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Guy Lacelle Killed By Avalanche

Guy Lacelle at Festiglace 2005 in Pont Rouge, Quebec. (NEIce.com file photo/Alden Pellett)

Guy Lacelle at Festiglace 2005 in Pont Rouge, Quebec. (NEIce.com file photo/Alden Pellett)

Bozeman, MT –  World-renowned ice climber Guy Lacelle has died from injuries received when a small avalanche, triggered by a  party above him, swept him over an ice climb in Hyalite Canyon where he was participating in the Bozeman Ice Festival.  The loss of Lacelle is felt by many throughout the sport of ice climbing.

Lacelle attended Festiglace at Pont Rouge, Quebec, here in the Northeast for a number of years where he taught more than one eastern climber in the sport and inspired many with his solid climbing in competitions and confident free-solos. He will be sorely missed by all of us at NEice.

For more on the accident: Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Petzl Tribute to Guy Lacelle:Adieu Guy

Avalanche Investigation – Doug Chabot of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center investigates the avalanche that killed Guy Lacelle. Guy was in a steep gully on non-technical terrain above the climb Silken Falls (120m…

Guy Lacelle climbing during the competition at Festiglace in Pont Rouge, 2005.(NEIce file photo/Alden Pellett)

Guy Lacelle climbing during the competition at Festiglace in Pont Rouge, 2005.(NEIce file photo/Alden Pellett)

The Black Dike, Finally!

Franconia Notch, NH  12/08/09

The Black Dike - erik Eisele- RAS 12-8-09Erik Eisele leading the 2nd pitch of the Black Dike in lean conditions –  December 8th, 2009
Photo by RAS

In normal years the Black Dike usually is fat by now. The first Ascents usually happen in the first week of November. Jim Shimburg has climbed it in early October. This is as late a start as I can remember….Doug

Condition Report 12/8/09

Eguide  – Franconia Notch, NH

StandardLine

Huge Transition Underway

Real Winter Pattern Coming!

All indications point to Major Cold and very stormy weather over the next 15 days

ted_odellsdec-6-09Ted Hammond enjoying the start of this weather change.  Odell’s Gully – Huntington Ravine, Mt. Washington NH  12/06/09
Photo by Alfonzo

All long term and short term indicators (NAO, EPO, EL Nino etc…) have been pointing to cold and stormy (For weeks). Well that is now coming to full realization for Dec to Jan. The last two storms were the beginning of the pattern change. We have one last one (Dec 7/8) to complete the transition and lock the NE into below to well below average temps and a very active storm track as well. Blind fate-Smuggs

What Ice if any survives this weeks storm should rapidly start building by the end of this week into the weekend. (Even in the southern sections to some extent) Next week should only continue to reinforce the ice building.

Blue ice Buldge-smuggsSnow Cover:

Check out the massive and rapid snow cover buildup over the US in just over the last 6 days ( Today –  December 1).  This is why the cold push will be so much stronger over the next 10 days, as the fresh snowpack will help in keeping the arctic air from moderating.

Source: Smike – NEice Weather Outlook

Photos by Rockytop
Blind Fate and Blue Ice Buldge Smugglers Notch VT 12/07/09

Ouray mixed competition 2009

By Alden Pellett

New winter rules for Katahdin

Baxter State Park, Maine

Baxter_south_basin-AOCSolo climbers allowed, no minimum group size

Great news! I am packed and ready to go. Maybe I can find some ice up there.

See the park web site for more information. winter rules and regs and the NEice forum for discussion.

Source: post by greenmtnboy

Photo: South Basin from Chimney Pond by AOC

More info from apaulcalypse:

I just got off the phone with Baxter State Park (not sure if it was a ranger, just whoever picks up the 207.723.5140 phone line). According to the woman I spoke with,

a) There is no ‘gear inspection’ on arrival. You do not need to, say, have every item on a checklist, and the rangers will not deny you climbing based on what’s in your pack.

b) Climbing on Katahdin CAN still be closed down in bad weather. I asked for some examples of what constitutes ‘bad weather,’ and she listed wind chills significantly below 0, whiteouts, high avalanche danger, “things of that nature.”

c) Yes, you can climb any route as a party of two. There is no longer a minimum team size.

d) As far as she was aware, there were no designated start / end times for climbs; that is, you can climb whenever you want. She did caution that is inadvisable to be out climbing after the sun goes down, though.

e) Ropeless, technical, free-solo climbing IS allowed. If you want to hike or climb alone, there is a winter solo camping and climbing form to fill out, along with an itinerary. You can climb ropeless alone or with partners. There is no specific hardware rack required, just gear appropriate to the terrain.

– Also see the article By Steve Prettyman Winter Climbing on Mt. Katahdin


Season off to a slow start!

But, if you want to climb ice, you can find it!

