Newsflash: American Alpine Club purchases climbers camp at Rumney

The American Alpine Club is bringing its collection of climbers’ campgrounds and huts, which includes a campground in the ‘Gunks, to the best sport crag in the East. The organization announced, today, that is has purchased Rattlesnake Campground adjacent to the Rumney Rocks Climbing Area in New Hampshire.

Previously owned and operated by a local couple, the 15-acre property sits between the Baker River and Buffalo Road, directly across the street from the Meadows and Parking Lot Walls on the crag’s east side.

“Rumney is one of the country’s finest sport-climbing destinations,” said AAC CEO Phil Powers. “With visitation on the rise, and with more than 22 million Americans and Canadians within weekend striking distance, the American Alpine Club is proud to participate in a sustainable long-term camping solution for this popular spot.”

Rumney Rattlesnake

Courtesy: American Alpine Club
Courtesy: American Alpine Club

Rumney Rattlesnake will continue to act primarily as a first-come first-serve campground with a large communal area, fire pits, and picnic tables. In addition, the AAC plans to set aside a small number of online-reservable, private campsites in the near future. Porta potties and access to potable water will continue to be available at the property’s barn, but the AAC also plans to open the barn in the future as a community space and weather shelter for climbers with full bathrooms and showers.

AAC members will see a discounted $8 per night rate starting immediately and non-members will be charged $12 per night. Dogs are also now allowed on the property.

“With the Rumney Campground now part of the AAC’s growing lodging network, we are looking forward to welcoming climbers from around the Northeast and the world to experience this wonderful place, learn, challenge themselves, and meet old and new friends,” said Powers.


The New Hampshire Climber's Guide to Pizza

Whether I spend the day testing my mettle at Cathedral, getting in laps on Cannon, clipping bolts at Rumney, or wrestling pebbles at Pawtuckaway, I know I’m not making it all the way home without stopping to eat. But, what to eat? That’s usually an easy answer: pizza. 

In my humble opinion, it’s the perfect post-climbing food. It’s delicious, its various toppings can accommodate most palates, and it is relatively inexpensive. Those of us who climb in New Hampshire are lucky to have some fantastic pizza options in close proximity to most of our major crags. My girlfriend recently coined the term “sending slices,” because sometimes that warm slice in the near future is all the motivation you need to push through the crux.

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Pawtuckaway: Pizza by George

Perhaps the best pizza in New Hampshire is right down the street from what’s probably the state’s best bouldering spot. Pizza by George in Raymond is perfect for cooling down after a hard day battling Pawtuckaway’s coarse granite boulders and cracks. Offering gourmet pizza by the slice, this place is a must-visit. But, be warned: These slices are more filling than they look. Insider tip: Save some room for a pepperoni roll or two—they’re delicious.

Rumney: The Common Cafe

For years, I bemoaned having to leave Rumney to drive to Plymouth for a decent post-send slice. That’s no longer an issue, thanks to The Common Cafe. Located in Rumney Village right on the way to the crag, The Common Cafe and Tavern features generously sized pizzas and super-fresh toppings. My inner dirtbag also appreciates the free popcorn they give you while you wait for your food. No one-trick pony, The Common Cafe and Tavern is as good for a coffee and breakfast sandwich earlier in the day as it is for a pizza and pint at the end. 

Cannon: GH Pizza

Rock climbers spending time on Cannon—or anywhere in Franconia Notch—should certainly pop into the town of Woodstock and grab a pie at GH Pizza. The best thing I can say about GH is that there isn’t much to say. The place is totally unassuming.

More specifically, GH makes Greek-style pie, and has a classic pizza-place ambiance. Along with great food, it offers reasonable prices and fast service. For this last point, the hungry climber in me really appreciates this.

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Crawford Notch: Catalano’s Pizzeria

Climbers in the Crawford Notch area are hard-pressed to find a place to eat, much less one that’s great. Catalano’s Pizzeria in Twin Mountain offers incredibly good pizza at reasonable prices, which is quite a trick, as they seemingly have no competition.

Ice climbers leaving Frankenstein will love the “large” large pizzas that always appear extra big. Generally, Catalano’s pizza is always loaded with cheese, and they never skimp on toppings, helping you to replace all the calories you just burned. Insider tip: Stash their number in your phone and call ahead. Things move a little bit slower this far north.

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North Conway: Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co.

In addition to being New England’s climbing hub, North Conway is also northern New Hampshire’s busiest tourist destination. Thus, the town has an abundance of places to eat, and there is no shortage of great spots to grab a slice.

With that being said, after a hard day climbing Cathedral classics and sweating it out on Whitehorse slabs, I head to the Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. to calm my nerves with a fresh-brewed pint (or two) and a wood-grilled pizza. Also at this North Conway staple, you are sure to be surrounded by your climbing brethren. Just be careful with what you say, though. You never know if the guy sitting next to you made his first ascension on the route you thought was “a little soft for the grade.”


Gear Checklist: Trad Climbing

It’s been said many times that “trad is rad.” But, figuring out what you need to get started in traditional (or “trad”) climbing can be difficult. With that in mind, we have developed this checklist, so you can begin building your multi-pitch kit and get out there.

Trad Cilmbing

The Rack

The specific gear you’ll need to protect yourself on a route—the “rack”— varies from climb to climb. That said, most racks have three general components: “stoppers,” “cams,” and “alpine draws.”

Stoppers

Stoppers—sometimes referred to as nuts or chocks—are a great place to start for beginners looking to build their racks and learn the finer points of placing gear. Named after the machine nuts British climbers slung to protect their climbs, today’s iterations are much more advanced, with some being developed with special shapes for specific applications. Climbers place them in the rock’s constrictions, and when loaded, like in the event of a fall, they remain wedged in to protect the climber.

