Another great new route at the South Wall!

Last summer ACS guide Ryan Scott was flipping through the new Rock Climbs of Acadia guidebook and noticed a top rope route called Impalpable Cracks at the South Wall. The line was originally climbed by Chris Gill and Ray Simpson and begins at the 2nd pitch corner of Story of O. The route follows face holds and thin discontinuous cracks up and left ending at the top Story of O rappel anchor. Ryan went out and gave the route a try. He found superb and engaging climbing and noticed the route could be lead with only the addition of a few bolts. Ryan put in a proposal to the Climbing Advisory Group to add the necessary bolts to the line. The proposal was accepted and Ryan and some of the other ACS guides began the process of cleaning the route and finding where the bolts should be. They discovered a beautiful variation to the original line that would not only add some great and challenging climbing, but it would also bring the bolts away from the Story of O corner.

On a cold morning in early March Ryan and I spent a few more hours re-climbing the line and dialing in the bolt placements. We equipped the route with four bolts. This highly technical line begins at the lower Story of O rappel station and begins with a hard  bolt protected traverse right following a tiny crimp rail and crummy feet. This leads to a stance before committing to the face. Three bolts protect the fun face climbing which leads to thin discontinuous cracks. Arriving at the cracks there are two great finishing options. One can trend left into a small alcove or go straight up into the first thin crack. Both options are great and meet up after a few feet for some superb finishing moves.

Today Ryan and I went out to climb the line. Ryan went first and was able to hold on to the tiny holds even though it was blowing over 40mph! It was great to see him weave up the pitch so smoothly and clip the chains! I lead the pitch afterwards and we were both psyched with our efforts. Impalpable Cracks 5.11c is a great addition to the cliff!

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Ryan is all smiles heading into the tricky traverse.

 

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Ryan about to enjoy a sneaky knee-bar rest!

 

Patagonia 2016 Part Two

The weather window looked short and cold. All of the climbers we knew were going to sit this one out and do some sport climbing in town. Pete was psyched as usual and convinced me that a quick mountain mission was a good idea. I was hesitant at first but once I committed, I, too, was excited to head back up to the mountains that occupy my mind most of the year.

We left town around 1:30pm and began the long hike to Paso Superior. We roped up for most of the glacier travel and we arrived at our advanced base camp around 9:30pm. We set up the tent and cooked a quick dinner. We set the alarm for 2:54am and went to bed.

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Pete early on the approach

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A quick rock step on the approach to our high camp

 

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Very cool lenticular clouds at high camp

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Pete under a giant lenticular eyeball cloud!

The alarm came quickly and Pete brewed up some coffee and oatmeal. We shouldered our packs and continued our mission deeper into the mountains. With the cold temps the glacier was firm and we moved quickly. We arrived at the bergschrund at the base of La Brecha a 300m 60 degree snow slope as the sky in the east began to brighten.

We traversed south for some time until the bergschrund was small enough to climb over with little trouble. I led up and across the snow field aiming for a long protected corner. The sun broke the horizon. The wind picked up causing spindrift to swirl around us. The snow slope led to a 100m 5th class rock step which was icy and challenging in mountain boots.

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Pete climbs into the sun for the first time of the day.

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Pete following some icy cracks on the approach.

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Pete on more icy terrain on the approach.

 

From the col Pete led an icy corner pitch that brought us to La Silla – a bullet hard ice ridge that separates Cerro Fitzroy from Aguja Poincenot. I led out crossing the low angle snow and ice and traversed under the south face of Fitzroy. Pete got hit in the face by a small chunk of ice falling off of the upper reaches of Fitzroy – a not so subtle reminder of the objective hazards that surrounded us. I was able to get a bit of protection in the rock every 30m or so and we simul-climbed through the low angle terrain. One more traversing pitch with a short steep section and some mixed climbing finally deposited us at the beginning of our objective, the east ridge of Aguja de la Silla.

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Still on the approach! The north face of Aguja Kakito in the background

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Pete is still all smiles even after getting hit by falling ice

 

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Pete following the last bit of the approach.

This is the last tower out of the nine primary peaks in the Fitzroy massif that Pete and I hadn’t climbed together. We had attempted this same route three years earlier but had turned around at the foot of the glacier due to high avalanche danger. I’m not sure how much our egos played into our desire to climb this peak but we were intrigued by the idea of climbing all of these incredible towers that were connected to each other like the spikes of a stegosaurus. It was also a perfect objective for a short and cold weather window.

