Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I love love love the adirondacks. Beautiful week.
Thurs: Drive up, clean up. If you go up to the bivy this winter, note that the entire vestibule is now laid with brick. I would have gone up a day later if I'd known I was going to be subjected to manual labor!
Fri: Plattsburgh to pick up kegs, people start arriving. Keg of Ubu nearly kicked by bedtime.
Saturday: Get up, try to wait til noon to start drinking, fail miserably. Horseshoe tournament kicks off, get paired with Joe (what are the chances? Well 1 in 15, actually), lose. I did score a point. Band plays many many sets, lots of good food, lots of nice people, 4th keg gets kicked around 11:30 - just in time for the tracers. The air compressor manages to blow the circuit breaker right out of the fuse box.
Sunday: Miracle! No hangover! I was a good girl on Saturday I guess - dancing helps get the alcohol out and keeps you from drinking too much in the first place anyway. The boys are all playing golf. Take Rocky and Stella on a hike up Hurricane Mtn - super crowded up top, not too bad on the trail. Drop off the muddy, tired dogs, grab my fishing gear and hit the West Fork. Two hours later I have a couple of bites and things are looking up when I make the mistake of looking up at a passing car. Trip over a submerged log, and my waders start to fill up. Bruised, wet, cold, freaked out and with a non-functional, water logged cell phone, I call it a day and head back to the bivy. BBQ over at the cabins; I walk over and eat a bit but I'm so exhausted physically and mentally that I wander back and get into bed around 7 pm.
Monday: Rainy morning, but it clears up so Joe, his friend Andrew, Greg and Mike and I head over to Deadwater cliff - newish crag not in the guide book. Some nice climbing there, flash a 5.9-ish roof (yay me, is my roof technique improving?) but far too many black flies - and they're not even bad yet! We drive back and Joe's 'boss' takes us out to dinner at the Baxter Mtn. Tavern. The food is mediocre but it's nice to sit outside and eat. We do a little Office marathon when we get back.
Tuesday: Dawns clear and beautiful, but quickly begins to cloud up. We wanted to go to Plattsburgh in the AM to return the kegs and pick up some stuff to change my oil, fix my light switch etc, and then hike up Noonmark to do some climbing, but by the time we get to town it's pouring rain. We meet Joe's boss for lunch instead, and then drive back and futz around with my car (which, with a few rubberbands, we eventually fixed). I finally take off for home around 10pm and have a relatively uneventful ride back.

I really love the time I spend upstate and it's always kind of a bummer when it's time to go home - especially when I've just spent 6 days up there and yet only managed to get in 4 short routes climbing, 2 hours of fishing and a 5 mile hike. I'm just ticking off the days until I get the time to go up again... probably in about 3 weeks... who knows. Maybe I can get a gunks day or two in before that. I have a feeling I'm not going to have much time for going out to the Hamptons this summer...

Monday, May 22, 2006

I made some more tshirts this morning.

Buy them here.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I'm a big dork. I made a gunks tshirt. The next one's gonna rock! Get it? Rock?

Here is a link to buy the shirt if you want it. Email me if you want it on something other than a mens' grey shirt.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

