Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Catskills Action!

This past weekend Naomi and I traveled down to the Catskills to attend the Catskills Ice Festival sponsored by Alpine Endeavors. I was scheduled to give my multi-media show in Saturday night and was excited to check out the ice and mixed climbing in the Catskills. We got down to New Paltz late Friday night and stayed with our friend Ryan Stefiuk of Bigfoot Mountain Guides. Ryan has been getting after it in the Catskills this season and has put up several first ascents. Saturday morning we tagged along with a clinic Ryan was teaching at a crag called the Black Chasm.

Ryan Stefiuk on a mixed line in the Black Chasm

Myself on "Instant Karma"

The Black Chasm and the rest of the Catskills ice climbing destinations are located high up in the mountains above the sun belt of New Paltz. We followed a mile long trail which eventually dropped 400' or so down to the crag. Ryan pointed out the different lines to us including an uncompleted mixed line straight up the tallest and steepest section of cliff. After warming up on an awesome mixed line called Instant Karma I rapped into the unfinished line and placed several bolts to complete the work that previous climbers had done to establish the line about halfway up the cliff. The route required cleaning some enormous blocks which came out frighteningly easy!

Naomi leading in the Chasm!

On the FA of Hydropower M9 WI 5-

In the thick of it on Hydropower

Sunday morning found us taking a Spanish tranquilo start and not getting out the crag until around 10am. This time our friend Lucho Romero joined us for the day. Lucho is one of the most well rounded climbers I know and is one of those people who just plain inspire confidence when you're around them. It was great to be out with him this weekend!

I got on the new line and flashed to the previous high point until I fell and then dogged my way up the rest to figure out the moves. The climbing was engaging from the start with solid M7 moves to a no hands rest at the start and then ever-steepening climbing to the massive free-hanging curtain above. After a rest I went back up and nearly made it to the curtain before unexpectedly popping off a slopey hook. With darkness pretty much having arrived, I packed it in and we hiked out.

Alden after headbutting the ice!

I decided to call into work and take Monday off and we headed back to the Chasm on Monday with Ryan and Vermont climber Alden Pellet who had received 3 stitches in his forehead the day before. Naomi led her second ice pitch ever and styled it and I followed for a warm-up. On my first attempt of the day on the new route I made it all the way to the ice before elbowing my ice tool out of a hook while clipping! AAAHHHH! I couldn't believe it. I had the route in the bag only to knock my own tool off the route!

After climbing 90+ feet of drytooling to get there it was hard to motivate to get back on but I rallied and sent on the next try. After pulling onto the icicle I moved above the attachment point and fired in a screw about 3/4 of the way when a high powered stream of water cam shooting out the back of the screw! I had never had this happen to me and was startling to say the least. I moved quickly to avoid being totally drenched and climbed to the trees to top out the line.

Check out the video clip shot by Ryan Stefiuk of Bigfoot Mountain Guides!

I named the new route Hydropower M9 WI 5-. According to Ryan this is currently the hardest mixed route in the Catskills and after seeing some of the potential that this area holds I'm sure it won't be the hardest for long. With some work and motivation, this area could house some of the raddest mixed climbing in the northeast! Get down there and get after it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Catskills Ice Fest this weekend!

I'm extremely excited to be heading down to the Catskills this weekend for the Catskills Ice Fest. Check here for more information! I'll be presenting my multi-media show on Saturday night at Rock and Snow in New Paltz. I've actually never climbed down in the Catskills and am psyched to check out what I've heard is some amazing new route potential!

A sampling of Catskills Ice. photo by Ryan Stefiuk

Here's the slideshow line-up!

Friday: Ryan Stefiuk of Big Foot Mountain GuidesJoin Ryan as he talks about his ice climbing trip to Newfoundland, From classic lines to first ascents, see what awaits your next trip. Held at Rock & Snow, 8pm

Saturday: Northern Revival by Matt McCormickMatt presents a multi-media look at the next generation of New England climbers pushing the limits year round on ice, rock, and mixed terrain. Held at Rock & Snow, 8pm

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Black Diamond Fusion! A review...

I remember getting my first pair of ice tools in the mail back when I was in High School. They were a pair of Grivel Rambos with just a slight bend in the lower shaft. I could barely wait to get out that weekend and use them. Getting new ice tools, like getting new toys as a kid, increases my motivation. I want to get out on the ice as soon as possible to try them out and see where they can take me.

I recently received the latest in Black Diamonds esteemed line of ice tools. The new Fusion takes the place of the "old" orange Fusion that had been around for a while. The older Fusion had made it's mark as the best drytooling tool on the market if not the most popular ice climbing tool.

The latest Fusion closes that divide between drytooling and ice performance with an almost completely redesigned tool. The shaft is twisted ninety degrees as most of the BD tools are to increase clearance and distribute weight more evenly when swinging. The head of the tool includes a small integrated hammer which appears unlikely to be of much use but actually performs well banging pins, spectres, and other desperate pieces of winter pro. Using the hammer requires the climber to choke up on the shaft a bit and I've had great success placing all sorts of bang in protection with these tools so far. The Handle includes a reinforced upper pommel which is a nice improvement on the last Fusion. The last model's upper grip got torn up quickly and BD has solved this problem by reinforcing it with metal. The lower grip features a wide and comfortable pinky rest and can be adjusted in size using removable spacers.

The tool comes with a spike on the bottom of the shaft for plunging and walking which I removing for fear of lobotomizing. I would recommend that people do this unless you're headed into the alpine.

I've had the opportunity to use this tool on a variety of terrain from upside-down sport mixed climbing to traditional Scottish style mixed to straight up ice and I've been blown away by the all-around performance of the tool. There are ample opportunities to give them a try in the coming weeks at this weekend's Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest and at the Catskills Ice Fest the weekend of Feb. 20th. I would highly recommend checking them out!