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Sometimes you can get yourself into situations
without thinking about it. I've done this when hiking many times.
I go out with a plan to turn back at a certain time or distance,
and before I know it I'm further along that I'd expected and just
better off just finishing the full hike. I do it on the mountain
bike all the tiime. I did the same thing on Wednesday up in Huntington's
Ravine. One minute I'm just playing around on the first pitch of
Pinnacle, the next I'm topping out in the Alpine Garden.
I got a bit of a late start and left Pinkham at about 8:15. About
10 minutes up the trail I crossed paths with a young man headed
rapidly in the other direction. He paused long enough to tell me
that his name was Mike, he had soloed Pinnacle that morning, it
was thin and if I stayed to the sides I "probably" wouldn't
punch through. He was in a hurry because he had to make it back
to school in time for his classes at Plymouth State. Needless to
say I rolled all this over in my mind multiple times in the next
couple of hours.
It was a beautiful morning in the Ravine. It was obvious that
the only person up there that day was the young climber and I followed
his tracks, and postholes, all the way up through the fan. I kept
expecting to see someone behind me, but it never happened. There
was some amount of ice in all the gullies. Damnation had
snow from top to bottom and Central actually
looked pretty good. Of course Pinnacle was
hidden until I turned the corner around the buttress. I was a bit
surprised when I saw it because of the picture my friend Tim had
sent on Friday. That one made it look pretty fat, but to me it
looked, shall we say, somewhat anemic. Couple that with the fact
that as I cramponed up to the base of the climb I could hear water
running under snow on the shield, and I was getting just a tiny
bit antsy. I don't want you to think that I didn't have some plan
in my mind to do the full climb, I most certainly did. Actually
I wouldn't have gone all the way to the base of the route if I
hadn't thought that I would actually climb it. That said there
was a part of me that was fully prepared to back off if I thought
it was too iffy.
At this time I say to myself, "Self... You can always back
down if you don't like what you see." (FWIW I spend a lot
of early-season time practicing that sort of thing.) So at the
stroke of noon I start up. The very right side looked better from
the standpoint of running water, or lack thereof, and I headed
up there. It was my first climb of the season and the tools and
crampons felt great. It was almost as if I hadn't skipped the past
8 months of rock season. I had also forgotten just how solid my
Cobras feel in alpine conditions. Every swing was solid and sweet,
except where it was thin and I hit the rock. <grimace>
As usual I don't look down past my feet when I'm climbing. The
focus is totally on where I am going, not where I've been. So by
the time I looked down at all I was 40' up. Where the corner ice
ran out I stepped left into the main flow. Right about now I was
just a bit concerned as I could see the water was rushing and bubbling
an inch or two beneath the ice. Still, each stick and kick was
solid and it just kept egging me onward until I was parallel to
the belay. The ice started to run out and the snow pitch took over.
There was a nice stance on the left so I took a breather. If
there was any place I was going to back down from, this had to
Another tidbit was that I didn't bring a rope or harness, so I
would have to downclimb. Sometimes when I solo I will wear my harness,
bring my 8mm rap line and a couple of screws and threads. This
time I decided to do the light and fast thing and brought none
of that. It allowed me to bring my big digital SLR instead. I'm
not sure if that was the best trade off, but hey... I took a picture
one looking up and
then I decided to continue. Of course by now the bluebird skies
had turned to solid grey so I hurried myself carefully along. Staying
first on the left and then moving across to the right, I could
hear the water below the snow crust. This was by far the most disconcerting
part of the climbing.
When I reached the final ice section I decided to do the right-hand
top out. 30' up I could see that the previous climber had done
the same. Finally there was nice solid ice all the way to the pucker-brush.
Whew, the climbing part was done. Now for the slog to the Alpine
Garden. As usual this takes longer than expected, and the higher
I got the colder and windier it became. I was definitely tired
by now, and I was certainly not in the right outfit, so I hunkered
down behind one of the big cairns, pulled on my Gortex jacket and
took off my crampons. That helped a lot, as did some water & a
peanut butter sandwich. As I took it out of it's grocery bag the
wind caught the bag and tore it out of my hand and whipped it down
into the gully. I'm sure it's not the first bit of trash up there,
but I felt bad about it.
Looking around I realized that it looked almost like sunset. That
made me more nervous than the climbing. I was well aware that not
only had I been the only person in the ravine, I was most likely
the only person on the Alpine Garden. I pulled my hiking poles
out of my pack, slung the pack over my shoulders and headed left
on the trail, following the cairns toward the Lion's Head Trail.
The walking was a bit slippery in places but it went fast and before
I knew it I was at the intersection with the summit trail. Where
I had only seen the footprints of the other climber before, there
were tons of footprints now and I felt a lot better. I celebrated
with an apple.
At 1:30 I got to the rocks where I could get a good view of the
bowl. I was making good time so I decided to take a
few shots. There was ice in on the headwall but it was pretty sporadic.
While you probably could find a way up the ice to the lip, it didn't
look appetizing to me. I think I'll give it another week. The winter
trail wasn't open and the trail was pretty slippery so I took my
time through the rocks. Still it didn't take very long and I was
down to the main Tucks trail. 10 minutes later I was at the intersection
with the Hunting Ravine trail. From the tracks it looked as if
there were at least a few others that had gone up after me. By
3:30 I was back to the truck at Pinkham. Not my best time, a little
over 7 hours car to car, but I'll take it for a first time out
Instant Ice Report:
I rode up to Crawford Notch this morning and there is nothing
to climb there yet. You will be able to see pictures on NEClimbs
soon. Many of the climbs in Frankenstein have a skim on them, but
that's normal on the ones with flowing water. Nothing is likely
to really come in until there is some snow and there is none up
there right now. That's right folks, pray for snow!
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective March 23, 2017
The ice is still pretty good right now, and even great in some places. As long as we don't get a big rain, or week of 50 degree daze, I would guess we should have this plus another week of climbable ice in the shady spots in the lower elevations. That would put us into April 1st, and these daze I would be very surprised if you could climb down here after that. But it's been an interesting season, so I suppose anything is possible.
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
Life is brought down to the basics: if you are warm, regular, healthy, not thirsty or hungry, then you are not on a mountain... Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall — it's great when you stop.