Gear Review: Black Diamond AirNet Harness Review

Black Diamond AirNet Review


I like light pack-able gear so when I saw the new Black Diamond AirNet Harness I had to get my hands on one for a test drive. While this harness was designed and marketed towards high end sport and competition climbing (actually designed in collaboration with Adam Ondra for the Olympics) I’m willing to give up a few things for ultra-lightweight pack-ability. I now have three months of guiding with this harness and am ready to share what I think! Let’s start with the most noticeable features and then break down the minutia!


Weight

IMG_4872

Without a doubt you’ll think they forgot to put the harness in the package when it arrives at your door. Manufacturer listed weight is 8.3 ounces (235 grams). On my home scale my size large weighed 9 3/8 ounces (264 grams). This is about an ounce (40 grams) lighter than the Petzl Sitta. This harness is truly featherlight!

Pack-ability

Black Diamond AirNet Review

The construction and materials used in this harness allow it to easily fit into the included storage sack when folded up with room to spare. The measurements of the stuff sack when are about 6 x 3 x 3.5 inches, so this harness only takes up about 60 cubic inches in your pack. It is super pack-able!

Comfort

I went with a size large for my 34 inch waist. The patented “AirNet” technology definitely allows the full width of the waist belt (measured about 2 3/4 inches at widest) to distribute force during a leader fall or while hanging from a belay stance. Adjustable (via elastic) buckle-less leg loops (also measured about 2 3/4 inches at widest) distribute force when loaded but seem non-existent when just wearing the harness. In fact the harness is almost not noticeable when worn. I hiked many miles while wearing this harness and you can definitely forget you have it on.

Features I Liked

Other than the three things I mentioned above I liked the two pressure molded front gear loops, the auto adjusting butt straps (more like string), the great breathability of the material, and the unique “Infinity Belay Loop” which I’ve never seen before. Essentially it is low profile belay loop that is continuous and doesn’t have the traditional bar-tacking that can get caught when rotating it through the harness tie-in points. I also believe the Dynemma/Spectra type material the harness is constructed out of will lead to great than average life expectancy when compared to similar Nylon style harness!

Things I Would Have Liked

I wasn’t crazy about the super skinny low profile webbing used for the two rear gear loops. I understand this was a request from Adam who would cut his rear gear loops off to save weight (that’s dedication!). They worked for storing my “non-pro” things like cordelette, belay device, prussics, belay gloves, etc but they weren’t very easy to clip things to since they were so skinny and soft. And while this harness was not designed for ice climbing I would have loved two slits that I could add ice clippers to so I could carry this over to ice season.

Other Media

Summary/Who is this for?

Black Diamond AirNet Review

This is definitely a niche harness. Black Diamond states that this is the “ultimate competition and sport harness on the market” and it’s definitely a tough contender for that title! I also think those, like myself, who prioritize low weight and excellent pack-ability might be able to cross over into some traditional/alpine climbing use. I was able to comfortably carry my full rack up to a Black Diamond #3 Camelot with 10 alpine draws and my regular non-pro kit. If you’re carrying a double rack you’ll likely need to use a shoulder gear sling. If you need a more full featured harness for year round climbing check out my review of the Petzl Sitta.

If you’re looking to pickup an ultralight harness for non-winter use and don’t need enough space to carry a double rack you should check out the Black Diamond AirNet Harness!

Buy from Backcountry

Buy from REI

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

A media sample was provided for purposes of review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support this blog and the author receives a small commission when you make a purchase through them. Thank you!

New Half Day Clinics and Climbs!

For the month of October I am excited to announce you can now book a private half-day lesson or guided climb with me through Northeast Mountaineering! This offer is only valid for the month of October and is based on my availability which I will try to keep updated below. If you are interested in any of these three half-day custom offerings use the contact form below or message me on Instagram or Facebook with the date you would like to book. Once I confirm the date is still open Northeast Mountaineering will invoice you to lock the date down!

Pricing

1 person* $175 2 person* $250 3 person $330 4 person $400

Hours, you pick what works best for you!

8am-noon or noon-4pm


Beginner- Square Ledge Top-Roping

Rock Climbing Square Ledge
Foliage as of 9/26/20 from the top of Square Ledge

If you have never rock climbed before you can’t pick a better place to try it than Square Ledge in Pinkham Notch. A short 25 minute hike brings us to this 140 tall cliff with amazing views of Mount Washington and it is just covered in good hand and foot holds. There are climbs here that anyone can do! A great choice to see if you’ll like outdoor rock climbing, and the foliage right now is EPIC!


