Sunday, February 3, 2013

NEW PA alpine route at Sunday School Crag

Tom Thomas engulfed in PA alpine sending this new line

Tom Thomas, Andy Shriner and myself decided to go out climbing.  As per my last post conditions looked fickle at most SWPA ice areas.  I didn't check Sunday School figuring its usually one of the first to come in.  Neither Tom nor Andy have been to Sunday School making it a good choice as a first stop towards getting some climbing done.  We had a fourth lined up for the day, but he bailed at the last minute making us an uneven 3 man team...  Not the best way to go out when conditions have been so limited and everyone wants to climb as much as possible.  We made the adventurous hike into the ice.  It's fairly steep going and... well to make this readable, I'll just call it "alpine" in style.

Tom and Andy approaching our destination
Those that have been here know exactly what I'm talking about.  After our approach, we stood before the ice laden walls.  A little boney, but definitely climbable.  In the recent years though, boney has become the standard, thus making todays conditions "in" I guess?  Either way Tom was amped up and anxious as a high strung cat to start clawing at the walls.  Understandably so having climbed here for 15+ years.  How can't one get excited with all the various options of ice between chossy, usually protectable, rock sections.  Its alpine climbing heaven (in an easily accessible, miniature form ;)   I always find the climbing reminiscent of The Black Dike in NH.  Not nearly as long, but harder, similar pitches in abundance and concentration.   Tom racked up an arsenal of screws, gear and pins while Andy flaked the rope and set up to give Tom a belay.  It was at that instant that I realized the predicament of having 3 climbers.  Tom and Andy were paired up to have a go at a surely fun line.  The reality that our ice climbing has been ultra limited and  I could be picking a plum as well.  It really bummed me out to say the least.  I WANTED to be climbing too.  May sound like a childish thing to some, if so, I guess our passions for ice climbing differ.  Its pretty high on my list of fun things in the world... Here's one of a handful of days being wasted all because of a backed out partner.  It made me realize how valuable my wonderful "better half" Laura really is.  I can't stress how much of a trooper she is.  I just wish she could've been there.  We make such a great climbing team and having her there is priceless!  So cutting my losses on climbing and being totally bummed about being partnerless.  I decided to take advantage of the great climbing talent and work on some photograpic opportunities I seldom get.  I started hiking and worked my way up around to the return of an adjacent cliff to click off some shots from different angles, hopefully documenting a first ascent.

From a distance, Andy is in blue at the base of the climb
The route looked awesome and Tom did a great job leading it for a first visit to Sunday School.  He described the opening rock section to be quirky as do most other climbers.  I found it took a few seasons to learn to read this odd style of climbing.  The rock isn't as friendly as other local rock for hooking, etc.  Slopers are the norm with some odd fractures here and there for a "thank god" moment every so often.

Tom enjoying the opening moves
Either way after a quick introduction he was into the business and working up through the rock to a steep snowfield which appeared to be in good condition.

Snow covered choss
The snow led to the base of a vertical ice section that offered some reasonable ice screws and three dimensional climbing around thin columns.

some ice...
Then more ice...
The ice ended at a steep rock cleft that offered up a piton placement before another snow ledge.  Another section of ice was above, but extremely poorly bonded. 

The rock cleft finish
Tom wisely opted to end the route at the base of this ice.  He built an ice screw anchor and Andy followed the line in fine style.  He seemed to be enjoying himself the whole way up, pulling his first "legit" pin and getting some V-thread practice in lean conditions.  I snapped quite a few photos of all the action.  Here's my photo highlight recap of the guys in action on this new unamed line at Sunday School Crag.  Congrats go out to Tom and Andy on the great new addition.

Here's Andy in action seconding...

Sunday School partial crag overview
Andy starting up the ice
Tom belaying below the delaminating upper section
Crazy Angle,  could be rotated 90 right?  
Andy Shriner enjoying a wonderful day  in PA
My artistic attempt

Friday, February 1, 2013

Conditions outlook...?

This morning I went out to check the state of ice here in SWPA. As expected everything that had been climbable now wasn't. All the wonderful ice from the last cold snap fell and everything currently on the wall is new build over the last 48 hrs. The current local forecast is for temps to be below freezing through Monday, then a warm up is predicted through the long term thereafter. Here's a few photos from today.

Gun Club, Pistol Whipped Wall - devastated

Gun Club, Main Wall - devastated

SCII, Overview - Very wet and devastated

SCII, Beast and Grand Central Walls - devastated and rebuilding

Ohiopyle State Park, Youghiogheny River - Up and roaring

Although I didn't take any photos, Meadow Run climbing areas have been wiped out as well, but are very quickly rebuilding. With  a few cold days ahead, Monday should prove to be the best day to hit the local ice.  Irishtown might have some formations up by then as well.  I'd forget Krahlick, Confluence, Layton Falls or Stewarton.  Happy hunting if looking for local, climbable ice this weekend... With a miracle the forecast for warm will change to cold and produce epic conditions!  Unlikely....but possible