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After being in the flatlands of East Texas for 10 days, it's so great to be back here in New England. To be able to go ice climbing, rock climbing, cycling, XC or downhill skiing - sometimes all in the same day - is just the best. I would find it very difficult to be somewhere else. except in blackfly season of course. This winter has been different than the past 2, but not in a bad way. We've had plenty of snow up in the mountains and notches where it matters, lots of cold temps early-on when we needed it to form the ice and now moderate temps so we can enjoy what we have. All good stuff right?
As warm as it's been this week, I was starting to wonder if the ice was going to hold out. Tho there hasn't been any snow to speak of here in the Valley for a while, there certainly has been lots in upper elevations. Those who are into alpine skiing have been quite happy with what's been provided, just ask the folks who've been spending time at Wildcat or on Mt. Washington. There is a lot of snow in the upper elevations. Want a real revelation? Go to tuckerman.org and check out the pictures of Huntington Ravine. Look at the picture of Pinnacle from 3/2 and the one from 2/16. Look at the cornice at the top of Huntington and the avalanche debris in the fan. Have a look at the one of the Dow Cache. That is a lot of snow folks! I am sure the pix of Tuckermans are just as impressive, but I'm used to seeing a lot of snow in there...
I've been planning on climbing Shoestring, but simply haven't gotten around to it lately and I'd decided to give it a shot this morning after I took my pictures. Once up in the Notch I was impressed with the amount of snow everywhere I looked. The DOT guys have done a good job cleaning things up and there are some really high banks on the sides of the road. I pulled off at the Shoestring pullout by the sign, grabbed the binoculars and got out of the van. I was surprised that there was no sign of the trail that had been there 2 weeks previously. It was as if no one had been there at all. I walked across to the other side of the road and climbed up on the bank to get a look into the gully. The difference from the previous week was significant. There is a lot of snow up there. Enough to cover all but the ice bulge about 3/5 of the way up, plus there was a huge snow pillow in the throat up at the top. I decided that perhaps this wasn't such a good idea today...
I drove back down to Frankenstein, figuring that maybe I'd run up my old standby Standard Route. As I pulled into a space at the top I saw local guide Mark Synnot getting his gear together with his partner for the day. We chatted for a few minutes and he mentioned that he'd been out in Wastach taking I asked how it went and his response was "tough". There's a pretty big difference between the massive snow out there and what we get on Mt. Washington. We all think that this is a lot of snow, but not compared to what they get! The 3 of us walked down the tracks and they peeled off at Waterfall. I dumped my pack at the tracks in front of Standard, got my crampons and axes and hiked up the hill. It was about 9:30, the day was close to perfect and I was somewhat surprised not to see or hear another soul. Oh well, more for me...
I took the line straight up the middle, not stopping in the cave. At the middle ledge I decided to head over and have a look at Penguin and was surprised that the track over tothebase of Penguin wasn't beat-out at all. I swam through the snow to the base of the curtain and was again surprised to see that people were obviously climbing it, but apparently coming up from the bottom. That line doesn't come in all that often, and when it does it's usually pretty thin, but it must be pretty good now. The upper curtain looked good, but of course I couldn't see into the chimney.
I backtracked along the ledge and climbed the steep right side to the large upper ledge. The ice was plastic and generally very good, however I did have a crampon give way in a punky section. That's the problem now...sometimes the ice has a layer of soft white stuff on it now that you have to consciously work through. That's a pretty big change to the state of things in just a single week. At the very top I climbed the right curtain. I was concerned about the top-out, but it was surprisingly good if I stayed right. There was open rock in the middle tho! All in all it was good climbing.