$700 to fix the brakes on my car - and I haven't even bothered to get the damn headlight switch fixed yet. Yuck. Anyhow - I had an interesting drive up to the dacks last Tuesday night because my headlights at first would not go on unless the switch was held down with a fair amount of force (from my foot - yeah comfortable) and eventually would not go on at all. I drove with my high beams on - which of course do not stay on unless the headlights are on - so I had to hold them on for the bulk of the 5 hour drive. I arrived around 11:30 PM to find a raging bonfire; a couple of 3 Philosphers later I was feeling considerably happier (rough day at work!). Wednesday dawned rather damp looking and definitely a little hungover feeling, so Joe and I decided to go hit the Cobble Hill golf course in Elizabethtown. I suck at golf, but I did stick it out, and even managed to bogey on one hole. By the end of the game, I basically was just using the 9 iron to chip the ball in 60 yard increments down the fairway. The problem, I think, was that the clubs I borrowed were too long for me. We had some folks over for dinner (honey basted roast turkey breast), and managed to actually go easy on the liquor. Last time we had a bottle of something, it was a bottle each of tequila and triple sec, and we managed to down all of the former and 3/4 of the latter between two of us. This time, it was a bottle of dark rum, and mixing it with Stewart's ginger ale (which tastes far mroe of ginger than Schwepps or Canada Dry or that junk), we held ourselves to about 2/3 of the bottle. I got some good beta on fishing from Matt, and I got laughed at for watching Lost so intently. Thursday, Tommy came over and we went climbing up in Willsboro right above Lake Champlain. We did a whole bunch of really great crack climbs, the weather was beautiful, and it was a great day. I did up some sausage with onion gravy and rutabegas (my favorite! So much better than potatoes! And better for you!), and watched the season finale of the Office. UGH!!! I can't believe they had Jim confess to Pam!! UGH UGH UGH! Like, that's the whole point of watching the show! The whole awkward tension between them! UGH. I am extremely upset!. Friday was rainy, so I took Stella and Rocky and wandered off in search of fish. I'd never fished the Ausable before, but it's a beautiful river. I scouted out a bunch of locations, but in the end I had to take a crap really badly and decided to just call it a day around 2:30. Took the dogs back, made a (huge) killer chicken pot pie, and napped/did crosswords inside for the rest of the rainy day. It was really relaxing. Came back Saturday, ditched the Ron and Fez party that night because I was in a pissy mood due to my car, and was back at work on Sunday. I've been working a bunch of 14 hour days at work, although it's late now, I promise to blog about the dog we had to jerk off around 11:30 PM on Tuesday night when I get a chance to blog again. It was one of the funniest experiences I've ever had...
Well, I guess I didn't even manage to get to the good part of the NC trip - Whitesides. I feel like I should write about it before I even forget it all! So Whitesides... Original Route. We got up around 6 AM, and with coffee and tea on board, rolled into Cashiers a little before 9 AM. Stopped for a quick bite at the diner, and were in the parking lot at Whitesides by 9:30 or so.

The hike in to the base of the wall is quite easy: since the parking lot is located on the back side of the ridge, you follow the hiking trail (which goes to the top of the ridge) up a short ways until it makes a sharp left turn and starts climbing more steeply. The climbers' trail is marked by a 4x4 post half hidden in the foliage, but the trail is easy enough to find. You descend steeply through groves of what they call mountain laurel but is really a species of rhodedendron, and eventually end up along the base of the cliff. The Original Route starts at the far other side of the cliff about half a mile down, so you end up hiking most of the length of the wall. The trail is easy enough to follow, if a bit narrow and winding. It's littered with carpet remnants which in retrospect are probably left over from people padding their fixed lines while working routes. The wall comes in somewhere in the vicinity of 1000 feet in height, and much of it is gently overhanging. It also is slightly curved, so the entire feeling is that of hiking in to a sort of amphitheater.

By 10:30 or so, we'd found the base of the 1st pitch, which is a ~150 foot 5.7 slab rated "NP" for "No Pro". It is helpfully described as "climb the black smear".... it took about 15 minutes of squinting up the face to eventually pick out the single bolt which is about 90 feet up. The rock at whitesides is filled with mica, so it all sparkles in the sun. Pretty, but difficult to pick out bolts. The guide book notes that one might be able to find pro depending on where one starts; It was Greg's pitch and he decided to start maybe 30 yards right of where the bolt was. The ground sloped up, and so the pitch would be shorter (about 100 feet?) and there seemed to be a couple of flakes above. Turns out that the first one - about 30 feet up, was almost decent, but the second was crap. The cam probably would have served to stop his fall just long enough to let the rock it ripped out catch up with him and knock him in the head.

