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March 11, 2010
A this time of the year I always feel that I'm a posthole magnet. Just ask some of my climbing partners. No matter where I go I'm bound to find every possible place I can posthole into. This week was certainly no exception with an hour of horrific postholing down the Webster Trail on Tuesday after climbing Shoestring and then again today hiking on the tracks to the base of Lower Hitchcock and then seemingly everywhere I wandered on the upper tier. The only upside was that in spite of all kinds of trips, falls and even in one case a tumble I didn't hurt, tear or break anything. Sometimes I wish I could finish the climbing and call in the helicopter for the ride home...
I would have to admit to having overdone things a bit since I got back from our vacation. I climbed last Thursday, rode the bike up to Crawford Notch on Saturday, then again out to Passaconaway Road on Sunday, hiked around Cathedral Ledge on Monday, climbed Shoestring on Tuesday, rode the bike up the Kanc on Wednesday and climbed Hitchcock today. If you guess that this has something to do with the weather being pretty close to perfection, you would definitely be onto something. [grin] Day after day of chilly nights and 45-55 degree days isn't something to sneeze at. It simply conspires to make it such that I simply cannot stay indoors, no matter how much work or practicing I have to do.
So, a quick recap on the two climbing pieces of this puzzle...
I've been wanting to get up Shoestring all this past month, but I just haven't been able to manage it for one reason or the other. Tuesday I decided that I was gonna grab it if at all possible. I got a late start and started up the trail around noon, topping out at 1:45. Looking at the climb from the road it seems so exposed so I'm always surprised at how much of it's in the woods. This time there was a huge amount of snow up in there and it almost felt like a different climb. It was pretty much a full-on snow slog with only 2 ice bulges. Near the top where the gully branches I opted to do the narrow rock chimney which had a runnel. It was great fun and dumped me out onto a very exposed snowy ledge. I followed some tracks back into the woods and in a very few minutes was at the Webster Trail. I walked south the normal 5 minutes to the scenic overlook where I plopped down for a bite and a drink. There was a surprisingly chilly breeze so I didn't stay very long. The trail started out well packed but soon turned into a pretty annoying posthole experience... remember my first paragraph? Under 2 hours of fun snow climbing became 2+ hours of very annoying hiking back to the car. It would have been a lot easier to simply downclimb the route right back to the car. I'll bet it wouldn't have taken more than an hour!
Today I wanted to get back up to Hitchcock Gully if possible. Again I got a somewhat late start, starting my walk down the tracks around 11. I met a couple of nice guys at the parking lot who were also heading for the same climb. Once again I seemed to find every annoying place to posthole on the tracks. Fortunately I missed the Al Hospers Memorial Post Hole right after the little trestle. It did look as if someone else had not been as fortunate tho. [wry grin]
As is usually the case when I'm alone I did the Left Hand Monkey Wrench to the Upper Tier. It was still in good shape, making it easy to get to the upper ledge. I did notice a lot of fresh rock on the left side of the Wrench flow so I opted for the right side. I hadn't actually climbed Upper Hitchcock itself this year, so that was my objective. I brought an old 6 mm tag-line to use to rap that pitch and the rock section. I strapped it on my back and ran up Hitchcock to the trees at the top. The ice deep in the chimney was pretty good, but further out on the right it was looking on the punky side. Not as much as the big pillars on the right of the gully and the left slabs, but enough so that I didn't climb out there.
I thought for sure that there had been rap rings up off one of the trees, but I didn't spot them so I whipped the rope around the first good tree and rapped off. Entertainingly I had forgotten that I'd apparently cut a few sections off that line, leaving it only about 40 meters long. That meant I had to downclimb about 30'. Needless to say looking DOWN as you are rapping is always the smart move. It's so hard for me to understand why folks don't do that as a matter of course! It would save a lot of accidents, at least in my opinion...
Walking down through the snow to rock pitch rap tree I found another posthole that almost flipped me on my head. Did I mention my magnetism? Very, very annoying! As I was setting up to rap the rock pitch into the gully the guys who were following me came up to Upper Hitchcock and said hi. They seemed a bit surprised that i was already done, but when you don't put in any gear or bring anyone else up things go pretty fast. I rapped off and this time the rope went all the way down to the snow below the ice bulges. SWEET! I pulled the roped, stuffed it in the pack and glissed down to the tracks. Man that was a real gas. I had to really put on the breaks a couple of times to keep from breaking the speed limit! I won't talk about the number of holes I stepped in on the way back down the tracks, but let's say it was more than one. Did I mention...
So all in all a couple of nice days of moderate climbing. Here's a few of pictures from Shoestring on Tuesday and Hitchcock this morning:
Crawford Notch -
Contrails over Webster Ridge
Contrails over Willard
looking up the Monkey Wrench
looking down the Monkey Wrench
Hitchcock from the upper tier
Several folks have asked about the local rock conditions. Both Humphrey's and the South Buttress both look good. I would not go near the Whitehorse Slabs or a lot of Cathedral 'till we get some rain to wash off the hanging ice. Just my 2 centavos...
Whitehorse South Buttress
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.
I popped over today to see if the rock on the ledge from last Fall's rockfall above Loose Lips had been brushed off by the snow this winter. Unfortunately that does not seem to be the case. The same stuff I saw last Fall is still sitting there, if anything closer to the edge. I'm recommending being very careful in Ethereal Buttress area until that stuff comes off, or until someone does a trundle... You check it out and draw your own conclusions.
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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Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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