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Hard to believe that last Friday my friend Jeff and I were happily climbing Pathfinder on Whitehorse in light fleeces under a warm sun. Since then we've made the turn to winter in a big way. Snow last weekend and again yesterday (Wednesday) put us squarely into the season, and it's none too soon. It was just getting to be a bit too weird with my grass still green and the Day Lilies poking their heads back up in my flower beds. Friday's climb was a fitting finish to a great rock season for me. A lot of late-season climbing has left me feeling pretty tuned up mentally for the upcoming ice season. Usually there is an in-between period where you can't climb rock and there isn't any ice. This year it was like someone flipped the switch and we went from late fall to full-on winter.
There is a big ski sale/swap held in town every year and it's where we get skis for my rapidly growing son Lewis. This year we got the usual downhill stuff as well as a cross-country setup. After the snow we got on Saturday we headed up above Crawford Notch to to Zealand. Snow coverage was pretty full up there and we did the Pine Tree Loop trail. This is a wonderful loop trail that starts right uphill from the gate. While there was a significant amount of blow-down yet it was passable and the views from the upper ridge across toward Mt. Oscar were fantastic. It was a perfect introduction to cross-country for him and he really enjoyed it. This will likely take the place of our Sunday hikes, until I can convince him to try ice climbing. [grin]
On Tuesday Brad White (IMCS) and I made our early season sortie up into Tucks for an ice tune-up. We usually do this the weekend after Thanksgiving, but we had to postpone it due to poor weather. The trail was almost fully covered with snow, making for a very enjoyable hike. I really hate that trail before it's gets covered because of the icy rocks making for treacherous conditions. In addition this year we both had the new Kahtoola Micro Spikes traction devices. If you haven't seen them you really should check them out. We put them on at the start of the hike and only took them off to actually climb. No matter how much ice was on the ground we just walked right on it with absolutely no slippage.
We saw a nobody on the trail but came across a number of folks up in the bowl; two skiers, a hiker who said he'd been camping in the lean-tos for 9 days (!) and a female climber who Brad knew. There was quite a lot of snow in the bowl and it totally obscured the lower part of the Book. Normally I'll climb right up the middle of the Book, but this year we couldn't see the shield and opted to do the left side instead. We also hoofed over to the big slab below the upper headwall and had some fun on that as well. There were some big pillows of snow in several places and visibility was limited so we only climbed where we felt comfortable. Still it was great just to get out and swing tools, kick crampons and generally check out our gear in preparation for the start of the season.
The hike back down to Pinkham was a breeze with the Micro Spikes. 90 minutes from the Bowl that included a 10 minute pause at Hoo Jo's for a snack and drink. I'm bringing the Spikes with me for all of these kinds of outings. Here's some pix of what we saw in the Bowl:
I drove up into Crawford Notch this morning. Frankenstein isn't happening at all at this time. I suppose you could scratch your way up P1 of Standard Route, but that's about it. That said things are forming and it will only take 3-4 days of consistent cold temps to yield some interesting ice. The top of the notch is just a bit better. Elephant Head is coming along, the Trestle Cut is climbable and Gully #1 actually looks interesting. Check the online ice report for pix.
All we need is for things to stay cold and the ice will be here quickly. Stay tuned for more updates as we get into next week. I'm hoping for Standard Route at Frankenstein on Monday or Tuesday! Keep your fingers crossed...
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective December 9, 2016
Everything is in the process of rapid change right now. It hasn't gotten above 25 degrees all day (Friday) here in the Valley, it is surely colder up in the Notch. I would bet that at this rate by Sunday things will have radically changed, for the better! Although there was more ice in Crawford Notch on Wednesday than last week, IMO there was nothing climbable. A few folks have made the hike up into the Ravines, but things are fairly thin up there as well. A few days ago I saw pictures of a friend climbing the Open Book in Tucks. I asked about gear and they said that while climbable, it was basically unprotectable! Doesn't sound like much fun to me, but of course YMMV...
I hadn't heard about anything happening there since last winter. Anyone with any info please shoot me an email. I'm very interested as to what this is about.
Mobile Version Of NEClimbs:
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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North Conway, New Hampshire
During the qualifying round I heard the contestant ahead of me introduced: 'Hardest redpoint: 5.14b, hardest on-sight: 5.13c' (Geoff Weigand). The contestant after me: 'Hardest redpoint: K2' (Greg Child).