Either way, he set off, and Joe and I followed up the pitch (which ends at a single bolt) together with little incident. We were carrying one pack between us, which carried our shoes, light shells, a liter of water, an empty bottle of water which I'd drunk on the hike in, the camera and some food (I'll admit: my lunch was two deviled ham sandwiches with american cheese... that shit is awesome when climbing!). Pitch two was rated 5.8 R, and Greg went ahead and led that one as well, as we'd had vague intentions of blocking our leads. It traversed out left a ways along a ledge, and the climbed up a some flakes, pulled a small roof with a long reach, and then headed up to some bolts on a ledge.

The third pitch, rated 5.7 - 5.8, was mine. I set off left along the ledge until I came to a left leaning crack about 20 feet long, which took fine gear. It then traversed straight right about 20 feet on smallish holds (no gear), until you get to another big ledge. I'll admit that I was a bit nervous on the traverse; I made one false start using the good holds for my feet before deciding that perhaps I'd be better off using them as hands - in the end I think I used them as both - the nice thing about being a girl and having good balance! From the ledge, you walk a bit further right, and then climb up another great hand-sized layback crack. The fun thing is that you can't really see where you're going, so you just climb. As the crack runs out, you can step left around a bulge and *poof* there is the huge belay ledge, shiny bolts and all.

Joe being the strongest climber of the bunch, the fourth pitch was his. Once rated 5.9, it's now rated 5.10c. It climbs up an upside-down v shaped crack to easier climbing above; there is one bolt at the crux. The key is to get gear in the crack as high as possible, but even with that it's hard to avoid a ledge-fall if you blow the crux - the "unfortunate incidents" referred to in the guide book. Joe grunted up to the bolt, but as he was going for the clip, fumbled it and lost his balance - he had to grab on the draw to keep from falling. The unprotected climbing above is no gimme, either, but that went fine. He left long slings attached to the gear going through the crux and thank goodness for that; I didn't even bother to attempt the moves and just french freed through the thing.

Up to this point, the route had not been very exposed at all, mostly climbing up slabs and ledges. The next pitch, however, was mine, and it was a little different. Rated anything from 5.5 to 5.7 R, it's the first pitch that really gives you a feel for how high you are and how massive the wall is. It traverses a bit left to some flakes leaning precariously against the rock (I got two pieces into cracks here), and then wanders upwards a ways. For all that is rated R, I never felt that it was really all that run out. By wandering a bit back and forth, I was able to find decent placements - I probably placed 5 or 6 pieces on the pitch in total. Though the climbing was easy, the one distinct thought that kept running through my mind was that I certainly would not send a new 5.5 leader up the pitch! I found a nice surprise at the end of the pitch; though the guide shows a bolted belay, I found nothing but a rust little stain in a small ledge and a couple of filled in bolt holes. Of course, there was also a quite decent crack, so the belay was not really an issue.

The sixth pitch, we all agreed, was the best of all - and it was Greg's. It starts with underclinging and a little step around a bulge to the right of the belay, and climbs up a set of parallel, left leaning cracks. As you climb, the cracks begin to get quite thin - until you realize the deep, hidden crack that runs parallel, just above them to the right - then she goes, no problem. A balancy maneuver gets you right again, above the belay, and then it's just straight up to four shiny bolts at the base of the seventh pitch.

