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It's always fun to go out climbing with old friends. There is nothing quite like hanging with folks you know well, even when you haven't seen them in quite some time. Over the past week I've gotten a chance to go climbing with both old and new friends. It's been great learning more about people I don't really know, and catching up with old friends. The time spent together climbing is good for that...
I'd climbed once before with Chris, someone I met through NEClimbs, but we'd chatted a bit via email. I needed a partner for a few hours fun last week, so we got out for a short morning's efforts at the Drip In The Woods, over by Cathedral Ledge. That was great fun and as we had a nice opportunity to get to know each other a bit and I felt were were pretty compatible. Plus I know his father-in-law from cycling. It's a small community...
I was hoping to get out on the weekend and Chris & I had briefly talked about doing something. Then I remembered an email from my old climbing partner Mason. I thought, hey perfect - let's all go out together and check out Black Pudding Gully on Saturday.
Needless to say we got a late start and when we arrived there were already three cars at the pullout by the climb. DARN, time for PLAN B! So, rather than driving 35 minutes up to Frankenstein, did I say we had gotten a late start (?), we decided to check out the Barking Dog. This is a fun small area just down the road from Black Pudding, and is a favorite spot of mine for quick fun. While it's usually empty and sheltered from the wind, but this time there were already 3 people there. DOUBLE DARN, time for PLAN C!
Always having an ace, or maybe a King at least, in the hole, I said let's wander left down the cliff and see what's there. I'd noticed a bunch of interesting drips & drools when I'd ridden by a few days earlier and yes, only 100' away was a very nice looking drool that looked as if it went all the way to the top of the cliff. Being the nice guy I am, I asked if anyone else wanted to give it a try. No one seemed enthusiastic so with that nicety out of the way I proceeded to rack up. [grin]
The starting drool led up to a bit of a curtain, to another drool and then to a pillar. The ice was pretty good, tho a little brittle. Mostly in the 3 range, with a bit of 3+ in a spot, it was just enough to keep me entertained all the way.
I brought up the guys and we rapped back down. All in all a nice little climb and well worth doing. Only about 30 meters long I was able to chatter with both Chris & Mason and keep the conversation going the whole time. It was just about perfect. The wind was howling down the Valley all this time, occasionally drowning out us talking, but as I mentioned this area is pretty sheltered. While it didn't seem too cold to us, the ice was a bit on the brittle and hard side. Frankly I was kind of glad we weren't doing Black Pudding!
We had a bit more time to climb, so we hiked past the ever intriguing Pitman Arch over to another drool I'd spotted. This time it turned out to be a bit more than just a drool, in fact I could see that it was actually a really nice little column. Maybe even a bit taller, it could even be 20' tall! Again I asked if anyone else wanted the lead, but once again I was unleashed. SWEET!
There was a bit of a thin start, up over a little headwall through some bushes and up a slab to the base of the pillar. I paused for a minute, realizing that this was actually nearly as tall as Black Pudding itself. Very cool... There was even a mushroom at the base that was a bit on the crusty side. I got up past the initial difficulties and realized that i was going to have to climb this thing head on and it was totally smooth and the ice was very hard. I pulled up about 5' and decided nah, it wasn't in me that day. So I backed down to a stance on the left and decided to do the smaller and easier looking pillar that led up to the same ledge. Turns out that little pillar was just as hard and brittle and in some ways more awkward. Why was I not surprised?
After a few little mossy rock moves I set up a belay on a small ledge and Chris started up. Of course by now it was getting a bit on toward twilight. Chris sent the big column and Mason followed on the smaller one. Nice when you have double ropes... Of course by now it's getting really close to dark so I set up the rap and scampered down. Of course I had my headlamp in my pack so I put it on and shined it on the ice for Chris who came next. When he got down he got his headlamp and we both did the same for Mason.
Of course by now it's pretty much dark and the folks at Black Pudding and the Barking Dog were long gone. We packed up our stuff quickly and started hiking back the way we came. Mason observed that someone was driving up and down the road slowly and wondered aloud if it could be my wife, looking for us. I said NAH and we continued back to the trail and down to the car. Of course when we got home it turned out that it was my wife driving up and down and Chris' wife as well. Guess there is a good reason to carry the cell phone if you happen to be out later than expected. Nice that someone cares, but I was happy that they didn't call out the MRS!
