Not many climbing related posts here in a while so I’ll recap a few climbing outings I’ve made this fall. No pictures since I’ve been focusing on getting my climbing up to where I’d like it to be. Not to mention that good photos of in a two person team is very difficult.
At the end of September Paul came up to New England for some vacation away from the farm. Working non-stop all summer he deserved a bit of rest and time to climb. Unfortunately Lauren couldn’t join because they still had a batch of broiler chickens that needed tending to.
Paul came up on a Friday and we headed up to North Conway the next day. Wet weather followed up from West Virginia and we had some rain on our way drive through Crawford Notch. By the time we started racking up it was sunny but things were certainly damp. First up on our list was a climb called Intimidation (5.10). We found the area easy enough but the start of the route was sopping wet. Not to be turned away Paul started up the 4 pitch classic. After about an hour and 45 feet up we began to think, “perhaps this isn’t the climb we thought it was.” Looking in the book and we were in fact on a climb adjacent to Intimidation and it was a 5.11 called Abracadabra, and pretty wet. After fighting through Paul finally made it to the anchors. I cleaned, not without a few falls, and we decided we should try something easier just to get some climbing in. Thin Air fit the bill and we made fairly quick work of that as the day was getting dim. Even on the easy route the water made things a little more difficult. The P2 traverse on slab was exciting, as well as the final 30 feet up at the top of P4, both of which fell on my shoulders. …
Day two we headed back to Cathedral and jumped on Bombardment (5.8) and Book of Solemnity (5.10). I lead Bombardment and then P2 of the Book. Both were great climbs. The crux move on Book of Solemnity is a great move. With a bit more confidence I think I could lead that. We then headed back to Intimidation hoping it would be dried up. The start was certainly drier but still damp. There weren’t any major problems this time and I soon joined Paul at the anchors for P1. P2 is a 5.8 which heads up a right facing corner then to a roof. From there the route escapes left with an easy but fully committing step down with little pro a 4-5 feet away in the roof. Another piece of gear and then a 40 ft 5.7 slab traverse with no pro and water on it. Awesome. I manned up and made it across with no problems and gave Paul as loose a belay to bring him across so I wouldn’t disrupt his balance. P3 went up some really fun though wet finger cracks. P4 is a 5.10- or 5.9+ depending on who you ask. Either way I was feeling good and decided to give it a go. The hard section is only in the first 30 feet or so. The crack kind of leans to the right a little and is a little flary in places. I fought through the pump and made it through to the upper sections which again turned slabby and runout.
In the evening we jumped in the Brenner mobile (aka Honda Civic sans A/C) which was damp from the rain and then subsequent humidity and headed to Cannon Mtn. This was a rare occurrence that I had been to a major climbing area more than Paul, he’d never climbed at Cannon. The humidity didn’t break and many of the routes were seeping. We climbed a couple single pitch stuff then jumped on VMC Direct Direct (5.11). I cruised the first 5.7 pitch and got a good seat for the crux section of the route on P2. This section follows a thin right facing corner crack to a rood and escapes right under it to then follow the right facing corner up again. This section was wet directly under the roof. The moves through here are on thin fingertips behind the roof and smearing feet. Needless to say the wetness made the section impossible to free. Paul aided through and brought me on up. I also had to french free my way through. After that wet section it was a great corner. Pitch three also was a fantastic pitch–thin hands and fingers up a right facing corner again. Difficult but very clean climbing. At the top of P3 Paul gave me the option of leading the next 5.9+ pitch. I was feeling a bit wiped and the sun was clouded over making it a little chilly. I opted to go down and leave it for another less cool, and drier day. To finish up the day we did Duet Direct (5.10+). P1 is a fantastic 5.7 working up hand cracks and laybacks on various flakes. P2 is full commitment on tiny finger locks in a left dihedral. Smearing and stemming are the way to go there but even so it is still strenuous. Our 70m rope just made it back to P1 anchors with stretch. Back down in the parking lot we cooked up dinner then headed to the campground for some leave no trace or receipt camping.
Day four dawned at our leisure and we enjoyed some more scrumptious eggs from the Brenner’s farm. We headed up with the intention of doing the first 4 pitches of Moby Grape (5.8) and then 3-4 pitches of Vertigo (5.9 A0). Moby Grape has a great first pitch called Reppy’s Crack which is a splitter hand crack about 90 ft long. Since I’d lead it before I gave it to Paul. From here we swung leads. Unfortunately what I didn’t realize at the time was that he’d get all the money pitches, Reppy’s, triangle roof, fickle finger, etc. No worries I’ll head up again and lead them myself. Once we finally got to the top of P4 we were staring at the fickle finger of fate–a fin of rock shaped like a thin shark’s tooth. The route goes over it then up for a few more pitches to the top. Coming all this way and not doing the most notable feature on the route seemed dumb so we kept going. We didn’t have extra water, food, or decent shoes and the only way down is to walk. So be it! The rest of the route was fun. I finished up the last pitch in a fun left facing corner that is an alternative finish. This brought me up on slabs at the top. The slabs were usually easy, but no pro. In places were there was grass, there were large water streaks. Water, slabs, and 60 ft runouts are not a good combination so I headed straight into the grass and wound my way into a spot were I could belay. I had to crappy pieces in a flaring flake. I got a good stance and belayed of my harness so that if Paul slipped it would transfer into me first then through my tether into the anchor–thus lessening the load going into the crappy pieces. Paul is super strong and he doesn’t slip on measly 5.7 climbs so all of this was just an exercise anyway. He made it up and we then began our search for the “obvious” decent trail.
