Sunday, December 22, 2013

Blog Split

Hello readers...

I couldn't take it anymore. Having bike chatter constantly polluting what was rightly started as a climbing blog just nagged at me. I needed to restore order to my corner of the interwebs. From now on this site will only discuss climbing (which hopefully will happen again soon).

For any friends who are more interested in riding bikes and building trail... the new address is:

Cheers! Chris.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Rhythm Sticks

After climbing in Welsford now regularly for almost a decade, I still haven't been up all the quality routes... not even all the nice moderates. Yesterday after topping out on Whiter Shade of Pale, Pete and I scrambled across to find Rhythm Sticks. I cannot believe that I'd never touched this before. This route offers a true Welsford variety of styles: huge flakes to a strait-in jamming crack to a chimney. It tops out on the detached totem pole at the apex of the L-shape for an exposed finish. If the crag had a summit... I suppose this would be it. You couldn't ask for anything better. If you've been putting this route, as I was, go get on it. Do it quick before the house-of-cards style flakes at the base decide to give out. A few were pretty wobbly. 

Pete cleaning the final chimney 
On our way down from the totem I stopped to shoot a few frames of Francois C. making a successful onsight of Bone Machine. Great job... it didn't look like you even broke a sweat. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Artwork For Ascent NB

For many of my readers, 'Ascent NB' is an idea that I hope you've heard of somewhere already. With any luck, and with some community support, it should soon be a reality. It aims to become an advocacy group for all climbers within the province, with a strong focus on securing access. 

With the launch and first AGM of that organization coming soon, I've been asked to draft some original artwork and a logo for the organization. Something that we can put in online media... and maybe bang onto a few t-shirts (everybody loves t-shirts). 

At this point... I need feedback.  I've got a few ideas, all very different. What do you like / dislike?  What are the elements or style considerations that make you prefer one over the other? Please let me know your reaction.  I'm looking to hear what you like best if you had to design something yourself.  

Thanks for the help.  

Now... the short-list: 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cochrane Lane Classics Challenge 2013


  • Time begins when you leave the ground in the morning
  • Do as many pitches as possible in 8-hours
  • All routes must be led, and must be classic (at least 1 thumb-up in the guide)
  • No simul-climbing... no soloing
With permission from my terrific wife and son, I gave it a crack on Sunday.

Sonia and I traded leads all day and managed to zip up a lot of quality routes. With all of the options to choose from and with the friendly format, this is a challenge that's approachable for almost any competent team. We set a goal of at least 8-10 pitches... but Sonia did mention a target of 12 before we got underway. 

3.. 2... 1... Go!
We ended up with 14 pitches in 7h 45m

A few tips for other parties who might be considering this as a great way to push their efficiency. 
  • Climbing fast... and especially leading fast, isn't going to get you there. That's 50% at absolute most. 
  • Choose routes you know and/or that you are confident on. 
  • Choose the correct piece for the crack the first time.
  • Don't get your cams stuck, and don't death-set your nut placements. 
  • If you can serve multiple classic lines with the same anchor... do it. 
  • Avoid crowds
  • Manage the rope at all times. Kinks, lost rope-ends, knots - all time killers. 
  • Maximize lower-offs and minimize raps. 
  • Drink water. Eat food. Use anti-inflammatory pills if you're old. 
Don't forget the victory beer.
That was our formula and it got us better results that we expected. We'd have had another pitch or two if we'd eaten food while belaying and if my fitness was a bit better. Thanks for being a stellar partner for this Sonia. This will be something to repeat year-after-year. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

L-Shape Direct Direct!

What does the L-Shape have in common with the mayor of Toronto? Crack everywhere! Here's a testimony to the continued development of climbing opportunities around N.B:

About 2 years ago I submitted a letter to Gripped magazine which was eventually published. At the time, a number of fellas were busy re-equipping old lines and cleaning new routes was happening fast. It's pretty cool to see that the pace hasn't slowed. 

On the weekend, I got to climb with my buddy, and long-time Welsford climber Chris H. In the span of 3 hours we climbed 3 high-quality pitches that he'd never done before. That's incredible considering they are all moderate grade, feature great climbing, and all are in the L-shape. A few years ago it would have seemed for certain that the L-shape was totally tapped (considering it's probably the busiest formation in Welsford).

His business card simply reads:
Chris Hennigar - Mountain Man
Among other classics we did: 
  • Partner's in Crime, 5.8 PG - unearthed and cleaned by Greg H last year. This is a nice addition and pair to Comrades in Destiny. When you've gone to the fuss to climb one, you might as well climb the other. Take a purple mastercam or equivalent. I liked it enough to poach the FFA!
  • Mantle Piece, 5.8 G - a way cool line it existed mostly as a top-rope or dirty, poorly protected  for a while. Shawn B. equipped this last year with 2 bolts and cleaned it up nicely. Now makes a great alternative to Waterwalk if you want to climb any of the big L-Shape link-ups.  The mantle move is cool and makes for a stellar photo of the leader from the base of Fandango.
  • Ka-Pow!, 5.9 G - er climbed this for the first time and both of us liked it for sure. I think this one is thanks to Fred B. A great 3rd pitch after Astroboy Direct. It eats good gear and has a variety of climbing. The finish isn't as cool as the DDT totem tower but this was still a worthy line for sure!
Me. Not quite a Mountain Man yet. More like an Astroboy.
The L-Shape now supports so many quality options for link-ups that it could pretty much deserve a Yosemite-style big-wall topo. (I might do that as a mini-project sometime). Speaking of topos... Dom Caron's new guide is currently at the printers! Buy it when it's out soon. It's quite the update!

