Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Finding Motivation in Weakness and Inspiration in Success


Since David and I met more than four years ago in Spain, our life has been a blur of extended climbing trips in the US and Europe, interrupted by bouts of seasonal work—in large part because our international relationship required frequent border crossings such that neither of us overstayed our visas in the other’s respective home continents.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ligaments and Lacrimation

So, I hurt my ankle. Nothing heinous, just a sprain.

The offending ankle
Last week, as is now becoming tradition, I foreran for ABS Nationals. As an integral part of the setting team (actually this is something of a falsehood, I've just got them convinced I'm an important part), I'm expected to take repeated and semi-controlled falls from the top of the bouldering wall. Being on the setting crew for a competition is a prime place to hurt oneself. There are no warmups, sometimes tweaky moves, and ladders and tools everywhere. Not that that has anything to do with the story of the ankle injury though, that's just an anecdote to impress upon you how cool I am. I hurt myself in a far less 'extreme' manner, and without an entertaining story. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How a Race Can be Two-Sided...

Coming around the corner 1 mile in putting myself in USA Team contention.
Well the USA Snowshoe Nationals have concluded and I am left with a bitter sweet ending to an interesting snowshoe running season.  I had the chance to run two races this year the Cockadoodle Shoe and the Highland Forest 10k before Nationals in Bennington.  I felt like my form all year was ready to challenge a tough field and show that I can run with the best.  What I found out was that on a bad day  I could still manage a decent performance after mentally being pretty disappointed.

Monday, April 7, 2014

2014 Ice Fest Wrap Up

Jared Drapala & Adam Butterfield: Mammut NA love!
"And do you ever sleep?" asked Megan Davin, one of Mammut's Customer Service Representatives.  I had been explaining that I was headed to one more ice festival, number five this season, for four days. The Northeast ice season has pretty much come to an end, but the beginning winter months of traveling, competing, guiding, repping, and being around my favorite people have been one fantastic whirlwind.

Ice climbing is not going to change the world. But in my clinics over the 5 ice fests, I had a neurologist, a classical pianist, EMTs, professors, students, an astrophysicist, and other amazing minds. Putting a smile on these faces- people who may just save the world- is my goal for every clinic. Teaching, explaining, encouraging, and smiling. I'd like to think I hit 64/64, and I have a lot of photos to back that up!


Bozeman Ice Fest

In December I traveled to Bozeman, MT for their 17th annual Bozeman Ice Fest, and my husband Steve was able to join due to the low snow start (i.e. no ski guiding) to our winter in VT. Bozeman is one of my favorite places, and I was excited to be seeing and staying with some very good friends- Andrew, Alanah, Calder, and their three dogs, horse, and chickens. A proper farm right outside of town! Andrew had been a good friend in Vermont, and it was great to see him and climb again. We tore up some classic climbs in Hyalite- Horsetail Falls, The Scepter, Thrill is Gone, The Elevator Shaft and more... lots of great climbing.

To  kick off the festival, I taught a Women's Steep Ice Clinic with Majka Burhardt during Friday's "Women's Only" clinic day; a festival worker at one point commented that we had 40 women in various clinics out at the Genesis 2 area! We all did a bit of cross-instructing-- I helped one of of Ines Papert's participants on a mixed route understand what a dihedral was when Ines was at a lack for the English words. "That tiny corner right there!"


Some of my awesome BIF participants during the "Women's Only" day
I had also applied to compete in the BIF's mixed climbing competition this season. The UIAA North American Championships started off with two qualifying routes. On these routes, I felt strong, but not fast enough! I call myself a slow and precise climber, so my goal for future climbing- in the competition realm anyway- is to increase speed without losing precision. I was, however, having the most fun, evidence that photographer Rafal Andronowski captured of my ridiculous smile on not one but both qualifying routes. I didn't make it to finals, but got to watch the best climbers in the world in stellar performances.



Ouray Ice Fest

On to Ouray, CO for the 19th annual Ouray Ice Festival. Last year I was the total new kid in town, and this year was much less scary, knowing where the important things were (ahem, Wiesbaden Hot Springs) and generally how to get around. I brought two friends from Vermont, Kate and Brittany, the first trip to Colorado for both of them. They could handle climbing in the Ice Park themselves, but I was psyched to show them some backcountry "wild ice" and get high off the ground.

This multi-pitch day ended up having to be our first day on ice, as it looked like a storm was rolling in, and I wasn't sure how the roads through Red Mountain Pass would be to Silverton (about a week later, a giant rock slide took out the road). Monday: 200 feet above sea level in Burlington, VT. Tuesday: 10,000 feet at the base of our climb, Stairway to Heaven. The ice was in good shape and we moved efficiently up 5 pitches. When we reassessed, we could all feel that "hey! welcome to altitude" fuzziness in our eyes and snow was rolling in, so we started descending and looked forward to getting back to Ouray for dinner. It was so much fun to be out with these two, and I'm so proud that they decided to continue their learning and do a rescue seminar with San Juan Mountain Guides during the Ice Fest.

Kate and Brittany at a rap station after a great time on Stairway to Heaven
The weekend of the Ouray Elite Mixed Competition had come, and I had no excuses this year: it was 40 degrees and sunny, I wasn't climbing first, and I had previous knowledge of the route; however, I ended up popping off of Mighty Aphrodite about half way up the rock route. I was very frustrated with myself, but I was lucky to have a couple things to get me out of my funk and smiling again: a crew of friends with my name painted on their chests- the best cheering section EVER- and a really awesome group for a Women's Moderate Mixed Climbing Clinic. At the end of the festival, Dawn Glanc told me to come back next year, and I have a feeling that it's best when you do what you're told by Dawn.

