Monday, September 12, 2011

Remember When We Used to Go Rock Climbing...?

Fall is one of my favorite seasons.  It has perfect temperatures, the trees are nice to look at, the breeze is perfect, and I actually have some downtime to climb.  As I sit in the climbing shop in Bar Harbor, I look forward to my first afternoon off in a few months.  The idea of rock climbing excites me more then I can describe here.

On days like these all I can do is reflect on how amazing my life has been so far, and in no small part because of rock climbing.  Now don't get me wrong, rock climbing is a fun activity (dare I say sport?).  But what rock climbing has taught me, where it has taken me and the people I have met through it far out-weigh the simple act of grabbing a rock and pulling on it. 

Some of my best friends are people who I have met rock climbing.  My first two climbing mentors, Ivan and Josh, are still to this day two people that I would drop anything to be around.  The adventures and "Oh $#@T" moments with them helped cement my love of this sport.  My fellow guides can all recount their own experiences with their mentors. 

Beyond recreational climbing I have found my way to yet another brotherhood; guiding.  The guides I have met in my short three year career have all left a profound impression on me.  I learned what it meant to be a professional, no matter what your employment.  My mentors, Silas, Jon and Ian, have all taught me what it means to be a guide.  I am constantly learning new skills, ways of teaching, patience and gaining confidence to go anywhere and do anything. 

Today, I'm not here to sell anything or promote a business.  I am here to express my deep appreciation of those who have brought me to where I am, and brought rock climbing to where it is.  My mentors, my friends, my fellow guides and all the professional rock climbers (new and old) have all helped shape my perception of life.  Seeing the extremes to which the human mind and body can be taken is indeed amazing.  More so, the humility that accompanies many life-time rock climbers makes me proud to be counted among them.

Alright! Enough gushiness.  Here are some rock/ice climbing photos:

Triassic Sands Red Rocks, NV.

Iron Messiah Zion National Park, UT.

Jeff Slide Smuggler's Notch, VT.

Mixed Climbing at Toko Crag, NH.

Looking toward Denver Eldorado Canyon, CO.

"Beach Muscles" Kirk on top of the Red Garden Wall, Eldorado Canyon, CO.
Last pitch on Armadillo Katahdin, ME.

Emigrant Crack Acadia National Park, ME.
Get psyched for FALL folks!

Try Hard,
Ande Kahora

Thursday, September 8, 2011

AMG Guides Do New York!

A few weeks ago, Adam Butterfield and Ande Kahora were fortunate to be part of the University of Vermont's Climbing TREK program.  The UVM Outing Club takes incoming freshman and sends them to various locations in the area to get first hand experience hiking, climbing, biking and paddling.  It is a great opportunity to get to know the areas vast diversity of outdoor pursuits.

As guides, Adam and Ande were charged with showing the new students around the cliffs of the Adirondack High Peaks of New York.  As fellow UVM students Adam and Ande have spent a great deal of time in the Adirondacks lifetime supply of rocky crags.

Some of the students had been rock climbing since a young age, and some had never touched rock before.  We visited many spots known for their varied terrain and get setting.  Mackenzie Pond boulders, the Beer Walls, Deadwater, Bark Eaters, Jewels and Gems are just a few placed the students climbed.  This just scratches the surface but does give them a great taste of what is out there.

UVM Student at Bark Eaters, NY
 Beyond the climbing, Adam and Ande decided it would be a great chance to make some TREK history and create a Tyrolean Traverse at our campsite in Wilmington Notch.  The two guides scouted an area where they could create a 90ft. traverse over the most pronounced rapids of a close by river.  Many of the students had never done a traverse like this before.  Some were excited while others had a few more trepidations.  Mostly all the students made the journey across and back.  It was definitely a memorable experience for all!

UVM student dangles above the raging river.

Monday, August 29, 2011

No Body Does a Hurricane like New Jersey Does a Hurricane!

Acadia Mountain guides is in Princeton, NJ this weekend facilitating a Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA) course!  That's right, hurricane or no hurricane you cannot stop the PCIA from training new guides in the way of the rope...

