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November 18, 2004
It was still dark at 5:30 as I headed
up the road on my early morning run to Cannon. As I rode past
Attitash my headlights lit up fine snowflakes and the road had
a dusting on it for at least 100 yards! I slowed down and opened
the truck window and the sound of the snow machines was almost
louder than the U2 blasting on my iPOD!
Alden Pellett and I had been emailing back and forth about getting
out on Wednesday. At first we were going to try & hit Mt. Washington
to get in a couple of gullies in a day. The predicted temps didn't
really seem all that conducive for that kind of thing so we decided
to go for Cannon instead. He'd done the Dike the week before and
had noticed that Hassig Direct looked "in". Hassig goes
up off the first pitch belay on the Dike, climbing rock
up to an obvious steep runnel. After Alden talked with some friends
who had done it the day before, we agreed it sounded like a good
plan. If it wasn't good we could fallback to Fafnir and always
do the Dike. A 7AM meet at the parking lot was set.
When I got there Alden was sharpening his tools. Another car pulled
up just before we left containing John Mallory. He was meeting
someone and planning on the Dike, so no problem. We headed down
the bike path and about 45 minutes later, yes folks I'm a slow
hiker, we were at the Whitney Gilman toe. As we were getting suited
up Mallory and his partner, Jon Sykes, came up. I haven't seen
Jon for some time.
Alden took off up the first pitch and Jon and I decided that we
would climb together up to the belay. Jon was
in a great mood and we chatted away, carefully picking our way
up, neither wanting to knock anything off. The ice was in great
shape, fat and plastic. It was amazing conditions for the this
time of year. Alden had told me it was going to be that way, but
I was still surprised. I headed up to the normal belay and Jon
belayed down and right, hopefully out of the way.
About this time another party of three appeared in the talus field.
Wisely they hung out down there for quite a while. Jon brought
Mallory up to his belay and swapped their gear as Alden racked
and I restacked. Mallory led off underneath us and onto the second
pitch of the Dike as Alden took off up the crux pitch of Hassig.
Now I have to insert here that I'm actually not totally sure that
what we climbed was actually Hassig Direct. Jon said he thought
it was called Dark Star. I couldn't find anything with that name
but a climb called Dark Crystal used to be in that area. This is
the one that had the infamous cave that tunneled INSIDE Cannon,
but apparently it fell down! As best I can tell from the description
in the new edition of the Ice Guidebook what we did matches the
description of Hassig Direct. If you know differently, please let
Anyway, Alden started
up the crux pitch. It looked pretty moderate
up to the place where the ice ran out. Don't you just hate that,
the ice running out I mean. He carried a moderate rock rack and
is a master at the mixed genera so that wasn't really a problem
for him, especially since the gear was
pretty good. Several moves later he got to a spot of snow and then
to a stance with a yellow sling and 2-pin fixed anchor. Well it
is more-or-less a fixed anchor and certainly not a place he was
planning on hanging out and bringing me up to, so he clipped it
and moved on. Moving up onto the ice I could hear sounds of pleasure
and see occasional smiles. He cruised up the overhanging ice, managing
to place three
screws as he went, commenting on the highly interesting move
pulling over the top.
Unlike the Dike, our ice wasn't at all wet which was a blessing
because our hands never got damp and therefore stayed warm. It
was mostly cloudy, but occasionally the sun would come out. When
that happened ice fell off over on Litha and sometimes from the
top of Fafnir. We were extremely happy that we weren't over that
way! A few minutes later Alden called off-belay. While he had been
climbing 2 members of the other party came up and started up climbing.
It turned out to be Valley guide Marc Chauvin and his associate
Dave Burns. Jay Philbrick had hiked up with them, but had decided
not to climb.
I got the on-belay and headed up. It was difficult, but not nearly
as bad as I thought. There were plenty of slots for picks where
you wanted them, small ledges for your front-points and the gear
he placed was surprisingly good. When I got to the runnel I could
see that it was overhanging, but looked great. You could get stems
out left on the rock and there were occasional pockets to hook
in the ice. I was psyched!
Of course the same lessons I've learned over the years in hard
face climbing applied here. Move up 1 inch and it opens up a whole
other world of pick and crampon placements. There was only one
place where I had to do a strength move and expend any significant
energy. That made me feel good. The top of the runnel was definitely
tricky and entertaining as Alden had pointed out. You would certainly
not want to smash up the curtain, it was more a place for finesse.
Alden fired the last pitch up to the final belay. It wasn't all
that interesting past the initial ice curtain, so he made it more
fun by stepping out right and going up a very exposed arete. It
was very "airy" and made the finish highly entertaining.
We'd left our packs at the base and there was no one else on the
climb so we did 3 quick raps back to the base. The hike down through
the talus was it's usual drag, but we were back at the car just
after 1. All in all a darn good morning's effort.
Oh yeah... Back at Attitash at 2:15 after checking out Frankenstein
and Crawford Notch, the snow they had blown in the morning was
all gone and temps were in the mid to upper 40's in the Valley. <sigh> Hopefully
all they were doing was testing the guns.
Fire In The Moats, Update:
On Sunday (13th)
a forest fire broke out up in the Lucy Brook area on the side of
the Moats behind Cathedral Ledge. It was obvious something was
going on as wood smoke filled the Valley and you could plainly
see where it was taking place from anywhere in downtown. Firefighters
had a hard time digging trenches to contain the blaze due to the
fact that it was a difficult place to get into. For the next several
days the community was very concerned, especially those of us on
the West Side, as the ground is quite dry and there was no immediate
precipitation in sight. The Forest Service kept at it and by Wednesday
were able to complete a perimeter containment and the fire seemed
to have died down.
With any luck we'll have some precip (snow would be fine) over
the weekend and that will take care of it. This was the first major
forest fire in that area in remembrance. The Forest Service believes
that it was started by a hunter's cigarette or campfire. We have
had no thunderstorms or anything that would have logically triggered
a fire. We're all glad it happened now and not in the early fall
when it was even drier that it is now.
AMC "Introduction To Ice" Climbing Program:
The AMC Boston Chapter Mountaineering Committee is proud to announce
2004/5 Ice Climbing Program. Please check their web
site for details.
If you are a prospective student or a returning leader make sure
to set aside the following dates:
Monday, December 6, 2004 Cabot Auditorium, AMC, 5 Joy Street, Boston
You must attend this to take the program Meet instructors, learn
the course, fill out an application, and take a belay test.
Monday, January 10, 2005 Cabot Auditorium, AMC, 5 Joy Street, Boston
Saturday & Sunday, January 22 & 23 Harvard Cabin, Jackson,
Saturday & Sunday February 5 & 6 Harvard Cabin, Jackson,
I've been helping out with this course for 8 years and can attest
that it's very well done. The information is up to date and well
presented and the people running it are competent and very well
The ice hasn't built much if any over the past week and in some
places things have even gotten worse. We need snow and cold weather,
neither of which we are likely to get in the next several days.
Better get out the rock gear for the weekend. A few places like
Mt. Washington or the Dike are still building because they are
in upper elevations or well shaded. That said, daytime temps
have been in the the mid-40's so be aware that the ice may not
be as well bonded as it was.
Some people have been climbing the first pitch of Standard Route
at Frankenstein. I DO NOT RECOMMEND this as the
water is flowing too much and the route is mostly in the sun! Be
patient and remember, this is only the 18th of November. The cold
and snow will come, and we will get ice.
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.
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:
Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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