Monday, January 28, 2013

Internet Connection sees 2nd ascent

Yesterday I made plans to climb with my friend and health/rehab advisor, Andy Shriner and his friend Brad from Morgantown, WV.  Andy is a motivated rock and ice climber who moved to Morgantown from Cincinnati, OH this past year.  Andy has been chomping at the bit to get out on the local ice I've told so many stories about.  Actually Andy is fortunate to be climbing any ice this season after having been caught in an avalanche at the base of Pinnacle Gully in NH earlier this winter.  Luckily he walked (limped) away with experience, a banged up knee, and a story to tell.  Laura, my girlfriend/climbing partner decided to take a rest day Sunday, so I took a long shot and called Tom Thomas, a climbing friend from here in SWPA to see if he wanted to join our crew.  I figured he'd already made plans with others and was going to decline.  Either way I know he loves harder mixed climbs and called to invite him.  The phone conversation went something like this...  Hey Tom it's Tim, what's up?  TOM:  Tim, great to hear from you. I've been climbing a lot, like the last 6 days.  ME:  Awesome, glad you've been getting out.  Want to climb some cool mixed stuff tomorrow?  TOM:  HELL YEAH!  Where and what time do you want to meet?  ME: How about Valley Dairy in Connellsville at 9:30?  TOM:  Perfect, see you in the morning... What do I need to bring?  Never mind, I'm coming with you, who knows what we'll be getting into, I'll bring lots of shit for anything!  Cool...  

So the day was set.  We met at the SWPA climber meeting spot of Valley Dairy Restaurant in Connellsville.  Introductions were made and we enjoyed a delicious breakfast telling climbing tales and getting stoked for the day ahead.  After breakfast we went outside to pile into vehicles to head for the crag.  I followed Tom to his car to help shuttle his gear over to my car for departure and I received my first glimpse as to what Tom meant by "I'll bring lots of shit for anything."  Let me just say, he was truly prepared.  In addition to a normal "kit", his car contained multiple boots, ropes, racks and  bin full of pins, bolts, shuts, drill, etc...  Kudos Tom for some true climbing preparation!  Although we didn't use much of your massive pile this outing, we'll be needing it for establishing new test pieces when things come back in.

Andy and Tom getting ready for the long approach
We made the short 10min. drive to the South Connellsville Rod and Gun club from the restaurant.  Everyone was amazed as we pulled into the shooting range and the ice appeared in front of us.  The Pistol Whipped Wall was looking even better than a few days prior.  As much as I want to get on these they getting plenty of sun and were about ready to crash down as we were leaving.  More for future outings as usual (not a bad thing in my eyes). 

The Pistol Whipped Wall, before the sun

We walked down range to check out the lines and develop a game plan.  Everyone was stoked with the appearance of the climbs and we opted to climb in the Internet Connection area.  We went back to the car and loaded up what was needed for the days events (a very nice luxury at The Gun Club). After packing up and walking back over to the climbs, Tom was debating whether to get on Internet Connection for a send or just top tope it.  With 6 consecutive days of climbing behind him, I could easily understand his serious debate.  Internet Connection WI5 M7 is an intimidating line that starts with overhanging moves and a heel hook off the ground to get established on thin ice which is followed by many heady and powerful moves all the way to the finish.  I'm not sure I'd want to get on it without feeling reasonably fresh.  After discussion with the group and himself aloud, Tom opted to tie in and give it a go since it has only formed twice since 2007.  

Tom and Brad weighing the options
Good thing he did... Tom put on an impressive display of climbing, both mental and physical.  He inched his way up the line through sections of delicate moves, followed by powerful moves that involved verbal displays that would make Chris Sharma proud.  In the end Tom put in effort and got the job done.  He successfully sent the line becoming the 2nd ascentionist since Laura and I first sent the line back in 2007.  Here's a photo recap of Tom sending the line while being belayed by Brad.

Mixed start to thin ice

Exceptionally fat ice through this section

Nearing the top of the "Gully"

An airy, overhanging traverse to thin ice

Tom Thomas says "You really have to try this"

Working up delicate terrain

Great work on a proud send, Tom Thomas on Internet Connection WI5 M7

After Tom's great send, Brad who is relatively new to ice, but a seasoned, veteran outdoor athlete and longtime New River Gorge local; had the opportunity to second this exciting climb.  Brad put in great efforts and made his way up the line.  With a little practice and experience Brad will be a sending machine as well.  Here's a few photos that Tom snapped of Brad going up after his climb.

Brad on Internet Connection, photo T.T.

Brad on Internet Connection, photo T.T.

Brad on Internet Connection, photo T.T.

