Thursday, August 23, 2012

Maine-ly Adventures

Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island in Maine is a coveted destination for tourists, campers, hikers, kayakers and climbers.  It is the first National Park east of the Mississippi, established in 1916.  This was my first visit to the park, despite having covered a lot of ground throughout Maine in my childhood and earlier adult years. The drive time from Vermont to the Maine coast is just plain LONG, since there are no east/west highways, and the main roads travelled pass through countless towns (read "traffic"). But once there the views of the ocean, rockbound coastline and gentle mountains are plentiful.

We climbed at 2 of the primary climbing "hotspots" - Otter Cliffs (seaside climbing) and The Precipice, inland granite walls with an ocean view.

Starting the layback of the upper section of Old Town

I was surprised and impressed by the quality and quantity of the granite at the Precipice.  The stone has excellent friction leading to a boost in confidence once your feet get used to sticking so well!  The friction of this granite is superior to what we have in places like North Conway, NH (Cathedral and Whitehorse ledges) or even Yosemite (glacial polished granite).  Most of the classic lines are clean and inspiring.  The most impressive line we climbed is called "Old Town", a sandbagged 5.7 but spectacular layback corner.  Unfortunately it was too hot the first few days, then too wet our last day (after a full day of heavy rain) to complete any of the final pitches of the routes we did, but we can always go back, right?

Clean granite lines. From L to R: Birch Aide (9+,)
Gunklandia P3 (7), Emigrant Crack (10b)

The rock at the coast (also granite but much smoother) is solid and beautiful.  The climbs at Otter Cliffs follow mostly corners, aretes and faces, although there are a couple of crack routes.  It's all about location, location, location when climbing there. (check out the video)

Annie and Carol on the belay ledge, Pitch 2
of Gunklandia. Note the ocean behind them!
We had the pleasure (or not, depending on how you look at it) of meeting Ken Nichols there.  Climbers who have been climbing long enough should know that name. Ken is a legend from Connecticut for his first ascents throughout New England (and beyond), traditional ethics, climbing ability, and guidebooks.  But his main claim to fame lies among the bolt wars - Ken was finally convicted of trespassing and destruction to property in 2007 for his bolt chopping at Farley Ledges.  In the climbing community, immeasurable opinons were sounded out. Today the forums are still bloated with flaming arguments and trolls concerning bolting and the behavior of choppers like Ken. My opinion matters not.  I was glad to meet the guy, even after he bullied his way right onto the climb we were planning to set up. If he hadn't done this, we wouldn't have ever interacted and our experience that day would have been far less fulfilling.  His personality is not what I would describe as altogether "friendly" or welcoming at first, but we are each individuals with our own character imperfections and annoying manners.  We don't have to like each other, but we do have to get along! (Can someone tell Congress that?) Ultimately, Ken was a gentleman of sorts, setting up classic lines and welcoming us to join him and climb on his ropes.  In hindsight, I wish we had been able to spend more time with him to hear his stories.  I admire and respect the old ethics and the more purist climbers such as Ken.  My life is richer for meeting and/or befriending legends like Joe Cote, Rich Goldstone, Bob Gephardt, Don Mellor and Rich Gottlieb. Now I can add Ken Nichols to the list!

If you want to see Ken in action check out the second YouTube video of him climbing Dol Guldur at Traprock.  For a feel for our sea cliff climbing at Acadia, check out the first video here.