Sunday, December 14, 2008

We are happy to report we are NOT the only folks on this street w/o power! Now we just hope everyone else around is as comfortable as us

Ice Storm 2008

Life in Maine....Were tough here right? The transformer across the street blowing up, woke me from a deep sleep at 2:30 am on Friday Morning. Boom, Boom, Boom, as a few more popped off...Time to go to work I thought. Being the caretakers of our little humble cottage as well as, our friends and former neighbors house now that they live in North Carolina. I knew with no power and LOTS of rain water coming down and on the ground already, that I had to get the generator running and sump pumps hooked up to power. Our new neighbors renting the house next door were not home, so it made it easy to bust into the house at an early hour and run the extension cords from both pumps out to the generator. I was a bit hesitant about getting a LOUD generator going so early but, I had little choice. My second priority was to move our cars closer to the garage since we usually park under a very large tree in our front yard. The sound of trees cracking echoed up and down the street, partially drowned out by the sound of heavy rain falling. I ran for cover into the garage several times, wondering if I was in the line of fire of the loud cracks and crash sounds all around. I witnessed several very large branches fall from the tree out front and rip down our power line from our house to the telephone pole along with the cable for our TV/ Internet. After that and now a bit pumped up, I ran inside telling Steph (who had laid down for a little more sleep...) "Its time to get up" - "I know" she said. "A tree just fell on the house". Which is actually exactly what it must have sounded like from the inside? It was pretty intense at this point, roughly five AM. We almost thought we should move our cats over to the neighbors house, but we waited it out. We kept up a pretty intense schedule as the morning went on of running the generator every half hour to drain the sump-pump wells from both houses.

The Carnage showing our power line ripped from the house.

Stationed at the generator.

As Friday went on, we learned of the devastation all around, well over half a million people without power between New Hampshire and Maine. We actually were looking pretty good considering that news, we had got our camping gear out and made coffee on the little MSR stove, we got our coolers out and cleaned out the fridge (anticipating the long haul without power). More importantly I guess, we had and still have heat. We run on propane so our heat source continues to work, the fan that circulates the hot air is electric but, were staying warm just fine.

I ventured out around noon to get gas for the generator and ice for the coolers. Long lines both in and out of the store. I waited in line for about 10 minutes, only to be told they were out of ice...
Steph went out later in the day to try and get some Christmas shopping started as well as a pile of candles. While she was out, the power came on....well for everyone else around us. This was good news in some way, it meant that I could stop running the generator and plug our sump pump in from the garage since that is wired to the main house here, and the Humphrey's house would be self sufficient again. We had tried to make this a positive situation by thinking we could get sushi take out for dinner. Any excuse we need to use is just fine, but to no avail...SAKE was closed, as were half the businesses and restaurants around the Portsmouth and Kittery area. Frustrated and tired from working all day around the flooded casas, we decided to head home and
cook some veggie burgers and combine that with chips and salsa....Wow, some of the finest veggie burgers I have ever had....or at least in a long time.

Here I am cooking some dinner up, sitting in Harry's basket, being kept company by his friends.

As I write now, Sunday Three PM. Our power is still out! We are the only house on the street down and apparently according to what the local news paper is reporting, the only house in Eliot, Maine. They list the towns locally that are without power and how many customers...They don't even list anyone in Eliot so we must be the only ones and well below the radar. I am running on someone's internet connection and we have been getting by charging our computers next door and keeping the house lit at night with candles and our Exposure Lights. We actually had our Sushi meal last night with Tom our neighbor, who insisted we stay with him, but we stayed home since we're warm. As the day wears on, I don't see us getting hooked up until tomorrow or later. We are planning to eat Flatbread pizza and salad for dinner but, mostly for the brownie sundae desert!

Exposure Lights MaXx D...keeping the house lit up.

We've actually been making the best of our "down time". Cleaning the house and going through some stuff in storage. But honestly, it's getting old quick.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Charm ?

