Friday, October 15, 2010

New England!

Today wasn't made for outdoor recreation; the rain is coming down sideways and the national weather people are calling for a wind advisory through tomorrow.  Snow is also expected to accumulate above 2000 feet!  Has winter really arrived here in New England?  Forecasts indicate that the sun might return next week.  But, this is one of those days that fits perfectly into our schedule as a designated rest day.  And, there is nothing I'd rather do than sit here (at starbucks of course), blog, and watch the heavens unleash outside as I contemplate such nastiness from my cosy table nook.
New England is the motherlode of covered bridges.

After spending our first couple days in Burlington Vermont, we kicked off our tour by doing exactly that.  Aside from Maple Syrup, Vermont should be noted as a maverick amongst states by it being home to Ben & Jerry's Ice cream.  Perhaps our country doesn't see eye to eye on politics...but there shouldn't be any naysayers to me declaring Ben & Jerry's the best premium ice cream available.  Their flavors are nothing less than mouth watering and their dedication to making ice cream void of hormone contaminated dairy products is commendable.

I'd like to take this a little further by suggesting Coffee Heath Bar Crunch the best ice cream flavor on planet earth.  Subjectivity aside, could this be possible?   The Tour costs roughly 3 bucks and is well worth it.  After hearing the history and surveying one of the major production warehouses, the tour climaxes with ice cream tasting.  Unfortunately, they only offer one flavor to sample.

After taking the tour and seeing Smuggler's Notch we made our way to Montpelier.  This is Vermont's seat of government.  It was dark and raining by now and so we hit up a Red Box, found an appropriate overnight camping site (motel somewhere), ate dinner, and watched Iron Man 2.  Though not quite as good as the first one, it was a pleasant distraction from the rain.

The following day as we wandered across Vermont into New Hampshire, we took note of numerous cute towns and their inherent old New England style Architecture.  Everything here feels much older than back home.  And, by and large 'white' seems to be the dominant theme.

In the early afternoon we arrived at Crawford's Notch. There was a nice little lake, and after being crammed in the Van all day, it felt great to take the loop trail around the lake and stretch the legs.

So far we had noticed a lackluster color spectrum in Vermont which usually is popping by this time of the year.  Some locals told us that a long dry summer combined with an early fall storm had taken its toll.  To their credit, we did see many trees that were stripped of their leaves, but also ones that were still completely green or brown.  With our fingers crossed (in hopes of finding some of that famous New England Fall color) we kept hope alive.

That night I believe we spent in North Conway.  This town is known among climbers as being the center of New England rock climbing.  There are numerous crags including Cathedral, White Horse, Cannon Cliff, and Rumney within an hours drive.  The first couple of these are less than 10 minutes from town.

The next morning we were greeted with predominately blue skies.  Rejoicing at our climbing friendly weather we drove to Cathedral and ate breakfast in the sun.  But, being in the mood for some slab climbing we soon sauntered over to White Horse Slabs.  Being the designated lead climber of our team, and not having climbed slab in many months, I was feeling a little anxious.  For, White Horse is known for its lack of protection.  The first pitch of our route had one bolt in 200 feet.  Yes, it was probably 5.6, but jeepers, the transition into this style under such runout conditions was a tad jarring.  Tiffers, a brilliant 'nose over toes' climber walked the pitch, half of it not even using her hands.
Tiffers 'slabmaster' Gilkison making it look easy...

9 rope lengths, and a few hours later we topped out to a spectacular vista.  It appears that we arrived on top in the nick of time as approaching clouds and rain were imminent.   Upon returning to our packs (stashed at the base), it was beginning to rain.  Yeah, wet slab climbing isn't fun folks.  Our one rope would have made a retreat a little tricky to say the least.

It was a Rainbow finish for us at the top of White Horse.

Anyone seen a ghost?

Me getting ready to pull the crux of Tsunami.
With our appetite for slab whetted, we battened the hatches, hoisted anchor, and were soon cruising the Kancamagus through mountainous ravines and mixed forests.  It was here that we started to notice more fall color.  However, the light was fading fast and there simply wasn't time to spare for many photographic adventures.  We did pull out on the side of the road for this quick grab.  It wasn't until later that I noticed what can happen when finger smudges get out of hand; and ones nice river landscape is adorned by weird ghost like apparitions.  Time to deep clean the gear!

It was well after dark that we arrived at Rumney, NH. This town hosts one of the more renown sport climbing venues in the NE.  The next morning we soon discovered that people really like Rumney.  Granted, it was Canadian Turkey day (and a 3 day weekend for them), but long gone were the days of solitude.  By 10 the main parking lots was bulging with over 70 cars.  And, those not able to fit were parking at more removed lots, and walking past in droves.  It was comical to us, because while climbing at places like Tensleep, and only seeing 4 or 5 people in a week (we would comment during these times that it would be nice if we had more company), being at Rumney was almost zoo like, and far too many people for us.  Locals boggled us further by claiming that things weren't that busy; and that on a truly jammed weekend there were an additional 100 cars that would park in farmers field across the street.  But, enough of the anti overpopulation diatribe...  Once we got on the routes we found a playground of safely protected climbs on Shist.  At least, that is what our falcon guide called it.  It reminded me much more of the Gneiss found at Newhalem WA.  With almost every angle and hold type available, there is something for every climber at Rumney.  We truly appreciated that not just the 'hard' climbs were high quality.  Rumney also yields plenty high caliber routes for those climbing sub 5.10.

Ben did enjoy clipping the anchors of a few 12's up to 12c first try; and also getting humbled by a few 12d's, one of which he onsighted the crux only to fall at a long reach, which for him meant 'not so likely' dynoville.  For those of you less savvy to climbing jargon...I got served.  After 10 days off from sport climbing it felt great to be back on the rock again.  After two days of at Rumney navigating the hordes, we were ready for some rest.  And, so we piled back into the white beast and took aim for Maine!  To be continued...

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