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"

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