Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where's Blanche?

Just about 36 hours after my last post concerning the white stuff that fell from the sky, another storm roared up the eastern coast and blanketed states as far south as Virginia with an early snow.  They predicted 5 to 8 inches of accumulation here in south central Vermont, but I don't think we saw more than 3 or 4 inches by the time it was all said and done.  Blanche was a bit camouflaged in the driveway though...
3-4 inches of heavy, wet white stuff

No climbing this weekend. But admittedly, sometimes this is a blessing in disguise.  An extremely stressful work week necessitates some real downtime now and then, so the rotten weather actually encouraged me to just sleep in, read, chill out and catch up on personal duties and home chores.  Sounds boring and while climbing is definitely more fun, getting things done and having time to relax brings great satisfaction.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

White Stuff and a Soap Box

I've been meaning to get in some blog time the past couple of weeks but have gotten behind due to the busy nature of work (a four letter word, I say) and life (another 4 letter word, but without the implied negative connotation). Anyway, the climbing season is sadly drawing to a close here in New England.  We have been fortunate to have some unusually mild weather in October. I have now been to the Farley Ledges twice to climb and am excited to find a new place for craggin. It's not much more of a drive than the drive to Rumney. It is south so tends to be warmer. And the rock is Gneiss (nice!)  There are some trad lines to be had but the established sport routes are of good quality.

It was in the 40s this morning with a cold rain accompaniment. But by day's end, the temps had plummeted and the drive home was unpleasant.  Check out this shot Annie took from her car on the drive home through Southern Vermont.

Route 100 today - our first accumulating snowfall
I hear our friends out in Colorado got smacked this week with the white stuff, too. I saw it on the news and heard that only 2 days prior to their snowstorm they had broken the high temperature record of 80 degrees!  Of course the difference is when it melts and warms up there they can still go climbing. Here it is most unlikely.  I was planning to go to the Gunks again this weekend - and although the sun is supposed to shine a fair amount, temps in the low to mid 40s can be pretty miserable multi-pitching. And it's a long drive for 2 days in the cold.  Maybe we will get lucky like we did 4 years ago and get a warm weekend in November before we store the rack and move back to the artificial walls.

My experiences at Farley the past 2 weekends have left me with a bittersweet taste.  The climbing is good (very good) and the folks in the Western Massachusetts Climber's Coalition are to be commended. The access, maintenance and route development are outstanding accomplishments, all of which greatly benefit the weekend warrior like me. But what is it about the "sport climbing scene" that is so repulsive to me?  Without getting too far up on my soapbox, I'll say this. I believe that rock climbing has changed dramatically in recent years (I started climbing in 1992) and the growth of the sport may be attributed to the explosion of indoor climbing gyms.  The problem is that people learn to CLIMB in the gym, but they don't learn how to be CLIMBERS there.  When they take their "skills" to the real rock in a real outdoor environment, they are oblivious to things like impact, personal boundaries and climbing ethics.  I couldn't possibly count how many times I have witnessed sloppy (read "DANGEROUS") belaying, mouthy and disrespectful people and uncontrolled DOGS at the crags.  In fact, the dog thing seems to be TOTALLY out of control this year alone!  It seems everyone feels they have the right to bring their dog to the crags and let them have the run of the place.

Now anyone who knows me knows I LOVE dogs and I have been a dog owner most if not all of my adult life.  Annie and I would love to take Grace to the crags so she could be with us in a great outdoor setting - a Grace is a well-behaved dog.  But it simply is not appropriate - crags and cliffs are NO PLACE FOR DOGS. But I digress.  Perhaps I will blog on the dog issue again later. I just wanted to express my malcontent and frustration with people at the sport crags.

Yes, there are jerks everywhere and we certainly run across jerks at traditional climbing areas.  But the sport areas seem to be a magnet for jerks - and I think it is a direct product of the gym-to-rock phenomenon.  Last Saturday at Farley, there was a large group of climbers doing the usual social thing at the base of the cliffs. Some were climbing and belaying, some watching, many just hanging out and chatting it up.  A few beers were snapped open (and yes, some of these same beer drinkers were climbing, too) and then the weed came out.  Now I could care less if you want to smoke dope - really.  But to do it at the crag, ESPECIALLY a place like Farley which is on privately owned land, is just plain inconsiderate and disrespectful.  The landowners have been kind enough to allow climbing to be developed here and I would wager to say that if they found out people were smoking dope on their property, the cliff access would be lost faster than you can say "want a hit?" The inevitable lies ahead: Farley Ledge - CLOSED DUE TO IDIOTS. NO TRESPASSING.

Comments? Please post them here on the blog.  If I am not alone in this thinking, perhaps we can fashion a way to help educate the idiots and save our climbing resources today and for future climbers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope

As implied in the previous Gunks post, the climb Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope (better known as CCK) has a great photo op on the final pitch.  Leaving the comfort of the big Updraft corner, you step gingerly down and across the clean face to join a vertical hand crack/flake that leads straight up under a huge roof area.  While the CCK Direct route climbs up over these roof systems (at a much harder grade) the original line traverse right under the roof for some exciting exposure and balance moves.  Annie took this pic of me on this pitch - you can see why it is such a great vantage point.

