KEENE VALLEY - Ice climbers from around the northeast converged on Keene Valley this past weekend for the 18th annual Adirondack International Mountaineering Festival.
Hosted by the Adirondack Rock and River guide service and Mountaineer gear store, the Mountainfest featured clinics on ice climbing, slide climbing, snowshoeing and avalanche education. There were also evening presentations by expert mountaineers.
This year's featured climber was Vince Anderson, an ambassador for Patagonia who led climbing clinics in the Chapel Pond area both days. Anderson was also the featured speaker Saturday night at the Keene Valley Central School's Beaverdome.
Climbers scale an ice slab near Chapel Pond during last weekend’s Adirondack International Mountaineering Festival.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
The Colorado-based mountaineer spoke about his 2005 ascent of the Nanga Parbat's Rupal Face, located in Pakistan's Himalaya Mountains. At 26,660-feet, it is the ninth-highest peak in the world.
The mountain has earned the nickname "Killer Mountain" because many mountaineers have died climbing it. Steve House and Anderson, who also own a guide service together called Skyward Mountaineering, took eight days to climb the peak.
The pair won the 2005 Piolet D'or Award, also known as the Golden Ice Axe award, for their accomplishment.
Standing by an ice slab near Chapel Pond Saturday, Anderson said this was his first trip to the Adirondacks and second to New York state. He had previously climbed in the Shawangunk Mountains near New Paltz. Anderson said the ice routes seemed to be in good shape.
"I've never been here before, so I don't have anything to compare it to but I think the conditions seem excellent," Anderson said. "The thinly iced climbs that we've done, the purchase that you can get in the ice is incredible right now. Even the climbs that have very little ice, it seems like it's well bonded."
Anderson was leading a clinic of eight climbers. The small group allowed Anderson to work with climbers on an individual basis and also swap ice climbing anecdotes and advice.
"Primarily, (I'm) trying to get people to utilize the equipment properly," he said. "The axes and the crampons and that has a lot to do with body positioning, getting people to be well balanced, stable over their feet and that allows them to swing the axes properly and with better form."
As usual, the majority of Mountainfest's clinics were filled with participants. They usually fill up soon after pre-registration opens weeks before the event.
"We had great attendance," Mountaineer owner and co-organizer Vinny McClelland said. "Our objective is never to have this thing grow any bigger than it already is. In my opinion, it is much better to have all of the clinics full on a waiting list, and keep it under control and reasonably small than to have it grow and get out of control."
In addition to clinics, the Mountainfest also attracts representatives from many of the biggest names in the outdoor gear industry. The businesses provide participants with free gear to test out during the clinics, or on the ice climbing wall Saturday morning at the Rock and River headquarters in Keene.
This was the first Mountainfest for Marmot sales representative Jason Wilber of Ithaca.
"I ended up climbing both days. Got my first ice climb in yesterday. I did some dry tooling, did some mixed, and then today I went over to Green Gully, did some multipitch," Wilber said. "I came in not knowing anyone, and I felt really welcomed into this community."
Anderson was not the only speaker during the weekend. Friday night, climber Aaron Mulkey gave a presentation at the school. Sunday night, climber Doug Millen gave a humerous presentation about his experiences at the helm of the ice climbing website neice.com.
While adventure is one of the big themes of the weekend, the Mountainfest also raises money for local organizations and clubs. One of the main beneficiaries the past couple of years has been the Keene Youth Outdoor Program. Canned food was also collected for the Keene Food Pantry.
Every year, Mountainfest participants pay to have dinner at the Keene Valley Fire Department to raise money for the department's backcountry rescue program.
The money raised through the dinner goes toward equipment, such as litters, headlamps, ropes and medical supplies, which are used by the backcountry rescue team. The team assists forest rangers with backcountry rescues in the town of Keene, which encompasses 30 of the High Peaks, as well as climbing areas near Chapel Pond and the Cascade Pass.
"The dinner was great," said Ron Konowitz, wilderness rescue coordinator for the fire department. "It was nice to see people supporting the fire department."