[Warning: it's fairly long!! Huge. Covers several days, two of which actually had climbing in them! Read at your own risk]
Now...without further discussion....the adventure begins...
A Blatant Stealberg production.
THE GRANITE-THEWED WARRIORS
More Fun With Indy
Based on a True Story (tm)
Starring: Indy (your author, who's really from Ohio, but lives in Maryland; go figure), Christina Carrick (Marion, Leprechaun, Small Tiny Climber, Canuck From Nova, Speedy Gonzales, future computer nerd), John Paul Brown (JP; THE British representative to Nova Scotia, prospective geologist), Heather MacLeod (Canuck-in-search-of-a-song, future archeologist), and Steve Pellerine (sp?; semi-newbie Canuckian Climber, to-be-geographer).
Guest appearances: Jim and Chet, local New Hampshirites and non-netters (though Jim has net-access friends)
Original screenplay: not yet out; probably won't be, either.
Original musical score: Wellll....imagine a lot of grunting and groaning.....CLIMBING-related grunting and groaning!
Part of the continuing series since the riveting "Temple of
Winner of absolutely no Academy Awards
Reading Time: many long minutes
Presented in Digitally Mastered High-Psi Visuals
Prologue: Sept 29th, 1994
Indy was quietly sitting within the confines of the Inner Sanctum, busily monitoring the antics of the Rubble Space Kaleidoscope, and making tentative plans to embark on another pilgrimage to Seneca Rocks. Things have been somewhat quieter since the Jupiter/Comet Shoemaker-Levy Event months earlier, but still busy, nonetheless. Stillness pervaded the room...the computers hummed their tunes....the printers printed their prints....keyboards make their klicking keybored sounds....when suddenly, cutting through the din....The Beep! Indy looks over to the terminal beside him. An email message! From the Leprechaun of the North (as opposed to Nanuck of the North). Deftly he plied the keyboard to read the text secreted within.
"Indy. Break. Meet at Cathedral Ledges. Break. Urgent. Break. Concerns the Ark. Break"
The Ark?! There was word about the Ark?? (the author refers the Gentle Reader to the "Temple of Boom" saga for elaboration of this mythical Ark). A few more messages flashed back and forth. Indy learned that Christina (aforementioned Leprechaun of the North) had heard rumors of Ark Information in the high White Mountains of New Hampshire. Near Mt Washington. She wasn't sure. But she would be heading there, also, in the following week with a Canuckian Contingent from Nova Scotia. She also informed Indy the he was to teach her the Ways Of The Climber, using Traditional Methods, thus allowing her to graduate from Belay Bunny to Real Climber.
Indy scrapped his Seneca pilgrimage thoughts, and focused his attentions on attaining New Hampshire. To facilitate this trip, he navigated the byways of cyberspace, drawing upon the resources of The Net, to obtain as accurate information as he could concerning weather, potential hazards, routes, etc. However, no one could tell him about the Nazis and whether they had also gotten wind of the Ark.
The week went by. Indy and the Canucks prepared....
Thursday Indy grabbed his ropes, packed his gear, loaded it all in the torpedo mobile, fired up the Star Engine, and launched off at light speed, heading towards New York, and beyond that, New Hampshire. With a stopover in Connecticut.
10 minutes later he returned, ran into his apartment, grabbed the directions, and left again.
Tooling up the Jersey Turnpike Indy noticed that while he was averaging 65 (mph), and pushing 70 sometimes, he was still being run off the road by irate Turnpikians. Even in the slow lane. Finally he flipped on his hazards/flashers, drifted onto the shoulder, and slowly creeped along at ~70mph into upper Jersey. A short bit away from the New York Encounter Indy's olfactory senses suddenly revolted. "Phah!", Indy said, "I hate Northern Jersey - gaaah!".
Soon, though, Indy would encounter even worse things than bad-smelling air: the New York's famous George Washington Bridge. Where they charge you money to sit in traffic forever on end.
"Ugh!", grunted Indy, "I *hate* New York [City]!"
Eventually Indy navigated through the congestion, losing only an hour or so off the clock. From there he sped on up Rt 15 to join with I-91, and into Rocky Hill, where his sister-in-law lives. Here he rested and relaxed for the evening, away from the hardships of the road (and the Nazi drivers). During the night he monitored the Weather Channel for signs of the Weather God. Out to the west, in the middle of the Mid-West, the Weather God was coming, full-force. Estimating that the Weather God would arrive the New England region late saturday evening, Indy called the Leprechaun to inform her of the tentative weather situation. "You never told me about the Weather God!" she complained. Already of the four people that were coming down from Nova Scotia, one backed out. The others trembled, and wouldn't commit one way or the other. "You're a Type A person," Indy said to the Leprechaun, "take charge!" The Leprechaun whimpered quietly, and promised to beat Indy senseless when she saw him next.
The next morning Indy made ready to leave. His sister-in-law gave him a pumpkin pie for the road, and bid him farewell. "Good luck in your search, Indy!", she called out.
From there Indy made his way up into Massachussetts, wormed through traffic on the Turnpike (another turnpike!), and slipped into New Hampshire. All the while he sought out radio stations to which he could listen to his 'rock-n-roll', and pick up weather reports. From advise he picked up from The Net he found a couple of good stations (yea!).
Indy knew that the Canuck Contingent would not arrive at camp (Crawford Notch - we're the only ones in the valley with showers - Campground) until late in the evening, sometime between 10:00p and midnight, and he knew that he would arrive long before that. So he made plans to visit the top of Mt Washington, where he would be afforded views unsurpassed in this region, and mayhap catch a glimpse of either the Weather God on the horizon, or of the Ark lurking in some nearby valley.
He drove up through Franconia Notch (having been warned of the evil Nazi congregation on the Kangamagus Highway due to a number of holidays/festivals that were going on this weekend: Octoberfest Weekend for Conway, Thanksgiving Weekend for Canuckians, Columbus Day Weekend for Amerikans, Peak Leaf Season Weekend for the region, and several other small festivals and parades happening this same weekend. Indy waved at Cannon Cliff as he shot by. "Another time, Cannon!", he called out behind him. For the plan was to search the crags of Cathedral and Whitehorse for the clues he sought.
Looping around from the north, Indy caught wonderous glimpses of Mt Washington, with a small blanket of snow covering the upper third of the mountain. The trees along the drive were sparkling with fiery autumnal colors. Indy drove on with anticipation.
Arriving Mt Washington Auto Road, however, Indy learned from the gate guards that Mt Washington summit was closed, but they would gladly charge him millions of dollars (Amerikan) to drive only halfway up. Indy spied the hidden Nazi armband in the guard's uniform and realized that the Nazi's *must* have gotten there ahead of him and put a base on the mountain. Without adequate footgear to find an alternate means of ascent and foil the Nazi plans, and without alerting the guard as to what he knew, Indy turned away. The guard never suspected who Indy was, and Indy learned later that his turning away was the best thing he could've done, as the Nazi's had set up a trap atop of Mt Washington to snare him once and for all. By not going up, Indy foiled their plans, anyhow.
Indy decided to follow his nose and headed straight for Cathedral Cliff, in an effort to make an initial reconnoiter run of the area. There he ran into an IME guide with client, and while the guide had no knowledge of the Ark, he did point out to Indy a number of routes he should attempt to look for his clues on. Indy located all the routes, thanked the guide, then sped off to camp (after all, it *was* getting a wee bit dark out).
Indy grabbed the two sites he had reserved, set his tent up in one, and his reserve 'pup' tent in the other. And waited.
Time passed. Indy ate dinner and in the light of his backpack candle, read a couple of novels. Hours wore on. The candle all but burned out. The stars in the heavens above slowly drifted by. The temperatures plummeted. Indy froze. Finally, it was well after midnight. Indy was concerned. No word from the Canuck Contingent. Were they coming? Were they laywaid by a random Nazi force? Did they turn and go somewhere else because of the threat of the Weather God?? Indy, feeling REAL tired, turned in, determined to learn the answers to these, and other exciting questions, in the morning.
"Indy! Indy! How do I get *in* this thing?", were the words that broke into Indy's slumbers. 2:00am. The Canuck Contingent had arrived. Indy reached out and manipulated the ultra-high tech sealing mechanism (unzipped the tent) and a real tiny person bounced in - Christina, in the flesh! Well, clothed, too (you have to understand, Christina stands at 4'8" - tiny *is* a word that describes! But for her short stature, she climbs with the best of 'em - she has to; she just does more of it). She began to regale Indy with tales of their epic journey from Nova Scotia to New Hampshire. But didn't get very far when they both dropped off to sleep.
The next morning. The sun rose, the birds (what few were around) chirped (well, cawed) the leaves rustled, and the slumbering pair un-slumbered. An early start was what Indy wanted, and he was up and out. The Leprechaun close at his heels. Over to the other tents they went, and proceeded to poke and prod, to see if the remaining adventurers were alive. Murmurs came from the new tent (JP's), while Indy's 'pup' tent (K-Mart special; booty from a North Carolina adventure years and years ago) collapsed around it's poor occupant (Steve).
Steve crawled out from the wreckage while Indy attempted to re-establish Tent Integrity (succeeded, but a good stiff breeze would take it out again). Breakfast was started (for Indy, who oatmealed it; Steve and Christina made coffee and/or tea). Finally JP and Heather (in the remaining tent) flopped out, looking all bright-eyed and bushy tailed (at this point Heather informed Indy as to where he should take his next adventure). Then JP and the rest of the Canuck Contingent (CC) made a nice, high-fat breakfast of mostly-cooked bacon and bread (butter optional). The Canucks (and JP, who is considered essentially Canuckian but is a Brit in Real Life - but don't tell anyone! Least of all him) made fun of JP's accent ("What's this? Poompkin pie, eh?"), while Indy refrained from making noises about Canuckian accents ("That's what it's all aboot, eh"). They also told in detail the adventures they had the evening before to Indy. How JP drove well over 140kph, how Christina was a Wild Woman on the curvey sections of roadway, also doing some 15,000 kph, hitting (grazing off of) another car when they turned into a grocery store to resupply (they were already out of food and they hadn't even made it to New Hampshire yet!!), and how Heather, who drove the slowest of the three on average, was the one pulled over by a state trooper (and using her unlimited charm ability and smile, sang, "I'm from Nova Scotia...", to which the officer let her off with a warning). Satiating themselves, the group realized how warm it was getting. Indy shed his serape', JP his semi-heavy jacket, and everyone else whatever extra sweaters/whatnot they had. JP tossed his jacket in their rental car trunk, shutting it. Indy placed his serape' in his torpedo mobile. Christina announced that her wallet was missing. JP looked at Indy, Indy looked at JP. "I didn't take it!" they cried in unison.
The crew proceeded to tear apart the camp in search of the wallet. First the Indy Tent and Car. Nothing. Then the Canuck Camp. Someone asked for the keys to the trunk. JP looked up. "Oops..."
"So much for getting an early start to the day," thought Indy sadly.
Christina persisted in poking around the campsite, searching for her wallet. Steve, Heather, and JP attempted to devise a way of getting into their trunk short of using C-4. Indy ran to check on his supply of C-4 (he was out, having used it to mine a bridge the Nazi's were coming over earlier in the week). Indy returned to find Steve, Heather, and JP doing their utmost to remove the backseat to their Oldsmobile. They got the seat out, but the back section stumped them. "If only we had a ratchet," sighed Steve.
Indy ran back to his car and retrieved his ratchet set.
Steve and Heather grabbed the tools and attacked the remaining part of the backseat with verve unseen in these woods in decades. Within minutes they had freed up a section so they could reach into the trunk and pull out JP's jacket. Fortunately the keys did not fall out during this Jacket Withdrawal, and JP held up said keys triumphantly. Steve handed back to Indy the pieces of the broken ratchet set.
A thorough scouring of the trunk did not turn up Christina's wallet. The group gathered what gear they had (and were going to need for climbing later) and headed to the front end of the campground, where Christina placed many phone calls to cancel the thousands of cards o'credit in her name (and everyone else's at her bank). Two minutes after she cancelled her last card JP found the receipt to the grocery store they had visited in Maine. Christina, tired of talking on the phone, handed it to Heather, who dialed and sang "I'm from Nova Scotia!"
"Christina!," came the reply, "We have your wallet!"
Everyone breathed easier once again. While the wallet was hours away in Maine, it *was* found and being held in safe hands. Christina would pick it up on their way home monday.
But for now...it was time to go....CLIMBING! (and you, the Gentle reader, thought we'd never get there; neither did Indy at this point)
The group jumped in their cars, and roared off to the cliffs. Christina started batting the hex nut Indy has hanging from his rearview mirror about. Indy glared at Christina, and told her to stop touching it. She looked all innocent and said, "But it's just hanging there, *begging* to be touched!"
By the time they arrived it was already 11:00am. Quite, quite late. But fortunately the threat of the Weather God's impending arrival seemed to have deterred a number of climbers from showing, as the cliffs were remarkably uncrowded (from what expectations were; there were still plenty of climbers up there). The group got out and geared up.
It was at this point that Indy discovered that he was the only one who had a guidebook. He handed it around for the others to peruse. Route options were discussed. JP and Indy were to be team leaders. Christina insisted on seconding up with Indy (ulterior motive: mucho harassment of the poor Indy-boy). JP had Heather to second for him, and Indy adopted Steve, who had only climbed twice before in his experience. Of the group, Christina and Steve had no multi-pitch experience. But Indy had seen the Leprechaun climb before and felt pretty good about Steve's abilities. JP didn't want to lead anything harder than 5.8; Indy nothing harder than 5.7 with Steve and Christina along for their first lead experience. Indy picked Pleasant Street; JP picked Bombardment. This way the group would be near (!) each other (both routes shared the same first pitch). And off they went.
As they went up to the cliff and traversed below it, Indy pointed out the different routes available for climbing. Surprisingly, many of them were devoid of climbers (Funhouse [5.7***], Pooh[5.7**], Pleasant Street [5.7*] were empty; Bombardment[5.8**] and Three Birches [5.8**] had a party on them, and Thin Air [5.6***] was pretty strung up with a line of people). As the group approached Pleasant Street, Indy realized he left the guidebook in the car. The group pummeled Indy for this oversight.
Arriving at Pleasant Street the group made ready to climb. The couple ahead of them on Bombardment made good time and short work of the route. Then JP scampered up the first pitch (5.6R). Placed a piece of pro, and ran the rest out. This was an omen of how much of the climbing this weekend would be; Indy isn't used to run-outs (then again, Indy utterly and totally spaced placing pro on the second pitch of Ecstasy out at Seneca the last time he was on it, so go figure). While waiting for JP to finish the route (he paused ever so slightly at the friction run-out stretch) Indy used the time to show Christina (and Steve) how tri-cams and stoppers are placed and removed. He also covered very generally how Friends work and function. Then JP was done, and Heather started climbing. As soon as Heather went up, Indy made the belay stance ready, with Christina belaying. Steve put on JP's hiking boots, not having climbing shoes of his own (Heather also had fixed up a 1" webbing harness for him to wear for the weekend, and JP lent him a locking 'biner and Figure-8). Heather paused at the crux section of this pitch, looked up at JP with pleading eyes, and sang out "I'm from Nova Scotia." After JP threatened to beat her with a record label, she scurried up the last bit to the belay.
Then up Indy went. Placed a piece down low (same spot JP put on) and then floated up on this *wonderously* high-friction granite! Wow-ness. Cool. Great. Awesome. Whoops! (foot slipped). Indy made his way up the easiest route he could find, drifting right a bit to easier (less-steeply inclined) ground, then over left to the belay tree (there really are no handholds for a good bit on this). JP had, by this point, started climbing and was halfway up Bombardment, praising it all the way. "You need to try this, Indy. No, really, you do." Indy wondered if JP was trying to sandbag him or not. Not knowing JP that well, and having run into British humor before, Indy wasn't too sure. "There's a bit of a run-oot section, but otherwise it's really great," called down JP. 'Run-oot', eh? Uh-huh...
Indy then set up a belay and brought Christina up (who shot up like a bullet; Indy had a hard time keeping up with her!) and then Steve (who went slower, still learning what to do about a friction wall with no handholds). Finally the trio was all up. Indy looked up at the second pitch of Pleasant Street. A long-ish, left-arching corner that appeared to need laybacking to get through. But the angle was low enough and the granite of high-friction that Indy felt this wouldn't be too bad. Maybe a move or four would be somewhat tricky, or strenuous if the angle was steeper than it really looked. But what he saw looked great! Crack in the base of this left-facing/arching corner looked like it would take a variety of pro - and Indy was loaded for bear! (not knowing exactly what he was up against, Indy brought his Seneca rack and added another set of nuts).
After JP finished setting the belay, Heather began climbing Bombardment. Before Indy went up he instructed Christina that Steve should go second, and back-clip the pro. This way if Steve had troubles during the layback Christina could coach him from below, because to Indy's practiced eye, the he would not be able to see *anyone* from the belay station above. Christina nodded in agreement, and Steve indicated he understood, too. All was well. Indy climbed.
Moving up Indy marveled at how great the route was. Nice handholds, good moves. Nice foot placements (well, you can *friction* just about anywhere!). He only paused to put pro in, and put a bit more than he normally would have, trying to take into account Steve's and Christina's relative lack of experience at lead stuff. The moves weren't hard at all, but halfway up Indy was breathing pretty heavily. Christina called up, "I thought this wasn't hard!".
"It's not," Indy replied, "I'm expending extra energy looking for clues in the rocks for the Ark. And putting in pro!" Sheesh. No appreciation from the belay slave.
Finally Indy moved up and over through some spiderwebs ("I see this isn't climbed much," muttered Indy) to a stance beneath a roof. Not a large roof, but an awkward-looking one. A *shorter* person would probably have an easy time of it. But for Indy....it proved to be awkward, to say the least. Indy futzed and fiddled for a couple minutes, then leaned off left beside the roof on a slippery handhold, worked his feet up, half-mantled with his left hand, and high-stepped up, reaching for another smooth-as-silk hold. Transitioning his weight over his high foot, Indy stood and breathed easier. Hah! Through with the crux of the climb. Upwards he went for another 20 or so feet. Then tried to traverse over to join JP and Heather, who were setting up to rappel off. The traverse was a bit tricky and gave Indy a couple of fits, but he finally committed to the moves and skimmed the rest of the way to the belay.
JP rapped off, Heather followed. Indy said 'bye-bye'. Now, Steve's turn. He started climbing. Without actually seeing how he was doing, Indy felt that Steve was making good progress by how fast he had to bring in the rope. Nice and steady. But soon the rope grew taunt; Steve's upward progression halted. Stopped dead as if by a wall or....a roof.
Indy could just see the upper half of Steve's body poking up beside the roof, and could see the puzzlement on Steve's face as to how he should best get by this sucker. Steve hemmed and hawed, Indy called out roughly how he managed to do it, and finally Steve just....went for it. A grunt or four later, Steve popped himself over the roof! Then up the straight section to the start of the traverse. NOW Steve really grew puzzled! And started asking about getting a pair of those 'magic shoes that Indy and Christina were wearing'. The move across on the traverse is committing, with handholds being sparse at one point, and footholds non-existant. Steve tried to make the move a number of times, but didn't trust his feet to hold (they didn't look like they would, either). Finally he backed up a bit, then half-swung down under the nut protecting the traverse to find a good foothold. From here he was a *much* happier camper! Back-clipped the nut with the rope leading to Christina, and trotted over to the belay anchor.
Christina's turn. Indy isn't really sure what happened next. He yelled out "On belay!", heard "Climbing", yelled back "Climb On--" and started hauling in rope like there was no tomorrow! Within seconds Christina had torn down the anchors below, scurried up the layback section, CLEANED the layback section, scampered over the roof, and never paused on the traverse! Indy should've timed it; it probably took her all of 30 seconds to do this (well, okay, 35 seconds). And she wasn't even breathing hard.
The trio decided that instead of leading pitch 2 of Bombardment, it would be quicker to drop a top-rope down it and everyone could get a quick run in that way up it (and Indy would find out if the route indeed was as nice as JP was saying). All in agreement, Indy rigged the anchors for a top-rope, and sent Christina and Steve down, following shortly thereafter.
First to go up was Christina. ZOOOOMM!!!! She *flew* up the thing! Indy had a devil of a time keeping up with her. She never paused, never stopped. Never slowed down. Talk about speedy! There isn't film made that would be fast enough to catch her - and she has to climb nearly twice as much as everyone else due to her smallish build! Indy's head spun.
Steve went next, and had some difficulty dealing with some sections with those hiking boots (and not having a lot of experience at jam-crack climbing didn't help). He struggled and fought, but never gave up. Finally he surmounted the difficult sections and breezed to the top (and figured out a little about how to jam a crack, to boot).
Indy's turn. At this point there were noises coming from above: another climbing party had shown up at the anchors and wanted to rap down the same tree our heroes were using. Fortunately they were a kind and patient lot (seemed to be another guide with two clients) and waited for Indy to come up and take things down. So without dallying, Indy began climbing. Nice route, Bombardment. Some delicate face climbing mixed with some crack techniques that are sometimes jam-stuff, sometimes semi-layback stuff. Indy's eye scanned the route for protection, as if he were leading it. Yeah, lower down there was plenty of places. About 1/3 of the way up the crack flared and got a bit shallow; some smaller tri-cams (of which Indy *doesn't* own!) would work well here. Bit higher up from there were a couple of nice nut placements, then a blank face (delicate moves) to another crack. From here, easy ground to the finish! Unlike Christina, Indy paused two or three times to puzzle out a move or three. Sometimes it just wasn't perfectly clear how to proceed or the next couple of moves were very committing. But sans falls, Indy got through it. Topped off, quickly dismantled the anchors, and rapped off. Lower down Christina and Steve used the other rope and rapped the first pitch. Indy quickly joined them. Down below Christina and Indy changed back to 'normal' shoes while Steve sought out JP and Heather. Those two had since moved on to Three Birches and were quite a ways up it; Steve wasn't going to give back JP the boots and didn't want to leave them just laying out, so left his shoes for JP to wear later instead. The trio discussed very briefly what to do next. Indy proffered up the options: go off and play on Thin Air [5.6***], do Still In Saigon [5.8**], or instead head down to the Practice Slab and let Christina work a bit with gear on Child's Play [5.5*]. Steve went into wishy-washy mode: "I dunno; whatever you guys wanna do". Christina, being the Type A person she is, lept to this opportunity to make a Command Decision. "Practice Slabs!!" she cried out. Then threatened Indy with a beating later if he vetoed this option. Wisely, Indy went along with it.
The trio worked their way down to the cars (grabbed the guidebook), then down the street to the Practice Slabs. Upon arriving Indy noticed that it was fairly crowded there, and no less than four routes were being climbed, Child's Play included. Then Indy took a second look: of the four routes being climbed, all four climbers were guys, all four belayers were women. Indy pointed this out. Christina shrugged. "Belay bunnies. But I'm climbing first; Indy, *you're* the belay rabbit!" Indy nodded, "Yes, ma'am" and unrigged his gear so Christina could sort through it to find what she wanted to bring up. Indy noticed it was starting to get dark. Hrmmm. The last two times he was out climbing with Christina he ended up walking out in the dark. Hrmmm! The group on Child's Play finished, and Christina grabbed the rack. Tied in and was ready to rock!
Indy quickly set up a belay, and Christina then began climbing. Indy noticed that her form a just a *little* off, her speed just a *little* diminished, her grace just a *little* shy of perfect. Was this from being on the sharp end? Naw; it was from all the weight she was carrying - the rack weighed almost as much as *she* did!
In fine form Christina climbed up, placing gear, and ran out the final 20 or so feet on easy ground (borderline class 3/4) to the rap station above. While she was covering the final half of the climb, Indy noticed above that a couple guys were up top and preparing to rap down Kiddy Crack [5.7*]. And as Indy watched, the one guy doing most of the rope handling (and apparently looking like the more experienced one of the two) leaned over and tossed the rope down. Never yelled any warning or anything. *thump!* Rope landed, 10 feet from Indy. Hmmm. Not that anyone was closer or around, but this bothered Indy a little. He moved closer to the cliff and noticed that once he was 5 or 6 feet from the bottom he lost sight of the guys (and Christina) up top. Moving back out in sight again Indy saw the guy start to rap down. Christina called "Off-belay!", so Indy took her off and prepped to climb himself (ie, got his shoes on). The rappeller made it to the ground and Indy asked him if he could possibly yell rope or something next time he tossed one down (after all, this *is* standard practice!). The guy glared at Indy and indicated that he could see quite well to the bottom and no one was nearby (by the way, it was also getting on deep twilight). Indy informed him that he was standing 'right there' and the rope landed not 10 feet from him. Granted, 10 feet is 10 feet, but still. The guy then just turned his back on Indy, ignoring him. Steve muttered something to Indy about 'rude'. Indy shrugged, "All I can do is mention it. If he doesn't like it, well...nothing much more I can say."
Finally Christina called down that Indy could climb. Indy proceeded. The climb was nice, not bad at all. Starts out with a wide crack until about 1/3 of the way up, then surmount some bulgy parts, and finally up a corner following a hand/finger crack. All of Christina's passive pro was *bomb*-proof! Great placements. The final piece, a #3 Friend, was not quite as solid, but would've held (hell, with Christina's weight, AIR would hold!). A #3.5 would've been a better selection, but that was the intent of this climb: for Christina to get some practice in! Once up, Indy set up a quick top-rope and rapped off, with Christina following. Then Steve went up as the darkness around then grew...darker. A little initial problems with the crack, Steve made good in the upper 2/3 of the route. Once down the trio wrapped up their gear, coiled the rope, and huffed it out. Wondering where JP and Heather were, they found a note on the car: 'Went to get beer; be back...maybe'
The three de-rigged and sat, waiting to see how long it would be before JP and Heather returned, or IF they returned. 10 or so minutes later JP and Heather showed up. From there it was decided to go into town and get food - pizza to be exact! Indy was thinking of a place he had heard of through the mists of dreams called 'Elvios', but kept forgetting to ask people where it was. Sadly he shrugged to himself, figuring with his luck it was going to be on the far side of North Conway - or further away. Sigh!
Heather sang out that there were SALES in town at ALL THE SPORTS SHOPS! JP turned to our trio and said, "Here is a woman who is in a desperate need to *spend money*." Heather beamed happily.
Getting back in the cars, Indy led the way to town. He ducked down a side street about 1 block south of where the IME (International Mountain Equip) store was located; JP parked not much further away. Heather made a beeline to the sports store located *right there* (filled with 'No Fear' paraphenalia; anyone know which store this is perchance?). Indy indicated he was going to the IME store to see what was what, then locate *food*! Hunger was a driving factor here. Christina followed, while Steve and JP went to exchange shoes.
Poking around in the IME Indy found the section of used skis. Idly checking them out (Indy is in the market for a pair of downhill skis) he was looking over the prices. Some were obviously (to his unpracticed eye) X-Country skis, while others were just as obviously downhill skis. Browsing through the price tags he saw $120, $200, $150, $130, $35, $180, $120....wait! $35?? Quickly he found the price tag that read '$35'. He looked over the skis. Nothing SEEMED to be wrong with them. $35??? Indy grew suspicious, and decided to ask. Bringing them upstairs Indy noticed Christina and Steve looking over the rental shoes that were on sale for between $40 and $70. Steve was interested in finding out about rentals for sunday's climbing anyway. Over to the counter Indy brought the skis. "What's wrong with these things?" he asked. The salesdude looked them over, "Skilom...look about 6 years old....bit dusty....nothing I can see." (looks over price tag) "Wow. $35. What a steal. You want them? If not..." Indy whips out the VISA, and gets himself a pair of skis....
At this point everyone had finally congregated together. FOOD!!! Steve indicated there was a pizza shop just two doors down from IME. The quintet stepped out and (literally) followed their noses. Looking up at the front door of the pizza establishment Indy noticed that it was none other than the famed Elvios! Hot damn. A pair of skis and Elvios to boot! The crew went in, and chowed down.
After dinner they retired to camp. It was late, and tomorrow was another day. Indy was pushing for going to Whitehorse on sunday (especially since he found no clues about the Ark on Cathedral). JP was being flexible; "Whatever, as long as we're climbing."
The group retired for the evening.
Sunday morning. Steve, Christina, and Indy were up early. It was noticably warmer this morning than the previous. The sun was out, shining, but there were clouds in the sky - a forewarning that the Weather God had finally begun to encroach upon the area. Steve wanted to stop off in town and grab some rental shoes before heading to the cliff. The three hurridly had breakfast, and woke JP and Heather to let them know where they were heading. Heather and JP indicated they'd be ready in 20 minutes, and see the trio at the cliffs (after making a quick stop in town at Ragged Mountain Sports or something like that; a place that Indy couldn't find).
In moments the three intrepid adventurers were heading into North Conway. After parking, Indy went off in search of a 'No Fear' t-shirt he saw the evening before and happened to like. Steve decided instead of renting shoes for two days he'd just go ahead and buy a pair of the $40 ones. Then picked up a harness (Alpine Bod) that was on sale. The boy was outfitted now! (and going to be much more comfortable than the webbing harness he was toting around). After more wandering around the 'No Fear' shop (and burning daylight) the three piled into Indy's car and away they went - to White Horse Slabs! In search of fortune and glory, and more importantly, a lot of climbing.
They found a place to park (fortunately; it was packed!) and hiked on in. After getting off on the wrong trail the three quickly found themselves before the vast monolithic slabs of White Horse. Stretching up and up, for many hundreds of feet, was this huuuge granite slab, marred only by a few overlaps, thin cracks and a headwall which marks roughly the halfway point from bottom to top (though you can't see past the headwall area from below, and have no clue as to how much MORE rock there is above!). There were also a *ton* of people on the slabs. Hundreds, thousands, millions! Consulting the guidebook (yes, Indy remembered to BRING it this time!) he located Standard Route [5.5***] and Beginner's Route [5.4R**]. A local happening by with his mountain bike stopped to give some friendly advise and suggestions (who said the New Hampshire climbers aren't friendly??). He also looked at Indy, laden down like a fishing lure, laughed and said, "Bowah, you got *way* too much gear!" Indy was getting that impression from the run-out nature of some of the climbs the local pointed out to him. The local wished them fun and luck, and moved off. Another local came by and also chatted with Indy about some of the routes and opportunities for gear placement (read: rare, until one gets to the headwall). Indy thanked him and turned to his charges.
At this point Heather and JP wandered up the trail - they had JUST gotten there themselves! By now it was nearing 12:30. UGH!! Late start. Way, way, WAY later than Indy's normal outing. Ugh. The group looked at the party of climbers waiting at the first main belay ledge on Standard Route (there were several parties of people up there - complete with party hats, confetti, streamers, a keg, etc - a real party!) and decided for the sake of time and speed, Indy and crew would climb the Whitehorse Slabs Direct [5.7**]. JP and Heather were thinking about other routes, so without wasting more time, Indy started up the initial friction pitch (which is, by the way, about 200' long, and has one lone piton in it ~120' up - no protection otherwise!).
About half the pitch Indy was able to use only his feet, the other half of the time he used a hand or two to make the ascent. However, to his dismay, before he got to the belay 'ledge' below the crux pitch of the route, a party of four - a guide and three students - made it there ahead of him (apparently they were waiting behind the large congregation of people over on the Standard Route and decided to take alternate means of ascent). At this point he heard Christina behind him yell up that she was starting her climbing run. Indy looked back. It was a long way down there! And he still had 40-50 feet to go. He shouted back that he was going to go to the belay ledge and tie in, then Christina would have to hang out down there a ways (Indy would have her on belay at that point, just in case). Unfortunately the belay stances were small (mostly semi-hanging off of chains) and Indy wasn't real comfortable about 'climbing through' another group. And the guide asked Indy to wait for he and his clients to finish before continuing up. He was a personable fellow, but his group of four moved abysmally slow. As they began to clear off the first belay, Indy brought Christina and Steve up. In the meantime JP and Heather had disappeared with Indy's guidebook (great! know what to get them for christmas).
Christina and Steve made great time getting up, and Indy began the second pitch. The crux pitch starts out right off the belay anchors and requires some delicate friction moves up a more inclined section of the slab, still nothing to call handholds. About 12' up was a piton, which Indy eventually was able to clip and feel a *whole* lot better about (otherwise it was 'fall-into-your-belayer' time should he slip). From here some more delicate friction laybacking up a shallow flake to a friction face to another crack/flake system (where Indy could put *real* pro!). A couple pieces in, and Indy ran the rest of it out (~40-50') to the next belay stance, where the guide was only partway up the third pitch. Next time Indy will ask if he and his party can climb through or past since they were going so much faster than the guided party. >sigh!<
After establishing an anchor, Indy brought Christina up (and once again had difficulty keeping up with her progress!). Then Steve slipped on up with no real difficulties (he was really liking his new shoes!). Then a wait while the guide & his crew worked their way up. Christina asked if she should take the next lead, so Indy handed her the rack (after all, she wants and needs the practice!). Finally she was able to go. Moved up 15-20' to the bolt, over and through the bulging 'overlap', and then ran the rest of the entire pitch out to the belay anchors! (there was *no* place for pro!) ~120' of nothing.
Getting there she called down that the guide wanted Indy and Steve to wait a while until he started his crew on rappel (he apparently was *now* going to teach them how to rappel?? - argh!!!!!). Indy waited. And fumed just a little (okay, a lot; the guide was being purely rude). Steve just looked around and took in the view (nice view; peak leaf change weekend and all that).
Finally Indy could go; the guide had rapped down (this is now 20 minutes later). Zoom! Up to the belay Indy ran. Steve then zipped up this section, too. Christina suggested/asked if she could take the next pitch. Indy told her to go for it, since she was already ready to head up. The next pitch, pitch 4 (but only pitch 3 for Whitehorse Slabs Direct) was a run-out slab for ~60-80', then you hit the headwall. Up the headwall another 30 or 40 feet or so would put our heroes at the famed Lunch Ledge.
However, there was a party already approaching that same spot from the Standard Route, and three more parties on the Lunch Ledge itself. With ANOTHER party (of 3) seemingly stuck just above, right after the 'Brown Spot' crux. Indy shook his head. So much for evading this crowd. Indy and Christina discussed options at this point of how to best avoid everyone. With no *real* options open to them, Christina took the lead and headed up. Hitting the lower headwall to Lunch Ledge she placed her first piece of gear (yea!). Unfortunately her first piece slipped out before she could clip it, and went tumbling down the side of Whitehorse Slabs, just out of reach from Indy and Steve to grab. So if anyone finds/found a #8 stopper at the base there, they know where it came from.
She was able to, though, place several more pieces that *didn't* fall out before topping off at the Lunch Ledge (with the billions and billions of other climbers there). Indy then launched on up once she had the belay anchors set. A quick 'walk' up the friction slab to the headwall, then some 5.3/5.4 climbing to the Lunch Ledge, and Indy was done. Steve next. Brought him up in short order, no problems. In the mean time, Indy noticed another pair of climbers coming up the Standard Route, far below. They would probably be to the Lunch Ledge before Indy and crew left, but the speed at which they *did* make it surprised even Indy (they were almost faster than Christine at climbing!).
While on Lunch Ledge the three ate some mini-sandwiches put together earlier in the morning (since Heather and JP weren't there with them to share, the three ate some for them, too). In the mean time Indy scouted out the rock above, *trying* to find another way out of this mess. The afternoon shadows were growing quite long. Indy was glad he had the foresight to pack a flashlight (would've rather have had his headlamp, but he had left that in the tent). They definitely weren't getting out before dark. Finally the three seemingly stuck people managed to somehow make it through this 5.5 right-leaning semi-overhang section (Indy didn't know it was 5.5 at the time; the three made it look like it was 5.7 or worse) and the next couple from the Lunch Ledge could go up. They and the next couple in front of Indy and Co were from New York City area (and had that *thick* New York accent). Of the 7 people up on Lunch Ledge at this point in time, no one had a guidebook for Indy to seek alternative avenues of escape. >sigh!<
The leader for the first couple worked his way into a hard section that was hidden to all on Lunch Ledge and paused for a bit. Then he got past that and was fussing with the right-leaning semi-overhanging corner for a while. It was during this lead that the two climbers who Indy saw earlier arrived. The leader (Jim) came up on Lunch Ledge, took one look around, and said, "Holy shit there's a lot of people here still!". He called down to his partner (Chet) and informed him of the imminent delays they were facing. Then brought him up. Indy was growing most unhappy. He *really* didn't want to make another night descent! He's had his fill of getting out in the dark for a while. But...looked like he didn't have a lot of choice. >SIGH!<
Jim was a friendly sort, and was willing to give beta about the stuff around, but he also seemed a little irritated that there were so many people on the ledge and they were going so s-l-o-w. Yes, he and Chet were looking at a night descent, too. Indy chatted with him a while, as he was obviously a Local (tm) and hoped to glean information about getting out of their via alternative routes but it looked like the way everyone was going was the best option. >groan< However, Jim was able to give beta on the route before Indy: the hidden area where people were getting stuck was about 5.7 with a bolt, and the right- leaning semi-overhanging corner is *really* 5.5 (even though people ahead are making it look 5.9 now).
Finally the first couple got through the route and the next couple went up. The guy here seemed to be pretty sure of himself, but when he hit the 5.7 crux, he pretty much slowed to a crawl. And dropped a carabiner (it's down in the same area as the #8 nut mentioned earlier, for your booty hunters). And he didn't speed up through the 5.5 overhanging corner, either (had a lot of trouble with that; managed to drop a strung hex, too). Finally surmounting it, he went up to set a belay. For the sake of time and speed, Indy told his group that he was going to follow on the heels of Wendy, the second in the pair before them (the leader was the one who just finished the pitch).
Jim offered some friendly advise for getting out, and indicated to Indy which way he and Chet were going if they wanted to follow for a quick exit. Damned straight! It was growing darker - it was already past 5:30! So Wendy finally started up. After she moved 20' up, Indy started behind her. Until she got to the 5.7 crux she was doing okay. Then it got hard and the moves committing. She started yelling at her husband (yeah, they were married), "I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill you! I'm going to fucking kill you!!" Then turned to Indy and said, "Remind me to kill him later!". Turning back to where her husband was belaying from (on the other side of a ledge, so no one could see anyone else) she yelled up angrily, "How did you *do* this?". As he started to respond she yelled, "Shut! Up! I'm going to kill you! Do you hear? UP ROPE!" And as he tightened the rope, "No, NOT YET!" (pause) "Now! UP ROPE!"
Jim, Chet, Steve, and Christina were.....amused, to say the least. Indy could not afford humor - she was 10' away from him! He tried to help her out a bit by giving a few suggestions here and there, but ultimately it was just that she had to commit to the moves and got through it fine (although yelling and cursing her husband out all the way). Then Indy went through the crux. Hmmm! Interesting. Committing moves, no doubt about it! Clipping the piton, Indy moved into the 5.7 crux, clipped the bolt, and delicately moved through that section. Neat! Just a few delicate friction moves. And now....the ominous right-leaning, semi-overhanging corner. It really *did* look ominous, and 5.9-ish. Indy paused for a moment, concerned. Then stealing himself and trusting to Jim's beta, he placed a piece, moved into the corner, clipped the piton at the top end, gripped the corner of the crack on the left at the top, worked his feet high on the wall before him, pulled in on his left hand, reached out onto the ledge before him with his right, grabbed a hold, and an instant later was standing on the ledge above! Yes, it was about a 5.5 move; just LOOKED a lot harder than it was!
Quickly, time ticking, he flashed over to the corner on the right that Jim mentioned for the quick escape, and up to set the belay anchors. From there he quickly brought Christina up. Then Steve followed, getting a little caught up in the 5.7 crux, and decidedly stuck at the 5.5 section. After many minutes Jim eventually climbed up and through to help coach from above, which helped (well, I think he climbed up and through; couldn't see, but did know he coached). This got Steve through the hairy section (he was concerned about the penduluum should he have not made the move) and up, Jim hot on his heels. Right after that, Chet appeared. THen Jim fired off up the escape route, which was maybe 5.2 or so, Chet following in simul-climb mode (they were roped, and Indy and Co stayed roped, too). As Chet started out, Christina followed, taking lead for the Indy Group. Indy went second, Steve third. It was now twilight, and getting deeper. Steve had some initial problems with an overhand knot that formed in the rope between him and Indy, but this was quickly worked out and everyone could proceed normally. After several hundred feet of this, Jim and Chet rigged a handline for the final 5.2/5.3 airy traverse off the slabs for Indy and crew, then followed them in the woods.
It was now dark. Jim and Chet brought headlamps with them. This was unusual for them as they typically don't. But they had decided to today. This was a Good Thing. Between those and Indy's flashlight, the group stood a reasonable chance of getting out with minimal difficulty (so they thought). Especially with Jim along, who has been off this way before (in better light conditions, normally). After coiling the ropes and changing shoes, the marching order was established: Jim in the lead (knowledgeable of the terrain and paths - when they were there!), Christina next, Indy (since he had the flashlight), Steve, and Chet in back (with the headlamp). This meant every other person had a light and could illuminate for the person in front. Packing their stuff and taking a last quick look around, into the woods they went.
The darkness surrounded them. The trees closed in, the hillside to their right dropped away. Indy realized the daunting trek before them, having come down the somewhat smaller Seneca hillside in the dark a couple of times in his life. Jim explained that the trail headed off for a ways, then one had to turn right and 'go that way' down the hill. Avoiding any dropoffs/cliffs that one encountered along the way. If one didn't turn and go downhill, the path would then lead the unsuspecting traveller to the upper reaches of Cathedral Ledges. If they opted for that path out, it would be a long, long evening. Finally Jim turned right and started to angle down the hillside.
The group worked their way down the steep slope, which was covered with leaves and pine needles, hiding rocks and roots and holes and things. After a while Indy mentioned to Christina that this was an Epic Training Session Field Trip, and that she was getting a crash course in it. Suddenly the wind picked up. Chet said from behind, "There's rain a-comin'; this is a rain wind." Indy knew from previous experience that this was so, for this was the Wind That Announced The Coming Of The Weather God. Indy just hoped they got back to the cars before they got hit with Weather God Thumpings. Onward and downward they went.
A few minutes later Jim announced "I've been here before. This is Bad."
The rest of the group looked at each other. "Uh-oh."
10 minutes later Jim announced, "We have now reached Semi-Epic Status. Yellow Alert!" Indy called up to Jim, "Only Semi-Epic? What, pray tell, is required for Full Epic Status?"
"When we start rappelling," came the reply.
5 minutes later Jim stopped all forward progression. Before him was a pretty serious drop. To the left and right, the same. Behind the group, a fairly steep and leaf-covered hillside, from which a slip and fall could prove less than pleasant. Chet called down from in back, asking how far down it went. "Oh, about 60 or 80 feet or so," was Jim's reply. Jim looked around for *any* way down this mess, then muttered, "Red Alert". Indy unlimbered his rope and said, "Looks like we've just hit Full Epic Status..."
Jim and Indy tied two ropes together, just in case the rap was more than 80 feet. Indy secured two anchors to the trees they had the ropes around to ease the group's getting set up on the rappel while standing on this fairly inclined slope. The idea: clip to the anchors, move down to the rap ropes, set up the rappel, unclip (after Indy double-checked everything), and rap down to where Jim (who would have already gone down) was waiting.
While Indy and Jim were setting this up, Chet announced that he was shutting down his light for the while, as his batteries were running low. So for the exception of Indy's flashlight after Jim rapped down, the group was enshrouded in darkness. Jim called up in surprise that there was an overhang down below. This turned out to be a Good Thing as every time someone moved down to get on rappel they ended up inadvertently kicking a good bit of debris (and in one instance, a fist-sized rock) down, so the people below could take shelter under the overhang without fear of getting nailed by something.
In short order the group made it down safe and sound. With the ropes recoiled they started back down the slope. Soon the incline eased off (but not before Christina found a Leprechaun-sized hole to fall into) and soon the group found themselves back on the path leading to the cars! It was quite overcast and the wind was blowing (but not as hard as earlier). The group came to Jim and Chet's truck first at which point they all said their gracious thanks and good-byes. A couple minutes later Indy and Crew reached the Indy Mobile, threw in their gear, and headed for town, in search of gas for the Indy Mobile and mayhap some french fries to tide them over until they could get back to camp, where Christina and Steve believed Heather and JP had dinner waiting. It was 8:30p and there was no note on the car to indicate anything. Driving through North Conway the group spied in the distance the Golden Arches. But moments before they got there Indy spied a Pizza Hut! "I'll pay!" he cried as he spun the Indy Mobile about on two wheels, weaved through on-coming traffic and flashed into the parking lot. The three jumped out and ran inside to *eat*!
After dinner (yum!) Indy stepped outside. It started to sprinkle. So much for getting back to camp dry. The group stopped for gas, then headed back to camp. The sprinkle quickly increased to reach Full Rain Status, at times limiting visibility to Not Very Far Ahead. Christina and Steve decided this would be a good time to nap while Indy (who was experienced with this) fought with the Weather God.
Returning to camp Steve set up his own tent (as Indy's 'pup' tent was no longer structurally sound), while Indy and Christina dashed off for a quick hot shower (pirates! they charge $0.25/5 minutes of hot water in the showers). After this, retired to their tent and snoozed the night away...
The next morning was a *late* rising morning. Indy and the Leprechaun didn't emerge from the tent until 10:00a or later; the rest of the group already had breakfast. JP and Heather told the rest of our heroes that after leaving Whitehorse the day before they ended up over on the Practice Slabs and played around on Recluse [5.10+***] and another 5.9 they couldn't remember the name of. They had a good time over there, and no evening epics. After breakfast and a final group photo, everyone packed up camp and made ready for the road. Steve, JP, and Heather decided to stop off for showers on the way out. The four Canuckians had intentions of finding someplace to go top-roping before heading back to Nova Scotia; Indy had plans to stop off at the Massachussetts High Point on his way back to Maryland. It was a cold, windy day and Indy said his farewells to the Canuckian Contingent. With a wave and a flourish he fired up the Star Engine and roared off. By now it was nearly 12:30p; it was going to be a long, long drive back.
Arriving Massachussets Indy decided to punt on the State High Point as it was getting far too late and he had to be at work the next morning. He hit Springfield Massachussets *right* at rush hour (5:00p exactly), and things slowed down. Deciding to avoid New York City/I-95 traffic Indy headed out I-84, missed the non-existant exit onto I-87, and had to circle around a bit (after consulting the Map of the Road Oracle) before getting on I-87 (this caused for about an hour's delay). Eventually he arrived his abode, nearly 11-1/2 hours after departing. There he collapsed. But dreamed of going back for more. After all, the Ark was not yet found.
Thus endeth another fun-filled adventure.