Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is winter season over in SWPA?

There's still ice at Upper Meadow.
If you don't mind it being a little detached.
Here's what's left of the Schoolyard climbs.
The warm weather sure has put a hurting on our local ice.  The winter season has ended for most local tool swinging folks, but Laura and I have been making the most of the ice still left.  The recent below freezing temps and snowfall has helped to prolong our climbing just a bit.  We thought all hope was lost, but low and behold we squeezed in a few more days of winter climbing since my last post.  We spent a few days at Lower Meadow Run in Ohiopyle.  Up until yesterday most of the mixed lines were still climbable.  Many of the lines are running with a lot of water.  Anger Management was in great condition and offered great dry tooling up to the plastic ice at the finish.  We managed to climb Season Finale via the direct ice start in the AM only to see most of it come down by afternoon.  Yesterday was the last day we climbed.  There may be a little left, but I wouldn't expect much.  If you're like us and don't want to hang up the tools just yet, get dry tooling.  We've got plenty of great choss climbing around to keep your forearms pumped until next season.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Early Valentine's Day for us

Laura and I wanted to keep with our tradition of Valentine's day ice climbing, but the temps were already up to 45° today and tomorrow is calling for warmer and rain as is the rest of the week.  We decided to make Valentines day come early this year.  We headed out to see if we could get one last day of some big ice lines.  Our intentions were to climb The Beast and possibly a new mixed gear line on the right side of the cliff that we noticed last week.  It follows a fracture line up a blank steep wall for 40' to a flow that continues up another 90' or so to the large Called on Account of Security ledge.   Well we went straight to The Beast to see if the bottom 30' came in enough to get on it.  It actually got worse since last week, but I was willing to investigate.  I started walking towards bottom of the climb to see what I could make happen with the  unconnected pencil pillars, when all of a sudden I hear some rockfall.  5 or 6 large basketball sized boulders were plummeting towards earth in Laura's direction.  I barely had time to yell "RUN" and Laura had already noticed the panic in my eyes.  She took off like a bullet away from the cliff. All I heard was the loud THUD sounds made by the rocks hitting the ground behind us.  I was having flashbacks to a day we had at The Gun club several years ago when the large upper tier collapsed and showered us with an enormous amount of ice, large ice.  I was extremely lucky to walk away with only some serious deep tissue damage and Laura with a huge bruise on her ass.  We could have easily been killed by any number of chunks that came down that day.  I still question how we made it through the shower without being pummeled.  We stood there for a few minutes, debating if this was worth trying.  More debris was falling every minute or so.  I debated alternate starts, but all across the cliff it was raining rockfall.  Not the little scree stuff that falls at the end of season.  We're talking blocks.  The air temperature was rising quick and making things worse.  Since this was our Valentine's Day climb,  we decided to stay a couple a little longer and abandon this wall and try one of the others.  We hiked back up to Central and looked down to the right watching things fall all over.  Our new mixed line was a seam strewn with smaller chunks and blocks that are usually held together by the ice.  It was out of the question as water was now running down the seam assuring us that all the rock in the crack were rendered useless for protection.  We were determined to get our V-day climb in so we just picked the biggest, driest, safest line we could find.  It was so worth it.  I climbed the line enjoying the funky 3D climbing and fresh ice this weeks cold weather formed.  I finished the pitch and built an anchor to bring Laura up.  She was grinning from ear to ear up until the crux.  For that section she had a little more intent look and even called out a rare "watch me".  She pulled through without hanging and finished in great style.  We enjoyed the view from the top for a moment and quickly returned to to the ground to head out before we pushed our luck too far and ruined our V-day climb by one of us getting crushed.  It was still early, so we opted to head to Ohiopyle.

Laura enjoying our Valentine's day climb here in SW PA

The belay offered a nice angle for photos
So much fun climbing ice together, Laura lovin' it!

Smiling through most of it!

