Monday, January 25, 2010

The Quarry - Jan 23rd

Made it into the quarry on Saturday with a good crew of people. Although we didn't get lost the snow was up to my belly once I was in the woods. I'm buying snowshoes this week... at any cost. The weather was perfect and the ice was good enough (albeit a bit thin and brittle in places).

New camera swag.

So last week I splurged for some new camera swag. The main deal was a new 50mm prime f1.8 lens. It's primarily a portrait lens, but I was curious about what else I could do with it. Also, I picked a heavy-duty tripod that had a little tiny scratch on the leg and haggled my way into 50% off. Score.

I wasn't sure if the lens was worth keeping since a friend owns one that hardly ever gets used. I took it for a spin over the weekend.

First, it isn't a lens that lets you get away without a flash in crummy indoor light (which I'd hoped it might be). Second, it isn't super versatile and can't do macro. A half meter for a minimum focus distance isn't great given the angle. It makes it totally impossible to hold the camera at arm's length and take a self-portrait. Sigh... if only I had a better ape-index! Where it lacks in versatility it makes up for in giving really crisp images in good light with wicked-fast shutter speeds. It almost makes photographs of easily distracted dogs a possibility.

Here's are a few portraits of taken of some willing models:

...and saved the best for last

Turn's out that I'm keeping it since I lost the lens cap already.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Epic Failing of Parlee Brook

Saturday was pointless... well, not entirely so... I got a beer out of it.
Jon, Anders, and I set out to find the infamous ‘approach from below’ at Parlee brook. The rudimentary directions in the ice climbing guide have apparently thrown off several other climbing parties this year. I wasn’t worried... in fact... the night before I was full of cocky optimism. When talking to Jon late Friday night he pleaded with me to bring a map... a suggestion which I balked at replying: “I’m not worried... how bad could it be?”

When the morning arrived I was psyched. I’ve never been into Parlee brook but the pictures I’ve seen looked really cool. Steep narrow gorge covered by ice in all directions... permanently in the shade. The forecast called for a high of 0°. Perfect. Anders was confident that it was going to be the day of my first ice lead.

We passed Sussex and turned southeast towards Poley Mt. First problem where is Parlee Brook Road? I had incorrectly assumed that it was the same road which is taken for the more commonly used ‘approach from the top’. It isn't. It actually is the last road heading southeast before the entrance to Poley. Once at the end of Parlee Brook Road we parked behind some familiar cars belonging to fellow climbers from Saint John. A good sign. On the way in we passed a disheveled looking crazy person who we could only assume lived in this hobbit hole at the end of the road:

I assumed this is ‘The Abbey’ mentioned in the guidebook... although it’s impossible to be sure? What the hell is an abbey anyway? Shouldn’t I see monks or something?
The only advice in the guidebook is to ‘follow the trail for 1.8k until seeing a cabin on the left’. From there you should see some ice in the distance. Looking around I saw several trails... which one to take? Deducing that the guidebook must be referring to the unplowed section of road as a ‘trail’ we set off. It only made sense at the time since that’s where the cars belonging to fellow climbers were parked and a fresh set of snowshoe tracks and snowmobile trails went off in that direction.

Slogging through snow can be misleading... it’s tough to tell how far you’ve gone since you’re unsure how fast you’ve been going. It’s certainly slow business. We passed several cabins on the right side of the road which was a promising sign since we were looking for a cabin on the left. Also promising were periodic piss-holes in the snow... a sure sign that coffee-driven climbers were here just ahead of us. The road was following a well flowing stream through a steep valley. This was definitely the right terrain.

After what seemed like at least 1.5 km we saw somewhat of a small ice fall off in the distance through the trees to the left. Convincing ourselves that our landmark ‘cabin on the left’ was just ahead we continued. At some point we found a bridge over the brook leading to a cabin on the right. Why hadn’t the guide mentioned this bridge? Where had the snowshoe tracks and associated piss-holes gone? WTF?

A steep hill was just ahead. At this point we felt like something wasn’t fitting. Going up the hill would get us to a good vantage point though so we headed on. Ever been on an endless hill? You know, one of those hills that looks like it finishes in just 100 more meters only to trick you? We must have been tricked by that effing hill about a dozen times. When we made it to the top we realized that we’d cleared all of the steep valley terrain and had come out at houses on a plateau and a road marked ‘long settlement road’. Fuck. We’d been beaten. My cocky approach to finding this place came back to haunt me.

Jon was convinced that we should try to hitch hike back. I was pretty tempted looking at my heavy pack and thinking about slogging back the same way I came. I didn't know though... since we were in the middle of BF nowhere who knows when somebody would drive by willing to pick up 3 men who are armed to the teeth with medieval looking ice axes. We ultimately walked it back.

Getting back to the car went quickly for some reason. We dumped our packs and look for where we went wrong. 100’ back from the Hobbit hole we found an ‘Arnold’s Hollow’ road sign leading off at 180° to where we’d been. This road looked more like a trail and was well beaten with snowshoe tracks. How’d we miss it earlier? It was now 1:00 and the day was shot. Knowing we’d have to slog another hour in the snow to get to the climbing we quit, packed the car, and headed out.