A beautiful granite pillar rose above us for 250m. The wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted. We put on our puffy coats and synched them down! I led the first pitch heading south around the tower navigating icy cracks. The pitch led to a recess in the ridge and Pete took over the lead. With numb hands he quickly dispatched three more very cold and icy 70m pitches that brought us to the pointy summit! We were the only climbers in the entire range. Everyone else was resting in town. This solitude gave the mountains a different feel and I was happy and proud to be with Pete surrounded by snow ice and golden granite.

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Pete on the summit!

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The Torres!

 

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The north face of Aguja Poincenot!

 

Pete and I had first climbed together in these mountains in 2008 and this was our 4th trip to the region. This particular mission was our 17th time roping up together in these massive and complicated mountains. I am grateful for such a solid partner and for these powerful and authentic experiences.

We did not linger long and soon we were rappelling back to the base of the tower. From the base we had to reclimb the traversing pitches and rappell back down to the top of La Brecha. The cold temps were welcome during the committing rappel of this 300m gully as it kept the snow, ice, and loose blocks frozen in place.

 

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IMG_0955 Pete rapelling.

 

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Pete rapelling La Brecha.

 

We rappelled over the bergschrund and back on to the glacier. We stayed roped up and slogged around crevasses back to our advanced base camp at Paso Superior. We arrived back at our camp 15 hours after we had left in the cold pre dawn hours.

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The view of the massif as we descended back towards town.

 

We melted snow and drank water. We ate food and rested for about an hour. We repacked all of our stuff and started down the glacier towards Laguna de los Tres. At this lake we switched from mountain boots to approach shoes, ate more food, drank water, ate Mexican pain killers and continued the long trek back to town. The sun disappeared and we continued. It began to rain. I hiked alone, lost in my music; my fatigue and the winding trail that heads to the tiny town of El Chalten.

At 1:00am I stumbled on to the paved road that runs through town. The streets were empty and the low light from the street lamps seemed alien. I opened the door to our house after 21 hours on the go, another wonderful long day in the mountains with a great friend.

Sleep came easy.

 

Star Face Mole

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A Star Nosed Mole, What a strange animal!

 

I have climbed at the central slabs hundreds of days over the last 16 years. I love this area so much and I hope to continue climbing its perfect lines until I am old and grey and unable to slip on climbing shoes.

This small area is locating at the east end of the South wall (AKA Precipice) and offers climbers a taste of some  high quality moderate climbs on the best rock in New England. It is home to the ultra classic 5.5 Wafer Step and offers amazing views of Frenchman’s Bay.      

A few years ago I spied a potential new line between the two classics Recollections of Pacifica and Madame Lebois’ Troubled Lunge. I climbed the line on a top rope a few times and thought it would be a great addition to the area. This independent line protects naturally with cams and nuts but would need one protection bolt and a little bit of cleaning for it to be ready. I submitted a proposal to the Climbers Advisory Group and after a trip to the site it was approved. It was also decided to place a rappell station at the top of the pitch in hopes of alleviating the traffic jams that are often found on the Wafer Step anchor.

In the fall I spent a day cleaning the route up and figuring out the best place for the bolt. I was at the top of the pitch cleaning out a beautiful crack when I realized it was actually part of a large loose block that was not attached to the wall. Thus began a few hours of dirty difficult digging trying to unearth and remove this large boulder. By the time I trundled it I was exhausted and covered in dirt!

I let some months pass and allowed the wind and rain to clean up the line. This winter I had a few buddies climb the route on a top rope to see what they thought. Everyone seemed to like the line and each time I climbed it I enjoyed it more and more.

Today my buddy Max and I equipped the route with it’s one protection bolt and placed a two bolt rappell anchor at the top of the pitch. The line climbs well and has two tricky slab cruxes. I am calling the route Star Faced Mole 5.10+

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Weirdo

 

The name is a play  on the Star Nosed Mole which is an amazing digger and lives in Maine. Because of the extensive digging I encountered and that the climb is more or less a face climb, I thought the name was a great representation of my overall experience on the route. I also love strange critters. I am excited to have another quality line at the Central Slabs and encourage folks to go check it out. A huge thanks to ACS guides Ryan Scott, Richard Parker and Noah Kleiner for their help and incite, as well as Max Blanford for facing the cold today (15 degrees when I left the house) and joining me.

