Sunday, August 28, 2011


'There's a jug right there', I tell myself as I stare longingly at an angling crack above me. I'm standing on a narrow, slopey ledge, 600 feet off ground. Between my nice stance and the taunting holds in the crack are 8 feet of friction slab. The wind is absolutely howling. With every move it feels like I could be blown right off the rock. I just stepped off the tip of the Finger of Fate, and my last piece of gear is 15 feet below me and to the right.

'Balls', is what I'm thinking, 'I need more gear'. The slab is easy enough, 5.6 or something, but with the wind it feels horribly insecure. I gently reverse the move back down to the top of the Finger, the tip of which juts out sideways. I crouch down and try and drop a sling over it. The wind whips it back up in my face.

After leaving Pawtuckaway we decided to head back up the White Mountains, this time to the west side and the impressive, 1000 foot high, Cannon Cliff.

It also happens to be a pretty impressive pile of choss. There's a reason the talus slope at the base is so big. Rock fall is a common occurrence, and over the years entire chunks of routes have fallen to the ground. Even New Hampshire's famous state emblem, the Old Man of the Mountain, used to make his home at the top of the cliff. It was a chunk of blocks that when viewed from the side revealed the profile of a man's face.

Sadly, in 2003, the whole thing came crashing down to the ground. All that's left of him now are the man-made devices that were put in place to try and prevent his inevitable downfall. Lesson learned: Nature always wins.

On day one the cliff was still wet from the previous night's rain, so we drove back to North Conway, on the other side of the White Mountains, to climb the fun Sea of Holes, 5.7, on the quick drying slabs of Whitehorse Ledge. Here is Kristal at the top of the unprotected, yet easy, first pitch.

And me heading up the crux pitch 4, which was pretty chill except for some wet mossy slab near the top.

On day two Cannon looked in good shape, so we headed up the all time classic Whitney Gilman Ridge, 5.7, which climbs up along the edge of the distinct 600 foot high ridge on the left side of the cliff.

This route sees a lot of traffic, some climbers more experienced than others, and we managed to scavenge a nice collection of gear that other climbers had bailed on or abandoned.

We climbed the excellent 5.8 hand crack variation on pitch 3. Here I am standing on the small belay ledge atop pitch 3, looking straight down into the black dyke gully.

There was a nice section of scary exposure on the fourth pitch, with holds all angling the wrong way on rock that looked like it was about to slide off into oblivion. Thankfully Kristal led that pitch.

Day three started out calm and beautiful, and we started up another classic, Moby Grape, 5.8, which climbs up 1000 feet near the center of the cliff. With so many named features, like Reppy's Crack, the Triangle Roof, the Sickle, the Finger of Fate and the Cave, Moby Grape is covered with interesting movement and unique features. It is a spectacular climb, and one of the most varied we've ever gone up. Here is Kristal heading up the amazing Reppy's crack.

Here I am on pitch four about to finangle some gear in a non-existent crack before slabbing up to the Sickle.

Unfortunately what started out as a beautiful day turned into a what felt like a tornado. We've definitely climbed in windy conditions before, I've blogged about it more than once, but this was intense, and the worst we've ever experienced.

I eventually had to completely lie down on the edge of the Finger of Fate to work my sling into place, and with the extra protection I sucked it up and made the slab moves up to the crack. The last three pitches turned into an interesting exercise of 'not getting blown away'. We were so relieved to finally scramble over the top and down into the protection of the trees on the lee side of the mountain.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When Wasps Attack

During our last day at Cathedral Ledge, we were a few pitches up and came upon a wasp nest smack dab in the middle of a crack we were climbing. It provided for quite a bit of excitement, and more than a little cursing on my part. When it was all said and done I got stung three times on the fingers of my left hand. Somehow Kristal managed to make it by unscathed. I guess they had taken out all their anger on me.  We managed to finish up the climb without any more issues, but by the next day my left hand was trying its best to form into the shape of a pumpkin.

I could barely bend my index and pinky fingers, so climbing was out of the question. The weather decided to cooperate though, and a couple of days of rain forced us off the rock and gave my hand a chance to recover. During the break we went to scope out the nearby Madison boulder, the largest known glacial erratic in New England, and one of the largest in the world.

Even if it was dry, this enormous boulder is pretty featurless, so there's not much in the way of bouldering potential.

Our next stop was Pawtuckaway, a scenic state park at the base of New Hampshire, that also happens to be a decent bouldering destination. On our first day out I managed to get stung by a wasp again! This time on my arm, so at least the swelling didn't affect my ability to climb.

