Sunday, June 18, 2017

Under the Weather

Here we are, one month from leaving Idaho and still another blog post without a trip report. With the combination of weather, sicknesses, and the event here at Aspen, Joe and I have yet to actually step foot on any of our mountain objectives.

Did I mention Tommy lost his finger in a carpentry accident
and is still considered the best big wall climber in the world?!
PC JDStylos
I arrived back here from working in California with my cold in full force, the weather on Rainier raging and show prep on the farm in full operation. After coming to realization that we we weren't going to be able to put an attempt on Rainier until after the event we took some time to drive up to Seattle to go listen to Tommy Caldwell give a talk, and book signing.

Tommy, Joe and Myself
We arrived after enjoying a great meal with Joe’s Uncle and we sat down in a room full of about 70% regular people and 30% climbers. This year has been spent at many talks and presentations from all the ice festivals we attended. The room seems to be always filled with Subaru driving, down coat wearing, scruffy hair growing dirt bags. This was not the case here in Seattle. By the looks of it, Joe and I could only point out a few recognizable climbers and most of everyone else were obvious just local, city dwelling pedestrians here to enjoy listening to someone talk about his art.

Overall the talk was mostly an overview of Tommy’s book THE PUSH, a few details about his life and the evening was wrapped up with viewers asking questions. Both Joe and I agreed that Tommy’s presentation was one of the better ones we have listened to. I enjoyed the talk so much that I might have stole Joe’s book from him before he could start reading it,. As a result, if you are looking for a great autobiography I highly recommend Tommy’s book. I am about halfway through and have been eating it up.

When I climb I hate slopers, When I wash
holds- I love them. PC- JDStylos
The weekend before the show quickly arrived and with that the work party had commenced and I just so happened to pick up a few work hours on and off the farm. I've been spending a few days a week at the local climbing gym trying to keep up with my training. After mentioning working for the gym back home in Boise I soon started picking up a couple hours a week washing holds in exchange for a membership. My last three Sundays have been spent climbing for about an hour then finishing off my evening power washing and sorting holds.

The week prior to the event at Aspen is filled with long days, good food, great people and a whole lot of work. I spent a couple of days working for Christina along with work on the farm and waited for my best friend Lowey to show up at the end of the week.

Lowey (AKA Loui Flaig) and I met a few years back from the horse world in Idaho. We quickly became best friends and the rest is history. We have a quite the long distance relationship as she is from and currently lives in Tampa, Florida but we have never let that come between our friendship. We have made it a tradition every year for us to try to meet up in one way or the other, and the last two years Lowey has made the great journey out west to join us here at the farm for the event.

This year was a bit different in that she was not going to be around quite as long, so after she had flown in on Thursday, she, Joe, and myself hopped in the car and headed towards Mt. Rainier for a hike lower down on the mountain.
PC JDStylos

Comet Falls is a moderate hike to one of the largest waterfalls in the park. I have hiked up to the falls this time of year for the past three years and have never had a problem with snow, or bad weather. So when Joe and I packed up our 25 lb packs and he asked me if I thought there would be snow I immediately said “no way, we will be at a low enough elevation that snow won't be an issue!” We arrived to the trailhead late morning and hiked along the wet, and muddy trail. Which soon turned to a snow patch here and there. Then the snow patch turned to snow on the entire trail. Which then we quickly arrived to our first of soon to be many snow bridges. Before we knew it we were three feet above the actual ground, crossing some fairly sketchy bridges. I gave Lowey a trekking pole and when I wasn't sure what to do, Joe hopped in the lead and led us along the trail until we got to the point where we were passing other hikers. Which apparently they just so happened to be aware that there might be snow because all of them had snow spikes for their shoes and seemed well prepared for the conditions, unlike ourselves.
See the two ants!? Lowey and myself!
PC JDStylos

Once we finally reached the point where you could see the falls, the trail was faint. Joe insisted on Lowey and I hiking towards the base of the falls so he could stay behind and attempt to get some good photos. We carefully made our way as far as we were willing to go before turning around and making our way back to Joe.

I had to give Lowey a pat on the back, because there was plenty of places that could be considered a no fall zone, and she put on her big girl pants and put in a solid effort, even when I was nervous too.

This was nerve racking. PC JDStylos
We made it safely back to the car, with a much more interesting hike than planned behind us. The rest of the weekend went as scheduled and the show ran incredibly smooth. By the end of it we were all beat. We said our goodbyes to Lowey on Sunday and returned back to the farm to almost all of the competitors gone.

We spent the next few days cleaning up and one by one each project was finished and the farm slowly transformed back into its normal, beautiful self.

