A couple days of Private Rock Climbing

A real quick post tonight to upload some photos from today and last week. The summer guiding season isn’t quite over yet and today I had quite a bit of fun climbing on Whitehorse and Cathedral today, but I’m turning in early as I have a partner lined up for an early morning attempt at a 2 hour car to car ascent of the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle. Stay tuned for a trip report this weekend!

Last weekend:

See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart

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Petzl Cordex Belay Gloves Review

In 20 years of climbing I have only recently started carrying belay gloves with me on a regular basis. When I first started climbing it seemed like an unnecessary extra item. My hands could handle a little rope burn from time to time right? After joining the local Mountain Rescue Service I started carrying them on rescues due to heavier loads and lots of rope work (and some BSI protection).

In the last two years I have switched to carrying them 100% of the time, and now feel like I am missing something if I leave them at home. Perhaps it is because I am climbing & rappelling on skinnier ropes than I was 15 years ago, but the added security and comfort they provide easily justifies their cost & weight on the back of my harness.

Petzl Cordex Belay Glove (Medium Weight)

Petzl Cordex Mid-weight Belay Gloves

For this review I tested both the mid-weight and lightweight versions of these gloves. When I first tried on the mid-weight Petzl Cordex Belay Gloves in the store they felt a bit stiff. The double goat leather palm and fingers definitely looked durable but I could tell they would take a little breaking in. In just about 5 days of use they softened up nicely.

For a rugged belay glove they fit my medium sized hands quite well, and the neoprene velcro cuff made them feel secure when in use. The convenient carabiner hole in the cuff is also substantial enough that there is no fear of of the carabiner attachment failing (unlike some models that just sport a thin sewn loop). I carry these on an oval biner’ that sports two prussic’s, a micro-ascender (Petzl Tibloc), and my knife.

The only downside was these gloves felt a bit hot during last week’s upper 80’s lower 90’s temps. After searching online I found a good deal on a pair of the lightweight version of this glove:

Petzl Cordex Lightweight Belay Gloves

Petzl Cordex Lightweight Belay Gloves

They feel just as durable in the palm and fingers as the midweight version but the back is almost 100% breathable stretch nylon. These will be much more comfortable climbing in warm weather and will definitely outlast the cheaper suede style belay gloves some of my fellow guides use.

Manufacturer Description and Technical Specs:

  • Ergonomic cut for great dexterity without being too tight
  • Made of high quality leather for the perfect balance of durability and dexterity
  • Durable double layer of leather in high-wear areas: fingertips, palm, between thumb and index finger
  • Back made of breathable stretch nylon for excellent fit and ventilation
  • Neoprene cuff with Velcro closure
  • Carabiner hole to attach gloves to harness

Specifications

  • Material(s): goat skin leather, stretch nylon
  • Certification(s): CE EN 420, CE EN 388 (3133)
  • Weight: 100-120gr (depends on size)

If you haven’t used belay gloves before I’d suggest you try it out. They make a lot of sense for multiple styles of climbing. Catching sport climbing falls will feel more secure. Rappelling skinny rope in steep terrain will feel more secure. Even quickly coiling rope to move on to the next route is easier when the rope can quickly slide through your palms without nylon on skin friction. There are so many benefits and few drawbacks that I’m considering lending a pair to my clients to increase both their comfort and security while we climb together.

If you have an opinion on using belay gloves please share it below! Let us know what model’s you’ve tried and liked (or not liked) in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart

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Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle

Yesterday’s weather forecast called for 94 degrees in the valley’s. I wanted to climb, but I didn’t want to cook, so I called up my old friend Rob to see if he would be in for a morning climb up this classic alpine ridge. He agreed, and asked if his girlfriend Stephanie could join us. While we wouldn’t be setting any speed records as a party of three I liked the idea of a more mellow social climb, so the plan was made and off we went.

We reached the base at 9:30 and I was surprised no one else was on route even though it was a Monday. I took the first 3 pitches leading on doubles and while we swapped racks for Rob to lead the 4th pitch we saw the first of two other parties arrive behind us.

Two parties arriving below us

Two parties arriving below us

The first party of two was making good time but stayed to the right on the more direct 5.9 variation. Rob cruised the 5.8 variation (does anyone ever climb the Allis Chimney anymore?) and I took us up and right to link up with the “Fairy Tale Traverse” pitch. This is one of the coolest pitches in the White Mountains.

Classic exposure!

Classic exposure!