Sunrise from near the top of Kancamagus Pass, a beautiful start to the day.

As the saying goes, "The Third Time is a Charm". Yesterday was the Third time I set out to do an Ice Climb in Franconia Notch on Mount Lincoln, appropriately it is called "Lincoln's Throat". Back in December 2006, myself, my friend Todd Ringelberg and two other friends, Tim and Jeff tried and came very close to climbing this route. We broke free from the main drainage too early and ended up climbing a short interesting ice gully and then with a lot of determination, but not much reason, bushwacking up the unnamed and trail less west ridge of Mount Lincoln. What a BRUTAL trip that was. At one point, I seriously thought I was going to collapse from exhaustion! We were surmounting little rock ledges, pine trees and chest deep snow drifts. It was an EPIC by all accounts. On our second attempt, Todd and I were stymied by the deep snow of Winter 2008 and enteri
ng the drainage too low down from The Old Bridal Path hiking trail. We tucked our tails back and headed home. After reading reports from other folks who climbed this route just last weekend, I rallied Todd and we decided to give it another go. Lincoln's Throat is not necessarily an "Ice Climb". Climbing this is more of a mountaineering adventure and a non-typical climbing up a mountain. The amount of roped technical climbing is small in comparison to the whole trip. The start is from the Lafayette Place Trail head, where the Old Bridal Path and Falling Waters Trails begin. You hike about a mile up the OBP at the "hair pin" turn and descend down off the trail steeply, through thickets and pine trees to the Walker Brook which drains off of Mount Lincoln. Once your at the drainage, you navigate up along the stream bed which gets significantly steeper the higher you go.

The train of people climbing up the drainage.

The day began at 4 am. I made a thermos full of coffee for the climb and a huge mug for the drive. On the road by five, the drive was pretty quick. I caught the sun coming up by the time I hit the top of the Kancamagus. Then, as I was coming off the Kancamagus Highway merging onto I-93, I saw the RIngelberg mobile creeping up the road, good timing! We knew we were behind at least one party of two as we saw them leaving when we drove into the parking lot. What we didn't expect was, the hordes of people who also intended to climb this route on this day, it was an International event! Besides Todd and I, we met two Canadians, and a group of Russians (7 in the party) and another couple of Americans behind us. The Russian group steamed past us, clogging up the drain shall I say. One of the Russian ladies came by us and said " So much for peace and quiet, there are seven of us, and a few more people, we thought we would have it to our selves" Well if you ask me, a group of seven is not my idea of Peace and Quiet lady...Not really wanting to race all of them to the base of the "climbing" we let most of them go by us and we slowly made our way up higher, stopping to put crampons on and to take out our Ice tools. We waited and waited and waited for these people to climb through the throat. Some in their own party broke off right up the low angle slabs to the top. All this waiting and the day is coming closer to an end.

Ice Climbing is 90% waiting and 10% climbing usually and while your waiting in the cold you can only dream of summer as your digits begin to freeze....Usually you get impatient with your buddy as he leads the pitch and you freeze. My feet got really, really cold and I kept trying to "swing" them to get the blood flowing again. Finally the coast was clear and I heade
d up. Todd belayed me from a snow ledge we chopped out and I was able to find a nice nut placement. Ok good I thought, a bit of protection in the system. I climbed the snow higher right to the base of the ice. It was very brittle and hollow. I just could not get a screw to bite very good anywhere. I tried climbing up higher, searching for a good placement. With the most difficult moves right in my face, I just could not focus and climb through. So I backed off and went back down to Todd, who had moved up to my nut placement and was now belaying me from there. Back at the belay, we swapped the necessary gear and I found a spot for another nut and secured the anchor a little bit more. Todd was now at the base of the ice and actually found two fairly good screw placements to give him mental confidence to climb through. He worked it out in fine style I must add and moved higher up near the end of the rope and set up his belay. I was REALLY cold at this point and became impatient (like I mentioned earlier) I hastily dismantled my anchor and moved to the base of the ice and the screws he had placed. I was not a happy climber at this point...Really feeling the cold feet or actually I could not feel them which was the problem. I yelled climbing before I even knew if I was on belay or not and got an ANGRY sounding "Hang On".