All the while, I had just finished my round of antibiotics I got from the doc in the box 10 days prior and still had a nasty cough. Three weeks after arriving here in Washington, I was still sick and the weather on each of our mountain objectives in Washington was snowy, rainy, windy and downright terrible.

Joe and I started to give up hope for Rainier, once in awhile she would give us a smidge of a climbing window, then rip it out from under us before we could even start packing our gear. So we shifted our view to our other climbs we had in mind.

Joe’s sister, Melissa comes out every year and they attempt a climb together. We had planned on her coming out sometime in the month of June and trying the Adams Glacier on Mt. Adams. After calling Melissa, we set up for her arrival this Monday. We quickly started doing some research on the conditions, and Joe quickly found out the road was impassable ten miles before the trailhead.

So with that we shifted our eyes to a different state, Oregon. Mt.Hood has recently been on the radar. But with recent warm temps, Joe waking up with a cold the other day and me waking up with conjunctivitis in my left eye I am started to wonder if we'll ever get a climb in this summer.

Melissa rolls in tomorrow, and we are hoping to scheme up a plan to try to at least climb something, whether it be rock, ice or snow, I am not really sure. Between the weather, and sickness, Joe and I have gotten the short end of the stick this mountaineering season thus far!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Back in Washington

In a perfect world, right now I wouldn't be sitting here writing this blog post. I would be rest stepping my way up to base camp, with a heavy pack on the Emmons Glacier. Finally fulfilling the goal we set out for months prior to this. As we all know, life gets in the way and things change. In which case, this past week has been a prime example.
Mt Baker 2016 PC JDStylos

I arrived back to Washington two weeks ago, ran the morning I left and felt great and confident that I had one more week of work then we were to set up our first objective of the summer mountaineering season, Mt Rainier. Truly feeling the most fit and prepared I have ever felt

I pulled into the farm, and the second sentence out of Joe’s mouth was “there’s been a cold floating around the farm and I think I have it!” So, the second day in Washington, I woke up with a small tickle in my throat and here I am two weeks later still coughing and sniffling.

It’s been one of those colds that gives you false hope and you start to feel better, then the next day you wake up feeling worse than you did the day before.

Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burritos at the Cabin
Having the cold has been a good excuse to try to “rest”. Which I am honestly not very good at. The week I got here Joe and I took some time to head to a friends Cabin in Grayland, WA. Where we enjoyed quality time together after spending two months apart. We read books, cooked good food and tried to kick our colds. The day after we returned I headed to California for another week of work. It was nice to make some money, but on the flip side, long work days didn't help me get over this head cold and throughout the work week I slowly declined.

Not only is being healthy a huge factor when it comes to climbing but anybody who's anyone knows that it's a lot nicer to be outside on a sunny day rather than a snowy one. So of course we have been watching the weather like hawks. Mountain Forecast shows the weather five days in advance. As our projected climbing days approached, I pulled up the forecast a few times a day. Just like my sickness, the weather slowly declined. But if you don't trust the weather forecast you can always just walk outside and go look in the direction of the mountain. If you see massive, grey clouds engulfing its entire frame is a pretty good indicator that you probably shouldn't bother with trying to climb.

So with that, here we are. Officially pushing our climb back a couple of weeks until after the Aspen Event. The unfortunate outcome of all of this is the fact that our friend (who also works with Joe)  we had hoped to climb with won't be able to join us after the event. As this was his only opportunity to climb with us. With work picking up for Joe and Trav here, and me picking up a few days as well, we will all be to busy to try to fit some sort of climb in until a couple of weeks.
Mt Rainier via my dad from the plane just a few days ago.

Of course it's a big bummer, but I try to look on the bright side of things. For example, even if the weather forecast was perfect, I still would not be able to go climb right now, because I am still to sick. In which I still need to remind myself that we have close to two months to fit in another trip up Rainier and our other mountain objectives. More importantly though, this will give me some time to rest and give my body what it needs to heal... Even though I find that incredibly difficult to do. I am looking forward to getting back to my fitness schedule and climbing again, because two weeks feels like ages at this point!

In the meantime, we bought some tickets to go listen to Tommy Caldwell give a talk up in Seattle tomorrow night. Which ended up working out great, because initially we thought that we weren't going to be able to go, but since we aren't climbing we have a little bit of extra time!

View of  Rainier from the farm, AKA old school weather radar.
I did forget to mention the most exciting news of all of this. Even though it feels like we just finished the road trip, a couple of weeks ago Joe and I purchased tickets for our next fall/winter excursion. Another climbing objective filled adventure located in New Zealand! Not without a quick stop to Australia on the way of course:). So to all of our traveler friends out there, if you have been to NZ please give us any information that you think we would find useful.

