Going Off-Grid in the White Mountains

    Nobody said going off grid would be easy, and if they did they would be wrong.  Building a homestead off grid sure can present it's challenges, but the dream of a nearly bill free existence and the ability to travel freely has kept the stoke high.  As we near the middle of the build, I thought it would be a good time to catch you all up on the project so far.

    In December 2014, my girlfriend and I bought a small parcel in Bethlehem NH.  This property is far from the grid and the sounds of the city.  It is literally a section of woods I carved out myself with my trusty Johnsered chainsaw, and a small excavator to remove the stumps.  this process took us into the Winter of 2015-2016 were work halted for the season.

     After the Winter season, we picked up where we left off at the homestead.  A little Spring cleanup and the build began.  A large order of gravel and a big order from the Orange store got us the supplies we needed to start the build.  After around a week of building, the foundation was in along with the floor.  The stoke was high "We should have this shit done in a another week" I thought to myself, for the first time in my life, I was wrong.

Framing the cabin walls

Framing the cabin walls

   The next few weeks were spent framing the walls, with advanced framing and insulated headers to reduce future heating and cooling as well as limiting the amount of lumber used.  The walls were raised post haste, with level bubbles in the center for days.  Everything was going smoothly until that dammed steep roof...

The land around sunset

The land around sunset

   The roof turns out to be a real pain in the ass, the lack of proper tools for roof work sure slowed us down.  As of last weekend the roof framing is complete and it is time for the sheathing.  The nice part about it is as soon as the roof is done, the project should go more easily.  Well... at least we think...

Enjoying the mountains after a long day building

Enjoying the mountains after a long day building

Frankenstein Ice Climbing Fall

The popular route Pegasus is on the far left of this picture.

The popular route Pegasus is on the far left of this picture.

  On January 30, 2016 I spent a warm day ice climbing with clients at the far end of the popular ice climbing destination Frankenstein Cliff.  After many laps on various routes in balmy temps, we packed up our gear and began to head back to the cars for some R&R.  As we approached the parking lot there was a large presence of Fish and Game waiting in the upper lot.  When our guide asked what was going on, the ranger quickly stated there was an accident involving a litter carry on the popular route Pegasus.  As soon as I had heard, I quickly raced back in to see if I could be of some assistance.

     The fast paced walk to the injured climber seemed to take forever, although the trail was a mere 0.5 Miles down flat train tracks.  With little info on the shape of the climber, you're mind begins to race through the possible scenarios and what way would be best way to assist this climber by following Wilderness Medicine, and local emergency procedures.   Luckily, I had recently upped my emergency medicine cert to an EMT and thought this fresh information could be helpful in this situation.

     When I met up with the litter, I instantly noticed that he had not been carried but instead put into a sled and dragged down the tracks.  I thought this was odd as the initial report was a 20 foot fall that caused a loss of consciousness.   In all the training I have done, when a person has significant MOI (mechanism of injury) with head trauma, a spinal injury can not be ruled out as they are deemed unreliable to have their spine cleared.  None the less, I hopped out of the way of the litter and began to follow it in preparation for the lift into the ambulance that was so patiently waiting in the parking lot.

     Once we had arrived at the lot, 2 climbers helped the climber to his feet and sat him down on the gurney.  I was quite surprised at this as no care had been taken to preserve C-Spine, an important part of a significant MOI to the head with significant injuries.  Once loaded onto the gurney the climber gave us a smile that showed us some sign of good health.   As the gurney was loaded into the ambulance, one climber said "Injured player leaving the field" and we all clapped as the ambulance doors closed.  It seemed at that time that he was going to make out okay.

     One thing that all resonates with me is when I was in my first WFR (Wilderness First Responder) course some years back, my instructor said to me that proper care of the spine "Could be the difference between whether or not he will get to dance with his daughter at her wedding".  This saying has stuck with me and always made me especially careful when managing trauma patients. 

