Monday, December 23, 2013

New Hampshire Winter Climbing: Online Resources

There are a number of great resources online for anyone heading into the White Mountains in New Hampshire for winter hiking, climbing, or skiing. I use a few of these daily for their regular updates. Here are my favorites.

Some hunting around on weather sites and climbing forums lead me to
the Auburn, MA Ice Box Canyon one morning for a quick session on some thin ice.

  • Mount Washington Avalanche Center
    • Daily avalanche forecasting normally posted by 8:00 AM online, and earlier on the mountain at multiple locations on the way up to Tuckerman or Huntington's Ravine.
    • Photos of each ravine posted regularly. Great to assess ice conditions in Huntington.
  • Mount Washington Observatory
    • Daily weather report and up to the minute weather data collected by the manned observatory on the summit of Mt. Washington, as well as several remote monitoring sites. The absolutely most accurate forecasts for the White Mountains.
    • Webcams located on the summit give great ideas of current conditions, even if they're socked in the clouds.
    • Weekly White Mountain Report including photos of ice climbs and information from site administrator and long-time local climber Al Hospers. Normally updated on Thursdays, just in time for the weekend.
    • User created content for ice climbing including climbing photos, articles, and a very active forum.
    • Also great classified section, quick weather reference, and trip reports as well.
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is my favorite website for extended weather forecasting and anything not on Mt. Washington.
    • The "pin-drop" feature allows you to zero in on a specific crag to get the weather info. You can do that by searching the weather for a town close to the cliff, like Bartlett for Frankenstein Cliff, and then using the map on the right side of the page to find the cliff and clicking on a location.
These are my favorite and most frequently visited sites. Feel free to share yours in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Dawn Wall Episodes

I've been watching these Dawn Wall episodes being produced by Rock & Ice. I love to follow the work these guys are putting in to free such a huge route. I've compiled them all here for easy viewing!

The Dawn Wall: Episode 1 from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.

The Dawn Wall: Episode 6 from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.

The Dawn Wall: Episode 7 from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.

The Dawn Wall: Episode 12 from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Creeksgiving 2013

Indian Creek + Thanksgiving = Creeksgiving!
The crew of New Englanders and Texans the morning of our departure.

Spending Thanksgiving this year in the West away from my family meant that I wanted to spend it climbing of course! And if I couldn't spend it with my immediate family, I was going to spend it with my climbing family. So my partner Laura and I loaded up the van in Flagstaff and headed to meet a friend of mine from college, some mutual climbing friends, and unbeknownst to us some soon to be new friends from Texas. But that's the way of climbing; we're always meeting new people and new climbing partners. Especially in a place like Indian Creek where everyone wants to pool their gear so you can lead all the awesome sustained cracks.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating exactly how we'd like. It had snowed about a foot the weekend before Thanksgiving when my friends arrived. They had to shovel out places to put their tents and couldn't climb for the first day until things started to dry out. By the time we arrived on Wednesday the sun had been out for a few days and things were looking better. We woke up in fog which cleared and we spent a fun day warming up. The hard route of the day was a finger and ring-lock route called The Last Battle 5.11 that took a group effort to put up. But unfortunately the weather would change again quickly.

Kyle and Kathleen hanging out and trying to stay warm!

The next morning we woke up to a cold and overcast day with no signs of the thick cloud blanket opening up to sun. We still managed to brave the cold temps and get some routes in, including my lead of the classic route Scarface 5.11- which yielded well to my skinny hands. We wrapped up and built a big fire back at the campsite to warm up and cook some of our Thanksgiving feast upon. The spread included mashed potatoes, grilled veggies, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and to finish it all off pumpkin pie. Obviously there were many vegetarians in the group (myself included) so the traditional turkey was missing. We had a great dinner and fun evening, especially watching the crew from Boulder next to our campsite go streaking through Creek Pasture campground. But unfortunately when we woke in the morning to the same scene of being socked in by dreary clouds it was time to leave. No one was psyched on another frigid day climbing so we conducted the sorting ritual of gear to make sure everyone got back their respective equipment and hit the road. We didn't get out of the cloud blanket until 4 hours of driving had us back into Arizona. All in all though I had an excellent time and will be sure to return next year for Creeksgiving 2014! Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Layering: Staying Comfortable in the Mountains

Check out this blog post I recently wrote for the American Alpine Institute. Many of my technical thoughts on fabrics and layering strategies for alpine climbing. I also listed a few of my kits I use regularly in different locations.

My friend Conor and I demonstrating how NOT to layer while hunting for early season ice.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Winter in the Desert Southwest

I've been in the Southwest for about a month and a half now and I'm so excited to be living here. I've visited areas like Joshua Tree and Red Rock over the past 6 years, but finally moving to Flagstaff feels great. The weather is wonderful, I'm surrounded by amazing rock climbing terrain, and alpine and ski terrain isn't that far off either! I got settled into my place with my girlfriend and started hitting the trail running regularly and checking out the bouldering around Flag. The trail systems are endless and covered in comfortable ponderosa pine needles.

Running just minutes from my house in woods with no underbrush. Trail running heaven.
I got the chance to teach some learn to lead skills in Red Rock outside Las Vegas recently to some psyched climbers from Quebec! Listening to their unique version of French and trying to recall the little I retain from high school was fun. Showing them their first routes on desert sandstone was a great privilege. Red Rock presents itself as one of the better places to learn to lead with ample cracks to place gear and moderate routes on which to get a first lead. I also got out for some personal days and wrote about a spectacular route I did called Dream of Wild Turkey's 5.10a for the American Alpine Institute blog.

Julian equalizing a practice anchor with a cordalette in the Calico Hills of Red Rock, NV.
Soon I'll be heading out to another one of my favorite destinations, Joshua Tree National Park. Since I first visited here back in 2007 I've held a special place in my heart for the quartzite cracks and edges intermingled with the sea anemone-esque Joshua Trees that give the park its namesake. Since then I've been back on three occasions and I'm excited to have access to it with only a short 4 hour drive. Another great place for a Learn-to-Lead course I'll be teaching over Veteran's Day weekend!

The mega-classic Double Cross 5.7+ is a great representation of J-Tree crack!
Other areas I can't wait to visit this fall and winter include Indian Creek in Moab, UT. I'll be there for Thanksgiving, or as its more commonly known "Creeksgiving", for some splitter desert crack climbing with friends. Practicing some aid climbing technique on the big walls of Zion, UT is also on the winter tick list. The snow has started to fly in the Sierras which means backcountry skiing and ski-mountaineering trips can't be too far off. So many possibilities! I'm very happy and grateful to call the desert Southwest my home. If you haven't made a visit yet, make a point to soon!