Friday, September 21, 2012

The Great Escape - Another new Adirondack Classic!

Just when I start thinking that the Adirondacks are maybe tapped out all of a sudden there are WAY TOO MANY projects and I wish I could be in 5 places at once!

The most recent focus of my projecting OCD has been the new "Alcatraz" wall situated high up and left of Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch. For years I've looked at this wall from the road, meaning to go up there and check it out. This summer when I was in Canada, a young local named Conor Cliffe made the considerable effort to pioneer the vertical forest approach to the wall and established 3 new routes. As soon as I heard about this I had to go and check it out.

Will negotiating the fixed rope on the approach to Alcatraz!

Naomi was awesome as usual and agreed to make the burly trek up there with full bolting kit and multiple ropes. Right away the left-most line on the cliff drew me in. A barely-there seam in a shallow left facing corner leading to a perfect finger crack. I climbed the sandbagged .12a/b/c to the right, bolted an anchor and rapped over it, placing 3 bolts in between some solid gear placements. At first I thought the route would go quick but as is often the case, it turned out to be harder than I expected. The climbing is super fun with a series of lefthand slaps up the shallow corner and righthand face holds out on the face.

The Great Escape .13a/b

After bolting a couple of other lines and checking out a couple more potential ones I turned my attention to sending the project. My first redpoint burns were shaky at best and afterward I slightly lowered one of the bolts creating a little better flow and getting rid of what had been a unnecessary  scary clip. My next day out I one-hung it three times falling out of the crux move getting into the final finger crack.  This move is super unique and involved a delicate and barn-doory righthand crossover into a "imaginary" thumbs down hand jam which you kind of dynamically load before matching in and pulling into a layback. Each go I would stall the jam for a milli-second before exploding out rather violently!

Yesterday I went back up with my friend Will Roth and sent 3rd go! It super cool to be up there on an absolutely perfect day with a good friend. Will always brings the positive energy to the max and it helped a lot. Sometimes projects feel easy when you finally send. This one felt like a battle right till the end.

The fall conditions are here and the weather has been amazing! Onto to the next one!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Highway 61

Yesterday, after a couple of previous attempts, I managed to nab the 2nd complete ascent of Highway 61 at Cathedral Ledge!

Highway 61 is a 4-6 pitch (Depending how you finish) 5.13a free variation to the aid route Mines of Moria that was put up back in 2003 by Tim Kemple. The route goes straight up the beautiful and intimidating Mordor Wall section of the cliff. The climbing is defined by powerful boulder problems on the slippery Cathedral granite protected by a combination of bolts, gear, and bashies at the route's crux. 

Cathedral Ledge showing our line of ascent

My friend Sam Bendroth and I had twice previously tried for the complete ascent but had gotten shut down by different factors including the onslaught of New England black flies this month. Instead of starting around 11am as we had in the past we got any early 6am start to try and catch the 1st .12d pitch before the sun really warmed it up. This ended up working well and I sent on my first go. Despite having sent the pitch in the past, Sam didn't manage to pull through the crux deadpoint. I'm sure he's got it in the bag soon!

 Looking up at Pitch 1

We hung out on the ledge for an hour or so waiting for the .13a second pitch to go into the shade. After a while I tied in and punched into the stiff boulder problem off the ledge. The non-stop rain we've been having for the past week and half had washed all of the chalk of the pitch, making it challenging to find some of the subtle holds but I managed to squeak through to the corner where you can get a big no-hands stem and recover.  The next section of the pitch climbs up and  onto the left wall of the corner culminating in a powerful yet subtle boulder problem protected by 2 bashies and an old machine head below your feet. I just managed to hold on through the crux and mantled onto the ledge above following the beautiful finger crack to the anchor above. 

Sam pulling the lip on the crux pitch

The 3rd pitch follows a beautiful left-facing corner which was completely overgrown until I rapped in a few weeks ago with an old ice tool and wire brush and brought this 5-star .11b pitch back to life. If this one were on the ground rather than the middle of the Mordor Wall, it would get climbed everyday!