Intermediate- Guided climb up Upper Refuse

Rock Climbing Cathedral Ledge
Reaching the top of Upper Refuse, Cathedral Ledge, 9/27/20

This three pitch 5.6 climb on Cathedral Ledge is an excellent introduction to multi-pitch traditional climbing and happens to offer an incredible view of Mount Washington Valley. You should have some prior outdoor top-roping experience for this program. *only available for 1 person or 2 person groups


Intermediate/Advanced- Self Rescue and Multi-pitch Efficiency

Self Rescue Course Cathedral Ledge

This skills based program will help intermediate and experienced sport and trad climbers acquire the skills necessary to perform a self-rescue and improve your overall efficiency on multi-pitch climbs. The curriculum includes improvised hauling systems, belay escapes, smooth transition techniques, and rope ascension. A solid foundation in basic belaying, rappelling, and lead climbing will help you make the most of this program.

Dates Still Available*

October 10 (AM Only),11,13 (PM Only),17 (PM Only),18,23,24,25,26,27,29,30

Interested? Just fill out this form and include your billing address, phone number, the date(s) and which program you would like to book, including the AM or PM hours, and I will get back to you as soon as possible to confirm the date is still available and Northeast Mountaineering will invoice you!

Let me know if you have any questions and see you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

Route Guide- The Best 5.6 Pitch on Cathedral Ledge

Rock climbing Cathedral Ledge
Climber: Alexandra Roberts, Photo by Brent Doscher

You’ve probably never heard of the best 5.6 pitch on Cathedral Ledge. Better than Thin Air? Yes. Better than a version of Upper Refuse? Definitely? Better than Child’s Play? Of course!

After a few people asked me about the climb I was on yesterday I decided to post some details about it because frankly this climb deserves more traffic! We do not have many moderate trad pitches on Cathedral and this one is five stars and few people even know about it… I’m hoping to change that!

The climb in question, is the 2nd pitch of Goofer’s Delight. There’s a few reasons why this wasn’t getting climbed much. Here’s some history:

History

The first ascent was during the summer of 1970 by Henry Barber and Bill O’Connell. Henry returned to the climb and got the first free ascent in October of 1972 with Bob Anderson. As Ed Webster’s Rock Climbs in the White Mountains, 3rd Ed. describes the first pitch “A sustained and strenuous climb… thrash over the lip of the cave (5.9+)”. Take note that this climb was rated 5.9+ prior to 5.10 being a recognized new grade of difficulty. Anyone who wants to do the first pitch of this route should be thinking it will be hard 5.10.

Webster’s book also suggests that the 2nd pitch follows “a dirty, right-diagonalling [sic] crack (5.6) through the lichen to the top, or (a better choice), finish up Tabu (5.9 R).

Jerry Handren’s earlier guidebook, Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges shows some discrepancies in its description listing the route as 5.9, then the first pitch at 5.10a, followed by calling the second pitch both 5.8 (assuming this is if you finish up a corner to the right of Tabu) or 5.6 (assuming you finish up the dirty flake).

The most recent guidebook, North Conway Rock Climbs (2012), also by Jerry Handren, makes no mention of the 5.6 finish and only lists the 5.8 more direct corner finish.

Fast forward to 2016. Local climber Joe Comeau replaces the bolted anchor and protection bolt on Tabu, and spends a few days scrubbing the lichen on the 5.6 finish of Goofer’s Delight. What’s uncovered is one of the nicest wildly exposed moderate pitches in New Hampshire. The only catch is unless you are up for the first pitch burly (5.9+) “thrash” you’ll need to rap in for this one. To help with those logistics I provide the following topo and description.

Rock Climbing on Cathedral Ledge

Descent

You can rappel with a single 60 meter rope from an oak tree about 20-25 feet back from the edge (1). I was actually breaking in my new Sterling Velocity, a great 9.8 mm rope! I set my anchor quite high in this tree to aid with the pull after descending. Your ropes should hang to climbers left of the small pine near the edge. The ends will easily reach the bolted anchor below Tabu but double check your middle mark is accurate and close the system! I prefer to tie into one end before I start my rappel. That way as soon as I reach the station I am ready to clove-in to the bolted station (2) (I use a mini-quad here).