After two days of serious weather the PCIA Base Managed Top Rope Sight Manager Course pushes on.  This course focuses on skills needed to set up top-rope climbs that are managed from below, and facilitate student involvement with belay techniques, rescue skills and team building initiatives.  This is the second step of curriculum to gaining certification through the PCIA. 

For more information on the PCIA visit: Professional Climbing Instructors Association or Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School

Skies may crack and rivers may swell, but there is no stopping the citizens of Princeton!

Wish us all luck and a safe return to Maine.

Ande Kahora

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Only Downtime You Get...

Well once again it is raining here in Bar Harbor.  It seems the only time one can find to sit down and type is on a rainy day.

It has been a busy few weeks here on the island as Acadia Mountain Guides wrapped up our 2011 Summer Climbing Camps.  Additionally, we have entered into the beginning of August, which tends to be our busiest time of summer.  Everyone is trying to get in their last minute vacations before school and work start up again!

Our Rock Pro 4 camp spent the last week learning how to lead climb on traditional gear.  Many of our campers come with little or no experience with traditional climbing, but by the end of the week they are crushing it!  Traditional climbing combines the mental pressure of finding your route and placing good gear with the physical pressure of pushing what your body can handle.  It is an amazing mix of skills with incredible pay-offs!

Our regular guiding season has been chock full of people looking to taste the unique climbing around Acadia National Park.  Regular people are pushing their physical and mental boundaries on the rocky terrain of the islands coast.  Some people experience the thrill of leaning backwards over a 60ft cliff as they start their first ever rappel.  Other people experience the nervous unknown of stepping up to their first 5.10!

The climbing season here in Acadia is beginning to wind down.  If you haven't made it out to visit and go climbing yet, do it soon!  September is the best time of the year to climb in Acadia.  No crowds, perfect temps, solid rock and great times await all you would-be climbing animals!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

When It Rains It Pours!

If it's not rain, it's heat.  If it's not heat, it's people.  When Bar Harbor is in full swing you can always bet on a ton of something!

It has been awhile since our last posting...but for good reason.  Acadia Mountain Guides (AMG) is blowing up!  Our guides have been working tirelessly to get people out on their first or latest climbing trips in Acadia and all over the North East.  It has been hard to catch your breath these days.

Acadia Mountain Guides offers Half Day (4hrs) and Full Day (8hrs) trips into Acadia National Park on a daily basis.  Visitors to Bar Harbor have been taking full advantage of our beautiful island and park all summer long.

Climbing Wonder Wall at Otter Cliffs

Not only daily trips, but AMG offers week long camps for kids starting at the age of six.  Our camps primarily focus on rock climbing but also provide campers with exciting adventures like rafting, camping, hiking, swimming and sometimes GO-KARTS!  With all this excitement it's no wonder we have so many return campers every year.

Campers showing AMG pride at Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park, ME

As the summer days roll on think about booking your next trip.  September is right around the corner and is, in one guides opinion, the best time of the summer to go out climbing.  There are no people.  The weather is cool.  Lastly, there is little to no traffic in town.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Ande Kahora

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tayloe and John's Excellent Adventure!

A tremendous break in the weather was celebrated yesterday with a full day of climbing with Tayloe and John.  Tayloe (like J-lo!) is a surf instructor from California and John Irishman.  They have been up in Maine visiting for a few weeks.  Like most folks who come to MDI and climb, they decided they needed to check out the cliffs in Acadia National Park.  And what better way then to have your own private tour guide?!

Now, Tayloe has a bit of outdoor sport climbing experience and John is relatively new to outdoor climbing.  That being said both of these would-be Canadians could crush and it made for great exposure to some of the best climbs on the South Wall of Champlain Mountain!

We started out warming up at the Central Slabs area on Wafer Step and Recollections of Pacifica.  These two climbs are great introductions to the cliff.  Slabby, footwork specific routes that really help one learn about friction and granite!  After the warm-up we got right after it and headed over to the main section of the cliff.

