Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mountainfest and "Bossman"

Last weekend I had the privilege to take part in the 14th annual Mountainfest in the Adirondacks of New York. This event has a long and storied history featuring visits from many prolific climbers over the years. Some of the fathers of modern mixed climbing, Jeff Lowe and Alex Lowe frequented the event and blew the locals away with a slew of first ascents including the once repeated Gorillas in the Mist and the burly Ice Storm. Naomi and I stayed at the Rock and River guides lodge along with the other visiting climbers and guides. We felt like V.I.P.s with the generosity of the staff who provided us with breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day and a wonderful room to stay in.

I drove over on Thursday morning and met Steve House at Rock and River. I had never met or climbed with Steve before and was psyched to have the opportunity to get out with someone who I have always looked up to. My friend Matt Horner had climbed two pitches of an oft-attempted line at the High Falls Crag in Wilmington Notch and had rapped off 100' from the top. I was psyched to check it out and Steve and I headed over there.

From the road we immediately saw that the Crag was littered with drips. We racked up below our intended line after a rocks-papers-scissors, I headed up the first pitch. The climbing was fun but never desperate and deposited me at a 2 pin anchor. The line Horner took headed out right into a corner with a thin smear of ice. My eye was drawn to a seam just left off the belay though and I pointed it out to Steve. The seam was barely there and slightly overhanging and as he headed up to try it it became clear that the gear was going to be hard earned.

The High Falls Crag
Steve got a questionable pin and two brass wires in and then down climbed to the ledge for breather. After a few minutes Steve went back up on the pitch. It was an amazing display of confidence and control as he searched for thin hooks and made his way to where the angle kicked back. With his tools hooked at the lip, he got in another nut and began to move up. Then, as always with mixed climbing, he was off. The top nut ripped and the first pin and nut zippered with the middle piece holding his fall. I probably would have cashed in and headed up the easier way to the left but Steve went back up 3 more times, each time blowing off at his high point and whipping onto the brass rp. After his third attempt he decided to head out right and we climbed two more pitches to the top completing a new as-of-yet unnamed M6 line.

Steve heading up on the second pitch of what will become the Bossman

Over the next few days I climbed with my friends Bayard Russell and Jim Shimberg, both visiting from New Hampshire and also my local friend Matt Horner. Horner gave us the tour and we enjoyed a slew of beautiful, dacks style mixed pitches over the next few days. On Saturday I also taught a clinic with Horner which was fun. I really enjoy helping people to learn to climb and had fun with our great group of climbers. Naomi and Bayard's fiance Anne also climbed the historical Chouinard's Gully with Naomi firing her first lead on ice! Yeeeaah!

Naomi on her first ice lead. Chouinard's Gully

The prolific Matt Horner

Leading H14 on Friday with Horner, Russell, and Shimberg

Horner giving Bayard and I the tour


On Monday I met Bayard in Keene Valley for a alpine 10:30am start. We were psyched to go back to the High Falls crag to check out the pitch that Steve and I had tried the previous Thursday. Bayard got the ball rolling by leading a new and more direct first pitch that check in at about M7 and had some tricky gear but at least a lot of it. He took the whip when a small chunk of turf blew and then finished it up.

I went up on the next pitch and spent some time figuring out the tiny hooks and thin gear, placing a bomber micro stopper up high. After getting the gear in, I spent some time trying to hit the enormous crux move which involved choking up to the head of the lower tool off some high feet. I hit the move after a couple of tries and got up even with the ice but pumped out trying to find more hooks in the seam higher up rather than swinging out right onto the ice. I came down and offered the lead to Bayard who fired it on the pre-placed gear, swinging out onto the dripping icicle. This was one of the coolest mixed pitches I've climbed. Erik Lambert from wrote a cool piece here.

Following the first pitch (M7) of Bossman

Bossman in red and the unnamed M6 in green

I led another short pitch to the top by climbing up behind a hanging icicle and corkscrewing through a small gap onto the front. We topped out just as it was getting dark so psyched to have completed such a fun and amazing route. It was a super fun day where we rarely stopped laughing and just generally had a really good time on one of the coolest lines I've had the opportunity to climb on. We named the route Bossman M9. It was the perfect end to a great 5 days in the Adirondacks climbing with great friends.

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