Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Trap Dike

We are starting our 1 week tour of the Adirondacks with a trip to Avalanche Lake.  We drove up Tuesday morning arriving at the Peak bagger Palace at 6:30.  It was pouring rain, the temperature was about 37 degrees.  Not the best start, but we are getting the bad weather out of the way early.  After suiting up in all our fine waterproof suits and stuffing most of our gear in plastic bags, we were off to hike the 3 miles (seems much longer) to the Marcy Brook Shelter.


We arrived at  the shelter at 10pm.  When we got to the shelter it was occupied with 2 tents, one person in each tent, set up inside the shelter!  We were in no shape to spend the night in the open in the pouring rain.  We all had bivy sacks but with hopes of climbing the next day, we needed to set up somewhere dry.  There were 2 tents in the shelter and I decided to kick them over to make room for us.  On the side of the shelter the rules plainly state: 8 people per shelter, and no tents.  I woke these people up and we set up inside.  After getting dinner cooked we all hit the sack feeling fairly wet and wondering what the next day would bring.


We woke up fairly late to light snowfall and increasing air pressure.  Feeling optimistic with some hot coffee in our mugs we set out for the short hike into the Trap Dike.


Arriving at Avalanche Lake none of us was brave/stupid enough to walk across yet.  We ended up walking most of the way around on  a system of ladders and walkways built into the rocky shore.


When we were directly across from the Trap Dike we decided to hell with it!  We roped up and crossed one by one with no incident.  It was scary!


From afar it looked great!


I led off with Matt seconding.  Dave and Justin were following closely behind.


The ice was too slushy and soft to accept screws.  We ended up running it out a lot in the gully and we used natural anchors for the belays.


There was very little snow in general, it was amazing how different the climb can be at different times.


After the second ice bulge we decided to unrope to speed things up.


There was some decent ice higher up!  I don’t remember any of this from my previous two ascents of the Trap Dike.  It’s amazing how much hurricane Irene has changed things.


We found a nice exit out of the gully through a break down in the cliff.


We found really enjoyable and fun climbing on the slide.  The snow was crunchy.  The ice was thick enough for tools and crampons.  I loved the exposure and we were getting blasted with some serious mountain weather.  I was really having a great time!


We measured a temperature of –10F on the summit of Mount Colden.  We guessed the wind speed was gusting around 50 mph.  It was definitely enough to knock you down!  I was climbing in my belay jacket at that point and dealing with trying to keep my fingers and nose warm.


The slog down from the mountain went on and on and on…  Not really that far, unless you’re tired and ready for dinner!


That night the temperatures reached 5F and we were sleeping cozily in our bags pretty late.  We decided to take a semi-rest day on Thursday.


When Dave finally took off his socks he found out that he had some frostbite on all his toes!


The slog out was what it was (of course the signs were wrong, it was way longer than that!). 


From Dave: 

I looked at conditions and they said rain and snow.  I was not expecting total rain, I was expecting more of a rain and snow mix.  When we get to the route I was committed to climbing the route.  At no point during the whole day did I feel water in my boots and at no point did my feet feel cold during entire ascent and descent.  I can see that I wouldn’t have cold feet on the ascent since I was generating a lot of heat.  Even when I got to camp I still didn’t feel like my feet were cold at all. 

When I pulled my boots off my socks were frozen and stuck inside the boots however my liner socks were not.  Since I had never experienced this before I did not check my feet right away.  It was not until 3 and a half hours later that I experienced screaming barfies in my right foot.  I was hoping it was boot bash since I had experienced that before.  Back in my head I knew it wasn’t the case.  It wasn’t until I had to get up and pee that I could feel like there was skin sticking together on my right foot.  In the morning I thawed my boots. 

Right before we left I decided to look at the foot.  I called Shane over and saw that the liner sock had moisture stains and blood on it.  I am still wondering why the left foot still didn’t feel anything.  We hiked out 3 miles and it wasn’t until after we started driving out that the left foot started to give me major pain for the next hour or two. 

Lessons learned: don’t underestimate conditions.  Beware that you may not even notice you are getting frostbite.

I had a pair of extremely warm boots but I didn’t want to bring them since the temperature was only 35 degrees the first day and the boots are big and bulky.  From now on for the rest of my life my toes will probably be more sensitive to cold and I will have to take special care with my feet.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Climbing With Double Ropes

Ropes can be divided into two broad categories:

1. Static low stretch ropes

2. Dynamic ropes, which are designed to stretch to absorb the impact of a fall.

Dynamic ropes are further divided into 3 categories:

1. Single ropes.  These are thicker ropes (9.1-11mm) used individually to protect a climber in case of a fall.  They are the most common for top-roping, sport climbing, and North American trad climbing.

2. Twin ropes.  These are the thinnest ropes (7.9-8.1mm) used in pairs to protect a climber in case of a fall.  Although there are two ropes, they are treated as a single rope.  Both ropes are clipped into every piece of protection and the leader is belayed with both ropes.  These are often used in ice climbing.

