Intro to Outdoor Rock Climbing - 9/16/18

The Sunday after the Ohiopyle camping trip, sixteen new Explorers and three officers ventured to Breakneck to try their hand at rock climbing and belaying. For many, this was their first time climbing outdoors - and for some, their first time climbing at all!

After a brief intro on crag ethics at the trailhead (Leave No Trace, be respectful of other climbers, be safe), the group hiked up to Breakneck Rocks, where we set up topropes on Fools Gold (5.9), Nemosis (5.9), Bio Fear (5.8), and the classic Eclipse (5.6), while working to stay out of the way of other groups.

Everyone in the group learned to tie in using a figure 8 followthrough, and belay with an ATC or a GriGri, as well as properly put on a harness and helmet. By the end of the day, everyone was proficient at the technical skills, and able to focus on the fun stuff - climbing! As many discovered, climbing outdoors can be pretty different from the gym - the lack of distinct holds leads to a lot of creativity in routes taken to the top!

Everyone went home tired, but ready for more.

Ohiopyle Camping/Hiking Weekend featuring Red Rover - 9/15/18 to 9/16/18

By bright and early 7:30 AM almost all of us had found our way to the storeroom, which was pretty good when you consider that almost none of us had been there before. We grabbed way more tents than we needed (a luxury of car camping!), an assortment of sleeping bags, and a stove. Things we meant to bring (but didn’t): slacklines, sleeping pads, and a first aid kit (Alex had a personal one though, so everyone would be ok).

Car by car we arrived at the Ohiopyle State Park Visitor Center, where we packed bag lunches. Avalon was in charge of food packing and did a really amazing job getting everything together! With our lunches packed and our water bottles filled, we set out to begin our hike. But before we got really anywhere at all, there was a realization that with this many people (16) it would be easy for someone to get lost! Luckily, we were CMU students, so the idea of assigning numbers and counting off was quickly developed.

The trail was wide enough for people to walk side by side for a good portion of it, which made for easy conversation throughout the group. Our route took us down the Sugarloaf Trail, and then we turned back on the Baughman Trail making our total distance about 6 miles. The first part of the trail was a gradual uphill along a well-maintained path, with a steep downhill dash near the very end. There was a break for lunch somewhere along the Baughman Trial at a bouldery overlook! The view was beautiful, overlooking rolling green forested hills that were just beginning to hint yellow-brown, and a softly lit cloudy sky.

After we finished our hike, we celebrated with ice cream and a short walk to the famous natural waterslides. The water level was higher than usual after an entire week of rain, turning a usually bumpy but fun ride into a concussion cannon. Safety was considered, and the swimmers moved down to a less treacherous set of slides. In the swift current of the lower, wider slides, the swimmers played a game similar to red rover, with the runner using the current to catapult themselves into the unsteady human chain. It seemed to be one of those reasonably abnormal experiences that brings people closer together.

It was then time to head to the campsites. We set up camp and attempted to begin a fire in one of the fire rings using logs from the campground. The logs were damp, the ground was damp, and although the fire building skills of the camper’s were great, the big logs just would not catch. To hopefully get dinner on the table more quickly a separate team formed, Team Charcoal, which ventured to find charcoal and lighter fluid to cook in the other fire ring. The conclusion of these two different approaches resulted in one set of people maniacally fanning flames with paper plates and the other set spraying a pile of lit charcoal with lighter fluid (in a... controlled “jetstream-of-fire” manner). Thanks to both of these efforts, we ended up with two semi-workable fires on which to cook our food-- though we still ended up breaking out the camp stove and the pans to ensure the burgers were cooked through. Everyone ate their fill, even with the chaos of multiple fires (some steadier than others).

After dinner, we roasted giant puffy marshmallows and made some smores. A very informal game of Taboo was played as some folks began to drift off to their tents or hammocks. Despite it being a typical starless/cloud-filled Western Pennsylvania night and the rumble of the occasional train, it definitely felt nice to be away with nature.

We woke up the next morning to a beautiful sunny day-- and after demolishing some bagels and bananas the cars split off again-- some for a mid-day return to CMU and some continuing on to a beginners climbing trip to finish off their weekend. At CMU the gear was returned, and people split up to their respective dorms to frantically cram a weekend’s worth of work into one afternoon.