Beginners may want a complete set, like the Black Diamond Stoppers, which include 10 ranging in size from 4 to 13. Most rack their stoppers on one or two non-locking biners. Although they’re a bit heavier, we like to rack ours on traditional oval biners, like the dependable Black Diamond Oval. Doing so makes it easy to pull on the carabiner to help set the nut. For those unfamiliar, this means tugging in the direction from which the nut might pull, thus making it less likely to shift. 

Cams

In the event of a fall, cams, a multi-lobed device, exert an outward force on the rock. You typically place them in a rock’s cracks or fissures, and because of their mechanics, they provide “active protection.”

Although numerous manufacturers produce camming units, or simply cams, Black Diamond Camalot C4s are the standard. Most will want these starting at size 0.3 and ending at size 3. A set of C4s along with a stopper set should provide enough protection to safely ascend many introductory trad routes while giving climbers an opportunity to assess what else they might need.

Most rack their cams on individual, non-locking biners. For the super-organized, many companies make color-coded ones to match the cams, like the CAMP Photons, making it easier to find and grab the one you need off your harness.

Alpine Draws

Alpine draws—specifically, dyneema slings with two carabiners doubled into a quickdraw and used to connect gear to the climbing rope—offer incredible versatility. You can use them as a standard quickdraw, or extend one to reduce rope drag on wandering routes or to lessen the rope’s pull on placed gear.

Having between 10 to 12 alpine draws is a good starting place. You can either make them yourself by buying individual slings and biners, or get them pre-configured, like the CAMP Mach Express Dyneema.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Supplementing the Basic Rack

Depending on where you climb, you’ll want to supplement this basic rack with gear appropriate to where and what you climb. One of our favorite rack supplements, micro cams work for smaller, tighter-fitting placements. We both are fond of Black Diamond’s Camalot C3s and X4s and routinely carry C3s in sizes 1 and 2 and X4s in sizes 0.2 and 0.4.

Getting multiples of some cams is also a good idea. For example, climbers who frequent the Gunks (or other areas where not every anchor is bolted) might want to double-up on popular cams like the 0.5, 0.75, and 1. Similarly, climbers heading to Indian Creek may want to get several of the same size due to the cracks’ uniform nature.

Climbers going to Whitehorse or other Northeast slabs should also consider adding a few tricams. This somewhat-hybrid tool can be placed passively like a nut or actively like a cam, and, featuring slings instead of stems, may substitute spring-loaded cams in horizontal cracks. Their unique shape often makes them the best way to protect slab climbs featuring small pockets. A well-worn Pink 0.5 Tricam, for instance, can be found on many a Northeast climber’s rack.

Finally, climbers anticipating leaving gear for rappel anchors should consider adding a few extra stoppers. Nuts are much less expensive, so the pain of leaving a few behind to build a bomber anchor won’t have you skimping on safety.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Personal Gear

Building anchors, belaying a second, cleaning a route, and descending all require specialized gear. Here’s what we commonly carry:

Belay/Rappel Device

For any route where you’ll be belaying from the top of the pitch and later rappelling, consider a multi-purpose belay device with assisted braking, like the Black Diamond ATC-Guide or Petzl Reverso 4. Although these cost fractionally more than a traditional model, they are far more versatile, allowing climbers to belay a leader from the bottom, top-belay two seconds simultaneously with assisted braking, and make full-length rappels. We carry ours on a dedicated large, locking biner, like the Petzl William Screw-Lock.

When climbing as a party of two (or of three in caterpillar style), we often bring along a Petzl GRIGRI. Although some consider this excess weight, we like it because it expands our raising and lowering options and, equally important, makes top-belaying much, much easier. If your arms and shoulders have ever gotten more of a workout top-belaying a second with an ATC-Guide-like device than from the actual climbing, you’re probably already a convert.

Trad Climbing

Nut tool

A good nut tool, like the Black Diamond Nut Tool, is a small investment that pays for itself. It makes removing protection placed by the leader easier, and helps ensure you finish with all the gear you began with. As an added bonus, some have built-in bottle openers for post-climb beers.

Lockers (one big and assorted small) 

Along with the locking biner for the belay device, we each carry three to four additional locking biners, especially on multi-pitch trad climbs. You can attach them to the anchor, connect them to a rappel back-up, or pair them with your ATC-Guide or Petzl Reverso to belay a second in “guide” mode.

Hollow Block

Another fantastic tool, a hollow block, helps with backing-up rappels or lowers, ascending the rope, or building a haul system to aid a struggling second. It handles nicer than the traditional prusik cord and is also easier to work with.

Cordellette

Used for building an anchor at the end of a pitch, a cordellette is a length of a 7mm or 8mm cord tied in a loop using a double fisherman’s knot. Trad climbers planning on multi-pitch routes generally carry two to three per rope team.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Carrying the Gear

Harness

It’s crucial that aspiring trad climbers find a harness that racks the gear while still being comfortable. An all-around model with two gear loops per side makes a solid starting point. These offer enough padding for all-day comfort, with enough gear loops to accommodate the equipment needed for a multi-pitch route.

We’ve both enjoyed using the Black Diamond Aspect Harness. But, fit is personal, so visit your local shop and try a few before you buy one. And, make sure you feel no discomfort. A little pinch or rubbing in the store only gets worse as the hours tick by on your first multi-pitch route.

Gear Sling 

While many choose to rack their gear on their harness, some EMS Climbing School Guides swear by their gear sling. It takes the weight off your hips and keeps harness-bound cams from obstructing your view of your feet. Climbers can choose between using slings designed specifically to hold and organize your gear, like the Metolius Multi-Loop, or using a climbing-rated nylon model that can be repurposed if need be.

Helmet

If you’re going trad climbing, you should plan on wearing a helmet. Whether it’s people climbing above you, gear handling, the occasional loose rock, or exposure, your head is constantly under threat.