At the anchor above the crux pitch

After Same led and I followed the third pitch we assessed the situation above. The Bridge of Kazad-Dum (11d)  was pouring with water as was the Pendulum Roof (.11d) out left. Climbing up and right on an un-known slab line looked to be the only option. I started up the pitch and after about 60' of climbing hit a big runout friction slab that I just didn't like the looks of. I put a biner on the bolt below and down-climbed about 15' before making a 50' traverse right across the .11b slab to join Lights in the Forest via the "new" "McCormick-Bendroth Connector." From there we followed the last two pitches of Lights in the Forest to top of the cliff to complete an awesome day out on a very worthy route!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spring time in New England

After spending a successful couple of weeks in the Red River Gorge back in March, I've been enjoying an unusually dry spring here in New England. Routes that are usually soaked in April have been bone dry and I have to say it's been one of the best spring seasons I can remember.

Paradise Lost .13b Red River Gorge

Travis Peckham on his route Encryption .12d at the 82 Crag Bolton, VT.
Look for a guidebook for Vermont Rock climbing coming out soon. Preview here!

I've been spending a lot of time sport climbing in Rumney which is something I haven't done in a while. While the crowds can be a bit much, the climbing really is world class. I was psyched to wrap up some new projects for me there including the mega-classic resistance route Charlie Don't Surf 13b. I also got to do a couple routes that I still hadn't been on right in my own backyard of Bolton Vermont. Highlights include the mega-technical Encryption .12d and Who's Your Daddy .12c which might have one of the coolest 5.12 boulder problems I've ever been on. I'm hoping all the time clipping bolts will pay off in the fall when some of my projects in the sacks open up from their peregrine closures. 

Mike Korek on sustained upper arete of Charlie Don't Surf .13b Rumney

This past weekend Naomi and me climbed at Cathedral Ledge in North Conway. I got on a Tim Kemple route called Highway 61 which is a free variation combining 2 different aid routes. The first pitch is protected by a mixture of bolts, pins, and gear and goes at about.12d through some awesome granite boulder problems. I was psyched to send that first pitch on Saturday and then Sunday got a few goes in on the harder second pitch. I'm psyched to go back for this thing and do it all in one push to the top!

Bayard Russell working the first .12d pitch of Highway 61

In late July I'll be heading to the East Creek Basin of the Bugaboos with my friend JP Ouellet (Peewee). We're psyched to climb in the Howser Towers for a couple weeks but more on that later!

The North (1/3 of it), Central and South Howser Towers!

I hope everyone is having a great spring! Get after it!!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Video!!!

This is a short piece I shot and edited last fall with my friend Brian Bittner. Brian is one of Vermont's strongest boulderers and makes his living buying and selling antiques. This video shows him making the first ascent of "The Fat Kid" V12 in Bolton, VT.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A new variation on Cannon Cliff and the MWV Ice fest!

This has been a funny winter here in New England. More often than not the season has felt more like early spring than the cold an snowy winters we've grown accustomed to. I suppose that's what makes New England so unique though, one day can be -1F and then next 40F! Yesterday was just one of those days.

The forecast called for heavy rain throughout the day and temperatures nearing the the low 40's. Bayard Russell and I made plans to meet at 7:30 in the Cannon Cliff parking lot, reasoning that the temps would stay at least near freezing. As I woke up early and drove to toward Cannon the temperature was around 35F and it slowly began to rain the close I got to Franconia Notch. I have to admit I was NOT optimistic!

There were two other parties gearing up in the lot when we arrived including Matt Ritter and Jeff from Plymouth and our friends Emily Drinkwater and Lori Crowningshield from the Adirondacks. Ice climbing in the rain seemed to be the "thing to do" so we figured we would at least walk the base of the cliff.

As we rounded the corner near Moby Grape we caught glimpse of an incredible smear seemingly pouring out of no where just right of the fable route Icarus. The precipitation had eased off and Bayard grabbed the rack and took us up a beautiful approach pitch with iced up corners that would characterize the rest of the day. That pitch deposited us a the base of the incredible smear that neither of us had ever seen there before.

The Minotaur climbs the smear on the lower right side of the wall pictured here.

The ice started off thin and hollow but quickly turned thick enough to protect with screws and plastic as well! After 70ft. the smear ended and I was amazed to see a perfect green C3 size crack leading upward into a right facing corner. After fiddling some gear into the unnervingly frosted crack, I launched up the corner past a useless specter and some great torquing to a belay below the next corner.