Hopefully pushing back our climb a couple of weeks will set us up for success when we finally do get to put our feet in our boots, attach our crampons and start trudging up the mountain. Cheers!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Six Weeks in the Gem State

When I start to think back on the time I have spent at home, I start to think about how this is the first time in a really long time that I have truly settled back in. Its has taken a bit,  but the last six weeks have been a time to find my place back to where I am solely focusing on just myself.

The training for the mountaineering season hasn't been intense but it has been something I have tried to take seriously. Thinking back to our Baker attempt last summer and remembering feeling so weak in my fitness, has really lit a fire this time around to try to put myself in a place physically where success can be an option. Granted, there are so many other things that can cause a climb to not unfold the way you would like it to. I figured that there are so many variables that you as a human cannot control, but one you have the possibility to control is your fitness. So if I can build myself up for success, I will.

The fact that I have always been a fairly goal driven person has quite a big roll to play in this as well. In the last six weeks I have been hiking, climbing, running, eating healthy and tossing work on top of all that. All of those things have really helped me feel incredibly productive and have made time fly.

One thing that I have done for myself, is get a second job. After spending between 3-5 days a week at the climbing gym between job weeks, I thought to myself that it wouldn't hurt anyone to apply and with any luck I would start to get paid for my time there. Though, in the back in my head I started to think about my schedule and immediately thought there was no way that I could be hired on with being out of town so much. From working in the horse world, and having such big climbing goals this summer (that will have me out of town from mid May through July) made it really hard to imagine any job would hire me.

I took the leap though and it paid off. After meeting with the manager at Urban Ascent here in Boise, I was hired part time to basically work whenever I was in town. After a week in California working at Twin Rivers, I came home to start working here at Urban.

My first week working at Urban was filled with prepping the gym for "Urban Legends", the climbing competition that was to be held that weekend. For more than half of my life I have been completely involved in the horse world and international competitions and after helping prep for the climbing competition, I soon learned that there turns out to be a lot of similarities between the two but just on a much smaller scale. The week prior everyone pitches in, works long days and the excitement builds and ultimately leads to a day filled with bringing people together to enjoy a killer sport.

It seems like just yesterday I was saying goodbye to Joe. That I was trying to think of all the things I could do to try to fill my time and pass by the days so it would go by quicker and I could get to Washington as fast as I could. Now its six weeks later and I am so busy with running, hiking, climbing, working and just enjoying my time in general that its hard to believe that in two weeks tomorrow I will be driving myself, and every ounce of climbing gear Joe and I own up to Aspen.
So far its been so bittersweet. The feeling of finding my independence and feeling whole but also wishing Joe was here to be sharing this feeling with me. I am looking forward to taking a refreshed me on the next adventure back up to Washington.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Down Time

I was talking to Joe the other day and he reminded me that I should probably write a blog post at some point. My reply was that my life isn't exciting enough anymore to write a blog. Though I think that mindset defeats the purpose of having one. Mostly because, as much as my life is full of excitement and adventure, I do try to find those times to rest and come back to reality a little bit. I think that the more I do travel and the more I am away from home, I have learned to treasure the times I am “resting” even more.

I had worked my first work week of the year and then I headed back to Bozeman where Joe and I drove back to Boise with a couple of stops along the way visiting some of my family. He and I spent a week at my parents house unpacking the car, climbing at the Black Cliffs, running, and exploring some of the peaks just outside of Boise.

Joe's top ten photo!
While Joe and I were here in Boise, we just so happened to make it into two photo contests. And if you follow me either on Facebook or Instagram, I am sure you are well aware of the fact that we had entered the contests. One being the Michigan Ice Fest, and the other being “How Petzl Lights Up Your Daily Life” contest. Joe’s photo was picked out of thousands of entries to be in the top 10 picks for both contests. So of course we shared away and asked everyone to like it. With the top prize for the Petzl contest being a trip to France, we were desperate for likes. After 10 days we didn't win either contest, BUT we did appreciate everyone's effort in liking, and sharing the photo. Not only that, but some of Joe’s work was able to be presented on a world stage and that is priceless. So, if you at all participated in that, both Joe and I thank you!

Though sometimes the transition from that every day GO feeling back to waking up in the same place and without Joe can be hard. It is funny how when Joe and I are together we are either living in a very close quarters and together all the time or we’re either miles and miles apart. We both travel for work and both value that independent part of our lives. But every time we say “see you soon” to each other, I always find myself feeling so lost for a few days. Mostly just trying to find my routine without my best friend here and finding things to help me feel like I have been productive. Especially since I am not working for days to weeks at a time.
Passing time not only by exercising, but doing some art.

