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February 7, 2008
I suppose you better be careful what you wish for... We didn't have a heck of a lot of snow last year and everyone up here prayed for snow for this season. Well we have it now, and in spades! It's starting to be hard to see out of my ground floor office window from everything that's sloughing off my roof. The trails to all the climbs are all covered and as fast as they get packed out, they are filled in again. Even the RR tracks into Frankenstein and Mt. Willard are totally filled in. On the ride up to Crawford Notch Thursday morning the road was really bad because the plows weren't able to keep up. It's pretty amazing...
It's been like that for days tho. I'd been thinking about doing Black Pudding for the past couple of weeks, but just hadn't had the opportunity. So when I had a few hours window on Monday I called my sometimes boss, Brad White owner of IMCS. We both decided that we deserved a little R&R, so we dodged out of the office & headed over to Humphry's just after noon. We were both surprised that there was no indication of anyone being there in at least since the last snowfall. I led the way up the hill and at first it was postholes up to my knees, but it got more firm the higher I went. There was a smooth narrow swath that led the way uphill that seemed a bit more firm so I followed that up to just below where the ice bulges start. We walked over to the overhanging cliff on the left and put on our gear. Then we soloed the easy bulges into the gully and to some solid trees on the right side. The snow in the gully was about crotch deep. At this point I could tell what the source of the previously mentioned swath. The upper part of the gully had apparently continuously avalanched during the last storm, which was really a freezing rain storm.
The mushroom base of the climb looked good and the column looked pretty good too. I was pretty chandeliered at the point where it joined with the mushroom. Still I figured it was good to go. Once we roped up I headed up. As usual the mushroom was easy, but getting situated at the base of the column was a bit balancey. I ran in a long screw just to cover my butt and once I stood alongside the column I slung the entire base of the pillar with a chordalette. The lower 6-8 feet of the pillar was pretty brittle and overhanging. I had to work my way up, hooking in holes wherever available and working my feet up inside the column. It was strenuous but very cool. A little over a body length up I was able to get a good stance and run in a screw. WHEW... I wouldn't want to fall at that point as I would surely slam into the mushroom. I moved up another 6 feet and pulled a second screw off my harness. I couldn't get it started, even in the somewhat pliable ice. I looked at the teeth and saw that a couple were obviously dinged and in frustration I threw it down. Grabbing another screw I ran that puppy in in a second. DOUBLE WHEW... That took more energy that I wanted to expend. But not the ice was a lot better and in a couple of sticks I was right below where the angle eases off. I ran in a third screw and noticed that the entire column was detached from the rock all the way to near the top. Hmmm...I don't remember that in the past. Interesting...
Once on easy ground I was happy to get off my frontpoints and could look around. There was a lot of snow in the upper bowl and there was more evidence of similar avalanching. Both of the direct finishes were in good shape, the one on the left looking as if it was in about 3+ shape. We were in a hurry so I went over to the tree on the left with the belay/rappel slings. It's a little bit tricky to get there, but you can sling a big root to give you some protection.
IMPORTANT NOTE - the webbing and chord on this tree are in really bad shape and are NOT TO BE TRUSTED! The webbing has been obviously gnawed on. I would have cut it but neither Brad nor I had a knife on our harness. Please replace the webbing if you can, and/or rap directly off the tree.
I brought Brad up and he made short work of it. While I was up there I had a good opportunity to study Tripecicle, the climb up on the cliff face right of Black Pudding. It doesn't come in all that often and there was ice up there so I was interested. It looked as if the start was pretty candled but about 4 feet up it looked pretty good. Brad agreed. We rapped down and I was able to find my screw in the snow. Serves me right as I hadn't looked my rack over in a week or so. We walked down the way we cam in our crampons and were back in the car with a car to car time of just under 2 hours. I good bit of climbing and we could actually get in a little more work at the end of the day. If you haven't done Black Pudding and feel up for what's probably a bit of 4+ effort, definitely give it a shot.
Sorry there aren't any pictures. We both forgot to bring cameras.
Several people have mentioned that serious caution is advised under the current conditions with this heavy wet snow. This is most certainly PRIME avalanche conditions. This is especially true for the upper areas, but caution should be taken everywhere. The ravines are of course obvious problem areas, but Cinema, all the Webster gullies, Willies Slide and even several of the climbs at Frankenstein are all problematic today and tomorrow. A couple of years ago there was a slab avalanche at the North End of Cathedral Ledge left of the slab that was surprising in its force. Please be aware of the potential for danger over the next 2 days.
This weekend is our annual Mount Washington Ice Festival (Feb 7-10). There are special events, clinics, slideshows, demo gear and more taking place over the 4 days. Ice Fest is a fun-filled weekend of climbing activities. Whether regular attendee or first-timer, you owe it to yourself to make Ice Fest a part of this winter's activities.
Featured guides include Max Turgeon, Josh Wharton, and Will Mayo. Each has something unique to share with you, whether in a clinic, slideshow or over a beer at the end of the day. Climbing is much like playing music, you are always learning and absorbing new ideas and information. The Ice Festival is a perfect place and time to do this. You will get a lot of information and inspiration, and you've got another 6 weeks of ice left in the season to practice what you learn. For more information check here:
I'll be out guiding on Friday and Saturday. I hope to see you there...
Looking for something to do on Saturday night after a long day of climbing? Drop by the Wildcat Tavern in Jackson. This weekend it's harp player & singer Bear backed up by Ethan Turley on guitar, Jared Steer on drums and yours truly on bass & vocals. We play all kinds of classic blues and funk. The Wildcat also has a great selection of beer and good food. Definitely check it out...
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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