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.


  1. Last time I did Cheekbone, we did it in 2 pitches. I'm not really sure where the leader decided to end the first pitch (the original tree is gone, as is much of it's ledge). I took the second and blew past Pigeon Shit Ledge to the top, rather than hang out in the stench. Maybe try this next year, Chris. It was pleasant.

  2. I always do it in 2 pitches. We stop on the Hardwood (with slings) just below the 5.7 dihedral. FWIW, my favourite part of the route is that dihedral...Not the photo shoot move right after PSL.
    From what I've gathered that belay spot was never an option 10 years or more ago as that tree was tiny. In 2012, it's now big and solid and has fixed webbings on it. (I didn't install them, not sure who did?)

    Nice write-up Chris Norfolk