Of course I have managed to find things to keep me busy. Some of the climbing goals we have this spring/summer are attempting to climb Mt Rainier and try the North Ridge of Mt Baker again. So we have transitioned into our training period which for me entails eating as healthy as I can and balancing climbing, running and hiking into every week. This last week I have managed to hike up to Cervidae Peak twice. 1,800ft of elevation gain in a mile with 20lbs of weight in my pack. I was able to get two days of running in, with the first day going for 1hr 17min and the second day going for 1 hr 38 min. I managed to get three days of climbing in at the gyms around Boise. We’ve been gradually building up our training all of this year but this is the first week I feel like I have really got down to work. Even though it's only been a week, I can already feel a change in how I feel when I run, and how my legs feel after hiking. Whether it's the stretching in the morning, not eating any junk food, getting plenty of exercise or more likely a combination of it all, I feel great.
It is much harder to get a summit photo when Joe isn't around!

As I am writing this though, I am sitting in LAX headed to my second work commitment of the year. So I am crossing my fingers to try my best to balance long work days but still trying to get my runs in. Since I won't be able to hike or climb at all this week. The weather is supposed to be bright and sunny so I am hopeful for great days for running.

The tentative plan right now, is to drive up to Washington in May. Of course the thought of driving up to Washington now and training with Joe has crossed my mind a million times. Though, as tempting as it is, the rain that is so famous this time of year just isn't appealing. So I plan to stay in Idaho and train and base out of my parents house for work during the month of April. When May rolls around I will make my way up to Washington to enjoy my time not only with Joe but with everyone at Aspen that I haven't seen since last September. I would be lying if I didn't say that the climbing up there isn't a big drive to get my butt over that way though!
Cervidae Peak, summit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Then We Went West

The famous Jack Rabbit at Wall Drug
PC JDStylos
It was quite the bitter-sweet feeling we had when we packed up the afternoon on the 8th of February and said goodbye to all of Joe’s family and got into the car to officially head west before start work for the season.

When I say we went west I mean we went north,  back to the Adirondacks to be exact. For more ice climbing, as I am sure most of you would guess.

No time was wasted and we were up bright and early the next day to start climbing. There was a bit of heat spell from the last time we were here so when we arrived it was slightly drippy but ended up looking surprisingly well.

The route we chose for the day was called “Ice Slot”. A WI4 right next to “Hot Shot” where we climbed last time.  This route ended up not being what we had hoped. After some tricky lines and the ice not being ideal, we both climbed about 3 times and called it a day.

In the morning we woke up to a breezy but wonderfully sunny day and opted to go for a hike instead of climbing more ice. After a little searching around, we decided to hike up Hurricane Mountain. With just over 2000 ft of elevation gain, this hike ended up being a small resemblance of climbing a big mountain. Walking up to a ridge line, then a short steep section to a very windy and cold summit. After almost getting blown off the fire tower at the top, we hiked down. Feeling pretty proud of ourselves after a very successful hike, (the first real hike of the year) we decided to celebrate with some $8.00 pizza at Stewarts gas station.
Lots of driving on snowy roads with pretty cabins
PC JDStylos

Saying our goodbyes to the Adirondacks until hopefully next year, we started driving towards Canada. We knew there was a big storm coming through but we were both hopeful to find some ice. The idea of having some Canadian ice experience under our belts and on our climbing resume was very intriguing.  So we arrived at the border crossing and were promptly searched before we were allowed to cross the border. It ended up not being super thorough and we were on our way with no problems.

As we drove further north the sky started to darken and the snow began to fall. Before we knew it we were driving in a bit of snow storm. After a few hours we arrived at the ice where we had hoped to climb and were not super impressed. Not a great place to set up a top rope and it was getting late, with the storm starting to worsen. So after 4 hours of driving north we started driving back south towards Ottawa. The next morning the snow was starting to thicken as we drove to Tim Horton’s and enjoyed a delicious breakfast that is customary to being in Canada, or so I’ve heard.
Right before the wiper was "wiped out"
PC JDStylos

Throughout the day, our small snowstorm grew a considerable amount. The ice on the windshield prevented us from seeing so we pulled over to scrape the windshield wipers before continuing. I scraped away the unwanted ice and with one final flick on the driver side wiper, the wiper itself flew dramatically into the snow. What could have halted our forward progress until after the storm ended up being a fairly straightforward fix. After a little tinkering, a rubber band and one hair tie, we tied it back into place and were back on the road.

We spent the rest of the day and some of the night, white knuckle driving through the Canadian snowstorm towards Michigan. We slept at a truck stop feeling so relieved to be done driving till the next day.

Joe climbing on the Curtains
PC JDStylos
We arrived mid morning to the US border and were greeted with a smiling face and a couple of questions before we drove through with no issues. Our objective was to get into Munising, Michigan for the upcoming weekend Michigan Ice Festival.