     So the summary of this post is to never underestimate the importance of Wilderness Emergency Medicine.  Be sure to take a course if you plan on spending some time in the backcountry, it just may save a life someday.

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Solo up the Ammo

    After a long season of chopping down trees, splitting wood, and running an excavator at the new Bethlehem land in preparation for our Spring build of the off grid, passive solar, straw bale cabin, it was time to bang out the ol' climbing cobwebs.
A frosty topped Washington
  I started up the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail at a casual 11am, with beautiful weather and a fresh coating of snow on the upper mountain. The trail was a combination of thin ice and bare ground, with sections of actual ice climbing n the WI2 area, I was glad I brought my mountain axe and climbing crampons.  However, my microspikes were left at home and I missed them like a ship captains wife while he is out at sea. Difficult early season conditions to say the least.
   I arrived at the Lake of the Clouds hut at about 12:15pm, without seeing another soul in site.  The weather was beautiful with few clouds and almost no wind, a rare feat on the home of the world's worst weather.
Keep your phone camera facing away from your body when hauling up the big hill, lesson learned

     It was an inviting site to see some actual snow, so I quickly removed my crampons and continued my way up the mountain.  As I zigzagged my way up the summit cone, I finally saw another soul below me just past the hut.  I trotted my way up the rest of the mountain and managed to tap the old summit sign in 2:31, which was a bit slower then I had hoped for.  None the less, not bad for fresh off the couch.
"Winter" climb #89
   The way down was a slow slog, feet beaten badly from the sweat of the uphill.  At one point I slipped and turned my leg in a direction it was not suppose to go.  I thought to myself, that this could have turned into a touching the void type situation.  As I got up to see if my leg could bare weight, I realized that the time off last season had made me a bit soft, the leg was just fine and I continued down the mountain.
    The first climb of the season was a great one, it reminds me of my connection and love for the mountains.  The first time I climbed Mt. Washington I knew what my purpose was, to share the mountains with others.  If you haven't done a winter Mt. Washington ascent yet, I highly suggest it.  Just be sure to get some proper instruction before heading up the Rock Pile.

The offgrid homestead and dirtbag hostel

     It's been a not-so climby month thus far, with focus turned towards clearing the new land and trying to get our new off grid cabin going.  Over the last couple months, we have been clearing trees and prepping fireword towards our ultimate goal of a mortgage free, off-grid life in the White mountains.
The "kitchen" area and camp.
    Our progress as anticipated, is slower then we had expected.  Maybe it has something to do with the late night wobbly pops, on second thought, it surely does.  Having to decide what the proper use for our trees towards the ultimate goal had also stymied us, fo' shizzle.  After deciding to save all we can to be used for lumber, we continue to march on, setting aside our trees to be used in future construction of the cabin/dirtbag hostel.

I've got a stick!  Note the rocket stove cookin' us up "brekkie".
  We took Memorial day weekend to get our veggies in the ground,  tilling soil like an old timey farmer.  Introducing a new rain water collection system that is powered off of our minimal solar power.  All together it is a huge undertaking, but I can't wait to be able to share a affordable, climber friendly hostel in my favorite region in the world with all of the dirtbags that saunter there way into the woods.

A wonderful winter in the Whites

     It sure has been a busy winter season over at NRMG.  We have spent the season guiding ice climbing and mountaineering trips throughout the White Mountains.  We have had an amazing bunch of folks from 20 somethings college kids to a 69 year old tackling the Northeast's highest peak.  Here are a few shots from this amazing season: 

All standing on the summit!
Steep ice at Frankenstein's Cliff
Another successful summit via the Ammoonoosuc Ravine Trail, our new favorite Washington route!

     Now on to our next adventure of building the off grid cabin in the White Mountains. Soon followed by our new off grid basecamp and The Dirtbag Camp (a hostel like camp for outdoors folks) Let's hope I'm good with a chainsaw...
     We wanted to say thanks to all the amazing folks we shared adventures with us this season and look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Boot scootin' boogey: How to choose your first pair of mountain boots

I have been getting a lot of questions about mountain boot selection these days, so I figured I would give you all some insights on how to choose your first pair of mountain boots.  We will cover 4 different styles of boots and what the advantages and disadvantages are to each style, so here we go!

