Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Early Season trip checklist

SO! This weekend is something I am incredibly excited for. I'm heading down to the Adirondacks High Peaks with Evan, Lara, and Steph hoping to jump on some delicious early season ice climbing. Our destination is the North Face of Pitchoff Mountain (check the video at the bottom), the locale that we figure has the best chance of having climbable ice.

The weather has been a serious pain...first setting up great early season conditions, getting our hopes up...and then threatening to squash them in a fury of mild temperatures and not-frozen cloud tears. But, we're taking the chance and heading down! Hooray for adventures!

Last year in ONTARIO we were able to climb by this date (Dec. 7th)...unfortunately I think southern Ontario will have to wait at least a week...So for Evan's birthday, this is our trip.

Given that we have the possibility of encountering wet, thin ice...some gear changes had to be made. Also a big change from previous trips, we'll be staying in a hostel this no need to find a campsite!

I figured I'd toss a packing list up here for the heck of it, give y'all an idea of what I'd bring on this kind of trip. Anything in the list below that has a link will take you to info about the product. I'm not intending to advertise, but figured maybe someone out there is interested in knowing more about what I'm using.

Trip Length: 3 days
Camping: no


Ice Axes (Black Diamond Fusion)
Crampons (Black Diamond Cyborg)
Harness (Black Diamond Xenos)
Helmet (Black Diamond Half Dome)
Ice Screws (Black Diamond Turbo Express)
Nuts (full set + nut tool)
Small Hexes
Tri-cams (0.5-2)
Slings (dyneema - 60cm, 120cm)
Quickdraws (wiregate, dyneema dogbone)
Locking carabiners
Loose carabiners (at least 2 for every sling)
Cordalette (6mm ~10m)
V-thread tool (homemade)
2x 8.5mm Half-Ropes
Figure 8
Stove (Primus EtaPower MF)
Poles (Black Diamond Contour Elliptic)
Pack (Arc'teryx Cierzo 25)


Softshell Jacket (OR Alibi Jacket)
Hardshell Jacket (Berghaus Temperence II Jacket)
Insulated Jacket (Westcomb Himalaya Hoody)
Softshell Pant (OR Alibi Pant)
Hardshell Pant (Cloudveil Koven Pant)
Boots (Mammut Mamook Thermo)
Thin hat for under helmet (Helly Hansen HH Dry)
Buff (HH Warm Buff)
Thick hat (Mammut Placid beanie)

OR Stormtracker gloves (primary climbing gloves)
MEC Windbreak gloves (backup climbing gloves)
BD Punisher gloves (very cold or wet weather climbing gloves / belay gloves)
BD Mercury Mitt (Hand toasters)

2x lightweight long underwear
2x short-sleeved base (this and this)
2x long-sleeved base (1 merino 1/4-zip, 1 lightweight synthetic crew)
2x insulating top (MEC Amenity and T3 Stretch hoodie)
4x boxer briefs
6x socks (including these which i am very excited about - primaloft yarn!)

And that's it! Some stuff I have left out (e.g. binoculars, sleeping bags) because someone else is bringing them or they aren't entirely necessary...but there you go, that's the plan!

You can definitely expect a trip report when we return!

the North Face of Pitchoff Mountain:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes...

This sunday is the government-mandated remorseless killing of a wonderful hour that heralded sun and extended activity time for the last few months...but hey it's not all bad, right?

One man's daylight savings time is another man's ice-climb makings time. As October leaves us, dazed, wondering what happened last night and where our pants have gone, November rolls on in...that jacket you've been donning to walk the dog in the evening suddenly is not quite enough...the tips of your fingers are strangely less effective during your early-morning text messaging blitz while standing at the bus stop...

There is already snow in the Adirondacks, and the Presidential Range in New Hampshire has climbable ice! Oh deliver unto me an unending stoke!

I think this weekend I'm going to trundle down into the basement and brush the dust off my crampons and get down to the lovely business of making them ready for ice season. Axes too...some careful filing and they'll be ready for the big leagues! Last year, we were climbing in Ontario in the first week of December, I'd love to do better this year!

So, I've started my ice dance...who's with me?

First day out last year...December 9th I think...

keep it cold!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Trip Report: Last day out of the season!?

Every day we go out becomes the "last day" out...because the current temperature fluctuations are making our noblest of endeavours a risky business...
So! although sunday's excursion with Ryan was our last day out, Tuesday's excursion with Evan was also our last day out. Who knows, maybe next week we'll have another last day out.

We decided to take advantage of some outstanding bluebird weather to zip into Elora and check the conditions at Irvine Creek, a great little haunt right in the town (Irvine empties into the Grand).