Munising was such a nice relief to the winter driving that we had spent the last few days enduring. Not to mention the ice, as you looked down the shores of Lake Superior all you can see is walls of ice. The ice in Munising is so unique, large amphitheaters with pillars of ice that range in size and difficulty. So much so, that there are too many to count. Across the lake on Grand Island, the cliff face doesn't show a piece of rock. The ice extends hundreds of feet back down to the lake to create endless hours of climbing available for those willing to cross the frozen lake.

TuTu Tuesday
PC- Jared Apuuli
Our first day in Munising was a day well spent. There are plenty of well known climbs in the area that are close to the road and we decided to get the lay of the land by climbing at the Curtains for our first climb. We got to the base of the climb to arrive to a few other climbers who kindly let us hop on their rope and get a warm up climb in. They started to talk about having a tutu for TuTu Tuesday and I thought they were joking until they pulled it out and Joe promptly put it on and climbed away. After some good laughs, we said our goodbyes and hopped on another route just nearby before hiking down to a very well known climb called the “Dryer Hose”. Which ended up having a class of climbers on it so we called it a day and went back to the car.

That evening rather than celebrating Valentines day over a fancy dinner with roses and chocolates we opted to go back to the Dryer Hose and do some night climbing and maybe some photography. As we got to the base of the climb the beautiful blue sky was quickly swallowed by grey clouds that brought wind and snow as the sun dipped below the horizon. The climb was wet, and as we climb we were getting quite the rain shower. The trouble of only having two of us for climbing photography, is the fact that we both are busy when we're climbing. One climbs and the other has to belay. Which leaves no one to take the photos. So Joe would set up the camera on a tripod and I would hopefully be able to light up the climb with the flash while still belaying. After more than a few shots, and both of us climbing, we were able to get one great photo. I don't think either of us would've enjoyed celebrating Valentine's Day any other way.  
The Dryer Hose on Valentines Day 2017
-PC JDStylos

The next day we slept in after a night of climbing and were glad we weren't braving the outdoor weather because the storm that had blown in the night before was relentless. Cold, and blowing snow from the lake made for an unpleasant day to be anywhere outside. So instead we enjoyed a signature meal from the upper peninsula called a Pasty (and no, its not what you think it is!). If you ever get the chance to go and enjoy this part of the country I highly recommend one of these tasty treats. This day was the first day of the Michigan Ice Festival, so that night there was the first of many evening presentations that were to come.

Knowing that the week ahead was to only bring in more climbers to the ice and the temperatures were going to rise. We opted to get up bright and early on Thursday morning and broke trail before the sun rose. After 2 hours and more than two miles later we walked to the top of a climb, which neither of us knew what would be below the edge. Once we rappelled down to the base of the climb, the pillar in front of us was immense but so beautiful. I climbed first and was taken aback by how hard the climb ended up being. Quite vertical and tall, it ended up being one of the harder pillars on the lake shore (which we later found out). After we knew we only had one more climb left in us we had to climb the pillar with our backpacks on, to hike out. Which so happened to be my first time climbing ice with a backpack on.  By the time I had made it to the top of the climb I was pooped. Plus, we still had a 2.7 mile hike back out to the car. After a long morning, we had some lunch and hung out until that night's presentation with Ari Novak and Tim Emmett.
Joe on Midnight Rambler WI4+
-PC JDStylos

Feeling fairly tired the next day we mostly just hiked around and listened to some of the clinics going on.  The ice was packed with climbers and the weather was warming up. As you walked from one pillar to the next you could see the warm temperatures melting away the already fragile ice. Another evening was spent listening to Anne Gilbert Chase and Vince Anderson, who both gave great presentations.

Saturday was another day where we spent most of the day listening to clinics being taught. We did get the chance to listen to Will Gadd teach his intermediate ice class. Both Joe and I felt that if we had the chance next year to join in on any class we would love to join in a class with him. Saturday night was the big night for presentations. We watched the film Meru and enjoyed a Q&A with Conrad Anker, listened to Will Gadd’s presentation and Conrad Anker came back to give his personal presentation later on that evening. Afterwards one of the best gear raffles in the country was underway and sadly we didn't win anything from that raffle but did get a chance to win a couple of things from the American Alpine Club raffle. If you had signed up over the weekend with the club (which both Joe and I did) then you got a chance to be in the raffle. You see though, it was a raffle where everyone could win. Even so, it ended up being a late night after waiting in lines for some of the climbers autographs and by the time we got back to the car it was pretty late.
The Badlands in a warm setting sun
-PC JDStylos

The next morning we tried to replicate our very successful early day of climbing on Thursday and once again we broke trail before the sun peaked over the horizon. We had a bit more of an idea of which climbs we would pass along the way. Sadly, one after the other each climb was a skeleton of what it used to be just a few days before. The warm temperatures had easily melted out most of the climbs in the area. We called it a day and as we were hiking the two miles back to the car you could hear ice falling in the distance and knew we had probably made a good choice.