Oh yeah, finally have to give a shout-out to a few super solid ladies who are starting to dip into leading the classic Welsford trad lines. I think it won't be far off into the future before some of the tag-lines in the descriptions of routes like Pink Panther seem antiquated:  "a must do for aspiring hardmen". I'd bet a beer that in the next year a few classic Welsford routes will see their 'first female ascents'. Cool! I wonder what the list is right now of classic pitches that have been lead ground-up by strong ladies? I know I've seen a few. 

Annndd... future Welsford hardman?  Enzo M!!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Series of Sweet Poses Trending Upwards

Climbed a few fun routes at Greenlaw on Saturday that I hadn't done before. Managed to narrowly avoid disaster low on Bitch Recognize by pulling off an insecure stump-jam. Cool move on a nice route. Also tried my luck at Space Invaders, a very cool climb through significant overhangs on good holds. I managed to 1-hang it after blowing a close chance at a flash. Just didn't find the key hold in time. Nice line. Certainly more like 5.11a and less like the 5.12b it's given in the old guide. 

Psychedelic Ferns is one of the signature routes of this area and just about as good as any 5.9 sport climbing gets. Thoughtful moves down low, a big move through a roof, and a top-out with an ocean view. Sonia W. knows how to style it for sure:

Step 1) Bust a sweet, marginally-necessary stem.

Step 2: Stop for a snack to keep up the energy level.

Step 3) Make epic clips!

Step 4) Pose while scoping out the beta.

Step 5) Don't let the paparazzi see you fall!

A friend of ours once said "I don't climb... I just do a series of sweet looking poses trending upwards".  Seems as if someone has learned this secret! Cheers


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Advance Rock School 2013

Simply being able to teach (without the organization overhead) was a treat. A perfect weekend in Welsford, with keen students, and lots of variety. Here's a few shots: 

Joel takes on the crux of Mantlepiece.
Kayla cruises the finish of Light Fandango
Local stonemaster Steve A. gives a show on Gumby's Roof
Tara learning to clean pieces on Light Fandango
Remember these few key points to keep you and your party in control of risk: 
  • Solid, Redundant, Equalized, Non-Extending
  • Powerpoint biners Opposite and Opposed
  • Communicate clearly, and use each other's names
  • Tie knots in your rope ends (take them out before pulling)
  • Weight your system before transferring over to another
Cheers and hope you enjoyed the weekend. Feel free to contact me if you've ever got any questions. 


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Early Birds

Last week I finally ventured up to the Alley area and looked around for The Ragged Edge. This is worth the fuss. I'd say it's one of the nicest 5.9 cracks around... and there are a lot of good ones. If this wasn't a few pitches and a scramble off the ground it would get climbed by parties every weekend. As it is I don't think it sees the traffic it deserves.

Today was the first real Saturday of spring weather and climbers were piled all over each other for the few dry routes in Welsford. Lucky for Sonia and I we were the first car there early this morning and had our pick of the place. We climbed Comrades in Destiny to start the day. I think is the quickest drying quality route right of the Cave area, and also one of the first decent pitches in Welsford to get sun in the morning. Also climbed Partners in Crime, Pass the Moonshine, Sweet Potato Pie, and Mantle Piece. All great moderate routes.

Shawn trying to stay dry on Waterwalk
Seepage everywhere!
Mallory G. on a rope!
Was really good to see everyone coming out of the woodwork today for the good weather.  Where were all of you a few weeks ago when we were climbing out of the snow!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Slabs are Warmer

... at least that's Dom's theory. It's reasonable... he figures jugs make you colder since the surface contact area with your hands is greater. So slabs must be warm right? Pretty much. A few of us spent a cold day there making the best of what has been a darn cold spring so far. (and as I write it's snowing... with more forecast for the weekend... ack). 

Les Dalles is a nice spot to practice up your slab technique in a well protected setting. Give it a try before heading to Whitehorse. We climbed a few nice routes and even did a diagonal traverse from right to left of the whole wall. 

Also climbed a route at Mt. Doug's East Face called Vapour Trails. Nice pitch, but I could do with less ice on it at this time of year! 

Pete asked 'What should I do for the camera'?  Answer: More of this.
Dom on the thin bit of the 9+ route.
Pete colour-coordinates. 
Sonia cruises confidently despite a snoozing belay.
Cool pockets on the slab.
Looks steep for slabs

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Everybody Loves March Climbing

It's been a while since an update. My last laptop was busted and I've been away from climbing for a few weeks. I've been working on a few topos for the new climbing guidebook too. However... that's changing with the season. Today was perfect March climbing conditions. T-shirt weather all day at Cochrane lane.