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Placing the anchor bolts.

 

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Max hanging out!

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Placing the protection bolt.

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Clipping the bolt just before the first crux.

 

 

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Psyched! Recollections of Pacifica is visible in the top right of this photo.

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Max topping out the pitch!

Patagonia 2016

The summit of Cerro Torre
The summit of Cerro Torre

I flew in to el Calafate on January 17th and took a taxi to my home base for the next 5 weeks in El Chalten, a tiny mountain town in southern Argentina. Pete’s plane was delayed a day, so I hung around with this year’s group of monkeys, ate food and tried to readjust to this place of drastic extremes. In a very similar fashion to the last time I landed in this town three years ago, the weather was terrific and people were flooding to the mountains with their heads filled with dreams of golden granite and cloudless skies!

Pete pulled in on the 18th around 9:30pm. As always, It was great to see him once again. Soon we were scheming and packing our bags for a mission into the Torre Valley. Our plan was to hike into the base camp Niponino – a distance of 15k traversing a lake, an endless moraine and a dirty, rapidly changing glacier. With 50lb packs and navigating a new approach we staggered in to Nipo after 7 hours of slogging! The hike gave Pete and me  a great opportunity to catch up and it felt wonderful to head into the mountains with a solid partner.

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Sunrise on the Torres

 

We decided to continue past Niponino towards the tongue of the Glacier in hopes of shortening the approach up and over the Standhardt Col the following morning. We moved some rocks around and built a solid bivy spot for our small single wall tent. We ate some food, set the alarm for 4am and tried to get some sleep.

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Our approach was N3

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The west faces of the Fitzroy massif

 

The alarm came quickly and soon we were moving over the glacier up towards the Stanhart col. Gaining 1000m, we zigzagged around crevasses and arrived at the steeper ice and mixed terrain around 8:15am.  What lay ahead was 150m of low angle ice and mixed climbing to the col proper. We simul-climbed and moved slowly on the soft and unconsolidated snow. From the col we began to rappel 200m to the west and for the first time saw the giant clean granite walls of the Circo de los Altares.

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Pete on the approach to the Standhardt Col with the west faces of the Fitzroy massif in the background

 

 

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Rappelling over the Standhardt Col

 

Our goal was to establish a new route on the west face of Punta Philip, a subsidiary peak of Aguja Bifida. Descending to the base of this wall proved more challenging than we anticipated. It involved squirrely down climbing of dirty ice and a few awkward rappels.

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Down climbing rotten ice

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The west faces of the Torres on the right and our objective Punta Philip the highest point on the left.

 

At 1:30pm we, finally, arrived at the base of this beautiful 800m wall. We ate food and scoped some potential lines. By 3:15pm Pete was leading the first pitch and we were happy to be in our comfort zone. We moved efficiently and by 10:30pm Pete had led 8 long pitches of new terrain on the west face of Punta Philip just South of the established route Su Patagonia that was established in 1996 by a group of Sardinians.

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Pete leading pitch one

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Pete traversing on pitch five with the Torres in the background

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Looking down half way up pitch 7. This was an amazing 60m finger crack that would go free at 5.12. For us it was still a stellar pitch at 5.11 AO!

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Looking up the same pitch

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Pete leading pitch 8

 

As the sun disappeared behind the snow capped mountains across the continental ice shelf we trundled some loose rocks and ice chunks from a small ledge and tried to clear out an area big enough for our small single wall tent. We ate mashed potatoes with cheese and were in the tent by 11pm. A very long and complex 17-hour day in the mountains.

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Standing in our tent on a little ledge on top of pitch 8

 

The alarm went off at 6:00am. A quick oatmeal and coffee session and soon I slipped on my climbing shoes and began my lead block. I led four pitches involving some scary steep climbing with massive loose blocks, as well as some moderate terrain and clean cracks. A short wide section brought me to the top of an isolated pillar. I put a cordellete around the summit and belayed Pete up to the anchor. We discussed the option of rappelling down the tower to the East and heading back up and south to hopefully end up on an established route to the summit. The terrain looked challenging, committing and difficult to reverse. Happy with our mini-summit we snapped a few photos and began our descent. We found the Su Patagonia rappel anchors and descended using them for four rappels. The original anchors from 1996 were in rough shape, so we backed them up with cord we had brought. We left their established descent line for a more direct descent and headed down and south towards the gear we had stashed at the base of the wall. Pete did a great job leading the rappels and we were happy to touch down at 1:30pm after a pretty straight forward descent by Patagonia standards.

