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February 12, 2009
If you made it up here for the 2009 Ice Fest, and I certainly hope you did, you sure picked an good one. The ice was IN, the temps were reasonable (if not great) and all the events were excellent. In fact it doesn't get a whole lot better than this one was. Over 16 years of Ice Fest, there have been good ones, poor ones and great ones. In my opinion this was one of the better ones. As I had to guide on Friday & Saturday and played music on Friday night with my jazz group, I was too busy to participate in the entertainment other than grab a beer as I dropped off my clients at the end of each day. even that bit of hang at the climbing school, was super. There were lots of folks, all talking about what they did tat day & what their plans were for the next. It sure felt nice...
I had a beginner group on Friday and it was pretty darn cold to be out and standing around. We had to take occasional walks to warm up out body core every once in a while, but we managed to get in a lot of climbing just the same. I was planning on taking them to Cathedral but that seemed as if it was going to be just too crowded, so we opted for the Barking Dog instead. It was a good call as we only saw 2 other folks the whole day and they were headed over for some of the runnels on the left.If you haven't tried that area it's a great place to play around. Just be sure not to park in anyone's driveway. There is a pullout that is always plowed just North of the crag, on the Saco side of the road.
On Saturday I had 2 clients and we had originally planned to do Cinema and perhaps Upper Hitchcock. However after chatting with another guide who had done it recently and looking it over from the road, I opted for Willies. This turned out to be a good call as there was ice from bottom to top, there was very little wind and the sun was out, making for a wonderful time. There was only one other party of two there when we got to the base, and they were doing a slow climb up the far right. Turn out that it was Nancy S, an old friend from my Boston days, so we chatted off an on all the way up. We climbed right up the middle, all the way to the top. Another party of two caught up with us at the top of the last pitch.
There are a number of places where the birds are very accustomed to the climbers & hikers, even to the point of eating from your hand. There are some at the intersection of the Crawford Path & Mizpah and another few at the overlook before the Caps on the Caps Ridge Trail. I've seen them for years. But I've never seen any at Willies until Saturday. I had noticed a Canadian Jay wandering near me as I climbed, but it hadn't gotten too close until the next to the last belay. When I got both clients up to the anchor we decided to have a bite to eat and wait for the other parties to finish. This was when the Jay decided to pay us a visit. First it made a few fly-bys and the landed in the snow about 10' below us. Then it few over and sat on my anchor for a minute or two! We tossed it a couple of crumbs and it ate some pieces of "risotto wrap" from one of our hand. It kept getting more and more bold, with the culmination of it sitting on the client's helmet! Lots of my neighbors have bird feeders and the birds are pretty tame, but this was over the top.
bird pic 1
bird pic 2
bird pic 3
After we finished the climb we walked/glissed down and headed up to the top of the Notch to grab a run on Elephant Head to top off a great day. As we passed the Silver Cascade I saw something coming down the hill toward us and was flabbergasted to see it was someone on a road bike in full flight. I ride this all the time in the summer, but it's not something I would do even on a 30 degree day. To each their own tho... The climbing was great and it was a wonderful day, but the bird and cyclist made it totally perfect. You just never know what you're going to come across on a day in the White Mountains...
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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:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
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Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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