Friday, February 28, 2014

TNT project, second attempts

Me & Tom standing below the TNT project, photo L. Hahn
Yesterday Laura, Tom Thomas and myself met up at Valley Dairy for some breakfast before heading to our new project called TNT.  This was our second day actually trying the new line.  We parked and walked the technical approach to the climb.  Its cool because you get to walk behind a waterfall.  Strapping crampons on at this point will keep you from sliding into the creek and waterfall pool ;) Last time we worked the line, we warmed up on some moderates at Lower Meadow Run before heading to work on TNT.  This time we went straight for the project (lesson learned).  There's not much else to climb in the area of TNT, except the short, roaring WI3 waterfall (which was out), thus no warm-up this time.  I was chosen to take the honors of first try.

Up I went quickly realizing how much the ice on the route had changed since the warm weather.  Stemming to get into the hanger was a bit more of a stretch this time around.  I had to fiddle with a botched stick clip on the first bolt costing me valuable energy.  I clumsily traversed my way across the ice passing the 2nd clip and committing to the overhanging section of ice.  A serious forearm pump came on and all to quickly I realized I was setup for a precarious swing back into the ice pillar.  Off I came partially inverting, just in time to slam my back into the ice.  THUD... "FUCK, that hurt".  It may be bolted, but things can still hurt...
Lowering down after taking the swing back into the pillar
Tom went second.  He made quick work of the start and got into the traverse to just short of where I came off.  He wisely retreated back to safety before another slam came into play.  On his second attempt his hulk like mass dislodged a basketball sized rock onto himself seriously disrupting that attempt.  He then came back like a trooper and matched his high point from last week on his final go.  Here's a few photos of Tom enjoying the intensity of the TNT project.
A very cool line, Tom working across the ice
It feels this steep
Tom Thomas going for it on try 3
Laura was along for the fun. She's seen the line but was along to try it for her first attempts.  "Good things come in small packages" is a perfect description for her.  She's firey, scrappy and totally in her element scraping up mixed climbs with the guys.  Sometimes she'll have troubles reaching the starting holds, but that doesn't stop her... She tied in and stepped up for a few goes.  Here's some photos of Laura in action.
Laura rockin' the "party pants" ask her about 'em,
 she's always happy to show them off
Laura learning the steep start
Established on the ice and contemplating the commitment
We each got 3 tries at the line.  Which to us mortals is plenty of lactic acid.  The pump can get fierce on this one.  Things seem to be coming together a little.  I managed to suck it up and figure out a little beta to reach a new high point and possibly a crucial sequence towards sending.  This thing could end up being the hardest in the region.  Happy Climbing it is!  I hope my bruised and swollen back heal quickly.  I've got plans for some pure ice lines Sunday.  Then early next week I'm hoping to see a plethora of mixed lines established by Tom Thomas.  Possibly more tries on TNT later next week, before the ice is gone.  Too much climbing too little time, way too sore.

Contemplating where to go?

New high point established
On  a running note:  A group of runners are planning to run "Gate to 8" tomorrow in Ohiopyle.  I was planning to attend, but my swollen back from the fall is saying otherwise.  Most runners are meeting at the Falls City Pub parking lot at 8:00 for a meet and greet.  Then off on the trail for 16 miles of LHHT winter single track with some of the biggest climbs in the region.  A great early season outing if you can attend.  I ran the trail last Sunday and found the trail to be snow covered and slippery on N facing hills, but runnable.  Plenty of water, slop and ice, so I ran in "screw shoes" to aid my traction and allow some speed.  It could be run without them, but I wouldn't want to.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sunday Photos from SWPA

A photo overview of our really groovy Sunday here in PA.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The TNT project, first tries

On Thursday, Tom Thomas and I set off to do some winter climbing.  The plan was to try our new project TNT, but starting on that would most likely mean being finished there as well (and in a short amount of time).  We hadn't been on the route yet, but just looking at it suggests that you won't spend very long working it before becoming spent!  We decided our first stop to be Ohiopyle State Park.  Laura and I recently established a new M5 at Lower Meadow called Open Mouth that I thought would be a good warm up before heading to the main objective for a beating.  Tom is a strong climber and quickly dispatched Open Mouth on his 2nd try thus nabbing the 2nd ascent.  Congrats to Tom for a fine climb.  Now understand, Tom's a big dude... Possibly the strongest, most nimble, "big" guy I've ever climbed with.  He's so big that on his first attempt he opted to back up the last 1/2" stainless bolt with an ice screamer just in case his mass came lobbing off onto that tiny 1/2" bolt.  (In actuality Tom accidentally used the screamer). He was climbing well and didn't expect to fall and just left the screamer on the bolt.  Shit happens.  He slipped on the last move...rrrrriiiiiipppppp The Screamer worked!   It lessened the impact of his fall on the bolt as well as me belaying.  Thanks for using the screamer Tom.  I never knew catching a "big" guy could be so smooth!  From now on I'm going to recommend everyone use screamers on every clip when I belay for them ;)  Truthfully I just don't think Tom trusts my bolting and used the screamer ;)

Tom Thomas starting up Open Mouth M5
Tom Thomas on Open Mouth M5
After finishing our "warm up" we did a drive by at Cucumber Falls to see how the falls looked.  Tom's never climbed it and was disappointed he didn't climb it when it was in previous.  It was roaring open down the center, but the right edge was solid enough.  Tom jumped on and made a quick solo up for the novelty of it.  Here's a shot of him climbing in this beautiful setting!