The seventh pitch - 5.11a - starts off a mini-ledge - a theme to the route: the higher you climb, the smaller the belay ledges. The pitch is also rated 5.7R A0, and that's the way Joe climbed it. Pulling on three bolts will get you through the overhanging crux, and he went through just fine. It was at this point that I decided that it was my turn to carry the pack; it was hanging right next to me anyhow so rather than get it over to Greg, I told him I'd hang on to it while he followed the pitch. All I heard as he pulled over the crux bulge was Joe yelling down, "Where's the pack?". Indeed I should have let Greg carry that damn thing; though I did not fall on the pitch, it was a tremendous struggle to make the transition from yarding on the draws to getting on the rock, and it was all I could do to get the draws off the bolts. Indeed, I dropped one of them - but caught it on my foot with my super ninja skills and somehow managed to reach down and return it to my harness.
Pitch 8 is a full ropelength traverse rated anywhere from 5.0-5.4, runout, and Joe took it. He also took the last two pitches, just in the interest of saving time. There was little gear to rerack and reorganize, and so it was simply the quickest way to get things done. The traverse is really great because although it's easy and the holds are large, you're also over an overhanging bit of the wall so the exposure (something that is somewhat fleeting on this route) is really great. The last two pitches are easy, runout, nondescript slabs until you reach the top of the wall, with a nice fence designed to keep hikers from going over the edge. We topped out around 5:45, and while we were changing our shoes and having a bite, admiring all the other huge rock walls cropping out of the valleys around us, a hiker wandered by. "You guys rapelling?" he asked. Apparently that's quite a common occurrence on this wall. Thanks, but I'd rather hike downhill and then climb out than rap down and then hike up. Ick. We followed the trail to the right back to the parking lot, passing a crumbling concrete overlook perched out over the cliff along the way.

Joe and Greg were parched by the time we were on the road, but beer, it, seems, is not easy to come by in North Carolina. After stopping at several gas stations on the way back, the boys finally had to make do with good old King Cobra, but all was well when we got back to Skip's place where a huge meal and cases of Bass and Red Stripe awaited us.
Not a bad day, at all!

Monday, May 01, 2006

A cat bite that turned into cellulitis landed me in the hospital for last Tuesday, and it wasn't clear that I was going to get out in time to actually make the planned trip to North Carolina/Tennessee, let alone climb. However, after two and a half days of IV antibiotics and hanging my hand above my head, I was cleared to leave, although with a warning that I probably wouldn't be able to climb. Screw that!

I left Friday morning to meet Joe up at the Gunks for what was originally intended to be a day of climbing, but turned out to be a hike around the undercliff/overcliff carriage roads as my hand was still quite swollen. Near the junction between the two roads, Rocky took off after something and didn't come back. Eventually Joe set off back down the trail to find him... down by Arrow! Stella and I had a nice nap by the bridge. We spent the night at Greg and Jen's, and set off around 6 AM the next morning. Skittles, G&J's dog, followed are car for a good 5 miles at a full sprint, and it apparently took 2 hours for Jen to finally get her back home. 13 hours later on the dot, we pulled in to Skip's place down in South Carolina, just in time to catch a beautiful sunset.

Skip is a climber whom Joe had met up at the bivy; about a month earlier Joe & Ian O. had gone down to visit him only to be pretty much snowed out for the whole week, getting in a day and a half of climbing up at Looking Glass. Skip's place is backed by a huge wilderness area, with a phenomenal view of Table Rock, SC in the distance. His wife epitomizes southern hospitality; no sooner had we rolled in to the driveway than we were greeted by huge plates of penne with basil and walnuts and a fridge full of beer.

Slightly hugover, we woke up Saturday morning to pancakes and the promise of a beautiful day at Looking Glass, accompanied by Skip and his buddy Tommy. We started with Sundial crack, 5.8, which gave us a pretty good taste of what the whole eyebrow climbing thing up there is all about. The climbing itself wasn't difficult; low angled slab with excellent friction and footholds. The problematic thing was the routefinding and the gear - though many of the eyebrows had cracks in the back that would take smallish gear (purple, blue, yellow TCUs), many did not - and there was no good way to know whether an eyebrow would take gear or not until you climbed right up to it. I led the second (5.8) pitch on the route; it took quite a long time as there was a lot of moving right and left, up and down, and flat against the rock (when the wind kicked up!) to find the best protected route up. Pitch 3 was a short, perfect hand sized, extremely friendly crack, and pitch 4 started with a commiting move off the deck and finished with more low angled eyebrow climbing through the whipping wind.

