NEClimbs - information for New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont rock and ice climbers
Current conditions in North Conway, NH at 11:29p on 07/04/22 - Temperature: 57.8 °F - Wind speed: 0.0 mph - Wind chill: 57.8 °F - Barometric pressure: 29.976 in - 3 Hour Barometer Trend: Rising Slowly - Humidity: 49 %
BugCON 4: almost too intense for climbing, DEET required
4 out of a possible 5
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May 15, 2008

Hi Folks,

Believe it or not, this column is about feet. I don't know about you, but my feet take a beating. Squeezed into climbing shoes and mountain boots day after day over the past 20+ years has really taken a toll. Hiking up and down various Presidential peaks has also made 'em hurt, more than occasionally big time. Then on top of that riding my bike almost 3,000 miles each year for the past 3 years puts the icing on the cake. I've lost 3 toenails in the past 6 years, had some bodacious blisters and seen calluses form under my middle toenails that make the nails hump up so bad that I've had to grind them down with the same file I use to sharpen my axes and ice screws. For some reason last season wasn't so bad, but occasionally the calluses on my heels get so thick & cracked that it is painful.

I've always thought that a really neat article for one of the climbing rags would be to take pictures of the feet of 20 of the great climbers! People from say mid-twenty's to 60's. It would be kind of interesting to see what impact a lifetime of climbing has on a climber's feet. Feet are underrated & generally ignored unless you have some sort of real problem and have to go to the Podiatrist, the foot doctor, heaven forbid.

If you are a MANLY MAN, you may not want to read any further. There are just some things that the true MANLY MAN won't do or probably even think about, much less do. And hey, the MANLY MAN probably wouldn't admit to it even if you did! That said let's face it, if your Significant Other gets insistent about something, sometimes even a MANLY MAN just has to succumb...

So, I get a massage for my back & neck on a regular basis and have orthotics in my cycling shoes, but other than having my masseuse do a little on my feet occasionally, the feet are almost always short changed. So I had given my wife a present for her last birthday that included, dare I say the word, a pedicure! According to Wikipedia a pedicure is:

"...a way to improve the appearance of the feet, and their nails. It provides a similar service as a manicure. The word pedicure comes from the Latin words pes, which means foot, and cura, which means care. It also means the care of the feet and toenails. A pedicure can help prevent nail diseases and nail disorders. Pedicures are not just limited to nails; usually dead skin cells on the bottom of feet are rubbed off using a rough stone called a pumice stone."

I was a bit surprised when my wife came home after her pedicure, announcing that she had made me an appointment too. If truth be told I was a little more than a bit surprised. In fact I would say aghast! How could I a man, a man's man , a manly man (well, in my mind at least) - go to a (gasp) salon and get a pedicure? How indeed! Well for one thing, when your very significant other gives you a very nice present that she very obviously wants you to have, what do you do? Choke down your gasp, gulp, fight down the panic and say "thank you dear". Then you call the salon and assure yourself that this procedure is being done in totally privacy in a room with a curtain by a practitioner that is totally sworn to secrecy. then, and only then, does the manly panic begin to subside.

The day of the procedure arrived and I still felt a bit uncomfortable. I mean, what if I come home with candy apple red toenails? What if my best buds spot me through the curtain and I am the laughing stock of the White Mountain climbing community? What if the practitioner let's it slip over a couple of brews with her friends that she had me as a client and the "word gets out"? The nerves start to come back again, but I'm committed and I decide to ride my bike in the AM and swing by there for my appointment.

I arrive on time and fortunately there is no one in the spa that I know, so I relax a little. I am escorted into the "room" where the practitioner has me sit in a very comfortable chair, take off my shoes and socks and soak my feet for 15 minutes in a jacuzzi-like foot bath while she does other things. It was hot at first, but really about the same temperature as a hot tub. I must admit it was very relaxing. She came back in the room and took my left foot out and looked it over, very carefully examining and then trimming the nails. She spent quite a lot of time on the very thick big toenail and the bulging middle one. I don't know about you, but these are very hard and difficult for me to do on my own. Using a good sized file thingy she was able to carefully get the thickness of the middle nail down to a manageable size. I have to admit that it was certainly more pleasant than the techniques I normally use. Then she used a stone of some kind to take the calluses down on my heels and the side of my feet. She mentioned that for athletes she has to be careful not to take off too much callus. Then she pushed back the cuticle, the strip of dead skin cells at the base and sides of the fingernail. I must admit that this felt kind of strange. She applied an exfolient to my feet and calf to help remove any dead skin and spent some time massaging my feet and calf. This felt very very nice and was eminently relaxing. All this took about 30 minutes and then she did it to my other foot! Ahhhh.....

