Saturday, December 26, 2009

Swingin Tools, Kickin Feet

Just back from the first day of Ice Climbing season for 09/10. It was a full-on-winter-conditions-day out there. I climbed with my good friend Todd today. We headed to one of my favorite areas to climb, Mount Willard in Crawford Notch, NH. It was a blustery day, but not terribly cold. We climbed the lower section of Hitchcock Gully before traversing right to the base of a climb called Left Hand Monkey Wrench. I urged Todd to lead this pitch, saying "It's your turn to lead this one" (last year we did this one together and I lead this pitch), and so he did, in fine style I must add. I forgot my camera, but I managed to take this shot below with my Iphone.

Left Hand Monkey Wrench is such a great climb, and sure does beat the tricky mixed lower Hitchcock Gully pitch. Plus, we were out to ice climb, not frozen moss, and dicey rock with crampons on! After cleaning Todd's gear from the route and joining him at the belay, we coiled the ropes and moved to the upper tier of cliff band. The wind was HOWLING and snow was blowing around intensely. We looked at East Face Slabs right, one of the climbs on the upper tier. I really would have liked to have lead this one today, but looking up at the top section of ice and the trees up there getting blown all about, it was a good call to save for another day and not risk getting blown off the climb. So we opted for the more "sheltered" upper Hitchcock Gully. It was my turn on the sharp end and it felt like I had just climbed yesterday, not last spring! My head was in it and feeling the climbing love. I started up and quickly got blasted from up slope winds and blowing snow, I looked down at Todd, only 40 feet or so below and I could not see him, complete whiteout conditions. It was pretty intense! At the first ice screw, it went in quick and felt very secure, bang, quick draw clipped, rope clipped, climb on! Only about four feet above my pro, my head says, wait a second...lets put a little more safety in this system! Bang, shorty screw in quicker than you can say "shorty screw", quick draw clipped, rope clipped, head level...climb on! I ran it out to the next screw about 20 feet, just before a tricky ice bulge, I put in another screw. Some of my screws are old and not so sharp...this third one was a bit more difficult to get good purchase in the ice, but eventually gave in to my efforts and I was off ascending this beautiful blue ice on such amazing terrain. I think I placed one or two more and ran the rope out to the top, as the difficulty eases the higher up you get. I absolutely LOVE climbing on Mount Willard. The routes we climbed are not necessarily difficult, but great for breaking off the couch (not really) and getting back to placing gear and climbing with good technique. I took this next photo of Todd seconding my pitch up Hitchcock in furious winter conditions.

We were going to traverse to a climb called "The Cleft" and top out on the Mount Willard Hiking trail and hike back to the car, but decided to rappel off the cliff and head to town for some food at the Flatbread in North Conway. Once again, a great day in the mountains with a great friend.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Whoa~ Long time no Sparky Adventure...
Actually quite the opposite! Admittedly, I've been lazy on the writing front, but in reality, all too busy with life. Fall is over, Winter is here! I've managed a few long-ish October and November road rides, which were most excellent. I have also been trying to commute to work on my bike at least once a week, and I have also been Mountain Biking quite regularly.

So let's talk Winter!
I spent a couple of hours last weekend for some Winter Climbing Gear Organization. Crampons, ice axes, helmet, ropes, rock pro, ice screws, snow shoes, the list is long, and the equipment heavy! I am actually looking forward to this winter and while I was sorting through the above quiver of tools for the trade, my mind wandered - as it often does - to many past adventures in the mountains with good friends. 2010 will be a better Winter than the last two, there are a lot of climbs to revisit and hopefully a couple of new ones to add to the resume, we'll see how the conditions and my skills move along. One really cool thing is, I just bought some new skis for my approach to the more remote areas and the weekly Wednesday night ski with the mountain bike crew. I purchased some Karhu 10th Mountain skis, 165 cm (short and sweet), and I will be using my Silveretta bindings. These skis are full metal edge, wax less, with climbing scales. I will also have skins for the steeper climbs. Thanks to Roland and the Neptune Mountaineering crew in Boulder, CO for the excellent customer service. The skis I am replacing are some 10 year old Rossignol Haute Route Extreme telemark skis which were heavy and not very touring friendly. Though, I will be saving them for sure! I skied the Tuckerman Ravine head wall with these, so they are slightly famous.

The Sun emerges with a sparkle on freshly fallen snow, Mount Agamentics 1/11/09.

Baxter State Park recently relaxed the rules regarding winter access to Mount Katahdin, now allowing Solo Winter travel and no minimum party requirements. With regard to solo climbers, you are not allowed on technical terrain, where the use of a rope and protection would normally be needed. What I like hearing about these changes is, the ability to attempt a winter hike from the Abol campground and up the Abol slide to the summit, which I am currently considering, unless I can entice a friend to do a longer Chimney Pond ice climbing / hiking summit trip.

