Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Today's Ice/mixed conditions in SWPA

Here are a few "current conditions" photos from the various ice/mixed climbing locations around Southwestern PA. Most things are thin, but climbable. The cooler temps are building ice fast!

Secret Cliffs I - left phto is of lower tier with its delaminated topout, A much more solid upper tier is pictured in the right photo.

Secret Cliffs II - Overivew of cliff conditions in left photo. Central area is shown in the right photo. Conditions looking promising. Central climbs are in and looking good. Quite a bit dripping going on. Called on account of Security is IN and looking fatter than ever. Left of Central area (Beast Wall) is just about connecting down. the lowdown L to R: Monsta - OUT, The Beast - OUT, Son of Beast - IN (very thin), Frankenstein - IN. Central Area - IN, Final Obligation - IN, The Awakening - IN, Curtain - OUT (Wet and questionable attachment at lip), Called on Account of Security - IN, The Corner - IN, The Sick-le - ALMOST.

South Connellsville Rod & Gun Club - Left photo of Laura Hahn below a very uniced Internet Connection. Right photo is Main flows. L to R Cave Shot, NRA, Longshot. Caveshot would take short screws and protect. The other 2 - OUT

Also checked, but not photographed was lower Meadow Run. I'm happy to report that there's much more ice than a few days ago. The Main flow should be good for those looking to find climbable ice this upcoming weekend. Also on a positive note, the long term forcast looks very promising for building ice.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas rains bring drytooling ambitions

Christmas day Slammed the local ice. The 40+ degreees and rain were devastating. The ice delaminated, the locked in tundra turned to mush. All bad things! Well as a last minute plan, Joel Toretti who had planned a trip to VT for the weekend, bagged the idea of heading north for the rainfest. So we made the best of the warm 40+ degrees for some drytool training. Joel, Laura and I met and decided to head to Ohiopyle for some picking and scratching. We first made a trip to the Upper Meadow amphitheater to look at the steeeep cave feature. We managed to get about halfway up one of the lines to the right side. Quite a bit loose rock to be found. Very steep and pumpy, we each took 2 burns on the new line. It still awaits an ascent. After our attempts at Upper Meadow, we went downstream to Lower. We all three tooled around on the various lines, Anger Management, Season Finale and var., we also rigged up the overhang to the left of Season Finale. Which is a short but stout technical route that Joel and I managed to get up. It was Laura's first day out after taking an illness absence for several days. She climbed well with her most impressive showing on the left Var to Season Finale. All in all it was a great day out in unreal "ice" conditions. The 10 day forcast looks very promising and should have the ice lines firmed back up to a climbable state. The annual New Years Climbing Resolution should have ice this year. We'll wait and see.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Local Ice Conditions

A few pics of the local ice taken today...

My Christmas present!

Revisiting Captain Cave Man M7+

Several days ago I heard from Joel Torretti. Joel is a talented PA ice/rock climber that moved away for several years and recently returned to PA and is living up near State College. He was looking to get out and do some tooled climbing. He was excited to be making his first outing of the season. He made the 2.5 hour drive down to our neck of the woods to see what we could do. We checked out the conditions at several of the local areas, SCII and the So. C'ville rod and gun club. Both being not of great condition, we opted to go check out Lower Meadow Run in Ohiopyle. Not to my surprise, the ice was dismal for pure ice climbing. Not a big deal, we opted to get on the great mixed lines. We started on Anger Managment M5 as our warm up. After pumping on that one, Joel tried the obvious "project" line out the center of the cave. Still a project and to all who have tried it, you know why... The next climb we go on was Captain Caveman M7+ a new line that I TRed at the end of last season in much fatter conditions. Joel went first solving the near iceless start to the line. He made it up through the opening moves only to have a crampon slip of and send him into the air. He passed the rope and I tied in for my attempt. I was happy to see Joel smooth the bottom moves (I was a little uncertain that it would go with so little ice). I moved up through the opening making it to the large ledge on the left. I was happy to throw a heel and get a rest. I proceeded to make my way up through the overhanging rockband to the much appreciated ice. The top posed the problem that it was delaminating from the rock like mad. I gently made my way through this section using various dry moves as well as several very insecure ice sticks. I was glad to get it first go. It took me several days of work to get it last year (in much fatter conditions). Joel tied in and took a second go working through the moves and getting a good pump in the process. After our goes on CCM, we went over and did a few laps each on the ever fun Season Finale M6. It was a blast revisiting Captain Cave Man with Joel. Since getting it no falls, first go on TR, I'm really motivated to give it a whirl on the sharp end before it gets wired. Possibly this upcoming week I'll grow a set and do it. I'll be sure to post how it goes. It was a great day climbing with an old friend, I look forward to many great days out this season.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SCII - conditions looking pretty ok

