Monday, April 29, 2013

meteorology lessons

Meteorology might have been one of the best courses I've ever taken.  Not just because I find weather to be fascinating on its own, and have a slight obsession with clouds, but also because so much of what we consider to be common knowledge is actually a misunderstanding.  As climbers, we're particularly inclined to pay attention to the likelihood of rain, and it was really helpful to find out what those percentages actually mean.  For example, a 50% chance of rain in Baltimore really just means there's a 50% chance that rain will occur in some part of the forecast area, during some part of the forecast timeframe.  That's how people sometimes stay dry during a 100% rain forecast, even if the people across town aren't as lucky.  Or how the current conditions report a 35% chance of rain, yet on the other side of my window is a steady shower doing its best to lull me back to sleep.

When I look at the weather to decide if it's worth driving an hour to climb at places like Bushwhack or Sugarloaf, I find that 10% chance usually means it will be fine.  Usually.  I've had at least two freak snowstorms during a 10% forecast.  20% means it's probably going to rain, but it's still worth heading out if there's something we're really excited about climbing.  30% or higher means stick to the gym.  

Yesterday was a 20% day.  Since we had a highball at White Rocks that we'd been staring at photos of all week, and the chance of rain didn't really even start until later in the afternoon, the hour drive and 20 minute hike uphill seemed justified.

While Dan rapped down and cleaned the big guy, the rest of us started off on a smaller slab.  We "warmed up" on two lines up the left and center, the second of which took most of us several tries.

                                                                                             Photo: Jon Alexander
We also tried traversing into the center line from the right side, which was really fun but sliced open the tip of my index finger before I could finish it.

                                                Photo: Jon Alexander
                                                                                             Photo: Jon Alexander
                                                                                             Photo: Jon Alexander
Then it started to rain.  Two hours before the 20% even took effect.  Realizing we wouldn't be able to safely work on the highball, we retreated to a "cave" formed by several jumbled boulders, one of which had an awesomely featured line running up the underside.  I've never seen anything like it around here.

                                                                                            Photo: Jon Alexander
                                                                                            Photo: Jon Alexander
As the rain let up, we went out to see if any of the day's other projects were dry.  Although most of them weren't completely soaked, the wet lichen still made most of them undoable.  Wanting to get at least one more climb in, we headed to a roof that'd we'd been looking at earlier, thinking we could still manage everything except for the topout.  The roof itself turned out to be chossy, with most of the holds giving way under fairly light pressure, but the face was solid enough to yield a fun line that traversed up and right into a sidepull flake.

                                                                                             Photo: Jon Alexander
                                                                                               Photo: Jon Alexander
While none of us climbed as much as we'd hoped, it was a memorable day to say the least, and I'm excited to get back out and check out some of the lines in better conditions.  We'll just look for a nice 10% day next time!

3 comments:

Shawn Seifert said...

Too chossy? Or a little cleaning of loose stuff might yield a treasure?

cadaverchris said...

I think he wrote, "too chossy" to chase off potential FA snakes

matt rockwell said...

There's also a pretty sweet low roof about 200yds south on the fire road from this problem. It's behind the large egg-shaped rock that you can see from the fire road.

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