkey we made our way up and over to Hitchcock Gully. Todd, Liz and I had also done this route a month or so ago but, I knew it would be a way to break Erik back into climbing after a long time away. I love climbing on Willard and on these specific climbs. It is a beautiful place to be that can be quite sheltered on the worst of weather days....How about that slung ice column in my picture above? Good old natural pro! I was even able to clip a never before seen bolt down a little lower in the Gully. Erik had a blast! He smiled ear to ear all the way up. I had the rappel set and ready for him when he got to the top of the climb. We both were down and took a little lunch break.

Erik solos up the lower section of The Cleft.

Erik and I plotting our next move, to take out the rope and finish with a little more safety in the system!

After the first two climbs, I suggested we go over and finish up a climb called The Cleft. This climb is relatively easy but, awesome in that it climbs blue ice bulges and snow up a huge slot in the upper cliff band of Mt. Willard. The walls on either side the deeper and higher you go tower above you. After a short solo up the first section we decide to rope back up and finish the climb. I lead the way and bring Erik up the last pitch. We coil up the rope and pack the gear away for the hardest part of our adventure...The bushwhack to the Mt. Willard hiking trail! A party in front of us started to pack the trail but, they could not find the hiking trail and were returning in their steps to rappel the route. I convinced them that it was very close by and they questioned how many times I had done this before...I assured them and left the choice with them to decide....Follow or rappel! Erik and I switched off trail blazing, falling in up to our arm pits in snow at times! We make it to the trail pretty quickly and I push him on to go for the Summit. We are tired but, it is only a short distance further and a small mountain but, the views down into Crawford Notch are well worth the extra effort.

All in all, a great day of climbing with an old friend!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Looking Back.....

Just taking the opportunity to look back on some incredible times and special places I have been to over the years.

Steph paddling Telos Lake-
Allagash Wilderness Waterway, September 2007

Camp high on Mt. Rainier's Kautz Glacier
June 13th, 2007

The Roy Boys near Chamberlain Farm
Allagash Wilderness Waterway, March 2004

112 Miles and the end of day one
Pan Massachusetts Challenge, August 2007

Heading into Baxter State Park
February 2004

Sedona, Arizona Honeymoon
October 2006

Todd climbing out of North Gully, Mount Washington
February 2007

-3 Souls forever bonded-
Lion Head Summit, Mount Washington

March 1993

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Blue Skies, New Feet and a Wild Snow Creature

This past Sunday, Steph and I decided to go out for a little hike around Mt. Agamenticus. It was such a beautiful day, so we took advantage of the mid-afternoon sun. We arrived at the parking lot at the base of the mountain road and it was jammed with cars. It seems every year more and more people venture out into this vast area of conservation land. In the summer on a Sunday morning, you shouldn't be surprised to see 40-50 cars parked in the lot and all along the road. So we started our hike up along the road in the snow. You could see snowboard and ski tracks just off in the woods. I have skied here before on a big dump day and it is a blast. Use your climbing skins or hike to the top and take some runs! You see, Mt A. used to be a ski area back in the late 60's until around 1974. It is a very unique mountain for its location. It is located just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean in York Maine, having an elevation of 691 feet. Amazing views of the White Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean are visible from the summit. I just learned that Mt. A has the highest elevation of any hill within its distance to the ocean from Portland Maine to Brownsville Texas (with Blue Hill, MA coming in a close second at 635 feet). If you wanted to ski Aggie you had to drive your car to the top and ski down the back side. Then a t-bar or a chair lift would bring you back up. Aggie had 8 trails from beginner to expert, some of them we still mountain bike or hike on. A bad local economy and a poor snow year eventually closed the slopes.

Steph near one of the remaining t-bar towers

We saw this rare and never seen before snow lizard climbing a tree. The bummer for you is, you'll never see such a creature either, well maybe if your lucky...This one melted seconds after this picture was taken!

Steph on her new feet!

We had a lot of fun hiking out there. It is a nice change to see the woods at a slower pace since we are always blasting down the trails on our bikes. I was surprised how many people had been out hiking, skiing or snowshoeing. We made a nice loop out towards Second hill and then back over to Aggie. If your into Geocaching, there is one up there somewhere near the summit. The bike group I ride with sometimes found it one night as we were just stopped on the trail right near it. Someone just looked over with their helmet light and there it was! Who needs a GPS? I tried to find it to show Steph but, I was unsucessful. It was probably buried under all the snow. Getting to the summit was a joy! Great views of the mountains and ocean. It was pretty windy from the north west so we headed down the sunny and sheltered Blueberry bluff trail. There was so much snow, we were able to just stomp off the trail and not worry about trampling the land. It was fun to really get to use the snow shoes off the beaten path.

A fun day in the woods!