View from atop Story of O on the South Wall
There are a few climbs that are required of all climbers to complete when they come to the park.  Story of O is one of the best three pitch climbs the island has to offer.  It is awesome!  One pitch of easy gully climbing, followed by one of the best 5.6 corners in the east.  The last pitch is a "ski track" system of parallel hand cracks that lead into a huge hallway, then onto a big ledge with an amazing view.

From the top of Story of O, Tayloe and John were able to grapple some other classics on the cliff.  The two pitch Gunklandia has a great upper pitch.  Stem, squeeze and grunt your way up the awkward chimney/corner through a bulge to the anchors.

Our next stop on the cliff was a route called Return to Forever.  Imagine if you will a corner.  This corner is unlike anything you have ever seen.  Slippery feet, holds large enough for only the tips of ones fingers, a rusty piton and a "praise jah" hold finish help to outline one stellar pitch of 5.9.

Tayloe finding her own way up Return to Forever.
John feeling the pump with a power lay back on Return to Forever.
After two short rappels to the ground we were in the car and off to Otter Cliffs.  The day was winding down but the sun was still out.  After a relaxing lunch of humus and carrots, apples and scones we were off to finish up our day with a bang.

Tayloe and John floated Easy Corner.  They hiked The Flake.  They were in need of a serious challenge.  Luckily, Adair by the Sea was two climbs over.  A tips crack and steep jug haul, Adair by the Sea is one of the most fun 5.10s at Otter Cliffs.  Tayloe gave it all she had and put in a great effort.  John decided to save it for another day.

It was a great time climbing with Tayloe and John and I look forward to getting out with them again.  When you combine the South Wall and Otter Cliffs, there is a lifetime of amazing climbs to do.

Thanks again guys!

Until next time...Climb Hard and have FUN!

Ande Kahora

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Soñando de Mexico

El Toro.  The summit marks the top of Time Wave Zero 5.12.
Sitting in the guide shop taking inventory of all the wet, cold gear hanging all over the room, I can't help be allow my mind to drift to WARMER days.  Days filled with DRY desert air in the beautiful town of Hidalgo, Mexico.

AMG Guide Ande Kahora atop Time Wave Zero (5.12)
 This past winter I was lucky enough to spend three months in El Potrero Chico climbing endless limestone cliffs.  Located 40 minutes from the large city of Monterrey, Potrero has become an international destination for aspiring multi-pitch climbers.  It is a vast limestone sport climbing paradise with the second longest sport climb in the world: TIME WAVE ZERO, clocking in at approximately 2300ft high with a difficulty rating of 5.12.  That's 23 pitches of clipping bolts!

 If multi-pitch climbing isn't your thing then try the thousands of single pitch routes.  Whether you are psyched on slab, vertical techy edging or thuggish overhanging jug hauls, Potrero has what you need.  One can go to a different spot everyday for weeks and still not touch it all.  All approaches are between 5 to 20 minutes.  It is truly a sport climbing paradise.

AMG Guide Ande Kahora gunning for a red point on Guppy (5.12), Surf Bowl.
AMG Guide Ande Kahora shaking out before the business on Don Quixote (5.11), Virgin Canyon.
Acadia Mountain Guides will be traveling to Mexico in the winter of 2012.  El Potrero Chico is one of the destinations we will be guiding.  We are currently accepting enrollments on a regular basis and hope to be filled out by the fall.  As you sit and watch the rain today, dream about clipping bolts and long warm days climbing in Mexico.  And be sure to call Acadia Mountain Guides at 207 288 8186 when you are ready for your Mexican adventure.

AMG Guide Ian Kirk descending the Crescent Moon Buttress.

 See you on the TOP!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hello June, So Good to See You Again!

Holy Cow, it's been a few days since our last installment!  We have been really busy here at Acadia Mountain Guides.  Our guides have been showing clients a good time hanging off the end of a rope, and we just completed a Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA) Top Rope Site Manager and Single Pitch Instructor course.  The season has begun and we here at AMG are psyched for a great summer. 