Stephanie inches here way along the traverse

Stephanie inches her way along the traverse

Around this time I discovered this was Stephanie’s first multi-pitch climb, having only climbed once or twice at Square Ledge. Great job on the route Stephanie, hope you and Rob are still together ;)

Shenagians

Shenagians

We coiled the ropes and started the hike up to the top of the ravine.

iPhone Panarama

iPhone Panarama

Wildcat Ski Mountain in the background

Wildcat Ski Mountain in the background

A

A “moment” that had to be captured

I hope to climb this a few more times this season. It had been a few years since I had been up there and I had almost forgotten what a great route this is. It is definitely a great option when valley temps are forecast-ed to be scorching!

Coming up this week: Product Review of PETZL Cordex Belay Gloves

See you in the mountains!

-NEAlpineStart

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AMC Camp, Mount Washington, and Whitehorse Ledge!

Crazy busy week with 5 straight days of guiding! It all started Monday when another AMC Teen Wilderness Camp Group joined us for 3 days of rock climbing instruction. We enjoyed beautiful weather that first day up at Square Ledge.

Vivian rappels the 150 foot West Face

Vivian rappels the 150 foot West Face

The girls rocked at belaying through-out the three days

The girls rocked at belaying through-out the three days

Vivian starts up the Chimney Route

Vivian starts up the Chimney Route

Unfortunately a deluge of rain was inbound for Tuesday, but the group was motivated to try to get a little outdoor climbing in before we would have to swim back to the van. We got a couple ropes set up on the Thin Air face as the first few drops started, and then the kids took multiple laps on the face despite the moderate to heavy rain. I was glad I had brought that quint-essential piece of guide equipment:

Thanks CT!

Thanks CT!

Even climbed the first pitch to clean the anchors with it

Even climbed the first pitch to clean the anchors with it

We returned to EMS North Conway to dry out and spent the afternoon creating some bouldering competitions on our modest but creative wall.

Bouldering Comp

Bouldering Comp

For our last day we split into multiple rope teams and climber 4-5 pitches on Whitehorse Ledge before rapping and top-roping over at the Ethereal Buttress area. No pics of that day unfortunately but everyone who tried Seventh Seal made it to the top!

Thursday was a unique guiding day for me in as such that it was a Mount Washington Ascent. While I do a fair share of these during our winter season they are not as common in the summer, when hoards of hikers climb this popular mountain displaying the full spectrum of preparation and trail knowledge. Despite having a fair amount of experience, Alan and his 18 year old son Matty had learned climbing with a local guide has some advantages, and I was happy to return to the mountain that I spend so much time on in the colder months.

Hitting the trail from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center

Hitting the trail from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center at 8:30am

Crystal Cascade

Crystal Cascade

The bottom portion of the Tuckerman Ravine trail was quite crowded for a Thursday, but the weather was fair and it is summer vacation still! As we passed the Huntington Ravine trail the crowds thinned out a bit. A mother resting at the Huntington Ravine trail sign before descending mentioned her teenage sons had continued up the Tuckerman Ravive trail after consulting their map and determining that the sign indicating this was the Huntington Ravine Trail was not correct, or meant something else. A harmless mistake at this point, it reminded me that map reading skills, and navigation in general, are a much needed skill for this vastly growing outdoor user group. (Yup that is a plug for my Wilderness Navigation Course).

We soon reached Hermit Lake.

First views of the bowl

First views of the bowl

We took a quick breather on the caretaker’s hut porch then continued to climb up to the floor of the ravine. Just below the “open book” waterfall we stopped again before tackling the steeper bits of the headwall. While Alan & Matty snacked I started sniffing around for any remnants of snow. Yes, it was August 13th. But I had heard a couple weeks ago there was still a decent sized patch of snow. A month ago I could see it from Square Ledge. Today it looked like it had finally all melted. Then I saw something out of place between the rocks. Reaching down it was about a foot in length, covered in dirt & needles so it blended in with the rocks. I rinsed it off in the water cascading down the headwall and a few hikers gawked in disbelief. The last of the snow in Tuckerman Ravine:

No glacier this year

No glacier this year

We started up the headwall.

Just above the first waterfall

Just above the first waterfall

When we reached the rim of the bowl we took another break and looked back towards Lion’s Head.

See the hiker out on the diving board?

See the hiker out on the diving board?

A slow steady push up the summit cone had us on top at 12:45.

