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January 28, 2010
Almost without fail every year we have a winter thaw. Often it's right after New Year's, sometimes it's as late as mid-January and this year ßit is a bit on the late side. I have seen a winter thaw include days of rain and 40+ degree temps that took out all of the ice that had built up to that point. When that happened several years ago, it took weeks to reform. So the big question on everyone's mind right now is, "Did the ice hold up after the rain?" I would have to answer are resounding "more or less - and mostly more".
The weekend was pretty mild so a lot of people took advantage of it to get out and climb. I hear there were crowds in the Ravines and at Frankenstein. It's a good thing that they did, as things went downhill starting Sunday evening. We were in Portsmouth all day Sunday, getting back home right after it started raining. When we woke up Monday morning it was pouring down rain and we received 2 1/2 inches over a 12 hour period while the temps stayed in the 36-40 degree range. By the end of the day temps were in the mid-40's and the rains slacked off. Tuesday dawned warmer and somewhat sunny. By noon the temps climbed to a surprising 46 degrees and the clouds cleared away so I decided to go out for a bike ride. I was out for a quick 15 miles around town but by the time I got home it was cloudy and breezy again. This was fortunate for the state of the ice. If it was warm and sunny, as thaws so often are, everything would have come down. But this time we lucked out. By the end of Tuesday here was ice still standing on Diagonal, The Mordor and the Barber Wall. I went to bed on Tuesday hopeful that we would ride this one out.
Wednesday morning was sunny, but not quite as warm as Tuesday. I had work to do in the morning, but as soon as I was done I headed over to the North End to survey the damage. At noon there were a number of cars parked down by the gate. I wandered up to Thresher and encountered someone else already getting ready to climb. Turns out he was someone who had emailed me with some questions regarding the AMGA article on ice anchors and screws. Small world... I climbed the slab just right of Thresher while he climbed the main flow. Things really weren't bad at all. I walked around and there were parties toproping the pillars and Charlie Townsend from EMS working on the main slab. I walked back around and did a lap on Thresher proper. This time when I walked around I stopped at the pillars and did several laps on them. There was some undermining, but things were still fat. I was really happy about this.
Once I was done climbing I decided to take a walk over to have a look at Repentance and Remission. As there were some very large blocks on the ground and down in the woods that had obviously come off Diedre I was decidedly nervous wandering around there and kept behind or near trees wherever I could. Remission looked very beat up, with minimal ice below the chimney pitch and what I saw of the pillar and chimney didn't look good at all. Repentance looked OK up high, but there first pitch was a mess and the little curtain right off the P 1 belay looked as if was barely hanging on. For about a second I thought about walking over to Goofers, but decided that tempting fate by walking under the Mordor and Diagonal was not a good thing to do. My friend Zeb told me that the lower part of the Diagonal pillar came off later in the afternoon and made the ground shake. Glad I opted not to go there!
I was planning on doing some climbing with my buddy Jeff today, but he bagged on me. [sigh] I tried Brad but he was stuck in the office so I had to go it alone. After I took my pictures I decided to check out Lower Hitchcock. As I walked down the tracks it started to snow lightly and it continued all day. The lower snow gully was still in fairly reasonable shape except for a few places where the rock was showing. Near the top I broke right and used the Left Hand Monkey wrench to get to the Upper Tier where I took a short break for a bar & some juice. The Wrench was still in great shape and at least as good as it was 2 weeks previously. I hadn't been over to the far right of the upper tier this season so I took a walk over that way in the direction of The Cleft. The trail is packed out and there is a bunch of interesting ice that is coming in up there since the rains. I've got to get back up there soon. Hmmmm, maybe tomorrow... It looked so enticing that I decided to do The Cleft and see if there was a trail broken out at the top. It's a truly beautiful setting and the ice wasn't bad at all. There is one place with a rock step, but it's not unreasonable, and would of course be better with a rope. At the top I could see that several people had walked off so I followed the wandering tracks over to the Willard Trail and hiked back down. There was no indication that anyone had been up the Willard trail that day & I wondered why and when I got to the stream crossing I found out. The stream was totally open water and there was no good way across within 100 feet in either direction. [double sigh] So I had to wade the stream! Not too great in my leather boots and it was a good thing I had a quick walk back to the car. I was back down at the car right at 2 made it a nice 3 1/4 hour excursion. Good fun...
Here are some pictures in addition to the ones I will post in the Ice Report section of NEClimbs. They are in alpha-order for my convenience...
nothing left of Diamonds and Rust
climber on Dracula
Left Hand Monkey Wrench
Mike on Thresher
Under Upper Hitchcock
Several people asked where some of the ice climbs on Cathedral and Willard are located. These pictures should help. Enjoy...
ice on Cathedral
ice on Mt Willard
Yesterday we got into both Ravines to assess the damage from Monday's weather. All in all we are surprised more destruction didn't occur. Most water drainages from the bottom of the Ravines to Pinkham Notch opened up and it is clear they were raging at one point. The Little Headwall and the brook above it washed out and it is going to take a decent amount of snow to fix this damage. The Ravines themselves seemed to endure the punches quite well. There were wet slab avalanches in South Gully in Huntington and the Sluice and Lobster Claw in Tuckerman as well as numerous small blowouts of water channels. To be honest, I am surprised that we didn't have more avalanche activity given the snowpack the rain fell on. I see this as a good thing because the snow stayed on the slopes where we want it.
I have posted the pics from today on the NEClimbs.com web site so you can check them there...
My current acoustic trio will be playing at Tuckerman's Tavern / New England Inn this Saturday evening, January 30th, at 7PM. The group features Mike Sakash on saxes, Rusty Wiltjer on hand percussion and myself on acoustic guitar and vocals. This is a very versatile group that's comfortable playing jazz, blues, rock and a wide variety of pop tunes. Really, how many bands can play A Foggy Day, Cripple Creek and Slip Slidin' Away all in the same set? Couple that with excellent food and great drinks and you have everything you need for a fun evening. Lance Merrill and his staff do a fantastic job of making everyone feel at home. I hope you'll come and check it out.
The In House jazz jam band is playing at Ryles in Inman Square in Cambridge on Friday, February 5th. This is a world class band featuring acclaimed guitarist Randy Roos. If you are looking for a great evening of music, food and drink join us at Ryles. $10 cover charge and free parking. Wonder what it sounds like? Check out these YouTube videos of the band from the last time we were at Ryles:
Hope to see you there...
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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