After watching Tom lead Internet Connection, Andy and I walked over to climb the Alpine Ascent Gully M4 in the fattest conditions I've ever seen.  This normally boney line reminiscent of the 2nd pitch of the Black Dike, had fat ice on it.  Andy took the sharp end and led this short, but sweet line up to the ledge.  From there we dropped a top rope on a rare former I've eyed over the years.  We all took turns trying this new line and having a great day filled with sunshine.  Despite my newly injured right shoulder, I managed to join the fun and climbed Internet Connection and the top route line without hurting myself further.  I even managed to get some more mileage on my Lowa Ice Comp GTX "fruit boots."  It was a great day with friends.  Tom snagged the 2nd ascent of Internet Connection, Andy and Brad swung picks into some of the best SWPA ice of the season and I had the luxury of a fun day with some good friends.

One of the many options at The Gun Club yesterday, photo T.T.
But, the story doesn't end there... Long time friend and local legend, Ray Burnsworth showed up with his pal "Stink" the dog.  I called him early Sunday telling him of our "crew" heading out to the club and invited him  to come hang out.  He showed up and met the guys hanging out and helping to guard us from those coming to shoot and not seeing us on the wall downrange.  Thanks Rayman for keeping us alive from additional dangers most ice climbers don't have to consider...  Well there's a story after the story.  Ray not only had to protect us today, but another friend of his.  "Ig"  Read Ray's recap of our climbing day and his additional craziness on his Wildfilm Blog.

Local icon Ray Burnsworth, "don't mess with IG"

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weekend Outlook for SWPA ice climbing

Laura and I went out yesterday to climb a little and check local ice.  Here's a photo recap and suggestions for those seeking to climb the best conditions that SWPA has seen so far this season.

South Connellsville Rod and Gun Club
On most years this small privately owned crag forms up some of the best mixed climbing in SWPA.  Its always high on my "hit list" when formed up.  Current conditions have rarities "in" and ready for takers.  It's been a number of years since I've seen these mixed lines look like this.  The classic ice lines of NRA, Cave Shot, and Double Barrel need a couple more days of  cold to bring them "in".  The mixed lines Internet Connection, Alpine Ascent Gully, Cocked and Loaded as well as others are all in good shape.  They look at least as good as when the lines were first climbed.  New water routes and the recent cold snap has formed up some new unclimbed M lines that will help ease the pain of our dismal season.  

This 50M line really caught our eye
Another new formation for 2013
Internet Connection climbs up the center of the photo
Laura below Skymonkey and Internet Connection
Mixed options galore with Skymonkey and Internet Connection on R end.

L to R Cave Shot, NRA, Double Barrel
New untouched lines on the Pistol Whipped Wall

Meadow Run and Ohiopyle State Park
Here's some photos of Lower Meadow Run.  Its really not "in", but top rope options do exist.  Please take care not to destroy barely touched down pillars.  As usual the mixed lines are looking good for ascents at any time.  Hemlock will go as will the Main Flow.  An easy to get to crag with easy rigging.  A good option this weekend.

We didn't check Upper Meadow, but I'd bet it has top rope lines to be done.

Victoria Flats would most likely have ice in the Gullies.

The always fun bolted "ice" climb Winter Dutchman at Schoolhouse wall would be a good shot to try as well.

Laura below Anger Management at Lower Meadow Run

There are some climbs in at Irishtown as well.  The Prow is in pretty good shape, Mouth of Madness is out.  We climbed Dynamite yesterday and found the topout to be thin despite its appearance.  Dirty T is in really good shape, with bolts possibly hiding under the new ice.

Dynamite at Irishtown

SWPA has some ice to be climbed.  Better than these areas have seen thus far this season!  Hope this helps those of you looking for climbs in SWPA this weekend...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Local ice conditions photos

Some of the ice in SWPA is still in decent shape! For today...
Laura and I spent a few hours today checking some of the local ice climbing areas.  Some were in bad shape and will surely fall down, while others...  well they look good for now and will hopefully survive the warm spell ahead of us.  Today temps at the different crags varied from 46 to 36°.  The forecast is calling for temps up into the mid 50's and possibly even 60° over the weekend with cooler weather coming after that.  Looks like dry tooling until then. Speaking of dry tooling, we did spy a few new lines that may receive some attention over the warm up.  Keep posted for details on that.  For now on to the current conditions

IRISHTOWN, Lower wall

Mouth of Madness WI5- and The Prow WI3 M4R, started, but never filled in
Dynamite M6+ is waiting for you
Dirty-T M4+ ready to go...
New dry tool line? #1
New dry tool line? #2

