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In a place like the Whites, history is all around... If you wander
around enough you'll find old bolts & pins in odd places on
obscure cliffs reached via overgrown paths in the deep woods. It's
hard to put up a truly new climb, especially if it's a moderate,
because it's very likely that some prolific but closed mouth climber
has already been there.
Years ago, when I was younger, and probably a bit more foolhardy,
I took a solo run up the rolling slabs way right of upper Standard
Route on Whitehorse. As I was cautiously padding upwards way out
in the middle of nowhere, I came across a lonely 1/4 inch bolt
with a spinning aluminum hanger. Try as I might I couldn't spot
a companion. Later I asked around, but no one confessed to the
deed and I have always wondered about its story.
On Wednesday, with the rock pretty much soaked from the recent
rains, DMan and I decided to take a hike up along the top right
of Frankenstein to scope out the cliffs. The only time I've been
up there was in the winter to grab a quick ascent of the ever-elusive
Angel Cakes. I'd heard that there had been some action up there
years ago by a few hardy souls, although overall the rock in the
area has been considered sub-par. Still, lured by whispers of names
like "Stem Like a Bar Stool", "Rocky Horror Show", "Atila
the Nun", and Salamander Days" I figured it was worth
a morning's investment.
As we hiked up past Pegasus & Chia there
were small chunks of ice still on the ground and plenty of running
water. Apparently the scavengers had already been hard at work,
as there were no old slings, screws or any sign indicating the
fact that ice season was so recently ended! We continued up the
Frankenstein Ravine trail almost to the top where a faint trail
went off right. When it ended we continued bushwacking right to
reach the cliffband. Once there it was obvious that there was a
lot of chossy rock, but some interesting features nonetheless.
Some looked at least as good as a few that George Hurley has led
me up over the years. <grin> The dogs led
the way, followed closely by DMan. Turning one buttress he called
out that he had spotted a fixed
line. As I took off my pack and
tied off his dog, he scrambled up the ledge. We were surprised
to see a series of bolts heading up the face. The rope was frayed
and faded and it was actually 2 lines tied together. It was obvious
that it had been there for a long time.
Looking to the right there was a very interesting feature, 3 huge
left-facing dihedrals. It seemed to me that all 3 would go as rock
climbs, tho we didn't see any indications that was the case. The
rock in this area looked the best of any on this cliff and is certainly
something worth revisiting.
We continued down the cliff a little way until the rock quality
deteriorated substantially and then bushwacked back downhill. About
300 yards down the steep hillside we came across red surveyors
tape which we followed downhill. Amazingly enough it turned out
to be the marks for the trai to Angel Cakes, tho we hadn't seen
any indication of the ice climb. Apparently we hadn't gone far
enough right. This would probably be the best way up to the cliff.
Ex-local Nick Yardley passed on the following tantalizing tidbits:
"...it appears that the middle pic with the rope hanging
down it is Attila the Nun. If it now has 5 bolts on it I guess
it may have had a couple of bolts added after we did it (though
it's over 16 years since I was on it so memory can fade. Still
a really great climb 5.12a. The corner to the left is a 5.11
and just left again is Gerry Handren's Rocky Horror show -
a great route (I have cool photo's of him on this first ascent)
12.b. Left of this buttress is a 5.10 corner called Stem like
a Bar Stool, put up by Mark Wilson. On the wall to the right
of the buttress is a 12a/b put up by Chris Gill and Gerry called
Salamander Days. Your final photo shows a great little 5.11a
or was it 5.10 I can't remember, still a great
little crack route again I have good photo's. I think Andy
Ross scored this route."
If anyone has any more information on the area I'd certainly like
to hear about it. It really looks as if there are some interesting
climbs up there amongst all the choss.
Others did do a lot of climbing over the last weekend. The weather
was warm and dry. There were a ton of folks out on the cliffs.
Here are a few nice shots by Scott Conchieri and Eric McCallister.
Scott's are of the Still In Saigon and Rapid Transit on Cathedral,
Eric's of Soft Job at Rumney.
Buds & Bugs:
With the rain we've had over the last several days, nature has
started going wild. Waiting buds on trees and bushes have exploded,
taking the woods from brown and sparse to thick and lush - almost
overnight. Rhododendrons are in bloom, dandelions are popping
up everywhere and hikes in the woods can yield sightings of Trillium.
It's a very special time.
Of course this means that the pollen count has gone through the
roof, driving some to the allergist or pharmacist. And, in the
deep woods at the lower elevations we're gradually approaching
that time of year when venturing out sans-bug-dope becomes an almost
foolhardy act. I've raised the Bug Report Status to a "2" this
week, based on the proliferation of ticks and mosquitoes. There
are isolated reports of biting black-flies but these are still
few and far between. Hopefully that milestone will hold off another
week or so, tho the rains will likely accelerate the process.
Believe it or not, a few of my outdoors-related goals have nothing
to do with climbing! I finally ticked another one of them off
last Friday, a simple traverse of the Moats. While nothing as
committing as 2 years-ago winter Presi-Traverse, at 9 miles it
certainly will keep your interest. If you haven't done it, I
highly recommend you check it out. You start at the trailhead
off Passaconaway Road and hike up South Moat, cross over to Middle
Moat and then on to North Moat. The 360 degree views from the
top of North Moat are spectacular.
From there you make a long descent to Diana's Bath. Needless to
say you will need to spot a car at both ends of the trail. In addition
there is only one way off other than completing the traverse or
turning around At Middle Moat you can take the Red Ridge Trail.
It takes you back down to the logging roads behind Whitehorse and
Cathedral and eventually rejoins the Moat trail near Diana's bath.
It knocks a little off the hike, but not all that much. Now this
is something that I want to do in the winter!
Positive Update on David Benson:
Apparently during a recent physical therapy session David was able
to move his left foot, left toes up and down, right toes down.
He has also managed to move his lower legs. The left he can lift
about 6-8 inches, less on the right, and he can also just barely
squeeze my legs together. This is absolutely wonderful news and
we all wish him the best.
Over 600 Subscribers:
In the beginning, one of the big goals for this humble newsletter
was to reach a "circulation" of 450 subscribers. We
managed that one almost 2 years ago, hit the 500 mark a year
ago and 560 over the winter. Last week we pushed that number
to over 600. Thanks to all of you who are making this happen.
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective February 25, 2017
I'm getting texts, emails, PM's, even psychic telepathy queries. all asking the same thing... Is there going to be ice tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, in 2 weeks. I'm telling everyone the same thing - I have absolutely no idea. It rained most of the day today, Friday. There is a big rain predicted for Saturday night. Even if it gets colder on Sunday, it's not going to be really cold! Therefore it's a total & complete crap shoot!
Is the season over, probably not completely. There will still be reasonable ice in the upper elevations for weeks. Most likely Standard and Dracula will hold on a bit longer. But Dropline fell down today and I wouldn't go anywhere near the Frankenstein Amphitheater. Honestly, I would be very very cautious climbing anything this weekend.
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 some 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:
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
The solitary ascent of the Dru had the immediate effect of expanding the horizons of my ideas about mountaineering. It made me aware of possibilities well in advance of the times, which were characterized by very restricted mothods. This was how the suberb pyramid of K2 surfaced once more in the list of my projects. But I chose K2 as a way for giving concrete form to my new concept of mountaineering: to climb the second highest montain in the world solo, alpine style, and without oxygen.