If the first climber down is leading the pitch have the second climber arrive on the left side of the station to make exiting the station easier. Once they are secured to the anchor the rope should pull smoothly and it’s a decent ledge for a ledge coil.

rock climbing Cathedral Ledge
Rap to the small birch, yellow highlighted route shows the 5.6 path, the large pine mid-way is partially obscuring the 5.8 direct finish

Leave the anchor and walk/traverse out right past a small pine and into a stellar hand-rail/crack. The feet are really good here despite it looking dirty in spots. Don’t forget to place something for your second despite the mellow traversing. You can sling the huge pine tree (3) mid-pitch with a double length sling. The second half of the pitch is 5 stars, if only it could go on for another 100 feet!

rock climbing Cathedral Ledge
Maury McKinney stopping to place his first piece after leaving the anchor… the large pine is mid-way, and the small notch to the left of the tree on skyline is the finish. It is hard to capture how stunning this feature is especially past the large pine

After pulling the wildly exposed final moves you have two options for an anchor. If you have the right sizes left (#1, #2 BD Camalots) you can get a great gear anchor in these cracks (4). If not you can go back to the trees (5). If you do I would suggest using a technique to extend yourself back towards the edge for better communication (and awesome photo ops). These trees are a bit “piney” so I don’t like to run my rope around them (use a cord and locker). A system that uses a “BHK” for a master point is great here.

Gear

If you are comfortable with the grade (it feels more 5.5 to me but the exposure might make it feel 5.6) a regular rack up to #2 is sufficient. If you want to sew it up I would double up on the .75, and #1. Tri-cams work well in a few places. It’s definitely a G-rated route when it comes to protecting it, just don’t leave your second with a huge swing potential.

Summary

This is an excellent end of day pitch after topping out Upper Refuse or Thin Air if you’re looking to get one more great pitch in before heading out. You can combine it with top-belaying both Tabu (or leading it if you are up for it), and Reverse Camber, or a lap on nearby Pine Tree Eliminate. Due to the traversing nature of the climb top-belaying it without leading it first is not feasible. So that’s it, best 5.6 pitch on the cliff! Check it out and let me know if you agree/disagree!

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

References:

Rock Climbs in the White Mountains, East Volume, 3rd Edition by Ed Webster, pages 133-137

Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges, by Jerry Handren, page 64

North Conway Rock Climbs, by Jerry Handren, pages 211-212

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Gear Review: Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack Review

 

Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack Review
This summer I’ve been hiking, rock climbing, and guiding with the new Deuter Guide Lite 30+ Backpack and I’m ready to share my thoughts on the pack and who it may be a good choice for. The new for 2020 Guide Lite Series has some great features for packs in this category. Let’s start by looking at the specifications and then we will break down the performance and look for places we might improve.


Manufacturer Description

All new for 2020! The pinnacle series from Deuter has been completely redesigned and overhauled – resulting in a new, minimalistic Guide Lite 24. Balanced load distribution and stability are results of a flexible, tensioned Delrin U-frame. Its ultra-lightweight. uncluttered design includes quick, one-handed, access via a draw cord closure.  Mountaineers and alpinists will love the lightweight nature and minimalistic feature set of the Guide Lite 24.  Our newly innovated ice axe attachment has 3 points of contact, yet still allows users to remove the ice axe nimbly, and without taking off the pack.

Manufacturer Website Listed Weight: 1.43 lbs

I did find some weight discrepancies when using my home electric cooking scale. Normally packs are an ounce or two off but in this case the complete pack was a half-pound heavier than claimed. I took the removable components off the pack and weighed everything separately and together to get a better idea of the true weight based on each configuration.

The complete pack weighed 2 lbs, 1 ounce (938 grams). The top lid weighed 3.5 ounces (94 grams). The waist belt weight 5.5 ounces (160 grams). So the claimed pack weight looks to match the completely stripped down version of the pack at 1 lb, 8 ounces (684 grams).

For a pack of this volume I do feel this is slightly on the heavier side when compared to similar packs in the class. This extra weight probably comes from the more robust internal frame and thicker closed cell foam shoulder and back pads then similar models.

Fit/Length

Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack
Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack

Deuter lists the “length” as 22 inches. I wasn’t sure what this was referring too. User torso length? That would be a giant (or at least MLB player). I broke out my tape measure and it appears that the length of the pack when flattened from bottom to the top (not including extendable collar) is about 22 inches, so I’m thinking that’s what they are listing in the specs. More importantly though is what size torso will this pack fit, and for that I took some more measurements. This pack only comes in one size (though there is a woman’s version and a larger capacity version). Measuring from the top of the shoulder straps to the middle of the waist belt is about 17 inches. This would be the closest measurement to torso length (if you don’t know your torso length it’s easy to measure with a tape measure, YouTube it!).

I have a 19 inch torso (5’9″ tall but torso length is more accurate when fitting packs). That means this pack rides a bit high on me when it comes to the waist belt. This worked fine for me as I often was wearing this pack over my harness, and I preferred to leave the waist belt on and clip it above my harness. Combined with the sternum strap this helped the back hug my back closely while climbing.

