Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tool Tossers at Mt. Misery

Mt. Misery produced some excellent ice yesterday. Conditions there are not the fullest I'd ever seen, but there's more volume than has been in the past 2 years. There's been some type of change in the flow pattern since this place was found. The lower tier of cliff, particularly at the left end, is almost non existent where several fat lines used to be. On the other hand, the upper tier seems to be fuller than ever. If anyone is looking for a project, redirecting a bit of water flowing down the path onto the cliff would be really easy and really productive! 

Formed by the past week of deep cold, the ice tended to be fragile and prone to shedding big hunks. We smashed off lots of big ice... but tried to be delicate on golden pillar, which had just touched down nicely.

I got a lead of Strait Up, a nice big pillar which I had been thinking about. Dom offered to take my camera around to the top and get some photos of me. Thanks buddy! Good line.


Wish I could have had a photo of the look on my face later on that day. I was leading another vertical line at the upper tier. Had a few screws in good ice below me and had just committed to a fairly daunting pillar. Just as I was leaving the security of the low-angle ice below a huge hunk of ice gave out under my left foot. The detached icicle dropped about 10 feet and snagged my rope on the way down. The whole thing just about pulled me off the pillar. Yikes. With my nerves fried, I decided to bail to the side to the easier ice ramp. Spooky. For me, it's a good reminder for why I usually have a bail plan when I lead ice. Bailing is a better alternative to a fall... 100% of the time. After I got back down Dom and I both top-roped the pillar, and had fun blasting off even bigger hunks towards the top. It would have been a a hell of an icicle had I continued on.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cauliflower Ice Day

Climbed today at Waterfall Wall in exciting conditions. Snowing steady, windy, showering water, and funky cauliflower ice. Perfect day to throw a top-rope up on some thin and funky ice. Pretty sure the center line will be in condition to lead within a few days. The forecast for the next week is bitter cold so ice will continue to form well. The right hand line is in really wonky shape and makes for great climbing. No need to swing tools... just hook your way up a line of vertical ice jugs. 

A few shots of the conditions:

Monday, January 14, 2013

How to Win at the Approach

How to win at getting to the quarry for ice climbing?

Answer: start walking on the tracks just as the railway maintenance truck goes cruising by. Jump on.

Yeah. That pretty much made the day. To boot, the weather was perfect: 2 degrees and cloudy all day. Jon, Stef, and I managed to snag in what might have been the last good day at the Quarry for some time given today's +11 degree weather. I bagged Iced Cheese in o.k. condition. The ramp was run-out on thin ice but the headwall took good screws and was thick. Stef got a good lead in of Cosmic Orgasm in thin conditions. While cleaning it a pillar I was standing on split completely horizontally and dropped 2 inches. Spooky.

Iced Cheese right was In.  The center... not so much.
We also played on a steep mixed climb just left of the Drain Pipe. Although it's certainly climbed before it's not in the ice guide. The start involves dry-tooling on what appear to be a few drilled bat-hook holes. Perhaps this was a place the early climbers were practicing aid? That might make sense given the Drain Pipe was established very early on (late 1970's). Two bolts and a stubby would make this an exciting little climb.

...and oh yeah, watch out crossing the pond on the approach. It's not frozen. Stef went through and got a soaked boot. That was last weekend before the warm weather

...and oh yeah, I guess there was something at the belay anchor ledge of Drain Pipe that looked suspiciously like a poo. If that was yours... not cool.

Sorry there's not much for pictures today.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Isklattring - Glebe

Finally made the trek into check out the Glebe Rd. ice amphitheater yesterday to check out the climbing. A long hike through rolling topography leads to a steep ravine carved out in the landscape. Between the group of 5 climbers we lead about 6 independent lines with many more formed. The selection is nice and the terrain very similar to Parlee Brook. 

Personally, I had a decent start to the season and managed to lead a few grade 3 pitches to warm myself up. I got on a funky pitch of chandelier ice that my Norwegian friend Anders put up while here: Holy Cow! Interesting climb buddy. 

