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Well there is definitely something in the old Boy Scout Motto. You know the one... "Be prepared." I would say that with climbing, and most especially with ice climbing, you could easily amend it to "Be very very prepared, and be sure to check the state of your ice screws while you are at it." Can you tell where this one is going folks?
I'd been wanting to get out with Brad White since before Xmas but between work & family we just hadn't been able to hook up. So when he called me on Sunday & suggested that Tuesday would be a good option, I jumped. In addition I figured that this would be a good time to take a ride on Dropline this year. I knew it had been done a number of times & had been in good shape. Why not, right?
I played at the Parka Monday night so getting up Tuesday morning was a little rough. When Brad showed up at 8:45 I was pretty much ready to go, but still sucking down a second mug of espresso. All my stuff was still laying around from Friday's excursion up the left column on Unicorn, so I just tossed it all in my pack and we headed up to the Notch.
Checking out the climb from the road with the binocs' we thought it looked in good shape. The start looked thin as usual, top out looked fine, but there was this funny groove on the center. I figured that there might be some possibility of stemming up that, making it more entertaining. Yeah, right. There were only a couple of cars in the lot when we pulled in and temps were a little below freezing - just about a prefect day. I took a couple of shots of the Amphitheater as we walked by and everything looked pretty good except for Widow's Walk and Bob's Delight. Why am I not surprised? There was a party already on Standard as we hiked up. Brad was a little quicker & was harnessed and flaking out the rope when I got to the belay area. Did I tell you that I'm a slow hiker uphill?
I'd asked Brad to bring his 70 meter rope this time so I could just go straight up the whole climb from the ground. There are 3 plusses for this:
1) I avoid that crappy scrap up to the tree belay;
2) I avoid the scrappy rock traverse from the tree to the column;
3) If I were to fall there is a lot of rope out, allowing for a soft belay.
Of course it also means that there is no rest from the ground to the top! But hey, you can't have everything... I looked at the climb, counted what I thought I would need and racked up.
Before I started up I pulled out my camera and Brad tried a few shots to get used to it. The battery chose that time to crap completely out! I was very bummed as of course I hadn't brought a spare. So, no pictures this time, oh well.
The start was actually a lot better than it looked. It was definitely tap tap and not thunk thunk, but it was quite solid so I just cruised along humming that old Steely Dan tune to myself, Show Biz Kids. That's the kind of thing I find myself doing when I am in focus mode. The tune just fills my mind & drives out all the nervousness.
After the really thin stuff there was a stance below a short curtain where I ran in a stubbie and placed a purple cam on the right. I felt a lot better as I went up the small but steep bulge & headed up to the base of the pillar. Now things got steeper than they had looked and the ice became surprisingly brittle. I was knocking off a lot of stuff as I climbed the huge base, putting in 2 screws in the 20' before I got up to the stance right at the base of the main pillar. I had a disconcerting time with the second screw. It was one of my good new Petzl's and I had expected it to just run right in, but I had a really hard time getting it started. When I looked at it carefully I could see that the points had been dulled. Bummer... The second screw I tried seemed to have the same problem! It took me a lot longer than expected to place the screw in the rock-hard ice. Seems that I'd forgotten my Boy Scout Motto and hadn't prepared my screws for a climb of this calibre. OUCH - not a good thing!
Standing at the base of the main pillar I could see that what had appeared to be a groove actually was a big hollow section. There was a large place at the bottom like a little cave, the ice above it looked very fluted and it looked as if placing protection was going to be a real problem. In addition I couldn't see any obvious signs that anyone had been there, tho I knew that wasn't true. Anywho, it didn't look all that appetizing to me so I ran in my one NICE Grivel screw with a long sling on it and called down to Brad that it was time for Plan B; i.e. moving around to the left side. Someone gave me the Grivel and altho it does not rack well for me, I keep it around because it is very sharp. It's a great screw to place where you have a good stance, like at the base of a steep section.