Volume

Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack

With 24 liters (1,465 cubic inches) I could easily carry my full rock guiding kit or my 4000 footer packing list while I work on the 48’s with my son this summer. The extendable collar adds another 600 or so cubic inches. An external helmet carry system frees up even more pack space, and a climbing rope can easily be secured over the top of the pack thanks to long enough top-side compression straps with fast release buckles.

Performance/Comfort

Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack

This pack definitely carries well. The internal frame feels like a thin plastic sheet reinforced with two stiffer stays running down the sides. This made awkward loads (like a full trad-rack) carry with no pressure points. The waist belt is quite wide (4.5 inches at widest) and wraps perfectly around the body. In my case this was a bit over the hip bone but a shorter user would find it quite comfy. The height adjustable sternum strap (with whistle) did a great job of keeping the pack centered. I would suggest they remove the “load lifting” straps and buckles as they really don’t serve a function since they are attached at the top of back panel. Overall this was a very comfy pack for day-hiking and rock climbing multi-pitch routes.

Features

Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack

Quite a few features on this pack that some may really like and others may find a little bit excessive for an alpine pack. Things I really liked was the well sized removable top pocket with both external and internal compartments. It also has a great “alpine emergency” info graphic under the lid that lists emergency numbers for different countries, universal SOS signals, and more. The pack is hydration system compatible through I did not use a system with the pack. I also didn’t test this pack in winter so I have not used the ice axe carry system but playing with it at home it’s pretty slick. While seemingly cosmetic I’m a huge fan of the high visibility orange color that this pack is available in.

Summary

The new Deuter Guide Lite 30+ Backpack is a solid choice for a technical backpack that also has the carrying comfort and features one might look for in a more general day hiking backpack. Dual ice axe and rope carrying capability let it cross over to both winter mountaineering and ice climbing applications. This is a pack worth looking at if you’d like a well made pack that can serve you well whether hiking 4000 footers or getting in some multi-pitch climbing.

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start



A media sample was provided for review. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

Gear Review: 43 CBD Solutions Hemp Oil and Salves

43 CBD Solutions Review

The Fall of 2019 introduced me to a new level of stress and anxiety when I unexpectedly lost my father in a very difficult fashion. I didn’t realize how depressed I had become as I struggled processing the grief. An injury in early March took me out of work and almost any physical activity for a month, then COVID hit. The thought of my now widowed mother being stuck in Florida away from any family for the summer during the pandemic led to high blood pressure and sleepless nights. A few sessions with a therapist helped but I needed to figure something else out.

I had received some samples from the Colorado based 43 CBD Solutions almost a year ago but had not bothered testing them as I wasn’t sure if I believed in the claims of what these products could do. My first taste of the CBD Hemp Oil Tincture was a hour before giving my father’s Eulogy. I couldn’t be sure it was having any positive effect on me as my emotions during this time were so overwhelmed with what was happening.

43 CBD Solutions Review

Most of the winter passed with me focusing on work and realizing I still wasn’t processing my grief in a healthy way. When the Spring ski accident and COVID-19 shutdown occurred it created even more stress and I started to feel like I would implode. On a call with my therapist he asked me if I was breathing. I realized sub-consciously I was barely taking full breaths. My chest felt tight. I still had moderate hypertension (high-blood pressure). I decided to give the 43 CBD products another try.

I’ve never used other CBD products before so I find it hard to review or compare. After months of weekly use I’m confident they are making a difference. I don’t use them every day but 2 or 3 times a week I will take a few drops of the oil on the tongue after waking up, and I do feel a little more relaxed during the day. It is a discreet feeling that is really hard to define but I do feel less “edgy”.  I haven’t felt at all “high”, but for anyone slightly concerned about having any THC in their system they did just release a THC-free line.

43 CBD Solutions Review

I’ve also taken a few drops on some nights and have noticed I sleep better on the nights I do. I’ve been using the 1000mg CBD Ultra Deep Tissue Salve on my elbows (minor tendonitis) and can honestly say I have never used a better rub for muscle/tendon/joint pain relief! The relief is almost instant and seems to last longer than “IcyHot” rubs I used to use. I’ve also noticed better circulation in my arms when using it and I don’t get “pins and needles” while sleeping.

Rounding out the products I’ve tested is a small pocket tin I use as a lip balm and on the go pain relief. While I don’t use marijuana I find the natural hemp smell to have a calming effect.