We were officially headed west towards Bozeman, Montana. Just like in our typical fashion though we made sure to have a few stops along the way. It took us a day or two of driving but we arrived into Badlands National Park in the morning and ended up spending the day hiking around and going for a run in a warm 70 degrees. We spent the evening doing some sunset and night photography. Something we haven't done for a few months and made it feel like we had gone back in time to last fall.
The Badlands
-PC JDStylos

Keeping up with our productive streak, the day after the Badlands we drove up to go see Mt Rushmore. Joe had seen the memorial before but I had not. With it being on the way we made sure to stop by and take a look. Being a rock climber and knowing the immense size and strength of big granite walls, I was greatly impressed by what the undertaking Mt. Rushmore must of been.

After walking through the museum there, we drove just a few miles down to Crazy Horse. To those of you who don't know what Crazy Horse is, you can read all about it here. I thought Mt Rushmore was impressive but I was almost speechless at the work that is going into such a project just down the road from such a famous American monument. Even barely finished, Crazy Horse drowns Mt Rushmore with its sheer size.
Mount Rushmore
-PC JDStylos

So with that we hit the road once more and were about a day out from Bozeman. After spending the night in a Walmart parking lot we spent our last day of driving in quite the snow storm. The notorious I-90 was not kind to us for about the first hour and a half and made for slick and scary roads. Once the weather cleared up, we had a pretty straight forward drive to arrive into Bozeman earlier this week.

Our good friend from Aspen has a great place here in Bozeman and kindly offered for us to stay for a couple of weeks. Another perk is that, just outside of Bozeman is Hyalite Canyon. Which could possibly have some of the only ice that hasn't melted out in the country. We’ve already managed to get some great climbing in and are hoping to climb a few more times before the season is officially over. We joined in on a Mardi Gras party and have spent some time with great friends that we haven't seen in awhile.  
George Leads Genesis I, while I belay.
Hyalite Canyon
-PC JDStylos

I just flew out of Bozeman for a few days, for my first job commitment of the year.  Joe plans to stay in Bozeman while I work for 6 days. Once I get back here next week we will climb some more then drive back to Idaho, where it all began!

Monday, February 6, 2017

New England Ice Climbing

PC JDStylos
We all know the expression “time flies when you are having fun”. Which sounds a lot like our last month here in New England. Although, it would probably be more along the lines of “time flies when you're climbing and being lazy”. Which more accurately sums up all of our time here. If we weren't climbing we were resting on the couch, enjoying the RNR.

We have managed to have gotten plenty of great climbing in recently. We ventured out of the White Mountains in New Hampshire and went a little more west to Keene Valley in the Adirondacks of New York. Keene Valley is well known to ice climbers. So much so, that we happened to hear of an ice climbing festival, called Mountain Fest, going on in the middle of January, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to go and see what it was all about.

PC JDStylos
We packed up the car and headed to New York on Friday night. Each night throughout the weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) there was a presentation from an ice climber. On Friday we listened to Scott Bennett. Since it was our first time at the Mountain Fest we didn't really know what to expect, but we were intrigued by Scott’s adventures. Its great listening to somebody else describe their adventures, it inspires you to get outside and keep exploring

On Saturday we woke up to a sea of ice climbers. Coming from an ice climbing community of about eight in Idaho, I was shocked to see that so many other people actually knew what this sport was. We spent most of the day just getting the lay of the land. We drove the car around from one popular ice climbing area to the next, and I lost count of how many times I caught myself wide eyed and mouth opened in amazement at the amount of ice in the area. We walked out onto Chapel Pond, the frozen lake dividing the road from the mountain of ice, and watched in envy as talented climbers ascended multi pitch ice gullies, daggers, and slabs all across the cliff face.  We spent that evening laughing and socializing with other climbers at a spaghetti dinner inside the local volunteer fire station. The firefighters graciously put on a spaghetti munch for all the climbers as a fundraiser for the department. Afterwards, we listened to Kelly Cordes give us a hilarious, well spoken, and inspiring presentation on a life well lived.