Every June AMG provides a PCIA Top Rope Site Manager and Single Pitch Instructor course.  The purpose of the courses is to teach new methods of rock climbing instruction and solidify existing skills.

At four days long, this course starts at the basics.  What is a belay device, what is a rope, what is a harness?  Now, most climbers new and old can answer at least one of these questions.  The idea is to start simple.  Most climbers know what a belay device is, but could most climbers effectively teach a person what a belay device is and how to properly use it?  Maybe.

Look at all the different belay devices!  Being a good instructor means being able to explain how they are different and why you might choose one device over another.
As the course goes on we start to shift gears to understanding knots, placement of protection and the construction of climbing anchors.  Believe it or not there are only a few basic knots a climber needs to know to be proficient.  However, an instructor should know more and be able to explain how the knots are constructed.

Think about the movie Jaws.  Remember Hooper trying to tie a bowline around a barrel before Quint shoots the shark with a harpoon?  Well, if Hooper had taken a PCIA course he would have been able to tie that bowline with a bit more confidence and wouldn't have almost kill Chief Brody in the process.

 There are many different ways to tie specific knots.  What's important is the end product.  A bowline should be a bowline no matter how you decide to tie it.

So is there a difference between any of these knots?  They all look like bowlines...

Okay, so now you know some knots.  How are you going to use them to create an anchor strong enough to climb on?  What is strong enough anyway?  Should I use trees, boulders, artificial protection, or my mother-in-law's leg?  

The concept of anchor building is often times described using ACRONYMS.  You know, like SCUBA.  The most common climbing anchor acronym being SERNE.


The anchor you build should fit into each criteria.  However, the important thing to remember is that all parts of a good anchor are built on each other.  You can't limit your Extensions without thinking about Equalization.  You wouldn't have anything to Equalize without thinking about Redundancy.  

The Top Rope Site Manager course moves past anchors and next focuses on how to create your climbing systems.  You will be managing many kids, and aside from stopping them jumping into the ocean or beating on each other, you have to set up top-rope climbs that will keep them moving and happy.  The skills required to set up top-rope climbs quickly and manage the fun and safely of a large group are major focuses of PCIA courses.

Unfortunately, there is so much more to say about the PCIA course and Acadia Mountain Guides in general but, alas, there is only so much time say it.

I will leave you with this: 

If you haven't made it to Acadia National Park yet this year, get here FAST!  The weather is warm and sunny with cool ocean breezes.  The rock is dry and begging to be climbed!  Take a week off from work, finish up school and come out here!  You won't regret it!

Be sure to stop in atour Bar Harbor shop at 228 Main St. and say hello!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Short Notice...

This afternoon, as I battled my way through Bar Harbor traffic/construction (which only seems to intensify as the years go on) I was ripped from my rage-filled daze by a phone call from our General Manager/Guide, Ian.  He explained to me that someone had just arrived on the island and within minutes of finding a place to park decided to go rock climbing for the first time in his life. 

"Do you want to work this afternoon?" Ian asked me.

Would I like to be on the edge of a cliff, dangling over the ocean or stuck in Bar Harbor traffic?  I would hope the decision for most people would be easy...

An hour later and I am shaking hands with Tristan.  From Michigan, he had just arrived on the island after a short stay in Portland, ME.  We quickly got through the legal mumbo-jumbo, gathered up some gear and were in the car on our way into the park.

This time of year the park is a little slow so we had the whole one-way road to ourselves.  We drove to Otter Cliff parking lot without any hassles, and we were geared up and ready to climb in a matter of minutes.  As is common in Acadia, visitors like to look at people carrying ropes and wearing helmets as a little strange.  However, once you start rappelling over a cliffs edge their confusion turns to wonderment.  Tristan had a mixed crowd as he made is way over to the edge of the rock and began his first ever rappel!  As a guide you start to develop a sense for when people are really uncomfortable, so when I informed Tristan as to what rappelling was and how he was going to be leaning backwards over the cliff all I could do was smile and tell him not to worry because I was holding onto the rope.  Sometimes you just have to trust your guide.