SCII conditons on Friday Dec. 11 - We drove to the parking area, hiked in and shot photos of the conditions. Wow, it never ceases to amaze me how fast the ice comes in here. Just the previous day I went to check conditions and there was ice, but not that much. By now I shouldn't be surprised at the amount of ice here as it is some of the biggest, earliest and most reliable ice in PA. Next weekend I'm sure the lines will be in great condition and we'll be picking our way up old favorites. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that with a little luck and some kindness from the weather I'll get an early season crack at the FFA of The Sick-le my long standing project! I first climbed it via top rope early in the 2006/2007 season after visiting climber Joel Toretti and I scoped it out from afar in late season 2005/2006. The fickle, Sick-le has been eluding me year after year. Then in Feb. 2008 after another in and out PA ice season, I was bolting the mixed section and checking the solidity. I was under the gun to get on or wait another year. I had just put a bolt in and kicked the monster to knock down the dangerous daggers near the bottom of the main sicle. A loud creak and the massive free hanging SICK-LE itself came crashing down a mere foot from my face while hanging from the rope. The decision was made for me, it was not to be climbed that season. The fall and explosion was massive and I was glad to NOT get on (crushed). Makes all that little rockfall most rock climbers experience seem trivial by far... Videographer Ray Burnsworth caught most of it on video. While a short video was edited for our personal viewing. Rayman willing, the whole spectacle will be put out for viewing after the FFA. Check out Ray's webpage to see various footage of SWPA climbing and more.

Above photo: Laura checking on our local playground of 100'-200'+ lines at SC II. The Sick-le is the last large flow on the right end.

Bicycle approach to Confluence ice flows

Went out to check conditions at Confluence and SCII yesterday. We loaded up our bikes and gear and left the house around 7am. We decided to ride our bikes into Confluence to check conditions and possibly do some dry-tooling. I figured the ice would be a no-go since it hasn't been that cold very long. Since we hadn't had snow, the bike ride seemed like the logical way to get the flat 2.25 miles on the Rail/trail out of the way quicker. This only left the 800+ vertical gain up the hillside to the old quarry wall. It was the coldest morning of the season (about 12 degrees) I've never ridden my bike in mountaineering boots, but it worked out well. We took the ride slow and made it to the hike in about 10min. The sun was out, but it didn't seem to make it any warmer. Riding in sure did save the legs for the hill climb. It was about the easiest its ever felt. The hillside was frozen solid with a slight crust of snow in some areas. We saw the tracks of someone from what I would guess was the day before checking conditions or just trying to locate the ice. The tracks disappeared by the top of the hill and we didn't see any sign of them walking around near the ice, so maybe they didn't make it to the ice. Confluence has been an elusive place for many people to find. I've heard stories of folks hiking around for 7 hrs trying to find the place (they paid and were being guided believe it or not). Well we made it to the cliff, and as I expected the wall had ice in many places, but was in the process of being washed out due to all the water run off. Confluence, for the most part is one of the least reliable places to climb in the region. It gets direct sun and melts out very quickly. It also has old mine openings at the bottom that spew warm air up under the ice and causes it to melt out from the backside. We thought we would be able to check out some dry tooling possibilities, but there was soooo much water running, that it would've been completely miserable to even try to give anything a go. We hung out for about 30min. watched tons of ice fall on every line and decided to head back to the car. On the way out, we stopped at the old stone walls near the bottom of the hill to pick around for a minute and shoot some photos. We made the ride out and decided to go check conditions at SCII.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Well... here it is Dec. 8th and the ice still hasn't made an appearance. I guess its a good thing though. I've had a great climbing season this year. We managed to get out on the rock about 95 days. Mix that with the winter climbing last Jan, Feb and March and we had well over 100 days of climbing, I'd say more like 125. My girlfriend Laura and I did a lot of development and work at Ohiopyle State Park. The park officially granted permission to climb there this season. It was the beginning of what will become a popular SWPA destination. I really enjoyed seeing everyone come and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We met several new climbers as well as saw many old faces. About a month ago Laura and I started a training program consisting of hang boards, free weights, running, etc. It has really been beating me up. I know this is normal and I keep telling myself its going to improve my climbing, but it doesn't make me feel better mentally. I like to feel strong, rested and ready to go. I'm a little anxious of the upcoming ice/mixed season and the balance between training and climbing. I want to continue to train for spring rock, but at the same time currently perform well with my crampons and tools. We went out for a little dry tooling last wed. at Meadow Run (No ice to be found). We were very limited on time, so we only managed 2 laps each on Season Finale. I'm not sure how much more I could've done. I have to attribute my poor climbing due to training. I've read many successful climbers training tips and most say that during a cycle don't expect to climb well. They are right! Hopefully the upcoming cold snap and frozen drips will have me motivated well beyond my battered body's abilities right now!


Welcome to the start of my climbpa blogsite. I hope to share many climbing adventures. I've lived in PA my entire life... All 37 years. I've been climbing rock and ice for the last 16 years. Mostly I've done as much as I can to share with others the climbing resources found in Southwestern Pennsylvania.