Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pump and Dump

The ice conditions here in the northeast continue to be off the hook! Today I jumped on the ferry from Burlington and crossed Lake Champlain to meet my good friend Will Roth at Poko-Moonshine. Poko is conveniently located a short 10 minute walk from the road which also facilitates a nice drive-by to scope the conditions. When I pulled up to the cliff today I was blown away by the amount of ice plastered to Poko's dark anorthasite walls.

Will rapping off...

My eye was immediately drawn to to a subtle strip of ice that I had never seen before. This line turned out to be "Pump and Dump" a route that Kevin Mahoney had put up with Matt Horner a few years ago. The route has a reputation of being severely runout and Horner had told me that Kevin had more or less soloed some hard drytooling to access a barely usable amount of ice.

The route still had not seen a second ascent...

With all these images swirling in my head I decided to go and have a look. Will led a deceptively tricky first pitch where the ice was much thinner than it appeared which brought us up to the business. The crux pitch started off with a fun drytooling traverse which landed me at a stance below the crux seam. The ice just left of the seam was fully unusable and pretty much all came off with a tap of my hammer. In fact the first 30-40' of ice on the route was incredibly detached and flexed and shifted with the slightest pressure!

About to get going on the traverse...

Across the traverse...

After getting established below the seam, I was able to fiddle in a small red C3 and a small off-set nut. With this adequate gear luring me on, I launched up the thin seam, getting hooks in the constrictions and then swinging into verglas as the crack bottomed out. Close to the top with my monopoint torqued in the crack I fought for a hook in the thin verglas when suddenly I was off!
About to launch up the crack next to the unusable ice...

It seems that all mixed climbing falls are violent and mostly upside down and this one was no different as I slammed ass first into the slab below. With the confidence that the nut was good I jumped back on and fired the crack to the next stance and then continued past more wobbly ice and drytooling which led to a wonderful strip of body-width vertical ice and the top.
Through the crack and on to more drytooling around sketchy ice...

It was super cool to repeat this line. Here in the northeast there are a handful of those ephemeral routes which seldom come in and are must do's when they do appear. Pump and Dump is for sure one of them. The gear was where you needed it and the climbing challenging and exciting. Despite not getting it totally clean I am psyched to have had the opportunity to get up such a rare line!

I hope everyone is having a great season so far! Conditions are sick right now!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shenanigans and a New Route!

Recently I had an interesting conversation with my friend Bayard Russell about getting "shut down". It was our second day out after spending all of the previous day on Cannon scratching around in vain to try and get up a hopelessly out of shape Omega. "Why do we always go after these type of lines," I wondered aloud. "These type of lines..." You know, the ones that seem barely there; that lure us in with tantalizing hangers, steep drytooling, and a low probability of success. These are the lines that get us psyched though and part of the deal is that many times things just don't click.

The South Face of Frankenstein with the arrow pointing to "Pole Dance"

This past Sunday after our frustrating fiasco on Cannon, Bayard, Kevin Mahoney and I found ourselves gearing up beneath another one of those tantalizing lines on the south facing upper tier of Frankenstein Cliffs. Kevin had a short chunk of time for the day and suggested a formula which had led us to this prospective line.

1. Difficulty (Is is gnarly enough?)
2. What is the probability of success?
3. Does it form often?
4. Sketchiness

The line...

As we racked up the sun beat down unnervingly hard on the ice above. Kevin walked away for a moment to shoot a few photos and suddenly yelled "watch out!" as a huge hanger cut loose above. Bayard jumped clear and I tucked behind a large maple tree. Our gear, including Kevin's wife Claire's $800 camera, took a beating and was strewn down into the talus below us. After picking up our gear and moving to a safer spot we considered our options.

Kevin and his broken glasses after the ice fall...

Kevin soloed up the short ice pitch and found a safe belay on the far right side of the ledge. Once Bayard and I got to the belay we peered up at the inspiring yellow torpedo of ice hanging from the roof above us. A steady stream of water dripped from the icicle as the sun continued to beat down. Frightened by our earlier experience we rapped to the ground. In the course of that the rope got stuck necessitating Bayard to solo up and free it.

Bayard following the steep ice above the roof...

For the next hour and a half we hemmed and hawed for the as line we had come to climb moved slightly more into the shade. After taking a short walk to verify that everything else was getting just as sun beaten we convinced ourselves to give the line another shot. I grabbed the rack and ropes and soloed up to the belay before we changed our minds.

Myself following the crux

Kevin took the lead and fired the rest of the pitch past super fun climbing on thin smears to an iced up crack with tricky gear and then onto a free hanging icicle which led to a steep finish on plastic WI 5.

Bayard following the crux...

It felt good to get something done and especially good to put up a new line at Frankenstein. Kevin decided on Pole Dance (NEI 5) for the name and grade after the delicate climbing on the narrow ice pillar and the other similarly themed route names on the upper tier.

We had broke through the shenanigans!