We parked on the side of the road, walked over to the gorge edge, hopped a barrier and rappelled in. Probably the most relaxed approach possible, dandy! All things considered (recent near-double-digit weather with rain) the ice was in great condition, in some cases noticeably fat and growing.
Once in the gorge, it's possible to walk along the edge of the river to the bases of a few WI4's. In this area, climbing is speediest if you are comfortable leading WI4 ice up to 40ft...if you had to build TR stations at each climb, it'd be a bit of a headache. Luckily the ice was in fat conditions and provided plentiful fun.

We started the day on a nice fat section with great ice and a sketchy topout. My lead, Evan redpoint.
Next we turned to the left and jumped on this cool vertical curtain that spills over an overhanging tree. short distances of vertical between excellent rests, but the thin nature and verticality make it more of a head game. The ice was bomber though so made for a great time! My lead, Evan redpoint.
More leading followed, up some stepped WI3+ with some serious excavation required to find screws. Me: "hey man, this is right up your alley!" Evan: "eh?" Me: "it's like a bloody archaeological dig up here finding screw placements!" (Evan has a master's in classics). Good times! My lead, Evan redpoint. You can sort-of see the line following the right edge of this compiled picture:
Some pretty creative climbing was required here to navigate the mushrooms and poor surface ice. 'twas great!

Did some more exploring, the fantastic pillar down the river was still standing...hopefully it'll hang out for a little while so we can get out on it! Conditions are quickly deteriorating though so we'll have to see.

Re-learned an important lesson about standing in the line of fire, though...
no worries, i'm fine...and it'll leave a great scar!

Keep it cold!

Monday, February 28, 2011

UPDATE: Moonlight Madness pictures!

Alright finally got some pics from Coleman of our bomber day out at The Egg and the FA of Moonlight Madness!

Looking up at the start
From gear.ME

moving carefully through the mushrooms
From gear.ME

let the run-out begin
From gear.ME

almost halfway
From gear.ME

gritty ;)
From gear.ME

pulling up onto comfortably sketchy ice-layer-over-snow-over-ice at the halfway
From gear.ME

up on the 2nd half
From gear.ME

it was a great day out...hoping that it stays around freezing there's a bunch more waiting to get FA'd right around it!

keep it cold

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trip Report - The Egg 13/02/11 - Moonlight Madness

I wondered at Evan the other day just how much of our ice climbing has been done at's gotta be up near 50%.

The Money Wall is a beautiful place, and it's always nice to go there during the daylight hours when you can actually see the abundance of ice available for a'whackin'.

The plan today was to zip in and do redpoint repeats on as many of the lines as we could (i.e. one of us would lead it and leave the gear up, and then we'd do laps) - much more rewarding than top-roping and gets one's head in the game with less danger than actually leading.

Coleman and I got into town a hair after 1pm and trundled into the Money Wall. It was warm +4C warm...the snow was heavy on our feet and the ice was under attack! Down-climbing onto the frozen river, I was beyond stoked to see that the morning's warmth hadn't resulted in any catastrophic collapses. Not only that, but in the 2 weeks since I'd been there, an overwhelming fphatness* had occurred!

So we got to it. Warmed up on some of the shorter, easier lines - I led and Coleman cleaned on top-rope. Evan arrived around 3:30 and we moved over to some taller, more vertical ice. Once again I led - then Evan jumped on the TR for a warm-up, and Coleman the mega-badass redpointed the line - so proud!

Feeling fantastic, and buoyed by outstandingly plastic ice, I wanted to have a go at a line that I have been scoping for the entire season. It follows a small pillar straight up to an excellent ledge, where another pillar has spilled over the side of a tree and touched down. Very cool line combining two halves of delicate, super-heady vertical climbing with a dandy rest in the middle. It's hidden away and never seems to see any traffic, two of the appealing aspects, despite being so I was admittedly a little motivated by first ascent dreams as well.

Following some silliness getting Coleman up into picture position (these things are important...) involving a good cerebral solo by Evan, we were ready to get underway. It would be my first time leading proper vertical ice but conditions were aces so I wanted to have at it.

The first section was vertical with tons of white-topped mini-mushrooms big enough for the first four-to-six points to rest on - excellent feet - but looked comfortably unstable because of their white tops (aerated or snow ice). Got a screw in the bottom about 7 ft up and then another one maybe 10ft above that. From there I just didn't feel there were reliable enough placements to be worth spending the energy...bring on the run-out! Pulling the bulge onto the ledge where snow-covered rock and sketchy crust awaited me, where a slip would mean 100% ground-fall, was a good time indeed!

Up on the ledge, alive and resting, time to get some blood back into my hands and suss out the next a screw at more ground fall! hooray!