I figured I would have one more in me this week so when my friend Jeff called and wanted to go out on Tuesday I said sure. I've been wanting to get over to the North End of Cathedral and check out Unicorn. I've done it several times over the years and it looked to be IN. he came by the house in mid-morning and rather than trying to drive over we just walked through the woods. I was very surprised to see the road pretty packed out and that cars were obviously going up & down. There was a car stopped by the kiosk and we were surprised to see two high school girls with a stuck Toyota. We helped push them out and I noticed that there was a party up on Diagonal. It was a very sunny and windless day, probably about as perfect a day to do the climb as I could imagine. I waited around a few minutes to see if they would get onto the pillar, but it wasn't happening so I took a couple of quick pics and we went on to do our climb.
As we hiked up the hill I noticed a party on Repentance and also checked out Remission. Both looked in excellent condition as did the first pitch of Deidre. Of course there were also folks at the North End.
I asked Jeff if he wanted any of this but he declined. Was I in luck or what? I went up the little corner just right of Child's Play and continued up to the tree ledge above the cracks. I brought Jeff up and then I went up the corner and slab that is the first pitch of George Hurley's route Post Mortem. As usual it was thin, but still pretty fun. Someone else had been up there and obviously chopped the ice from around the 2 bolt anchor that Post Mortem and Raising The Roof share. SWEET! Looking around while Jeff was following I was happy to see that both Unicorn and Broken Pick, the climb on the far left, were both quite fat. Even more interesting was the smear directly above the anchor, leading to a free hanger. It looked very climbable, but very hard, so I kept my eyes on Unicorn...
Unicorn ledge Broken Pick Unicorn middle
Interestingly the bolt on the left face of the Liger corner was exposed so that was nice. The three bolts on the slab were also exposed, but there was no ice around them so needless to say I stayed away from them. There was a tricky move to get from the corner to the ledge with the small tree, but it wasn't too bad. Someone had tied a piece of rope around the little tree, maybe to rap from so I clipped it. It was kind or like a long sling. Looking up at the climb from there It looked a lot steeper than it had 2 years ago There were no signs that anyone else has climbed it either. No pick or screw holes any where I would see.
I like to break things up into manageable sections so I scoped that if I went up 10' on the left side there was a little bit of a stance where I could get in a screw, then 10 more feet and I could move back right into the corner and get another screw and the 10 more feet to the little ledge on the right. from there it was a 12' shot on nice ice to the top out. Seemed OK so I started up. As usual it is always steeper than it looks. The start was almost overhanging, but I was able to get to the first stance spot fairly handily. Of course it wasn't quite a stance and the first screw went into a hollow curtain. Still it was better than nothing so I continued on up and right to the second stance spot. well there was no stance at all, but I was able to run in a bit better screw this time. Keeping going I pulled up to the little ledge on the right, where i was actually able to get a flat right foot, a bit of a rest and run in a good screw. The final 12' turned out to be 15' of steep ice that was a mix of plastic and brittle. Very strange stuff, it was. Not at all as trivial as I thought it would be and I was happy to finally be at the top. I guess it's about 40' of pretty close to vertical ice climbing. Not too shabby...
I flat-footed up to some small trees and set up to bring Jeff up Using a technique I pinched from George Hurley. I lowered myself down where I could see Jeff and called for him to come on up. He did a great job for his first time out this season and we celebrated at the top a few minutes later.
I had dropped a carabiner on the final ice section so we rapped down to the ledge at the top of Child's Play ad then to the ground from the tree with slings and rings. I didn't find the biner, but it was small change for a great day of climbing.
This time we were home by 3;30 so there were no wives worrying and out looking for us. I would say that's a good thing because I know both the family van and wife's car would have gotten stuck on the road into the North End! All in all it's been a great bunch of climbing. The only question is, what can I do this weekend? How about you?
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective January 29, 2015
The ice is in great shape right now, with good climbing almost everywhere you look. A few areas like the Fang wall aren’t as good as they were a couple of weeks ago, but overall we’re in great shape. Get out there and enjoy yourselves…
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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:
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