PC JDStylos
That night we walked by moonlight to try to scope out some climbs for the next day. One climb in particular caught our eye. We woke up bright and early the next day, but even so didn't beat the climbing guides out to the ice. Climbers were already on the climb that we had scoped out the night before, so after getting information from them about ice just a short ways down the canyon, we decided to head that way. We walked up to an 80ft piece of water ice that put a smile on both of our faces. Joe got creative and put a top rope up above the climb, and with that we spent about 4 hours lapping the ice and working on technique, and just having a great time. Needless to say even though we didn't climb the ice we had originally planned on, the day worked out really well!

That afternoon was spent napping in the car and killing time until our last presentation from Kevin Mahoney. A well known climber from the area who just so happened to have climbed big mountains all around the world. Many of the out-of-towners had peaced out so it made for a slightly different vibe that last night and there was a fun feeling of comradery.

After a great weekend, with sore muscles and renewed inspiration, we hopped in the car and drove back to Massachusetts that night. Just one day after our weekend away we hit the road again to go visit Joe's Mom and her husband. I had yet to meet them so I was looking forward to a trip up to Eastport, Maine. We ended up spending around 4 days there enjoying good food, seeing new places (including seeing the easternmost point in the Continental US), and spending time with family.
Linda and I
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We had set aside some time to go climbing with Joe’s sister, Melissa. After making our way back to Massachusetts (and waiting out some crummy weather: warm temperatures and rain) we finally got a good weather window, and decided to head back up to the Adirondacks.

In Keene Valley, there is so much ice you could probably spend months to years finding new places to climb. There are just endless options for ice climbing. Though we are still pretty limited, being that we aren’t leading ice yet.  Once we arrived Tuesday afternoon we decided to go to a fairly popular piece of ice. Pitch Off Right isn't very tall, but it is a good place for beginners and ice climbers who need to rub the rust off, and that was exactly what Melissa needed. By the time the sun went down we all got a chance to climb a few laps, the temperature was quickly dropping and the snow and wind were picking up. We grabbed an $8 pizza at the great gas station and warmed up before finding a camp spot out by Chapel Pond. It surprised us all when we were able to fit all three of us in the Suzuki quite comfortably, and we were all able to get a great night's rest after a long day.
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One of the pleasant surprises of this climbing trip was the lack of people. Especially because last time we were up there for Mountain Fest the valley was filled with other climbers. The fact that we were there in the middle of the week made a huge difference, and though we did see a few other climbers, we pretty much had free reign of the ice.

So with that in mind we chose a 100ft, very vertical WI4 called “Hot Shot”- the climb we originally wanted to climb last time we were here. Joe went ahead and set up a top rope and I was the first to climb. This climb ended up being probably the longest and hardest climb I have done to date. After all was said and done, we were all able to climb it 3 times, and were pretty impressed with ourselves, or at least I was! At one point while I was climbing I had placed a tool and heard a crack within the ice that never seemed to end. There's not many things that can remind you of the risk you're taking more than hearing the ice crack under your tool. Luckily all was fine and the climbing proceeded without any problems. It was a day very well spent, not only that but it was great fun to have Melissa out there climbing ice with us.
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We have arrived back to Massachusetts and are spending time once again regrouping and drying out gear, but more importantly we are reorganizing and getting ready to hit the road once more. Thats right! This week we plan to shove all our belongings back into the mobile humble abode and start driving back to Idaho. Not without a couple of stops along the way of course! Including another stop in New York, an ice festival in Michigan, and seeing some great friends in Bozeman, Montana.
"Hot Shot"
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So with that,  we will be saying our goodbyes to New England and Ice Climbing our way back to the Northwest!
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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Champney Falls, New Hampshire

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The word “Climbing” is a broad term.  Most sports have multiple specialties within the discipline, and climbing is no different. In the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to try different types of climbing, including mountaineering, sport climbing, trad climbing, and bouldering and am looking forward to expanding my climbing horizons by trying more.

Of all the climbing I have tried up to this point, Ice climbing is by far my favorite.  Unlike rock climbing, Ice isn’t usually year round, and it forms only in places with ideal water flow and very cold temperatures.  Plus, in rock climbing you can feel the rock with your hands and feet, and in ice climbing you are using ice tools and crampons to ascend the ice.

I tried ice climbing for the first time last year with a good friend of mine, and I got the chance to climb all sorts of great stuff in Idaho. Now that I am in New England with Joe, both he and I have been itching to find some ice to climb. Especially since one of the mountaineering routes we have our eye on for this summer (The North Ridge of Mt. Baker) involves a large ice wall. This gives us even more incentive to brush up on our ice climbing skills.