Obvious is not what I would have used to describe the 45 minute search for this trail. To provide context it is around 5ish and the sun sets around 7ish. While not all that close we didn’t have lots of time to mess around on the summit, which is a labyrinth of slabby rocks and scrubby pines. We wandered here and there on faint trails that lead no where. Our biggest trouble was that we didn’t top out in the normal place, so there wasn’t as much traffic from there to the trail. Finally after deciding to just start heading in the general direction of down we picked up the trail. For those who happen to read this and top out where we did, head towards the square foundation looking think down on a lower flat area to the left as you look out. On the way there you’ll pick up the “obvious” trail and from there it’ll be easy. There are many cables and other hardware fixed into the rocks to keep them from sliding. The true Old Man anchors are very large and hang out over the cliff. This was pretty neat to see up close. Eventually we got to a point where Paul headed back for our bags at the base of the climb and I just continued to the car. This was a great way to finish up this mini climbing vacation.
One of the local climbers active on the AMC email list was interested in heading up to New Hampshire for some climbing. Weather was looking ok so I decided to make another long weekend out of it. Unfortunately the conditions were even wetter than the trip with Paul.
Our first day was much the same as with Paul as Cathedral. Eli and I headed to Recompense (5.9) probably the most well known 5.9 at Cathedral. The whole cliff was seeping. The first pitch wasn’t too bad, though Eli, cut right to some anchors rather than left. No worries though since I got to lead a semi pitch to get us back on the right route. From that anchor Eli headed into a slimy green wet section of rock to the prominent feature on the route, the Beast Flake. This too was wet and since the earlier pitch wasn’t terribly fun because of the water we decided that fighting out way through a wet pitch of one of the best climbs in the Northeast wasn’t a good way to walk away with fond memories of the route. We headed down, though had some major problems getting to some anchors since we only brought a single rope. I rapped and headed to climber’s left through some trees, wet rock and other stuff to a secure but terribly placed set of bolts. After Eli finally made it down to me (he had a harder job rapping down since he had to clean some gear I placed) we moved over to another set of anchors 20 feet to the left which had a much better stance. This was fortunate because as we came down we were right on top of a cave which was completely dry which housed two nice finger cracks about 40 ft tall ending at some chains. Eli lead the right and I the left. We thought both were challenging but not terrible and thought they’d be around a 5.9+ or 5.10-. After checking them on MountainProject.com a few days later I found out both were 5.10s. With that that was my first 5.10 lead. Though only 40 ft it is still a feather in the cap. Hopefully more follow soon.
After that we decided something dry was needed. We headed to Turner’s Flake (5.8). I lead this pitch was was great. I even got to use the Big Bro Eli had. From the top of Turner’s Eli tried his hand at Missing Link (5.10). The roofs on this route proved to be too difficult for him to unlock and he had a couple falls and lowered down to meet Thin Air (5.6). This was wet but was our only option for getting to the top so we took it. We were able to get Eli’s quickdraw by lowering him off P4 anchors on Thin Air. From there we continued up. Eli took an unorthodox finish to the last pitch to escape a wet slab section. Unfortunately this required negotiating a damp, lichen covered crevasse for me in the very little light that was left of the day.
Sunday we headed to Cannon hoping the exposure would have drier conditions. Unfortunately it didn’t. I brought Eli to Slow and Easy (5.8) and deceivingly difficult right arching crack. He had a little trouble but was able to get it no problems on the second try. From there we headed to Duet (5.7). I again lead P1 which is just good fun climbing. Eli linked P2 and 3 together. Luckily we were smart enough to bring two ropes this time and could rap off without trouble. P2-3 are fun and exposed but not quite as good as the first pitch.
By this time the last of the sun was gone behind clouds and there was a breeze. Late October is cold up in the Whites for rock climbing at least. We headed to Reppy’s for a fun exercise in forgetting gear. Sorry Eli! I should have grabbed the extra #2 off my bag right after I put it down. We finished it up and headed back out. Given the temperatures and damp conditions we decided climbing a third day wasn’t really worth it especially since the chances of rain were higher for Monday. We headed back to CT knowing it would probably be the last NH rock trip of the year. Sure enough Mother Nature underscored this point by dumping as much as 30″ of wet snow just 7 days later!
One more notable event from the weekend was a group of three we saw on Moby Grape. When we arrived at the parking lot around 7:30 we noticed some climbers on the first pitch of Moby Grape. After about an hour we arrived at the base of the route and saw they were still just starting the second pitch, or more accurately P1.5 since they stopped at the top of Reppy’s Crack which isn’t the usual stop for an actual Moby Grape climb. We did our climbing through the day and finished on Reppy’s. As we were leaving we saw them just getting their third member to the top of P4. Keep in mind we left around 4pm. That means they had done 4 pitches in 9 hours–and inexorably slow pace. As we headed down Eli and I mentioned to each other that they needed to rap off the route, or get the hell in gear otherwise they’d be topping out in the dark. I didn’t think much of it until Saturday this weekend. I was talking to my Mom and she mentioned some climbers needed to be rescued on Cannon. After a little digging I found this article. Sure enough it was the same team we saw. Glad to hear they weren’t hurt, they certainly could have been. Hopefully they have better judgement next time and bail before having to call 911 or become benighted.