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March 30, 2006
After my observations last week about how winter was still happening in the Notches, this week has been totally in the other direction. I would say that this is most certainly not another thaw, with more winter weather to come. Frankly I think that this is IT folks, Spring has truly come at last. Of course as soon as I say something like that you can almost bet that we'll get some April blizzard or something to prove me wrong. But with temps everywhere but on the Mountain in the 60's, it's hard not to figure it's all over for ought 6.
Last week I was going to ride my bike up to Crawford Notch to have a look, and I was glad that I didn't. This week I tried again with better success - at least from the cycling point of view. The ice, such as it was up there, was falling down as I watched. I spoke with a man who had talked up into the Amphitheater attempting to take some pictures and almost gotten killed by falling ice. I think that this picture gives you my feelings on the matter:
State O The Ice
Basically I'm going to call it for the 2005/2006 Ice Season. It's certainly been a strange one, but a successful one for me personally. With only a couple of exceptions I've done what I wanted to do this year. Sure I would have liked to bag Omega and Mainline, but Dropline, Last Exit, Machine, Angel Cakes and the regulars were just fine for this old man. There were those multiple thaws and the ice wasn't as good as I would have liked, but even then there were plenty of fun and interesting things to do.
In the earlier part of the season when things got funky for a bit I got pretty pessimistic. Local guide and writer Mark Synnott very rightly pointed out that there was in fact plenty of things to do if you were open to them. If all I wanted to do was to run another lap on Smear or Pegasus, then I wasn't going to be very happy. But, if I was willing to poke around a bit & take some alternate lines occasionally or head into some other areas, things were actually pretty good.
That's one of the things about ice climbing. While the climbs we all know & love with few exceptions come in pretty much every year, the really cool thing is that other even cooler stuff comes and goes all the time. It is the actual ephemeralness of the medium that makes it so cool. There were a bunch of new things done this year that were very cool. Two new lines in the Widow's Walk area, a balls-to-the-wall mixed climb was done in the Cathedral Roof, interesting adventure climbs done on Mt. Willey and some very cool things on Mt. Webster. Not to mention several groundbreaking climbs were done up at the Lake and in the Daks. All this and more, in spite of what many would call a poor-ice year!
I hate to see it go, but except for the Ravines, I think that this season is over. Sure you can probably get up Dracula and a few other climbs hidden in dark places, but even if you do your gear will be crap and you're going to get soaked. Brad White did Hitchcock earlier in the week and his feeling was that everything was toast. This from the owner of a climbing school so you gotta take him seriously. What's left is severely undermined, mushy, pouring water and IMNSHO not worth the effort. I guided a group last Sunday at the North End of Cathedral and felt that I was amazingly lucky to get that in on a 50 degree day! Since then it's been sunny every day, temps have been consistently in the 50's and it's barely been freezing at night. So...
I hereby declare Ice Season 2005/2006 OFFICIALLY OVER. May it rest in peace.
The ice season is over, and of course everyone wants to get out there & jump right on the rock - especially on the easy rock. Well it is very important that you look very carefully at where you are climbing right now. Places like the North End cracks and Toe Crack, the Mordor Wall and under Repentance or Remission at Cathedral, or even the Whitehorse Slabs are simply not places you want to be right now. There is a ton of ice left above the North End where Unicorn once was. Even if you can't see it from the ground, trust me that the pillars have fallen down and are laying on that big sloping ledge just waiting to slide down. There is still ice up in the upper Diagonal crack, on the upper slabs on Whitehorse and in other darker areas as well. Until we get a good long warm rain, there will still be ice that will be coming down in very unexpected places. Toe Crack looks to warm and inviting, but every year ice spits out of the Standard Route Cave much later in the Spring that one would have imagined. Even if Thin Air is totally clear, The ice on Super Goofer and Goofer's Delight will come down in a catastrophic release. I've been up on Thin Air at he end of March when Goofer's let go and it is really quite entertaining. You do NOT want to walk up that gully to Thin Air for a while and if you hike up there past the Mordor, move quickly.
So where can you go? I would say that Humphrey's Ledge, the South Buttress, Morning Glory Wall at Cathedral and Rumney are leading contenders. Just look very carefully above you and if it's dark up there, assume that there is probably ice lurking. Word to the wise...
I got a call from Trango owner and friend Mal Daley on Tuesday. It's always great to chat with Mal and we had a lot to talk about. The conversation ranged from family to climbing to music to politics. It's refreshing to talk with someone in this industry who is interested in something more than their latest "send". Of course he had a reason for the call and well into the conversation he mentioned what it was...
After receiving a defective unit from a climber in the field, in-house inspection and testing revealed that a small number of their # 1 MaxCams have head axle rivets that do not meet the minimum specified diameter, possibly resulting in failure of the cam assembly. This flaw affects only the red #1 MaxCam with Batch Numbers 0605 and 0705 that were sold in 2005 and 2006. All other cams are unaffected and can continue to be used with confidence.
So here is the deal - Please discontinue the use of #1 MaxCams from Batch Numbers 0605 and 0705 from use immediately and return them according to the instructions below. Trango highly recommends that you use UPS or FedEx so that you have a tracking number.
Via UPS/FedEx or other package service:
Freeport Center F-11
Clearfield, UT 84016
Via US Mail (USPS)
PO Box 160470
Clearfield, UT 84016
Trango will inspect and repair or replace your MaxCams within three business days and return them to you. Mark each cam with a return address, a phone number and an email where you can be reached if they have questions.
"We are truly sorry for any inconvenience. Please call us at 800/860-3653 or visit our website at www.trango.com if you have any further questions."
This isn't the first recall that's happened to a manufacturer of climbing gear, and it probably won't be the last. Stuff is complicated and safety is paramount. Kudos to Mal and Trango for going the extra mile in getting the word out ASAP.
Phil Powers draws on his lifelong experience as a mountaineer in a "This I Believe" essay that will air April 3 on NPR's "All Things Considered program." The 3-minute "This I Believe" essays are contributed by people from all walks of life. Powers' piece describes what he has learned about pace in the mountains and how that helps him in other aspects of his life. A quote: "When I was 19, I learned something called the rest step from an old mountain climber named Paul Petzoldt. He advised me to rest in the middle of each step-completely but briefly.... The awareness of pace I owe to my teacher has served me whether I am seeking the world's highest summits, sharing my love for the mountains with others, or kneeling to look my son, Gus, in the eye when he has a question.
You can read the entire essay after April 3 by visiting this link:
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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