We next headed over as a group to Dum Dee Dum Dum (5.10b), which Joe led after taking a couple of falls onto a bolt attempting the direct (5.10d?) version. Nobody else followed cleanly. Cute name for a route at Looking Glass though, eh? We finished the day with an amusing climb up Peregrine (5.9), watching a couple on the nearby Nose. They couldn't have set themselves up better for rope issues if they'd tried, and indeed, by the time I was rapping down past them, the second's rope (trailing off the back of her harness) was hopelessely stuck, knotted around roots at the base by the strong winds. Too bad she was at the crux when it happened. My own ropes had been blown into a mess, but I got down soon enough and fixed her problem.... with the ropes. She still couldn't pull the crux and spent a good while moaning and groaning as she fell over and over again, which amused the boys to no end.

Monday was spent at Rumbling Bald, a long ridge that juts up out of the jungle across a valley from Chimney Rock - where Last of the Mohicans was shot. Greg and I did Fruit Loops, a nice 5.7 fingerish crach, while Joe and Skip did something right next to us. Greg and I then followed those two pitches while Joe moved over to do another beautiful arching crack (again, I forget the name) that was 5.10ish. The power laybacking unfortunately pumped me out and spit me off. We trundled around to the backside of the Cereal Wall so Joe could take a look at a 5.11is crack called Captain Crunch. With a huge amount of effort and questionable style, he got up it. Greg and Skip both gave it a go, both falling a couple of times and coming near the top. The first half of the climb, a weird, large off-width/chimney up to a blocky roof and balancy move to step around went with no problem, but the second half - the occasional bomber hand jams (I have small girly hands!) in a disjointed, overhanging crack proved too strenuous for me. The moves were all there, but the strength wasn't, so I needed a bit of an assist from my lovely belayer to get up to the top - someone had to clean the climb, after all!

The drive home became a quest for liquor; person after person that we stopped to ask gave us poor directions - including the old man on the easy-rider, totally chopped up mini-bike. A ridiculous sight, he rolled up to us to tell me that one of my tires was low. "Nice ride," offered Skip. "Yeeeeaaaahhhh......" was his reply as he rode off, his knees sticking out at comical angles.

Tuesday, Joe, Greg and I went back to the north face of Looking Glass to check out some routes, but it was a pretty wet day, as well as being Skip's wife's birthday, so it was an early day as well. Greg led us up the first pitch of Safari Jive, a nice climb with three distinct sections - a bit of crack, a bit of face, a bit of a roof - each really nice but only a couple of moves longs. Then we walked over to the Seal, an impressive arching crack through the massive granite. One could almost believe that they were in Yosemite - none of the eyebrows from the other side of the glass, and the massive vertical faces are mostly only aid-able. Once again, Joe got the lead, doing well until the second crux - an undercling traverse with no feet. Greg had issues with it too, but I didn't - Most likely because I'm considerably shorter than the boys and was probably able to get in there a little less awkwardly.

It was around this point that we decided that we wanted to give the Original Route (IV 5.10c A0) on Whitesides a go. Whitesides is one of the biggest cliffs on the east coast (perhaps Laurel Knob, NC and Cannon, NH are taller?) and even Skip - the local! - had not climbed the thing. He also had not heard of many out-of-towners attempting the thing and not epic-ing, so of course we decided that we were going to be up at 6 AM the next morning (it was about a 1.5 hour drive from Skip's) and give it a go.

Wednesday dawned grey and gloomy, so the Whitesides attempt was postponed and we went back to Rumbling Bald; this time the Commatose area. Greg was one move into the pitch when it started raining, I was too exhausted (hung over?) to even try, and Joe quickly cleaned the route as the thunder started, so we could head off. We bushwhacked our own trail back towards the car but eventually had to seek shelter under a large, overhanging boulder for about an hour. We huddled on the dirt, trying to avoid the little rivulets that were slowly creeping over the rounded edge of the rock. It was at about this point that I realized that the reason I'd been so tired and unmotivated all week was probably the antibiotics I was on. Hell, I'm STILL feeling wiped out. At least now I felt that I had an excuse for curling up on a comfortable rock first thing after getting to the climbs every morning!