43 CBD Solutions Review

Summary

I was definitely a skeptic going into this product testing. When I asked my licensed therapist his opinion on using CBD to help with anxiety he claimed the science supports their effectiveness but it can be hard to determine the quality of a somewhat unregulated industry and determine whether or not I’m experiencing some type of placebo reaction. I’ve come to the conclusion that the general feeling of well-being and lower blood pressure is a direct result of using these products, combined with increased exercise, hiking with the kids, and returning to productive and rewarding work. If you are experiencing stress and anxiety for any reason (and we all have enough reason right now to be stressed out), and have considered trying a CBD option, the choices can be a little over-whelming. The folks at 43 CBD Solutions have a quality product that goes through rigorous third party testing. You can feel safe in knowing exactly what you are putting into your body. And most importantly I now believe it works.

Purchase

Right now they are offering a BOGO 50% offer! That’s a great deal considering they are already a competitively priced product! Just shop from here and enter “BOGO50” at checkout!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

43 CBD Solutions

Affiliate links above help support this blog. Media samples were provided for purpose of review. All opinions stated above are the genuine opinions of the author. 

Trip Report: Mt. Tecumseh 8/19/20 (Alex and Alden’s 2nd 4k)

My alarm went off at 5 am and I let the kids sleep a bit more while I finished packing our packs. I picked Tecumseh as the 2nd 4000 footer for the boys as it appears on most “easiest 4k hike” lists and is technically the lowest in elevation (4,003). Leaving Conway at 5:40 we enjoyed a clear sunrise while we crossed the Kancamagus highway and after picking up some breakfast from the Lincoln D&D we headed down to Campton, NH and up into Waterville Valley on Rt 49.

Hiking Tecumseh 4000 footers NH

We started up the Mt. Tecumseh trail at 7:22 and were soon passed by a dad and a charging young hiker. This trail is so well maintained with stonework and steps I think it is definitely a better choice for a “first 4000 footer” then Mount Jackson. At 9:52 we reached the Sosman trail and turned right on the flat ridge towards the summit.

Hiking Tecumseh 4000 footers NH

Hiking Tecumseh 4000 footers NH

We opted to take the left fork (Sosman Trail) to the summit and arrived at the summit at 10:07 (2hr 45min, avg. munter rate 3.7). After a 15 minute break we made our way down the Mt. Tecumseh Trail down and around the summit cone to complete that small loop and headed towards the summit of the ski area via the Sosman trail.

Hiking Tecumseh 4000 footers NH

After checking out the cool towers on the summit we started down the ski slopes at 11:05, arriving at the base at 12:40. While I’ve seen multiple online trip reports suggest hiking down the ski slopes as an alternative return route I’m going to throw out my opinion on this and say it’s really not a great idea… we wished we returned via the hiking trail for a few reasons:

  1. The direct ski trail descent is often at an angle that is awkward to make good time.
  2. While the views are nice there is no shade (the entire hiking trail is shaded)
  3. Footing is MUCH better on the well designed hiking trail allowing for a faster descent.
  4. Seeing the bottom the whole 1.5 hour descent is a bit disheartening… is it getting closer?
  5. More water for the dog… there are multiple stream crossings on the hiking trail and zero water on the ski slope descent!

We all felt we would have gotten down the hiking trail faster then the ski trails, so I’d highly recommend just heading back down the hiking trail for your descent!

I decided to take Tripoli Rd back towards Thorton and while scenic it’s definitely a pot-hole bumpy road. I couldn’t believe how many cars were parked at the Osceola lot! On our trail we only came across two parties of 2 and one party of 5 on our entire hike! Mid-week hiking FTW!

Back on the other side of the Kanc the kids enjoyed a post hike ice cream at Freeze Louise.

Alex & Alden are now 2/48 with plans to get a few more in this season.

Thanks for following their adventure!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Tech Tip: Unweighted Passive Pro/Girth-Hitch Traditional Anchor

IMG_4890


Today’s tech tip is focused on multi-pitch traditional anchor efficiency. Of all the acronyms in circulation to help you evaluate an anchor (SERENE, RENE, ERNEST, NERDSS) I’ve always been partial to ERNEST as it addresses an often over looked part of traditional anchor building, namely “Timely”.

On a multi-pitch route efficiency is important and taking too long to construct or de-construct an anchor can cost a party valuable time that at best means they get less routes in during the day and at worst means they experience an unplanned bivouac.

When building traditional anchors on multi-pitch climbs most climbers build 3-piece anchors. It’s beneficial to the party to use some passive protection in the construction so that the next lead has more active protection (cams) available. In vertical crack systems I often try to find one or two passive pieces above a multi-directional active piece. Placing the passive pieces above the active piece makes it easier to create an anchor that can withstand an outward or even upward force if the belayer is lifted about the master-point while making a hard catch.

