Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tour De Bloc 9 at UNB

For the past two weeks I've been busy with club stuff so I haven't posted much here. I did a write-up of our annual Ice School over on the club's site (here). Last weekend the club was host to the Tour De Bloc, Canada's national bouldering series. 

 Fortunately, I had a lot of help... cause this comp is a lot of work to host. It was good to see that the field of climbers grew quite a bit from last year. Changed format, lousy outdoor weather, a new route-setter, and a lack of a Banff Film fest comp probably all contributed to the bigger crowd. The Halifax crew had a strong showing and cleaned up... but then again... they've got the reputation for being the powerhouse of bouldering in the east. 

Since I was busy during much of the rest of the day I was only able to get photos during the women's open finals round. I'll say this though... it is damn-near impossible to get quality photography in our gym. The lighting is poor and dim. Flashes are worthless since they tend to produce a snowy haze from the chalk dust floating around right in front of the lens (and they are not allowed during comps). Fast prime lenses are your best bet but it's still a huge challenge. At 50mm (the most common prime) you're still telephoto enough to require you to climb to the furthest corner of the gym in order to avoid cutting heads and feet off the climbers in your photos. At that range the only option is to get yourself high in order to avoid being obstructed by the audience. These shots were taken at 1600 ISO, F1.8, and I could still get a shutter speed of 1/60th sec at absolute best. If you can get sharp focus and colour on fast-moving subjects under those conditions you've got skill... real skill. When you see great pictures taken in our gym you need to respect them! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bell's Original 1978 N.B. Rock & Ice

To finish my mini-series... a bonus from the private library of Stef Kruse... the original guide to climbing in N.B.

This 1st edition pre-dates me... and many of the people climbing in N.B. today. Bell's guidebook is rich with history. The cover shot pretty much makes me inspired to do an old-school ascent of Cheekbone corner (hexes, slacks, socks, & swamis). Anyone interested? The topo here was the model I used to make a modern topo for the area last year. The drafted style is really clean and I really enjoy the old names to the areas. What was really cool was to see the club logo stamped into this guide... the same logo we use today after it was digitally resurrected a few years ago. 

What a treat. Thanks Stef. Hope you enjoyed looking back at these earlier guides as much as I have. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Steve Adamson's 1987 Climbers Guide to N.B.

Part 3 of my library score: Finding this, in addition to the other two books I've already posted, blew me away. This classic guidebook was in such good shape I wonder seriously that it had ever been in a pack. Again, with the author's permission, I've scanned it in order to share. It's a quality read.

At the time this book was published I was much more interested in G.I. Joes and Santa Cruz skateboards. I bet half of the current climbers at the Rock & Ice club weren't yet born. It would have been a fun time to be involved in Welsford... it must have been overwhelming in terms of possibilities for new FA's.

There's two clear highlights in this book: the grade descriptions, and the mini-epics. Reading about getting shut down on Cheekbone Corner before getting off the ground made me laugh. I've seen it. Even today's new climbers are intimidated by the prospect of leading the first pitch. I'm not sure a modern-day author would be rewarded for sharing personal stories like Steve does here. Seems like most publications only want to hear about being shut down on 5.13 or above. I thought it added a lot of character to the book.


Hope you enjoyed! p.s. I have bonus post yet to come in this Welsford history series.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Baker et. al.'s 1995 Guide to Climbing in Welsford

Part 2 of my Legislative Library treasure hunt.

In the library's Welsford collection the next find was Baker et. al.'s 1995 rock climbing guide. A perfectly mint condition copy at that. And it's with the permission of the lead author that I post it here for your enjoyment! In asking permission I assured Paul that I don't make a cent off of this blog... in response he assured me that he didn't make a cent off this book. Which is too bad. 

Now 17 years out of print this guide would still be considered excellent. The absolute highlight are the hand drawn topos of Mark Dixon. Although the engineered precision of Fred's newer CAD topos is appreciated, this style really begs you to climb the routes! Also fun is some of the sandbagged grades... can you spot them? Very nice stuff. 

With 5 years now elapsed since Fred's last guidebook edition, I'd expect that there new routes, new areas, and new climbers enough to justify a new guide. The question will be who will have the energy and time to dedicate to the monumental task? I think similar to this edition, any new guide will almost have to be a multi-author approach. I also wonder whether there's too many areas for a single book to cover? 

One more little gem left to share!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cochrane's 1921 History of Welsford

Yesterday, I unearthed 3 pieces of buried treasure. This post will talk about the first. There are two more to come.

This may come as a shock to anyone who know me, but yesterday, I ventured into a library. A very prestigious library at that. Hidden at the back of the Legislative Assembly there is a large collection of books and papers focusing on N.B. In a search of that collection the following document caught my eye: "A History of Welsford, New Brunswick - Evande Cochrane (1921)" I think we can reasonably presume that this author is the same person who our cliffs are named for. Although the librarian wouldn't let me leave with the copy I was allowed to photograph it. So you can have a look at it below and read for yourself. Unfortunately you won't get the pleasure of opening 90 year old paper worried that it's going to crumble as you read it.

There are a few interesting passages. Cochrane talks about a town that supported 220 souls. That's not much less that what's there today according to last week's Canadian census. There's mention of extensive logging at the time and a rich Nerepis valley supporting a population of elm. (today virtually gone from N.B. due to dutch elm disease and agricultural development on river soils). The huge pine and red spruce which are still around the base of Cochrane lane and Eagle rock are described as widespread, despite a healthy logging industry.

There's mention of the terrain, which is what I was hoping for. Eagle Rock was named much earlier on in the 1800's. Mt. Douglas is mentioned as a popular place for a hike due to it's easy terrain and views of the valley. There's also mention of trips to the summit of Mt. MacDonald, which was described as more challenging terrain. I expect this is now what we know as Cochrane lane cliffs... and I wonder where the trail lead? Maybe up the gully between Waterfall Wall and Pooh Corner leading to the view on top of Cheekbone or the Ampitheatre? That would make the trail about 100 years old!

To my disappointed there's no mention of proper climbing occurring. The author seems much more focused on the dealings of the local churches. Also disappointing is the authors description that Welsford has: "an inexhaustible supply of red and grey granite". I think that was a way of inviting quarrymen to come mine the resource. Thank god they decided that the southwest face of Mt. Douglas had easier access than the L-shape.

 All in all, an interesting read about a place I spend a good deal of time in.

 ...and remember... I found 2 other treasures there!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Making Lemon-Aid

Tonight presented the perfect conditions for a night outing to Welsford. The moon was full, the sky clear, and snow fresh. I opened the door to my car and started lacing my boots. The air was cold, but not biting... more like just fresh. I'd spotted a glimpse of the moon rising as I drove past Mt. Douglas but from the field it was still hidden behind the L-shape somewhere.

Time to decide what to do. I'm psyched to join in on a night ice session but the rest of the boys aren't here. I'd been messaged twice earlier on in the day to let me know it's on. They were supposed to have an hour jump on me so if they aren't here I figure they aren't coming. I call home and Jill says I have no messages. I have a camera, some crampons, tools, but no rope. The plan had been to get in a quick burn and then try some nighttime photography. I guess I still have half a plan.

The trail to waterfall wall is well packed and easy going. Lots of snowshoe hair tracks keeping coyotes well fed. The map I made earlier in the year for the sign-in box is trashed. I need to put that on my list... better waterproofing for the next one. The last log entry reads:

"Jan 28th - Angela & Magda - Waterfall - No Shenanigans - Yay!"

The ice at waterfall wall is bright and the moon's up. It looks and feels sunbaked. The headlamp finally gets turned on but only long enough to fit on my crampons. I made a traverse of the base before taking a self portrait and walking back down.

Who likes toque hair? 
Back at the field the moon is now rising over the upper tier and the field.

A lousy night climbing but a good hike otherwise. How's that for glass half full.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet, and Scotch

I'm tired. It's 11:30 on Sunday night, I have a heat pack on my neck, and the weekend is done. Looking forward to going to sleep. But first, the action of the last 2 days. 

The climbing club hosted (for the umpteenth time) the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Although there's not a lot of responsibility I have for that I nevertheless seem worked by it. We had a packed theater both nights... which is excellent. It's great to see it has such a loyal following in Fredericton. The 700 tickets practically sold themselves. Lots of friends of the club, and lots of personal friends. 

My only real contribution to the work is acting as the local emcee. I've done it before... and it fell again as my responsibility this year. I think I give off the impression that I like public speaking but... truth be told, I don't. I just deal with it. I write notes but forget to look at them. I worry that I ramble. I forget the important things and I sweat over screwing up people's names. It's difficult... speaking to an audience of 60 friends plus another 300 strangers. But it's done now, and I suppose each time it's a good experience for me.

The films this year were quite good. The paddling films were really good. Enough to make me want to try it. But hell, I hear it's sketchy and I'm probably already invested in too many sports. If anything was inspiring to me it was to try and take my photography up a notch. There are some damn fine photographers / cinematographers  out there in the world! They seem to come out of the woodwork for this festival.

To unwind today I went climbing. Cold air, strong sun, and snow. It was a well-cut winter day.

Two weeks ago we had a January rain. The temperature hit about +8 and it poured. Since then the sun's been strong and lot of ice that was weakened has been lost. Hayes falls, protected in the shade of the woods, is pretty durable and I'd heard that it was formed up. I don't think I'd be any more generous in my description than that: formed-up... but beggars can't be choosers. 

Brian, Graham, and the Hayes falls snowfield.

The main falls were led on all sides. The ice was like cauliflower and Styrofoam. That's were there was ice. Half of the pitch was nothing more than a snowfield. It's been hiked in snowshoes before without tools and I think it could probably have been sent again today but a crafty and skilled hiker. 

The pillar in the woods was a different matter. That ice was so dense it was like climbing a car's windshield. Swing at it and you either bounce right off or shatter it in every direction. I led the line but got mentally spanked... and took on several screws. It turns out I don't like pulling on badly fractured ice. But who does?  Not sure who it was... but thanks to whoever brought the Scotch today. Well timed, and appreciated. 

Spotted a pocket of icicles growing some fractal snow crystals. 

And the highlight of the day: without question a drop-in from Jill and Marcelle... wandering through the woods... dog in tow. Sorry you missed the climbing... let's make sure you get in on it next week.