Today’s are light, breathable, and relatively inexpensive. Buy one before going out to the crag to keep your head safe and to avoid looking like a newbie. A favorite of ours is the Black Diamond Vector.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Shoes

The climbing shoes best suited for multi-pitch trad climbing tend to be more comfortably shaped and have a looser fit than those for other climbing disciplines. Introductory trad climbers should avoid the pointed toes and aggressive downturns found in many of today’s sport climbing and bouldering shoes, opting for one that can easily be stuffed into cracks, smeared on slabs, and, most importantly, worn for extended periods of time.

The Little Things

  • Consider investing in a multi-pitch pack, ideally one with room for water, snacks, a guidebook, or topo, and built to withstand the activity’s rigors. The Black Diamond Speed 22 is a longtime favorite of ours.
  • Water bottles can be hard to access and easy to drop. Thus, make sure your pack holds a hydration bladder.
  • It’s surprising how much cooler it becomes once you get a rope length or two off the ground. A lightweight and packable windshirt, like the Mountain Hardwear Super Chockstone, not only helps fend off a chill, but also stands up to rubbing against rock.
  • Make sure to bring the guidebook, so you don’t waste time looking for a route. On multi-pitch routes, we’ll photograph the relevant approach information, route description, and topos on our phones and leave the book in the car or at the base.
  • Time can get away from you during a long day. A small headlamp like the Black Diamond ReVolt (just remember to keep it charged) and a couple of energy gels stashed away might save you.

 

Use this list when assembling your rack, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the freedom, fun, and fear that come with trad climbing. Is there a piece of trad gear you can’t live without? We want to hear about it! Leave us your recommendations in the comments.


Backcountry Breakfast Recipe: The Eggadilla

Every day should start with a wholesome breakfast, especially when you’re in the outdoors. A dirtbag’s favorite inspired by professional climber Cedar Wright, eggadillas are quick, delicious, and nutritious, and they’re a breeze to clean up.

Eggadillas can be crafted in just about any kind of cookware, over almost any stove, and cooking them entails very little fuel. This recipe is so simple, delicious, and frugal that it will become your go-to breakfast for every adventure!

Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowski

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 or 2 tortillas
  • ¼ cup shredded (or 1 slice) cheese of your choice
  • Olive or canola oil
  • (Optional): Onions, bell peppers, and salsa

Directions

Prep: 3 minutes

Cook: 7 minutes

Ready in: 10 minutes

Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowski

Cooking:

  1. Oil your pan generously. If you have onions and bell peppers, throw them in the oiled pan to sautée them.
  2. Once your veggies are sautéed, crack an egg over them. Cook your egg scrambled or over easy—whichever way you prefer!
  3. Cook the egg for two minutes and flip, or cover your pan and cook the egg for four minutes.
  4. After the egg is cooked, transfer it to a plate, and grab a tortilla, sprinkling on your cheese of choice. The cheese will melt in 30 seconds to one minute.
  5. Add your egg on top of the cheese.
  6. Next, fold the tortilla and cook for another minute or two.

And, presto! Your eggadilla is ready to be enjoyed. If your eggadilla is over-stuffed, however, consider adding more cheese on top, pressing a second tortilla on top for a minute, and then flipping it.

Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowsk

Changing Lives, One Pitch at a Time: Kismet Rock Foundation

Learning to rock climb, whether or not we’re aware of it, forces us to draw on some of our more virtuous characteristics. It takes trust in your belay partner, and a smidge of courage to go for that next move when your forearms start to burn. It also requires a sense of adventure and, at times, the ability to shut out fear. Especially if you’re young, learning to climb and experiencing the outdoors can be a formative experience, instilling a code of ethics that can last a lifetime.

But, unfortunately, rock climbing can also be really expensive and inaccessible to most of the population. Aside from the fact that it requires living near mountains and cliffs, being able to consistently engage in the sport is linked, to a degree, with one’s socioeconomic status. It’s difficult to begin without the necessary money and resources. So, how, then, can the sport be brought to kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity to climb but could benefit physically and emotionally from it?

Since 2000, Kismet Rock Foundation has tried to answer that question. Kismet is a climbing school based in North Conway, N.H., that identifies kids who could benefit from climbing’s confidence-building and problem-solving skills, but who don’t have the means to participate.

More specifically, Kismet looks for impressionable kids, possibly prone to violence, drugs, or depression in the future, who may find themselves going down a negative path if they don’t receive the right guidance. They are often children with a lower socioeconomic status from cities and towns around New England. Kismet identifies these kids by working directly with their schools and families, and then strives to redirect their potentially negative path through technical rock climbing instruction, along with providing a family-like home environment.

Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation
Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation

“We look for students who are close to giving up.”

Kismet’s screening process is rigorous. To identify those who will get the most out of the program, the organization carefully chooses kids from eight different rural and urban schools. Kids from broken homes, who haven’t yet found their passion, and are beginning to lose hope are often high on the list. They are boys and girls who are just beginning their difficult teen years, and are in need of an activity to help them develop their self-confidence.

“We’re very specific about the students that come to the program,” says Executive Director Chad Laflamme. “First and foremost, they must be kids who have no access to similar programs.” This means Kismet only selects kids who would otherwise be unable to participate because of geography or money. In addition, the students must qualify for free and reduced lunch, which is verified by the parents. “We work directly through the middle schools and with the parents to find these kids,” says Laflamme.

The second step prioritizes students who are particularly at-risk because of their social and economic capital limitations. Low socioeconomic status is recognized as a risk factor for mental illness, so Kismet seeks to select students who could be prone to these issues down the road if they’re not provided with the proper nurturing environment and outlet. In this case, the rock-climbing instruction provides both.

“We look for kids who are on the edge of breaking contract with society,” says Laflamme. “We look for students who are close to giving up. Our students don’t need therapy; they’re not adjudicated,” explains Laflamme, noting that oftentimes, Kismet’s students just need a guiding hand.

Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation
Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation

“You have to build up that trust and confidence in yourself.”

Once the students have been accepted, they begin Kismet’s program. Gashim Nyapir, a Kismet graduate and now a board member, recalls being a bit nervous on his first day. But, he was ultimately calmed by the welcoming staff and atmosphere. Says Nyapir, “When we first got there, Chad [Laflamme] was the first staff that I met, and right away, he welcomed me into the house with the other students.”

When the program starts, the kids are split into groups. “We have about eight or nine kids in each group,” says Laflamme. That group lives and climbs together for the duration of their time at Kismet—one week every summer for four years. “They get really close.”

The climbing portion entails a meticulously designed, technical education that fosters each child’s emotional development and physical confidence from the beginning. “We start right here in town to really get the basics down,” explains Laflamme. The children are introduced to very easy, fifth-class terrain, so that they can take it slow and get used to trusting the system and their belayers. “A lot of these students are very vulnerable, so we take our time. We don’t want to scare them away from climbing.” Groups are led by two to three certified climbing instructors, each of whom has at least five years of teaching or guiding experience.

Climbing can be a little scary at first, but the kids’ belief in their abilities starts to grow through practice and acquiring new skills each day. “For me, being on the rope was a little untrustworthy at first, because you’re putting your whole body and trust in a rope, cams, and someone else,” explains Nyapir. “You have to build up that trust and confidence in yourself.”

Every student is different, but the goal is to boost their courage and ability to trust—despite whatever difficulties they’ve endured in the past—by slowly expanding their climbing skill set each year. The technicality and difficulty increase as the program progresses.

Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation
Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation

“I love those guys. I still talk to them to this day.”

When the kids are not out learning to climb, the environment at their temporary home—the Kismet House—is an inclusive, family-like atmosphere. Imagine a healthy family environment with two parents (the staff) and eight children, where everyone helps out with meal preparation and cleanup. The consistency and nurturing atmosphere are essential, because many of the kids come from difficult home environments.

“We have in-house staff,” explains Laflamme, “who really work as surrogate parents to create that safe and inclusive atmosphere.” The children tend to bond quickly with one another because of their shared experience and similar backgrounds. The staff treats the students as welcome members of the Kismet family, making sure they are seen, listened to, and loved. “Many of our students don’t have access to this kind of experience in their homes. A lot of them come from really chaotic conditions,” says Laflamme. “So the [living component] is probably just as important as the climbing component.”

Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation
Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation

“We have students that say they don’t know if they’d be alive without Kismet.”

After four summers, not to mention making a handful of memories, Kismet’s students solidify their achievements with a graduation ceremony. Saying goodbye to fellow students can be hard, but many graduates remain friends long after the program is finished. “I love those guys. I still talk to them to this day,” says Nyapir. “Because we went through this program and experience together, I feel this responsibility to check up on them.”

The feedback from graduates is almost always positive. “We get a lot of great feedback from all our students,” says Laflamme, attesting to the effectiveness of Kismet’s program. “We have students that say they don’t know if they’d be alive without Kismet. A few have said they would have committed suicide or they’d be in jail without us.”

Nyapir agrees that Kismet was a positive experience, recalling his time in the program. “Kismet has shaped me to become more of an adult. It’s shaped me to become a better role model,” he says. “In physical terms, I have lost a lot of weight from the hiking and walking in general. Kismet came at a perfect time in my life.”

For many kids, Kismet is a transforming experience—even life-changing. “It made things a little easier for me in terms of understanding another human being. It changed my way of approaching people,” says Nyapir.

Many of the students come back as paid interns or house staff, or a select few like Nyapir return as members of the Board of Directors. But, all of them go into the world with a greater sense of self-worth, increased confidence, and more hope than they had when they arrived.

“The growth that happens for the kids, it’s something you have to see for yourself to believe.”

Nyapir says one of his favorite parts of being a board member now is watching the current students’ progress mirror his own. “I [love to] watch the kids progress,” he says. “The growth that happens for the kids, it’s something you have to see for yourself to believe.”

Certainly, Kismet serves as an example, not only of the transformative power rock climbing can have on the lives of these young people, but also of the incredible things that they can achieve when they’re provided with the proper environment to flourish. “The kids become happier throughout their four years,” says Nyapir. “They have confidence in themselves and the world.”

Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation
Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation

How Can I help?

Kismet is offered to students at no cost, which means they rely on grants, family foundations, individual donations, and business communities to provide programming. Flowfold, as an example, has recently joined the Kismet community as a business sponsor, providing funds to cover scholarship dues for students in their local region.

“The testimonials from the students really moved us at Flowfold,” said Flowfold’s COO James Morin. “Climbing is a fantastic way to get outside and enjoy the beautiful outdoor playground we have all around us. We are beyond proud to support Kismet and cannot wait to climb with the students this summer.”

Kismet students are not in the position to access this education without your help. To make a tax deductible donation now, use their online donation form.

Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation
Courtesy: Kismet Rock Foundation

Explore Like a Local: Summertime Fun in Lake Placid, NY

The name Lake Placid immediately conjures images of winter sports, given that the Olympics have been held in this beautiful Adirondack town not once, but twice. Even today, it’s such a winter staple that numerous U.S. Olympic teams train regularly in the area. Summertime in the area can be overlooked, but the lack of snow and ice hardly diminishes Lake Placid as a destination, and you definitely don’t need to be an Olympian to take advantage of it all. With a plethora of hiking, climbing, paddling options, and more, Lake Placid is a true year-round outdoor destination.

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Warm-Weather Activities

Hiking & Trail Running

With 46 High Peaks, or peaks originally thought to be over 4,000 ft., along with numerous lakes, the Adirondacks have many different trail types to choose from, particularly near Lake Placid. One popular, family-friendly hike is Cobble Hill, which is visible from town and just across Mirror Lake. A family with kids can make the summit in under an hour and enjoy views of town and the High Peaks area.

