Monday, December 27, 2010

After Christmas climbing

I ended up climbing the day after Christmas.  I was supposed to work, but in the A.M. I started receiving calls from everyone that they were going climbing.  I couldn't resist... I packed my gear and set off to go climbing.  We had a great day.  It was 14 degrees very windy and snowing.  I'll give a quick recap of the days events and throw in a few photos.  Mike Royer had an exciting day with an inverted lead fall on the pillar right of G-Gully.  No injuries and in good fashion, he got collected, went up and finished the climb.  Joel Toretti got on an impressive line to the left of Called on Account of Security.  Here's some photos of Joel in action.
Joel starting up his new line, Check out the early season formations

Joel mid route  (climbing, loving life, sheltered from the wind)
photog. freezing my ass off, not climbing, so I could take pics of Joel!

Hollow ice underneath?
I wasn't there 5 min until Joel started trash talking, so I had to finish The Awakening WI5 for him.  The route is currently in good condition with some delicate hooks near the top on marginal screws.  The rest of our crew enjoyed some top rope action on various other lines.   Chip Kamin's son Jason was in town for the holidays and got to enjoy some great on ice action with his dad.

What a great way to spend Christmas in SWPA.

Jason top roping Final Obligation WI5
   On a final note, After posting a pic of Joel climbing on NEice, I received a call from Ian out in Montana saying that the gems he's been seeking are in some serious avalanche danger zones and that we've got it good back here in the east.  I have to agree Ian and for your enjoyment heres the good stuff in its current condition.  Hope to see you and Josh this winter!

Mmmmmmm quality mixed!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Irishtown Mixed Route, Dirty-T M4+

Laura Hahn seconding the new route Dirty-T M4+
Laura and I put up a new mixed line at Irishtown.  Its located  a hundred feet or so left of Dynamite.  There is a line of ice in between the two mixed lines named Pale Wildwood Ice Tower - WI4.  Its not quite in yet, but should be touching down by mid next week.   Dirty T M4+.  It climbs up through some ledges and face passing 3 bolts.  Climb up through a small overlap to the ice and finish it up with turf to the trees.  Lots of fun climbing for almost anyone.  Great introduction for the climber looking to combine rock and ice.

Pulling up onto the ice

Top of the ice section

Turf to the top
 The route name came from all the dirt that came off of the cliff and ended up all over me.  It started out with me being clean and the route being dirty and ended with me being dirty and the route being clean.  Enjoy!

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Ancient ice tool used by the Irishtownian ice climbing tribe 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ohiopyle (Meadow Run) Conditions

Today I stopped to check conditions at Lower and Upper Meadow Run today.  Overall, Lower Meadow is looking bleak.  The short supply of ground water is keeping the ice from forming here.  Good news is that there IS ice forming on the start to an awesome looking route that I've tried several times over the years.  Its in the middle of the overhang between Anger Management (L) and Captain Caveman (R).  It comes out the steepest, longest part of the roof.  The seep coming down the short face below the roof is almost ready for some action.  I think by next week this line will be ready to try.  Please don't knock down the icicle that is almost connected to the Rhodie.  This is the start to the route.

Just about ready to go.  Next weeks line?
The rest of the lines are looking thin, but as you can see in the picture, the finish to Anger Management is looking great for any aspiring senders.  Now is the best time to do it.  Captain Caveman is also in great condition, but the extension hanger isn't formed up enough to support body weight.  Soon enough.

Hemlock is looking thin, but climbable after a thin start.

Walking up to the thin start of Hemlock WI3
The Main pillar is in horrible shape for the amount of cold that we've had.  I wouldn't recommend it to anyone at this point.  Don't waste your time if you're planning on coming here to climb the normal ice lines, they don't exist yet.

On a positive note.  Upper Meadow Run is looking very good so far.  The School Yard has a very nice flow for most everyone.  Its forming an nice gully runnel just to the right of the normal ice lines.  It appears to be thick enough for any length screws.  Get it while its good.  Here's a photo of School Yard area.

The "NEW" right runnel that usually doesn't form
The steep mixed climbs in the cave are good for dry tooling, but the ice doesn't appear to be long enough for body weight or use.  So if you're into the upside down antics give it a little more time and they should be good for some tries.  Above all, the best part of climbing at Upper Meadow is how beautiful the area is.  Come out to Southwestern PA for some great winter climbing.

The beautiful setting at Upper Meadow Run with the Amphitheater on the right

Another photo looking out of  the cave

First real day on ice

Sunday we spent the day at our favorite ice playground.  We were joined by Dr. Bob, Regina, Felipe, Chip and several others.  The weather was reasonable holding at about 10 degrees with some snow showers throughout the day.
Everyone eyeing the conditions
Routes are coming  in nicely, but most big lines need a little more time.  The crew decided to drop top ropes on G-Gully WI4+, Final Obligation WI5 and Son of Beast WI5+.  Everyone enjoyed pumping out and running laps on the early season, steep, candlesticked lines.