My happy girlfriend, the worlds greatest climbing partner.
Happy Valentine's Day
Ohiopyle was interesting to say the least.  We walked to the top of the Upper Meadow area.  To our amazement we didn't see any ropes set up.  I started to walk towards the top of the climbs to peer down.  All of a sudden a tool with a rope attached to it came flying up over the top towards an exposed root.  A guy was tossing the tool towards the root with the intentions of hooking it to assist him through the last several melting out moves.  Crazy bathook antics for sure!
You can see the tool laying on the root ahead of my left foot.
We watched for a few minutes before deciding to leave before the sky started falling!   All in all it was a great day and we fulfilled our Valentine's day climbing! (a day early)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Plastic ice, bluebird skies and a good day of winter climbing!

Behind the ice climbs at Upper Meadow Run, natural lighting.

Winter climbing?  It really didn't feel like winter as we stood in the Upper Meadow Run amphitheater in Ohiopyle state park.  The warm sun felt good on the face and made for very pleasant climbing.  Laura has been sick for the past week and seemed to pass it on to me over the last couple days.  She's getting better and I'm now feeling achy and congested. We'd been watching the weather and realized that the end is drawing near and decided to get after it while the getting is good, despite health.  The forecast isn't looking that great in the near future.  Temps are going to begin to rise and stay above freezing for quite a few days.  The ice has been building at an amazing rate since last weekends warm up but this is what I'm assuming is the beginning of the end.  Next week may be all we get before the ice becomes unclimbable.  Get out and enjoy the great ice here in SWPA this weekend.  It may be your last opportunity. 

I'm so glad we decided to go out.  What a great day of climbing!  The warm sun, Ibuprophin and cough drops made the temporary improvements necessary for me to enjoy the day.  We started our day off by climbing The Schoolyard pillar which was in great shape on the shaded side.  It was very smooth, unlike the chopped out front.  The upper section was beat on by the sun and made for little to no protection on slush covered, melted out ice (glad the climbing was easy) up to the Hemlock.  Laura seconded enjoying the fantastic ice on the pillar.  
Looking down from the belay
Laura finding the "good ice" in the shade
 FYI, I've recently placed a rap anchor on the hemlock at the top of the Schoolyard climbs to reduce wear on the tree from everyone pulling the rope after rapping, please do not take the anchor and ring  If you need one email me and I'll find a way to get some to you.  Enjoy!   

Since I was feeling down and Laura was up, she had the opportunity to run quite a few practice laps on the various pillars climbing one tooled, no tooled, etc. to improve footwork and increase efficiency.  She had a blast climbing to her hearts content for quite a while.
Laura climbing one tooled, ala Jeff Lowe
With the weather situation looking grim, I figured time was precious.  I managed to summon up the energy to get on the project again today.  I've been on it about 5 times this season and have been making good progress.  Here's some photos Laura took of the route today.

Ray Burnsworth of Wildfilms showed up later in the day to film
a little ice to start
off the ice and starting the business 
feels steep at this point
Its a short but powerful line
tool toe cam
moving after the "rest"
exiting onto the pillar
Finishes up on the U.M.P.
After climbing I rapped and left a top rope rigged on the U.M.P. (upper meadow pillar) for Laura to climb.  She tied in started climbing up the 35' pillar.  She was doing great up through the overlaps that the new ice has created, but the shower pouring down proved to be not worth the climb and she lowered off to avoid becoming completely saturated.  Here's a photo of Laura after on a few minutes on the start.

This photo speaks for itself
After drying out in the sun Laura took countless top rope burns enjoying the great ice.  Shortly after, we packed up and called it a day.  The sun was going down and the chill was setting in.  Despite feeling under the weather, Who could ask for more...  The climbing and weather were stellar.  All while being in the best of company.  So did the project go down?  Nope (1hang)  I hope I have enough weather to put this puppy to bed before the end of season.  If not, no big deal.  There's always next season and countless other project abound in SWPA.  I'm most thankful for such a great late season day.  Happy climbing! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Laura and I spent the day at Upper Meadow Run last friday.  The weather was beautiful, the ice was soft and  everyone there was smiling. It was a fun day out climbing...