Al-Tucks11-9-09-Cover

11/8/09 – Alfonzo taking advantage of the beautiful day and of the frozen moss – Off the Boott Spur, Tuckerman Ravine, Mt. Washington NH
Photo by Doug Millen (c) 2009

See more photos

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09/10 Ice Season Under Way!

Pinnacle Gully, Mt. Washington NH

pinnacle-gully-10/15/09Broken Spectre approaches the second belay on Pinnacle Gully, Mt. Washington NH. 10/15/09. The route had to cross the open river at that point to continue.

More Photos

Photo by Alden Pellett – Vermont Daily News.com

Rope Tips #1

Skinny Singles: How Thin Can You Go?

by Justropes.com

Modern single ropes keep getting thinner and thinner, pushing the envelope of what is possible for a balance of performance and weight savings. Is a “skinny” single right for you, and if so, how thin you should go? The answers depend on the type of climbing you intend to do with these thin single cords.

“Skinny” single ropes are those below 10 mm in diameter, and they seem to keep getting thinner each season. While these ropes typically range between 9.4 to 9.8 mm in diameter, the cutting edge at present is 9.1 to 9.2 mm (the Beal “Joker” and the Mammut “Revelation”). Maxim will have a new 9.1 mm single in 2006, and the envelope will be pushed even further by a new 8.9 mm single that Mammut will market in 2006!

These thin single cords typically weigh in around a lean 53 grams/meter (for 9.1-9.2 mm), 58 grams/meter (for 9.4-9.5 mm) and 62 grams/meter (for 9.7-9.8 mm). For comparison, a 9.5 mm, 60 m single rope is almost 1.5 pounds lighter than the equivalent 10.5 mm cord! Of course, you don’t get something for nothing. As common sense would dictate, the thinner a rope is, the fewer falls it can hold, and the less durable it will be. Super-thin skinny cords (e.g. 9.1-9.2 mm) have UIAA fall ratings of about 5, while the fall rating improves to about 6/7 for 9.4-9.5 mm ropes, and to about 7/8 for the more beefy 9.7-9.8 mm skinny ropes. Compared to the typical UIAA fall rating of 11 for a 10.5 mm single rope, one can see that the weight savings of skinny singles is gained at the cost of fall rating and durability.

While a few of the skinny singles are UIAA Sharp Edge rated, by far most are not. At present, only the Beal Joker 9.1 mm is UIAA rated for use as both a twin and half/double, as well as single. Using this rope as a twin increases the fall rating substantially.

So, how do you decide if a skinny single is right for you, and just how thin you should go? The key factor in choosing will often be whether you intend to use the rope to climb long, wandering, alpine-style routes, where rope drag will be an issue, or whether you intend to mostly climb routes that are linear and don’t wander, such as typically found at the local ice or rock crag, or cliff. Another important factor is whether you intend to use the rope for hard redpoint/onsight attempts, or for working routes and/or toproping.

Skinny singles are a solid choice for rock/alpine/ice climbers expecting to encounter many pitches and looking to save substantial weight. They still offer a solid safety reserve in terms of falls rating, and on many climbs, any rope drag can be controlled by careful use of longer slings (if the skinny single is also rated as a half/double, it can also be used in this format for any wandering pitches). They are often a great choice for climbers working hard routes for redpoints or onsights, where you don’t want extra pounds holding you down. On the flip side, they are probably not the right choice for working routes or doing a lot of toproping, where a thicker more durable 10+ mm single rope is going to shine. And they are probably not the best choice for use on any type of route, whether alpine, ice, or rock, that is going to wander to the point where the only way to control drag is with a double/half rope system.

As for how thin to go, just remember that the thinner the skinny single, the less falls it will hold and the less durable it is likely to be. So, most climbers considering their first thin cord will likely want to consider something 9.5 mm and up, saving the super-thin cords for redpointing, etc. If you decide to grab one this season, Beal, Esprit, Edelrid, Maxim, Mammut, and PMI all offer a range of great skinny single ropes. Get out there and climb safe!

IN PRACTICE – #1

By Scott Backes
Alpine Mentoring.com

“IN PRACTICE”

One of the worst moments in every ice climb that is near the edge of our ability, is that instant when you stand with your tools in the ice, but your feet still on the ground. You’re looking at your belayer and he or she gives you the nod and its time to go. You feel the flush of chemicals course through you from head to toe. A more than reasonable doubt exists as to whether or not you can do it. There may be dread or a feeling of being over whelmed by the task at hand. You may even feel a little doomed as you bring that first foot up to start the process. You may even feel what I have felt on a number of occasions, “What the hell am I doing here?” So you commit to the route and lo and behold, it does suck to be you. The ice is worse than you hoped and it feels steeper than vertical. As you stop to place the first screw, the ice is airy and brittle. The screw won’t start, so you chop away some more ice and peck a little starter hole to help the screw get going, but it doesn’t help. Finally you feel the threads catch and you twist it home. The problem is, that half way through, the screw hits an air pocket and spins in with no resistance the rest of the way. It wobbles as you try to clip it. You start to feel the pump coming on almost immediately. Panic sets in and it’s time for either retreat or a real epic…

