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December 22, 2011
It's truly hard to believe that here we are only days before Christmas, and it feels like anything but. We had the wettest November on record this year, and at this rate we may well have one of the warmest Decembers. Regardless, our family has been gearing up, so to speak, for the big day. With a 12 year old in the house, we're a bit beyond the Santa thing, but we still try and keep the spirit intact. The tree brings the smells of the season indoors and the wood stove keeps things cozy. I hope that each of you has a great time, whichever holiday (or none) you might honor. The best present I can hope for this year is some snow and cold temps. Perhaps we'll get lucky and St. Nick will bring some of that our way. Here's hoping…
There is something about winter that prompts routine. All through the Spring, Summer and Fall I mostly go through my days simply responding to what is put in front of me. Sure I have some things that I do every day, mostly revolving around walking the dog in the morning and getting the kiddo to the bus. In the winter it seems as if I have more things that I do almost on a schedule, perhaps the most consistent of which is dealing with the wood stove.
Our house is pretty efficient, but since I work at home and my wife only works part time, were here all all day. Because most of what I do is either working on web design on the computer or working on music, both of which are hand intensive, I need to keep the house at a fairly comfortable 66 degrees or it gets hard to make the fingers do what they need to do.
We get well over half of our heat from our 14 year old Vermont Castings wood stove. It sits on the brick hearth of our fireplace, right in the middle of our living room, on the back side of the couch. Other than the TV I would say it's the centerpiece of the downstairs. Most years, from sometime in early November through mid-April, it is in use 24-7. It gets fed ever 3-4 hours all through the day, loaded and damped down before the last person goes to bed, opened up and fed again by the first one up in the morning. Depending on how cold it is during the day it may be need to be refilled 2-4 times. That's a pretty fair amount of wood.
Again depending on how cold the , we'll go through 4-5 cord of hardwood a season. The wood gets stacked in long rows covered with tarps in the back yard over the course of the summer. Some amount of it is "staged" in racks in the garage and then we bring that into the living room in a rolling carrier that lives next to the stove. This means that the garage racks need to be filled from the outside rows about every 10 days, and then 2-3 times the wood next to the stove needs to be replenished, and the stove gets filled 4-5 times a day. Once the stove gets started, the routine doesn't end until the winter is over. In many ways I like the process, and I definitely like the quality of the heat. There is something about having the stove going that provides a coziness in the house that's just not the same as central heating, even tho it takes more effort. It's simply a part of life up here in the North country, and unless you want to spend all your money on heating oil or propane it's a necessary evil.
FWIW It takes the better part of a day every week to manage NEClimbs, write the Report and in the winter go out and take and then process and post the pictures. The expenses and time taken running and maintaining NEClimbs.com and putting out The White Mountain Report continue all year. Hopefully you will find it useful enough to make a contribution. PLEASE REMEMBER, it's your contribution that makes this newsletter and the NEClimbs web site viable.
With the CURRENT DONOR LIST for this year's Fundraiser up on the NEClimbs web site, it's pretty obvious how things are going. As of Thursday morning there have been a TOTAL of 49 donations! Yup, that's 49 out of 1,200+ subscribers to the Report , out of about 1,300 UNIQUE visits to NEClimbs every day, and over 1.2 million monthly "HITS" every week! It's a bit disappointing, but I want to thank everyone who has taken the time and energy to make a donation. I am very well aware of the current state of the economy, and sincerely appreciate any contribution, no matter how small. If you're interested, you can see the list from the link below. If you have made a donation and your name is not listed, please let me know.
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So after the freezing rain of last night, and the 48 degree temps this morning, it was really kind of hard to get motivated to make the drive up into the Notch to look for ice. But I did it, and I even brought a little gear in case there actually happened to be something up there to climb. The drive up to Crawford Notch was pretty depressing. There was literally no snow to be seen on the ground or in the woods anywhere. I called Brad White and he was on his was up to Sunday River to go skiing with a friend and he said the same thing about Pinkham Notch. It was not a good omen… There was a lot of fog in the morning and I couldn't see Mt. Washington at all from the Arethusa overlook, the temperature was 38 and everything was very damp. Fang was pitiful, there were only a few hangers left in the Amphitheater and I was very depressed. However up at the Standard Route view pulloff I was amazed to see that Standard had mostly hung in, but even more amazing there was actually someone climbing it! I couldn't believe it. Looking at the amount of running water and the stuff that was above the leader, it was not something that I would want to do, but to each their own… The rest of that area looked pretty bad, so I kept on going.
It was very hard to see Willie's because of the fog. It looked as if there was some ice up there in the middle, but there was definitely a lot of water coming down. It also looked as if there was no way off on the left if you didn't like the climbing! At the Shoestring pulloff there was a car parked with some climbers getting geared up. I briefly stopped and asked if they would post something as to the conditions. It looked as if there were actually 2 parties getting ready to go into the woods. Hopefully someone will post about what they found. I will say that later in the morning on my way home I stopped and looked at Shoestring with the binoculars and it looked pretty dreadful - long patches of rubble with a few ribbons of ice. Not very appetizing!
The top of the Notch wasn't any better than what I had seen before. There was no ice on Cinema and only a little to the left. Snot Rocket had some ice pasted on it, but it was pouring water. Both of the cascades were roaring water, with a bit of ice on top. Sheesh… I couldn't see anything of Hitchcock because of the low fog, so I decided I would walk down the tracks & have a look. There was no snow on the tracks and the ground was very soft so it wasn't that much fun. The little trestle ice cut where the ramp is was almost all gone and Snot was a mess. I hurried along because I expected it to fall any time. Hitchcock had a little ice in the gully, lots of water and no snow. I went up about 100 yards, but there was so much water it wasn't entertaining in any way. The P84 pillar at the base had been broken in half so it might not be visible if we actually get any snow. I walked on around the corner to Cinema and it was exactly as I had seen from the road, no ice to speak of and a lot of water. As I was walking oat some blobs of ice fell out of the upper tier and shattered their way down the face. It wasn't a good place to hang out.
Back at the top of the Notch I looked at Elephant Head and it actually looked like there was ice to climb. I decided that I would just climb up a ways and see what I thought, just to swing the tools and kick the crampons. The start was pretty good and I was able to move up easily. AT LAST I was climbing some ice this season! It felt absolutely FANTASTIC. Usually by now I've been up in the ravines and been nodding laps on the North End and Hitchcock. It's been a long time since I have not climbed ice by now. I went up through a notch in the middle and move over to the right side. I could see that if I wanted to commit, I could get to the top, but I had not brought a rope and I wasn't sure how I would get off if I made the last 20' to the top. So I downclimbed, staying on the the right side. I always practice reversing my moves so it wasn't a big deal. As I finished the bottom section I noticed that someone had built a cordalet anchor on a little tree in the alternate gully on the left. I'd never noticed that before and I'm not sure what is up with that. It had 2 locking biners on it tho…
Anyway it turned out to be worth bring the gear and I actually got to climb a little ice and it felt good. Now if we can gets get some consistent COLD WEATHER!!!!!
At the suggestion of NEClimbs member Mark Sprague, I added a new section called Conditions to the Forum. While mainly intended for the rapidly changing ice season, it can be used for everything. It's a great place for folks to post their observations about the state of climbing in various areas here in New Hampshire and beyond. If you are out climbing anytime, but especially during ice season, please drop by the forum and post your observations. Obviously I can't be everywhere and it can be a very valuable resource. You can also post your pictures there or in the Photo Gallery. Of course you will need to register to do anything other than read. I hope you find it useful…
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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