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Day two leading pitch 11

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The top of pitch 12 was a sweet little summit. The Torres in the background

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Pete in the midst of many rappells

 

We took our harnesses off and lounged in the sun. The entire weather window had been extremely warm and the mountains were falling apart around us. Large seracs, rockfall, and ice fall were a constant and it was unnerving to be surrounded by such massive features that seemed to be growing increasingly less stable.

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getting artsy happy to be back on the ground

 

We made a decision not to retrace our steps back over the Standhardt col to Niponino and instead headed northwest across the Continental Ice Shelf to Paso Marconi. This route was about 50k and involved a lot of tricky down climbs, rappels and route finding.

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Heading towards the Ice Cap

 

We waited at the base of the walls until 9:30pm and began the trek back to civilization. First we had to descend to the continental ice sheet and it turned out to once again be more complicated than we had anticipated. A lot of down climbing low angle ice led to a final bergschrund. I tied our tag line around my waist as Pete settled into a small crevasse and prepared to give me a hip belay as I down climbed with tools and crampons to its lip. The plan was to down climb the 10 foot step and then belay Pete as he down climbed low angle rock around the side.

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Sunset on the Ice Cap

 

I got to the lip of the schrund and quickly discovered that it was severely overhanging. Feet dangling I hung from my tools and committed to a very uncomfortable lower with very cold water running into my pants. Once at the bottom I placed both pack packs at the base and Pete rigged a snow bollard to rappel off of. Pete batmaned down the tagline and we were soon alone on the continental ice sheet just as the moon was rising. A beautiful waxing gibbous illuminated the endless ice sheet enough that we did not turn on our headlamps.  It was absolutely wild to traverse this empty landscape alone and under the moon light. It was like being on a different planet. We headed first west and then north towards Paso Marconi. As the sun rose we took a 20 minute break and brewed some coffee. We had been up for 24 hours and we were still a long way from home! We marched on. Some exposed down climbing and some tricky glacier travel led us to the rolling alpine hills north of the Fitzroy Massif. We continued on slowly towards the closest road.

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A few hours in to a 15 slog!

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Sun is up and we are still walking

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Still walking….

 

30 hours into this mission I encountered a few cows in the trail. I was slightly ahead of Pete and stopped to admire these beautiful animals. There was a very large mom who seemed to be pregnant and a young cow together. I banged my trekking poles together to encourage them to move off of the trail. The next thing I knew the mom had turned to me, lowered her head and charged me at full speed! I backpedaled and stumbled a bit. Turning to run, the giant, angry momma was right on top of me. I leaped behind a tree and was about a half second away from being trampled. I quickly began to yell and present myself as a big scary creature. In reality, I was a terrified, confused and overtired climber! The cow backed off and waddled into the woods. Pete, who had witnessed this madness, and I quickly moved away from this area and continued the never ending march back home. This savage cow attack seemed too strange to be real! It all happened so fast and seemed so unbelievably random. For three very long days we had been managing all sorts of risks and hazards in the mountains but a charging cow was not one I had planned for.

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Almost home!

 

After 31.5 hours of being awake and about 15 hours of hiking over 50k we arrived at a road. We slumped our backpacks on the ground, took off our shoes and immediately laid down. I soaked my swollen and battered feet in the icy Rio de las Vueltas and closed my eyes. We rested for a short while as we waited for cars to drive by to give us a ride back to town where our little casita, real food and a hot shower awaited. We were tired, sore, stinky and hungry but extremely fulfilled and happy!

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Happy feet

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Sleepy Pete

 

We are pleased with our new route

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Our route is marked by the black line.

 

 

 

Grand Canyon

 

This past November I had the opportunity to float about 300 miles of the Grand Canyon with 15 wonderful people over the course of 22 days. It was with out a doubt one of the most incredible trips I have ever been on filled with big water, perfect weather, and a lifetime worth of laughter.

