Mountain Guide Manual Clinic

Since my copy arrived this past May I’ve been steadily devouring the massive amount of information contained in Marc Chauvin and Rob Coppolillo’s recently published book, The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference- From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue.

The Mountain Guide Manual

This past Wednesday I attended one of Marc Chauvin’s Mountain Guide Manual Clinic’s; the first of three he is currently offering. I’ve heard rumors he will offer this in a few other locales outside of our Mount Washington Valley home turf and if one is offered in your area I would highly suggest you try to attend! If you can’t make one of the scheduled dates consider hiring Marc for a private day. The “guide of guides” who wrote the book on guiding is sure to give you a mind expanding day!

A friend who saw my Instagram story asked me what they should expect in a brief recap of the day and the type of material covered so I thought I could share that here for those who might be curious or on the fence.

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic

First, if you are considering the clinic you absolutely need to buy the book first! A brief run through the first few chapters, especially the long chapters on various transition methods, will better prepare you for the day, but a solid understanding of any of it is not quite necessary (unless perhaps you are preparing for a guide exam and want to crush transitions). I’ll also say you don’t need to be or want to be a guide to benefit from this book or clinic. Two of my fellow clinic-mates where not guides and were there to become more proficient in their recreational climbing.

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic
AJ, Lovena, and Zach practice a transition to rappelling while leading “parallel” style with two seconds

Marc will challenge the way you’ve been “doing things” for years. He will help everyone in the group re-program their climbing brains and get them thinking about things like “rope-end equations” and “back-side of the clove-hitch” in ways that actually simplify and streamline our processes. A simple example was introduced early in the day. We dissected how two climbers might climb a single pitch route with a single rope and then rig to rappel. Basically the “climbing to rappelling transition”.

Most of us would imagine both climbers tether into the anchor with slings, PAS’s, etc. untie from both ends, thread the rope, and rappel one at a time. Marc demonstrates how we can pull this off with greater security and speed by using what is already built instead of deconstructing and re-building a whole new system. This method also allows the leader to stay tied in, removes the need to tie a “stopper knot” in both rope ends, and is really pretty darn slick. This isn’t “rope trickery” but classic “think big picture/outside the box” type stuff. I’m not going to describe it fully here but it might make it into a future Tech Tip!

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic
Marc can teach so much without ever putting on a harness!

I’ve heard from a couple guides, some close friends, that they are kind of avoiding these “new” techniques. They want to stick with what they know and kind of have the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” type mindsets. I’d encourage any and all of my climbing acquaintances, friends, and colleagues to try to stay open minded in their full climbing careers, from day 1 to your last.

Seek to get better, learn more, go faster, safer, simpler, when ever and where ever you can. The fact that there is always something more to learn is what drove me to a career in mountain guiding and avalanche education. It is thrilling to know there is no finish line!

Thank you Marc for continuing to inspire and challenge me from the first course I attended in 2002 to today!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start



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Pinnacle in 2 hours! Wilderness Navigation! Rock Climbing Cathedral Ledge!

Two weeks ago I wrote about my personal goal to climb the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle in under 2 hours car to car after doing it in 2:37. Last Thursday weather and a partner lined up for another attempt. We managed to shave about 10 minutes from the descent and some more time on the route by not swinging leads (I led the whole route via the 5.8 variation and Fairy Tale Traverse). After coiling the rope I checked the watch and was a little dismayed to see we only have 19 minutes left. I was pretty sure it would take me at least 25 minutes to reach the car at my pace. We started scrambling up the boulder field as fast as my lungs could handle. As we got closer I started to think we might make it. Then I started to get nervous that I would miss it by 2 minutes and have to try this whole thing over again. That prospect helped me dig down a little harder despite feeling like I would be dry-heaving from the effort. I was so stoked to make it with a minute and a half to spare! Here’s some action from our climb!


Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle
The author clips his first piece of protection on the exposed and beautiful “Fairy Tale Traverse”, a variation last pitch of the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle photo by Matt Milone, @nightmutephoto

I’m happy to have checked this personal goal off my list. Quite a few have asked “why rush so much… enjoy the route… using the road is cheating… etc. etc.” To them say I have climbed this route at a more typical pace over a dozen times, I enjoyed this made up challenge, and I don’t think you can cheat on something that is 100% for you and not recognized by anyone else. I’m very thankful for all those who provided encouragement and especially Benny Allen and Matt Milone for the belays and hustle!


Over the weekend I had the opportunity to teach my Wilderness Navigation Course to 11 participants for the Appalachian Mountain Club. I really have a blast teaching this course and this group seemed to really enjoy the bushwhacking we did during our afternoon session.

Wilderness Navigation Course
A beaver dam on our way to our field session- Wilderness Navigation Course

Yesterday I had the pleasure of introducing Kellie of Exeter, NH to outdoor rock climbing. Kellie had been climbing indoors for almost two years and was quite enthusiastic to try the sport out on some real rock. Her natural ability and focus had her climbing close to 600 feet of climbing up to 5.8 without hardly breaking a sweat. I’m really looking forward to our next climb together!

Rock Climbing Cathedral Ledge
Kellie starts up Upper Refuse
Rock Climbing Cathedral Ledge
Topping out Upper Refuse
Rock Climbing Cathedral Ledge
Lay-backing on Kiddy Crack
Rock Climbing Cathedral Ledge
Sending the Mantle-shelf Problem 1st try!

