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March 26, 2009
I've been taking every opportunity to get out on my bike these past couple of weeks, while I wait for it to get a tad bit warmer and drier to get out on the rock. While lots of folks have been out there climbing on the rock already, I do admit that I prefer it to be just a tad warmer. So last night I decided that I would take this one more opportunity get out and climb some ice down here in the lower elevations before it's all gone. I do plan on getting up into the ravine one or even twice more, but as you will see in the Ice Report below, most things are pretty much done-for down here.
Anywho... While I've guided Willie's several times this season, there is always something special about running up it all alone. One a nice day the views up, across and down the valley are spectacular. Today was a little cloudy and the temperature was around 40 at 10AM when I started up the trail. One thing about well used trails at this time of year is that they can be icy, and the Willies trail was no different. Due to forgetting my micro-spikes and not wanting to put on my regular crampons, I had to go off in the woods a bit several times to keep from slipping. The snow was still pretty compacted and others had done the same, so it was no problem.
There had been another car parked at the trailhead with Quebec plates and I figured it was the couple who had posted some questions about conditions on NEClimbs. When I got to the tracks I could see a climber about halfway up. I managed the entire hike in a little over 20 minutes, much better than the time it takes me with partners. Of course having my iPod on with some classic Led Zeppelin & Hendrix certainly helps keep the focus & energy up. [grin] The only things I'd brought were crampons, water, bars & tools. I dumped the pack at the base, put on my crampons & took off. The ice was plastic and wonderful. The other party was on the left so I took the line straight up the middle. The ice was fat and blue. While I could certainly hear water running I never punched through or it into a hydraulic at any time. It was sweet!
When you don't have to put in gear, belay or talk with anyone it's surprising how fast you can move. In 15 minutes I was about even with the other party. I said hi, and it was in fact the folks who had asked questions on the forum. It's always nice to make a new acquaintance.
Altho it had been quite sunny when I started, the clouds were gathering in the South. The weather predictions are for rain in the afternoon and it has that look about it.
When I am climbing alpine stuff I admit to always being a little nervous standing up and walking around on the 20-30 degree snow covered ice. I think it's got something to do with the transition from climbing to walking. Maybe it's similar to the difficulty many folks have moving back & forth between aid and free climbing. And it's especially entertaining unroped. Regardless I forced myself to stand up and walk on all the moderate and low angle sections. It was a neat exercise and after a couple I felt perfectly comfortable.
35 minutes after I started, I was done and it was really almost too quick. I sat in the snow at the top and ate a quick bar and headed back down. Since I'd done it last the trail had been rerouted a couple of places due to ice forming and there were no places where I would have felt comfortable glissading. By this time, 11:30, it was quite warm and the snow was very sticky. I had to constantly keep banging the snow balls off my crampons, just as I did last week on Central. (damn - I have GOT to remember to put the front bot-plates on!) Still it was a quick hike down to my pack & down the trail. I guess it was all of about 90 minutes round trip. A wonderful send off to the lower ice season.
I figure there are several weeks of near-perfect days left for Mt. Washington climbing. The long days and moderate temps make for some perfect alpine climbing days in a perfect location. And before we know it the rock will be warm and the snow will be off the sides of the road, making for some great cycling weather. That's why I live up here...
I found something at an obvious belay stance in the middle of Willie's, about halfway up. If someone can identify it I will arrange to give it back to you.
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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