So Winter is here, not much we can do to change it now... I am going to embrace it and go outside and play in the snow!

Solo Climbing in Central Gully, Huntington Ravine Mount Washington 3/17/09

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dempsey Challenge Ride

I'd like to start by thanking everyone for helping me to raise funds or who sent words of encouragement for my participation in the Inaugural Dempsey Challenge. A ride, walk and run fundraiser put on by Patrick Dempsey, for the Dempsey Center for Hope and Healing at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, ME. I rode on the Team Ali's Rack Pack, in Honor and Memory of, Alison Dumont, a life long friend who sadly passed away two weeks before the event. Even though I hadn't seen her in several years, when I learned she was fighting Cancer, and that her close friend Kim was organizing a team for her, I jumped at the chance to get involved. Alison was a great person and she fought cancer very hard, especially in her last few weeks. She was a brave soldier and for many more, the fight continues on. The way I see it, I had the easy part, the ride! In today's tough economy, you all gave from your hearts and I appreciate it very much. One Hundred Percent of the funds raised were given to the center for patient care. While I rode, I had many people on my mind who I know have crossed the battle line. In 2001, I gathered with family by my Grandmother's side as she slipped into eternal life from her quick battle with Lung Cancer. I thought about that a lot on my ride, life changes you after watching a loved one, someone, or anyone die. I think I had a couple of moments along the way where I had to hold off some emotions thinking about Memere and Alison, but also probably from some of the pain I was putting on myself. This was part of my plan from the start, ride hard and try for a personal best time over one hundred miles. One never knows how they'll feel starting, continuing, and actually finishing a long ride like this. From the start I rode pretty fast and quickly caught up to Dempsey's VIP group who had started about three minutes before everyone else. He was pretty much surrounded and I wasn't interested in chatting, but it was pretty cool to see Professional Cyclists Ted King, George Hincapie and Dave Zabriskie riding in this event.

After riding with the VIP's for a few minutes, I latched on to a fast group and never looked back. I rode past the first rest stop eleven miles into the ride and planned to stop at the second at about twenty three miles. My life long friends, Jason and Jim Roy along with Steve Jalbert were volunteering mechanical support for the riders, I was glad to see they were super busy. I was pretty cold and wet since the roads had been soaked with rain water from the start. Thinking ahead, I strategically stashed some chain lube and dry cycling clothes in their truck the day before, so I took five and lubed my chain, but didn't change any clothes, knowing I had more rainy weather ahead. They were to be stationed at mile seventy five, so I knew having dry clothes near the end would give me some comfort and incentive to finish strong. Pretty much from this rest stop to the end of the ride, I was riding on my own. Plenty of time for thought and reflection when "throwing" yourself out there!

At mile Fifty, around the other side of Long Lake in Harrison, the sun came out and the roads were drying up. I took a long break and ate some much needed food at the rest stop. All the rest stops were well staffed with volunteers and plenty of goodies for the riders to eat, Bananas, Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, Oranges, plenty of Water and Gatorade as well. They could have had more "salty" treats (which I suggested in a post ride survey they sent out).

Arriving at mile seventy five, I was getting my ass kicked, or kicking my own ass, giving it my all and riding hard. In a typical century ride, I wouldn't have the opportunity to change from rain and sweat soaked clothes, but man, was it nice to get into some dry shorts and a dry jersey for the final twenty five miles. I loaded up on food to get me back to Lewiston and set off on a blistering pace for the final stretch. Some where around the back side of the Auburn Airport, I saw a sign that read "Twenty Miles to go"...What? Oh No! Twenty more miles I thought? I had calculated about twelve, so that hit my psyche pretty hard. Muscle through it I thought to myself....

I rolled across the bridge into Lewiston feeling great and honestly ready to be off the bike. The event was pretty much done and there were just a few folks lingering around. I still had to ride my bike a couple of miles back to my car.

Thanks to my friend Kim Laverdiere for organizing Team Ali's Rack Pack, Thanks to the Roy Boy's for letting me stash some dry clothes and chain lube in their vehicle, Thanks to all the volunteers and event organizers, Thanks to all my sponsors for your donations and words of encouragement, Thanks to my Mom for letting me crash at her house the night before, Thanks to all the Cancer Soldiers for fighting so bravely and continuing that fight! Thanks to Patrick Dempsey for giving my hometown some limelight and starting this great event. I am looking forward to next year's ride for sure.

My ride stats were-
Total Mileage- 102 miles
Total Elevation Gain- 5743 Feet
Total Elevation Loss- 5368 Feet
Ride Time- 6 hours and 35 Minutes