Saturday, December 17, 2011

Night Two: On The Peak

Let's hit on which gear en used so far and what was good and bad about it.

First my backpack: this was the wrong thing. It stores a lot and is quite comfy, but in expanded mode it puts a lot of weight at a good fulcrum from your body. This isn't a good way to carry a lot and so my strength was my strength. Better choices, by far, for the volumes we were toting would have been things like the Osprey Mike had or the Gregory Marcus had. They distribute the load over a frame and run it vertically to minimize the cantilevered load.

The tarptent sublite: excellent. Effortless setup, very light, very compact, and very space conscious. Plenty of space inside too.

Hammock tent: Mike's setup was a little heavier but he said it was the most comfortable he has been for being on a frozen peak.

Arc'teryx cap and fleece: yes. Long underwear. Two pairs of socks. This tropical native was doing OK at least until nightfall.

Now back to story time. After the sun had given us a sufficient show I figured it was time to test out the astro rig. I packed a case, climbed and started to set up. A freezing mist blew over constantly while I did my best in the dark. Aimed at the north Star and clicked on the first shot

What?? Flashlight on. The entire rig and camera, lens included, covered in dew and frost. I tried to clean it off and give a few more tries but it was useless. I was shivering and there was no hope of a payout. I packed up and hiked back down to the camp.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Altitude Slickness

Mike hadn't fallen far behind, so when he rejoined us we took a few moments to giggle about the situation (both of us had shelter: me with my sublite and him with a camping hammock). Marcus 'decided' to cowboy camp it, meaning sleeping bag only. We knew we had at least a couple of days of good weather once the mist around us boiled off. After scouting around the three of us discovered there were some great spots between the boulders a few hundred feet down the southern face. A particularly nice spot had boulders on three sides and trees on the fourth perfect for hammocking.

(this was scouting, and getting distracted by the nice climbing things around us)

We set up in our spot and after a rest, dinner, and general shenanigans the sun crept down to the cloud line below us. We were treated to an amazing view:

All three made the trek back to the peak to get an open view of the colorful wonder of the glowing clouds below us rolling over the hilltops

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To The Top

The rest of the ascent was very treacherous. The higher we climbed the more in to the clouds we found ourselves. The switchbacks got steeper and covered in damp leaves and mud. To say it was slick was an understatement. Normally I would bound up terrain like this with ease, but the weight had me stomping along, slipping every so often and relying on my reactions to keep me from needing that first aid kit. Finally we got to a point that the ground had been stripped to stone by the ice of winters past.
It was damp, sure, but firm. Marcus got his second wind and he and I picked up speed to near running pace and held on to it the rest of the way to the peak. There is a shelter cabin at the peak. Marcus had insisted we had no use for tents because we would be staying there.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

First Climb

We popped on our shoes, set up and went for it:

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

I was a bit taken by how much less harsh on the hands natural rock seemed to be. I had really expected the opposite. There are definitely some new sensations though, such as moisture, plant-life, and gravel to be cautious of. Also the cold weather seems to make your hands more 'sticky' than normal, which is great for climbing but could also mean more damage if you slip off the wrong way.

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

Here you can see how bad my form is. All upper body, dangling off the rock and putting the most on my hands that I have. Things I need to learn: keep the hips in and I won't get worn out as quickly.

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

Mike managed a small head injury- A fall? Nope. Stood up at the top and whacked himself on an overhanging tree. Oops. No serious harm though.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Up, Up, and Away

This is the start of the trail; I like this silly picture a lot. The white marker ('blaze') is the standard marker for the Appalachian Trail. The sign is the marker for Blood Mountain (obviously), and the two goons in front are my co-climbers.

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

The hike up is several miles of switchbacks, up and down rock, mud, slick leaves, and sometimes all three. It's a good place to either be sure footed or very durable. In my case, well without a pack I'm amazingly sure footed. You'd see me bouncing up the thing at a joggers pace like a graceful blonde gazelle. However, with 1/4 of my weight on my back? I'm pleased to be a barefoot runner. My ankles and bottoms of my feet are invincible. I can't tell you how many times I rolled my ankles or plodded on to a sharp rock without injury of any kind.

Partway up we found our first climbable boulder:

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

Certainly not huge, but we were camels just out of the desert. This is the first time any of us had the opportunity to climb natural rock.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pre Gaming: Neel's Gap

The first stop was here, which is the lovely brook near Neels Gap:

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

We decided to fill up with some local water (Katadyn filter pump) before packing up to set off on our way.

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

It took everyone a bit to hoist up their packs and get moving. There was also a short debate about whether to bring the crash pad with us in one trip versus me having a sprint down the mountain and back up again. I trusted Marcus's expertise on the matter, and so we hoisted it above our heads and swapped carriers at intervals.

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

Which is how you can tell I was both carrying and taking pictures on the first section. Since longer term parking is down the road from the trailhead a ways we had to hike a bit before we could hike a bit...

Monday, December 5, 2011

The First Night

In order to maximize the trip and minimize the vacation use we left after work. A quick stop by Subway and we were off for a long drive through the night. And really that's all it was. A long, long drive. By the time we passed through Atlanta the roads were quiet. From there, however, the sky just kept getting less and less orange. It was still very cloudy, but at the moments the stars shone through they were crisp and bright. I was definitely more excited than the rest at this, but you know how it is being a huge nerd. I get excited at things others don't. As we picked up altitude this started to become the sign of the night:

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011

Once we got to the base of the trail it was a park and sleep. Well...for the other two. Just a park and rest for me. There simply wasn't enough time left in the night for an insomniac to actually fall asleep, but no worries. I wandered out of the car for a bit just to marvel at the darkness. The sky was a complete cloud cover, and so there was really little to no source of light. Again, something only a certain class of nerd will revel in.

Once daylight cracked through the trees we climbed out and started setting up. This was "basecamp one:"

From Climbing trip, Thanksgiving 2011