Coming up!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Tuesday Tech Tip! A whole new round of gear reviews is en-route as well!

Book any course at Northeast Mountaineering and use promo code “DavidNEM” at checkout. This will enter you into a monthly raffle to win a free guided day of your choosing!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Mountain Rescue Service Training

Recently we have responded to rescue requests from Fish & Game of injured hikers in less than 5th class terrain where proper belaying of a litter may be necessary. Last Thursday about 20 members of North Conway based Mountain Rescue Service met atop Cathedral Ledge to practice some twin-rope technique lowering on lower angle terrain, including passing knots through a re-direct.

Frank demonstrating the knot pass
Working the litter
Working the litter
Our “victims” during a practice session
Our “victims” during a practice session

To learn more about Mountain Rescue Service go to http://www.nhmrs.org/ or and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NHMR

2012 Climb Convergence

If you don’t work for EMS you probably don’t know what the Climbing Convergence is. Technically, it’s staff training, but “staff training” does not begin to describe 160 employees from 60+ stores getting together in the heart of the White Mountains for 2 full days of climbing, clinics, training, hiking, cook-outs, camping, bonfires, slacking, and stuffing pockets with swag while perusing a vendor village.

Tent City at Great Glen, at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road

My part in the event was limited to one day at Cathedral Ledge, but it was enough to sense the kind of camaraderie folks who work for EMS share.

Ethan and Sara setting up at “the classroom”
One of the anchor clinics I taught during the day- Photo by Dave Karl of http://www.skyambitions.com
Keith and Ethan teaching belay escapes and some self-rescue skills…
Anyone know what kind of snake this is?
Lunch break at the base of the cliff
Keith being Keith

It is very cool to work with a company that takes authentic training like this so seriously. Sometimes I don’t think my own family understands. We LOVE what we do. It’s not just “retail”. It’s sharing a lifestyle, a healthy lifestyle, with our customers. Climbing, hiking, kayaking, biking, ice climbing, backcountry skiing… these are the sports we represent, and these are our own personal passions. And our company puts events like this together to help us outfit our customers so they can enjoy these pursuits as much as we do… It just doesn’t get any better!

AIARE Instructor Refresher Course

Yesterday I observed and assisted with a Level 1 Instructor Refresher course at the AMC Highland Center. AIARE requires current instructors partake in an IRC every three years to stay current with changes to the curriculum of AIARE courses and to improve their teaching skills through a facilitated open group discussion on a variety of topics. Tim Brown, an IFMGA guide and contributor to some of the recent changes in the curriculum facilitated the day.

This particular IRC was open to anyone interested in AIARE’s curriculum and mission. With 9 people in attendance we covered a lot of the new updates to the student manual, presentation ideas, new tools empower students with, and ideas about how to take ownership of your course in a professional way. This was a good warmup for me before I head to Silverton, CO in less than a month to observe a full Level 1 Instructor Training course along with a Level 2 IRC. For more information about AIARE please visit http://www.avtraining.org.

Eastern Snow Avalanche Workshop 11-5-11

This past Saturday 80+ people attended the first annual Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop (ESAW). Members from organizations involved in avalanche education, snow science, and search and rescue from all over the greater New England area were in attendance.

Presentations:

Chris Joosen, Lead Snow Ranger for USFS on Mt. Washington gave a talk on Spatial Variability in the White Mountains. Later in the afternoon he discussed avalanche accidents on Mount Washington, the eastern dilemma, and the role of social media and innovation, past, present and future.

Jim Giglinto, a New York State Forest Ranger gave a presentation on Avalanches in the Adirondacks.  Of particular interest to the group were the pictures presented depicting how existing slide paths have grown, some by more than 50%, in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Looks like there might be some potential first descents available this season!

Kyle Tyler, the Eastern Representative of the American Avalanche Association gave a high speed informative talk on Propagation propensity of persistent weak layers.

Rebecca Scholand from the Mount Washington Observatory gave an graphically beautiful and informative talk on Upslope Snow and it’s development and effects upon the White Mountains of NH. I’ll be begging her for some of her slides to use in future avalanche courses.

After breaking for lunch Sam Colbeck, the former Senior Research Scientist at the Army’s Cold Region Research and Engineering Laboratory, gave a fascinating talk on Snow Physics, most notably how recent advances in technology have allowed us to get a better understanding of snow in relation to avalanches. His slides depicting different stages of metamorphism were very impressive.

Eric Siefer, the Northeast rep for Mammut gave a presentation on the technology of air bags and their effect on avalanche safety. The cumulation of which was the demonstration of the technology by one young audience member.

The last talk was given by Jonathan Shefftz, a member of the National Ski Patrol and passionate avalanche educator, who spoke about the benefits of giving Level 1 Avalanche Students pre-course homework. You can imagine that generated some entertaining discussion.

To wrap up the event most people retired to a social hour upstairs the nearby International Mountain Equipment store where there were vendor booths, raffles, and some graciously donated beer from Smuttynose.

Many folks headed over to Flatbread Co. to continue the snow talk over dinner. All in all it was a great 1st event and something the east coast community will undoubtedly benefit from. The proceeds from the event are going to the White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund.   The fund is set up primarily to educate kids about avalanches across the Northeast.  For more information on this fund check out: http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/about/white-mountain-avalanche-education-fund. Special thanks to Chris Joosen and Kyle Tyler for putting it all together!