Lots of water flowing under the ice everwhere and many hanging curtains will eventually touch down in cool formations. Hard stuff has already formed with Lucas T. and Greg H. both leading some impressive grade 4+ pillars. Here's a shot of Greg on one which had barely touched down. 
Greg committing to a delicate pillar

Also, I should mention that the screws I sent to Charles P. in Quebec last spring worked absolutely perfectly. Check out his service at this web address! What was particularly good was that he's able to convert Grivel screws (which I find terrible to start) into a more aggressive black diamond tooth pattern. Well worth the money. 

Rope / gear drying station

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Climbing 2012 Recap

Over the course of 2012 I managed to climb just under 170 pitches of rock and ice, which is a good year given my lifestyle. It was a year different from the past. In April I stepped down from my role as UNB Rock & Ice president. Over the summer I climbed mostly close to home and worked classic lines in Welsford. This past fall has brought new projects to the horizon including the idea of a new climbing organization for N.B. Rather than having any regular partners I seemed to have roped-up with whoever would join me. All great people! From all of that I have a few reflections:

Favorite Pitches:

  • Three Amigos - One that really stands out for me is climbing Three Amigos last winter in Parlee with Stacey and Greg. Maybe it was simul-climbing in a party of 3? Maybe it was the sun in the otherwise freezing valley? Maybe it was the perfect hero-quality ice that day? Maybe it was not killing Greg when a crampon fell off and I replaced it without telling him when I got to the next screw? Either way... I think it rarely gets any better.
  • Pink Panther - It wasn't the hardest pitch of the year, but it's darned exposed. I lead this for the first time with confidence given to me by my oldest climbing partner Chris H. and with a good friend Aaron D. as a third. It took me forever and I didn't even get it clean but damn was it a good feeling to clip the anchor. This route has been in my sights for years but always seemed beyond my skill. Before this year I believe it truly was. The climbing on this pitch is stellar. 
  • Partners in Crime - Climbed this as the sun set late one night this summer with Jon C. A ground-up onsight on a PG pitch that I knew nothing about. Felt like an adventure. Turns out we'd stolen the first ascent from Greg (who'd put in the work and cleaned the route). We ended up naming it appropriately. 

Least Favorite Pitch

  • Cheekbone Corner - I love this route... at least... I think I do. That's what I kept saying to myself as I gagged and dry-heaved for 30 minutes while belaying at 'pigeon-shit-ledge'. This route is an adventure, and a true right-of-passage. That said... it's pretty effing gross and the 1 move of ultra-cool climbing just isn't worth it. Someone should clean it... but it won't be me. Puke. 

What I've Learned

  • Although I've climbed now for a number of years, I'd never before seriously engaged in the process of red-pointing. In the past I tended to either climb a route clean, or not; but either way I'd move on to the next route. This year I made effort to work repetitively on two routes that were beyond my skill: Sticky Fingers and Dihelio. The process led to some results. I did get a clean send of Sticky Fingers and I have now at least got all the moves on Dihelio. Probably most valuable is that the process maps the limits of your abilities. Getting close to an 11d is only so valuable to me... but feeling confident that I can most likely onsight any 10a I attempt is pretty powerful. 
  • Don't wait for Waterfall Layback to dry. If you do, you will never climb it. Just be resolved to snorkel, swim, or scuba up the slab, dry your shoes on the ramp, and gun through the business. Lesson leaned. Thanks to Aaron D. for that education. 
  • Experiences are what matters, and what makes climbing fun. Higher grades can be often be indicative of quality routes, but not always. Looking back on the past year my memories seem to depend much more on the settings, the people, and the circumstances than they do on the moves. It's a cliche... I know. Sorry. 
So happy new year, and I wish you a year of good climbing if that's what you'd like! How was your season? What are your goals? Thanks again for your readership. I hope I can continue to write interesting stuff.