A well earned summit photo

A well earned summit photo

It was an excellent day with a great father/son team. I’m thinking they might be back for a Mount Washington Observatory Overnight with us this winter!

That brings us to today! Claude, his wife Melissa, and daughter Katie, are adventure incarnate. With a long list of tales from whitewater rafting out west, canyoneering, climbing here and in the Tetons, horseback riding, and much more I knew we were in for a fun day. We headed over to Whitehorse Ledge and climbed the Standard Direct route right to the top. It’s been awhile since I’ve guided 3 people up Whitehorse, and I was reminded that 600 feet of rope is a lot of rope. The fresh breezes made the day quite pleasant and we reached the top at 1:30pm. An excellent day with a really fun family!

Morning light

Morning light

Looking down from Crystal Pocket

Looking down from Crystal Pocket

Hanging out at Crystal Pocket

Hanging out at Crystal Pocket

Summit shot

Summit shot

That’s it! What a great week. Tomorrow off and then teaching another Wilderness Navigation Course on Sunday. Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

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AMC Teen Wilderness Camp and Private Rock Climbing

Last week I got to spend three great days with 6 kids in the AMC Teen Wilderness Program and yesterday with Kathy and Carl in a Private Rock Climbing Course.

On the first day of the AMC Program we started at the Classroom and practiced some movement skills.

EMS Schools Guide Craig Porter explains how using a flake to lay back on can help one's feet stay glued to the wall...

EMS Schools Guide Craig Porter explains how using a flake to lay back on can help one’s feet stay glued to the wall…

After the bouldering session everyone experienced a few rappels down the cliff.

Sophia goes over the edge

Sophia goes over the edge

We spent the rest of the first day top-roping at The North End. On the second day we headed over to the Echo Roof area at Whitehorse Ledge. Everyone got to climb Ladies & Gentleman, Holy Land, and Relic Hunter by lunch.

Miranda lowers off of Holy Land

Miranda lowers off of Holy Land

Patrick finds his way up Relic Hunter

Patrick finds his way up Relic Hunter

Dennis starts up Ladies & Gentleman

Dennis starts up Ladies & Gentleman

Shortly after moving over to Beezlebub Corner & Seventh Seal and rain shower blew through and shortened our day a bit. On our 3rd day we started with multi-pitch climbs on the slabs, reaching the overlaps 600 feet up before rappelling back to Terra firma for some lunch.

Teamwork at the sandwich factory

Teamwork at the sandwich factory

We headed back to the climbs we were rained off of the day prior.

Patrick starts up Seventh Seal

Patrick starts up Seventh Seal

Tiara gets creative on Seventh Seal

Tiara gets creative on Seventh Seal

We wrapped our third day up and said goodbye as the group left for many more days of backpacking & kayaking adventures. Working with these kids is quite rewarding and I’m looking forward to the next group coming later this week.

Yesterday Kathy & Carl joined me for the first of a two day Private Rock Climbing course. Both had a fair amount of gym experience and were starting to make the transition to outdoor climbing. We started our day at the Classroom and covered anchoring strategies before enjoying a run up Upper Refuse. We spent the afternoon down at the North End looking at top-rope management issues and working on some crack climbing techniques. They are out again with another guide today and I hope I get a chance to climb with them again.

Carl at the top of Upper Refuse

Carl at the top of Upper Refuse

Cathy at the top of Upper Refuse

Cathy at the top of Upper Refuse

Thanks for reading! See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart

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Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle in kind of quick fashion

I guess I’ll keep with the moderate speed climbing theme and share some beta on today’s 2.5 hour car to car ascent of this classic alpine rock climb. We’ll get the big disclaimers out of the way first;

1) This route is committing! From Mountain Project’s description: “The Pinnacle is above treeline on one of America’s deadliest peaks. The weather is unpredictable and often comes in from the west (over the Mt. Washington summit, thus invisible). Snow occurs in every month of the year on Mt. Washington, and high winds, driving rain, and thunderstorms are common. Be sensible. Check the forecast, get an early start, and be prepared to bail if things go bad.”

2) We used what I call the “modern” approach… the Auto-Road. While this “approach” cuts the hiking time down to less than 20% of the “traditional” approach/descent time from Pinkham Notch it has two disadvantages. First, you can’t really retreat down should bad weather roll in. As such this approach should only be used during very clear weather windows. Second, cost. $36 for a car, driver, and passenger. That works out to $18/ea. So my $.02 on using the road:

If you have never done the route from Pinkham I’d suggest doing it that way a time or two. It’s cheaper, and much more aesthetic the first time you see the grandness of Huntington Ravine from the bottom of the “Fan”. Figure 2.5 hours for approach plus or minus 45 minutes depending on fitness, and another 2.5 hours for the descent after un-roping (if not tagging the summit). 7am is probably a good start time.