If you’re up for a longer hike and are looking for a big payoff, set out for Indian Head, a low summit with truly amazing views of Lower Ausable Lake (pronounced awe•SAY•ble). The land is part of the privately owned Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR), but hikers are allowed to access the three-plus mile dirt road that leads to the trailhead. Allow for at least five hours round trip and bring plenty of water! Public parking is available in the St. Huberts parking area on Route 73, south of Lake Placid.

The Ausable Chasms are a natural wonder of the Adirondacks, and hiking the area’s trails is well worth the $17.95 admission price ($9.95 for kids).

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Rock Climbing

The Adirondacks have over 250 climbing areas, and Keene Valley, just south of town, serves as the epicenter, given its wide variety of climbs. Just a short drive away, the Beer Walls await both beginners and experts alike. Route 73 has convenient parking, and it’s a quick hike to the top of the climbing area. All the routes here can be led, but top-roping is the standard means of access. Climbing routes range in difficulty from 5.4 up to 5.13, and the views of Keene Valley are spectacular.

The EMS Climbing School guides lead climbing trips to all of the local spots and for all different levels of expertise. The school is located in the lower level of the town’s EMS store.

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Paddling

Let’s face it: This is Lake Placid. Whether you set out on Lake Placid proper or Mirror Lake, which abuts Main Street, this is one spectacular spot to hit the water. Surrounded by mountains in all directions and the town on one side, these lakes are remarkably beautiful. At dusk and dawn, prepare to be thrilled by the call of the loon and other indigenous creatures. Lake Placid allows motorized boats, while Mirror Lake is reserved for human-powered crafts (electric motors are allowed but rarely seen).

Our EMS store on Main Street backs up to Mirror Lake, and we rent kayaks, tandem kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) directly on the water. Seriously, you can launch a boat from the back of the store. How cool is that? Click here for more info.

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Swimming

In addition to the lakes, the area has other wonderful places to swim. A particularly scenic spot is at the base of the Flume Falls on the Ausable River, north of town. Park in the Wildfire Flume Trailhead lot, and walk a short ways down the river to the base of the waterfall. There, you’ll find a bucolic swimming hole, surrounded by small cliffs from which to jump. Folks have been known to string up an illicit rope swing, and the Department of Environmental Conservation dutifully cuts it down a few times per season.

Mountain Biking

Whether you want to ride the Olympic Cross Country trails, bomb down Little Whiteface, or hit technical single-track trails, Lake Placid has it all for beginners and experts alike. You can access some trails right from town, so pick up a local trail map to find the course that best suits you.

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Camping Options

“Options” is the optimal word. The area surrounding Lake Placid offers traditional tent campsites, cabin rentals, canvas cabins, and lean-tos. As one convenient option close to town, the ADK Wilderness Campground sits alongside a lake and offers multiple camping options, along with restroom facilities, or hike into the wilderness itself for free camping with fewer facilities.

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Dining

There are plenty of good post-hike food and drink options in the area, but as soon as you arrive in Lake Placid, head straight to Smoke Signals (campsite set-up or hotel check-in can wait). Choose a spot in its exposed brick interior or on the patio overlooking Mirror Lake; then, order marbled Brisket and a side of Mac & Cheese. You may not be hungry for a day afterwards, but you’ll thank me. If, however, that looks like too much to handle, the barbecue Tacos Trio, the Hanger Steak, and the BBQ wings are all terrific. Other excellent dinner options are Lisa G’s and The Cottage.

Assuming that you’re hungry the next morning, The Breakfast Club, Etc. awaits just down the street. As the restaurant is known for its hearty fare and Bloody Marys, you may have to wait a bit for a seat on busy weekends. I recommend the BC Röstis (pronounced ROOST•ee—it’s Swiss!). Picture a cast iron skillet on a slab of wood, filled with hash browns covered with bacon, covered again with cheese, and topped off with two eggs. Side effects include loss of appetite, rapture, and, in rare cases, food coma (easily cured by a nap).

As one compelling reason to visit in the summer, Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream is only open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. You pick the size and a cone or cup; they, however, pick the flavor. That’s because they make one flavor a day, always twisted with vanilla. There will be a line, but it moves fast. Donnelly’s is a bit of a drive (14 miles or 25 minutes) from Main Street in Lake Placid, but that gives you time to digest your lunch or dinner! Emma’s Ice Cream in town is also very good, and they allow you to choose your flavor.

Roundup

All that and nary a mention of the area’s winter activities? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot for a summertime mountain getaway. Swing by the EMS store while in town to get local beta, upgrade your gear, pick up camping supplies, rent a kayak or SUP, or take a climbing adventure through the school. We hope to see you soon.


9 Tips for Rock Climbing With Kids

Rock climbing is great for children. It gets them outside, it teaches problem solving, communication, and trust, and most importantly, it offers them an outlet to expend their infinite energy reserves. For all these reasons, you should consider taking them with you the next time you head off to climb outdoors.

At the same time, a trip to the local crag becomes a bit more complicated when you add child-climbers into the mix. So, to prepare, here are nine tips to keep cragging with the kiddos fun and safe for everyone.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

1. Choose the Right Crag

Kid-friendly, top-roping crags typically have three things in common. First, there is an easy and short approach with no objective hazards. Second, the staging area at the base of the climb—where you’ll be spending the next couple of hours belaying and hanging out—is flat and safe. Third, the routes should be easy (between 5.0 to 5.5) and less than vertical, and should have smooth landings, in case they have trouble with the first few moves.

If you’re in the Boston area, the most concentrated selection of beginner climbs is on the Main Wall at Chestnut Hill’s Hammond Pond. The best route, an alcove at the far-left end, is a fun, easy climb that everybody can do.

