Local Motion - New Brunswick

Welcome to Local Motion where we celebrate hiking, biking, rock climbing, paddling, skiing, and exploring in Southern New Brunswick.

December 24, 2008

The Not so Hidden Valley.

In to the Hidden Valley twice more this week. I love showing it off to new people. Each time I get to relive my surprise when I first saw that mountainous rock and ice.

Saturday, December 20th.
With enough snow for traction the Connelly's and I were able to get deeper into the 3rd Side valley. Micheal found an iced up waterfall on the left branch above the cascades that I had never seen before. The waterfall was alive underneath its white icy skin. We stopped there to munch on our Christmas cookie ration and soak in that big old forest.

A trip to the Hidden Valley wouldn't be complete without a scramble up the 1st side valley. We walked up the drive stream bed and Bill lead us up some terrifying steep ice through the gully. The ice on the stream was just thin enough to kick foot holds into which was good, but then water started shooting out. The Hanging Pillar was there. But Bill was the only one wiry enough to scramble up to it's base.

Tuesday, December 24th.
By the time I returned with Joanna, Andrew, and my brother Peter, the snow was deep enough to ski in. Despite being Early in the morning on a holiday, spirits were high on the long uphill into the valley. We gave our attention to the 1st Side Valley (behind the Cabin) and worked our way up the somewhat dry river bed. At times up to our thighs in snow, we continued up the increasingly narrow stream valley. As we approached the cliffs we found a giant conical pile of snow that must have been funnelled down a rock chute. Like a miny avalanche! I swam my way through it unable to touch the stream bed below.

We continued up the streep rock passage listening to the water trickle below the ice. Up to our left hung the 15 foot ice Pillar. It must have been as big around as a barrell. We continued up on the iced stream bed until we found ourself in a narrow rock canyon. On one side 30 feet of thick white ice tumbled down into deep piled snow.

In here all sounds Stopped! All that remained was the electric hum of rushing blood and falling snow. It was a surprising juxtaposition to find myself between rock and ice. The permanence of rock, the transience of ice, and me in the middle. Yet we all grow and break down.
We slid back down the gullies on the frozen brook, laughing after leaps of faith that left us intact. Our early start was perfect. As we skied back to the car the snow began sticking like burdocks.

I'm glad the Hidden Valley is a little less hidden after this week. So much land like this to explore near Sussex. I've got some ideas about where to find the next hidden valley.

December 23, 2008

Finally Ice!

My friend Roger has come up from Halifax to ice climb at Parlee Brook. At an ungodly hour we leave my house to drive on snowy roads to the trailhead. This time we're approaching not from the Hidden Valley but from Markhamville. We march on drifted logging roads for 5 km passing blueberry fields and clearcuts. The directions are surprisingly easy to follow and we reach the top of the ice amphitheatre in less than 2 hours.

It's been bitter cold all day but we're smiling through frozen snot and ice crusted whiskers as I lower Roger down to check out the ice. We belay from the top of the amphitheatre which is in the shade and as it turns out is also a wind tunnel. Our fingers freeze, thaw, freeze, hurt like hell but still manage to grip. Roger's hands look like wax at one point.

It was my first time ice climbing and being at Parlee Brook, the long sought after ice, makes it even sweeter. Smashing picks into ice is surprisingly satisfying. Unlike rock climbing, ice climbing is auditory - there's that sweet sounding 'thwunk' when the pick sinks in.

Back out in the sun- it feels hot. We knaw on frozen meatballs and cheese, strap on our snowshoes and look forward to overheating on the trudge out.

I can't wait to go back.

December 17, 2008

The Search for Ice In the Hidden Valley

Driving down the winding one lane road towards the Hidden Valley my windshield shows threats of rain. It's early December, cool, damp, and the days are getting darker. I've been cooped up in the house for too many days so here I am heading back into the Hidden Valley to look for ice walls that evaded me last winter.

The Hidden Valley, aka Parlee Brook, is home to an amphitheatre of ice that attracts ice climbers from all over the Maritimes. I've never seen it in person. That's what I'm trying to change. I first read about it on www.climbeasterncanada.com, Atlantic Canada's highly used climbing forum. Tantalizing stories of 120+ foot ice walls filled my mind while I was finishing university a year ago. Ever since then I've been trying to find it.

I follow the narrow wood's road up the long hill towards the entrance to the valley. It's foggy and damp but the rain is holding off. As I crest the hill I look through fog into the valley. I have to crank my neck up to see the rocky bluffs high overhead. Whoa, they are definitly higher than I remembered... what a nice surprise.

There are multiple tight valleys off of the larger Hidden Valley. The trouble has been figuring out which one has the amphitheatre of ice. This time I take the 3rd side valley. I trudge through Irving clearcut slash, then dropp into the steep riparian buffer. If it wasn't for this protected buffer there'd be no evidence of our true forests. Before they were cut the maritimes had trees as big around as tractor tires. In here I find a forest in recovery with - trees as big around as my torso. Yellow birch, sugar maples, hemlock, and fir cling to the steep sides. The brook trickles below. I have to kick my feet into the slope and jump between trees to avoid slipping on the thin snow and into brook below.

Progress is slow and I realize that my siege method up the valley isn't going to work. I'll have to come back when the snow is deep and provides solid footing. I stay in the valley trying to comprehend this rich forest and all the others like it that once stood. Farther up the valley I watch the brook surge through a stone channel launching itself 12 feet into a pool below. I can hear the vibrations of the water in my bones. Flowing water resonates in our bodies like a tuning fork. I've never been anywhere like this around here.

