2016 was an interesting year. I started freelancing, took some trips to British Columbia, Alaska, Zion, the Wind River Range, and many others. I think I got some good photos from those trips and more importantly great experiences with friends. I’ve compiled some of my favorites below as well as my #2016bestnine on Instagram.
Climbers and non-climbers alike recognize that Yosemite Valley is rock climbing’s mecca. This has recently been underscored by the media coverage (Nat Geo & 60 Minutes) of Alex Honnold and his amazing free solo ascents of El Capitan and Half Dome. It was further emphasized by his and Hans Florin’s record-breaking speed ascent (a mind blowing 2 hours 23 minutes) of the Nose on El Cap, a route that takes an average party 3-4 days. Yosemite’s long history is an amazing one and if you haven’t seen the Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks I highly recommend it. I haven’t seen all of the episodes but his coverage of Yosemite is great. Knowing all of the hard work that many people put into protecting this amazing place made me appreciate it more while I was there.
Speaking of which how did I come to visit The Valley, as it is called? Back in the early spring I joined the American Alpine Club (AAC) and noticed they had an invitational climbers meet in Yosemite. I thought this would be a great experience so I filled out the application for the International Climbers Meet (ICM). In late July or early August I got a message saying I was accepted. The details of the meet were pretty sweet: Pickup at Fresno airport, transportation in the park, camping and meals covered, all for $450. Not to mention experienced host climbers to help participants select climbs–pretty awesome way for a Valley virgin such as myself to be introduced to climbing there. …
You know you’re staying in a classy place when there’s toilet paper in the vending machine.
Today after work me the QA engineer I’m working with on my first projects at BD and a few other BD people did the West Slabs (5.4) on Mt. Olympus. Again I was sucking wind and at the back of the pack on the uphill. I was really pushing to keep up too. Hopefully this will get easier and easier as time goes on. Anyway after getting to the base of the slabs we put on our climbing shoes and headed up. The route is pretty sweet. Pretty much a choose your own adventure type of climb. Since it was easy we all solo’ed with got us to the top in less than an hour. Not bad for about 1,000 feet of vert. We enjoyed the setting sun and a PBR at the top. Yeah a PBR, not the finest brew in the land, but it was tasty on the summit. Car to car we were three hours.
An impromptu gChat message from Alex around 4:30 this afternoon had me in the car and headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon. He suggested the South Face of Mt. Superior. Since the route is only 5.2 and only in a few spots, we’d be going light and fast, no gear save but a headlamp and light jacket. Around 5:30pm and at ~8,000 ft we headed up. Alex quickly out paced me and my out of shapeness, but I’ll blame it on sucking the thick, oxygen heavy air of New Haven just seven days ago…hmmm yeah let’s go with that as an excuse. Any way once we got to the technical climbing we got back in sync. The climbing was fun, a little exposed in a few spots but over all just great and comfortable. We topped out (11,132 ft) in about 2 hours from the car and were back down in another 1.5 hours under the full moon.
I think this might make a fun winter route as well.
Starting Thursday Sept 20, Eric and I headed cross country to Utah. He was gracious enough to accompany me on the trip and help drive the ~2500 miles to Salt Lake City. Rather than taking I-80 all the way out and traveling through Iowa and Nebraska, we elected to do two long days of driving through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. This would allow us to visit Badlands National Park and Devil’s Tower. I’ll just bullet point out some highlights.
- Depart New Haven, CT 8:50am
- Takes 90 minutes to go 60 miles in Connecticut because of traffic in Stratford thru Stamford. Bad start to a long road trip.
- Ohio looks much the same as Iowa and Nebraska, though slightly more trees. No need to visit the state again.
- 93 octane gas is $4.00/gal
- Arrive Montpelier, OH 8:30pm
- 699 miles
Starting Thursday I begin a huge transition in my life–I will be heading out to Salt Lake City, UT for a new job. The Northeast is my home for sure. I grew up in New Hampshire, went to college in Massachusetts, and began my career in Connecticut. However, bigger and more accessible mountains drew me into looking for positions in the West. As luck would have it I have found an engineering position at Black Diamond Equipment. BD designs and manufactures some of the best climbing, mountaineering, and ski equipment out there. Naturally this is a great fit for me since it brings together my professional life and my outdoor passions. A recently retired co-worker had a signature at the bottom of his emails and I think it is fitting for my situation.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
To all my friends in the Northeast, please come out to visit! Utah has some amazing snow from what I’m told. The climbing is great too. I’ll be back in the area at times so hopefully I can see everyone.
I’ve been wanted to go on a climbing vacation out West for a while. In springs of 2010 and 2011 I went to Red Rock outside of Las Vegas, but in 2012 the opportunity didn’t present itself to return to that venue. As I’ve progressed in my rock climbing I’ve become more interested in alpine climbing. Probably because as I’ve gotten better, the longer, bigger, more committing routes have become more accessible. This coupled with my interest in getting out into nature away from the hoards of people who frequent crags. I love the Gunks and Rumney is fun, but being up on a wall with only a few other like-minded individuals around (at most) is very appealing. Coping with the challenge of the approach, route finding, weather, the decent, and yes, the climbing itself too, is a strong draw for me.
My professional career of engineering poses interesting problems and finding solutions to those problems is rewarding. However, being up a few pitches looking for the route, figuring out where that next piece of gear is going to go, or the climbing is so comfortable that you don’t really care; looking up at the sky, feeling the wind, the temperature, and deciding if you should keep going is very satisfying. I guess it is just problem solving of a different sort and being an engineer I’m predisposed toward that. …
Atop the Eaglet Spire in Franconia Notch
After my trip to Rangeley I headed back south to the Whites to do some climbing in Franconia Notch with Chris. This trip was supposed to be a bit of prep for our trip to the Tetons later this summer and we were planning to do Moby Grape (5.8) which is an 8-9 pitch route on Cannon Mountain. The weather had other plans though.
Wednesday, the Fourth, I met Chris at the parking lot for Cannon at noon. While I waited for him to arrive I spied Cannon with my binoculars, everything looked ok, but not totally dry. The big problem was that it was very hot, humid, and there definitely was some convection going on in the sky. I recommended we not climb anything on Cannon and it didn’t take much convincing for Chris to agree. Luckily I had borrowed a Secrets of the Notch guidebook from Eli and we headed over to Echo Crag which is just an exit or two north of Cannon. …
After my hiking trip in the Whites I headed directly to Rangeley, ME to visit with my parents, grandmother, and family friends. This was a great relaxing couple days with good eats, playing with Bella and Harlow the puppy, fireworks, and laughs. Oh and I guess playing with Cash too. Unfortunately this time was brought down by some bad news of a death in my family. It was not unexpected. While it is always hard to lose someone, in this case it ended a difficult period for everyone and things can now begin to heal.
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