Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Champney Falls, New Hampshire

PC JDStylos
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.

PC JDStylos
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.
PC JDStylos

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.
PC JDStylos
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.
PC JDStylos

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.
PC JDStylos
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.

PC JDStylos
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. 
PC JDStylos

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The "Best of List" US Road Trip 2016

Here we are, onto the New Year and of course that means onto the next adventure. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays going on, the last few weeks have not had many exciting things happening in our
Joshua Tree NP PC: JDStylos
neck of the woods. I took the leisure time to fly back to Idaho and spend a little over a week with my family enjoying Christmas and some time to relax after being on the road for the last couple of months. Joe did the same but stayed in Massachusetts to enjoy his family he also hadn’t seen in quite a while.

 As we start off the New Year, before any sort of adventure has happened we’ve done one of our favorite past times and that is writing “The Best of List”

The Best of List consists of exactly what you might think, we’ve gone through camp spots, climbs, libraries and National Parks to come up with our top favorite 3 of every subject. Not only does it give us a chance to remember the exciting things we just finished doing but also gives all of you a chance to check out some really cool places if you ever adventure out onto your own road trip!

2016 Best of US Road Trip with Katie & Joe

Best Car Food:
(Please note all the food in the top 3 of this category we made at the car while we were camping)

1.Tuna Sandwich/ Tortilla with Sharp Cheddar Cheese and Apples
This was probably the meal we made most on the trip, easy and delicious, it made for great food to make in the car while it was raining or quick stop on the road while we were driving!

2.   Salmon with Mashed Potatoes and Corn
The Salmon was given to us as a parting gift from a friend and made for quite the fancy road trip meal. The potatoes we picked from left overs in a harvested field in Idaho and they we're great!

3. Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese
Most hikers know that Annie’s are quite the delicacy on any sort of trip and Annie’s did not disappoint at any meal. Usually mixed with tuna, corn or even the rare can of ravioli’s, when one is hungry anything can taste thoroughly amazing.
Salmon Meal PC: JDStylos

Best Camp Spot:
1. Hidden Hill in Death Valley National Park, California. We would give the GPS location for this AWESOME camp spot but the fact being that we camped here secretly for 2 nights makes it a bit tricky to share with the world.

2.  Poop Lake, White Sands New Mexico (32.811420, -106.121834). Despite the name this lake was quite the surprise to the both of us, not only was it quiet and serene but we also got some great photography here too.

3.  Free RV parks across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. ( Technically this is not one camp spot but the fact that throughout the Midwest there are free places to camp with electricity, bathrooms and other amenities makes it hard to choose one from the other. The website listed is what we used to find all of our camp spots throughout our trip! Highly recommended for anyone’s road trip!

Poop Lake PC: JDStylos

Best Climbing Area:
1.Woodbury Road Crags, outside of St. George, Utah. (37.017880, -113.851799) By far this climbing area took the cake for most climbs, quiet area and good weather. Seems mostly unknown to the bulk of climbers which gave us the chance to pick and choose as we pleased.

2.  Red Rocks, Nevada. (36.146247, -115.431022) If you are able to look passed the herds of tourists and a large bulk of other climbers this area has a lot to offer. We were able to climb at multiple great crags in Red Rocks. Luckily Red Rocks is a general location for many specific climbing walls located within itself. Also if you haven’t heard about the possible public development in Red Rocks you can read about it HERE and donate to the cause, save Red Rocks!

3.Wall Street in Moab, Utah. (38.547654, -109.598715) Generally another crag that’s well known and crowded but we were able to find some really great vertical sandstone climbs here. Some of which made it onto our favorites climbs list.

Wall Street in Moab, Utah. PC JDStylos

Best Museum:
1.The Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas. This place was so great it made the list of places to go to before we even hit the road. We ended up not having enough time to enjoy all that it had to offer but if we got the chance to go back I am sure we could spend another couple of days there!
2.Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. I have been to plenty of air museums in my life and this one by far was the best one. Obviously continuing to grow all that it has to offer the community. We enjoyed an entire days’ worth of information and were the last to leave.
3. A Christmas Story House, in Cleveland, Ohio. Growing up on this movie every Christmas made me extra excited to see this classic house! Then when I went home for Christmas this year and watched the movie on Christmas Eve, I could point to the TV and say “I’ve been there!”

Fragile PC:JDStylos

Best National Park:
1.  Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. (38.615922, -109.619765) We probably spent the most time here of all the National Parks and were able to get some amazing night photography.

2.  Death Valley National Park in Death Valley California. (36.5054° N, 117.0794° W)

3.  Carlsbad Caverns National Park in Carlsbad New Mexico. (32.1479° N, 104.5567° W) This park was unexpected. Its vast size is breath taking and it most definitely stands out among the other national parks.
Death Valley PC: JDS

Best Climbing Route:
1. Katie- Potstash 5.9 on Wall Street in Moab, Utah.
Joe- Topless Vegetables 5.9 on Kelly Wall in Woodbury Road Crags, Utah.

2. Katie- Vagabonds 5.10a in The Black Corridor in Red Rocks, Nevada
Joe- The Die is Cast 5.9 on the Hamlet Wall in Red Rocks, Nevada

3.   Katie- The Inhaler 5.8 on the Back Echo Wall in Joshua Tree NP, California
Joe- The Stego Slab 5.9+ on Wall Street in Moab, Utah

Best Library:
      1.The Moab, Utah Library. Big beautiful windows, close to town and fast Wi-Fi.

2. The Flagstaff, Arizona Library. It had the fire place burning on a snowy day, hard to beat!

3.  The Lincoln Arkansas Library. We stepped out of the car and the whole town was filled with Christmas music. The tone was immediately set and the library also felt very festive!
Arches PC JDStylos

Overall the trip was a giant success, if you ever get a chance to go on any sort of road trip may I recommend using back roads and going into the trip without any sort of plan.

Now that we’ve made it to Massachusetts and we’ve gathered our winter gear we start on our next adventure tomorrow and that is driving up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to test our skills at some Ice Climbing! Stay Tuned!
Death Valley and jumping into the New Year
PC JDStylos