If the weather forecast is grand and you want to cut out an average of 5+ hours of hiking from your day, this method is quite sweet. Mike and I left the car at 9:40am and hiked down to the Huntington Ravine trail. From the parking lot it took us 6 minutes to reach the large cairn at the top of the ravine, where we could see one party just starting the route.

Heading down the headwall

Heading down the headwall

Scrambling down the the headwall trail to the base of the route took us another 30 minutes. It’s a definitely 4th class trail so it could take longer based on your experience with down climbing with exposure. We roped up and I started up the first couple pitches in approach shoes. After 300 feet I caught up to a party ahead of us at the base of Pitch 3 and built an anchor. When Mike arrived we chilled for a few minutes to re-rack while Dustin’s party finished the 5.8 pitch 4 variation (having combined P3 & P4). We followed suit with Mike leading behind them and stepping out left to easier ground after the crux moves.

Mike starts Pitch 3 while Dustin cleans Pitch 4 higher up...

Mike starts Pitch 3 while Dustin cleans Pitch 4 higher up…

Combining these two pitches makes sense to me, but rope drag can definitely be an issue. Consider back cleaning that piece after the “groveled on my stomach move”. You’ll know it when you do it. After it is an “ok” pin that can be backed up if you like, then un-clip that last cam and life will be easier!

I followed the 5.8 pitch, still in approach shoes, and resolved to “quick-alpine-style” right at the crux (read he pulled or stepped on the pin). I’m not ashamed ;)

Once I reached the belay I took off for the upper bits. We still had two parties heading to the idyllic “Fairy Tale Traverse” ahead of us so I choose the easier 5th & 6th pitches without stopping to anchor until just below the final 30 foot technical section at the top. I belayed Mike up and then took a more solid belay for the final 5.6 corner and reached the top as the first party we saw while descending was de-gearing for a summit bid.

The first party on the route finishing the

The first party on the route finishing the “Fairy Tale Traverse”

Mike finishes the end of the roped climbing

Mike finishes the end of the roped climbing

Dustin starts the

Dustin starts the “Fairy Tale Traverse”

We headed up and to the car reaching at 12:10 pm, just under 2.5 hours. ViewRanger track log reported 1.49 miles round trip, about 1,200 feet elevation down then up.

IMG_1997

I’d like to be a bit more optimized for my next attempt to get this one under 2 hours. For those who are SUPER comfy with the grade and have done it before, this is what I am planning on for next run:

Rack: .3-#2, no doubles, no nuts/tri-cams (thinking speed here). 6 alpine draws.

Rope: 9.2mm 30m rope. Simul to P3, belay 5.8 variation (my measurement is combining P3&P4 is still only 100 feet). Simul to last 5.6 crux. 30m rope will cut quite a bit of weight (and time coiling/flaking).

If the disclaimers at the beginning weren’t enough, these ideas are great for those who have scouted/climbed this route a lot. If it is your first time on it slow it down and have a great day!

While that’s it for speed climbing for a bit, heading into quite a few days of guiding camp groups, mostly from the AMC. Should be quite a nice week weather wise. Hope you all get out and get some good climbing in.

See you in the mountains!

-NEAlpineStart

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Upper Refuse in 30 minutes, one pitch

I know people who solo Upper Refuse in less than 10 minutes, so we are not trying to break any free-solo records here. I would like to share in detail what I think is a really fun (and relatively safe) way to cruise this classic moderate route if you, and your partner, are quite comfortable at the grade (for arguments sake let’s say 5.6+). A little back-story is in order…

About 10 years ago I was sitting with my buddy Rob at the well known “Moat” watering hole after climbing somewhere. We had just finished our 2nd mugs of libation and somehow the conversation made its way to Upper Refuse. I think it was because we were talking about how full length pitches on a recent Red Rocks trip were changing our perception. I mentioned that the three pitch Upper Refuse route could be done in one 60 meter pitch. Rob balked. We told the bartender to leave the tab open, we would be right back.

Bar-stool to bar-stool we took 58 minutes.

