Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Catching Up

The past 10 days or so have been spent catching up with family, catching up on chores, and catching up on fun activities that have been put off for too long.

After fumbling through the Christmas rush, it was great to get out for a run with my brother, Robert (a.k.a. Bubba, Flood, ....). The Bubster and I have both missed out on a lot of December mileage, so it was good to get out. Robert completed the Marine Corp marathon this year, but had not pulled on his running shoes since the race. We did an easy 5, and spent the rest of the day with our family.

On Friday, Dawn and I ran the Pinnacle Loop plus an added loop to get the mileage to about 6.5. Whew, 2 days in a row...I doubled my mileage for the month! It was a nice run and great to get up the hill again!

On Saturday, we hit the climbing gym and then the Goat and I headed up north to the Adirondack Mountains for some ice climbing. The DAKS are one of my favorite spots year-round, and has some of the best waterfall ice in the country. While the weather was not perfect for climbing, we had some fun. We climbed a waterfall route called Tendonitis on Sunday. It was fun, but the weather was way too warm and the ice was melting quickly. By the afternoon, climbing the fall was like taking a shower. The ice quality was OK, but was quickly deteriorating. We called it an early day and hung out our gear to dry.

On Monday, we climbed a couple short routes in Chapel Pond Canyon, and then headed home. One of our climbing partners was sick, and wanted to get home. There were very few climbable routes anyway based on the thaw, so we were fine with it. It was just fun to get back on the ice after missing ice climbing all of last year. This is a shot of Kevin rappelling off the right side of "Lions on the Beach".This is a shot of Ged (right) and me (left) leading Tendonitis, a Grade 3+ waterfall on the north face of Pitchoff Mountain.Here's a shot (left to right) of me, JDW, Ged, and Goat at the beaver pond below the north face of Pitchoff Mtn.

On Tuesday, the Goat and I scouted out some new running trails and got ourselves lost. We ended up at a quarry. While we knew the it existed, I had never understood the magnitude of the site. It's the 3rd quarry along the Metacomet Trail and it's really sad to see the land butchered. I think people would think twice about all the waste of our natural resources if they could see the quarry. I brought along my new camera, so you can check out the pics below. The wind was so strong that it was hard to make forward progress at times. I have never seen wind that bad. In fact, a large tree fell down behind my house while we were out for the run. Luckily, it missed the house.

Today, I took my daughter, Tara, and her boyfriend, Devon, skiing at Ski Sundown. It started snowing shortly before we arrived there at 8:30, and we had a covering of 1-2" of fresh powder when we got to the top of the mountain. It snowed the entire time we were there, so the conditions just kept getting better. By the time we left, there were at least 6" of powder, and I was loving it. Ski Sundown is a small hill, but it's the best in CT. The conditions we excellent considering the weather we get here in southern New England. This is Tara (right) and me (left) carving some turns.
This is Tara and her boyfriend, Devon, shredding it in the pow!
What a great week and what a great year! When I think back on all the great activities that I have experienced this past year, I am so happy. It's been an amazing year, and I'm looking forward to a great 2009 as well.

I hope you all look back on 2008 with some great memories, and wish you all the best in 2009! I also hope to get out and have some fun with many of you readers over the course of 2009. Running, climbing, skiing, or just sharing some stories and laughs. It's all good!

All the best for 2009!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Joan's Weekend in Vermont

The CT Climbers & Mountaineers started an annual trip to Vermont about 5-6 years ago. Joan, the widow of a past member, Dennis, invited us to her vacation/rental house near Killington, and it has become an annual tradition. I've been on almost all of the trips, and hope we have the opportunity for many more. It's such a great time!

The old farmhouse sleeps about 20 people comfortably, and we usually get about 15 or so in attendance. The weekend goes something like this....Drive up Friday night and arrive in time for drinks and nachos. It's a chance to get reacquainted with folks I haven't seen in awhile. Saturday - After a quick breakfast, we head out for various outdoor activities. I usually ski with my old climbing partner/mentor, Paul (a.k.a. EuroMan) and others. We don't ride the lifts...we use backcountry ski gear (Randonee or Telemark) to "skin" up the mountain and then ski down. Talk about a great cardio workout without the pounding...more on that later. Saturday night is filled with tales of great adventure and an ethnic theme dinner (this year was Ethiopian) followed by a Euroman slide show of past adventures and more drinking. Sunday calls for a more leasurely breakfast followed by clean up/pack up and heading out. Some folks go for more skiing or adventure while others head home.

I talked Dawn into joining the crew this year, so we drove up together Friday night. We arrived around 9:30 to find that the power was out due to the ice storm and we were on generator power. While the beer tasted great, we could not escape talk of the economy, etc. It wasn't a great start, but it was good to be away. Dawn planned to try cross-country skiing with Goat and Dagmar while I headed out to poach some runs at Killington or Pico with EuroMan and others. Generally, the ski resorts don't mind us skinning up the slopes as long as we stay out of the way. It's tough to find non-resort skiing this early in the season as there is usually not enough snow in the woods, etc.

