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A Wild Climb In Erving! October 6, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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5 comments

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!  🙂

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Vicarious Thrills! November 14, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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2 comments

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.