We’ve all been there. Grade III or Grade VII it doesn’t matter, if it’s near your ability you will undoubtedly encounter at least some of the fun described above. What the next two “IN PRACTICE” pieces will deal with is how to eliminate as many of epic makers as possible. The causes for our meltdowns are many, but can be divided up into two categories: The Physical and The Mental. This “IN PRACTICE” will deal with the physical  details that can enhance or derail your efforts. The physical factors I am referring to are not your fitness, but rather all the actual implements and the physical circumstances that can affect the outcome of your performance. The next “IN PRACTICE” piece will deal with  how to influence the mental and psychological circumstances of a difficult lead. These  conditions obviously include will and courage but also include a number of relatively easily amendable attitudes and assumptions that are often undervalued or overlooked. Taken together the sum of these parts can change a routine ascent into an emergency room vacation or, if properly applied, change an out of control “Shakefest” into a difficult, but memorable personal best.

The physical manifestations of ice climbing are many. From the medium itself: the flow of ice we’ve chosen to climb, to the instep strap of our gaiters, everything used to ascend has weight in the relative difficulty equation. Lets start with our mode of expression, the ice. Ice is by its nature a changeable medium. We can use this malleability to shape our ascent; even shape our experience with it. Hooking up fragile features with little or no protection during an early season foray is completely different than thunking hero ice in 28 degree March afternoon. You are in charge when and where you go climbing and you are in charge of what routes you do. Be careful to chose your ice climbing objectives to match your needs. Early in my career, being in Canada in March helped me to have the confidence to tackle big routes right at the edge of my ability. The solid blue single swing ice meant that I would have good gear to keep my head in the game and the ease of placements allowed me to marshal enough power for the crux. Conversely, these days easier routes of wonderful quality often times are left untouched. With limited time and unlimited ambition I have often neglected easier classics in favor of an at my limit hit list. Early season ascents have changed that somewhat. By visiting areas right at the start of the season, I have been forced to backed off of climbs two grades below my “normal” ability and have put adventure into routes that I would have normally left for retirement days.

The knowledge of how ice forms and having enough experience to know what to expect, can make a difference in how we go about our ascent. After years of climbing steep pillars I finally started to notice some patterns in the way they formed and the way the difficulty was laid out due to those patterns. In most cases the first 15-35 feet are the technical crux of the route. Because it is the last section of the climb to form, the ice at the bottom of the pillar is more aerated, more brittle and steeper than anywhere else on the climb (umbrella roofs excepted). Obviously knowing this gives you a psychological edge, which I’ll talk about in the mental factor section. But, there are also concrete steps you can take if you know this information. Where are you going to stop for the first screw? Because the ice will most likely be funky, always make sure the first screw on your rack or clipper is a 22cm(long) one and that you have a screamer for it. Look carefully to see where the telltale white/gray ice gives way to blue. Is one side of the pillar a better color or better consistency (even if its steeper) than the other?  Lastly look for rests-mushrooms to stand on, grooves to stem, or subsidiary pillars to lean against or stem out to and plan your ascent around them. My biggest mistakes on those early test piece leads were failing to look ahead and failing to reap the benefits of foresight.

There are two other physical contingencies’ that affect your experience on the lead. The first is the set-up of your gear. The second is the mobility of your clothing system. The single most important lesson I can teach you about gear, is that it needs to be dialed in to the point of invisibility. Your tools leashes, your racking system for your screws and other hardware, your crampon straps-basically every piece of gear you climb with needs to be set up correctly. The experience you are looking for, is one of having all your gear work together so well, that you never think about it. Every time you have to fight to get the right size screw, every time your leashes come loose, every time you are taken out of the moment to deal with circumstances outside of the climbing, you have failed. It might be as minor as a single curse-it might mean a leader fall. Take the time to have your gear in order before you launch up that cauliflower pillar, and you experience will improve immeasurable

The last issue I want to touch on, is mobility. Once again the principal I want to stress here is invisibility. Gone are the days when a set of heavy Gore Tex bibs and jacket was the only real choice to climb ice in. by taking advantage of “soft shell” technology, we can feel much more like rock climbers in tights and a tee shirt than a knight in armor. Scheoller, Powershield, and a host of other like fabrics have set us free. By taking advantage of these stretchy warm and durable fabrics we can let go of another distraction and concentrate more on the matter at hand-surviving our lead. The energy savings that come from unencumbered movement can be put towards the crux.

Taken together, all of the physical factors I have talked about can make a major difference in your next difficult lead. I hope you will take advantage of my learning curve. Next time I’ll talk about the intangibles that come in to play on difficult leads.

Scott Backes

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