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I don't know about you, but most of my climber
friends and I have these ongoing "tick lists" that we
run all the time. It's so bad that whenever we're out climbing
or just talking to the other Valley climbers, in the back of our
minds we're always parsing the chit-chat: "Wow, Freddie did
Big Science on Tuesday, I've always wanted to get that one, today's
Wednesday, I can get out on Friday, it's been cold and the weather
report is for cold and cloudy until the weekend, it should still
be in by then, I wonder if John can get off work for the day, I
better call him now..."
Tuesday afternoon I got a call from Brad White, master climber
and part-owner of IMCS in North Conway. In spite of having climbed
in the Valley for close to 30 years, he still has one of the biggest
tick-lists going. It doesn't matter where we go, he's always pointing
out some climb along the way that's on his list. Ever since he
went along with me last winter when I ticked off Snot-Rocket, he'd
been talking about an ephemeral drool-to-a-drip that comes in on
the left side of that same buttress. He'd been eyeing it growing
for the past few weeks every time he came through the Notch. The
weather prediction for Wednesday was light snow in the morning
and temps in the low 30's and so he'd decided both it and he were
ready. Time to rock & roll!
He picked me up at 8:30 and after a few short stops for me to
snap pictures at Frankenstein, we got up to the top of the Notch.
For starters, it was anything but light snow and the temps were
far from the low 30's. In fact it more like heavy wind gusts, blowing
snow and temps in the low 20's. Shall we say - Full
I was thankful I'd thrown a balaclava, Gortex jacket and my heavy
gloves in the bottom of the pack a few weeks ago. <wry grin>
As we walked down the tracks I was surprised to see a newly erected
gate with a prominent STOP sign on it. Apparently this was to keep
the snowmobile riders from going any further down the tracks. I
was happy to see it there. It's hard to imagine hiking down the
tracks with the snowmobiles zipping past.
When we got to Snot Rocket we walked around the left side of the
buttress. The ice looked surprisingly good, but we wouldn't be
able to tell how the column up on the ledge would be until Brad
got up there. We put on crampons and hiked up the slope to the
base of the climb. We were sheltered from the wind in the trees
but it was still very cold. I had to take off my gloves for a minute
to get my harness on and my fingers got instantly numb. Both of
us commented how the first time this season that our hands had
been that cold. In a very short time we were ready and Brad headed
The ice was really thin at the start, but Brad got surprisingly
good sticks right
away. It made him feel good about the climbing. He got in several
short screws as he worked his way up to the ledge and a great
nut in the right-hand wall just before he made the
move onto the ledge. There were several cracks in the wall and
I remembered that Doug Madera, Mark Richie and Mark Wilford had
put up a new route on that wall over the Ice Festival weekend last
year. As I remember it Doug told me later that they used mark Richie's
amazing strength to get the gear in. Then when he came down and
the others sent the route.
Brad got to the ledge and hit the pillar. It gave off a hollow
sound and some of the ice near the bottom shattered. It wasn't
too confidence-inspiring. He poked around and found a good nut
and purple Camelot placement in the rock behind the pillar, plus
he got a sling on the tree to the left, all together making him
somewhat happy. He
tapped his way up, dropping off some large chunks
of pillar as he went. Of course he didn't put any screws for the
20' of the pillar itself as if it had broken while he was on it,
the remains would have surely brought him to the ground with it.
Right at the top he
paused and got in 2 mediocre screws and one
3 more moves and he was in the pucker-brush at the top and off
belay. He set up an anchor to a tree up high and lowered himself
back down to the lip where he could see me. Now it was my turn...
I'd like to say I ran up it, but it definitely took all my focus
to get it clean. Between the howling wind, occasional blowing snow
and totally numb fingers it was more like work. I must say it was
really annoying to have to use my thick gloves with the leashless
tool. The handles on the Ergo's are certainly made for thinner
gloves like the Ice Flow or BD Mixed gloves. It didn't help my
circulation at all.
At the ledge I took out all the gear other than the Camelot, as
it was up higher than I could reach. Oh, did I tell you that Brad
has about 2 inches on me? <sigh> I tapped my way carefully
up the pillar until my waist was just above the cam. I had to very
carefully reach around behind the pillar to the rock & take
it out, all the while with my leashless tool perched on my shoulder.
Brad hollered down that if it fell I would have to finish the climb
with one tool. I grinned wryly, knowing full well that wasn't going
to happen. At the top of the pillar I could see that it was well
cracked up. I took out his 3 screws and took a deep breath, really
happy that the thing had held my weight. 3 minutes later I was
at the top and we both were happy campers. We picked out 2 trees
to rap from and headed down to the tracks. The wind was still howling
and the snow blowing when we walked out, but this time it was at
our backs and we didn't care. We were really warm with the feeling
that we had ticked another climb off the list.
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.
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North Conway, New Hampshire
The Puking Gecko, Grand Wall, *** S9 5.12d/e 712m - An intimidating and salacious climb. The final pitch is so exposed, tricky, and continuously strenuous that it is impossible to even contact the rock at any point. Better than making passionate love on top of a Japanese Bullet Train. Superbly magnificent and grimly brilliant.