After making it to the bottom of the cliff Tristan and I warmed up on a few climbs.  The goal was to familiarize him with the equipment and processes involved with climbing.

Tristan took to rock climbing like it was second nature.  Sometimes all you need is a person telling you that you're doing the right thing and just keep going.  Pretty soon we moved to rappelling over the ocean so Tristan could experience what it was like to climb with the sea splashing below you.

Tristan on his way up at South Otter Cliffs

Tristan was doing so well for his first time we decided to climb up and out of South Otter Cliffs and head over to the main event, Otter Cliffs.

Otter Cliffs is the iconic seaside cliff of Acadia National Park.  Climbers from all over the world have come to Bar Harbor just to climb here.

Tristan and I had to whole cliff to ourselves.  We chose to climb a route called IN THE GROOVE.  This is a great climb that starts from a big scoop inside the wall, and follows a crack between the main rock face and a huge flake sticking out from it.  It is definitely one of my favorites.

Tristan once again was climbing like he had been doing it for years.  Needing no guidance from me he found his way up with no problem.

Sadly, we decided to end our day there.  Tristan and his wife had one more day to spend in Acadia and I didn't want to make him too tired so he could enjoy the park tomorrow.

A good tip for Otter Cliffs for anyone thinking about traveling there this summer:

Learn to create a system that allows you to belay from the anchor rather then your waist.  If you have experience climbing multi-pitch routes this type of belay set-up can be easy.  If not, it can look a little wacky.  Here is an example:

Belaying with a Gri-Gri directly off the master point can save you a ton of grief!  If you have never seen this or done it, feel free to stop into the Acadia Mountain Guides shop at 228 Main St. in Bar Harbor, ME.  Any of our staff would be happy to explain this system.  And if that isn't enough help think about hiring a guide to take you out for the day.  Acadia Mountain Guides offers half and full day trips all summer long!  Give us a call at 207 288 8186.

Thanks again to Tristan for a great time out on the rocks today!

Ande Kahora

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In the Beginning...

Welcome to Acadia Mountain Guides!

With the start to our 2011 summer season just around the corner, we are celebrating by creating our first ever BLOG.

There is so much happening with Acadia Mountain Guides this year!  First and foremost, we have re-opened our Bar Harbor shop and we are now ready to offer folks an early chance to climb on the iconic Acadia Sea Cliffs before it gets really crowded.  We offer exciting half and full day climbing trips inside Acadia National Park.  Whether you are looking to try out rock climbing for the first time or you want to dust off the old climbing rack and get some classic pitches in, Acadia Mountain Guides can promise a memorable experience.  Please call for rates and availability, 207 288 8186.

Starting the weekend of June 3rd, Acadia Mountain Guides will be providing a four day Single Pitch & Top Rope Site Manager course for the Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA).  This course will focus on the fundamental skills of anchor building, learning how to manage a top rope climbing site from the ground and from the top of the cliff, and how these skills relate to single pitch lead climbs.  These skills are crucial for anyone who wants to facilitate rock climbing for colleges clubs or camp leaders.  Additionally, this course is open to the public and will give any recreational climber the skills and confidence to climb anywhere.  There are only a few spots left!  To sign up, give us a call at 207 288 8186.

Be ready to deal with any emergency mother nature can throw at you with the Wilderness First Aid course!  On June 14-15th, Acadia Mountain Guides will also be hosting a Wilderness First Aid course provided by Wilderness Medical Association (WMA).  WMA instructor and AMG owner Jon Tierney will be teaching the course.  This is a bare minimum course requirement for most camp or college outdoor leaders.  Spots are still available. Call to guarantee your place 207 288 8186!

Be sure to keep checking in to stay up-to-date with how our 2011 season is going.  We hope to have some more exciting photos and stories to tell as the days press on.

Thanks for stopping in!