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Only a few days from Christmas and every time I'm doing something I keep heating the sound of sleigh bells from afar. I was climbing the Snot Rocket today at the top of Crawford Notch and I thought for sure I heard them again just as I was pulling the crux on the first pitch. But maybe it was just a flare up of Tinnitis from all my years of rock & roll, go figure… Regardless, it is that time of the year so please accept all my best wishes to each of you for a special holiday and a healthy and prosperous 2011.
I was a bit bummed not to have gotten out climbing this past weekend, especially since things were in "good nick" as they say. From what I understand Dropline, Machine, and Last Exit were all climbed as well as a new route on the Fang wall called Pole Dancer; done by the indomitable Kevin Mahoney, Mike McCormick and Byard Russell. Due to family holiday obligations I knew that Wednesday was going to be my only opportunity to get out until after Xmas, so I started casting about on Sunday for a partner and a line to do. My son Lewis and I skied down the tracks in Crawford Notch on Sunday and I took notice of Snot Rocket, Great Madness and Gully Number 1. All 3 looked to be in good condition, but we ran into Paul Cormier that afternoon as he and his nephew had finished off Snot Rocket. I've done it several times, but it's a really classic grade 4 New England ice climb. Seemed like that was a good choice.
On Monday I started calling around to my usual partners to see who was available. Everyone was busy, so I decided to give George Hurley a holler. George doesn't walk very far these days, but I figured that Snot Rocket is just about as short a walk for an ice climb as one could ask for. He said yes on Tuesday, so I was set...
The plan was to meet at my place at 8:30, but as usual he was a bit early and I was a bit late, having to walk the kiddo to the bus stop and walk the dog. Regardless we were on the road before 9 and headed up to the Notch. We stopped at all the usual places for me to take pictures and as we got further up, there was more and more snow. In case you haven't heard there is basically NO snow here in the valley. I watched the weather with the radar last night and there was snow happening everywhere around us, but a big empty hole was over the Mt. Washington Valley. It's sad...
We were both somewhat surprised that the road past Notchland wasn't very well plowed. Therefore it wasn't all that surprising when we saw a pickup truck with the front smashed in on the side of the road just before the Mt. Washington scenic vista right before Arethusa! We stopped to offer help, but the guy said he was OK and his buddy had gotten a ride up to the Highland Center to get some assistance. It's always surprising to me that no one knows there is a pay phone at the Dry River Campground and of course there is always Bill King's house at the top of Arethusa. However if he wasn't from here he wouldn't know...
We pulled into the Arethusa parking lot and were amazed to see that Fang was bigger than we've seen it in many years. In fact everything on that wall looked interesting and very much climbable. The further we went, the better things looked. The only things that didn't look very good were some of the climbs in the Frankenstein Amphitheater. We both were excited about the state of Dropline, welcome To The Machine and Last Exit - all of which have already been climbed.
We parked at the top of Crawford Notch, geared up and headed down the tracks. As always as we walked down the tracks it was colder and windier than anywhere else we'd stopped that morning. There was a lot of ice in interesting places all along the tracks. Old Anxiety looks as if it would go, bring a few pins, and the Trestle Notch is fat, with a very cool pillar on its left side. In front of Snot Rocket it looked even better than it did on Sunday. Sweet...
We dumped the packs, flaked the ropes and I gathered up all the sharp pointy stuff. In the past I've done a line that goes up left into a cave and swings out right onto the main flow. This time that didn't look very good, so I stepped up on the left a little and immediately swung out onto the pillar. The first screw I placed was the third one I'd placed so far this season! Probably not the best warmup, but that's the way it goes. In general things felt good, tho I noticed that I'd forgotten to sharpen my crampons… [sigh] Live & learn I suppose. At the top of the pillar I stepped left onto easy ground, set up the belay near the base of the second pitch pillar and brought George up.
While the second pitch looked steeper, it was actually easier. Plus I'd now sussed out which were my sharp screws! The top was a bit crusty, but not too bad and I weaved my way up to a nice ledge in the trees. I brought up George and we both were pleased with the climbing and surprised at how warm it was out of the wind. He rappelled first and I quickly followed. we had a little hassle with pulling the rope, but at least I didn't have to prussic back up or walk all the way around to get it down.
As we walked back down the tracks the wind picked up and blew stinging snow in our faces. Both of us wished we had goggles, tho I hadn't even thought about it. As we hiked along we reminisced about the day I fell in the river on the way to Way In The Wilderness, yet ended up doing Repentance! We've had some great fun together & today was one more. All in all some great climbing with a good friend.
NOTE - the Report will likely not be out 'till Friday next week. Lots of family obligations for the holidays.
A Warning About Hiking:
Several people have mentioned to me just how treacherous the hiking is right now. The Tucks Trail has even been likened to a "mixed route!" A friend hiked the 3 Sisters trail last weekend and felt that even his trusty Micro Spikes weren't enough for the upper elevations. I have been out hiking around here in the Valley and noticed that there is a lot of ice hidden just under the leaves. One wrong step in the wrong place and you could easily rocket off something that you really wouldn't want to fall off of! Word...
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective April 17, 2015
I know, I know there are some folks who will say that this or that climb is still IN, but believe me there really is no safe ice in the lower elevation now, so the rating has been dropped to a 1. This indicates that the only ice is in the higher terrain now. And in fact, other than climbs that have some significant part of them in the shade, like Pinnacle, everything else should be considered suspect. That said the skiing is supposedly amazing right now so grab it while you can. Starting next week we will move fully into rock season and will switch to BugCON ratings.
FLASH - NEClimbs & White Mountain Report Now On Facebook:
That's right folks, we're now a part of the social media explosion. Join us and hopefully LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post some interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report, tho certainly not the whole Report. here's where you can check it out:
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.
NEClimbs & White Mountain Report On Facebook:
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:
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
My once-keen analytical mind has become so dulled by endless hours of baking in the hot sun, thrashing about in tight chimneys, pulling at impossibly heavy loads, freezing my ass off.... so that now my mental state is comparable to that of a Peruvian Indian, well stoked on coca leaves..