While the others rigged ropes, etc.  Laura and I started our season with Called on account of security WI4.  Its currently in very nice condition and but took mostly short screws. This year, there's even some ice at the start making it easier than its usual rock start.  Here are a few photos that I took of Laura on our first ice route of 2010/11. We both enjoyed the line very much.  Apparently Laura really had fun as she was giggling and smiling as she reached the anchors.

From the belay, Laura coming up Called on account of security WI4

Further up the route - Called on account of Security WI4

Final lip of Called on account of Security WI4
By next weekend we should have some really steep filled in lines.  We all had a blast despite Felipe's tooth incident.  Good Luck on your climbing trip to Thailand Felipe.  Hope your tooth is OK.  See you when you get back.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dynamite M6 First Ascent

Putting work into Dynamite M6

Recently I wrote about a mixed climb that I had top roped last season.  It was a fun line that I thought was worth investing some time and effort into.  In recent days I spent some time equipping the route and giving it a few tries with State College climber and friend Joel Torretti.  Early season and tired arms shut me down several times.  With a night of rest I managed to get it.  This new climb at Irishtown crag in Dunbar is now officially named Dynamite and is roughly M6.  Yesterday my faithful partner Laura accompanied me to video, belay and motivate me for the send.  With several days pump and some sheer determination I sent.   I decided to put a short clip together to show everyone the climb.  I hope this motivates more folks to come join in the great winter climbing that Southwestern PA has to offer.  This is my first ever attempt at doing any video work, so any feedback is appreciated.  click here and enjoy the clip!

My newly created helmet art

Tomorrow should be an incredible day.  Its Laura and my first day back at the local big ice playground.  Laura and I are so excited to get our first pure ice day in (maybe).  Rumor has it that ice climbing hardman and old buddy Chip Kamin will be joining us for some tool swinging at some of the biggest local ice he's ever climbed.  Dr. Bob, Regina, Felipe, Laura and myself are planning for some big fun on the best looking early season ice in 10 years.  Of note, last year I witnessed an incredible mixed line form that I hadn't seen in other years.  If its in tomorrow, I think I may have to investigate.  Stay tuned for the details!

Projected corner line (last season)  -  Ohhhh, Ahhhhhhhh!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Local crag feature "Irishtown" past and present

Well the start of the winter season 2010/11 is underway and slowly I'm getting back into the groove of using tools and crampons on rock and ice again.  Like with most previous local seasons, our first few days are spent scratching around on dismal ice, but mostly rock.  Yes the cold has hit the Laurel Highlands and the ice is building fast, but the mixed climbing is our best option right now and getting even better.  We really haven't seen many climbers out yet, but I'm sure this weekend will have ice climbers out at the easy access crags.  With the early season mixed climbing in such good shape, I've decided to try to increase the amount of opportunity for ice climbers to try their hand at the abundance of mixed options we have in the area.  I decided to revisit a climb that I top roped last season at a local crag named Irishtown.  I've dubbed the route Dynamite. It's located on the lower wall at Irishtown.
equipping the route "Dynamite" at Irishtown
You can see footage of the climb at the end of this short Irishtown video by Ray Burnsworth of Wildfilm productions.  Its the last climb of the clip.  Now all you young whippersnappers don't be laughing too hard at the vintage '90s climbing attire.  This clip shows some of the ice at Irishtown and the above route is located on the lower cliff (the first of the two walls.)
This crag is an old abandoned Limestone mine that seeps water out over the front forming several nice lines.  There is a lower and upper wall.  The lower wall is obvious, but the upper wall is reached by going right of the lower wall and following the trail to the upper wall.  Its about a 5min. walk.  The center of the Lower Wall is highlighted by an old mine opening, with many mean looking daggers hanging off the lip.  Use Caution - The warm air seeping out of the mine prevents the solid attachment of the sickles hanging over the mouth.  THEY FORM AND FALL CONTINUALLY all season long, so be careful!  Since it's an old quarry/mine and some of the rock isn't the best quality, it makes for a fun mixed and drytooling crag when other ice isn't fully formed.  There are several pure ice lines which have been the main attraction of this crag in past years.  Just to the right of the quarry opening is the ice route Mouth of Madness WI4-5.  One of the earlier climbs of the cliff which was first climbed via top rope in the mid '80's.  Not until recent years have the mixed options become so apparent.  This season I hope to establish some new bolted mixed climbs to expand the options at this fun roadside crag.  Another quality line at the main cliff is called The Prow 
WI3+,M4.  Its located to the right of Mouth Of Madness.  It ascends several shorter vertical sections before pulling through the rock. Finishes at the trees.  You can also traverse left and finish that way if the overhanging rock intimidates you.  I highly recommend this line.
Laura Hahn seconding The Prow WI4- M4  Feb2010
The Prow's conditions today
Myself on the Prow '09-'10 season
  One of the most common email questions I receive is: I'm a newer ice climber, where do you recommend I go?  Irishtown is a great choice.  The Upper tier is home to several nice, (but short 15'-30')  WI 3 to 3+ routes that are usually easy to top rope or great for a newer leader to get their feet wet.  Here's a few photos of their condition as of today.
The main central flow of the upper Irishtown wall
Some short mixed options exist on the upper wall as well
The rightmost flow of the upper Irishtown wall
There you have it a brief introduction to Irishtown.  By this weekend most lines should be in reasonable shape for this time of year.  So come out to Southwestern PA and enjoy cragging at Irishtown.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday 12/11 conditions check

Here's a few photos from our drive to check conditions.  38° and sunny.  Tommorrow calls for rain.  Then the temps are to drop into the teens and single digits again.  Season is underway.