 

I have filled countless pages in my journal writing about the canyon walls and the mighty Colorado River. These powerful and ancient features will forever be etched in my mind. Sitting here in Maine a month after our trip, what I find myself thinking about is not the towering walls and the giant rapids, but the people whom I was lucky enough to share this adventure with. 

 

The Grand Canyon is the most powerful landscape I have ever seen. It’s magnitude and scale are humbling. I believe that the purity of this ancient landscape enabled our party to be ourselves in a way that is harder and harder to come by in this age of push button gratification and Twitter feeds. A stripped down, unfiltered and raw version of ourselves, void of distractions, minutia and fluff.

The Canyon let us truly shine.

 

Below are some of my favorite photos from our journey.

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Chip and Rachael making progress up stream in the beautiful Havasupai Creek.

 

 

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Bass Camp! Here we spent the most amazing Thanksgiving with a giant full moon and a feast of a similar size. I laughed and smiled so much on this particular night that all the muscles in my face were sore for days after.

 

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I saw more climbable rock in our 22 days than I had seen in my entire life. Any chance I had I would be monkeying around. It is not easy to move gracefully in a dry suit!

 

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Our 21st day was Chip’s birthday. He began the day by hiking this ducky up stream so he could re run a fun rapid in front of our camp. As he paddled by 15 of us all mooned him and yelled happy birthday. He rocked that wizard hat all day!

 

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More monkeying around.

 

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Some fun bouldering in North Canyon. A few of us tried this traverse and no one was able to make it across. Zack and Dane both went for an unintentional swim with their clothes on!

 

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Morgan smiled and giggled more than anyone I have ever met. I think it is her official language. Face paint and costumes were a big part of the trip, especially on big water days!

 

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Two hard hittin’ pandas singing about vegetables!

 

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Giggletown!

 

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Relaxing in the ducky. In total we had 5 rafts, 2 duckies, and 2 pack rafts.

 

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Rachael in Havasupai Creek

 

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The womb in North Canyon

 

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Each day we would go on little adventures or hikes into side canyons. Some of the side canyons were very technical and involved lots of rappelling. The canyoneering world is cool!

 

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This technical canyon decent involved about 900 feet of rappelling.

 

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We scouted all of the biggest rapids. The nervous energy before dropping into some of these monsters was palpable. The boatman became laser focused and everyone was on point. It was wild!

 

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Redwall Cavern was one of the greatest playgrounds I have ever seen. We danced and sang and played instruments. We climbed and ran and hucked horseshoes and bocce balls. We did acroyoga and we laughed!

 

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This side canyon involved a few rappels. The last one into the ducky which we used as a little water taxi to shuttle everyone to the other side of this pool. Surprisingly everyone stayed dry!

 

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On day 19 we ran Lava Falls. This is the biggest rapid on the river and I had never seen anything like it. All 5 boats made it through right side up and we all celebrated on tequila beach just below the rapid. This was the last major rapid of our trip and having it behind us was a huge relief to the boatman. Psyche was at an all time high! This shot is of Taylor Bones who was rowing the boat that I was on. So PSYCHED!

 

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Classic post Lava smile!

 

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I found this rubber bat on tequila beach. One of many treasures I found on the river!

 

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More post Lava smiles!

 

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A wonderful man in a wonderful outfit!

 

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These guys aren’t having any fun!

 

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When the sun went down the cats and zebras would feast on bananas! pretty standard…….

 

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Not a bad view from camp!

 

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blondes have the most fun…..

 

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Bouldering in Redwall Cavern

 

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The entire trip was like a wild adult summer camp!

 

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More side canyon goodness.

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This photo was taken on day 21, our last full day on the river. As you can see, we are all very sick of each other  and no one is having any fun!

 

Why Acadia is so Amazing!…

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A few days ago was my 31st birthday and I wanted to celebrate it by spending time with my girlfriend, Katy, and running around Acadia National Park!

I devised a multi-sport adventure that would include some of my favorite activities and thoroughly whoop our butts! What follows is a breakdown of our wonderful day!

After a big breakfast, we shouldered our backpacks loaded with food and climbing gear and biked from our home off of the Knox road to the route 3 put-in of North East Creek. Here, we had stashed Delmar.