Once she was done I was very surprised at how much better my feet felt. The nails were cut back to a point where they were not beyond the edge of my toes, calluses were reduced but not gone, the middle nails were much thinner and the very dry skin was gone. And, when I put back on my cycling socks the nails didn't catch on the inner sock. Needless to say I was very impressed.

Did this make me ride faster or edge better, I don't think so. So is this something I will do again? I don't know. It was neat but still feels a bit like being pampered, and a man doesn't do that - do we? That said I take care of my back by seeing a chiropractor and sports massage therapist, so why not take care of my feet too? hey, I can think of a lot worse ways to spend a little money and my feet certainly did appreciate it. I wonder if the other climbers will snicker behind my back now. Jeezzz, I hope not.
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Yes folks, it's starting... Blackflies are also out in force, but not biting yet in most places. That said I did get nibbled on when I stopped at the top of Bear Notch Road on Wednesday afternoon. There are most definitely ticks in the woods. I suggest you put on some DEET, at least around your ankles and socks. I haven't gotten bitten yet, but I know people who have and the dog and cat are bringing them into the house. Permethrin may also be a good choice. Here's a link to an interesting comparison between DEET and Permethrin:

New Grigri Techniques:
Local Petzl rep Dave Karl passed me some links to some informative new videos that demonstrate a classic technique for playing out slack and a “new technique” (which internally the Petzl team sometimes refers to as the "Swiss" or the "Canadian technique"). The new technique will be in the Grigri's Instructions for use shortly, and there is also a new Grigri technique poster in the works. There is also a demonstration of various techniques for the Reverso. Although it's easy to say you know all this stuff, I personally feel that it's well worth reviewing this information.

Grigri link

There is also an interesting video of the new Reverso3 in action that's also worth checking out. It's supposed to be out in June of this year. Nice looking unit and it appears to be coming in several colors like the new Grigri's. It looks a bit like the BD Guide ATC, but when it comes down to it, how many ways can there be to make a belay device? Check out the video at minute 3:00 and see if you recognize the area. Hey, who's that climber?

One interesting thing I noticed is that all the climbers in the videos are using extensions on their rappel devices. I've been using this technique for many years as it gives you much more friction and control over your descent. I'm still surprised at how many climbers of all levels are not aware of this. Check it out in the video. Every guide I know uses this technique.

ATTENTION Peregrine Closures:
Seasonal climbing closures for spring/summer 2008 have now been established at the following cliffs in New Hampshire:

Rattlesnake Mtn (Rumney) - only "Main Cliff" at Rumney Rocks closed
Cathedral Ledge (Bartlett) - only right (north) end near "Repentence" closed
Eaglet Spire and nearby walls (Franconia) - The Spire and all adjacent walls closed
Frankenstein Cliff (Harts Location) - big south-facing wall overlooking parking lot closed
Owls Head (Benton) - right (east) end of cliff closed
Painted Walls (Albany) - entire cliff closed, but nearby Rainbow Slabs open
Holts Ledge (Lyme) - entire cliff closed
Square Ledge (Albany) - entire cliff closed
Sugarloaf Mtn (Benton) - only cliff left (west) of ladders closed

Temporary restrictions are designed to promote successful breeding by NH state-listed Endangered peregrine falcons. Rather than instituting broad blanket closures, biologists and resource managers in NH carefully design each closure to protect sensitive peregrine nests while also minimizing the total area of cliff that must be closed. This is possible because the climbing community in NH demonstrates respect and compliance with these restrictions.

For additional information contact:

Chris Martin, NH Audubon raptor biologist
603/224-9909, x317 or

All closures will be lifted by August 1, 2008, or sooner if the situations warrant.

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Have fun and climb safe,

Al Hospers
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire

Hey, look, don't worry too much about me
Rob Hall
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