The CCK traverse....ooooohh
Smile for the camera!

I was thinking of starting a caption CONTEST for this one!
Please post your ideas!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gunkie Junkies

Wow, after all the September rains we were treated to about 6 days in a row of spectacular summer-like weather.  Let's go to the Gunks!  Annie and I drove Blanche down Wednesday night, slept in the stairmaster parking lot and got a good start Thursday morning.  Thursday we got on Horseman, and Strictly From Nowhere, but the highlight climb for me was Snooky's Return whose first pitch is a thin crack.  I found the crux to be right at the bottom but really enjoyed the entire line from there.

Friday we were joined by Rosie and Brian  and we all enjoyed another stellar day on the cliffs. Rosie savored her first climb of the classic High Exposure line, probably one of the best known climbs at the Gunks.  Brian recommended I try The Last Will be First and, as promised, the climbing was great fun -some spicy face climbing with a slight lack of pro and a couple of fun roofs! CCK was next on the agenda and unfortunately I once again got freaked out about the unprotected crux on Pitch 2.  Rich Gottlieb, owner of Rock and Snow, to the rescue (again!)  This time however I pumped out while trying to work out the moves and the resulting fall was nothing to laugh about. SCARY!  But again, due to my competent belayer Annie and the foresight to reduce the amount of rope out before the fall, I came away with just a minor ankle tweak.  I re-climbed the pitch (thanks to Rich leaving me some extended pro above the crux) and we devoured the last, classic exposed pitch finish that everyone lives for.

On Saturday the crowds for the Columbus Day holiday weekend descended upon the cliffs.  It was so crowded Annie and I chose to take the long hike down to Sleepy Hollow and endure the hunt for a highly recommended beginner route Casa Emilio.  Annie lead the top pitch with aplomb. Her crown jewel, however, was taking the sharp end on her first 5.6 trad climb - she sent Rhododendron! This is a great first 5.6 lead as it sews up nicely (being the crack that it is, with ample face holds to ease the grade).  Way to go Annie! Sorry I couldn't take any photos while belaying!  Sunday Annie ticked off another great lead, this time the multi-pitch line on Beginner's Delight.  The route's name is somewhat misleading as beginning leaders have no place on this climb.  There is a long traverse, a roof and route finding to boot!  Annie had lead pitches 1 and 3 before and added the pitch 2 traverse to her belt notch this time. Thanks to Marie (our funny Canadian friend) for the photos!
Annie starting up Pitch 2 of Beginner's Delight

Leading the traverse
Note the copperhead on the red and grey pack!
The weather was so warm the Copperhead snakes decided to make plentiful appearances.  A Sunday snake visit came from the skies - a copperhead simply fell from some place above on the cliffs and landed on Annie's pack at the bottom of the climb.  After some time it crawled from her pack to Rosie's pack before slithering away.  The cooler weather ought to drive them back into hiding - I hope!

Rosie took this pic with her phone from the High E ledge.
This is Annie following a great route "The Last Will Be First"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vermont Strong

The rains in Vermont are persistent.  While there have been some nice weather days the past few weeks, overall it has been wet.  I heard one weather forecaster say that we are on track for beating the record of the wettest year ever recorded. No doubt. No duh.

We helped out a neighbor Saturday morning with the daunting and unending firewood chores.  Jim Hasson is 85 years old and he heats his house entirely on wood - burns about 17 cords a year he said! That's a LOT of wood! And of course he lost most if not all of his firewood in the storm - swept away in the flooded Knapp Brook.  His son Jimmy's car took a ride in the brook, too.

Jimmy's car was deposited as such. As he told me, the car moved about 50+ feet from its original parked location

Well, at least it didn't go as far downstream as the wood did.  The town donated many log lengths to Jim when they heard of his plight. These were all logs cleared up from the various debris fields, so it was just a matter of getting it up the hill to him and then cutting, splitting and stacking it.  On Wednesday Annie and I drove a small pickup load of dry wood donated from Nina to Jim's.  Lots of folks have been doing this and Jim is so moved by everyone's generosity. But the real work now is in cutting and splitting, so we helped out with that on Saturday - in the rain of course!  This work is hard, but when you have 5 or 6 people it makes it far less miserable.  I was pleased to see a young kid (Matt) ride up on his bike and just start pitching in to help.  Boy, does he have the right idea!  Most kids his age would be playing video games.

That's Jim, 85, on the left. Annie, Jean, Matt and Mike L to R.

Our state is recovering, but it will be years I'm sure before some parts of the state get back to normal.  It is peak foliage season now and our economy depends on the leaf peepers to come up and spend their dollars.  Folks are still speculating on how much the storm's impacts will ultimately affect this key part of the season.  Lots of fundraising efforts are out there, so if you aren't local but want to help, just Google your way around and give how you can. One such effort is the sale of T-shirts which helps provide springboard funding for flood victims.  To find out more visit the I Am Vermont Strong website at