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February 9, 2012
WOW is all I can say about the 2012 Mount Washington Ice Festival. I think that I've been to all of the preceding ice feasts, and this had to be the best. Great clinics and guest guides, plenty of excellent equipment to check out and demo, an incredible mixed climbing comp, fantastic slideshow by master Will Gadd and a wonderful community experience. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with groups on both Friday and Saturday. Friday I worked with master guide Kevin Mahoney on a Steep Ice clinic and Saturday with Janet Bergman and Elliott Gaddy on an Introduction To Ice. As always it was great to meet folks who are enthusiastic about our favorite winter sport and wanting to improve their skills.
One neat thing was that both of the guides I worked with this weekend won their classes at Friday's competition. If you didn't see this, you really missed something. It was held at the Cranmore Rock Gym and the courses were set by Jim Ewing, Doug Madera and Josh Hurst. Both the mens and women's looked really tough, and considering that no one completed either I would say that was a good assessment. There were many strong competitors and it was a gas to watch them work through the problems.
Will Gadd's slideshow was amazing. I'd met him in Canmore about 12 years ago and was thoroughly impressed with what he was doing then. What he's doing now is even more spectacular. The pictures and video of Spray On, his latest test-piece, are over the top. I haven't seen anything that looks as futuristic as this. I got to talk with him for a few minutes and he really is a nice guy. His enthusiasm is infectious and if you get the chance to see him speak, DON'T MISS IT!
I didn't get the chance to see the movies on Saturday, but from what I understand they were great. The weekend wound up with great weather on Sunday as well. It's hard to imagine a better weekend for this event and it's got me already looking forward to next year's 20th celebration. BIG KUDOS to Anne, Sacha, Brad, Rick, Dave and all the IME/IMCS crew for hosting this event. It's a huge undertaking and they put in a terrific amount of time and money to make it happen. We are very fortunate to live in a place where this kind of event can take place. If you are in ice climber or mountaineer, I strongly urge you to mark this on you calendar as a don't miss. You will not regret it.
I made plans last week to get out with George Hurley today. We have climbed Unicorn on Cathedral Ledge several times together over the years, but neither of us have done it this year. With such a moderate day on tap, it seemed as if it was a perfect day to grab it. We met at my house a little after 10 and drove over to Cathedral. It was about 10:45 by the time I started up the little runnel and smear to get up to the first ledger. George followed and continued on up the small gully to the larger ledge above They Died Laughing. I followed and from there traversed left to the thin slab that leads up to the Unicorn Ledge. This always has minimal ice and this year it's extremely thin and blobby. Last year there wasn't enough ice to climb, however it was reasonably bonded so I managed to tap my way up, albeit without any gear. I walked over to the 2-bolt anchor on the left and brought George up. As always he makes everything look a lot easier than it usually is.
From here I angled to the right along the left wall to the tree at the base of the Unicorn flow, clipping the visible bolt on the wall that I believe belongs to the summer route The Leiger. I slung the tree and then was able to get a starting screw up high. The ice was quite fluted and hollow and there wasn't nearly as much ice at the very start as there usually is. Getting off the ground was tricky and I was happy go get to the stance about 8 feet up where I was able to get in a second screw and started to breathe a bit easier. The moves to the next stance were very delicate and I wasn't able to stem out to the right as I usually can. Another 3 moves and I was in a little hollow that allowed me to rest my feet. However the stance pushed my shoulders out from the ice as if it was overhanging, and I had to work to find a good screw placement. 10 more feet of steep and delicate climbing brought me to the bulge on the right that gave me a great place to stem. One more good screw and I gunned up the final steep 15 feet to the last bulge. I ran in a screw for the pull over and then happily headed to the rappel tree. There were 2 cordaletts and biners on the big tree, so I added a locker and had George lower me off. I've done Unicorn many times in the past 15 years and frankly I thought it was probably harder and more technical than I remember. Regardless it was great fun and as Jeff Lea is fond of saying; "Full value!".
I belayed George up on his TR and as always he made it look easy. Even at 76 and a candidate for knee replacement surgery, he has a superb sense of balance and really knows how to conserve his energy. I lowered him back to the belay and took a quick run on a thin smear of ice that ran up the middle of the face, past a small ledge at half height and then all the way to the top. I'd heard that Kevin Mahoney had led this several years ago, but honestly I would imagine that it would more likely be a solo. Today I did see some pick holes, but nary a sign of a screw hole. It was very steep and sustained and I was happy to be on a top-rope. Surprisingly there was some water dripping and spraying down the face and it was no wonder the ice had formed there.
George lowered me to the belay and we rapped from the bolts. My 2-60 meter ropes got us all the way to the ground below The Slot. Sweet… By the time we got to the car the sun was behind that section of the cliff and a small breeze had come off, cooling things down a touch. It had been in the mid-40's as I was climbing the crux pitch, but it was now back to mid-30's and quite pleasant. All in all it was a totally fun day out on the craig. I don't know how long the ice is going to last in this strange season, but what we have right now is sure nice.
More pictures will be posted on NEClimbs.com and on Facebook later this evening or Friday morning.
Last summer Boston native Mark Richey led an expedition to the remote peaks of the Indian Karakoram. His goal was to reach the summit of Saser Kangri II (7,518m), the second-highest unclimbed mountain in the world. For Mark and partner Steve Swenson, both in their 50s, the climb would be the capstone of their long and already distinguished climbing careers. To round out the team, they recruited four younger climbers: Freddie Wilkinson, Janet Bergman, Emilie Drinkwater, and Kirsten Kremer. Supporting each other from a shared basecamp, these six ropemates charted new ground on five new routes, including the coveted first ascent of Saser Kangri II.
The story of their expedition provides more than a glimpse into the future of exploratory alpinism. It highlights the powerful tradition long exemplified by the New England climbing community and The American Alpine Club: partnership across generations.
Please join Mark, Freddie, and the rest of the Saser Kangri II team for a journey—vividly told in words, images, and video—to one of the last frontiers of Himalayan climbing.
When: March 2 & 3, 2012
Where: Boston, MA
Waterfront Dining, Awards, and Auctions
Friday Night March 2: Annual Members' Meeting & Climbers' Gathering
Location and Details To Be Announced
Saturday Night March 3: Annual Benefit Dinner & Saser Kangri II Presentation
Accommodations and Dinner Location: Boston Seaport Hotel
American Alpine Club Hotel Group Rate: $169.00
Please call to make your reservation and ask to be part of the American Alpine Club Group Rate 617.385.4514 using code AACG12
200 Seaport Boulevard
Boston, MA 02210-2031
This year's Mountain Rescue Service benefit night will be on Tuesday, February 28th from 5pm-9pm at Flatbread Company in North Conway, NH. Please tell all of your friends and bring them by to eat some great flatbread!
As always, a portion of the profits from each flatbread sold will be donated to Mountain Rescue Service, www.nhmrs.org.
There will be a silent auction with great gear, great music, a slide
show, and all your friends in one place. Mark it on your
calendar...hope to see all of you there!
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
|Tick marks abound, so even the stupid can climb.
In his preface for the original Rifle guide.