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Hangin’ Wit Da Boyz. December 9, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure, climbing.
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So this past week I spent a couple of days hangin’ wit da boyz.

Literally.

Pete C and Pete W let me know that they were going back to Farley ledge to continue working on “Afterburner”,  a climb which had only seen two ascents to date. I went there a day ahead of time to do some tree work; a giant hemlock teased the route with a spray of dead branches, complicating both the climbing and the photography (though more so the latter.)

I spent four hours in the tree with a bow saw, and another hour cleaning up my cuttings, opening up the space of the climb to psychic simplicity and visual clarity, then came back to shoot when conditions were right for the climbers.

On the day of the Big Effort, I showed up a couple of hours ahead of time and hiked to the top of the cliff. Then I rappelled down, leaving a rope hanging. I got a rope up into the hemlock, and climbed said tree while attached to the rope hanging from the cliff. This allowed me to suspend myself between the rock and the tree and adjust both my height off the ground and my distance from the rock face.

The Petes showed up on schedule, and the action commenced.

I was suspended well above it:

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…and positioned to get the shots I’d envisioned.

Unfortunately, it was about the same time of day as my previous effort to document the proceedings, and the light was similarly harsh.  I worked it hard in Photoshop, and got these suboptimal results.

Pete Ward snagging the third ascent of “Afterburner:”

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This was a wicked cool effort. It was a bone-chilling day, and everyone’s fingertips were insensate. Imagine doing something this physically near your limit while you can’t feel your hands!

Anyway, congratulations, Pete, on a spectacular effort.

The day ended with a visit to the Spring Boulders, where Pete C was working out the subtleties on what will be a benchmark New England boulder problem. It’s left of the classic Speed of Life,  and somewhat harder and much more consequential if one falls, so Pete was checking it out on top-rope. Pete W threatened to step on my face for photographing it, but hey, I just shoot what I see:

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Around the corner, Jonah Meyer sent “Party Wolf:”

Jonah on Party Wolf

This is a committing problem requiring buttloads of body tension, a posse of attentive spotters and a number of pads to be done safely.

Jonah had all of that, and made it look pretty reasonable.

Yeah, right.  😉

Nice job, man.  I sweated just watching from a distance!

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By Request. November 30, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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4 comments

Peter Gill in comments was kind enough to use the word “please” in his request for more climbing shots, so here they are.

Pete Ward climbing at Farley ledge in Erving:

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…working a route which has only been climbed a couple of times previously:

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Clipping before launching into the crux moves:

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…and then going for it:

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Not a clean ascent, but he’ll get it next visit.

This was great fun to watch. I love shooting in the geometry of Farley Ledge, and had fun being on a rope again (those shots to come.)

A Wild Climb In Erving! October 6, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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I had an opportunity this past Friday to “hang out” with a couple of strong Western Massachusetts climbers who were working on a hard route at Farley Ledge in Erving.

Their project was Blood Meridian,  a “hard 13b.” I put the grade in parentheses because in my world, all  13b’s are hard!  😆

Anyway, I spent FOREVER wrestling two packs up a steep, slimy gully, one pack of ropes and gear and one filled with my camera stuff, then rappelled down into position only to find my friend Josh already hanging out below the crux, or hardest section of the route.

Dang!  I’d missed two thirds of his effort, and wasn’t situated properly to capture the rest of it! And to make matters worse, I hadn’t found my box of proper ascending gear and was working with a totally jury-rigged system, which frankly sucked, so I was stuck where I was for the time being.

“Life is hard,” they say, “but it’s harder when you’re stupid.”

So I busted out my kit and began shooting, paying for my lack of preparation with some serious physical discomfort and a lot of unnecessary work.

Josh was milking a knee-bar for a no-hands rest, greatly appreciated after the stiff challenge of the route’s start:

I think this clowning around may have been just what was needed to break the tension surrounding this attempt – the route has only seen two “lead” ascents since it was established a few years back, despite many attempts by strong climbers, and many attempts by Josh himself. And conditions were sub-optimal, a bit damp after the previous night’s rain, so I’m not sure these guys had real high expectations.

But as these things are wont to go, something clicked on this day, and after a good rest Josh launched into The Business – thin face climbing through the overhanging bulge above:

This was a spectacular bit of climbing, involving throwing a foot way  overhead and rocking onto it using crappy handholds. I wasn’t positioned properly to really get the shots I wanted, but at least I got something:

Another clipped bolt and a couple more moves ended in an amazed  whoop! as Josh Surette sent the third ascent of Blood Meridian!

A smiling Josh lowered off, a little bit wide-eyed at what had just happened, and planning his celebration even before he hit the ground.