The upper curtain was beautifully bonded and touching down on the ledge but was still only about 9 inches needless to say it was important to forget about this and just get to climbing! The plastic ice paid serious dividends and soon i was placing my final screw to pull the bulge at the top...a little more pumped than i would have preferred...swings becoming a little desperate...

Up high enough to hook a chunk of rock, pull a little more, hook a small tree stuck in the ice and i'm over! Such a fantastic feeling! I scrambled up a small snow slope and set a quick anchor and called for tension.

What followed was a dusk-turning-to-night epic involving a severe lack of headlamps, 50ft of WI3 solo'ing for me to retrieve my gear, and a small hairy solo for Evan and Coleman. Everyone made it out safely and the grins were huge on the brisk trot back to the cars.

End of the day I've got a small cut on my lip from a chunk of ice, and a first ascent (at least for this season, but likely for real!).

Moonlight Madness - WI5- M1 T1
- M1 for hooking the rock at the top-out
- T1 for hooking the tree at the top-out <-- quintessential Ontario Brown rating - more to follow on this

pictures coming soon!

*fphatness - referring to ice that is both fat (thick and abundant) and phat (pretty awesome)

Friday, January 28, 2011

More videos?! Oh yeah.

This is an older video, but i only just got around to putting it together.

It showcases the pleasant, if lengthy (for most of Ontario) approach to the Cataract Falls ice wall.

This is a great little day-trip destination. Easy TR setup and behind the falls there is an awesome ice cave with amazing formations.


To give you an idea of the cool ice formations to be found behind the frozen falls:

(photo credit: Evan Sharp)

Keep it cold!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More from the North Face of Pitchoff

Across from the main face at the North Face of Pitchoff mountain in the Adirondacks, there's a good 70ft tall wall of fantastic play-ice with everything from some WI3 steps to free-hanging pillars, a great way to spend a morning.

We'd left our top-rope up overnight and it got iced in, so I went up to bash it loose and work on my head-game a bit! good fun.

I'll post up some pictures from that day in a bit!

keep it cold, y'all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A little video action...

Some video of our day at the North Face of Pitchoff Mountain in the Adirondacks High Peaks region, New York.

Had a grand ol' time getting on some pretty big ice!

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Review of M's Alibi Jacket!"

Originally submitted at Outdoor Research

A monster of a jacket, the rugged Alibi Jacket is a combination of different materials conscientiously designed in all the right places. Tough, weatherproof fabric is used on the hood and shoulders where the elements hit the hardest, a warm soft shell lower body holds in core warm...

For Ice, so nice!

By medwards from Ontario, Canada on 1/14/2011


4out of 5

Fit: Feels true to size

Sleeve Length: Feels true to length

Chest Size: Feels true to size

Pros: Breathable, Versatile, Very easy to move in, Comfortable, Fit is outstanding

Cons: Trade-offs, Hood fit

Best Uses: Hiking and Camping, Cycling, Casual Wear, Ice Climbing

Describe Yourself: Avid Adventurer

Was this a gift?: No

Let me preface with the note that I bought this jacket on pro-deal. However, that definitely does not skew my opinion on it.

This has become my go-to jacket for literally almost everything, to the point that I'm worried I will wear it out faster than I want to. Everything about it is pretty much perfect. The fit is outstanding (41" chest and 31" waist - still able to get a thin primaloft layer underneath but not bulky at all when worn alone) and the details are well-thought out and well executed.

The length is great - in the arms it is just long enough so as not to expose my wrists when I reach up with a tool or I'm bent over on the bike. In the body, it's just long enough to stay put under a harness but not so long that it looks like a trenchcoat.

The fabric zoning is also great - everything where it needs to be keeps you comfortable and dry. One note about this though, the breathable softshell on the back- and underarm-panels is not especially wind resistant. if a still breeze comes from the front you'll feel it on the front of your shoulders. I made the mistake a couple times of turning my back to the wind at the base of a climb and got a quick chill. That said, the trade-off is tiny compared to the breathability and comfort you get while moving.

I have never overheated in this jacket and I've never been too cold - it has a fantastic marriage of breathability and weather resistance.

I've been using it as a cycling jacket for my morning commute, and have recommended it to co-workers and friends for that purpose as well. the wrist gaiters and thumb holes ensure your arms don't get chilled and the jacket has enough breathability to ensure you don't overheat! brilliant!

my only gripe is with the internal hood. it is relatively unstructured and because of this, i find the straight edges bother me. It will only stay on if it is under a helmet or a hat, and I found I lost a little peripheral vision as well. I wear glasses, and the hood definitely got in the way when I turned my head. Contouring the sides of the hood too have more of a balaclava-like shape would remedy all these problems.