Tales from the Crag

Patsy’s (PATC) Maiden Voyage


After seeing the cute little teardrop trailer in the Seneca Rocks parking lot last fall, I was ready for one of my own. Casual looking directed me to this cutie, formerly named Minnie. It did not take much to convince Andy to take  a ride to look at her in Delaware. It was love at first site! The next day, we made an offer and two days later, she was in our driveway! Minnie had now become Patsy (PATC – Potomac Appalachian Mountaineering Club).

A surprisingly short visit to the MVA gave us a temporary plate and we were set for our first outing the next day – Linville Gorge, NC!

We drove down route 81 among the daunting rigs, and made a dinner stop in Front Royal. And what happened to be next door? Walmart! While not a fan of the huge corporate box stores, Walmart is open to campers sleeping the parking lot and using the facilities, so I have a feeling we will be getting more intimate in the near future.

What started as a quick stop for stove fuel, a bungee cord, and a battery charger turned into almost two hours of supply gathering – a knife, ziplock bags, trash bags, spices, a dish washing bowl, etc. Luckily the stop to Sweet Frog beforehand had us charged.

We plodded back along route 81 for another few hours before landing ourselves in another Walmart parking lot in Salem, VA for out first night sleeping in Patsy. After grabbing a snack and brushing our teeth in Walmart, we nestled inside our little teardrop for a restful slumber and waited for the morning light or the drive-thru Dunkin Donuts that we parked next to to be our wake up call.

Climbing adventures are going to rock even more with Patsy! Stay tuned…

Categories: Tales from the Crag, Weekends with Patsy | 2 Comments

My Everest


May 9, 2016. The summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire received 2.8″ of snowfall winds gusting at 103 mph today. Winter had returned. Those conditions rang familiar with my first attempt at the Mount Washington summit.

My feelings towards Mount Washington are mixed, to say the least. The first trip there was after months of training hikes to prepare of the strenuous conditions (you may recall a previous blog) in January 2015. I was fit, equipped with crampons, axes, and loaded with a weekend worth of food in my 60 liter pack.

The hike to Harvard Cabin was a pure slice of hell. While less than 3 miles, the sustained uphill climb in over 2 feet of snow led to immediate shedding of clothing layers, profuse sweating, and a lot of swearing. Why the hell did I pack so much s%&t!

Reaching the cabin after what felt like days, my sites were on dry clothes, food, and my sleeping bag that resided somewhere in the deep depths of my pack. Our party was full of characters (a topic for another time), all in good alpine spirits.We were ready for 2 days of skill learning.

Saturday played in our favor. A continuous dumping of fresh powder made for a delightful alpine playground perfect for practicing walking in crampons, steps, and self arrest. The only thing was the avalanche danger was high. This meant limited options of where we could travel and only one trail was open to the summit.

Waking up Sunday morning to the hear the ranger call in the forecast to the cabin, I grumbled and burrowed deeper into my sleeping bag. More snowfall overnight and current summit conditions indicated winds over 70 mph. But, it was clear. So, out of the sleeping bag I squirmed.

With spring in my step, crampons on my feet, ice ax in my hand I made my way to the front of the group up the Tuckerman Ravine trail. The ascent got steeper and a bit more climbing and skill was required. As we neared the end of the treeline, we prepped ourselves with wind resistant gloves, shells, and goggles, as we knew the winds would be too strong for a costume change in the Alpine Garden and our eyeballs would freeze before we got there if googles were absent.

The events after reaching the Alpine Garden seemed to happen rapidly. Ethan and I had made our way behind one of the scant boulders and waited for the rest of our party. Where were they? We need to move. I’m getting cold. This is not good. We agreed to keep moving, but then delayed again. By the time the rest of the party reached us, the sides of my face were numb. Let’s move.

Step, step, plunge the ax in the ice and get down. The winds were nothing I had experienced before. Over 90 mph, I could barely walk. Every time I lifted a foot, I was blown off balance and feared I’d have to put those self-arrest skills to the test. Ugh, then a crampon released from one of my boots. What a time! I’m so cold. The sides of my face were so numb, I couldn’t be sure what was normal. “Have you have had frost nip?” Ethan asked. No I hadn’t, but if that was the risk, I had made it far enough. The risk was not worth it to me and although undeniably disappointed, I decided to descend. The summit would have to wait until another time.