Delmar is a heavily used 14-foot aluminum canoe that I purchased for pennies for an expedition to Newfoundland in 2008. One of the seats is made of duct tape and the entire thing is spray panted camo. It has seen better days…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Katy and I with Delmar bikes and gear in the back!

 

Once we arrived at the creek we loaded the bikes and our packs on to our red neck watercraft and began the beautiful paddle to the other end of the creek. After a few miles of perfect conditions the creek turned into a swamp and soon we were dragging Delmar through the muck and mud. By the time we reached the Crooked Road we were covered in slime, scratches, bug bites and mud. In a futile attempt to make a graceful exit of the canoe I managed to violently flip the entire rig and go for a swim! After bailing out Delmar and dragging her to the road we were met by our good friend and ACS guide Dane Sterba. We loaded the Canoe onto his car and arranged to meet him later in the mission!

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Delmar freighted down w bikes

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At first the creek was like this!…

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Soon it looked like this!

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Katy all smiles waist deep in the muck!

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Here is where I flipped the canoe and began the biking.

 

For the next leg of the adventure we biked to the South Wall (Precipice), which is my favorite climbing area on the island. Along the way we stopped at a yard sale and found some great treasures! (I love yard sales) I am not much of a biker and this soggy 12-mile trek on a rental bike was probably the hardest part of the day for me! Katy however, is a terrific biker and left me in the dust!

 

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Katy and I before she left me in the dust!

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Katy enjoying pitch 2 of Story of O

 

We stashed our bikes in the woods and hiked up to the base of the wall. We climbed the three-pitch classic Story of O and had a delicious lunch on the top! After some well deserved calories and some amazing views we rappelled back to the ground and were soon back on the bikes!

 

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Katy nearing the top of the climb

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The view from our elevated lunch spot!

 

We biked a few miles down the Park Loop Road to the Bee Hive Trail Head. Once again we stashed the bikes and did a quick trail run up and around the Beehive.

Back on the bikes we continued down the coast to Otter Cliffs. Here we once a gain met Dane. We gave him the bikes and he gave us back Delmar. We hiked Delmar down to Otter Cliffs and lowered her down the 60-foot face! This was quite the spectacle and certainly turned some heads. We did a little bit of climbing on some of the classics routes before throwing on our life jackets and hitting the high seas in Delmar!

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Delmar about to descend!

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Getting ready to rappell down to the girls…

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Katy cruising Yellow Wall at Otter Cliffs. Delmar below

 

We very carefully and slowly paddled north heading towards Great Head. We had an exciting landing on the rocky and rugged coast and stashed Delmar in the woods. We ran around the peninsula and arrived at the 100+ foot sea cliff. As per usual there was no one at the cliff and we casually climbed the 2-pitch classic Full Sail and quickly boogied back to the Canoe. We stashed our gear and ran down to Sand Beach. Here, we met Dane and we all ran screaming into the frigid ocean! It was a perfect ending to an amazing day! Well, I guess it wasn’t the end. We portaged Delmar and all of our stuff to the Great head parking lot and loaded everything into Dane’s car. We drove home, and arrived to a party! About 20 of our best friends were already at the house with tons of great food, drinks, and energy! We were pooped, but super psyched to spend the few remaining hours of daylight hanging and laughing with great friends!

 

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Katy and I happy to be on dry land! Otter cliffs the point of land in the back left.

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Katy, Delmar and the DTS (Duct Tape Seat)

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Running to Great Head!

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Great Head

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Katy on pitch 2 of Full Sail

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Psyched! the tiny boat in the background is actually a massive cruise ship!

 

Few places on the planet offer as much world-class recreational activities in such a small area. Sprinkle in great weather and some of the best people on the planet and you have a true paradise! I love this island so much and I am so very happy to call this place my home! A huge thanks to Dane for the logistical support and to Hanna for running the office, and to everyone else who helped make this past birthday the best one yet! And of course, a huge thanks to Katy for being so wonderful and for sharing this very special day with me!

Continuing Education

 I am super psyched to say that everyone of our guides have returned to Acadia for another year of guiding! I am certain that our 21st season will be the best year yet! 