I boxed my camera and began the gut-wrenching contortions of ascending my rope with my half-assed system of crappy ascenders and short slings, swearing at myself and vowing to find that damned box of gear I was missing. I wanted to be slightly higher and closer in for Pete’s go at this beautiful climb.

After pulling the rope and swapping ends, Pete smoothed the difficult starting sequence, a super-pumpy mix of crack and face climbing up overhanging rock:

…then floated up the steep corner above:

…and after a rest, which may not have been long enough, threw himself into the crux sequence – the heel-hook:

…the rock-over:

…and then suddenly he was airborne, a victim of the tiny holds and a vicious pump still lingering from the moves below.

It was a great effort, though, with pics to prove it.

The day ended with plans for a return bout, and I have no doubt Pete’s future efforts will be rewarded.

Meanwhile, Congrats, Josh!  🙂

A Few Climbing Shots. August 18, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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From last weekend, at Farley Ledge in Erving, MA.

Matt smoothing the steep rock at the left end of the sport wall:

…and Zach throwing the moves on a taller piece of rock right of that:

I hadn’t come prepared for this shoot with quite the right lens; the whole forest is grown in with invasive vines, and my line of sight was reduced so as to make Gizmo almost useless. These shots really need context to evoke any emotion, and it was all I could do to get a whole person in the frame!

Anyway, they’re a bit of documentation of what’s happening in my world, and here they are.

V8/10* at Farley Ledge. December 3, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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So my involvement with climbing has devolved into a voyeuristic thing:  I go where the action is and try to glom on to what used to so fully involve me.

At some level, it hurts.  This used to be my raison d’etre.  Now it’s something I observe in passing, like a sunset or a moonrise.  It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but rather that it doesn’t depend on my participation to exist.

Here’s some of what existed today at Farley Ledge in Erving, MA despite my non-participation.

Local man Kai setting up for the big throw on Babies With Rabies,  V10*:

…and here latching that distant hold:

*ed: I called this a V8 in the original posting, but it’s a strong two grades harder.  I should have known – small holds on rock this steep is reeeeally hard.

Most of you don’t boulder, so can’t be expected to relate to the point-of-contact strain revealed in these photos.  But I’ve been there/done that, and feel every fiber of my limbs trying to stick these moves.

Another problem being worked on this particular afternoon was Appetite For Destruction,  a V8 just down the hill from Babies.  Matt was hunting hard for the next hold on the obtuse arete:

…and a bit later, Rajiv pressed on, not “sending” but getting farther along the path:

My focus here was rather soft, though Rajiv’s wasn’t; his targeting of the next hold was exceptional, and landed him a yard of progress, a commendable feat in the Bouldering world.

Thanks to Ollie and my Sweet Sixteen for these shots.  I’m nothing without my tools.

Vicarious Thrills! November 14, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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I went back out to Farley Ledge this weekend to see if the lads from last weekend would make further progress on their bouldering “project.”  I might no longer be able to climb, but it still holds a powerful fascination for me, as well as an opportunity to expand my photographic bag of tricks.  Action sports photography is a whole ‘nother beast than nature photography!

Anyway, there were Pad-People everywhere, and it was cool – young and old folks (well, OK, mostly  young) hangin’ and chillin’, alternately relaxing and tearing it up to the best of their varied abilities.  I followed a group of half a dozen up the steep trail to Stereogram,  a vicious V10 problem which fights its way out the underbelly of an impressive boulder perched up near the top of the ledge.  Stereogram  has a reputation for being difficult to photograph, as it climbs out of a deep, dark hole into the light; much of the action occurs in the dim confines of a lithic Oubliette.

Here’s the general overview, for setting and scale, with a kid from Colorado emerging from the pit at the lower right:

I’m sorry not to have gotten his name, as he photographed well (long, elegant body positions and serious facial expressions.)

[Ed. – Tom Camillieri, thanks to Blake Cash]

Here’s a series of him working this set of moves:

That’s a really cool looking sequence.

A bit later I heard the sounds of climbers down below, where last week’s project had transpired.  I packed up quickly  and scooted down the steep trail, dancing from rock to rock, attentive to miss the dry leaves coating nearly everything; a misstep on such steep terrain would be nothing if not ugly.

And I was just in time to see Pete and Jason getting to work on the arete which had so engaged Breyton and Hayden the weekend before.  I wanted a different perspective than the over-and-up view I’d shot those lads with, so I set up a rope and rappelled into a position looking down the ridge at the action.

It worked.  I got a sense of the height, steepness and tenuousness of attachment which characterize this particular piece of stone, and an appreciation of why it remains unclimbed despite a decade of serious efforts by some very strong climbers.

