Friday, January 28, 2011

Rock Climbing: 2010 Year in review

I want to try to document, very loosely, the climbing that I've done.  One thing that I've been doing is marking my guidebook with either a "/" or an "X".  A "/" means that I climbed the route and got to the top, but it wasn't a clean lead.  It could be a top-rope, second, or a lead with a hang or fall, but it wasn't a clean lead.  An "X" means that it was a clean lead, and there is nothing more that I could do with it.  If I attempted the climb and wasn't able to finish it at all it gets nothing.  As you can see I put alot of emphasis on leading, and don't consider a climb fully climbed unless lead. 

2010 was a pretty bad year for me.  It was the year that I had to work Saturdays.  Hence I was excluded from many weekend trips.  Much of the climbing I did do was on Sundays.  On the other hand, 2010 was the year that I was in the best physical shape of my life.  I was not able to climb much, but I certainly was able to work out alot.  I found that as long as I stay in shape I can pretty much tie in to a rope and pick up right where I left off.  What follows is a quantitative summary of 2010.

Total Days Rock Climbing: 18
Gunks: 7
Seneca Rocks: 6
Great Falls: 3
Annapolis Rocks: 1
Old Rag: 1
Indoor Climbing: 0
Sport Climbing: 0

5.11b  -- hardest top-rope
5.9  -- 1 flash, 3 redpoint, 1 hangdog

Not bad considering I went on a trip about once every 3 weeks at most during the season.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Leashless tool conversion

I resisted the leashless movement for years.  Now I may have moved over to the dark side.

1. Easy to shake out a pumped forearm
2. Faster to place screws and other protection whatever they might be
3. Easy to traverse since you can match on a tool
4. You can switch hands on a tool
1. If your feet slip and you can't hold on then you fall
2. *Can't "rest" on your leashes

*The truth is I have never gotten any rest on a leash.  I've only gotten an increased pump to my forearm, and decreased blood supply to my hands.  Your weight should be on your feet anyway.   So get off the leash and get on your feet.

Grivel Alp Wings baby!

My tool for 5 years has been the Grivel Alp Wing.  A great tool.  They don't make it anymore.  With just a few small changes it turns into a great leashless tool.  Steve House used a pair of these on the first alpine style ascent of the Rupal Face on Nanga Parbat - leashless.  I figure I can claw my way up a local waterfall with them.

The first step in going leashless is to remove the leashes - duh.  In my case they are the Grivel Easy-G leash.  As far as leashes are concerned they are really excellent, and I recommend this style over the ridiculous clipper leashes.  The first thing that goes when you're pumped is your fine motor control, and you really don't want to be messing around with tiny little clips on lead.

Next I wrapped the entire shaft up with some F4 tape.  I would highly recommend this stuff.  It's cheap, grippy, waterproof, and pretty long lasting.  It literally fuses to itself with no adhesive.  It's impossible to unwrap it after it has had a chance to fuse, which is about 1 day.  If you want to remove it just cut it off, and it comes off clean no goop.  The Petzl grip tape is the same thing but is $10 for 1 meter.  The F4 tape is $17 for 36 feet.  You do the math.

That's it for now.

Other future changes I would make:
-add some sort of additional hand support higher up, similar to the new Petzl Quark
-perhaps some sort of tether to prevent dropping them from high up

And I also put on some new picks ;)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ice climbing at the Narrows

After spending a few years ice climbing at every available opportunity, I've found myself fortunate to climb ice twice in the past two years!  Well it turns out once you learn to ride a bike...

I had heard rumors about an ice cliff in Pennsylvania that would make you think you were in the Adirondacks, but I had put off going there for years.  Mostly this was because I was actually going to the Adirondacks.  But partly it was my disbelief that such a thing could exist.  Well it does exist.  And it is awesome!

gearing up

So I hooked up with Chaoqing who I had never met before but had heard good things about.  He's done some alpine climbs in his native country of China, and has only been in the USA for a few months.  Like myself, it had been awhile since he was on ice.

Main Gully
To start off with we decided to free solo up the Main gully.  Nothing like a good solo to get your lead head in order!  It was WI 2, super fun, and pretty long.  If we had pitched it out, it may have been 2 rope stretchers.

After you climb the gully you reach a huge ampitheater.  This probably has a dozen lines in good conditions, ranging from WI3 - WI 4+.  There was a roped soloist there who was going down the line leading each one! 

roped soloist Bill, using a Rock Exotica soloist

Each of us led a pitch.  I was definitely feeling shaky placing those screws and climbing over the bulges, but I was ok.  Then it goes from nice weather to full blizzard.  We pretty much high-tailed it out of there and was sliding all over the road on the way home (in my 4x4).

Well I was hungry for more, but over the years I've gotten over my "Ice! Go! Now!" attitude.  I waited til some ripe conditions were in place.  I was properly awarded!

I headed back in 2 weeks with Ana and Steve.  Ana is a very good rock climber who is just beginning to learn ice.  However I had no doubt she would excel as usually people make the rock-ice transition in no time.  Steve is an experienced high altitude climber who has been to the high point of every state except Hawaii!


To start I led up the Main Flow, which is 3 pitches and goes at WI 3+, WI 4, WI 3+.  I made good work of P1 feeling myself "warm up" more and more. 

Then I set up a top rope and we had an Ice Climbing 101 lesson for Ana.  As expected it didn't take long for her to get the basics down.  The only problem was that her crampon wasn't really compatible with her boot.  We rigged something up, and she managed for the rest of the day.

Ana's crampon

After awhile Mark Elton joined us at the bottom of the cliff.  He is an alpine climber who gave a slideshow about some of his climbs in Peru at the Seneca Rocks chili cook off last year.  Mark had spent the morning soloing in the Main Gully and partnered up with us for the rest of the day.


We ended up heading over to Dead Deer Gully which we climbed in 2 pitches.  That was honestly a bit spooky climbing over patches of frozen dirt and rocks, and some very thin slabby ice.  But once we reached the top, it was definitely worth it!  Lots of cool curtains, pillars, mixed climbing, all kinds of stuff.  Mark headed off left with Steve and I went right with Ana.  On my 3rd lead of the season I felt great.  Definitely felt like I shook the rust off. After I lead it Ana seconds it easily, then I top-rope a much harder variation where I climb a delicate curtain with no feet.  I essentially use my arm muscles to get myself up a few moves and then do a really wide stem to some small icicles on either side.  Intense climbing, but I felt good, didn't fall, and didn't destroy the ice.

All in all a really fun time and a good start to the ice season.