Atlantic Climbing School Staff

Today five ACS guides are heading over to New Hampshire to take part in the ten day American Mountain Guides Association Rock Guide Course. This is an advanced guiding course that focuses on moving efficiently in a multi-pitch setting with multiple clients. The guides will certainly learn a ton and refine their skills in risk-management, industry standards, route finding, technical skills, terrain assessment, rescue scenarios, and client care. The course is being taught by two amazing instructors Alain Comeau and Art Mooney.newhireslarge

I am so happy to see such a great group of guides dedicated to continuing education, professionalism, and to ACS. We are all very excited for another great season and look forward to sharing the joys of climbing in Maine with all of you!

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Eli Simon on the first ascent of Band of Gypsies

 

A few years ago I was rappelling from the top of the route Sea Gypsy at the South Wall.  The rappel line descends through a beautiful pink headwall at the highest part of the cliff. As I lowered myself towards the next rappel anchor I carefully inspected a series of very tiny crimps that seemed to appear every four or five feet. It looked as if it might be possible to connect the dots and climb up this relatively blank face. It would certainly be a very tenuous climb, but it looked like it might be possible.

A few weeks ago, I once again found myself at the top rappel anchor with my good buddy and former ACS guide Nate Miller. He lowered me to the base of the wall and I tried, with out a lot of luck, to scratch and claw my way up the blank face on a top-rope. Slowly but surely we were able to piece together larger and larger sections of the climb. We visited this pitch on three more occasions over the course of a few weeks, and just a few days ago we were finally able to top-rope the entire pitch with out falling.

bolts

The Fixe hardware!

 

I submitted a proposal to the Acadia Climbing Advisory Group to add five bolts to this beautiful face. These bolts would provide protection in the areas where there were no options for traditions gear. My proposal was accepted and soon I had a Special Use Permit from the park to equip the route.

Nate Miller tightening a bolt

 

This morning was amazingly gorgeous. The sun shined on the head-wall and a cool breeze kept us a perfect temperature. It was an ideal day to be climbing, the type of day that makes me so unbelievably happy to call this island my home!

Nate plugging in a cam on the 2nd ascent of Band of Gypsies

 

 Once Nate and I were certain of the exact location for each bolt we bolted the line and each gave the pitch a good try on lead. I was able to huff and puff and claw my way to the chains but Nate fell on the last move!

 Establishing this new route with Nate has been such a wonderful process filled with lots of chalk, laughs, and sore fingertips! Our new route Band of Gypsies is a fantastic addition to one of the most amazing crags in the entire world!

Nate and Eli drillin'

All smiles at the South Wall!

The new Acadia guidebook is available!!!!

Eli Simon on Head Arete at Great Head in Acadia, Maine.It’s finally here!  The new guidebook – Rock Climbs of Acadia – is now available!

 

Written and published by ACS guide, Grant Simmons, this new guide provides descriptions for nearly 300 routes and 15 different climbing areas.  All of the classic climbs are there, plus many great lines that you’ve never heard of.  Detailed information will keep you climbing and beautiful photography will keep you inspired.

 

For more information, or to purchase a copy, visit www.rockclimbsofacadia.com.  Guidebooks will also be available in a number of locally owned outdoors shops in the New England area.

Yoga for guides

Yoga for GuidesBy Richard Parker:  ACS Guide, AMGA Rock Instructor & Certified Kripalu Yoga Instructor

A big part of managing life as a professional guide is staying healthy (mind, body, and spirit) to meet the demands of the work. Keeping the body flexible, balanced, and strong is generally not too tough for those in their 20’s. As folks move into their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, having an excellent program for strength and flexibility, injury prevention, and recovery becomes increasingly more critical. Yoga is a great way to keep you biologically young for decades, as well as help with stress reduction and with cultivating serenity, acceptance, and kindness.

Yoga…small “y”…large “Y”: Most people think of yoga (small “y”) as a series of postures (known as asanas) linked with breath that increase flexibility and strength and aid in managing stress. Yoga (capital “Y”) is an ancient system with ethics, breathing disciplines, and meditation techniques designed to advance one’s spiritual journey. Within the practice of Yoga, asanas play an important but secondary role. This post focuses on the physical practice and its specific benefits for guides. A subsequent article will expand to include discussion of breath work, meditation, and other possible benefits of Yoga.

