Monday, October 28, 2013

Notes from the Field: Rhode Island with Ben Rosbrook.

First morning out.
Hey y'all! This is Ben Rosbrook, third-year SMC student and WP instructor.
As the water gets colder in Vermont, we just go to the coast. Last long weekend (18-22 October), folks from the paddling crew went down to the Westport, MA area for some lessons in surf kayaking from Todd Wright, and the paddling Gurus of the Osprey Sea Kayaking Adventures board and boat shop. We got there Friday evening, and stayed the weekend at a campsite just up the road from Osprey.
By far, the best waves of the weekend were on Saturday, our first day out in the field. Carl (from Osprey) and Todd went over some key surfing principles on land, but other than that we wasted no time getting in the surf. I was in a sit-on-top boat most of the day, but tried surfing a triple-six until--after a few failed rolls--I switched back to a more stable boat. I definitely need to get back in the pool to work on rolling the boat, soon. That first day, we learned about surf etiquette, how to search for good waves, and how to catch a wave, ride it, and peel off of it. At the end of the day, it was safe to say we were pooped.

Sunday, unfortunately, was more lacking in surfability. After trying a few spots to no avail, we turned back to the boat shop and hopped on stand-up paddle (SUP) boards on the river by the shop. For some people, including myself, it was our first time on a SUP board. Carl gave us a brief overview of how to maneuver the boards on the river, and we spent the middle chunk of the day and afternoon touring down the river and back to the shop--playing with balance and spacial awareness on the way (capsizing one another). In spite of the lack of waves, we managed to make a fun day out of the still weather. After we had dinner back at the campsite, we went to explore a local beach with our headlamps--it's funny how empty beaches are at this time of year.
Instructor-in-training Peter catching some wave.
Monday wasn't huge in terms of surfability either, but we managed to get out to the same spot we were in on Saturday. We had the whole beach to ourselves, whereas we had been sharing it on Saturday--which made it easier to catch the few waves that were rolling in. By the end of this day, we were becoming more proficient at spotting good waves and knowing proper surf etiquette. Not to mention there was beautiful weather, which made hanging out and catching waves significantly more enjoyable. We surfed our faces off and, at the end of the day, I certainly felt ready to curl up in a warm sleeping bag and pass out.

Tuesday morning we packed up to head back to Saint Mike's, but before leaving we stopped for a quick breakfast with Carl and Sam from Osprey. I got pumpkin pancakes, and our waitress started a round of "Happy Birthday" and brought me a blueberry muffin when she heard it was my birthday on Monday. Not a bad way to wrap up a long weekend away.

A huge thanks to the folks at the Osprey Sea Kayaking Adventures shop--you made our weekend solid!

Signing out,

Ben R. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rocktober in Smugglers Notch

                  Since he started at Saint Michael's College in 2010, Taylor Luneau has been pestering me to go rock climbing in Smugglers Notch.  Taylor came to St. Mikes with a strong athletic background, but little climbing exposure and yet wanted to tackle longer, harder routes that require solid technique and protection abilities.  I recollect spending many days trying to channel his enthusiasm into more realistic short term goals.  By the end of his first summer he was confidently leading easy climbs placing his own traditional protection.  Within the next year he was ready to take his American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructor Course, and at the start of his junior year he passed the AMGA SPI exam and moved into the ranks of our lead climbing instructors.  During that time his ability and confidence have matured together. 

                  On Friday, October 11th, we finally got to climb together in the Notch.  Despite having to be back at campus for class by noon, Taylor was fired up to meet at 7 am and jump on a 5.8 climb called “The Diagonal” and try one of the just barely established third pitch finishes.  As I belayed him leading while the sun began to peek over the ridge behind us, I had the time to reflect on the changes that a few short years bring.  Therein lays the nature and the paradox of what we do here at the Wilderness Program.  We love having students that come to us full of passion and drive for a sport, but often have to pull the reins back on them as they are often true novices inspired by what they have seen or read and the exposure that they have had.  Through focused training and mentoring, their skills often develop quickly, although experience still lags due to the time constraints that all students face.  Finally, they are graduating, and we hope that they have not lost the passion that they brought to us, but that we have tempered their drive with the skills they will need to continue pursuing their endeavors safely.  Needless to say, Taylor did a brilliant job leading all three pitches, the sun came out, and of course the ropes got tangled around 2 trees on our rappel.  Another beautiful day spent in the mountains with an exceptional student. 

Taylor starting The Diagonal 

Taylor moving through the crux moves on The Diagonal 

Leading the 3rd pitch of The Diagonal Left finish

Finishing moves on the 3rd pitch