Six of us started up the slopes at a section of Killington that was not open to lift service yet. The snow making equipment was running, but no lifts. Basically, we had the place to ourselves. Four of us stayed together for the 2,000 vertical feet to the summit while Jody and Rick poked along behind us. The conditions were a bit icy, but the skiing down the top half of the mountain was reasonably good. It felt great to be back on the slopes! Unfortunately, our fun was about to come to a screeching halt. One of the resort employees on a snowmobile decided to give me a hard time and asked us to leave. This side of the mountain was not open and we were not paying customers, so we understood the rationale. We complied with his request even though some of the other employees told us it's not usually an issue. I guess this guy was in a bad mood that day. Anyway, we waited in the parking lot for Rick and Jody for awhile to make sure they were safe. Since we had nothing better to do, we started happy hour early.

After Rick and Jody arrived, they decided to head back to the house, and Matt, Jerimy, Paul, and I decided to try to get in a little more vertical at Pico. The resort was not open for paying customers, so we figured we could get a nice run in. On the way up, we saw a skier coming down, so we figured there was no issue with us being there. The skinning was relatively easy because the slope was not very steep for the first 80% of the way up the mountain. Matt decided to take it easy, so it was EuroMan, Jerimy, and me heading to the summit. Jerimy was moving well until we got to the steeper terrain. He did not have ski crampons for biting into the ice, and he was losing the battle with friction. He started sliding down and we couldn't do much to help him. He decided to take off his skis and try boot-packing it to the top. EuroMan and I were within 200 vertical feet of the summit when one of his crampons came loose. Yikes! He worked on re-attaching while I continued to cautiously work my way up the ice covered, steep slope. There were moments of concern to say the least. One false move on this stuff, and you were going for a long ride! Paul had enough at one point and suggested we turn around and ski down. The section I was on was so steep that there was no way I could convert from skinning to skiing. This involves removing the skis, tearing off the skins, re-setting the binding, buckling the boots, and stepping back into the bindings. "No Way!", I yelled. We have to get to the summit! At least it would be level at the summit, we could changeover, and decide on our next course of action. Paul agreed and we pressed on to the top. I managed fine with the ski crampons while Paul and Jerimy cautiously booted it to the summit.

After summiting, we elected to ski down a more gentle slope, but the conditions were not much better. It was "survival skiing" at it's best. We just wanted to get down the mountain before dark. Here's a shot of EuroMan and Jerimy after we managed to get through the steep, nasty stuff. Yes, that is EuroMan's trusty companion, Grover, riding shotgun on the back of his pack. Grover accompanies EuroMan on most adventures. He has earned his wings sky diving recently and has managed to solo rappel. He's quite the ladies man as well.

Anyway, back to our story! After fumbling our way back to the cars, we headed back to the house for the real happy hour, a hot shower, and an incredible Ethiopian feast prepared by Al, Marlene, Dawn, Dagmar, and yours truly. The meal was amazing and Matt provided an amazing selection of dessert goodies. I found out that Dawn, Dagmar, and Kevin tried snowshoeing because conditions were too icy for cross-country skiing. Their day was a bit shorter, but it sounded like they enjoyed themselves. The EuroMan slideshow included his recent adventures to Nicaragua and other far off places, and I truly enjoyed it. What a day!

We awoke to a wonderful breakfast on Sunday morning prepared by Rick and Jody, and then the adventure started to wrap up. We cleaned and packed the cars, and said our "goodbyes". Another Joan's weekend was complete.

I had to wonder if this was the last weekend of it's kind. EuroMan is moving west in a week, and he usually coordinates this trip. I hope we continue this event. I love this retreat weekend. It marks the transition from climbing to winter sports season, and is a great opportunity to hang out with friends I don't see very often. I also wonder if I will see EuroMan again. He is a one-man band and goes with the wind these days. I truly miss our days as climbing partners. He taught me a lot and it was a pleasure to watch him climb. We still hold the record for most pitches in a day at the Gunks (at least until someone proves us wrong). We had many great trips together and I hope we get the chance to share more adventures in the future. All the best EuroMan. May you find great adventure and the other things you are seeking!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving in Mexico

Howdy and Buenos Dias! It's good to be back on U.S. soil. This is just a quick post to summarize the trip. A more detailed report will follow. Hope you all had a wonderful Turkey Day and restful weekend.

Our plan was to climb the 3rd highest peak in North America, Pico de Orizaba, at 18,400 feet in elevation. It is not considered a very technical climb although there is some fairly steep snow/ice (50 degrees?) leading up to the glacier and then some areas of near 40 degree glacier near the summit. About half the climb is on the glacier, so it calls for crampons and ice axe.

We did Ixta (7th highest peak in N. America at 17,200 feet) as a warm up, and frankly it seemed harder due to the constant up and down nature of that climb. We probably had more vertical gain on Ixta than Orizaba.

There's so much to cover that I can't possibly do it all now. Let's just say that it was a successful trip, everyone summited and a good time was had by all. I'm still recovering from a nasty cold, so I gotta keep this short.

Here's a few pics to whet your appetite!
Popocatepetl (17,887 feet) is closed to climbing. It looked like she was going to blow at any moment!
Paulina and Victor climbing up to the Knee on Ixta.
You can faintly make out the trail traversing below the first peak and the traversing the ridgeline beyond.

Alex sets out across the glacier towards the summit ridge on Ixta.
One of 3 summits on Ixta (17, 187 feet).