Double Plastic Boots: 
Scarpa Invernos: Retails for $329
Koflach Degres: Retails for $399

     Double  Plastic boots are an excellent choice for beginner mountaineers and ice climbers.  They are solid, warm, and dry.  They also have the advantage of being able to remove the inner liner, which is great on expeditions for drying as well as doubling as a pair of camp booties.  The disadvantage to these boots is the weight and stiffness, although a little practice with proper lacing can help out tremendously.  Another disadvantage is "toe bang" and "shin bang", both things that can also be taken care of with proper lacing.

Single Leather Boots:

Scarpa Mont Blanc: Retails for $469
Scarpa Triolet Pro: Retails for $369
Single leather boot are excellent performers.  They have just the right amount of flex and have a more precise fit.  These boots work well for ice climbing and mountaineering when the temps don't go to low.  They are also much lighter then double plastics.  The down side to these boots are overall warmth and their ability to dry.  If you are planning on doing day trips in non-arctic temps, these may be a good choice for you.

Integral Gaiter Boots:

Scarpa Phantom Guide: Retails for $599
La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX: Retails for $699

   Integral gaiter boots are a great choice for cold weather alpine climbs.  You will see me wearing my Phantom Guides all winter.  They have all the advantages of single leathers with the added benefit of having a built in gaiter and additional warmth.  If you have the funds and are a single day cold weather climber, I would go with these.  In fact, I already have.

Double Leather Boots:

Scarpa Phantom 6000: Retails for $739
La Sportiva Spantik: Retails for $749
     Double leather boots are great cold weather expedition boots.  They have the advantage of a removable inner liner and the lightness of a leather boot.  They are very warm and have the ability to dry quickly by removing the inner liner.  If you are going to climb Denali, these may be the boot for you, but if you are a warmer weather ice climber these may be "too much boot"..

     To sum it up, there are many types of boots on the market that have advantages in certain terrain.  When you go to pick out a boot, be sure to think of these places you may be going, not just your upcoming trip.  A good, warm, dry boot is one of the things that will help with overall comfort and success in the mountains.  If you are going to put money into one piece of gear, this is were you want to spend that hard earned cash.

What to do, in the Shoe

  It was a warm night when we got up to our basecamp in Twin Mountain, with a inch or so of new snow which would turn to water by morning.  We quickly headed over to our local burger joint Skeet's for a burger and a drinki-poo or 2.  It was the usual mix of locals there, which in Twin Mountain, is free entertainment.  After fueling up we headed back to our basecamp for a brew or two and some inspiration in the form of the great flick "Into the Mind".
  We sorted our gear the next morning and noticed all the snow was gone, I knew then it would be a sporty day in Shoestring.  As we headed up the gully we found full on rivers running over the ice.  We decided to mix climb around the junk to get in the gully proper.  Just as we were working our way around the first section, fellow climber Dan pulled down 2 large boulders just nearly missing us.  It got exciting fast.  We carried on consciously up the gully through loose choss and occasional bits of ice.
Kevin and Dan working what was left of the ice
     We scrapped our way up the gully to find the crux pitch to be in snorkel like shape.  With 4 climbers above us and no snow, rocks were coming down fast left and right.  We waited a few minutes to see if the rock fall would stop before we headed up the gully to the left up and out.  After a little wallowing in the terra-firma, we popped out on the descent trail.  We headed over to the lookout spot to snap a few pics.
NRMG Guide Kevin and friend Dan taking in the views.

NRMG Guide Kevin high on Mt. Webster
  The descent trail was long as usual, with a mix of ice and rock.  We had a nice chat with an older gentleman out for a Sunday hike on the way down.  We got back to the truck and were relived to take off our boots.  All in all, it was a great, sporty day out in early season ice conditions.