Here’s the detailed beta on how to not only climb this route quickly, but with only 2 slings to manage rope drag! Obvious detailed spoilers ahead:

1) Drive to the top of Cathedral. Rack up at the car. My slimmed down rack after a couple hundred ascents of this moderate (in order of placement, all Black Diamond C4’s):

.4, .5, 1, 2, .3, .75

2 alpine draws.

No nuts, tri-cams, etc… cams are faster for all involved.

Slow jog down the climbers trail and take the Barber Wall approach trail to the base of the route.

Rope up.

If you take the left-then-right variations of this ramp, you can have almost no rope drag and reach the 2 pin anchor at the top of the 3rd pitch in a 60m rope stretch using only 2 extend alpine draws (and 6 pieces of judiciously placed pro).

Proceed as follows:

Stay in the corner and climb easy 5.3-5.4ish face until about 40 feet up. A perfect splitter crack on the left side of the corner takes a .4 up high, clip straight to the sewn draw.

Stay close to the corner and wander right just a bit before stemming out to a great stance with a tapering crack about level with the traditional 1st pitch anchor 20 feet right. Bomber .5, clipped direct as well.

As the flaring crack ends step right to great foot holds and up to what I think of as the 5.6 crux. Bomber #1, clipped direct as well, before making a few steps up to easier climbing and crossing over the traditional chimney section of the route.

#2 placed under the small roof before making the side pull move up and right to leave the original chimney corner variation (extend with alpine draw). Staying in the original chimney is less exposed but adds to much drag.

Reach the 2nd Belay Ledge, then .3 placed in the left side twin cracks after making one easy step up off the ledge, and clipped direct.

Move up and out right on great foot holds, place the .75 in the nice horizontal 10 feet from the top of the ramp, clipped with the other extended alpine draw, and finish the ramp. Your belayer may need to remove their belay device for you to reach the pins.

Looking down the route the rope runs very straight and there is minimal drag.

This past week I got to run up this with my friends Christa and Jason and as a party of 3 we went car-to-car in 35 minutes.

I would strongly discourage someone from trying this unless the had already climbed the route a few times to get acquainted. A good warm up would be to combine P1&P2 staying left so you have better communication with your second. It is quite possible with a “short 60” your belayer may need to start climbing a few feet before you can reach the pins, so both climbers should be very competent at the grade. This past session I skipped the pins at the top of the ramp and continued all the way up to the fence, knowing my two partners where super solid at the grade.

This is a crazy busy route in the summer, especially on weekends. Traffic from Fun House, Three Birches & Bombardment, can bottle-neck here around noon-2pm almost every nice day of the summer. My advice? Climb it really early, or later in the day. Using the Barber Wall approach trail can make it a quick adventure (getting lost finding the Barber Wall approach trail can make it a long adventure).

For someone that is really comfortable on 5.6, it is a really stellar climb to combine the whole ramp into one pitch. Don’t hose your second though! If they have never climbed Upper Refuse slow down and let them enjoy it! Stop at the Bombardment Pin anchor, the cozy 2nd pitch ledge, the top of the ramp, and add a fun 4th pitch right to the fence to give them that feeling of “finishing” on the top of the cliff.

But… if you’ve climbed it dozens of times, and want to stretch your lungs & legs… well… have at it. I’m pretty sure you could car-to-car it in under 20 minutes (and still be on belay where it matters). That’s my next goal when I feel like doing something stupid.

Thanks for reading… oh, pictures from a great week with good friends from New Paltz!

Jason starts up Wanderlust, 5.8, Humphrey's Ledge

EMS Schools Guide Jason Hurwitz starts up Wanderlust, 5.8, Humphrey’s Ledge

Christa starts her first 5.9 lead, They Died Laughing, Cathedral Ledge

Christa starts her first 5.9 lead, They Died Laughing, Cathedral Ledge

Great rest before...

Great rest before…

A great bit of climbing...

A great bit of climbing…

Looking relaxed

Looking relaxed

Some visiting Adirondack climbers were looking for a diversion since the well known North End routes were a bit occupied so I steered them to the great over-looked gem, originally call “The Roof” but now currently called “Raise the Roof” after a more recent 2nd pitch has been added. I hope they stop by here for the pics I offered:

Raise the Roof

Raise the Roof

Reaching the roof...

Reaching the roof…

That’s it! Thanks again for reading. Been a bit humid for my skin but cool Fall air is just around the corner! Oh, wait… it’s not August yet? Well, Camelbak climbing weather continues then!

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

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