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February 2, 2012
I was up at the Climbing School offices Wednesday morning. In the office Brad and Dave were hard at work scheduling clinics and guides and taking more sign-ups and Anne and the crew were cleaning out the lobby area and getting tables set up for all the manufacturers and their products. It's a bustling place right now, and starting Friday it's going to be over the top. The weather looks as if it's going to be excellent and the ice is in great shape everywhere. I'll be out there guiding on Friday and Saturday as well and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope to see you on the ice or at one of the great slideshows that are happening on Friday and Saturday evening.
It's hard to believe, but the Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest has been a tradition for 19 years. Like all events of its type it's had its ups and downs, mostly related to the weather. But it's always been about getting together and celebrating the winter and the sport we all love so much. This year we've got great ice, a great group of celebrity guides coming in for clinics and slideshows and it's going to be a gas. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Will Gadd's show on Friday evening at Cranmore. Some of the stuff he's been doing recently has been unreal. And of course all of the other great guest guides like Kevin Mahoney, Mark Synnott, Freddie Wilkison, Emilie Drinkwater, Bayard Russell, Matt McCormick, Ben Gilmore, Majka Burhardt, Nick Yardley, Janet Bergman, Jim Shimberg, Andrea Charest and Silas Rossi all have something special to offer. I'm excited and hopefully you are too.
Over the past couple of weeks we've all had a bit of a worry about the state of the ice and the weather for this weekend. Just in the past 7 days we've been through two rain/freezing rain/sleet events. Tuesday we had a wonderful day with light snow falling all day long, yesterday (Wednesday) was absolutely bluebird and chilly and then it rained last night! I was working in the office and at around 11 I noticed that the temperature had spiked up to 42 and I heard the rain coming down. It wasn't that much, but it drizzled off and on for most of the overnight. Now it's cloudy and right above freezing…go figure. Fortunately the weather pundits are predicting a great weekend with any storms passing to our south.
I wanted to get out on Tuesday so I called up my buddy Jeff and we decided to check out Goofer's. In spite of it being basically in my back yard, I hadn't gotten on it this year. 10:30 is a late start for me, but that's just the way it goes around here - you get out when you can… We parked at the kiosk and headed up the trail like you are going to Repentance. I always marvel at how obvious the slash through the woods right below the Big Flush is - it's created by the spring icefalls. You have to wind your way around in the woods, finally reaching the ladder and then the upper show field. It was easy kick-stepping until about 20' below the little belay cave, and there the snow turned to hard neve and we had to put on crampons. When you look down the hill from there you realize just how high up you've come and how far you would slide if you slipped! It's a very different view compared to being up there in the summer.
The ice looked thin but good, tho the right side was covered with a layer of blobby crust. Apparently the bits of rain we've had sprayed water off the buttress and spattered down rather than flowing. We dumped our gear in the little cave and geared up. As usual when I come up there I forget to bring a Tricam or the like to make a clip-in for the belayer. Sometimes you can sling the chockstone, but this year it was too choked with ice so I slung a couple of icicles on the left for a first "piece". It might keep me from going way down the hill if something happened. As Jeff said however, "That was not in the plan when we agreed on doing this." [grin]
The climbing was good right from the start. Like many folks, I've climbed Goofers many many times in all sorts of conditions. This was not the thinest I've seen it, but not the fattest either. I climbed the blobby right side for a while, up to the first bulge at about 30', and then moved left to where there was smoother ice. I was using brand new crampons and had new picks on my axes, so I was psyched to see how they fared. The crampons, a pair of the new and hard to find Petzl Lynx, were just fine. I was reign the fibber front bail system in stead of the usual wire bails, and they seemed just fine, even on vertical ice. The picks were another matter tho. When I picked up a new pair of picks for my Ergo's someone suggested that I try the "T" picks. They are stronger and usually last longer than the normal Cascade pick. As a consequence they are also thicker. I found that this made for a lot more shattering of the ice that I am used to. I play a mental game with myself, trying no matter what to only swing once and have it stick. I can usually get up an entire pitch of hard ice, only adding a couple of extra swings the entire pitch, even in brittle ice. This time I found myself swinging several times on almost every stick. Sure the ice wasn't great, but it wasn't THAT bad and I'm climbing pretty good this season. Well I guess I'm going to have to get another pair of picks, or do some more practicing to try and get this happening. Ice Climbing is all about conservation of energy, and this is not how this old codger wants to be climbing!
There are several bulges on Goofers that make it entertaining. Where you pull over them onto small ledges, the ledges were all crusty and snow covered. As always I threw in a screw just before making the mocha - just in case. The very last one, about 20' before the anchor, was particularly funky and deserving of a good ice screw. As always there were small ice flows spouting out from under the buttress just right of the anchor. Sometimes these are thick enough to rap from, but not this year. I brought Jeff up and he made short work of it. Then we rapped right back to the cave, grabbed our gear and continued down to a tree another 20' down. It's a convenient place to pull the ropes and consolidate gear.
We decided to go back down via the Thin Air Face, just to have a look. Surprisingly there was a fair amount of ice right under the direct start to Toe Crack. It's been done this year, and looks as if it could be again. All in all it was a fun mid-morning escape from work for both of us.
I really wasn't too concerned about there being any degradation of the ice after the little rain we had last night, and I wasn't disappointed. All the ice in Crawford Notch, and indeed everything here in the Valley looked good to go. Climbs that weren't IN before, are a bit less so, but all the major climbs are still in very good conditions. Frankenstein looks very good, with all the climbs in the Amphitheater (with the obvious exception of Widow's Walk) in good shape. In fact Hobbit is probably larger than I have ever seen it. Local guide Silas Rossi climbed it the other day and said the same thing. I did notice that Angel Cakes looked fat and The Howling has more ice on it than I've seen in a long time!
I watched someone climbing Dropline for a while. They seemed to do well up to about 6 feet above the horizontal crack, I turned away for a second and when I looked back it looked as if they had taken a a short fall, but this may not have been the case. I didn't see it. The sequence is documented below. They seemed OK and I couldn't stick around to see if they finished. Hopefully they did.
The climbs on Mt Willard all look good, even the Numbered Gullies on the left side, and Cinema looks thin, but plenty climbable. The Snot Rocket has taken a beating over the past couple of weeks and is much thinner than it was a month ago. All the climbs on the upper right side look great and Elephant Head is fat. I glanced at the Silver Cascade and it was pretty snow filled and the Flume Cascade looks good lower but has running water in the upper section.
I think we are in great shape for the Ice Fest Weekend. Here are a few interesting pictures:
More pictures will be posted on NEClimbs.com and on Facebook later this evening or Friday morning.
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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