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January 14, 2010

Hi Folks,

The high point of last week's climbing for me was on Friday when I met up with old friend George Hurley to do a couple of routes here on Cathedral Ledge. Climbing with George is always great and this was no exception. The plan was to have an adventure on The Unicorn, up above the North End. Of course we managed to get in just one more as well.

We met about 10 and drove my van over to cliff. It's so great that the road has been plowed this year and you can drive down there with no possibility of getting stuck. For fun we decided to hike up by Repentance and Remission just to have a look. Turns out that local guides Marc Chauvin and Silas Rossi were doing Remission. That's one I've never had the opportunity to do. Marc was on the rock section and it looked hard, tho he did a great job on it. I had a look at Repentance and decided that tho I didn't have the right rock gear to do it all, pitch one looked great. For a change George offered me the first lead and I jumped at the chance. I had brought a couple of tricams and nuts and the pink tricam is perfect for the horizontal crack about 10' up on the right. From there on out the ice was just fine. Interestingly enough I think I only saw two screw holes in the whole pitch! Right before the belay the last move or two was a bit strange with the ice quite drippy and fragile. But all in all it was a great pitch. I was somewhat surprised to see the column/curtain at the start of pitch 2 in bigger shape than usual. Very cool...

From the belay I was able to get a cool picture of Silas on his way up the rock section of Remission and of course one of George coming up. The current picture on the NEClimbs home page is of Marc on the rock pitch.

Silas Rossi on Remission
George Hurley on Repentance

After we rapped off Repentance we headed up to Unicorn. The climb is actually up on the big ledge above the North End rock climbs, however the normal start is up a runnel to the right of Child's Play. George wanted this lead so I gave him the stuff and he headed up. It was thinner than usual, but he made short work of it. I continued up the little gully to the ledge above Child's Play and brought him up. He was going to lead up the slab to the belay on the Unicorn Ledge but the ice was very thin and we both thought better of it. I noticed that there was a little thicker ice to the right and I thought I could follow a bushy snowy ledge to the maple tree at the base of the actual Unicorn column. I got up the thin ice and started following the ledge along a headwall, unfortunately finding minimal gear for about 80'! The only protection was a screw in a ice column about 1/3 of the way up. While interesting, it wasn't very fun. Turns out that there was a horizontal crack along most of the wall that would have taken a knifeblade or two. But did I have one, NOOOO... [sigh] I was happy to get to the tree and brought George up pretty quickly.

Compared to what I had just done, the ice actually looked steep but reasonable. I suppose that had something to do with it being protectable ice! It was kind of surprising that we couldn't see that there was any sign of anyone else having been there before us. Especially since it's right there on Cathedral. Go figure... Once again George let me have the honors and I was happy to do so. I put in an ice screw at the base of the column and headed up. Well as it turns out the addage "It's always steeper than it looks" totally was true in this case. I've done Unicorn many times, but this time it was probably the hardest. The ice in the corner was fluted and somewhat brittle. Places that looked as if they would be stances actually felt overhanging. And there was this very strange formation that stuck way out and forced me out left at one point on the the very vertical featureless face. Still, it was very very cool. As always I was happy to take the little rock stance on the right about 2/3 of the way up, just before the final push. It was great to get to the final bulge and pull over the top. Whew... Both of us felt that this was probably the hardest we'd seen Unicorn and it was likely in 4+ shape, rather than its usual 4.

Whatever it was, we both agreed that it was a lot of fun. A great day of climbing with a good friend. Doesn't get a lot better than that.

Sounds Clever at Bray's Brewpub in Naples, ME:
Looking for a good evening of food, drink and music? Not necessarily in that order of course. Check out the Sounds Clever band on Friday, Jan 14th 9-12. We play blues, rock, jazz and funk but above all we have fun. There is never a cover charge and they have some great micro-brews on tap! Drop by if you get the chance...

Latest AMGA Mountain Bulletin - newsletter:
Several folks called me up recently to tell me about an interesting article in the latest issue of the American Mountain Guides newsletter. Needless to say any article entitled "Ice Climbing Anchor Strength: An In-depth Analysis" certainly would get my attention, much less one sprawling over 4 pages replete with pictures, charts and graphs. Many of you likely remember CraIg Lubben's test of ice screw pull-out strength that put a whole new light on then-conventional placement wisdom. While not quite as groundbreaking, it does bring out several very interesting points.

1) Testing indicates that putting a screw in an existing hole, called re-boring, can compare very closely to the strength of a freshly drilled hole in virgin ice. Tests were done using both slow-pull and drop testing methods in lake and waterfall ice.

Needless to say this makes me feel a whole lot better about those times I get pumped and are happy to run a screw into an already existing hole. Hobbit and p2 of Repentance are places where that happens on a regular basis! I personally think that using a slightly longer screw than the original length is a good idea, but this is good news regardless.

2) They performed testing on 3 types of Abalakov anchors (a.k.a v-threads): the normal one placed horizontally with all the angles at 60 degrees, the same one done vertically (called an A-thread) and a third done vertically with the top hole straight into the ice and the bottom hole angled up at 60 degrees. While all three configurations were found to be strong enough to hold a rappeller from a single anchor point, the A-thread was stronger.

3) Using a single Abalakov anchor as a belay where there is any possibility of there being any impact on the anchor, as in multi-pitch climbing, is a very bad idea.

4) The longer the ice screw, the stronger the placement will be.

5) 1" tubular webbing tied with a water knot was found to be the strongest.

Great information from a highly trustworthy source. Thanks to George Hurley for passing me the newsletter and kudos to the AMGA for doing the testing
Here are some pictures in addition to the ones posted in the Ice Report section of NEClimbs. They are in alpha-order for my convenience...

Angle Cakes
Cathedral Pillars
Cauliflower Gully
Crawford Trestle Notch
Diamonds and Rust
Hitchcock Right
Mt Washington
Mt Willard
Mt Willie
Snot Rocket
Mt Webster ice
winter aid fun

2010 Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest - February 5, 6, 7:
Apres Climb Hour @ IME: Fri & Sat from 4-5:30pm Friday Night: Steve House multimedia show and the 2nd Annual Face Off Comp featuring MC Freddie. Saturday Night: Climbers Party and Amateur Photo Contest Winner announced! Guest Athletes & Guides Include: Steve House, Kevin Mahoney, Mark Synnott, Janet Bergman, Majka Burhardt, Emilie Drinkwater, Freddie Wilkinson, Peter Doucette, The IMCS Guides, and more!

For more details on clinics click here

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.

NEClimbs & White Mountain Report On Facebook:
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post 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:

Remember - climb hard, ride the steep stuff, stay safe and above all BE NICE,

Al Hospers
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire

Layback /n./ what a climber looks forward to at the end of a day.
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