Monday, June 15, 2009

Sláinte to Snakes

Sláinte is Gaelic for "to your health" and I just wanted to toast my hikers (one of which was Irish) as well as the mellow, good- tempered snakes we watched along the trail. The Black Rat snake pictured above put on quite a show climbing this slippery metal sign post as we watched in awe. An incredible weekend all around!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Almost Alpine

Yesterday (June 9) Jeremy and I (Chad) finished a climb we began June 1. We were off the wall three days in the middle due to rain and work but spent the other six days in unbroken climbing. The climb begins in the valley roughly three quarters of a mile and maybe 13 hundred vertical feet from where the above picture was taken. The climb starts where the river cuts through the rock band which ascends the mountains on its flanks. We traversed up and over more than a mile of rock to complete what we believe to be the first ascent of the longer rock band. Located less than two hours from home in West VA, we figured, "Why go to Pakistan to climb a giant choss pile, when we've got a great one in our own back yard?"

Staying as close as possible to the middle of the wall we climbed the route "free" (without the aid of using our gear to hold our weight, except in the case of a fall) and rate it at around 5.9+. In 46 pitches (rope lengths between belays) we climbed from the start until the cliff band broke down in the woods near the mountain top and finished with one additional pitch up the mountain's highest pinnacle. With a very long average pitch length of around 150 ft we clocked in around 6900 diagonal feet of climbing. Despite a massive amount of loose rock, neither of us took the ever present, ever looming, huge swinging fall.

Mountain Laurel was in full bloom and we enjoyed it immensely except for the many times we had to climb through it. Mountain Laurel has a sweet, mellow fragrance, but you don't want your face buried in the stuff, it grows thick, sharp and creates a heck of a lot of rope drag. Seems to sort of want to push you off, or snap at inopportune moments as well, beautiful stuff really though.

The diciest of pitches were more akin to climbing a Jenga tower than rock with precariously stacked blocks and sharp rope cutter edges. On one such pitch I had three separate instances where a hold dislodged just as I began to trust it. Once, when I was very young and climbing trees at Grandpa's he praised how I almost always had three limbs firmly placed before moving the fourth; I've always remembered that.

I find that after my favorite vacations I most often come home tired, sore, and content with life. Join SMG for rock climbing or any of our other trips and I can just about guarantee two out of three of those, and that ain't bad!

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Long Way Round

Through a sea of lichen we tiptoe. Weaknesses in the rock put our strengths to the test and we pick our way through the choss, brush, and impeccable rock. Dull constant stress flares with the sharp crack of a hold breaking, puffs of smoke mark its ricochet path downward to the trees followed by the snapping branches, long rolling and finally the silence of rest, while from sunrise to set we move slowly, steadily over rock.

We hunker hanging anchored to the wall as fierce winds, thunder, hail, rain and lightning rage past our tiny shelter. We had just enough time to make it here for this temporary relief, but the background noise stress never abates. I guess this is what guides do for fun; it doesn't always feel like that.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hungry for Life

The days are longer and we're packing them full. We have been out, about and keeping busy with hikes, climbs, and teaching. Still we thirst for more. Today Jeremy and I (Chad) embark on a huge climbing venture. The mountains have called, wish us luck, we will see you soon.
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