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Mount Washington. February 9, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I spent this past weekend in New Hampshire, ostensibly to enjoy the Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival, but truth be told, I’m not much of a climber these days.

I mean, I still dabble in it, but not much I’m going to do will compare with the stuff I did in my younger days.  Time hasn’t ravaged me as it might have, but neither has its effect been inconsequential; my shoulders are shot, my right ankle is a mess and my waist is no longer 26″.

But perhaps the most telling sign of my aging is what I appreciate about climbing.  I love the movement, and have all but given up roped climbing, preferring instead to climb easy terrain smoothly and steadily, unencumbered  by the technicalities of rope work and building anchors; I love the views, preferring to climb somewhere beautiful rather than somewhere famously difficult.

And I’m not into risk for glory’s sake.  The weekend sported two nights of slide shows and videos of Famous Climbers doing the nearly-impossible in the most unforgiving of styles, treading the razor’s edge between Cover Shot Immortality and  a page three obituary.  It left me more sad than excited, more moved to introspection than motivated to raise the bar on my own accomplishments.

And it left me thankful that I have another avenue of expression besides creating dicey new routes, which I’ve had the privilege of doing in Days Past.  I have my camera, and a few people who seem to enjoy looking at my photographs, giving me the perfect excuse to blow off the climbing and just cruise around taking pictures.  🙂

I’m also blessed with the company of my friend Lizz, my housemate and another climber/photographer of similar vintage, who has no problem letting go of the Glory Days in favor of a day behind the lens.

So Saturday was spent driving and hiking and snapping photos of Beautiful New Hampshire, not the coastal version with the lighthouses, but the higher and drier White Mountains.  We got up before sunrise to catch that event below the flanks of Mt. Chocorua, and though the skies were unspectacular and it was an easy ten below, we did manage to snap one or two off.

Mt. Chocorua at sunrise:

…followed by a hasty retreat to the heat of our vehicles and a yummy breakfast back in town.  We wavered about where to go next, then settled on a trip up Crawford Notch to the higher climes of Fabyan Station and Bretton Woods and views of Mount Washington.

We got up there mid-morning, and despite the increase in altitude the hours had worked their magic and the temperature was much more manageable.  I got this shot of Mount Washington from the south going up Crawford Notch:

…and this one from farther west, up by Bretton Woods:

Mount Washington is on the right, with Mount Adams (my personal favorite) on the left.  I was jazzed about the lenticular clouds forming over both peaks and being driven off eastward by the winds at higher altitudes, as lenticulars are wont to do.  Also in that last photo is the Mount Washington Hotel, a gorgeous place to drop a few pence and the place where the Bretton Woods Accords came to be in 1945, establishing both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  I have mixed feelings about both, but the Hotel is historic and beautiful and available, albeit at a price.

Mt. Washington’s summit was in and out of the clouds, with its buildings and structures coated in wind-driven rime ice:

…courtesy of Gizmo, by the way.  This piece of terrain embodies both Heaven and Hell, depending on conditions, and I have to say I’ve been there to experience both.

Now, neither Lizz nor I are Born Lookers, and roadside vistas don’t really satiate us.  So we headed back to the Mount Clinton road, found the Crawford Path trailhead, and ‘shoed up for the hike up toward the Mizpah Springs hut.  It was by now mid-day, but we determined that we’d go as far as time allowed.

The hike was steep, the snow was deep and the whole situation was magical:

Given our time constraints we didn’t quite make it up to treeline, but rather caught gimpses of the northern horizon through the trees:

It was a day well spent, even if the photos were less than spectacular.

On Sunday we hit the cliffs for a bit of climbing; film at eleven.  😉

Hawley Bog Sunset. January 22, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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My planned excursion to Hawley Bog this morning didn’t happen.

When I woke at 5am with plans to be driving at 6, it was five degrees F out, and being alone, it didn’t seem prudent to go snow-shoeing around off-trail, crossing snow covered streams (some of them deep) to get to where I wanted to be.

I’d have gone with my usual Partner In Crime Lizz; it’s a totally different game taking chances with a capable friend close at hand.  But alone, uh-uh.  My desire to live life fully includes both intensity and longevity.

Hell, I’m just gettin’ good!

Besides, it was so friggin’ cold out, and my bed was nice and warm.  🙂

So, all you folks get is the previous night’s sunset, snagged during my recon for the morning shoot which didn’t happen.  It wasn’t a promising evening for a “keeper,” as thick clouds were moving in and the Magic Hour was slipping away, but I got across the first major stream and set up Elliot in about three feet of snow.  To get a fallen tree in the foreground and the jagged spruce snags on the skyline, I applied a degree and a half of tilt, focused on both and waited for a break in the clouds.

And waited, and stomped around, and waited some more.  My watch said it was now or never; the sun was setting, and that would be that.

Then, as these things are wont to happen, the horizon cracked just enough to allow me a few dim shots, of which this one had the most to offer:

I had to bring the levels up in Photoshop, but hey, that’s what the kids do these days, and if us Old Farts want to stay in the game we’d better learn to do it too.

Anyway, I had to have something to show for the effort of breaking a trail in for the ‘morrow, and I do mean “breaking it in;” the whole thing was a latticework of icy brush and boughs bent to the ground and linked in luminous lace.  It was a beautiful pain in the ass, and I’m happy to have salvaged something from the evening’s work.

I’ll be back there in the light, if I can manage it while the icework lingers.

‘Shoein’. January 15, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Got out in a nice snow this afternoon – it was breezy and gray out, but the deep snow called to me, and who am I to snub Mother Nature?

So I headed up toward Rowe, bumper-plowed myself a parking space along a secluded section of Pelham Brook right about where it settles into a deep cleft in the woods, and ‘shoed up.

It was awesome.  Through the deep, deep snow I plunged steeply down, the combination of aerobic effort and the knowledge that this would be a very bad place to catch a tip and launch into the broken-bone-zone keeping me focused and on my game.

The snow muffled every sound except for my thumping heart, and by the time I reached the brook I was plenty warm.

I could hear a throaty rumble from beneath the rolling white hummocks where I knew the stream to be, and chose my line carefully as  I worked my way up, down and eventually across to the far bank:

There were a few long steps, and ultimately a leap down and across some tumbling open water, a move which I knew would be irreversible; I would have to find another way back across.

An hour of traversing a steep side slope, gaining and losing elevation as the terrain and forest dictated, brought me to a likely looking spot, and I went for it, succeeding with anticlimactic ease.

Truth be told, the climb back up to the road was the real reason for choosing this spot to test my new snowshoes, and I was delighted by their performance.  Their super-aggressive crampon design effectively prevented side-slipping, while the simple heel-lifting bale totally eliminated calf strain, a concern for me with my crappy right ankle.

All in all, an excellent first run.  Now I can set my sights on more adventurous outings!