Tom Thomas ropeless on Cucumber
 After Tom's Cucumber fun, we made the trek to the project.  He gratuitously offered me the first go and I gladly accepted.  Only one shot for the onsight and this was it!  I'll admit I wasn't too optimistic after climbing only two weeks.  I feel pretty weak have an obvious long journey towards getting back to where I was 2 seasons ago.  I was hoping to merely be able to pull into the start without injuring one of my shoulders again.  I tied in, then did my pre-climb jumping and flapping about.  I pull onto the climb.  Shoulders  working, no pain, cool!  I picked my way up good hooks to a point where I could stem out to the free hanger.  Passing the first bolt, way better than I anticipated. 
I continued up to a clipping stance for bolt #2.  Got it!  I strenuously traverse the free hanger and ice blobs, passing bolt #3 in the roof.  

A bit more traverse and then with a lucky one-swing stick in a lone blob I maneuvered into position and (very loudly) clipped bolt #4.  This was where the business of this line begins... and my efforts fail.  I tried to grovel my way higher, but was thoroughly spent as the climb easily bitch-slapped me off!  I was thrilled to make it as high as I did.  Tom lowered me down and was giggling like a school girl, congratulating me on a strong effort.  He was obviously very excited to be up for a go.  This new project was to be the maiden voyage for his new fruit boots.  He tied in, psyched himself up and set off.  He pulled his way through the opening moves and traversed the ice up to the 3rd bolt before the climb got the best of him.  A great effort.  We both took a second try only to repeat our previous efforts. Here are a few shots of Tom in action.

Despite out best efforts this line worked us over the first day.  We had a great time enjoying the stellar SWPA ice conditions.  We'll see if it get many more attempts this season (weather dependent)....

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pistol Whipped in Connellsville

Laura, Ray and I spent a few hours out at the South Connellsville Rod and Gun Club.  Other than spending a day there last year when Tom Thomas repeated Internet Connection, we haven't visited the Gun Club (for ice climbing) in a couple of years.  We met for breakfast at Valley Dairy, then set off for "The Club".

From the car the down range routes looked decent... Up close they were much more chandeliered.  
We scoped a few routes, but decided we should try some lines on the Pistol-Whipped Wall before the sun brought them down.  These lines have been looked at over the years, but never quite formed to my or any would be ascentionists likings.  This wall gets blasted by sun.  The recent weather trends as well as abundant ground water formed up the wall better than I've ever seen it.  It was formed, but baking fast.  I'll be the first to admit, I'm a pretty big chicken when it comes to sun and ice, especially here in SWPA where I've seen my share of collapses and have the bumps and scars to prove it.   I prefer routes in the shade, but these looked very cool and who knows when they'll be like this again.  I decided to skip the sharp end and go with the safety of a top rope.

The routes were a lot of fun and very cool.  Today's conditions involved about 10' of mixed climbing to gain the candlesticked ice.  Once on the ice, it was straight forward pillar climbing, but very "early season" and baking fast.  I climbed the lines three times two different ways before it became the consistency of a snow cone.   Too bad the ice on this wall faces directly into the sun.  It would be such an amazing wall for mixed and pure, steep ice routes in the 4+ to 5+ range up to 100'.

Photos, courtesy of Ray Burnsworth with Wildfilm Productions. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

NEW SWPA mixed line, Open Mouth M5

Laura and I got around to finishing off a new mixed route at Lower Meadow Run in Ohiopyle State Park.  It's the line just right of Season Finale.  The line is called Open Mouth and is graded M5.  It starts on a short pillar of ice, then follows the rock up through the inside corner passing 2 bolts to the shuts.   Like other lines at Meadow Run its short, but don't let that deter you from the fun of this really good line.  This line feels easier than the other mixed lines there.  Most likely this is the easiest mixed line currently in Ohiopyle.  This should be a perfect line for the aspiring mixed climbers.  New and awaiting a second ascent.  Here's a few shots of Laura seconding the first ascent.  

Laura starting up the ice
Transition to the rock corner
Getting into the business

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday excitement!

The plan today was to finish equipping Open Mouth at Lower Meadow.  Check!  Complete with 2 bolts and open shuts.  Might need another bolt, time will tell.  It was snowing a very wet snow that had me soaked by the time I was done working.  We wanted to check conditions elsewhere, so we packed up with plans to come test out the new hardware tomorrow.

We drove up to the ridge where the weather was a little worse than Ohiopyle. Here's a few photos from our walk to check conditions.

After our short, but fun hike to check conditions, we ended up meeting our good buddy Ray Burnsworth at Bud Murphy's in Connellsville for some dinner. A few minutes after Ray showed up in walks JJ Fiesta and his girlfriend Chrissy. They sat in the booth behind us and we chatted with them a few minutes.  Then we noticed the life of the party Big Bad Bill Fiesta walking around the bar looking a little tuned already.  We gave him a shout and he joined our little C'ville reunion.  What followed was a few hours of laughter, pizza, beers, 7 shots of Firewater for Laura and even some karaoke.  What an awesome Sunday!

Yesterday Ray passed along these conditions photos of the South Connellsville Rod and Gun Club.  Figured I post them for all to enjoy!

Down range Wall

Pistol Whipped Wall

Skymonkey Wall

Definitely some sick stuff making an appearance on the Pistol Whipped Wall this year.  This looks like the year to enjoy some new lines here!  I believe that'll take care of plans for Wednesday...  Thanks for the photos Rayman!