The project for the day was to gather up more photos for the guide on some classics. Dom and I both zipped up Smither's, which is a genuinely enjoyable pure slab for at least 30 feet. After that, we checked out Mantle Piece, a newly restored route on the L-shape just left of Sparky Start. Cleaned last fall by Shawn B., this line is worth a go for sure. As an old, dirty, run-out moderate it was seldom climbed; but that has now changed. It looks as if a lot of effort went into cleaning this and the line now supports 2 bolts protecting face sections. I'd give it a star for sure. It finishes on what is now surely the most crowded belay anchor in Welsford shared by at least 6 independent climbs at the locus of activity in the area. It's the only place in N.B. where you'll ever have to think about anchor etiquette with another party. Funny thing is just 4-5 years ago (before the cleaning of Waterwalk area) that same ledge was almost never used.

We moved on and managed to snag some shots of several strong women at the right end. Melissa B. punched through the strait-in thin crack of Snakepeel in good style. Right beside her was Kristen taking on her first lead of It's a Way of Life. Well done!

Dom wanted to get some pictures of the Trouble with Lichen, a hard mixed climb down at Exfoliated. I rapped in and watched him cruise it. He even nailed the 5.11+++ crux twice in order to give me a better chance of getting a pic. Afterwards I tried it on top rope. Great climb... too bad I ain't a great climber. I got shut down pretty hard at the dead-point.

... and oh yeah... if that doesn't interest you, here's some puppy glam!

Hope you're enjoying the spring.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


9:45 - We're driving on our way to Parlee brook (plan A). It becomes pretty evident that I'm not super psyched about this plan. With 8 screws and a 70m rope I figure it will be a petty taxing day mentally if I'm leading most of the pitches. Everything in Parlee that I want to do is pretty long. I'd like to get on 3 Amigoes but I'd rather have double ropes at at least 4-5 more screws. We talk about slogging around to find Alpine Squeeze but none of us have ever seen it before and don't know how to find the start. Aside from that both Magda and me don't have any snowshoes. Screw this.

10:30 - Now we're headed for St. Martins with the objective of sending the Fundy Gully (plan B). The photo in Joe's ice guide looks rad. A 100m multi-pitch grade III ice line climbing strait out of the beach. Problem is that the tide peaks right now and the beach isn't accessible for another 3 hours. We'll have to wait it out. We head towards Quaco Head, where Dom knows of a few accessible routes to kill time on. 

11:15 - Quaco (plan C) is actually pretty stellar. Almost directly north-facing means little daytime sun and everything is in. I lead an easy grade III called Bouffe. Bulletproof ice but fun. Overall Quaco seems full of really cool lines. Dom led a line left of Bouffe and I went looking around. Aerial looked way cool but the top of the line was decorated with a car sized chandelier of overhanging ice daggers. Dubiously attached, it was later decided to better leave it alone. The gem of the area seemed to be White Cottage, a steep and stout completely free-hanging dagger. It had touched down on the beach but was perhaps only 3 feet in diameter and transparent. It was the kind of climb that makes me want to get lighter and stronger. Beyond my ability, I decided to come back someday when it was thicker and when I'm thinner. 

Dr. Magma on Bouffe
Dom on a nice seaside pitch
"I've got the screaming barfies!"

... the tide is now well on it's way out. 

3:00 - We're now across to the far side of town walking down towards Berry beach. The sun is blasting and the cliffs impressive. Honeycombs and heucos are eroded into the overhanging sandstone. If the rock were more consolidated, this would support world class sport-climbing. Too bad it's choss. The three of us walking down the beach with fingers crossed. Indications are good. We see huge well-formed daggers on the way in at the St. Martins caves restaurant and Dom suggests that at Quaco he'd never seen it so fat.  Passing Superbowl area however it doesn't look good. This line (a multi-pitch grade II) is badly sunbaked and more snowy sand than ice. We finally get to Fundy Gully, what would have been the prize of my season, and find this: 
4:00 - Now back at the car, and a bit deflated, we decide to make it a true Tour-de-Glace, and head for roadside ice at Hampton Marsh... which is on the way home... sort of. We arrive an hour later with just enough evening daylight to lead a pitch. I choose the right-most vertical line. Turns out to be soft ice and good climbing... but the screws are a bit hollow... which leaves me pretty gassed just before topping out the climb. I rest on a screw, but eventually scramble up. Nice spot... we play around there until it's thoroughly dark. 

Go in faster gawddammitt!
Three ice destinations in a day... and we didn't even get an early start. Will have to try for Fundy Gully next year. Unfortunately.... I seem to have lost a nice 13cm BD Screw somewhere in St. Martins. I think it probably belongs to the sea now. 

So what's the nicest ice route you've climbed within 3 hours of Fredericton?