2. Get Them the Right Gear

Kids need two pieces of equipment to climb safely: a harness and a climbing-specific helmet. Climbing shoes are not essential, but their sticky rubber soles do make things easier.

For children younger than 6 or 7, a full-body harness is recommended. These harnesses have a tie-in point at chest-level and are designed to prevent kids from falling out if they flip upside down.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

3. Help Them Through the Hard Moves

Climbing does not come easily for every kid. If your kiddo is struggling at a specific move low on the route, one simple technique that helps build confidence is the “foot-spot.” Just use your hand to stabilize her foot on the hold, so that she can climb through the difficulty to easier terrain.

If her crux is out of your reach, consider having the belayer take a little extra weight as the climber attempts the move. This extra “pull” is often enough to assist a child through the move and allows him or her to finish the climb.

4. What Goes Up Must Come Down

First-time climbers often struggle with transitioning to being lowered after they get to the top of the climb. So, before your kid leaves the ground, rehearse what will happen once she reaches the top. Kids are much more likely to “trust the rope” if you’ve had them climb up about six to seven feet and then do a practice lower. Moreover, it’s much easier to correct their body position for lowering when they are within arm’s reach than when they are swinging nervously at the top!

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

5. Bring Snacks and Toys

Bring a variety of small snacks for the kids after their “sends.” They help keep the energy levels high and usually provide enough distraction for the break between climbs.

If you are planning on climbing with a couple of kids, consider bringing toys and games to keep them busy and engaged throughout the outing. For example, we always bring my younger son’s toy trucks when we go climbing as a family. He’s only three, so his attention span for climbing can be quite short. But, he’s always happy to hang around and fill his dump truck with dirt while the rest of us get in a couple more top-rope laps.

6. Set Clear Expectations

Kids, especially young ones, require a lot of attention when climbing. Set expectations by articulating clear rules, particularly about edge safety. And, when climbing with several kids, having a second adult, who supervises the non-climbing children so the belayer can avoid distractions, keeps the focus solely on the climber’s safety.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

7. Manage Your Own Ambitions

When you head out to climb with your family, try not to get carried away with your own “sending” ambitions. Your project is probably too hard for your kids, and they’ll get bored—and want to go home—if they have to watch you work it for too long. Try instead to get your climbing fix either on the route they’re climbing or on an adjacent one.

8. Not Every Climbing Session Ends Perfectly

Despite your best efforts, sometimes the climbing is too crowded, the route is too hard, or your little climber just isn’t into it. To avoid a total loss, have a backup plan. Scrambling on a nearby easy boulder problem is often a good alternative. A quick hike or nature walk is another option.

9. Consider Taking a Lesson

Climbing is dangerous. If you are interested in climbing with your family, but don’t feel confident doing it yourself, sign up for a lesson with the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School.

Can you think of any other tips for rock climbing with kids? Share them here in the comments section!


Bouldering in the Ocean State: Lincoln Woods

To all but the locals, referring to Rhode Island as a climbing destination sounds like a joke. Even some struggle to believe that the nation’s smallest state is also home to some of the region’s best bouldering at Lincoln Woods (or, more simply, “The Woods”). In fact, some climbers even struggle to know where Rhode Island is.

I have two friends from the Ocean State who crisscrossed the U.S. on a climbing trip and claim they were treated like celebrities everywhere from the Red River Gorge in Kentucky to Bishop, California. Why? Because no one had ever met someone from Rhode Island. The most common thing they heard on their trip was, “Rhode Island…That’s near Cape Cod. Right?”

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Southern New England’s Secret

Perhaps it’s for the best that the rest of the country hasn’t learned of The Woods’ high-quality granite blocks. After all, it’s located just minutes outside of Providence, an hour from Boston, and an hour and a half from Hartford, making it an easy day trip for many in the Northeast’s major metropolitan areas.

Also, with a plenitude of moderate problems, The Woods is an attractive destination for groups of mixed abilities. Weekends here can get a little crazy, but don’t worry. There are plenty of problems to go around and solitude can be easily found by visiting the more out-of-the-way boulders. Be warned, though: To me, many of these challenges felt hard for their grade.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Why It’s Popular

Like its proximity to the area’s big cities, The Woods’ bouldering logistics are also incredibly convenient. Unlike many New England crags, The Woods has an abundance of parking, with multiple lots to service the diverse user groups frequenting the park. In all my years going here, I have never struggled to find a spot for my car.

Furthermore, a paved road loops around the park and comes within a short distance of many of The Woods’ classic boulders, making navigation a breeze and climbing typically only a short walk away. Additionally, many of its quality sites are adjacent to each other, allowing climbers to hop from boulder to boulder with relative ease. 

For me, once snow’s on the ground, I gravitate from climbing shoes to ski boots. However, at Lincoln Woods, you can find something to climb year-round. Some boulders sit in the shade or frequently get a cooling wind, making for comfortable climbing on the warm days of spring and summer. And, for the cold days of late fall and winter, plenty sit in the sun or reside in spots that seem to hold warm air.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

So Much to Do

Many will spend years just trying to visit all of the park’s boulders, never mind send every problem. But, for your next visit, consider checking out some of The Woods’ can’t-miss spots at least once and trying some of its must-do problems. Here’s a look at some of its more popular areas, all within an easy walk from your car. And, the best part is, all of these spots are about a five-minute walk from one another, so try them all!

The Great Slab/Wave

A short walk down the road from the park’s main entrance and around the pond brings you to The Great Slab/Wave, considered one of The Woods’ most iconic problems. Depending on who you talk to or where you get your beta, this popular boulder is either called The Great Slab, after the imposing slab you see from the road, or The Wave, after the boulder’s most notorious problem.

