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March 18, 2004

Hi Folks,

So, you tell me... Has this last couple of weeks been a "faux spring", or is this now a "faux winter"? Just when we've all pretty much given up on ice for the season, Mother Nature deals us a new hand. In fact it turns out that the ice is not quite as done-for as we all had thought.

I hadn't been over to Frankenstein for over a week so I decided to run up there on Tuesday morning to have a look. I'd heard that while many climbs were down for the count, a number were hanging in quite well. As I shot a few pix on the drive-by I wasn't disappointed. As usual Dracula looked in quite reasonable shape, at least on the right side, and both Standard and Standard Left looked very good.

When I pulled into the parking lot I was very surprised to see not a single other car. On top of that Bill King apparently wasn't at home, no dogs were barking, nothing. I walked down the tracks to the Amphitheater and it was empty. Now that was kind of spooky. I'd been thinking about running up Standard, but when I looked over and saw Pegasus so big and fat and blue, I just had to check it out. When I got up to the base I was amazed to see that it looked in very good conditions. I walked around and looked up the Hobbit gully and that looked good as well. So I tooled up and ran. As I should have expected the ice wasn't quite as good as it looked. There were plenty of places to hook, but it had a tendency to dinner plate, there was some crusting and you could hear places where it was hollow underneath. At the base of the pillars the traverse to the rock finish belay was pretty well crusted over, but the pillars themselves were pretty good, the right side being shorter & easier. Even the top out was all right, I've certainly seen it worse at this time of year.

There's nothing like a little solo to make you aware of everything that's going on. Going up the pillar I hear every nuance of water running, birds chirping, and creaking in the ice as the sun warms it up. Colors become more vibrant and the air crisper. No question but it definitely has your attention!
I rapped back down to the rock belay with my single 9 mm rope and then down the gully. Hobbit looked as good as it's been all season. The trick would be getting past the very thin ice and rock from the gully to the base. I was glad I hadn't gone up the gully as getting left over to the rock belay would have been a real trick.

I walked around past Chia and it looked pretty beat. I would be concerned with climbing it since it is in the sun a lot longer every day than Pegasus. There was a soft white crust over everything. It's clear that the only reason it's still there is because it's been cloudy pretty much all week. The Bubbles were still standing, but looked funky. Cave Route looked OK from a distance, but up close I thought it was beat. Note the huge cracks in Widow's Cave in the picture. Buyer beware!

I didn't walk all the way down the tracks to Standard, but you can check out the telephoto picture taken from the road on NEClimbs. It is in reasonable conditions. Apparently Wednesday was a big day at Frankenstein and there were many parties on all the available routes. I believe that if we continue with the moderate temps and cloudy weather things could hang in for another week. You just have to be careful what you pick and be prepared to change your plans if your desired route doesn't look good. That said, if it gets sunny all bets are OFF!

I know I've mentioned this a lot but I think it's worth repeating... There is a lot of ice in hidden places that looks safe. Someone told me that there was some ice still left up on the top of Humphrey's that came down the other day, almost clocking some climbers. There is definitely a lot up on the top of the right side of Whitehorse and almost all of Cathedral. If you're out there be sure to wear a helmet and look up before you climb up. Here is a very recent picture of the Unicorn area on the right of Cathedral just above the North End cracks. Believe me when I say that there are TONS of ice still to come down from there. Be safe...

La Pomme d'Or:
As of March 9th the conditions were apparently still quite good. Local guide Art Mooney ( and partner did it on the 3rd and Brian McGillicuddy soloed it within a week later. Apparently the snowmobile service is not in operation this year, so it's even more of a commitment than usual. The climber in Art's picture is Mark Pezzati, with the awesome Direct Route behind. Thanks to them both for the inspiring images.

Overview (Art)
Central columns (Brian)
Middle of the climb (Art)
Last Pitch (Brian)

"Catatonic Immobility" (M8+, 50M):
This week Chris Thomas and Will Mayo finished up their latest project at Exit 30 Crag in the Daks. The first pitch, first freed by Ian Boyer, starts at the "shark's mouth" of ice between "Cassowary" and "The Fecalator", climbs a steep corner past five fixed pins, several medium cams and a large nut, makes a steep traverse right on thin and insecure holds past three bolts and continues right across a slab to a two bolt belay (M8+, 25M). The second pitch scratches up and left on a thin slab and heads leftward up the slightly overhanging wall above on thin, somewhat widely-spaced holds to the left-most of the three icicles that hang over this section of the wall (M8+, 25M, five bolts). CT and WM each freed both pitches. (Will Mayo and Chris Thomas, 03/16/2004).

Will, we're all anxiously awaiting the action shot! <grin>

The Seven Summits quest may have a new twist following a February ascent of Argentina's 22,834-foot Aconcagua by Rubia, a two-year-old golden retriever. Though dogs are not normally permitted on the mountain, Rubia was authorized to climb the peak as part of a scientific study to determine how rescue dogs function at high altitude. She was outfitted with boots, goggles and a snowsuit, and was roped to her human partners, Carlos Valverde and Marc Ortega of Spain, for the duration of the ascent.

As with first ascents by humans, some controversy exists as to whether Rubia actually was the first canine to summit Aconcagua. More than a decade ago a Chilean newspaper reported that a stray dog accompanied a German and Austrian party to the summit. Dog owners interested in seeing their pooch follow in the footsteps of Dick Bass by summiting the Seven Summits (or Pat Morrow if you prefer the Karstenz seven) should keep in mind that several dogs already have ascended Denali dating back to 1979, when a dog team summited via the West Buttress. Currently only "working dogs" are allowed in the Denali wilderness, and dogs must be authorized by the NPS before venturing onto the mountain.

The AAC New England Section will hold their eighth annual Section Dinner on Saturday, March 20 featuring a slide show by Henry Barber titled "Influential Climbs of the '70s." For event information, contact Nancy Savickas at

New Routes Guidebook:
It's been over 7 years since Ed Webster's guidebook was done. While there have been a couple of select books, they haven't done much with the new routes that have gone up in the area. I am in the process of compiling a new guide of the new routes in the Mt. Washington Valley, up as far a Crawford Notch. It will also have any new ice routes that have been put up this winter. I have gone through the New Routes book that is kept at International Mountain Equipment, If you have done any routes around here that are not in the previous guides or the New Routes books, please let me know immediately. I'd like to be as complete as possible and want you to get the credit you deserve.

Please send an email with your description to Be sure to include a complete pitch-by-pitch description, the length of each, locations of any fixed gear, any unusual gear required, the date of the first ascent and the parties involved and if there are any access issues. If it is at a cliff or area that is new or hard to find, clear directions would be useful.

Mobile Version Of NEClimbs:
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:

Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.

NEClimbs & White Mountain Report On Facebook:
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report in the season, tho certainly not the whole Report. Here's where you can check it out:

Remember - climb hard, ride the steep stuff, stay safe and above all BE NICE,

Al Hospers
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire

Climbing may be hard, but it's easier than growing up.
Ed Sklar
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