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It’s January and it’s cold. January also happens to be the month of ice festivals. The first weekend I was in Ouray (pronounced “you’re Ray”), Colorado and the second weekend I was in Keene (pronounced with a silent e at the end), New York for the 13th annual Mountain Fest. Nestled in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks, Keene is a small town of 600 people. In this quaint New England town is one our nation’s premier specialty outdoor retailers, The Mountaineer. The successful shop sells a full line of gear, books, instruments and clothing for exploring the 3 million forested acres of the Adirondacks.

Most towns of 600 struggle to keep a coffee shop and a general store open. Few, and I mean very few, support a shop the quality of Vinnie’s. How do they do it? Location, location and location. The surrounding mountains are home to top-drawer granite cliffs, steep ski runs and picturesque rivers & lakes. The climbing is world class yet a bit of a secret. The summer crags are tucked in the forest, hidden gems awaiting climbers with a draw to explore. In the winter these same crags, particularly the seepy and wet ones, transform to an ice climber’s paradise.

Jenni, Sam & Isaac joined me, courtesy of the mileage program, for the weekend. Jenni and Alex had visited the Adirondacks ten and a half years before in summer with the three boys in summer. Alex raved about the quality of the winter climbing and Jenni wanted to revisit the region in winter. So here we were.

The temps dropped down to a finger numbing -20 on Friday. After a lap on the ultra classic Chouinard Route at Chapel Pond we drove up to Lake Placid, site of the 1980 winter Olympics. Our goal: ride the bobsled. Aside from a few sled runs on Pete’s Hill in Bozeman, none of us had ridden a bonafide high speed g force genratin’ sled run. The curves were vertically embanked and pretty amazing when it we finally got he momentum up. Being one with a pretty high adrenal threshold the tourist version was over far too quick. The one-mile track on a two person bob … that is my next goal.

Sam is 16, a junior in high school and well tuned into what is cool. Indy bands are the music of his choice. Indy being independent. When chilling with Freddie Wilkinson, a New Hampshire alpinist of the sub 30 set, Sam came back with some new appreciation for the sport of gravity.

Climbing is totally indy. You can’t watch it, it isn’t mainstream and climbers sit around talking with each other about hard moves, stopper sequences and the satisfaction of suffering. You live in the moment and have to experience it first hand.

My Intermediate / advanced class at the Positive Reinforcement ice climb in Keene, New York. The fellow on the far right is Gandalf.


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