OHIOPYLE, Lower Meadow Run

Laura walking across the bridge on approach
Ice lines are sunbaked and never fully formed
Main Flow WI3+ will need to reform
Anger Management M6 and Caveman M7 were climbable 
The start to Captain Caveman M7

Elsewhere in SWPA

This 200' beauty was sweet!
The Sick-le WI5+ M6 free hanger is 40-50' long currently and
 still not touching...Going down, in a bad way!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Gift WI4R, First Ascent SWPA

Laura and I made a last minute decision that based on the poor (warm) future SWPA forecast, we needed to climb whatever we could find, before it was gone!  We quickly agreed that Sunday School Crag would be our destination since it resides at a higher elevation than most other SWPA crags.  It also receives little to no sun.  If anything was "in" it would be Sunday School.  On New Year's Day Laura and I hiked in to try to climb, but poor conditions kept us off the ice.   We took note of a line that was forming just right of the line we did last year  Late Bloomer.   It looked like a lot of fun, but we figured it was better left for safer conditions.  Today was that day, although the conditions weren't much safer.  When we left home it was humid and the thermometer was reading 31°.  The snow in our yard has compressed considerably leaving us worried for what we'd find at the crag.  It wasn't much colder at the parking area, but there was still several feet of snow that required us to snowshoe the approach.

Laura snowshoeing to Sunday School Crag
    The approach isn't long, but what it lacks in distance it makes up for in terrain.  On most average days its an invigorating 30 min. hump that takes a few trips to truly "appreciate".  We made the hump at slower than normal pace trying not to overheat too much despite not wearing much at all.  When the climb came into view I was puzzled that the climb hadn't built much more than what we had seen on New Years Day.  I could audibly hear lots of running water which didn't instill much confidence, despite this we trekked onward to base camp.

Laura happy to be at "base camp"
 With a severe warm-up looming in the next few days, I looked the climb over and quickly decided it was "good enough" to at least get on and test the start.  Since last ice season was pretty much a no show, I've only climbed a few pitches of pure ice over the last several years.  I was seriously hoping I remembered how to ice climb ;)  A reasonably solid ice start provided me with a confidence building screw. 

Starting up The Gift WI4 through the ice start
The good ice quickly faded as I continued up a snow ramp pulling off eyelids and exposing underlying sloping limestone defunct of edges.  I tiptoed my way up to the next bit of "ice" that provided a few insecure screws and eventually an icicle worth slinging accompanied by a small 12" diameter column that seemed more solid than anything thus far.  This set me off right across another sloping, snow encrusted ledge which crumbled and exposed more slick limestone for my feet.  

The base of the short pillar and best ice on the route
I eventually reached somewhat solid ice a little higher up and the first good screws of the climb.  A short 15' pillar ended at more snow covered limestone which provided a very exciting, hollowed ice and rock top-out.    

Topping out the pillar
I slogged up through deep snow to the base of the lower angled ice above and found that it was melting out fast and poorly bonded.  The true climbing was over and the quickly deteriorating ice above helped me decide that the route was finished at that point.  I quickly set up the most secure belay I could muster and prepared to bring Laura up.  She progressed up the climb enjoying every move.  She found it to be boney and melting out quickly, as did I.   We shared a brief moment at the belay and snapped a few photos for memories.

Self portrait of the happy couple at the anchor 
 I gently lowered Laura down supporting most of her body weight with mine, carefully trying not to involve the anchor if necessary.  With Laura safely on the ground I quickly utilized the best ice available and built a V-thread and rapped down without sacrificing anything, but cord.  

Laura says... How could you not smile after climbing "The Gift"
The climb was a great season opener and a lot of fun, but the unpleasant sounds of ice falling off the walls around us, we knew we overstayed our welcome.  We packed up and snowshoed back to the car.  I snapped a few photos of the deteriorating ice for giggles.  We decided to name the route The Gift WI4R in current conditions.  We decided it was "The Gift" from mother nature, since she didn't offer very favorable ice seasons the last several seasons.  Hopefully this isn't all we'll get this season.  Stay tuned...

Meltdown... a common sight today
Fractures common as well
Where's Waldo?  Center of photo in the right chute

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Irishtown online ice/mixed guide

I had most of the work done, so I edited an old post about Irishtown to create the online guide.  You can access it here or by clicking on the Irishtown Ice button above.  It features the ice and mixed climbing at this easily accessibly, SWPA winter hotspot!  Hopefully you can put it to use in the near future.  I'm not sure of the current conditions, but hopefully some of you can use this to check it out and send me a report to share with others.   Enjoy winter, it's here...


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy new year

Laura on approach to climbing this morning!