Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring Day at the Crag

A few shots while out cragging around with Marcelle yesterday. Great to see lots of people out and great to climb a few new lines.
Marcelle finishing up October Sky

Samantha cruises up Comrades in Destiny

Tracey (a.k.a. Rope-Gun) leading Astroboy Direct. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Jill and I went to Cuba for a week. We spent half our time roasting on the beach and the other half cruising the countryside doing touristy things. We learned quite a bit about the country: history, the revolution, the communist party, the economy, the people, and a lot of recent reforms. It was totally fascinating.

The weather was hot sun every day. Consistently 30+. The breeze was always strong so it made the heat totally bearable. The dry season is just coming to an end so we saw lots of planted bananas, pineapples, papayas, sugarcane, and mango orchards.

We spent a day in Havana with a guide who was a major history scholar. We saw Spanish forts build in 1504 just after Christopher Columbus discovered the island. The architecture is pretty unreal and the entire old city is being restored using money they got from the UN after being declared a world heritage site. We got there as the Cubans were celebrating their military victory 50 years after they defeated the US at the Bay of Pigs. I watched a huge military parade on state-run television. We went to Revolution Square and saw a pile of interesting monuments to Castro's overthrow of the U.S. mafia controlled Cuban government of the day. The country is littered with images of Che Guevara but no monuments to Castro himself. Our guide told us that he passed a law banning monuments to himself while he's still alive. Apparently he saw Stalin do it in the Soviet Union and thought it was a douchey move! Nice.

The vintage cars are super cool. They account for at least half of the wheels on the road. Cuban mechanics are a well-respected lot and with good cause. The cars have all been gutted of their original gas engines and converted to run on Soviet and Chinese diesel parts. Smart.

What was also really interesting was the utter lack of advertising... anywhere. No commercials on T.V. No billboards on the highways. No signs anywhere telling you what to buy. Also no competition since prices for generally everything are fixed. You just go to the closest store and buy what you want. That said... just hope all you want is tourist trinkets, beer, rum, or cigars. Good luck finding anything else.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Big Aid Weekend 1

I learned quite a bit last weekend. 

Erick, Chris, Adam and I spent the weekend training for the wall in Welsford. We've planned about 5-6 of these sessions before the fall. The plan was to spend two days on aid routes and sleep in the ledges Saturday night. 

I packed up the full rack complete with hammer and pins, ledge, food, water, bags, & spare clothes... and damn, it was heavy. I weighed the whole rig at an extra 85lbs (a relatively light load compared to the extra water and food we'll need for the big wall). I was actually surprised that humping it up to Cheekbone corner wasn't as bad as I'd thought. Go slow but steady, early in the morning, wear little in the way of clothes and you'll be fine. 

Saturday I aided Wise Crack to the Strata Factor anchor and then Chris aided pitch 2 of Strata Factor. We set up the ledges at the high on top of the crag directly over the nose of Weeping Whisker. I picked up my ledge last year in the consignment basement at IME on N. Conway. It's a 10 year old FISH model that's looks like it's only been out of the closet once or twice. The only downside is the fly. It's a basic nylon sheet with no doors/windows/waterproof and it didn't have a pole to keep it off you when it's wet. So to remedy this I painted 2 full bottles of seam seal all over the thing and installed a jury-rigged pole. I don't know if the seam seal worked since we avoided the rain over the weekend. In fact, once unpacked, the fly actually had glued itself together despite being left hung for 2 days for the stuff to dry. When I pulled it apart it appeared as if parts of the nylon coating were damaged. However, my makeshift pole rig worked perfect. The Radical Edge hooked me up with a sweet lightweight aluminum pole from their spare parts graveyard that was the perfect size. I simply tied some webbing to the corners of my ledge and threaded the pole into a few slits I cut into the tube. Worked perfect. 

The evening's entertainment consisted of Dom sending a proud looking off-width across the gully at Upper Down Home wall. We also watched the Peregrines rocketing around below us picking off forest critters. They did not seem to take notice of us. 

The view from my campsite in the morning couldn't be better.

Breakfast consisted of cereal and a pile of chocolate covered coffee beans (which are yum). We tore down camp and moved over to the ampitheatre. The day before Erick had solo aided Loki's Revenge (nice work!) and left the pitch fixed. We jugged the pitch and I set off to lead the upper pitch of Ascent to Asguard. A very nice but challenging climb.

I regret that I don't have a camera I'm willing to carry while leading something where I might fall. As such, I missed out on a golden photo of the boys working on hauling at a hanging belay. The light was so perfect that a $5 disposable would have taken a killer shot. I'll have to get something to fit those times. Also, rapped back down using 2 ropes from the anchors over Odin. This is now the most radical rappel route in Welsford and it's accessible easily by walking from the top. You are in space for most of about 45m and it presents the opportunity to take what would be just about the most impressive photography in N.B. The next time anyone is heading into the ampitheatre to hop on Rockstar, Flight of the Valkyries, Odin, etc., I want to be hanging around with my camera. Let me know.