I walked off over the top of Dracula to the normal descent at the Blue Room Gully. Right at the top I spotted a trail going off left, toward some ice that I'd seen before, but never checked out. I decided to have a look since walking around in the woods wasn't too much of a hassle. After about 100' the trail started going downhill so I bushwhacked across the hill and up toward the ice I could see. After a few minutes I could see a path coming up from the practice slab toward a small upper ice gully. I crossed that and continued over to the unknown pillar/curtain. I was surprised that there was no indication that anyone had been up to it. No tracks, no pick marks, no screw holes in a perfect 30' section of ice. I said what the heck, and I climbed it. It felt about the same as what I call the Drip In The Woods at the End Of Days Crag. I walked off left and down the gully and then I climbed the steeper left section. This was definitely harder, steeper and taller, but the ice was great. I walked off the same way and since I was on a roll I climbed the easy right side ramp. This was really fun... This time I decided to walk off right. As I worked my way down a snowy gully I was surprised to see a screaming-yellow sling with 2 rap rings on a tree! From all the stomped-out area around the tree it was obviously well used. So someone had climbed up this really easy snowy slab right of the normal practice slab and belayed there, just right of my little curtain, plus someone had climbed the wicked-easy snow gully to the left. But as far as I can tell NO ONE had climbed the best ice in the vicinity! Go figure...
Basically satiated, I thrashed back the way I came and down to the Hanging Garden. It was about as I expected. There was some but not a lot of ice. Certainly nothing that I was going to climb anyway. I walked around and then up to Dracula which looked exactly as it did last week when Brad and I did it. Sweet... I was again surprised to see that the normal trail past Machine and Dropline and across past Penguin to Standard was not banged out. Hmmm... Did I mention that there was lots of snow at Frankenstein? [grin] Time for an otter-slide, I took off the crampons and slid down to the tracks and walked back to the pack.
By now there were 2 parties on Standard and another couple of folks walking down the tracks. I was done so I threw everything in my pack and headed back to the car. As I came up to the trestle I took a picture of the creosote that has been dripping off the trestle onto the snow into the gully. Mark and his friend and I had talked about it briefly earlier and several people on the NEClimbs forum have mentioned it as well. What an awful mess it is. I am really surprised that there aren't some environmental laws being broken as it's got to all be leaching into the river. Sheesh...
As I walked past the thermometer on the signpost near the parking lot I had a peek and saw that it was a little above 40! Sweet... All in all a great morning of climbing. Get out and enjoy yourself this weekend.
Selected Ice Conditions effective December 22, 2014
Right now the ice is in pretty reasonable conditions, even in the lower elevations. I'm not at all sure that's going to be the case on Wednesday and Thursday, based on the weather predictions. Stay tuned...
LOST on EVEREST - The Quest to Find Mallory and Irvine:
An Evening with Thom Pollard
Saturday, March 13, 2010 at 7:00 PM
Loynd Auditorium at Kennett High School
Admission Free – Donations Gratefully Accepted
Sponsored by the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust
In June 1924, George Mallory and his climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, attempted to make the first ascent of Mt Everest. Although last sighted 800 feet below the summit, it is unknown whether or not they reached their goal before they died. Irvine’s body has not, as yet, been found - but in 1999, at 26,750 feet, Mallory’s body was discovered by an expedition organized for the very purpose to search for both climbers.
Thom Pollard, the Emmy Award winning creative director of Eyes Open Productions, was part of that expedition. As photographer, he brought back pictures which were later published in National Geographic magazine and his film footage was used in both BBC and PBS productions. He will also show rare footage of his interview with Sir Edmund Hillary. Thom will speak about his experiences on Everest in a presentation in support of Upper Saco Valley Land Trust – a local conservation group committed to protecting open space in perpetuity through the use of conservation easements or, when warranted, through the use of land purchase. In addition to Everest, Thom has participated in and filmed many mountain expeditions over 20,000 ft including Gasherbrum, Denali, Aconcagua as well as many ascents in the French Alps. His documentaries include the Power of the Mountain (1993), Storm over Denali (1994), and Alive on Everest (1996). Thom has also been the cameraman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration covering attempts to save the life of an entangled Right Whale and later an Orca Whale.
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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The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
When I began climbing, the rope symbolized trust. Sport climbing turned the rope into 60 meters of vague social contract. Ice and alpine routes reminded me why the rope is a sacred climbing icon; it signifies the unbreakable bond between partners.