Cleaning passive pieces (nuts) that have been loaded can be time consuming and even impossible at times, so I look for opportunities to place passive pieces that are only seated with a light tug, and essentially backup other solid active pieces like the attached photo and video below demonstrate.

 

Combine arrangements like this with the low material cost time efficiency of a clove-hitch master carabiner anchor and you can create super fast efficient RENE, SERENE, ERNEST, NERDSS anchors in so many places! Give it a try!

Gear (Food) Review: Skout Organic Bars (and Giveaway!)

Skout Organic Bars Review


This summer the kids and I have been enjoying some tasty protein and fruit bars from a company founded in the Pacific Northwest, Skout Organic. These bars are non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher, and Free of Gluten, Grain, Dairy, and Soy. While we don’t have any allergies in our household I like that I can keep a couple of these stashed in my pack to share with guests when we are out climbing.


Skout Organic Bars Review


Each of the protein bars offers 10g of protein while keeping the glycemic level low by using organic dates as the base. Each protein bar packs 210-220 calories in just under a 2 ounce bar. The kids bars have 90 calories and weigh just under one ounce each.


Skout Organic Bars Review
Alex and Madalena declare the winning flavors!


Both of the kids got to taste each flavor, and Alex (age 8) picked Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip as his favorite, while Madalena (age 4) went with Blueberry Blast. I had a tough time picking a favorite but at the end of the day I’ll go with Salted Chocolate for the best protein bar and Apple Pie for my favorite kids bar. On hot and humid Northeast days and I would love to see the kid sized fruit bars be available in a 2 ounce size! Adults need fruit too!


Skout Organic Bars Review
My favorite protein bar flavor, Skout Organic Salted Chocolate (YUM)


For those with nut allergies these options have no peanuts or tree nuts.

Summary and Giveaway!

There are a lot of quality protein bars out there to choose from these days but they are not all equal. Skout Organic does a ton of allergen testing to prevent cross contamination in all levels of production. They taste great and passed my kids rigorous testing! You can order directly from them and first time customers can get $5 off and free shipping here! Just use code “SAMPLER” at checkout!

You can also enter for a chance to win one of each sampler pack! That’s a $30 value! Enter to win at this Rafflecopter link below!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start




A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links above support the content created here. Thank you!

Trip Report: Mt Jackson 7/21/20 (Alex’s 1st 4K, Arcophobia and Pooping in the Woods)

Yesterday my son Alex (age 8) and his best friend Alden (age 9) completed their first 4000 footer climb in the White Mountains. We have set a soft goal for them to complete the 48 4000 Footers by the time they enter high school. I originally got into blogging years ago when I started Adventure With Alex to share trip suggestions and tips on hiking with infants and toddlers. When Alex was too big to carry up mountains I suspended that blog to focus more on Northeast Alpine Start. Now that he is embarking on this endeavor we will share our trip reports and lessons learned here. Our hope is to help others on similar paths learn from our successes and our mistakes as we work on this challenge together. So without further ado here is my report on our first 4k and some of the challenges we needed to manage, like pooping in the woods and arcophobia (fear of heights), and how we managed both.


July 21st, 2020 Mt Jackson (Elevation 4’052)

Around 9 am we pulled into the AMC Highland Center for last minute use of facilities. Everyone was encouraged to try and “go” even if they didn’t feel they needed to. Alex would later share he was hesitant to use the public bathroom after a few months of exercising increased awareness due to COVID. By 9:20 we were on the Webster-Jackson trail.

Hiking the 4000 Footers
Alden at Alex at 9:21 am at the Webster-Jackson Trailhead, the first NH White Mountain 4,000 footer challenge begins!

We passed the Elephant Head Spur trail and minutes later Alex started to complain about stomach pain. I let him know it could be early hike “nerves” since he was questioning his ability to climb a bigger mountain (his previous biggest hike was Mount Chocurua via Champney Falls Trail), or he might need to make a BM. He decided to push on.

By the time we reached the short side path to Bugle Cliff he told me he had to go. We found a bit of privacy about 200 feet from the trail and I coached him on the methods we use for handling this necessity of nature. Despite feeling like he had to go fear of someone seeing him prevented him from success and he decided to get back to hiking. He reported the stomach pain had subsided a bit, so maybe it was just nerves.

When we reached Flume Cascade Brook the discomfort was back and he wanted to try again. We again found some privacy 200 feet from the trail and brook and had another failed attempt to have a “movement”. Back on the trail we continued up to the Webster/Jackson split, and took the Jackson branch.