Tool demo day at Upper Meadow Run
Checking out the creek side boulders
Dr. Bob climbing U.M.P. (upper meadow pillar) WI5-

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Conditions after the rains look good

Most "local" ice climbers are figuring that the season has just ended with all the rain.  What ice could be left? I'm happy to report the the community that most held in with minor damage. Here's a photo conditions report from today.  Hope this motivates you to come check out SWPA!
Irishtown, The Prow WI4, M3 a little washed, watch the top. 
Irishtown, Mouth of Madness WI5-
in slightly easier conditions.  The best its looked this season
Irishtown, Dynamite M6+, almost a drytool line.
Not much ice at the top.
Irishtown, Pale Wildwood Ice Tower WI4
makes another appearance
Irishtown, Dirty-T M4 is in great shape for a moderate mixed

Irishtown, Upper Wall, currently OUT
Possibly by next weekend it will rebond.
Upper Meadow Run, Ohiopyle State Park, School Yard WI4- to 3-
held up and is in great shape.
Upper Meadow Run Amphitheater  is looking good.
Upper Meadow Run, Ohiopyle State Park, Buckey's Line WI3+
This rare former is in good shape.  Watch the thick top out.
Lower Meadow Run, Season Finale M6 R is ready
Lower Meadow Run, Ohiopyle State Park, Main Flow WI3,
Anger Management M6 climbs up through the daggers, currently in great shape.
Lower Meadow Run, Caveman M7 the ice is a little short, but should go
Lower Meadow Run, The Flows WI2 still nice and thick

Other local ice conditions...

The Beast WI5+/6  formed more right due to wind.
Its tentacles are about grounded. Son of Beast WI5+ filled in nicely.
The Infinite WI5+ and The SICK-le WI6, M7
Still plenty of ice and new lines to be climbed...
So there it is.  There's still lots of ice in most areas.  The forecast looks promising for improving conditions.  Now is the time to climb.  The ice has finally become smooth and good sticks are easier now than in weeks past.  Get out and enjoy the great conditions we've been given.  If you have any questions about other local conditions or areas, drop me a line.  Hope to see you out there.  -Tim

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Ground Hog day! Kinzua klimbing and A day at the Cliffs

Wow... Its looking miserable outside today.  Yesterday we had temps in the mid 30's and rain.  The forcast was  calling for a couple mild days this week.  Well mild was an understatement for the start of today.  I went out on the deck and it felt like spring.  Sunny and 45°.  The Weather channel is saying the temps are going to fall into the mid 20's and that it'll be snowing by this afternoon.  I sure hope they're right.  The last 48hrs most likely put a hurting on the mixed lines I've been working on as well as the ice routes I've been patiently waiting to see come into shape.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  I'll try to head out tomorrow to scope the damages.  I'm sure a fresh coating of snow will make things feels wintry again.  If winter comes to a screeching halt we can all blame that HOG up in Punxy for not seeing his shadow.  Well enough about the weather. On to our recent climbing adventures.

The dam located directly across from the climbing
Friday Jan. 28th Laura and I decided to take a short road trip up to Kinzua to climb.  The climbing there is mostly casual with WI3 being the common grade.  Usually its a great place for beginning leaders to cut their teeth on the sharp end.  It was the location of my first ice climbing experience about 14 years ago.  I've been at it ever since that first outing.  In that respect Kinzua will always be a memorable place for me to visit.  Laura had never been there, so we loaded up the climbingmobile and set off at 6:00am friday for the 3.5hr drive north.  The drive went smooth considering the snow storm we drove in most of the way.  Upon arrival, I was slightly disappointed to see the ice much thinner than what I had climbed in years past.  I havn't been there in quite a few years, but every other tip I've made to Kinzua has provided FAT, blue flows.  It was a real bummer since the trip was mostly for Laura to get in a bunch of time leading.  Instead we pondered over which line was  filled in most of the way.  I could see rock through the clear ice as well as hear large amounts of running water.   Seeing the ice in this current state, I decided to take the lead and check things out before Laura went up.   I climbed the line directly across from the Entrance to the first parking lot.  Its generally a low angle steeped WI3 with great protection.  It took some searching to get in a few 13cm screws that were actually going to do something.  As I climbed I could look down into the large holes and see the rock and water underneath.    I reached to top and setup the belay to bring Laura up to the trees.  She climbed up using her new BD Fusion ice tools.   It wasn't much of a route to put them to use on, but she seemed to like them.  I brought along some 8mm cord and rap rings to contribute to the local climbing community based on a post on about the anchors being ratty and in need of replacement.  I set up a station on a large tree up and left of the top out.  Heres a photo of the new station and the climb.