Bayard led the next 70m pitch which zig-zagged between different corners, all iced-up with 4-6 inch runnels. The pitch was never desperate but was hard to protect as all of the cracks were filled with ice. I took us up another 60 meter pitch of quickly melting ice and turf to the base of what an overlap and left facing corner. As I climbed our friends Jeff Previte and Matt Ritter rapped passed, bailing as darkness grew. They graciously volunteered to grab our packs that we had left at the base. I knew we were now two pitches from the top as I had climbed these pitches a few years ago with Kevin Mahoney as we finished the Quartet Ice Hose. As Bayard started up the pitch, water pretty much poured from everywhere, soaking my down belay jacket and keeping Bayard on his toes as the choosy rock and turf began to come unglued.

The "big-wall" section of Cannon Cliff. The smear we climbed is left of center.

Bayard did a great job of negotiating the tricky dry tooling and made it to the belay at an old spectre hook that I had welded in years ago. By now the weather was consistently switching between pouring rain, hail, and snow. Fortunately the warm temperatures made the soaking wet conditions bearable.

It was pretty much dark as I started up the last pitch which climbed 20ft of easy dry tooling to the endless summit slabs of ice and frozen turf. I led for a full 70m with our one little headlamp and hip-belayed Bayard up.

Topping out the middle of Cannon in winter is not something you get to do very often. The setting is amazing with all the scrub pines and granite blocks covered in hoar frost. Bayard nailed the descent and we were back at the car by 7:30pm. We called our new variation The Minotaur NEI 4+ M6+.

The line of the Minotaur variation to Icarus!

The rest of the weekend was spent at the 19th annual Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest. Big thanks to all the people who worked so hard to make this year's festival the biggest and best ever!

Below are some photos from the weekend!

I was psyched to climb with Mike Burke of New Jersey on Friday and Sunday. Thanks for two great days out Mike!

Mike rightly looking psyched to max on "Sheer Elegance" a rarely climbed gem off the Kancamangus Highway

Dave Karl sharing the new NAO headlamp with Todd Asher-Bergstein at the Icefest

A shot from the previous weekend. A group solo of Hidden Gully in Smuggler's Notch, VT!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The AAC Annual Dinner!

For me the idea of dressing up for formal dinners is not always too exciting but I'm really looking forward to the American Alpine Club's annual dinner on March 3rd in Boston!

The AAC supports climbers in so many ways...

- The American Alpine Journal! THE resource for researching expedition travel around the
world and now searchable online! Did you know that as a member you are entitled to one day
of free research at the AAC library?

- GRANTS! Expeditions are expensive. I have been fortunate to receive money through the AAC for two Copp-Dash Inspire Awards.

- Rescue Insurance - The AAC is partnered with Global Rescue to benefit all AAC members.
This past summer My friends Mark Richey and Freddie Wilkinson utilized Global Rescue to
initiate a helicopter evac of their partner Steve Swenson from the base of Saser Kangri II
when he became gravely ill.

This year at the dinner Freddie will be premiering a film about their first ascent of Saser Kangri II. Check out the trailer below!

One of the things I find so amazing about climbing is the blurring of generational gaps. Many of my best climbing partners are nearly old enough to be my parents and many are years younger. This theme is central to Freddie's movie and the theme of this year's dinner. I hope to see many of you there!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ice-Fest Season!

The season of Ice Festivals is upon us! It all kicks off this weekend with the Mountainfest in the Adirondacks! Bayard Russell and I will be giving a slideshow Saturday night featuring a bunch of great video and photos of northeast ice and mixed climbing. They'll be demos from all the best gear companies including La Sportiva, Petzl, and Outdoor Research plus great shows from Zoe Hart on Friday and Emilie Drinkwater on Sunday! Don't miss it!

The winter season has been a little slow getting going this year but I've managed a few fun days out. Here

The Snotscicle in Smuggler's Notch. Bayard and I checked out the unclimbed dry tooling about the ice and will definitely be back for that!

The classic Fafnir with my good friend Jake Frerk. My thoughts are with him and the rest of the Skier Boyz this weekend.