The first trip of the season was down to the east side of the Sea of Cortez, to Guaymas, Mexico for our friends James and Marcia's wedding. The 12 piece mariachi band was a hit with the gringos.
After the festivities Anne and I were able to get some climbing in, in Cochise Stronghold, outside of Tuscon, AZ. One of the most easily accessible cliffs is a beautiful formation called Sheep's Head. The classic 7 pitch, 5.9, Absinthe of Malice goes right up a prominent buttress visible from miles away (just left of the thin shade line that runs from bottom to summit on the tallest formation in the photo, right above the horses).
The second trip of the season was down to the Red River Gorge, which is the perfect segue from ice climbing to rock climbing: it's steep, but the holds are good. Check my fiance Anne Skidmore's Bivuac Blog out for some great shots from the trip. After ten days there, staying in a house with a posse of 10 mostly from the Conway area, we rolled to the New and had a blast on the more technical, and unforgiving routes on the rugged Nuttal sandstone with our own personal local tour guide, Pat Goodman. We all really enjoyed the warm community in Fayetteville, very reminiscent of home.
A return to the climbing in New Hampshire is always exciting after a great trip, and the motivation is usually up. Promptly after getting back my friend Eric Eisle got me out to a cliff west of his beloved Berlin, and not Mt Forist. It's called Square Mountain, one of three "Squares" in the White Mountains, and it's way back in the Kilkenny Range. He had the 1 1/2 hour approach sussed and we marched right out there, taking a compass bearing from a small clearing for the final approach.
We got out there and repeated a two pitch 5.10 which had a good, steep, wide crack on the first pitch and rappelled off. Taking a walk at the base we spied a line that looked an awful lot like Cathedral Ledge's Mordor Roof. An old 5.8 approach pitch, complete with 1/4" bolts, got us to a great belay under the 6 foot roof, where I tipped-toed out to a hand jam over the lip, almost. My second try got me over the roof and into a perfectly clean, unclimbed 70m crack system! I belayed at a good ledge and Eric led the final 60m of 5.9 crack climbing, though some great features, corners and overlaps, to the top. Check out his blog, The Last Print Journalist, for more on the route and, more importantly, in-depth discussions of the life and politics north of New Hampshire's notches.
Eric at the first belay on The Pikey, Square Mountain, NH
Taken from Eric Eisle's blog, lastprintjournalist.com.
The next project of the spring was out at Owl's Cliff, another confusing name shared by multiple NH crags. This one is above Sawyer Pond, off the Kanc. Ray Rice and I tromped out there to find Brady Libby's single pitch crack climb that was rumured to be stellar.
Ray Rice on a slightly wet Crack of the Future, Brady Libby's stellar 5.12 crack.
It took me three trips out the 4.7 miles of mountain biking and hiking to finally send this dead vertical finger crack and face climb. This pitch is one of the best in NH.
Most recently, I just got back from a week in the Gunks, staying with and being shown around by local guide and friend Ryan Stefiuk. Check out his website at bigfootmountainguides.com for Catskill ice climbing beta, how to make your own fruit boots and a variety of other stuff including a recent big day on Cannon Cliff. Most memorable was doing Fat City Direct, 5.10d, at the Near Trapps, it completely blew my mind. While climbing it I could have sworn, continously, for about twenty feet, that the next move would be 5.12. It never was though. What an amazing pitch on an incredible route, on of my all time favorites.
I'm back home on the first rainy day in over a week getting caught up with details, which include getting a suit picked out for my August wedding. Here's to good weather.