Hiking the 4000 Footers
Feeling pretty good at 11:07 am at the Webster-Jackson branch split

Hiking the 4000 Footers
On the Jackson Branch Trail, 11:10 am

About a mile from the split the trail steepens and we were faced with the second big challenge of our trip.

My wife has pretty acute arcophobia (fear of heights). The AMC White Mountain Guidebook describes this section of trail as “ascends steep ledges, with several fairly difficult scrambles”. This would be considered “Class 2” terrain by the Sierra Clubs hiking classification system (occasional use of hands necessary). The boys and our dog Jack were handling the scrambles with just a bit of coaching and spotting. My wife Michelle though was quickly experiencing a lot of emotional stress as a result of her arcophobia.

I could see in her face and by her body positioning she was stressed. What might feel like casual scrambling for many was something very different for her. I tried to offer some help, but I also knew she sometimes does not like me talking to her while she figures out how to make progress. Only 100 feet from the summit she was ready to quit, close to tears, and terrified of the prospect of having to come back down this way. My son and I encouraged her to finish the next 100 feet with us as there might be an easier way back down.

Hiking the 4000 Footers
Michelle and Alden negotiating the final slab moves before reaching the summit. The steeper scrambles on the Jackson branch trail are just below this point and out of view.

On the summit the celebration waited while both Michelle and Alex rested. Alex was a bit distraught as he knew his mother had been scared on the last section. After some hugs and talking we ate some lunch and I consulted the map. It was 12:50 pm. It had taken us 3 and a half hours to summit against a “book time” of 2:25. That extra hour was due to two lengthy attempts at having a BM, and multiple more small breaks that are not part of my usual hiking pace. For future reference I’m noting that we averaged a “Munter Rate*” of 3.

Hiking the 4000 Footers
Resting on the summit of Mt. Jackson having made it up the final scrambles

*Munter Rate is an amazing way of estimating hiking time. For more info check out this article or download this app that I use!


Hiking the 4000 Footers
Summit photo just before descending

While the shortest way back to the trail head is back down the Jackson branch, I knew my wife would really struggle with some of the “difficult scrambles” she had made it up. I looked closely at the contour lines under the Webster Cliff Trail and the Webster branch. They were not as close as the contour lines under the Jackson branch, which meant it should be a less steep option. This would add a mile to our trip, but likely be less of a down-scramble than the Jackson branch. As a group we discussed this option and reached consensus that we should add this mileage, and likely an hour to our day, if it meant less technical.

Hiking the 4000 Footers
Our route with directional arrows added

We left the summit of Jackson at 1:12 pm and started down the Webster Cliff Trail. Soon after leaving the summit we reached a bit of a scramble, but it was not as bad as the scrambles at the end of the Jackson branch. We slowly negotiated it then hit the relatively easy walking ridge that connects over to Mt Webster. A mother Quail and two of her chicks held us up for a moment while they sat in the middle of the trail. Just before reaching the Webster branch trail junction Alex told me it was time, he had to go.

Hiking the 4000 Footers
A nice section of walking, 2:20 pm

We made our way off trail to a secluded spot. With some effort Alex was finally able to move his bowels. We buried his waste and packed out the used wipes in a Ziploc and rejoined Michelle, Alden, and Jack on the trail. Relieved to not have stomach pain anymore we ate some candy and started down the Webster branch happy to be heading in the direction of the trail head now.

At 3:50 we reached the beautiful cascade and pool that is part of Silver Cascade Brook. I couldn’t resist a quick swim and jumped in. The water was cold and crisp and while I would be hiking the rest of the way in soaked shorts and trail shoes it was 100% worth it.

Hiking the 4000 Footers
A waterfall and pool along Silver Cascade Brook, 3:50 pm

The rest of the way out was a bit slow going. Michelle’s right knee was hurting, feeling worse than her left knee that she injured a few years ago. This was her first significant hike in a few years and we both regretted not grabbing any of the pairs of trekking poles we had sitting at home. We will not forget them next time!

As we closed in on 8 hours of hiking I was amazed at how well the boys were doing with the final “slog” part of the day. Their conversations about Fortnite and YouTube had them laughing and giggling for the last couple miles. Alden would often check on Michelle as she was being extra cautious for the last bit of trail. We reached the parking lot at 5:40 pm, had a round of high-fives, and headed straight for ice cream.

Lessons Learned (What would I do differently next time?)