Climbing The Wave (V2) is a rite of passage for Lincoln Woods boulderers and should not be missed. Like the many problems here, don’t let its moderate grade fool you. The Wave is hard and combines a wide variety of climbing styles, forcing you into steep terrain and requiring you to use everything from slopers to cracks.

The Ship’s Prow

If the leaves are off the trees, you can see the Ship’s Prow from The Wave, as it’s just across a well-used dirt path. An extremely popular boulder, the Ship’s Prow sees a great deal of traffic, thanks to its proliferation of easy-to-moderate climbs and confidence-inspiring flat landings. It’s not uncommon to find a group of beginners projecting here, next to hardcore climbers warming up.

Although this spot is home to multiple fun problems, the Ship’s Prow Traverse (V1) is the area’s must-do route. You’ll find that it traverses roughly half of the boulder before topping out at the rock’s highest point.

The Iron Cross Boulder

If you look left, across from the pond as you approach The Wave, you’ll see a few boulders scattered up the hill. Following a well-established path, head up the hill to three of The Woods’ most notorious boulders.

On the far right is the the Iron Cross Boulder. Much like The Wave, this boulder gets its name from its most notable problem, The Iron Cross (V4)—which itself is known for a signature iron-cross move.

Shorter people, be warned: The starting hold on The Iron Cross is pretty high off the ground, and I have witnessed all sorts of trickery—from stacking pads to jumping to getting a boost—to reach it. If the starting hold is a little too high, or you’re just looking for something more moderate, the vertical wall facing the road holds a bunch of fun—albeit tall—problems.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Mack’s Traverse

To the left of the Iron Cross Boulder is Mack’s Traverse, which is also named after its signature problem. Mack’s Traverse (V2) crosses nearly all of the boulder’s entirety from right to left and is another classic problem that lures you in by looking easier than it is.

But, to send Mack’s Traverse, you need good beta and even better footwork. Like any classic at a high-traffic area, it seems that the boulder’s every hold is ticked, making where to go misleading at times. Furthermore, the problem is steeper than it appears. As well, because of the incredible amount of traffic it sees, the feet are pretty slippery. In fact, if you forget to keep pressure on them, you’re sure to slide off.

If Mack’s Traverse isn’t happening for you, you’ll find a handful of easier straight-up climbs on the right end and the face. And, if they seemed too easy, just walk down the short hill to the Warm-Up Cave, where you’ll find some of The Woods’ hardest problems.

Warm-Up Cave

Like all listed above, the Warm-Up Cave also sees a lot of traffic due to its high-quality problems and proximity to the park’s entrance. Although you’ll find a number of harder problems here, its easier routes keep beginner and intermediate climbers busy, too.

In spite of its harder climbs, the most notable problem at the Warm-Up Cave is within nearly every man’s reach. Neil’s Lunge (V4) starts in the boulder’s middle on a half-moon flake. Move up the flake to a small crimp, and then, psych yourself up for a dynamic lunge move to better holds.

Looking for something easier? The Cave Warm-Up (V1) follows a fun and obvious line of good holds to the boulder’s highest point. Be warned: Although you’ll encounter all positive holds, at some point, you’ll realize you’re pretty high off the ground, which can be a little intimidating.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

These problems are an awesome place to get started, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. And, while Mountain Project or a guidebook has even more listed, over the years, locals have shown me all sorts of hidden variations and challenges. Of course, the only way you get that type of beta is going directly there. Like I said initially, there is no bad time to visit…so, attempt these challenges at the first available opportunity.


Winter-Summer Pairings: Shoulder Season Multisport Days

As we head into spring, many outdoor people find themselves conflicted on which sports to pursue. Should they get a head start on their favorite summer activities? Or, should they wring the last bit of life out of their favorite winter sports? Around this time each year, I find myself torn between the desire to get back on the trails (or rock) and—with the knowledge that, once the snow melts, it will be months before I can ski again—my love for spring corn. Luckily, New England is full of great opportunities for those of us who can’t decide what we want to do.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Bag a 4,000-footer and ski the resort

New England springs often offer cold nights and warm days. This means the snow is firm in the morning and soft in the afternoon, so the ski trails aren’t always in prime condition until later in the day.

Waterville Valley is perfect for days like this! With the Tecumseh Trail leading directly from the Waterville Valley parking lot to Mount Tecumseh’s summit, you can tag a 4,000-footer in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Being the shortest of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, Mount Tecumseh is one of the easier hikes to tick off your list (roughly six miles round trip and with 2,500 feet of elevation gain). This leaves you with plenty of energy to enjoy the steep runs located off Waterville’s aptly named Sunnyside Triple trail in the afternoon.

Cliip a Dee Doo Dah (5.3) at Rumney. | Credit: Tim Peck
Cliip a Dee Doo Dah (5.3) at Rumney. | Credit: Tim Peck

2. Ski and send

Over the years, Cannon Mountain has developed a loyal following of skiers and boarders more interested in amazing terrain than in on-mountain amenities. If you’re like me and consider a chairlift an amenity, they even offer an $8 uphill pass that allows you to skip the lifts and skin uphill on designated trails. Even better, in good seasons, the mountain will close for the year with an abundance of snow still on it, offering great skiing for only the price of the calories and sweat it takes to get you to the top of it.

Coming from south of Franconia Notch in the spring, I love to blend a morning of earning my turns at Cannon Mountain with clipping bolts at Rumney on the way home. With an abundance of crags close to the parking lot, many of which get great afternoon sun, this trip is the perfect way to bid farewell to skiing and usher in climbing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Mount Wachusett, multisport playground

For years, I was lucky enough to live close to Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts. While the mountain may be limited in terrain, it is in no way limited in opportunities for an incredible multisport spring day. Whether you’re skinning up the mountain before it opens, riding the lifts, or lucky enough to be getting turns after it has closed for the season, the skiing is almost always fun. As well, the mountain’s more limited terrain won’t have you feeling like you’re missing out as you leave to pursue other activities.