3. Half ropes (also called double ropes!!!).  These are slightly thicker than single ropes (8.1-8.7mm).  Each rope is clipped into alternating pieces of protection and the belayer must sometimes be able to give slack/take on one rope, but not the other.  These are great for ice, trad, or alpine climbing.

This article of course is covering double ropes, and why you would ever want to use this system.  There are quite a few advantages of using doubles. 

1.  First and foremost is you have two ropes for rappelling which will definitely save you time descending on those multi-pitch climbs. 

2.  Second you have two ropes for belaying two seconds simultaneously, once again saving time on those multi-pitch climbs. 

3.  Third you can reduce rope drag by selectively clipping a rope to the left or right of a climb. 

4.  Fourth you can reduce a potential swing by a second on a traverse.  This works on climbs with a traverse and then a vertical climb.  You can do this by clipping one of the ropes into all the pro in the traverse.  The other rope will now be able to hang down from the anchor to the second.

5.  Double ropes often have lower impact forces for those marginal pieces of protection.

6.  Double ropes are more redundant than single ropes in case the rope is cut.

7.  If you fall while pulling up slack on a double rope, the fall won’t necessarily be any longer since the other rope can stay tight.

There are quite a few disadvantages of climbing with doubles.

1.  Belaying and rope management is quite a bit more complex than with singles, requiring a more experienced climber.

2.  A pair of doubles certainly weighs more and is bulkier to carry than a single rope.

3.  A pair of doubles costs more than a single rope.

4.  The additional stretch of a double rope does mean that you will fall further.

Doubles and twin ropes. 

A twin rope system gives you the ability to rappel just as far, belay two seconds, and is more redundant than a single rope.  It is also lighter than a double rope system.  However you have no ability to reduce rope drag, and often the impact forces are the highest with twin ropes.

Thicknesses of double rope systems.

I see two common diameters of ropes used in a doubles system.  8.1mm I see as an ice rope where abrasion is minimal.  For rock climbing I would recommend an 8.6 which would provide greater durability when dragged across rocks.  There are also ropes like the 9.1mm Beal Joker which is certified as both a single and a double.

Climbing with singles or twins as doubles.

I don’t see any technical problem with using singles in a doubles system.  However, I can’t see any reason why you would want to do it.  Using 2 singles in a doubles system would be an incredibly heavy system.  Never use twins as doubles, the ropes are not designed to be used individually.  Never use doubles as twins, this would result in tremendous impact forces.

Clipping technique

1. It is best to always alternate which rope you are clipping.  This way you have greater protection in case one of the ropes is severed.

2. On wandering climbs minimize drag by clipping one rope to one side, and the other to the other side.

3. Don’t clip both ropes into the first piece.  This would result in very high impact forces on that piece as well as a potential point for the rope to burn (as the ropes move at different speeds).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

So much to be thankful for.  Each moment once passed, is never to be experienced again.

I have been working alot on my rope soloing systems.  The device I have been using is the Silent Partner.  The recommended system is fairly safe but too slow.  I have been working on a new system which I hope to test out this weekend.  I plan to drive out to Seneca Saturday morning and see how many pitches I can do in 24 hours.  Can't wait to get out there!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two new videos!

Shane making it look easy on Faints Roof 5.10, Annapolis Rocks Maryland
Ana crushing it on Unrelenting Verticality 5.9+, Seneca Rocks West Virginia

Exkursion Outfitters new website

Exkursion, the awesome gear store where I spent many years shopping before I wised up and got a job there, is launching a new website!  The new site will allow you to make purchases and sign up for classes online.  Check it out!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Chili Cook-off 2011


Patty enjoys breakfast at the Ground Up coffee shop

All agree the chili cook off this year was one of the best ever!  Every year there is a huge party down at Seneca Rocks to celebrate the close of the climbing season.  Plenty of free beer, food, and gear giveaways as well as entertainment make it an event you don’t want to miss.


Joe climbing Neck Press in approach shoes

Day 1

My climbing partner for the weekend couldn’t make it but luckily Joe Calcek was looking for a partner as well.  Unfortunately someone who won’t be named forgot their climbing shoes.  Not the end of the world though, we climbed the whole day in approach shoes.   I lead all 3 pitches of Neck Press, a 5.7+, in them.  After that Joe had the guts to lead Candy Corner in his approach shoes.

P1020756  P1020760

Peter and Patty on Roy Gap Chimneys

Wow!  It was seriously crowded this weekend.  Not totally unexpected.  This weekend is more about having fun than getting lots of climbing in.


Clipping anchors on the first pitch of Totem


Chili chow down time at the Gendarme

After a late start and an early finish, we decided it was time to get to the party.  Justin Low had brought 4 kegs of homemade beer!  I have no idea how many I had as I was just refilling all night.  I do know that at some point I ate a ton of chili.


Open mike night at the mountain guides

Day 2


Hiking up to the north peak with Naz, Kurt, and Bill

Joe had to head out in the morning so I found myself teamed up with a group from DC.  We decided to head towards the north peak east face so we could climb in the warm sun.