Composed by Ryan Yeh and Avalon Perdriel-Arons

2nd, 3rd, and 4th images credit to Wanhe Zhao

Shiver at the New River

It was either the prospect of climbing in the December cold, or the pressure of approaching exams, that led to the fact that the only two participants on last weekends climbing trip where the two organizers. But, in hindsight we can definitely say that the stay-at-homers missed out on a great trip with superb weather.

Saturday was dedicated to the world-class routes at Kaymoor. After both having started on the four star route Flight of the Gumby (5.9+), we pushed our limits by leading our first 5.12b (Dante, Thunderstruck at White Wall) and 5.10b (Steffen, Springer at Butcher’s Branch). From the moment we drove back to the campsite, and until late in the evening, the supermoon cast its beautiful light upon us. While at camp, a delicious black bean meal prepared by Dante, some Seneca IPA’s, and a warm campfire, awaited us.

Sunday started well with a coffee stop at Cathedral Café (where the day before, Steffen already had the luck to get a meet and greet with Santa Claus), for a taste of the renowned cinnamon bun. Warm, straight from the oven, and o so buttery, it lived up to its fame.  
       With our bellies filled, we headed for some good climbing at Summersville Lake. The water level had dropped, such that many good routes opened up at Whippoorwill. The walls were bathing in a blazing sun, such that even shirts were taken off. The efforts from Saturday were still noticeable in the arms, so the onsight percentage might have been somewhat lower on Sunday. Worth mentioning here are Dante’s push on Jason and the Arguenots (5.12a, scary start!) and his subsequent climb of Masuko (5.11a). Such a persistence! This opened up for Steffen’s first 5.11a, although on top rope and with many lowering requests that Dante politely refused. Thanks for pushing me.
       After being reminded that bathing was mandatory on this trip, Steffen took a quick dive in the lake, and we were ready to head back to Pittsburgh. The scenic views of the hills and beautiful harmonies of, amongst others, Angus and Julia Stone, made it a quick and pleasant three-hour-drive.

Finally, on a personal note, I would like to thank the Explorers Club for accommodating the many trips I have been on this semester, and the members for making them such great experiences. Hook me up when you happen to visit Norway in the future, and would like to do some climbing or backcountry skiing over there.

Takk for meg,



Canoeing down the Youghiogheny!

On October 21, 2017, Lane Darby, Brian Lee, Brandon Pek, and Michael Jehn headed to Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters in West Newton, PA (not far from McKeesport) for a peaceful, relaxed Saturday afternoon canoeing trek on the Youghiogheny River. The weather was perfect for an easy autumn paddle in calm waters: warm, partly cloudy, and lightly breezy with the heady fragrance of fall's gradual transitions in the air. After being dropped off upstream along with their canoes, the group traveled about four miles down the river and back to the outfitters. Freight trains passed by occasionally and cyclists traveled along a bike trail running parallel to the river. The group encountered fishermen, kayakers, and a couple with a swimming dog. Wildlife sighted included red tail hawks, a groundhog, and a cat. Other than a few areas of very light rapids where the water became significantly more shallow with minor submerged obstacles, the journey was smooth and unrushed. An excursion such as this would be perfect for beginners, and this particular outfitter does offer longer trips.

- Michael and Lane

Multipitching at Seneca!!

Over the weekend, six club members went to Seneca Rocks to do some multipitch climbing. Sherman, Steffen, and Cat tackled Ecstasy, Pleasant Overhangs to Thais Escape, Gunsight, and the Burn. Alex M, Dante, and Alex G. climbed Skyline Traverse, Le Gourmet to Front C to Critter Crack, Castor, Pollux, and a few more routes at the lower slabs. With the exception of Sherman and Alex, this was everyone's first multipitch experience and they all had a blast! 

A tricam was left behind, a carabiner dropped, and a cam nearly lost to the depths of Critter Crack. Overall, not too unexpected for a beginner trip and a great learning experience for all.

We finished up the trip with a visit to Hellbenders. They make some pretty awesome burritos. 

Steffen, Cat, and Sherman at the summit!

Steffen, Cat, and Sherman at the summit!

About to head up Gunsight

About to head up Gunsight

Steffen is stoked!

Steffen is stoked!

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Seneca, majestic and chossy as always.

- Sherman