This place is pretty cool, with large boulders nestled in a nice forest setting. Here I am pulling on to the cool balancing boulder.

Kristal about to send Debbie Does, V5.

And taking a break between attempts.

Me pulling on a cool undercling start.

And Kristal climbing some sweet slab.

There are some pretty awesome problems here, but with the frequent showers, baking temperatures, and high humidity we definitely aren't pushing any grades. The heat makes for good swimming conditions though!

Monday, August 15, 2011

North Conway

After returning home from our vacation out west, we wasted no time in packing up the car and hitting the road. Our first stop was the ridiculous resort town of North Conway, New Hampshire. With its outlet malls, hordes of tourists and constant rush hour traffic, it would normally be the last place we would want to be. Except for the fact that just outside of town lie two impressive cliffs, Cathedral Ledge and Whitehorse Ledge, each boasting some pretty awesome multi-pitch trad climbs. 

Over the last four days we climbed many great routes up these two cliffs, from slightly terrifying 5.7 runout friction slab to extremely committing 5.9 face/crack climbs, with a lot of enjoyable moderates thrown in the middle.

Here's a view of the Whitehorse Ledge slabs from a climb we were doing on Cathedral Ledge.

There's nothing like 800 feet of runout slab to get the heart pumping and the calves burning. Here I am heading out to start Sliding Board 5.7, 8 pitches.

And looking back down from the top of the first pitch.

Is there any protection on this thing? Answer: not a whole lot. During the entire climb we place a combined total of 14 pieces of gear. Thankfully, it was mostly pretty easy climbing. Here's Kristal on the fourth pitch.

And the view from the top.

Which was covered with delicious wild blueberries. Hmmm, blueberries.

I didn't get many pictures of the other climbs we did, though here is Kristal belaying me up the last pitch of the amazing Recombeast, 5.9, 5 pitches.

And her nearing the top.

Topping out on Cathedral Ledge can be quite the experience. There's a convenient road to a popular tourist lookout at the top. One day I followed Kristal up the last pitch of a climb that came out just below the lookout. As I come over the lip I see Kristal anchored in front of a nice chain link fence, with a crowd of 20+ tourists on the other side giving me a round of applause. Where else does that happen?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Rockies

It was nice to be in the realm of real mountains again, even if it was only for a couple of days.

We headed out to Canmore for the weekend with Kristal's parents, and met up with her brother and his wife to clip some bolts.

Day one was spent at the tourist heavy, yet absolutely gorgeous, Lake Louise. It's easy to see why it's such a tourist attraction, with its incredible milky blue glacier fed waters.

It was a bit torturous to be cragging while surrounded by huge mountains, but it felt good to be climbing again, and we did find a nice 2 pitch route that took us above the trees, giving us a stunning view over the lake. There were also some mixed and trad routes, and it was nice to place our own gear again. Here is Mark on the awesome looking Standing Ovation, 5.10b.

While his parents nervously look on.

On day two we stayed in Canmore and headed up to Grassi Lakes, a limestone sport crag that felt very much like climbing in a gym.

But the climbing was fun, the day was beautiful and the lakes were pretty.

It was a good weekend of climbing, and even if we didn't get on any epic multi-pitch routes, we did find a few to add to our tick list that sound pretty awesome. We can't wait to come back next summer to climb them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Like many other Canadians, we spent the August long weekend on vacation, enjoying some time off from our regular life. We headed to the shores of Lake Diefenbaker, in Saskatchewan, with Kristal's extended family, to enjoy three days of beautiful weather, sandy beaches and warm water.

Kristal and I decided to stage a 'Family Olympics' challenge, pitting team Grandma versus team Grandpa in several events over the course of the weekend.  Events included a couple of playground obstacle courses, a round of mini put, and a thouroughly entertaining canoe race. In the end it came out a draw, (I mean really, who organizes an even number of events?) but no one seemed overly concerned about breaking the tie. I guess it will just have to be continued next year.

It was a fantastic weekend, full of good food, good fun and good people. We didn't even mind that there was no climbing involved!

Jamie on the first hole of the mini put course.

Kristal putting under the pressure of her dad and grandma.

Olivia and Chantel rounding our makeshift buoy during the canoe race.

Olivia raising the gate on our epic sand castle.

Every castle needs a dragon.

Me working on my cliff dwellings.

Kristal's castle.