Here’s Pete Clark putting a series of complex foot moves to good use, an instep scum to a powerful toe, all the while moving too quickly for my shutter speed, despite an ISO of 5000:

Pete makes the difficult look easy, and the impossible look hard.  It’s a gift few of us are given, and his humility is as impressive as his ability.

Jason Danforth put his calm to work as he found the hang-point at about the same spot:

This man’s stronger than dirt, and stands a good chance of sending this thing.

As darkness crawled up the valley walls, both of these dudes left happy with their progress.  Perhaps next time they visit it will all come together for them, and the “project” will get a name.

More Photos From The Edge. November 6, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, climbing.
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Here are a couple more photos from Saturday’s “bouldering session” out at Farley Ledge, of which I was an observer rather than a participant.

I went there hoping to capture some essential quality of that activity rather than an overview of it, and at some point booted my ISO way up to 6,400, meaning that the photos would be “grainy,” but still possible in the waning light of a late afternoon in November.

Now, action photographs (and this ought to qualify as “action”) are normally shot at really fast shutter speeds to freeze the action, but in this case I wanted to call attention to a specific part of the photo, and didn’t care if the rest of it disappeared into the visual morass.

The results are indeed tightly focused on a small region of the photograph.  I’m not sure how they’ll translate to this low-fi Blogosphere world, but in the scaled-to-print world, they were more than satisfactory.

Anyway, here’s Breyton putting the moves on Babies With Rabies,  a notable V10 (difficulty rating) boulder problem at Farley.

The start, with both hands crimping a shallow hold on the belly of the beast:

…followed by a foot-hand exchange, with individual fingers making room for the incoming heel-hook as Breyton moved up the lithic swell:

It wasn’t really possible, in the low light of a November eve, to freeze this frenetic action, so I chose instead to go for the hand-foot switch, letting the rest of the photo soften a bit.

The overall effort of this attempt on Babies  warrants a photographic go in better light.  Maybe I’ll get an invitation to the party at some future date, as the “bouldering” season in these parts extends well into early winter.

Jon, Hayden, Breyton, thanks for your patience as I horned in on your community of people covering each others’ backs.  I wasn’t much help, unless one considers illumination as “help.”

On The Rocks! April 27, 2008

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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Yesterday I had the pleasure of being invited out by some climbing friends, and without ever putting a hand on the rock (I’m not functionally ready for that yet) I had a blast!

The crew for the day:

Tanya, Neko, Tim and Brian.

We went to nearby Farley Ledge, where there’s a burgeoning “climbing scene” with people coming from all over to enjoy both the Sport climbing (with permanent “fixed” bolt anchors) and the “Trad” climbing (where climbers place their own removable anchors as they progress.) Being an Old Fart who grew up climbing before Sport climbing even existed, I tend to prefer the “clean climbing” ethic of leave-no-trace Trad climbing. But that’s just me, and I’ve accepted Sport as a valid variation of the vertical game.

Here’s Tanya climbing one of the Sport routes, Eye Opener :

The section of the crag with mostly Sport routes was pretty crowded though, so we beat feet to an upper tier of walls where the Trad scene still prevails, and I hope it remains that way – it’s beautiful up there, cloaked in hemlocks and looking a lot less worn.

Here’s Brian starting up the unfortunately aptly named Dirty Corner :

These first few moves (and the last few as well!) were the “cruxes” of this climb, that is, the most difficult moves, which inform the difficulty rating of the climb. I misremembered the rating, having not climbed this route in perhaps twenty five years, and told Brian that it was mostly 5.6 climbing, with a few moves of 5.8 at the start and finish. Turns out it was at least 5.9, a considerable jump in difficulty from the lower grades. Sorry Folks!

Tim high up on the route:

I had a great time hanging my butt off the top of this sweeping wall – I haven’t had a climbing harness on in a year!

Next, Tim lead a really nice face climb, moving delicately on thin face-holds and finding adequate opportunities to place “protection” in the propitiously spaced horizontal cracks:

Nice job, man!

It was pretty chilly in the deep shade, and Tanya and Neko snuggled up for a nice warm nap:

Aren’t they cute?

We’d almost packed up to leave when Brian, an inveterate Crack Master, succumbed to the Siren song of Peapod Crack, one of my favorite climbs at Farley, and perhaps in all of Southern New England. It more nearly resembles Out-West granite climbing (the rock here is gneiss,) with straight-ahead hand jamming and lay-backing being the techniques-du-jour:

Having my cameras with me took the sting out of not climbing. I actually missed it less than I thought I might, and was pretty content to just noodle around snapping off pictures. I’ll be doing a lot more of that as the season progresses and I get some strength back in my arms and shoulders – I’m (insert best Deiter vioce) as weak as a little guuhl! 😆