Unrelenting Verticality

Unrelenting Verticality 5.9

We were far from the first people there and many of the routes were busy.  The one that was open was Unrelenting Verticality.  It is a very stout 5.9, with an incredibly bouldery run out start.  It has been one of my long time goals to lead it clean and I have had a couple of epic attempts.  So here I was trying it as my “warm up” climb since it was the only one open!  To make a long story short, I did not get it cleanly but I was dam close!  Just one hang and one itty bitty fall near the top when I was getting really pumped.  I am positive it will go next time.


Bill on Lichen Or Leave It

Next Kurt led Lichen or Leave It.  It’s the classic finger crack at Seneca and it’s a lot of fun!

P1020838  P1020866

Bill leads Bandito with Kurt belaying

Now it was time for the real professional to get his turn.  Bill had some unfinished business on Bandito.  He must be a much stronger climber than 5 years ago when he tried it before.  He did it clean, no falls or hangs.  I followed him up it and was thoroughly impressed.  Holy cow!  It was hard!  It was a 5.9!  It must be the hardest 5.9 I have ever been on.


Climber on the south peak ridge

I really felt this was one of most fun weekends I’ve had at Seneca.  I got lots of hard climbing in as well as having a great time with old and new friends. 


The Thais face in the late afternoon

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hidden Treasures Half Marathon

I just ran a half marathon on Sunday with little to no serious training in the past 3 months!  I don't know if I should be happy or feel lazy.  I have a good excuse though, I have been climbing!  What I do feel good about is I ran the whole thing under 10 minute pace.  I actually placed 89th overall and 7th in my age group.  I am not sure a whole marathon would have gone so well for me this weekend.  I have about a month to get ready for Harrisburg, but if I want to finish I had better work harder.

Finish Line Picture - actual chip time was 2:08:37.  For reference with my fitness last year, I ran the first half of the Baltimore Marathon in about 1:45 and still had enough left to do it again.

Hidden Treasures Half Marathon

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Enduring Patagonia review


This is a short review of a book which I believe every aspiring alpinist should read.  Well it’s not really a review, more of a recommendation with a really great passage from the book.

“Why climb, especially in Patagonia, given such failure? As I said in the opening chapter, there is no sentence, no paragraph that will explain why. Why refuses distillation. Consider those two classic alpine saws: “Because it’s there" and “If you’ve got to ask you ain’t ever gonna know.” Both strike me as true, but inadequate. And then my favorite, courtesy of Donini: “Because it’s the only thing I’ve ever been any good at.” Great sound bites, yes, but whole truth does not jump out of a sound bite. Such quips are also dismissals.

Perhaps the best answer is: because I love it. I love it even as I am freezing my ass on this cold, dark bivy high on the walls of Aguja Saint-ExupĂ©ry. I love everything about it without qualification. I love to coil ropes and to carry heavy loads. I love the sky and I love the storm, the ice, and the stone. I love to succeed and I love to try. I love to wait and I love to act; I love to shiver and I love to sweat. I love the freedom and I love the discipline. I love Patagonia, and I love to climb.”

Crouch, Gregory (2002-03-05). Enduring Patagonia (Kindle Locations 2471-2479). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Red River Trad


I just got back from my first trip to the Red in 3 years!  Some stuff has changed since then.  There’s a new guidebook and Miguel’s has more than one bathroom.  One thing remains constant, if you are looking for the best high friction single pitch sandstone climbing ANYWHERE, head no further than the Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Erin, Chris, Jamie, and Colleen watch Ben on Laceration


This was a crazy weekend.  I don’t know if it was the heat (Saturday) or rain (Monday) but there was hardly anybody there – on a holiday weekend.  Or maybe nobody does trad anymore??  In fact, at the trad crags we hit we were alone almost the whole time.  This trip ended up being about quality, not quantity.  I basically spent the entire trip leading 5.9 trad.  All 4 and 5 star climbs, no waiting in lines!

Mariba Fork, go there, now.

Sunday we made the drive to Mariba Fork.  It is 16 miles from the rest area in Slade.  This was, maybe, the most awesome cliff I have ever seen.  I’m talking multiple amphitheaters.  I didn’t even have time to see the whole thing.  The guidebook only lists ten routes here.

Other areas we visited were Long Wall, Dip Wall, and Fortress.

Autumn 5.9 and Cruise Control 5.9+ at the Long Wall

Megan Blanchard  on Green Eggs 5.7. Ham 5.7 is on the right.

Chris Ciesa on the Grinch 5.4.  Does that look 5.4 to you?

This is Laceration 5.4.  This is the highest rated 5.4 at the Red.  Good luck.

Ben McMillen gets some on Laceration.

Colleen Anderson feels the pump on Reach the Beach 5.9.  Incredible, long, sustained route.
When can I go back?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Goodbye 21146, Hello 15120


I’m moving back to the burgh!  First I’m taking a long vacation.  I’m going to a Steelers preseason game.  I’m going to kick my running into overdrive with all this free time.  Last but not least, I’m going to go climbing.  Anybody need a partner for ANYTHING ANYTIME  let me know.