Todd- Placing an ice screw at the base of the Throat.

Todd- through the difficulties.

Finally, I was on belay and climbed through quickly to see if I could get some warming of my feet and blood flow going. I am so glad I did not lead it, my first climb of the year and I was not ready for the difficulty. Thanks Todd, nice work! I arrived at the belay and moved through pretty fast. Looking up, there was a large snow slope that was not very consolidated the higher up I got. I put a runner around a small tree to give me some protection and ran out the rope as far as I could. The timing was perfect as there was a nice thick pine tree I used for an anchor. Bringing Todd up went by quickly and we wondered how much further to ridge line it was...?

The sun setting over Mount Moosilauke.

We swapped one more full and one short roped pitch and I was on the Franconia Ridge hip belaying Todd up. The views of all the mountains around me were incredible. I took quick note; The Presidential range far to the east with a very white Mount Washington dominating the view. The Pemigewasset Wilderness, the Owl, the Bond Cliff range seen in the immediate foreground with Mount Garfield and the Twin Range and a towering Mount Lafayette up the ridge immediately to the north. Due west Cannon Mountain, the HUGE wall of Cannon Cliff and the Kinsman peaks.

Todd climbing up the final snow slope.

It was 3:30 when we topped out and we knew we should move quickly to our descent on the Falling Waters Trail. We hiked down off the summit just enough to get out of the wind and decided to put the rope away and get rid of some of the technical gear. The hike down to Little Haystack was uneventful but, very enjoyable while daylight faded and the white mountains lit up the sky.

On the summit of Lincoln with Mount Washington and the Presidential Range to the East.

Just below the summit of Little Haystack we met a Canadian guy who was with some other folks down the trail that we met later. They were doing a nighttime traverse of the Franconia Ridge, Falling Waters north and down the Old Bridal Path. It must have been a great night for it.

Mount Lincoln from Little Haystack.

We hiked the 3.2 miles from Little Haystack down in about two hours. Along the way I felt an incredible burning on my right big toe. We stopped and had a look, my toes were numb from being cold earlier and they never really fully thawed. I had a nice blister on the underneath of my right big toe. Moist to the touch, it was tough to say though if it wasn't just a friction blister. The numb toes were the concern along with that. When I got home last night I soaked my feet in water and have several times this morning. Besides numbness on all my toes on both feet, the pads of both big toes but more so the right, are harder to the touch, scaley feeling and I have some nice blisters, only water blister though, no blood filled or "black" colored ones. I'd say Frost Nip for sure (numbing) and some minor Superficial Frost Bite (blisters). I am having a bit of a tough time walking and have to keep my toes pointed up. Hmmm...where is my vicodin from last years kidney stone battle? I had a small bit of frost nip on my right index finger about 12 years ago from a day of hiking in Subzero temps (actually on my last New England Four Thousand Footer, Carter Dome) and it took over a month for the numbness to go away and my skin cells to regenerate a bit. It's weird but, the skin peels in this area several time a year and can look discolored and swollen when my hands get real cold.

We celebrated the days accomplishment with some excellent food at the Woodstock Inn. I had a HUGE cheeseburger with fries and started things off with classic french onion soup that hit the spot. The drive back up and over the Kanc was nice, the snow on the peaks lit up the night sky. After the effects of a full belly took over, the rest of the drive home was tough, I had to pull over for a quick cat nap. In the end it was a very long day for sure. I saw the sunrise and go down and covered a lot of terrain during that time.

Here is the GPS track image from Motionbased.

View Larger Map

Also more pictures from the day-
Lincoln's Throat