Overview of local conditions

Early season taunting of the SICK-le

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 2 of the Season

After a day of rest, I decided to head back to Meadow Run and take on some more early sesaon punishment.  We pulled into the lot and were greeted by Regina and Felipe a newer partner of Regina's that had only been on ice 2 previous days at the end of last season. 

Phillipe and Regina enjoy some pre climbing nourishment
We spent the day on a new line to the right of Hemlock.  It had a rock start up until the end of the route which has a short easier section of ice.  Its seemed to be a nice warmup line and I think will make a nice addition to the numerous routes at this easy access crag.  We then moved onto Season Finale which went pretty smooth, then Laura and I each took a turn on Main Pillar right which was mostly verglas and rock moves up to a final short pillar.  Laura then took a lap on the Main Pillar left, which Regina and Phillipe were running laps on.  Laura smoothed it. I finished my day by taking a run on Captain Caveman.  Again the climb went smoother than expected.  The final curtain isn't very well formed, which makes the exit moves considerably easier than when the curtain is low enough  to get on.  I took out most of the serious daggers and by next weekend it should be in good shape. 

NOTE:  The fixed draws on all Lower Meadow Run routes were nabbed over the summer, so  make sure to bring draws if you're planning on doing these lines.

Some Random Photos
Phillipe - third ice day ever
Regina enjoying her first day of the season
Wake up Timmy... Time to climb

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ice season '10/11 begins

The warm months have come and gone. I've spent most of the year running countless miles, mostly on the scenic 75+ mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. I ran all over and all distances.  Some of the miles were in races but most were run for the freedom it provides and the incredible wilderness experiences.  It was the first year I spent doing nothing but running.  It seemed strange not spending every spare moment seeking out my vertical fix,  to make a long boring story short, it turned out to be a necessary break and made my hunger for winter climbing season greater.  Here we are on the verge of winter and I couldn't be more excited.

Today Laura and I decided to kick off the winter climbing season and headed to Ohiopyle State Park to clear the cobwebs and get a quick refresher on how to use ice tools. We spent a few hours taking a thrashing on the standard routes in very lean conditons.  Seems there isn't much water flowing which in turn isn't prouducing much ice.  There is no ice to be had at the start of Season Finale, while the Main flow, Hemlock and the others are slowly building and coming into shape.  This weekend will only provide slim mixed pickings for those itching to get out.  By next weekend, there should be climbable ice for all along Meadow Run.  We were going to check Upper Meadow, but got distracted and completely forgot.  Random photos of our day.

Laura crossing the bridge for the first time of the season

Myself below the iceless start to Season Finale

Laura on Anger Management

After Ohiopyle, we drove to Irishtown to see what we could find.  Here's the photo report.

Main flow still very thin

Dynamite M6 looks about ready

The Prow coming in nicely

One of this years projects???

O'Yeah I forgot to metion we checked out some ice yesterday as well.  I know we're not as lucky as most of the state and don't have much good ice climbing, but this is what we've got so far.  I guess it'll have to do.  The temperature at the parking area was 16°, less the ten degree difference to the bottom which made it about 6° above there yesterday and it sure felt like it.  The wind was ripping which should help to improve things a bit.

Left End 12/7/10 SW Pennsylvania

Overview of the Cliffs

Laura my ice princess was pleasantly surprised

A happy ice climbing couple.  Hope to see you this season!

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's still ice season here! but for how long?

Went out at the crack of dawn to check conditions.  We still have plenty of ice (currently).  The next 5 days forcast to be really warm.  Not sure if  it'll hold to the weekend, but we'll see.  If there's ice we'll be climbing.  Here's a few photos of our outing this morning.

Sunrise through the forest

Laura ready to hike in, 22° and crust packed snow

Snowshoeing in.  Still 3'+ of snow under the packed surface

Walking down into the left wall.  Best overall shot we got this am.

Still lots of snow under there as I quickly learned

Please stay in, just a few more days.

Enjoying some "bouldering", couldn't resist!

That's the report on what it looked like today.  The past several weeks we've hardly seen any other climbers out despite the great late season conditions. We (L and I) know the end is near, but we're not ready to give up just yet!

 To our fellow ice climbers:  we hope you got out and enjoyed the great season we've had here this year in SWPA.  Laura and I had a great time climbing with friends old and new.  Thanks everyone for the great sesason and memories!  To our ice friends... see you next winter! To our rock friends... see you in a few days after we put the ice season to bed!