Unlike in Idaho, Ice Climbing is much more prevalent here in New England. So much so that there is a website that provides updates on the conditions of the major ice climbing locations.  Joe and I had been watching the ice conditions online, and doing research on the different climbing areas. We wanted to make sure we could top rope the ice, and ended up deciding to go to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  

So last week we packed up the car and headed out towards North Conway, New Hampshire to a great climbing area on the north end of Cathedral Ledge. Though it was not very tall, it gave both Joe and I the chance to work on our technique. Ice climbing is completely different than rock climbing. Not many of the rock climbing techniques we gained from our road trip rolled over to the ice, so we spent an afternoon working on what we hoped was good technique.

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We spent a cold night in the car, and the next day drove to another climbing spot in the White Mountains. Champney Falls, located on the Kangamagus highway. It is a 45 minute hike to get to a small gully with the frozen falls. The hike in gives you a great warmup, and once we arrived we were greeted by a blanket of ice covering a wide cliff face. The best part was arriving and seeing no other climbers and had the whole place to ourselves.  We could pick and choose from all the different routes as we pleased. We set up a top rope on a smaller more vertical section of the ice and started climbing. As the ice got more vertical, the more tired you became, and before you knew it your technique flew out the window. After a few climbs my arms were dead.  Joe set up the rope to climb the taller section of ice only to burn out quickly. After he got to the top of the climb we decided to call it a day.

We have been lucky enough to get the chance to base out of Massachusetts and enjoy our rest time at Joe’s dad’s home. Where family comes and goes as they please as we all get to enjoy company and some R&R.

Champney falls ended up being such a great place to climb we decided that we wanted to go there again, but this time do some winter camping and climb there for two days. We waited through the weekend, which is usually when the ice is being climbed most. More importantly it was cold this weekend. When weather gets cold, it does the obvious- creates more ice.
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So we packed up all of our gear, hopped in the car on Monday and drove out to Champney Falls. It is about a 4 hour drive in the Suzuki and we arrived around noon and hit the trail by 12:30. By the time we arrived to the base of the falls we were amazed; after just a few days of not being there, the cold temperatures have expanded the ice by a noticeable amount.

Once Joe had set up the top rope we had a few hikers watching us climb. Starting the day on the shorter 15-20 ft. piece of ice, I burned out disappointingly fast. My second time up the ice my technique was gone and my arms were on fire. Not to mention it was cold, single digits if not lower. The moment any water would touch you it would automatically freeze to your clothes. As the temperature drops, the ice gets harder, which makes placing your tools more difficult. As an ice climber one of my weakest points is the swing needed to solidly place the ice tool, this ended up being my downfall on the first day of climbing and part of why I burned out so quickly.
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By the time we called it a day the sun was dipping below the horizon. We started to set up camp and placed the tent in the gulley right near the ice. Easily one of the coolest places I have ever camped. As the temperature continued to drop, Joe and I took turns cooking while the other person would run up and down the alley to keep warm. By the time we were getting ready to climb into bed the moon had crossed above the cliff wall and started to light up the ice. A sight I’m sure few get to see. That night we fell asleep listening to the water dripping off the massive icicles that surrounded the tent.

When we woke up the next morning the temperature was slightly warmer, and we had new motivation to climb. We ate a gourmet breakfast of Pop-Tarts and Shot Bloks and hopped on the ice by 8:30.
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We warmed up on the short piece of ice we had climbed the day before, both of us feeling surprisingly better about our technique. Whether it was the Pop-Tarts or the desire to warmup, I am not sure, but we both climbed well enough to set a good tone for the day.

Joe then set up a top rope for tallest section of ice in the gully, around 40 ft. The ice was intimidating, but with a few cold days and a good warmup climb, we were both ready to give it a try.

I was the first to hop on the climb, focusing on technique and not burning out, the climb went very smoothly. Each rest spot along the steep ice was well used and it ended up being easier than expected. So much so that I was able to climb the same line about 4 more times over the course of the next couple of hours.
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Not only did I end up having a good day of climbing but Joe was able to climb really well too. He hopped on the blanket of ice that he struggled on last time we were here and climbed it like it was no big thing.  Plus, not only did he climb that harder section, but he climbed it two more times to finish up the day with a total of 7 climbs for him and 6 for me.

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By the time we had finished neither of us had taken a fall on the ice and though we both had tired arms and legs we were still able to hike out with energy to spare.

The entire two days we were there, we didn’t see another climber, and were both pretty stoked on how our climbing technique soared the last day. Made for easily some of the most fun Ice climbing I have ever done.

On our way home we stopped and admired some ice from afar, called “The Black Dike”. We hope to climb it next year, and added it to our list of “to dos”.

We are both fairly sore this morning and are looking forward to a few days of one of our other favorite activities: resting. Though it won’t last for long. This weekend we are headed to an Ice Climbing festival in the Adirondack’s in New York. We are hoping to watch some presentations and get some more ice climbing in. This will be a new stomping grounds for the both of us. 
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