  • Earlier start time. A typical Munter rate of 4 would have this round trip loop take 4.5-5 hours (close to book time). Assuming a slower rate of 3 would get us closer in our planning to the actual 8 hours and 20 minutes that it took. I would prefer to hit the trail closer to 7 am.
  • More encouragement to have a BM before hitting the trail. Kids can be very shy about doing this in the woods, so talking about it before hand can help make them more comfortable.
  • Pack a trowel… burying waste without one is not an easy task.
  • Trekking poles for Michelle on every hike
  • Pure water instead of hydration mix for the kids, both kids felt regular water would have been better on nervous stomachs.
  • Dog food for Jack… we remembered snacks for him but he didn’t get his breakfast in the morning so was probably really really hungry. We will be buying him a dog pack soon, any suggestions?

Hiking the 4000 Footers
Near the end of the hike, one tired (and muddy) Jack. Pic courtesy of Michelle

Summary

Both boys were really proud of their accomplishment. The idea that there are 47 more of these mountains to attempt felt slightly overwhelming. We decided we will also start working on the “52 with a View” list so that we can have some lighter days mixed in with the big days. Alex has already climbed Mount Willard, Potash Mountain, and Mount Chocorua from that list.

Coming soon we will be sharing our gear lists for these climbs and how we tweak what we are carrying. Stay tuned!

View the Garmin Connect GPS Activity HERE

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Tech Tip: Girth Hitch Carabiner Master Point

Girth Hitch Carabiner Master Point


One of the things I love about climbing is how we keep finding better ways of doing things. Sure, we get into ruts where we resist trying something different (why fix it if it ain’t broke mindset), but every 5-10 years I notice we make another leap forward because someone decided to think outside the box and try something new.

Most people who climb with me know I have an affinity for the “mini-Quad” when constructing my anchors. If you are not familiar with the “mini-Quad” check out my post and video about it here. The mini-Quad is still my “go to” choice when climbing in a party of three or more (mostly multi-pitch guiding), simply because having two separate master points is more comfortable for guests and helps with keeping things organized.

If I am climbing in a more common party of two though, I’m going to be using the Girth Hitch Carabiner Master Point a lot more frequently. It has some great advantages to other methods like;

Advantages

  1. Does not require long sling/cord material. For a typical two point anchor (bolts) a single shoulder length (60 cm) sling is sufficient.
  2. It’s super fast to tie. Try it two or three times and you’ll see how fast you can build this.
  3. It’s super fast to break-down. Since it is a “hitch” and not a hard “knot” once you remove the carabiner it vanishes. No welded dyneema knot to work on!
  4. It’s redundant. Testing shows if one leg fails or gets cut (rockfall) the hitch will not slip! Compare this to a “sliding-x” anchor with the same length sling and this is definitely better if direction of load is close to uni-directional.
  5. It’s “equalized” to the limitations of the physics. Yes true “equalization” isn’t quite possible but close enough.
  6. It has zero extension should a leg fail.

All of this adds up to a great SERENE, RENE, ERNEST, NERDSS or whatever acronym you like when debating or evaluating the merits or flaws of an anchor.

Disadvantages

  1. It requires an extra locking carabiner to form a master point.
  2. It is a “pre-equalized” method, meaning of the load direction changes you’ll lose load distribution (just like a tied off bight).
  3. Every one is attaching to the same master-point, so for party’s of 3 I might more often opt for the mini-Quad

Considerations

I plan on using one of my Black Diamond RockLock Magnetron carabiners as the master point carabiner for a couple reasons. It’s a fast carabiner to deploy and it auto-locks, but I prefer the added security of the style of locking mechanism since I am clove hitching myself into a separate locker attached to this master point locker, and will be belaying off a plaquette as well. While it should go without saying care needs to be taken when introducing this method, especially to newer climbers. Since the master point is a carabiner it is crucial no one mistakes this carabiner as their own attachment and removes it when perhaps taking the next lead. This perhaps is even more reason to use a Magnetron as the master carabiner and screw gate carabiners for your personal tether/clove hitch with rope attachments.

Regardless of what locker you use as the master point I would recommend having your belay plaquette set along the spine of the carabiner vs your own tether attachment for maximum strength and security.

Vs. The Clove Hitch Master Point Carabiner Method

Another similar looking method uses a clove hitch instead of a girth hitch to achieve many of the same advantages, however I find the girth hitch slightly faster and easier to tie.

Summary

The Girth Hitch Master Point Carabiner is a slick new solution to add to your repertoire.  It is not a “solve-all” solution but based on context I can see this option being used efficiently and effectively in many situations. As with any new anchor skill practice on the ground first before you use it 100 feet off the deck. Seek proper instruction from qualified guides and instructors.

More info:

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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