WATERFALL RAPPELLING is making a splash in New Hampshire.
Corey Fitzgerald, director of guide services and co-owner of Northeast Mountaineering, said the adventure company is the first to introduce it to the Granite State.
“That’s pretty unique. It’s fairly popular in South or Central America. But nobody was doing it up here, probably because the water is pretty cold. It’s like swimming in Maine,” he said.
Almost. Fitzgerald said clients who partake in waterfall rappelling will wear wetsuits to keep warm.
Fitzgerald and his brother, Brett Fitzgerald, said the Glen-based company was hatched to combat their 9-to-5 desk job lifestyle. Corey is a former wedding photographer; Brett a graphic designer.
“We found ourselves spending a lot of our time behind the computer. We’ve always come up to the White Mountains for this stuff. So we decided to give it a go,” he said.
The Fitzgeralds’ ultimate goal with Northeast Mountaineering is to help others experience and enjoy New Hampshire’s natural habitats, and show that even first-timers can dip their toe in the water.
“Probably the majority of our clientele are beginners — they’ve never done anything like this before. And we’re happy to take those folks out, and get them started on the path, or if they just want to give something a try and maybe never do it again. But (to) just want to give it a try; that’s fine too. We go all the way up to more advanced stuff. So you have something for everybody.”
When it came to waterfall rappelling, Brett said the idea materialized after they saw others do it while on a trip to Costa Rica.
“We were looking for a family-friendly activity to supplement rock climbing and hiking in the summer. We gave it a try and a test run with some friends and people loved it,” said Brett.
Corey said it may be their most popular summertime activity – including for beginners.
“We rent the wetsuits and we train everybody, and then we bring them over to the waterfall and they get to rappel the waterfall.”
But the way Corey describes it, waterfall rappelling doesn’t sound scary — just fun.
“That’s a super fun way to cool off in the summer,” he said.
Clients can hike to the top of Ripley Falls in Crawford Notch – a 100-foot drop — then rappel down a few times.
“We use wetsuits for the water temperature. It’s all rainwater and snow melt, so it can be quite cold early and late season,” Brett said.
Corey said clients will have three rappels.
“The first one, we usually try to have them rappel next to the falls and they just get sprayed, but it’s not too crazy. And that gets them used to it. The second rappel, we get them to go into the water a little bit. And then the third rappel is often down the middle of it.”
According to Corey, it’s not like water is falling all around you like a flood.
“It’s not a crazy flow and it’s not a vertical waterfall. So it just sprays you in the hips and below,” he said.
Brett said even young children have tried waterfall rappelling.
“We have brought kids as young as age 3 and adults aged 73, and everyone in between,” he said.
Hiking, climbing and more
For a more cut and dried outdoor experience, Northeast Mountaineering also offers hiking, mountaineering and rock climbing, an activity still up there in popularity.
“That’s all ages, all ability levels. We’ve taken folks who are 3 years old; we’ve taken 80-year-olds. I think when people hear rock climbing, they think they have to be super fit or super strong or have to do a hundred pull-ups, but that’s not quite the case. We have some really great beginner climbs. Some of them are only a five-minute walk from the car or less.”
All skill sets can take part in rock climbing, with activities ranging from “Introduction to Rock,” to a three-day “Rock In Depth” adventure, to “sport climbing” in Rumney, to “classic” rock routes.
All the details are listed on Northeast Mountaineering’s website, such as climbing locations, the duration of the trip, the level of difficulty, guide-to-client ratio and pricing. Clients have visited sites like Cathedral Ledge in Bartlett, White Horse Ledge in North Conway and Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington.
For people who are even more adventurous with advanced skill sets, Northeast Mountaineering offers mountain-climbing trips to Ecuador and Nepal. For a domestic climb, their guides can take you to the North Cascades or Mount Rainier in Washington State.
Corey said the company puts a lot of thought into the guides they hire, with an emphasis on providing clients with a personal experience.
“(We) hire good people first and we hire climbers second. We’d much rather prefer to hire an instructor or an educator who also climbs, as opposed to a climber who just needs a job. All of our guides have great interpersonal skills. They really enjoy what they’re doing and they enjoy teaching. You really get a personal experience that way.”
Winter fun, too
Even when the weather inevitably turns cold, there will still be opportunities to experience nature through Northeast Mountaineering, with ice climbing and avalanche education. In addition, Corey said through the work of a local nonprofit, he’s seen a new winter activity gain traction.
“What’s really taken off for us now is backcountry skiing, thanks to the Granite Backcountry Alliance. They’ve been starting to cut a lot of new glades around New Hampshire and the White Mountains. They’ve opened up a lot of new terrain.”
According to its website, along with cutting new glades, the group works with private and public landowners and fosters safety education. Corey said as a result, the group is revitalizing the sport here.
“(We’re) not even sure if they recognize that they’re really building a backcountry skiing community. There’s a lot of activity going on with kids in their 20s to 40s, and beyond even, but we’re starting to see a younger crowd up there in the winter. We’re starting to really see those programs start to take off in the winter.”
Northeast Mountaineering is on Route 16 in Glen. Visit www.nemountaineering.com to find out more.