Our first climb.  Unusually thin compared to what I've typically seen here
Laura coming up the first climb we did
Laura seconding with trucks rumbling below.
Notice our car in the lot?  Worlds easiest approach!

Our second climb was to the right of the first one.  It was in the little alcove.  It went up the low angle start and up to a short pillar.  The ice on this route was better up on the pillar, but the bottom was still somewhat hollow and not well formed. I took the line over right above the exposed rock section and belayed/rapped from there.

Laura tooling on the second climb we did.
(The steepest we could find)
Coming up onto the belay of the 2nd climb
Well it only took two climbs and we decided to head back home to better conditions.  We'll have to make another trip someday when things are more "in".  All in all it was a nice quick revisit the moderates of Kinzua. will I do it again this season?  Most likely not with the way conditions have been at home.  There's always next season! 

Sunday Jan. 30th.  Laura was out for the day and I made plans with Dr. Bob to climb at the cliffs.  Joel and Matt were already in town and were staying in Ohiopyle.  They climbed Saturday at Upper Meadow where I guess quite a display of climbing went on.  I wasn't there, but it sounded good.  Anyhow... Sunday morning came and I drove to the parking area of the cliffs.  It was snowed in and I did some shoveling to make parking better for those involved in the days antics.  I was getting ready to hike in when Dr. Bob showed up.   We split the ropes and made our way in.  Dr. Bob is one of my oldest ice climbing friends.  Due to life, etc. I haven't had the opportunity to spend much time on the rope with him recently as I have in the past.  Bob and I decided to warm up on Called on Account of Security WI4.  It was in great shape.  A little new snow and some onion skin made climbing a little more interesting, but all in all it was in the best conditions I've ever seen.  I led the pitch and belayed Bob from the top to shoot some pics on my new camera.  Here are a few of  the shots.
Dr Bob coming up Called on Account of Security WI4

Dr Bob doing work!
For our second route we decided to climb G-Gully WI4+/5-  It was one of the driest routes we saw.  The climb went well.  It was much better than last season when we did the FFA.  Bob commented many times how he enjoyed the 3D climbing that the route offered.  Here's a few shots of Bob cleaning.  

Bob cleaning G-Gully WI4+
 Joel and Matt showed up a little later than expected.  They had spend the evening before getting familiarized with life in Ohiopyle.  Here's a photo of Joel upon arrival at the cliffs.  Needless to say there's not much to report on their activities of the day.  Matt was the lone climber taking a lap on G-Gully before hiking out.
Feeling a little fuzzy Joel?
Overall there was a lot of running water and things were building fast.  The Beast WI5+ was in the process of making a rare appearance. Albeit with massive amounts of water flowing down it.  I hope the weather didn't take too much of a toll on it.
The Beast about touching down for the 2nd year in a row!
On the last day of season (last year), Laura and I went on an early morning mission to climb it before the day warmed to well above freezing, but were turned back by the stupidity of forgetting our ropes.  It WAS just about ready for the 2nd time in 5 or 6 years... Until today's rain.  With any luck the it will be climbable and I'll finally get to climb it.  If not there's still lots of mixed climbs out there begging to be climbed.  We'll see what the weekend holds.

Overall conditions photo from Sunday