That time came in January 2016 when I returned to Mount Washington as a mentor for the Alpine Skills weekend. Winter had just started to emerge, as I was there December for an avalanche course and there was barely a dusting of snow. Not ideal conditions for digging a snow pit, so the avalanche course would have to be completed at another time, buying yet another trip to Mount Washington.

The day before the January trip, I had started to become ill. But being an Aquarius and stubborn, I still made the journey up north for my mentor duties only to be informed by my men-tees that they really had no intention of doing the alpine skills or cie climbing. They were just there to hike. Seriously!?!?!?

Thinking I would change their minds, I loaded up the 60 liter pack once more and began the hellish slug to the Harvard Cabin. Only this time, I was assisting in hauling the club sled of gear up the path AND I was so congested, breathing was becoming an arduous task.

A familiar scene – muscles aching, sweat dripping, swearing galore, and this time, copious amounts of mucous hacked up – the Harvard Cabin came into view. A site for sore eyes! I would be staying in a tent this time. A tent that still needed to be pitched. In the dark.

After camp setup and dinner, I dragged my feverish butt into my -40 F degree sleeping bag for a night of wheezing, sweating, and shivering. Morning could not come soon enough.

But when it did, I awoke to meet my men-tees pulling the plug on the weekend. They were going back down. A lot of side conversations were had prior and after this decision, none of which will be mentioned. Why did I risk pneumonia to come up here! I too, made the decision to descend.

Once again, Mount Washington defeated me. My Everest.

The summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire received 2.8″ of snowfall winds gusting at 103 mph today…

Categories: Tales from the Crag, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chicks with Nuts!

April 18, 2015

Chicks with Nuts!IMG_1018 (1).JPG10410693_10152873352228284_5416988671577585676_n.jpg

There’s a lot to be said for the women crushing it on the rock (and ice) in such a male dominated sport like rock climbing. But you know what? We are awesome!

Two years ago, I discovered an all women’s weekend of climbing initiated a brilliant woman guide, Kelly Fields, of Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides. By April, winter and I have had our fun together and I itch to get back on the rock. This year, I wanted to learn something different – I wanted to take the sharp end of the rope and learn to lead trad. As crazy and as terrifying as this notion was to me, I knew it was a step I was ready for. Kelly and I had talked about what my goals were and what I wanted to learn from the two-day course and Kelly being amazing, took note and I was not disappointed.

Arriving on Friday evening and looking forward to staying at the Seneca House with a group of like-minded women, I could not wait to get started. April weather can be very daunting on the east coast, but the gods were smiling and delivered warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. I picked up a fellow Chick with Nuts, Merit, in Silver Spring so we could make the three-hour journey through the sequence of tiny towns together. Come to find out, Merit was a biologist as well, and worked for the New York park system. Needless to say, between the climbing and wildlife chatter, the journey was quickened.

Our first order of business – crack climbing. Oh, how I blocked this part out from the previous year. While I know all the benefits of learned to appropriately crack climb, it humbles me to no end. But I could do anything for an hour, right? The thought (and smell for that matter) of Tom’s delicious hamburgers grilling on the porch just outside got us to focus on getting it done!

With sore fingers and toes and a belly full of burger, we made our way to our bunk room at Seneca House and was entertained by Bubba Lou, a good old hound dog, for the remainder of the evening as we discussed ambitions for the next two days.

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Winter – Preparing for Ice Season


December 12, 2014

Seasons Greetings, Friends! It’s been since Peru that I put thoughts to paper and filled you in on some tales. The fall has been long and although colorful, less than uplifting and inspiring.

But…it appears Old Man Winter is lurking and ice climbing season is upon us. Crampons have been purchased, boots have been fitted and pro-deals have secured much needed insulation. So, what does this mean? One of my many “that sounds like fun” ideas has been to sign up for the Alpine Skills Weekend with Potomac Appalachian Trail Club – Mountaineering Section. At the end of January, I hope to acquire skills to plunge me into some new adventures. I imagine the training will be long and hard. But discipline supposedly yields success – summiting Mount Washington! Yes, the cold, wind conditions probably daunt me more so than the physical, but an experience it will be.

Stay tuned for my training progress. Sunday – Old Rag in the Shenandoah National Forest.

Categories: Tales from the Crag | Tags: | Leave a comment

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