Trip Report: The Eastern Mountain Sports Nor'easter Festival - Climbing Pros, New Gear, Amazing Rock Climbing!

Three days of camping and climbing with rockin' music in one of the best places to catch fall foliage during peak season. Who'd want to stay home with a promise like that? The Nor'easter, powered by Eastern Mountain Sports, is a three-day celebration of music, climbing, outdoor adventure and conservation. Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire was the host for the second Nor'easter, held September 24th-26th.

It was my first trip to the White Mountains, which were breathtakingly beautiful and engulfed in vibrant fall colors. Aside from the incredible scenery, there was never a shortage of fun to be had! From the Festival Village to the UBC Pro Tour bouldering competition, and from the Gaslight Anthem to the American Alpine Club's phenomenal pancake breakfast, the festival was a perfect way to spend a long weekend in New England.

The Pros

The Nor'easter was well-attended by some of climbing's best, and there were plenty of opportunities to see them in action. Our first opportunity was the Unified Bouldering Championships (UBC) Pro Tour Finale. During the finals on Saturday afternoon, I spent a good portion of the event with my jaw on the pavement. I couldn't believe, even after seeing professional climbers compete at the UBC Pro Tour's first stop, what they're capable of.

Alex Johnson crushing during qualifiers.
Alex Johnson took top honors for the women, followed closely by Francesca Metcalf and Angie Payne. Watching Angie for the first time was inspiring. At the moment, she's best known for being the first woman to climb V13 when she sent The Automator this summer. Ethan Pringle narrowly edged Brian Kim to claim the top spot for the men. Other competitors included Daniel Woods, Sasha DiGiulian, and Vasya Vorotnikov. Other pro climbers in attendance, including Sonnie Trotter, also led clinics at Rumney on the final day of the festival.

The Gear 

You couldn't get far without passing through the Festival Village full of sponsor and conservation partner booths. Each company came with new stuff to show us, but some of the things I saw really stood out.

Black Diamond Gridlock from start to finish!
During a sponsored happy hour, Black Diamond set up two booths showcasing alpine packs and how some of their most innovative pieces of gear are made. By taking a plain piece of steel and using innovative hot forging methods, they're able to create the award-winning lightweight GridLock Screwgate Locking Carabiner. The Viper Ice Tools were also on display, and a cross-sectional cut of the tool showed what the inside looks like. I was definitely geeking out!

Osprey brought the full gamut of packs, ranging from the Variant series for alpine climbing to the Shuttle series for traveling. I had the chance to be fitted for a pack with their representative. He used a flexible plastic tool with markings on it to tell me what size torso I have, and what size waist belt to look for. Turns out I've got a small torso (18") and need a medium sized waist belt. Knowing I'm a small makes me laugh; I'm almost 5'9" tall!

La Sportiva had an impressive collection of unreleased and newly released shoes for demoing at Rumney on Sunday. I currently own the Miura lace-ups, but they just don't fit. The toe box isn't shaped quite right, and I find they cut into my toes. But after trying on the velcro women's Miura VS model, I'm pretty sure they're next on my list of climbing shoes to buy.

The La Sportiva demo shoes waiting to be tried out at Rumney.
Petzl brought all of the new ice tools I've been coveting since hearing of their release. The Quark felt noticeably lighter than I expected it would. Unfortunately, our trip to Rainbow Slabs and watching the UBC Pro Tour Finals meant missing the chance to demo them on Saturday. I did get a good look at the Tikka XP² headlamp and was impressed with its versatility. Might add that to the gear collection, too!

The Climbing

On Saturday, our goal was to find fun, moderate single pitch climbing. With a group of nine, including three trad leaders, our chosen destination was Childs Play (5.5) on The North End at Cathedral Ledge. Just outside North Conway, Cathedral Ledge is known as the "epicenter of trad climbing in New Hampshire." After discovering the rocks were wet from overnight rain, we headed to the Rainbow Slabs.

A 45 minute mostly unmarked, but beautiful approach through woods brought us to the base of the slabs mid-afternoon. Patrick and Bill both attempted The Perfect Wave, a poorly protected and extremely runout route. Patrick and I opted to head back to Loon Mountain to watch the UBC Pro Tour finals while George led (the incredibly long and scary) Face Dances and belayed for the rest of the group.

Sunday brought us to Rumney, arguably the best sport climbing destination in the Northeast. After hearing about the quality of sport routes and the beautiful rock, I couldn't wait to make my first trip there! We opted for the easily accessible Parking Lot Wall, and I jumped on lead before I could talk myself out of it. I led Percolator (5.7) thanks to an incredibly patient belayer - my first outdoor lead in over a year and my hardest yet. Bill stood there and kept me safe while I found places to rest and compose myself before continuing on. (Big thanks to George for the photo on the right!) I set up a toprope anchor there while Patrick led Cafe Au Lait (5.6). Everyone ran through both climbs at least once with the majority, including Aleya, leading Percolator just for fun!

The sun sets on our tent City at Loon Mountain.
Next year, I'd love to spend a little more time listening to the bands. There was so much going on, it was almost impossible to catch everything! My focus was absolutely on watching the UBC Pro Tour comp and climbing at Rumney with exploring the Festival Village a close second. Music wasn't high on my list of priorities, and I'd guess the bands playing during the comp saw a much smaller audience than they would have otherwise. But the beauty of this type of festival is that it truly had something for everyone. If you missed it this year, you're guaranteed a treat next year!


bill said…
nice recap. love the sunset photo.
Dave said…
Great recap Katie! I'm with you on the music thing... I'm glad we climbed Face Dances, but I feel like I missed part of the festival.
Laurel said…
Congratulations on the hardest lead!

Want to come to the Gunks with Patrick, Aleya, and me? :)
Jeremy Devine said…
Thanks for this. I SO wanted to make it to this event again in my home state, but unfortunately North Carolina is a long ways off. Congrats on getting on lead. I'm trying to push myself harder too, and every little step I take helps. Don't discount the little things!
Dave said…
Great recap Katie! I'm with you on the music thing... I'm glad we climbed Face Dances, but I feel like I missed part of the festival.
bill said…
nice recap. love the sunset photo.