As soon as I got about 4' left I could see the traverse pins 10' up plus the obvious signs of other climbers, so I set another screw and moved up to the pins. Maybe I'm getting a bit short on memory in my old age, but I was surprised to see 3 pins in the traverse, an older one on the left that I remembered, and 2 on the right. It looked like a belay station! Interesting... I clipped the 2 on the right & was happy that they were there.
I decided to take a minute then to rearrange my gear. Here's where forgetting my Boy Scout Motto had really bit me. I had a lot of slings and spare biners in my pack, but had not taken them all. In addition I hadn't brought all my screws. What was I thinking? I suppose I was actually over-thinking. On top of that I had ended up placing more screws on the climb to this point than I had planned for - AS ALWAYS! Sigh. Well whatever, it took me minutes of fiddling to put together what I thought was enough stuff to deal with The Business that was ahead of me.
Right above the traverse the ice was very brittle and I had a hard time clearing places to get good sticks and places to run in screws. Stuff just kept dinnerplating off but I put in 3 difficult screws in the next 30'. One was in very hard ice and took a lot out of me. By now I'm only about 10' from where things eased up but my right hand is getting really pumped.
Oh yes, did I say that I was climbing this puppy leashless with my Ergo's? When I'd led it 2 years before I'd used my Vipers with the Android leashes. Tho I didn't hang on them at the time, the combination of climbing the whole thing in one push, fighting with the screws and having to clear so much crappy ice made a real difference. Yes, it's an excuse I admit, but at this point I decided to rest on the screw. AAARRRRGGGGHHHH! Bad Form, Poor Style, all kinds of negatives ran thru my head as I told Brad to TAKE! There was no way I wanted to fall on ice, been there done that - never again, so that's the way it was. I shook out both hands and a minute or two later I headed on. Not surprisingly right at that point the ice went from brittle to plastic and the climbing took on a whole different perspective. I blew thru the gently overhanging crux on perfect ice, ran in 2 more screws to the top and before I knew it I was done. No, not perfect, but I guess I'll take it.
Brad followed in wonderful style, pulling off several huge chunks of ice, flipping one over his shoulder with his axe that was almost as big as his chest! I was both ecstatic & yet bummed. While I'd gotten up the climb, and certainly NOT "fallen up" it, it wasn't in the style I desired for myself. That said, I've certainly learned/re-learned a couple of valuable lessons:
1) check all your screws for sharpness;
2) don't guess, just bring ALL the gear stupid;
3) don't forget the Scout Motto.
Well at least this gives me something to shoot for. Hey, maybe even later this season.
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective January 19, 2017
It's yet another mild day here in the Valley at 39 degrees, and even up in Crawford Notch where it was 34! The ice is OK in some places, but not overall good yet. For instance the Frankenstein Amphitheater is marginal, while Standard and Dracula are great. We need several days of seriously cold temps for things to settle in, Top outs on many climbs are poor, so protect where you can!
Thanks to Jim Hallo, Mike Coote, and Drew Haas respectively for the pics.
A Note About Sending In Pix:
While I am always into receiving reports and pictures of the climbs that you all are doing out there. The new Photo Gallery is a perfect place to post whatever you are taking. You can upload any of your shots that are 150k or less to the Gallery and it's about as easy a process as dropping me an email. PLUS you are guaranteed that it gets seen by others.
You should have gotten a program with your digital camera, Photoshop Elements or the like, that will enable you to easily crop and resize your images. Save them as jpeg format files at a resolution that gets them to the required size and you're set. If you are a registered Forum member, and that's easy to do as well, you can then upload your pix to your Gallery. If you have questions about how to do any part of the process, post your questions in the Forum and I will try and answer them. That way everyone will benefit.
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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The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
It is to conquer fear that one becomes a climber. The climber experiences life to its extreme. A climber is not crazy. He is not out to get himself killed. He knows what life is worth. He is in love with living.