The best cheering section in the history of the Ouray Elite Mixed Comp? (When they turn around Andrea is spelled correctly!)
Starting up the route, photo by Dean Lords
Women's Mixed Clinic in the Lower Scottish Gullies

Adirondack Mountainfest

Kate, Brittany and I flew back to Burlington VT, and the following weekend I filled in for Emilie Drinkwater during The Adirondack Mountainfest, in its 18th year. This was my first time at this ice festival, and it was so nice to be so close to home- only an hour 45 minute drive! I'm impressed by how well the organizers take care of their guides and vendors- they put me and my assistant that I had brought over from VT, Izzy Lazarus, up in one of the nicest rooms at Adirondack Rock & River, the central event venue, fed us 3 meals a day, and there was plenty of beer and Jagermeister to go around! We had two awesome women's ice clinics, and I think I won folks over enough to not just be a sub but to come back and teach my own clinic next year :)
Women's Intermediate-Advanced Clinic- we got to do some mixed climbing!


Smuggs Ice Bash

The week after Mountainfest required planning last minute details for VT's Smuggs Ice Bash: lights for the drytooling competition, t-shirt pickup, final emails to vendors, guides and volunteers, and much more... Right now we (Petra Cliffs, the climbing gym that I co-own with my husband Steve) host the only drytooling competition on the East Coast, and we had an awesome showing of competitors this year! Mammut helped athlete Whit Magro travel from MT to compete (and WIN!) and teach, Will Mayo put on an epic shirtless performance, Lindsay Fixmer had a guest appearance, and many of our local East Coasters went big for the crowd.


For the past number of years during the Smuggs Ice Bash, we have offered a free women's ice clinic. We began this offering when we were having trouble recruiting new female climbers, and now the waiting list is three times as long as the participant list. We're thankful to NEice for sponsoring this clinic, and putting smiles on so many faces! We are also very lucky to have Tim Farr taking on the majority of planning this year, and from what we're hearing from people who were involved, they want even more next year. It's very exciting to be a youngster in the ice festival world - only 8 years old- with so much potential and so many supporters already.
There are times to be serious... and then there's the rest of the time.

Mt. Washington Valley Ice Fest

I finished out the festival circuit with the Mount Washington Ice Fest, its 21st year. MWV does a phenomenal job organizing, and they completely won me over with a free taco truck after guiding days.

I had a busy weekend of handing out demo gear for Mammut, teaching clinics, and getting to climb a little for myself. I taught a mixed climbing clinic with Bayard Russell, and a familiar face from the Smuggs Ice Bash, Zack Sawyer, had signed up for this clinic. This Georgetown student is really inspiring to me- his Instagram name is zackalwayspsyched - and he always tries so hard and always has a giant smile on his face. I also taught an "Intro to Ice for Rock Climbers" clinic with Carlos Buhler, and we created some new excited ice climbers.

Mixed Climbing Clinic co-taught with Bayard Russell, Trollville NH
Intro to Ice for Rock Climbers, co-taught with Carlos Buhler, Frankenstein NH

On Sunday I was going to casually wake up and mayyyybe climb something, maybe take a nap... I blinked and I found myself at the base of Remission (M6 WI 5+) on Cathedral Ledge with Alden Pellett and Glen Griscom from Camp/Cassin. I led the rock start and the classic steep column in the most beautiful NH weather- sunny, warm, windless- and I definitely wouldn't have traded that day with those two for a nap in even the most comfortable bed.
Photos courtesy of Courtney Ley/Doug Millen, NEice.com
Starting up the steep column

Home

I had gotten a bit homesick and missed climbing in Vermont, and it feels good to be home. I'm thankful for all of the opportunities I had this season to teach, represent Mammut, meet so many amazing people, and climb in some of the best venues in the world. Many thanks to my husband Steve too, for being so patient with me being gone so much.  Next up: a Utah climbing Spring Break trip with Boston College!
Me and Megan Davin, Mammut Customer Service Rep
at the Smuggs Ice Bash

Doug Shepherd & me hugging our good friend Stampy

Me, Dean Lords & Pete Davis psyched for sun in Ouray
Smile! -- Andrea Charest

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

St. George, UT

I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves in this one. The pictures are of The Black and Tan wall and our awesome camping spot. We are on our way to some sketchy motel for a shower and mimosas by the pool. More to come.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Polar Vortex brings on a Phat Ice Climbing Season.

You may have heard about the Polar Vortex.  

What is it exactly? The polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near Baffin Islands which pumps cold arctic air down into the central and northeastern sections of Canada and the US. To many this weather pattern is only a nuisance with the extreme cold mornings, long term icy roads and walkways, and transportation delays. To the ice climber and winter mountaineer the polar vortex is welcomed.

Winters in the northeast can be fickle and the ice climbs come in and out of shape. This leaves climbers guessing at the weekends route or activity. This season Phat Ice climbs are abundant  - no guessing needed - but a hearty New England attitude has been a must. To be out for the day in extreme cold you must be equipped with the right gear and clothing. Mammut comes into play right here - as the finest supplier of ice climbing and mountaineering clothing and products.

Now we are in mid march and ice and winter climbing interests can be waning for some - for the other full on addicts fantastic ice conditions can be found in many areas for some time to come. Enjoy!!!

Emmett taking on a serious look - this is ice climbing!!!