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February 4, 2010
I've lived here in the Valley full-time for going on 14 years, and one staple of that residence has been the Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest. It's hard for me to believe but this is the 17th one of these babies. I really feel that this is THE premier event of the winter in New England, at least as far as climbing goes. As best I remember I have attended 15 of the 17, only missing 2 that were I went to the Canadian Rockies with my old friend Yuki Fujita. As always this year's event is going to be a great get-together with lots of clinics, demonstrations, parties, slideshows and a very cool comp featuring the redoubtable MC Freddie. Even if you don't take a clinic, the slideshows are always fantastic and being able to demo all kinds of gear is a great opportunity. And oh yeah, looks like it's going to be perfect weather this weekend. It's an event that you most certainly do not want to miss.
BE THERE OR BE VERY SQUARE!
Apres Climb Hour @ IME: Fri & Sat from 4-5:30 pm
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 and the overall schedule go here http://www.ime-usa.com/imcs/ice_fest.html
Well we went from balmy temps and rain, to brutally cold and windy in about 12 hours starting late last Thursday night. I had to guide on Friday and it was most certainly one of the most alpine feeling days I've had in a couple of years. My client Rich wanted to climb something on Mt. Willard and based on the howling winds in the Valley it was going to be full-on gale conditions all the way up whatever climb we were going to do.
Driving up through the Notch I was surprised to see more ice everywhere I looked than the previous day. The pillars on Pegasus were reforming, Smear looked noticeably bigger and Widows Walk had gone from nothing to hangers in a mere 18 cold hours! Even the Cascades that were nothing but raging water on Thursday, were obviously starting to firm up.
We spotted a party already on Cinema as we rode by Willard and there were several cars in the lot at the top of the Notch. As we geared up the wind was really howling. we walked the tracks to Hitchcock and there was a party already heading up the gully, so we decided to continue around to Cinema. I was surprised to find that there were 2 parties on the climb when we got there. Fortunately one of them was moving very fast and already nearing the top. We ended up catching up to the lower party, Will and Nate from Connecticut, and pretty much kept even with them for the 2nd and 3rd pitches. The ice was a little plastic at the bottom runnel, but got more brittle as we got higher. Fortunately the snow was really consolidated and it was easy to blast up the first section. From there on the ice was thinner, a lot more brittle and the wind was like being on the business end of a 747. Needless to say, conditions being what they were it took a bit longer than usual on the climb.
Surprisingly, in spite of temps being in the low single digits and wind chill well below zero, I really didn't feel cold. This was one of those days where I had hauled out the multi-layer Goretex jacket and insulated Goretex bib and was happy to have it. I never use toe warmers, but opted for them that day so even my toes stayed toasty warm. There were just a few uncomfortable times when the 30+ mph updrafts blew snow in my face and my eyelashes and nose hairs totally froze up. YUCK... I usually take a lot of pictures, but this time it was just too uncomfortable to try and unzip my jacket to get out the camera, and if I'd kept it in an outer pocket it certainly would have frozen up.
I'd planned on our being able to hike across the tree ledge to Upper Hitchcock as I often do. However, when I crossed over the snow gully directly above Cinema the snow was chest deep where the trail had been. The wind and drifting snow had completely obliterated the trail that had been packed out so nicely only a few days previously. [sigh] I made the decision to do the descent to the left that I'd done many times in the past. Nate and Will decided to join us and we all headed off left. we could see the tracks from the earlier party heading up toward Cauliflower Gully.We followed them just for a bit and then broke off left. Basically you have to stay a bit high at first and then once past Gully #1 drop down a small gully to an obvious tree that has slings and rap rings. From there it's easy to rap or down-climb that narrow gully, bringing you right to the base of Gully #1. Then it's easy to traverse right, staying next to the cliff, until you are at the left side of the Great Madness snow slope. I always feel that slope can be unstable so I stay in the trees alongside the slope all the way down to the tracks.
On the walk off I was impressed how much bigger Gully #1 and Great Madness both had gotten in a single day. I'd looked at them both the day before for the Report and thought they were marginal at best. Just goes to show how fast ice can reform when there is moisture moving and it's cold.
Down at the tracks we repacked all our gear and started back down the tracks against the wind. This was going to be really nasty when I spotted the party that had topped out and headed to Cauliflower walking down the tracks toward us. They dropped down over the embankment toward the road. HMMMM... We followed their tracks down to the pullout that's just before the start of the hill at the bottom of the Notch where they'd parked their cars. Turns out that I knew one of them and his partner was nice enough to give Will and me a ride up the road to our cars. SWEET.... Certainly better than hiking back up the tracks against a hurricane!
So, all in all a neat adventure on a day that could have easily enough been one to stay at home in front of the fire with a good book. I think I liked this better...
Here are some pictures mostly taken this morning in no particular order, for my convenience. Check out the others on the NEClimbs Ice Report page.
Diagonal and the Mordor
The Drip In The Woods
Hitchcock far right
Left Hand Monkey Wrench
Repentance and Remisson
The Texaco Slab
Upper Hitchcock Right
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:
If you aren't up north climbing ice I 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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