The guide mentioned another nearby little climbed route named Dragon’s Den just 5km past Poley in the community of Cedar Camp, NB. It sounded neat ‘A free hanging ice pillar over a cave’. It was supposed to be visible from the road and with only a 15 minute approach sounded possible for a day now more than half shot.

We found it but the only obvious approach was blocked by signs indicating ‘no trespassing, no parking, and beware of dog’. Not a very hospitable place. Not willing to risk another epic we booked, and ended up at the bar at Poley... the only success to an otherwise total ice climbing fail.

I make it sound bad but I think any other reasonable person would have actually chalked it up to a great day to hike in the woods with a few buddies. I guess that’s true.

Tomorrow, I’m pulling all the air photos I have for the area and whenever I return, I’m posting a comprehensive guide to the ‘approach from below’... complete with maps and photos... as it should be.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Let's Bring Back the Shaker!

Ok, we all know it... the biggest mistake UNB Rock & Ice ever made was demolishing the shaker. I want it back.

I started to use my new favourite program: Google SketchUp, to imagine how to bring it back. Here's what I came up with:
  • Step 1... use $10,000 to smash out the concrete wall all the way to the ceiling.
  • Step 2... smash the arete and the overhangs all the way over the the current 10 degree.
  • Step 3... design the new 'Super Shaker' (see below)
  • Step 4... convince everyone in the club it's a good idea (ongoing)
  • Step 5... build the frickin' thing
As soon as we find out that getting into the new Curry Centre is a bust I'm proposing we start spending cash.

I also built in some model components for our new volume holds made locally at Bolo Climbing.

I uploaded my model to Google Earth and embedded it below so you could tour around... pretty slick eh? If you want you can download the reno model itself and play around with your own design: Here.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I've just wasted an entire Friday evening. Sorry Jill. I did it by downloading Google SketchUp... a really cool and free CAD program. Starting with a drafted paper copy of the floor plan and using angles now committed to muscle memory, I created a 3D model of the climbing gym.

For someone with no CAD experience this was a really easy thing to learn. My next project will be to build a model of the basement and play with where the walls go.

Feel free to download my UNB Rock and Ice project file: Here

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Looks like a big Scandinavian word, doesn't it? Sadly, it is not.

It's the sound made by Air Canada as they munch down on your credit card. The same tickets they sold me 8 weeks ago for $1,600 are now on for $950. When I called to ask for a credit they told me in no uncertain terms to 'go pound sand'. This after the mandatory 25 minutes on hold listening to elevator music.

I just wrote them a lengthy response to their customer service rep's suggestion. I'll post when I get their reply. I'm not holding my breath.

Memorable Pitches of 2009

Browsed through my climbing log today and easily picked out my top 10 favourite pitches of 2009. They clearly stood out above the rest:
  • Leviathan, Welsford - my first clean 5.11 lead.
  • High Exposure, Gunks - this line could just as easily be labelled Great Expectations from all hype surrounding it but it seemed to follow through.
  • Warm & Sultry, Welsford - my first 5.9 lead on gear.
  • Weeping Whisker, Welsford - this is likely to get my vote for the best route in NB. Finally lead.
  • Victory Cabbage, Sunnyside - a climb which Erick and I made the first ascent of on top rope two years ago, I was unable to get it clean on lead last year. This summer it finally went down. I find it quite technical.
  • Dynamic Duo, Welsford - a great crack which I'd previously never climbed. Onsight.
  • Ménage a Trois, Welsford - this line is the most valuable addition to NB climbing this year. Fred's unearthing of Waterwalk to lead into Astroboy Direct and finish atop the detached pillar high above the L-Shape.
  • Black Lung, Cathedral Ledge - a classic crack that has interesting moves and bomber gear. Onsight.
  • Inferno, Whitehorse Ledge - perfect hand crack with big exposure. Very memorable lead. Just be sure to get somebody else to lead Hotter than Hell on your way up.
  • Rockstar, Welsford - a sustained line with every style of climbing imaginable all stuffed into 30 m. The old pin needs to be replaced but makes for a spicy lead.
...and a few pitches I'd rather let fade into obscurity:
  • Ride a Cock Horse, Welsford - dirty & awkward. Don't let Fred con you into leading this one with 'everybody has to do this at least once'. Next year it'll be Precious at the cave.
  • Lower Refuse, Cathedral Ledge - dirty & awkward for two pitches. Seriously... just wait in line for Bombardment or Fun House. Even following the party of 5 who was there just ahead of us would have been better.
  • Nuclear Sausage Particle, Sunnyside - although partially responsible for awarding this line it's ridiculous name, I'd never climbed it prior to last fall. Likely never again. YMMV.

Monday, January 4, 2010


My old laptop bit the dust (again) the other day. This machine was declared dead a few years back when it was the property of a friend. I did some serious software fixes and got it back to life after she had paid her last respects and moved on to a new love (read iMac). This time I think it's dead for good. Would only boot if tilted at 90 degrees.

Luckily I got everything I needed from it onto my mobile hard disk. Did a quick Kijiji search and wound up with a new beauty for the bargain price of $250. My new machine does all kinds of tricks and is a big improvement. Just need to get used to Windows 7. So far so good.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Started the new decade today with 2 pitches of snowy adventure aid climbing with Burley at the cave. Not bad. No pics unfortunately.