Much like Mount Tecumseh, Mount Wachusett’s summit is attainable simply by following trails leaving from the ski resort’s parking lot. Combining a morning on the slopes with a quick trek to the summit is a fantastic way to get your hiking legs under you without missing a chance to ski the soft spring snow. My favorite route has always been following the Balance Rock Trail to the Semuhenna Trail to the Harrington Trail to the summit.

Of course, as good as Mount Wachusett’s hiking trails are, the roads surrounding the mountain are basically tailor-made for cycling. After a morning on the slopes, I love to challenge myself with any number of loop rides that start in the ski resort’s parking lot and climb over the mountain. I like to descend Route 140 and hook up with Route 62. From Route 62, you can connect with Mountain Road to climb up and over Mount Wachusett.

If combining hiking or biking with skiing isn’t interesting enough for you, Mount Wachusett is also located only a few minutes down the road from Crow Hill, one of Massachusetts’ oldest and most notorious crags, and is roughly an hour away from some of New England’s most popular bouldering at Lincoln Woods in Rhode Island.

Although I am not big on playing in the water, one of my friends insists the ultimate multisport opportunity afforded by Mount Wachusett is the chance to play on frozen water in the morning and moving water in the afternoon. For those that don’t know, Mount Wachusett is roughly an hour away from popular surf spots in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

 

While spring is the season in which we say goodbye to our favorite winter sports and welcome in our summer activities of choice, there are a few magical weeks where your outdoor options are almost unlimited, making it perfect for the person who wants to do everything.


The Boulderer's Valentine's Day

Over the years, I have found many great things at Eastern Mountain Sports—fantastic coworkers, lifelong friends, an increasingly large pile of gear, and, most importantly, my wife. EMS has also taught me to love new sports, such as trail running, skiing, and climbing, as well as some valuable life lessons along the way. As one, spending time with people who prioritize getting outside can warp things like what constitutes a romantic date.

To most, a climbing trip to Alabama for Valentine’s Day might sound bizarre.

For many people, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to show the person with whom you’re romantically involved how much you care for them. Or, perhaps, it’s the chance to express to someone your feelings for them. Images of candlelit dinners in dimly-lit restaurants, romantic movies, and moonlight walks come to mind, along with traditional gifts like jewelry, heart-shaped chocolates, and bouquets of flowers. But, for me, when facing my first Valentine’s Day with my now-wife, I quickly thought to myself, “I should take her climbing at Horse Pens 40 in Alabama.”

To most, a climbing trip to Alabama for Valentine’s Day might sound bizarre. But, when you’re working in a store filled with fanatic climbers, one of whom you’re dating, a trip to the South’s Sandstone Belt to visit one of the country’s more unique bouldering destinations makes much more sense than dinner and a movie. So, with the school where she taught closed for vacation, my abundance of paid time off, and my need to wow her for our first year together, we packed our bags, climbing shoes, and crash pads, and headed to Horse Pens 40 to spend an uncommon romantic holiday— really, nine days total—together.

After an 18-hour car ride from Worcester, Mass., to Steele, Ala., we found ourselves amid a bouldering heaven. Rather than rest or set up the tent, we went right to work, tackling Horse Pens 40’s classic problems and distinctive slopers, and quickly settled into the “climb, rest, repeat” cycle that is the mark of any good adventure.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

It was in the mid-fifties all week, and if you have just come from New England in February, it feels like stepping into the dead of summer.

When the 14th eventually rolled around, we were too focused on the climbs we wanted to do and our limited time left at Horse Pens to let Valentine’s Day interfere with our established pattern. We slept in—that is to say we slept in a tent and awakened early to take advantage of the good friction commonly found in the morning, before heading out like many couples do for brunch.

The closest thing we could find was Huddle House. Without disparaging the hot spot (it’s become a requisite stop for any Horse Pens trip my wife and I take together), imagine it as a less-prestigious version of Waffle House. But, after a cold night in the tent and a couple hours of climbing, there is something truly magical about their sausage and gravy. I am sure in the moment she was as wooed as she would’ve been if we were drinking mimosas in a fancy restaurant.

After brunch, we relaxed and digested in the soothing Southern February sun, laughing as the locals moving between the boulders layered up as if the weather were actually cold. We then returned for an afternoon session, where we attempted to burn off our heavy Southern breakfasts. It was in the mid-fifties all week, and if you have just come from New England in February, it feels like stepping into the dead of summer. Sure, it wasn’t laying in the sand on a tropical beach or deck chairs on a cruise, but it worked for us.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

When the 14th eventually rolled around, we were too focused on the climbs we wanted to do and our limited time left at Horse Pens to let Valentine’s Day interfere with our established climbing pattern.

For dinner, we cooked together, making ding-and-dent Chef Boyardee beef ravioli from the Dollar General on the Whisperlite stove while sipping our favorite offerings from SweetWater Brewing next to a roaring campfire. Essentially, it was the budget-conscious climber’s equivalent to that candlelit dinner. I can’t remember if I offered to take her out to dinner, and she declined, not wanting to eat at Huddle House twice in a day, or we just decided to “cook.” Either way, I felt like this was more memorable. Eventually, we ended the night by retiring to our tent and the warmth of our sleeping bags.

Although our first Valentine’s Day veered from the traditional, my now-wife loved every moment of our time in Horse Pens 40. This trip, too, was a precursor to numerous other off-the-beaten adventures.

In the six years since, we have made several trips back to Horse Pens to tackle unfinished projects, take a break from winter, relive our first Valentine’s Day together, eat at Huddle House, and bask in the romantic atmosphere of Horse Pens 40 (okay, maybe that last one’s a stretch). I even suggested Horse Pens 40 as a wedding location, but we couldn’t quite convince the parents to get on board.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck