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Posts Tagged ‘Ice Climbing’

Stepping Away from “The Grind”: Skiing, Climbing & Family Fun

February 21st, 2010

The importance of taking a mental break from “the grind” (I always hated that expression since nothing in your life should feel like “a grind”, but use it since it illustrates the point well) shouldn’t be overlooked. Often times we get caught up on our every day routine– including our dedication to our training– that sometimes we forget to take a step back and spend some time doing other things. I always recommend making sure you build in quality active recovery into your training and your life. Active recovery doesn’t just mean giving your body a chance to recover, but also your mind. Giving yourself a mental break during the course of your training is absolutely critical in keeping you fresh and energized for continuing to build for future performance.

This past week, I took a bit of time away from my usual routine and spent a week in the White Mountains of New Hamsphire skate sking, downhill skiing and ice climbing with some friends I haven’t seen in a while and my family. In fact, the best part of the whole week was getting my 4 year old and 2 year old on skis (both nordic and alpine) for the first time — the big smiles they had on their faces the whole time was most rewarding to see as a dad (especially a dad who has high athletic hopes for his kids!). Here’s a funny video of my two year old, Marco, enjoying his first time ever on skis:

As I always like to tell my athlete’s: retain the playful outlook and ambition of a kid and you can do anything!

I did manage to get 4 days of skiing and 3 days of ice climbing in– a great way to vary up my training from the normal swim, bike, and running I do the rest of the time. Skate ski conditions were absolutely fantastic at Bretton Woods (it never seems to stop snowing there), but alpine conditions left a lot to be desired at Black Mountain (lack of snow and warm temps definitely took their toll).

The ice conditions, however, were fantastic. One day of ice was spent on Silver Cascade, a relatively easy 4-5 pitch alpine climb in Crawford Notch. Normally it’s not possible to climb the ice in Silver Cascade due to sheer volume of snow, but we hit the conditions just right with little snow, so we went for it. Here’s a glimpse of the start of the climb:

The rest of the week I reconnected with some ice climbing partners that I hadn’t seen in a while and got some steeper routes in. Cave Route in Frank’s Amphitheater was fat, so Frank Ferucci, Paul Segal and I jumped on that.

Gary on Cave Route

Gary on Cave Route

Finally, towards the end of the week, Paul and I hooked up with Laura Russo and Ed Medina (who I hadn’t climbed with since 2002 or so– hard to believe), both of whom were getting on ice for the first time of the season. Champney Falls (a large waterfall gorge off of New Hampshire’s famous Kancamagus Highway) seemed to be the best place to go to get their legs under them and to work on some more vertical ice to help build up strength. We had a great day climbing for several hours, ascending several hundred vertical feet of grade 4 to 4+ ice. Good news: Laura and Ed had a great time and I could feel myself getting stronger as the day progressed– all in all, my strongest day out for the season.
I’m looking forward to getting more skiing and climbing in as the waning days of the winter approach. Late February and March, with the longer days and deep frozen conditions, represent some of the best days of the winter to be out. Get out and climb, hike, ski or do whatever sport that you enjoy and that allows you to take a step back from your normal routine. You’ll feel re-energized and ready to continue to take your training to the next level.

Ascending Athlete #6: Nate Furman

January 19th, 2010

I’ve started a series called “Ascending Athletes”, which features people achieving great things in their lives and/or impacting the lives of others through athletics. I’m featuring athletes of all backgrounds, sports and skill levels. Everyone has a story to tell– whether a recreational or beginner just starting to work out or a hardcore athlete who is competing at an elite level. The goal of the Ascending Athlete series is to capture these stories and inspire others to seek similar challenges and rewards. If you would like to share your story or would like to nominate someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know. For more information about Ascend Sports Conditioning, visit our website.

Nate is his favorite place in the world- hanging mountainside.

Nate in his favorite place in the world- hanging mountainside.

Nate Furman

Adventure is a way of thinking and a state of mind. It’s about leaving your cell phone behind, loading up your pack and heading out in the wilderness for mental and physical challenges and an opportunity to connect with the outdoors and share those experiences with others. It’s also about keeping that magic connection alive and well in your everyday, “real” life upon your return from your adventure. Very few people have the opportunity to make adventure their life pursuit. Nate Furman is one of those people. Nate is a Professor at Green Mountain College in Vermont where he teaches outdoor education and actively pursues his own outdoor adventures. I met Nate through ASC, when he reached out to me to help him take his performance to the next level and to make some of his athletic goals a reality. Nate is one of those athletes you just sit back and say “wow” to what he’s accomplished already and what he hopes to do. From competitive mountain biker to hardcore climber to passionate educator who inspires others, Nate epitomizes adventure and what it means to be an Ascending Athlete.

Nate was kind enough to answer a few questions and help explain what makes him an Ascending Athlete:

Why are athletics important to you?

Because doing stuff outside is awesome!!!!! Athletics are one of the few things that combine challenge with bliss. I mean, my work is challenging but only rarely is it blissful. Visiting my family out in California is awesome, but as long as we don’t talk politics it’s not that challenging. Athletics, on the other hand, is right on the intersection of joy and challenge. It’s so much fun and it’s so hard. Athletics have been a place where I’ve been able to establish relationships, and maintain those relationships meaningfully. For me, the social circle gained through athletic participation has always been the most important social circle I’m involved in. It’s the place that inspires me to challenge myself.

In addition, the memories I have of athletics are etched into my brain so much deeper than other memories. I can barely remember the time I graduated college despite the pomp and circumstance. But I can easily recall any of the mountain bike races I’ve ever competed in; how I was feeling, what place I came in, who I competed with, etc.

So for me, getting the best out of life means getting after it through athletic pursuit…and probably not on a treadmill.

What sports do you participate in?
My favorite place on the planet is hanging from a hand jam, looking up at the sky and then the glacier below. I’m fairly addicted to rock climbing; mountaineering and ice climbing are pretty fun, too. The adventure and camaraderie that’s in it is just so much fun.

Climbing expeditions have taken me to Alaska, Peru, Canada, Greenland, Chile, Argentina, and now Vermont! Climbing is a great way to see the world; you get to meet people who are incredibly passionate and about the same thing that you are, and often become instant friends despite language barriers. I’ve climbed with Germans, Japanese, Brazilians, French, Swedes, Peruvians, Chileans, Argentineans, Indians, Thai, Nepalese, Australians, and some folks from a small island off the coast of Europe…I think they call themselves British. The opportunity to share stories (if we can communicate) or just each other’s company is a wonderful way to experience people from different cultures.

I dabble in a bunch of different sports. I was a fairly competent cyclist back-in-the-day, and still love to go for long rides with my wife, either on roads or trails. We participate in races from time to time, most recently the Hampshire 100. I tend to participate in activities that my friends like, so depending on the day and the partner, that might be skiing, running, or kayaking.

What is your major athletic goal(s)and/or events you are participating in this year (2010)? Why have you chosen this goal(s)?

I’m hoping to pass the AMGA Rock Guide Exam in Red Rocks this April. It’s a five day test where examiners assess your technical guiding abilities. I hope that I can get in good enough shape so that the physical challenge isn’t all that challenging.

I’m toying with the idea of doing a triathlon in the Fall. We’ll see what Gary thinks.

But mostly, what I really hope to accomplish, is to climb the Nose on El Capitan (VI, 5.10, C2) and the Regular Northwest Face route on Half Dome (VI, 5.10, C1) in a day in June of 2011. I love climbing long, classic routes, and enjoy doing them in a day. It’s so much fun stepping up to a long route with some water, some food, a rain jacket, climbing gear, and going for it.

I need to get a lot better to have a shot at this!

What are some future goals and events you’d like to participate in?
There are so many things that I want to see and travel to. Right now I’m dabbling with the idea of a ski tour across Greenland, and maybe a bike tour circumnavigating Iceland. I’ll be headed to Alaska in June and the Bugaboos in July, and can’t wait to get on some of the long granite routes that are up there.

What impact has your athletics had on the lives of others?

My relationship with my wife is blessed with time together being active. She loves to run and ski and bike, and she’ll tolerate a little climbing from time to time. The ability to have adventures with her is the highlight of my life. As I write this I’m in Salt Lake City and I can’t wait to get out to Vermont so we can go skiing together.

Nate thinking big

Name one interesting fact or story that makes you unique and interesting.

My career has always revolved around sharing the outdoors with others. I just completed my PhD at the University of Utah, and am now working as faculty at Green Mountain College. I get to continue sharing the outdoors with undergraduate students, as my job allows me the opportunity to teach future outdoor leaders in the Adventure Education program. It’s a beautiful career, and I’m blessed to have it.

And I have six toes on one foot!

Thanks to Nate for sharing his story and for inspiring others to improve their health & well-being while helping others in the process– he truly is an Ascending Athlete!

To learn more about Ascend Sports Conditioning, our mission, focus and dedication to helping people ascend to new levels through athletics, please visit www.ascendsportsconditioning.com

Five Things to Do to Get the Most Out of Your Ice Climbing Season

December 21st, 2009

ice climberFinally, we’ve gotten enough cold temperatures so that ice can finally form here in New England, and we can at long last start giving serious attention to the ice climbing season. Every year the season flies by (it’s only about 12 weeks long– at least here in New England), so making the most of the time is key. Here are five things to do to get the most out of your season:

  • Climb with a plan- Most climbers I know are recreational climbers and just head out on the weekend with no real plan. They’ve probably mapped out a climb or two they’d like to do, but that’s about as far as they’ve taken it. That’s great if you’re content being recreational climber, but if you’re looking to improve over what you did last climbing season or even in the course of the current season,you need climb with a plan. View the ice climbing season as a ‘season within a season’ and plan out specific climbs you’d like to send, then break down the season week by week to progressively build up your workout schedule and skills to achieve those goals. Periodization applies to climbers, just as it does to triathletes or other endurance athletes.
  • Work on your weaknesses- Often times we’re content just to climb and stick with what we’re good at. You could have the best swing in the world, getting sticks every time with you tools, but when it comes to landing solid feet, you’re just not quite there yet. Take the time to work on your specific weaknesses, perhaps for a set period of time while you’re out climbing. If you don’t, you’re weaknesses will remain weaknesses.
  • Learn a new skill- Set a goal to learn at least one new snow or ice skill that will serve you well with the type of climbing you like to do. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive skill set that requires a multi-day class (although doing so is great)– it could be a small skill; something that will add tools to your tool box for the type of climbing you like to do. For instance, if you’re into alpine climbing and you’ve never learned how to build a V-thread, set some time aside to do so.
  • Explore a new area- No matter how long you’ve been climbing, there’s always someplace new to explore. I’m not necessarily talking about some far away place, but rather right in your backyard. For instance, if you live in New England, there are hundreds of ice climbing routes in a several different areas, each offering their own challenges and little slices of beautiful terrain. Pick one that you’ve never been to before, and go check it out.
  • Connect with the climbing community- One of the best parts of participating in sports is the enjoyment of doing it with others. It motivates you and gives you people to share learning and experiences with. Climbing is no exception to this, with a vibrant community. One of the unique challenges of climbing is that it requires partners to do (unless you’re a solo climber, in which case think you have other things on your mind), and staying tied into that community so you have climbing partners is key. I’m a huge fan of online networking to link up with folks, but nothing can beat being face to face. A great place to do this (and knock off one or more of the other items I’ve outlined) is at an ice climbing festival. Whether it’s the Mount Washington Ice Festival, Ouray Ice Festival, Festiglace du Quebec, or numerous other festivals around the northeast or the US, make it part of your plan to meet at least one new partner.

Enjoy the winter & take advantage of the ice while it’s here!

Spring Conditions

March 12th, 2009

Springtime hit northern New England this past weekend, with highs soaring into the upper 40s. It made for some prime ice climbing at the Flume in Franconia Notch, NH. The ice was really wet and plastic-like, thus making the routes much easier than normal. My friend and fellow climber, Mike Coote and I did laps up several routes in the Flume. Here’s a few videos of the conditions.

We also ran into Susanne and Connie from NEMO Equipment as they were climbing.

I’m not envisioning this being the end of the ice climbing season 2009 quite yet. Certainly with the warm temps, we’ve seen things come down in the valleys, but in the ravines it should still be quite good for some time.

Cross-country skiing, however is another story…..Skiing was not great on Sunday at Bretton Woods, but nonetheless it was great to get out and get the HR up. It was also good to get Mike Coote skate skiing for the first time!

Take advantage of the spring conditions. This time of year is fantastic with the warmer temps and longer days with more sunlight so you can stay out longer. Most of us are eager to whip out our bikes and get ready for the cycling and tri season (which you should be doing anyway!), but don’t miss the opportunity to get out and take advantage of the conditions in March and April in the mountains.