On the walk out I stop at the Hidden Valley's entrance and decide to climb up the Friar's Nose. I hike up a steep road that narrows to a stooping path through fir and hemlock. The wind on the Nose always takes me by surprise since the hike up is on the sheltered side of the ridge. The subtle elevation change of oh maybe 350 feet is enough to suck the humidity out of the air, wipping it into cold driving snow. On the Nose I look below, where it's now starting to rain on a network of cascading streams. The landscape is a rich tapestry of whites, greys, greens, and blacks.

Sliding down the path from the Nose I pass the point where the snow changes to rain. My smile turns to a laugh and I shake my head at this simple act of pressure change.

Back in the car, I change my wet socks, put in the 'Lost in Translation' Soundtrack, and make a resolution to be back for that elusive ice. It should be hard to find - it is the Hidden Valley afterall.

Go Do It Notes:
The Hidden Valley can be accessed from the end of the Parlee Brook road in Waterford (Just outside of Sussex). At the end of the Parlee Brook road you'll see a bridge that crosses the river you've been driving next to. Make sure to park past the bridge so as not to block the driveway in front of the little "abbey" (house). Next to the Abbey is a public woods road called "Arnold's Hollow Road." Take that road up the hill without turning after about 1+km you come to an obvious large intersection at the top. From there you should be able to see some rocky outcrop straight ahead. From here you have the choice:
*Hidden Valley.
Going straight will lead you down a road into the Hidden Valley. The road is obvious and fairly straight. Highlights to explore are the tight valleys on you left. The first isdirectly behind the cottage. Follow the creek bed up and up. The third valley you come to has beautiful old trees and waterfalls. Just explore. Go when the snow is deep. You might find that heavy snow makes it easier to navigate the frozen brooks and steep slopes.
*Friar's Nose
From the way you came in at the intersection go left up the quite steep narrow road. (that's a left if facing into the hidden valley). As the path branches keep left and continue up and up.

The complete Tour will take half a day, but it's easy to spend much more time in there.

The Cliffs of my Mind

After months of dreaming about it, I finally make it back to the gorge in Elgin. It's winter by this point and there is very little hope of doing any actual climbing but I've got to see it. I've been thinking of these cliffs since I was here last summer.

The gorge filled with a stampede of white water let loose by the days of rain we'd just had. From the opposite side of the river I can see the walls I'd remembered. Damn they look sweet! There's even a slight overhang to the taller one! I play with the rock in my mind, imagining climbing on delicate holds above a cauldron of water.

There's no chance of getting down to the base of the walls with the river as it is, so I walk back to the bridge and cross the river to look at the cliffs from the top. I set up an anchor, lower myself over the edge, and sea of solid rock comes into view. I don't know my geology well enough to know what type of rock it is but it's hard and smooth. There's plentitude of crimpers- my favourite type of hold. It'll be perfect for short hard sport routes.

The Main wall, at 25 odd feet is short but looks hard. In the past I might not have considered these walls tall enough to bother climbing but a friend I visited in New Hampshire recently opened my eyes to short walls. We spent a sunny afternoon climbing 25 foot routes till our forearms felt like they were going to explode. The moves were fun, the rock was quality, and the routes they were hard! It was as if 100 feet of climbing got distilled into a series of hard moves. Now this gorge isn't looking so bad.

Across the gorge there's a 3 story outcrop. It's exposed and steep and looks so sweet! On the way downstream I drop into a mossy grotto and discover a some short walls that offer a couple bouldering problems. Bulges, underclings, side pulls - looks like they are going to have funky beta. I can't wait till it's dry!

I look downstream out of the gorge at two prominent aretes. They're shaped like the Giant Heads on Easter Island. I scramble out to the narrow top of one and look down on a vertical cliff. The setting is spectacular but intimidating. Not a place for new climbers - with top belays required where there are shear drops into the rocky water. What the cliffs lack in height the gorge makes up for with attitude.

While I'm there I run into the landowner. He's a local guy with a deep respect for the area. He wants to see it used and protected. When I ask what he thinks about climbing gives me the go ahead for the first step- top roping - as long as I "leave it in the same condition as I found it."

As spring rolls around I'll be back; hours in my harness, covered in dust and moss, testing holds, and dreaming up routes.

December 9, 2008

Pow' Days In November

Woke up this morning to P p p Powder! How is this possible it's only late November! I wolf down some breakfast, listen to CBC Radio's "Go", and dig around for my skis and boots which haven't been used since last March. The snow is falling fast and light. I decide to take over the snowy roads and head directly to a steep valley I know well from tobagganing.

Spending the last 4 months out West I heard talk upon talk of their premium white gold. BC'ers are addicted to their Powder. But from what I can tell I'm getting to enjoy the snow before they do this Season.

The snow is billowing around my knees as I cut through a big field on my way to the valley. It's a funny consistancy- weightless yet thick enough to keep me off the ground. I reach the trees and am suddenly in a twirling vortex of snow flakes. The blanketed spruce trees sag under the weight of snow.

I reach the valley from the top, look down at the creek, and let out a yell that echoes back at me. Hills always look steeper from the top. Which leads me to thinking "Should I go down this?" I laugh, thinking " Yes! If it's steep enough to make me think twice - then that's why I'm here!" Cross country skis are perfect for this landscape, light and fast for going miles plus 'exciting' on hills.

I kick off and immediatly start picking up uncontrollable speed on my old wooden skis. Careening through tufts of last summer's grass and hidden bumps I somehow to make it to the bottom. My heads buzzing and I'm laughing while my echo Woops around the steep valley.

I ride the hill two more times. Savouring the how the white rush in my head is so similar to the endless white hum of the falling snow. I can't believe I'm the only one out here. But I guess with so many hidden valleys and wooded hills to explore what are the chances of crossing paths?