Guiding produces specific and repeated motions that can lead to imbalance, injury, and reduction in the range of motion (ROM). Shortened hamstrings and restricted hips from repeated stepping upward (climbing, skinning, and approaching), drooping and rounded shoulders and rounded upper back from carrying heavy loads, painful elbows, wrists, and fingers from too much crimping, moving rope, and hanging on to ice axes while placing screws, strained necks from looking down (or up) and coaching while belaying, tweaky lower backs from leaning forward in skiing and sliding into poor posture as the long day of work extends…this is just a start to a list that I am certain many of us could easily add to.

I have yet to meet someone who said, “it sure would be great if I could be more tight!” As we teach our clients every time we guide, efficient movement and technique is crucial in technical terrain, and flexibility is a key to this. We are all looking for flexibility because flexible muscles are strong, resilient, and provide our joints with a full ROM, and, yes, tight muscles are the opposite: weak, vulnerable, and limit the ROM. Stretching while breathing mindfully not only lengthens muscles and makes them supple, it is also helps muscles recover from stress by increasing blood flow. A key to asana practice is not to force muscles to lengthen, not to use one muscle group against another but to relax, breathe, and allow the muscles to open. Attempts to push generally lead to injury or stagnation.

By stretching specific muscle groups in a systematic and balanced way, a regular asana practice can effectively help avoid or diminish the effects of repeated stress and imbalance. I look for heart opening poses and back bends to address tight shoulders and lumbar compression, hip openers like lunges and pigeon pose to address tight hamstrings, psoas, hip flexors, quadriceps, and calves, arch stretches for stressed feet, chaturangas (low push up) and hand/arm balances to add some pushing to counter the pulling that dominates climbing and moving rope, inversions to help the legs flush out toxins and allow for easy lymphatic fluid return, core exercises to strengthen the muscles that support all motion and especially the lower back, and very careful attention to the neck to address “belayer’s neck”. I also add balancing poses to bolster this key skill and exercise the proprioceptive (body awareness) sense of feet, ankles and legs, etc.

American Mountain Guide and Instructor Pool member Art Mooney has been a proponent of Yoga for many years: “My practice of yoga began over ten years ago. At that time I found myself feeling sore, overall stiffness, and injured at times. I needed flexibility and thought yoga would help. Yoga was originally intended to increase my overall flexibility which would reduce injuries. Since then I have found a consistent practice of yoga offers many other benefits. Flexibility is certainly one big benefit, but I also noticed my focus, power, breathing, and alignment all improved. With all these yoga benefits I am much more in tune with my physical body and I have taken climbing/guiding movements to a higher level. As a working mountain guide, yoga helps me wind down from a tough day or multiple days at work. The practice of centering and leaving all the guiding work and business behind is truly the way to clear and refresh the mind. After a yoga practice I feel refreshed and ready for another day in the mountains.”

What is the best way to get started? Find a certified and experienced teacher, and my bias would be to look for a teacher with an athletic background who understands the physical demands of your work. Take your time in finding a teacher and a style that suits you. It is important to learn the basics from a teacher to avoid injury, and injuries come easily to beginners, especially when one brings a competitive attitude and one chooses an aggressive style of asana practice. Once you have learned how to safely and effectively practice, it can be time to shift more to a home practice, which saves money, makes it easier to squeeze in a practice, and you can be guided specifically by what you need as opposed to what a teacher is offering on a given day. To see true gains in flexibility, try to commit to at least 2-3 sessions a week (daily is best), even if these sessions are at home (or while camping!) with a book or a video for 10-20 minutes at a time.

Noted Yoga teacher Erich Shiffman said, “Yoga creates symmetry through your whole body, making you strong and flexible in a balanced way. It also teaches you to balance the mental impulse to push, control, and be assertive with the complementary impulse to yield, surrender and be passive.” Try to avoid thinking of asana practice as a time to gain strength, and focus on the flexibility, balancing, and recovery benefits. This does not mean that there are not some opportunities to enhance strength through asanas, but specifically work on strength for climbing elsewhere.

Thanks to Richard Parker for this piece introducing the benefits of yoga for professional guides. A climbing guide since 1977, Richard is a certified Rock Instructor and certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher. In the next installment look for discussion of the benefits beyond the physical and for specifics about breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. In addition, I will provide guidance on how to build your own, balanced asana practice to do at home. In the meantime consider using the transition between the fall and winter to get started by taking some classes and establishing a regular routine. Feel free to be in touch if I can be of any help: rlparker78@gmail.com.