Sunday, February 24, 2013


9:45 - We're driving on our way to Parlee brook (plan A). It becomes pretty evident that I'm not super psyched about this plan. With 8 screws and a 70m rope I figure it will be a petty taxing day mentally if I'm leading most of the pitches. Everything in Parlee that I want to do is pretty long. I'd like to get on 3 Amigoes but I'd rather have double ropes at at least 4-5 more screws. We talk about slogging around to find Alpine Squeeze but none of us have ever seen it before and don't know how to find the start. Aside from that both Magda and me don't have any snowshoes. Screw this.

10:30 - Now we're headed for St. Martins with the objective of sending the Fundy Gully (plan B). The photo in Joe's ice guide looks rad. A 100m multi-pitch grade III ice line climbing strait out of the beach. Problem is that the tide peaks right now and the beach isn't accessible for another 3 hours. We'll have to wait it out. We head towards Quaco Head, where Dom knows of a few accessible routes to kill time on. 

11:15 - Quaco (plan C) is actually pretty stellar. Almost directly north-facing means little daytime sun and everything is in. I lead an easy grade III called Bouffe. Bulletproof ice but fun. Overall Quaco seems full of really cool lines. Dom led a line left of Bouffe and I went looking around. Aerial looked way cool but the top of the line was decorated with a car sized chandelier of overhanging ice daggers. Dubiously attached, it was later decided to better leave it alone. The gem of the area seemed to be White Cottage, a steep and stout completely free-hanging dagger. It had touched down on the beach but was perhaps only 3 feet in diameter and transparent. It was the kind of climb that makes me want to get lighter and stronger. Beyond my ability, I decided to come back someday when it was thicker and when I'm thinner. 

Dr. Magma on Bouffe
Dom on a nice seaside pitch
"I've got the screaming barfies!"

... the tide is now well on it's way out. 

3:00 - We're now across to the far side of town walking down towards Berry beach. The sun is blasting and the cliffs impressive. Honeycombs and heucos are eroded into the overhanging sandstone. If the rock were more consolidated, this would support world class sport-climbing. Too bad it's choss. The three of us walking down the beach with fingers crossed. Indications are good. We see huge well-formed daggers on the way in at the St. Martins caves restaurant and Dom suggests that at Quaco he'd never seen it so fat.  Passing Superbowl area however it doesn't look good. This line (a multi-pitch grade II) is badly sunbaked and more snowy sand than ice. We finally get to Fundy Gully, what would have been the prize of my season, and find this: 
4:00 - Now back at the car, and a bit deflated, we decide to make it a true Tour-de-Glace, and head for roadside ice at Hampton Marsh... which is on the way home... sort of. We arrive an hour later with just enough evening daylight to lead a pitch. I choose the right-most vertical line. Turns out to be soft ice and good climbing... but the screws are a bit hollow... which leaves me pretty gassed just before topping out the climb. I rest on a screw, but eventually scramble up. Nice spot... we play around there until it's thoroughly dark. 

Go in faster gawddammitt!
Three ice destinations in a day... and we didn't even get an early start. Will have to try for Fundy Gully next year. Unfortunately.... I seem to have lost a nice 13cm BD Screw somewhere in St. Martins. I think it probably belongs to the sea now. 

So what's the nicest ice route you've climbed within 3 hours of Fredericton?

The Cochrane Conjecture

I've observed a trend, which has continued now for long enough that I've got to call it out. Much like Godwin's Law of the internet, it goes like this:
As any potential change in the climbing community is discussed, it is inevitably identified as a potential access issue. Initial supporters withdraw, discussion halts, and change is discarded for the status quo. 
I think a fitting label for this would be Cochrane's Conjecture

The problem is this... I think as climbers we've moved away from many meaningfully positive changes over the years, but has security of access to our crags really improved? 

Community ideas which cited as perceived access issues, some of which were scrapped:

1) Compensation of route developers for hardware costs
2) Posting climbing information on websites with large followings (Mountain Project bad ... CEC o.k.)
3) Putting in a walking gate at Cochrane lane
4) Trail maintenance at Sunnyside 
5) Contacting landowners for any reason, whatsoever 
6) Conducting safety courses, meant to help climbers to make informed choices

... and the list could probably go on. 

The point is this, before throwing out potentially interesting ideas, we should reverse the onus. If there is no reasonably compelling evidence to suggest something is a serious and grievous threat to access, than our community shouldn't accept speculation as cause to discard good ideas. We sell ourselves short when we do. 

I concede that sometimes the road to hell is paved with good-intentions... fair enough. However, having seen our access privilege survive endangered species and several serious accidents, I have come to see it as more durable than most. Hopefully I'm not taking it for granted. I know that the principal of avoiding contact with landowners sits uneasy with me. People who have something to hide tend to sneak around. I don't think climbers have anything to hide. Good dialogue with landowners builds good relationships, and that leads to secure access. Hopefully the local climbing community will organize, and build some good relationships. Seems to me that the last 4 years have been relatively smooth sailing... making now a great time to pursue some progressive ideas.

Anyway, let's just give things a fair discussion in the future and try and avoid the Cochrane Conjecture. After all, aren't we all just a bit tired of doing the barbed-wire limbo over a piece of sand-crusted goat turd? I know I am. 


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ice School 2013

The past two weekends a pile of my time's been spent helping the club with Ice School. I was really impressed with all the students this year. There was a lot of willingness to huck themselves at whatever. Several made some really terrific improvement over the course. Remember... stick a tool once for every 2-3 moves of the feet! 

Last week we climbed at Eagle Rock for the only ice that apparently existed within 45 minutes of Fredericton. Although I'm not sure if I'd recommend climbing the easy flows we set up I did go exploring for a while and found a great looking pitch (what I think the guidebook lists as PWL)? This place does have some great gully chutes though! 

le glissade
This weekend the group moved to Mt. Misery... which makes an ideal stop for this type of thing. With the warm temperatures there was some concern about stability. Before the group arrived I easily cleared off a few refrigerator-sized daggers that hung over the belays... none of which required much of a kick. The warm temperatures also brought enjoyable soft ice... and rumors of even a few shirtless climbers in mid Feb. 

Hope everyone enjoyed.