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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.


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:


…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:”



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:


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!

By Request. November 30, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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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.)

Workin’ It. November 30, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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Pete Ward working a sport route in Western Massachusetts:

…on a bitchin’ cold day. Pete W and Pete C got shut down by thin moves and frigid fingers, but will be back on a warmer day to have their way with it.

With a day of prep work, I’ll have a better angle on this action, and pictures to prove it. 😉

This post may get expanded as I process more of the photos from yesterday’s shoot.

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!  🙂

Meanwhile, Back At The Ridge… February 24, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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Dakota sends the obvious line from a sit-start:

This was, in addition to Dakota’s excellent effort, a chance for me to do something different with Elliot.  I usually use his “tilt” function to extend my depth of field, as in landscapes where I keep a foreground element sharp while getting the whole scene in focus.  But here I’ve isolated the climber by dissolving the rest of the photo in a slurry of soft focus.  Having Elliot on a tripod allowed me to get the (more or less) same shot of the rock with Dakota moving through the image, with a plane of sharp focus laid diagonally from lower right to upper left.

It was odd to be an observer of this climbing excursion.  I’ve been a climber all my adult life, and still dabble as my broken body allows.  But on this day, I didn’t even bring my climbing shoes; I wanted to disengage from the physical and observe.

It was one of the hardest days I can remember.  I’m not a born “watcher;”  I lost my taste for television, for instance, decades ago.  But my damaged shoulders constrained my participation.  So while the climber in me paced like a caged beast,  the Outer Me snapped away.

I suppose I’ll have to get used to being an observer, but it still feels odd.


Rock Climbing At Farley Ledge. June 13, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing, Love and Death.
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Here are a few shots of my friend Tim climbing at Farley Ledge in Erving, Massachusetts.  I’t’s a drive for him, but well worth it; the rock is superb, and the routes are plentiful.

This route’s steep, requiring both grip strength and body tension; Tim has both.

Starting out:

A  little bit higher:

And steeper still, ferreting a way out through the roof of stone blocking his path sunward:

The low light made for some really grainy pictures, with a sharply curtailed ability to capture any action.  But I got what I got, and it is what it is.

And later, an attack on a differently steep bit of rock, one where the wall didn’t rear up into an absurdly steep plain, but rather overhung gently, compactly, offering only small, sloping holds:

This stretch of rock, with it’s shallow, rounded holds, proved substantially more challenging, requiring a level of perseverance which weakened my knees:

Tim worked hard to get up this one as I, an observer, sweated bullets.

I’m hoping to get back into this game as my shoulders allow.  Meanwhile, I’ll just be a reporter of it.

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! 😆