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Whenever I'm driving someplace to go ice climbing
I have these little indicators that I use to guess how good it's
going to be, before I even get there. Until recently when was heading
up to Frankenstein, it was always the ice bulge on Sawyer Rock.
If there was ice all over that, I would be confident that there
was ice in the Amphitheater.
When they widened the road and blasted the rock mostly out of
existence, I was bummed. They went to a considerable amount of
effort to ensure that the water wouldn't seep down onto the road,
as it used to, and I figured they would make sure it wouldn't even
flow out over the road cut. Apparently that's not the case, or
maybe it's just not all that easy to do, since there have been
ice flows building on it for the past week. You get the same kind
of precursor from the new road cut as you're coming up into to
Pinkham. If it's cold and the water's been running, that new cut
has some nice pillars. Ice there always makes me feel better about
doing the big hike up to Huntington.
Dave Powers called me last week to give me the anxiously awaited
news that there was ice building at Willoughby. Needless to say
I immediately made plans to get up there as soon as I could, which
happened to be this Monday. Using my "ice indicator" criteria
on the state of the road-cut ice along 93, I wasn't disappointed.
Not only was there a lot more snow on the ground once I got up
past Littleton, there were enough pillars along the side of the
road that I was highly encouraged.
I got there a little late (don't ask, I won't tell) and Dave with
buds Randy and Jake were already at the lot at the end of the lake.
Through the snow flurries it was obvious that there was good
ice to be had.
The "official" word was that there was reasonable ice
from the Tablets down to the Gentleman. Further up the lake it
was pretty sketchy. Well that was more than plenty for me so I
was psyched. We decided to head up to Glass, figuring that one
party would to that and the other 20 Below Zero.
As usual the hike uphill warmed us all up. Plopping down by our
packs and sucking down some hot Gatorade with green tea and chomping
on a hunk of pepperoni I was pleased to see that the ice seemed
to be in good condition. The start looked a little thin, but certainly
reasonable for this time of year. Dave, and I had done Glass last
year and I had snagged the crux pitch so he wanted it this time.
Fine by me so I headed up. At the same time Jake headed up the
fist pitch of 20 Below. We climbed the entire pitch on lines parallel
to each other, about 15 feet apart, all the way up to a belay on
a nice flat spot. There were thin places, but there was gear to
be had and the climbing seemed to be about 3 or 3+. Jake and I
had a running conversation all the way to the belay, with a few
gaps when the ice got a little thin. It was great fun. he and I
agreed that it was probably the most social day of climbing that
Randy and Dave zipped up and got ready to take care of "the
business". The ice on Glass looked plastic and not as mushy
as when we had done it before. When he seconded the pitch that
time, he pulled my screws out with his fingers! It wasn't that
warm so we didn't expect that to happen this day. The snow kept
coming down and seemed to be getting heavier. There were big flakes
and it was getting hard to see across the lake behind us at times.
Dave's been climbing a lot and I was impressed at how he seemed
to cruise up the pitch in such good style. While there were stances
in key places, he made the many vertical sections look almost easy.
Jake and I ragged on Dave and Randy as they climbed and chattered
away. About in the middle of the steepest section Dave called down
that there was something very interesting on the ice. Something
had apparently taken place and there was blood all over the ice!
At least it wasn't from him. Just before the top Dave disappeared
into the snow and it was erie when he finally called down that
he was off-belay.
I traversed over to the steep section and headed up. The climbing
was great. Plenty of places to hook, good places for your feet
and generally plastic ice. I was using the Ergo's and it was great
to be able to hang onto a tool and shake out whenever I wanted
or match hands on a single tool to move from side to side. It was
the steepest thing I'd done leashless this season and it was comforting
that I never felt pumped. I noticed that Dave had gotten in all
3 22 cm screws on the pitch, as well as 6 others. I was sure that
the 22's had made him feel very good. At one point I could hear
the water running very loudly out to my right. Fortunately on our
line the drips weren't too bad.
I got to the belay and we decided to finish up into the woods
and then traverse left to rap down to Jake and Randy's belay at
the tree above the rock buttress on 20 Below. They were willing
to leave their rope so we wouldn't have to do the v-thread "thing" to
get off on Glass. 30 minutes later we were all safely down and
munching on sandwiches and bars. It was 2:30, about 4 hours from
when we started.
Someone asked if anyone wanted to climb any more. We all looked
at each other and at almost the same instant said, "Nope." It
had been a great day and it would be 3:15 by the time we got back
to the trucks at the lot. No one had any interest in walking down
in the dark and besides, we were all pleasantly tired. It had been
a perfect day, and one that I hope to repeat lots of times this
UNCOMMON Ground finally on DVD:
Local climber and videographer Robert Frost's acclaimed video UNCOMMON
Ground is finally available on DVD. Featuring great footage of
rock and ice climbing in New England, this is a must-have addition
to your collection. To get your copy now, CLICK
Looks as if the caretaker for the Harvard Cabin has quit. It's
not clear what will be happening, but if you were planning on
staying in the cabin this weekend or next week you should check
on the status. Apparently the person who took the job shall we
say, didn't quite understand the magnitude of the undertaking
and bailed with no notice or warning!
There are some advantages to doing all this back & forth up
through Crawford Notch. One is seeing things at all different times
of the day. I've been taking my good camera along and have gotten
a couple of nice shots that have nothing to do with climbing. The
Notch Sunrise was taken on Monday morning halfway between the AMC
Highland House and Twin Mountain. The other was taken today, Thursday,
right in front of the Willey House on the bridge. As they say,
if you don't have the camera with you, you won't get the shots...
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
In 1961 I led this chimney in a state of metabolic uproar. At the base of the pitch I smoked several cigarettes (the first and last ones of my life). This was to calm me. Then I spooned half a jar of honey. This was to ensure superhuman strength. Mort Hempel, my partner, watched this silly ritual with mouth agape and eyes exploding with fear.