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April 8, 2010
While it's not exactly a "nice" day today, it sure was last weekend. In fact Friday, Saturday and Sunday were about as good as it gets up here in the Valley. Sunny, dry and bluebird. Almost everyone I know was in that state of simply not being able to stay indoors, and I was one of them for sure. So when Brad asked if I was interested in climbing on Friday and again on Saturday, I had no choice but to say YES - and in a rather emphatic tone.
Since I hadn't been out on rock to speak of I figured that Whitehorse would be as good a place to start as any. We walked along the cliff and since there were folks on Standard and Sliding Board we settled on Sea Of Holes. It's always a good choice for any time of the season. Perfect rock, tho run out in places, and sometimes thoughtful moves, especially on the last pitch. If you're solid on Sea Of Holes you'll be fine on the slabs in general.
Brad jumped on the first pitch and basically just walked up the entire thing. There's no gear for an entire 50 meters so it gets your head into the game right off the bat. I came up as quickly as possible and did mostly the same on the second pitch. Brad made pretty short work of the 3rd pitch. I followed and had a little trouble getting out a nut he had placed in the crack about halfway up. I had to leave it for the way rap as I'd forgotten to bring my nut tool. Sheesh... It's that early season forgetfulness that creeps in, like forgetting the Ablakov tool at the start of ice season.
At the belay I now realized that he'd set it up so I got the crux 4th pitch. [wry grin] Why was I not surprised? I've always liked the left facing flake moves up to the crux bulge. There is OK gear and it's fun. Before I do the crux bulge I put in some gear up higher with a long sling and it's always nice to have double ropes. A couple of in-between moves and the next thing you know you're standing on the slab over the bulge with a dozen feed of easy but unprotected slab between you and the anchor. No big deal, but just a little heady. Good fun...
bluebird day on the Whitehorse Slabs
Sea Of Holes pic 1
Sea Of Holes pic 2
I rapped first and was able to easily pop out the stuck nut, once I had Brad's nut tool. A couple of quick 60 meter raps and we were within 50' of the ground. I did what I usually do when climbing on my own, which is just walk down the slabs unroped. Brad did the same, pulling the rope with him, and we called it a day. We both had work to do and the couple of hours of climbing was perfect. Besides, since the weather was supposed to be even nicer for the next day we made plans to do it again.
We met on Saturday morning a bit earlier with a plan to climb Short Order, traverse over the Echo Roof ledge and check out the rockfall area above the Ethereal Buttress. There were a lot of cars in the lot but hardly anyone on the slabs - surprising! It must have been busy on the South Buttress.
Neither of us had done the original start to Short Order in many years. I offered it to Brad but he declined. I should have realized that meant something... [wry grin] I started to do it, but it requires an unprotected mantle move to a slab and old bolt. It was just a bit too heady for me this early in the season so I backed off and opted for the crack on the right that's actually the first pitch of Avenger. While a bit overhanging, at least it's got fairly reasonable gear all the way to the easy slab. Bring that blue Camelot, you can use it! Now while the guidebook says it's 5.7, I'd say it's really at least an 8. I find the moves up the crack to be harder than Fun House or Bombardment. Regardless, it was dry and a fun bit of climbing.
I've done the upper pitch of Short Order almost more times than I can count. It's certainly one of the best 5.9's in the Valley. While it's a bit runout in laces, I know where all the moves are and it all just feels so very good to me. The crack at the top is a very special piece of rock and the old ring piton adds a bit of vintage quality to it that I love.
I brought Brad up and we started traversing across the upper ledge. I've done this many times as a part of the Girdle Traverse so I kind of know my way around up there. I always go high and get to a large tree with some old slings where I do a bit of unprotected climbing up some slabs to get to an upper ledge that's where pitch 5 of Echo starts, at the top of the 5.5 chimney. From here we got the first view of the area where the initial rock hit and exploded. There was a lot of rubble and some large blocks right on the edge of the ledge. It didn't look too good.
I rapped down to where the block had landed. It was pretty much a mess up there. There were pieces of still-fresh rock everywhere, broken off branches and a large tree that had a scar up high from the shattered rock.
At the initial impact zone there was a obvious impact on a tree 20' climber's right of the larger debris and about 30' up on the tree! For that to have occurred both Brad and I think that the block much have come from high above. Perhaps from the slabs above the headwall. Currently there are a couple of very large blocks right on the edge of the cliff and a furrow with lots of small to medium sized hunks of rock just laying there on the edge. About 20' down and directly below there is a small bush/tree with several hunks suspended in it.
I cleaned up a bunch of the smaller stuff that I could get to easily, piling in a stable place higher up on the ledge. We couldn't be sure if anyone was below so were were careful not to knock anything off. We rapped off a tree which had rings and a cordalette about 25' climber's right of the debris. This line took us down about 40' right of the Loose Lips belay and from what I could tell it was fortunately not impacted, nor was the flake itself. That said I spotted the usual purple Metolius and a nut stuck in the flake! This rap took us straight down to the left end of the Ethereal ledge just right of the top of p1 of Beelzebub. When I got down I saw that there was a party gearing up to do Children's Crusade. Needless to say they moved on when I told them what was directly above them! They had thought that with all the rockfall being around the buttress, it wasn't relevant to where they were. As I stated above, this is almost assuredly not the case.
There was a lot of shattered rock and tree debris on the ledge. Since we could now see that there was no one in the immediate vicinity, Brad and I brushed off as much of it as we could. There was a microwave-sized block balanced on a small ledge just below the big one. Brad rapped down first and kicked it off with minimal effort and it bounced a very long ways down the slope.
Brad kicking off some rubble
I believe that the debris on the upper ledge is almost directly above or just a little right of the start to Childrens Crusade. Although the initial rockfall came down right over Ethereal, the remainder is actually further to the left. I've said this before and I would urge folks not to use this area until this debris problem has been addressed.
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Passaconaway Road is now cleaned up, the gate and bridge are open. I rode it on my bike earlier this past week. Unfortunately bear Notch Road is not. I went up there on Sunday thinking it would be clear, even if the gate was still locked. Unfortunately this was not at all the case. There were large patches of snow about 3/4 of a mile below the summit on the Kanc side. I saw a pair of fresh bike tracks in the snow and figured that no one in their right mind would push all the way up the Bartlett side and the other side would be rideable. This was also not the case and I ended up pushing the bike through what was probably close to 3 miles of soft snow! I would bet that it's going to be at least another week or probably two before this is gone and then there are a lot of trees and other debris that will need to be addressed before it's going to be opened. You've been warned!
my snow covered bike wheel
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:
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Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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