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Once again it's the middle of November and we're all chomping at the bit for climbable ice. As always there are those who are in the forefront of the charge toward winter, and those who are somewhat more conservative. You may have noticed that I tend to fall into the latter camp. While I've soloed Pinnacle on good ice on my birthday (early November) and others have climbed the Black Dike on Halloween or before; for the most part those are pretty rare occurrences. I tend to use this time of year to get my personal gear together for the upcoming season and enjoy the warmer days on the rock and grabbing those last road and mountain rides like I did this past Monday and Wednesday. The ice screws, crampons and picks all need to be cleaned and sharpened, boots and shells need to be checked and everything generally gone through to make sure it's all in good shape. Still, with pictures of people climbing ice all over the web, there are some who feel that the ice season has started.
As some of you know, I've been putting out the White Mountain Report for close to 15 years now. I write it thinking about the 'average" climber (if there is such an animal) and I try and base it on what are the consensus grades for the various climbs. Since I've climbed close to everything in the area, many more than once, by now I "should" have a pretty good idea of what is IN/OUT at any particular time. Am I always right, nope; am I sometimes wrong, yup. I'm not a great climber, I'm a bit on the upper side of good, and I'm only somewhat bold. So, I feel like I still have the perspective of what most ice climbers can manage. Needless to say I don't, and honestly can't, walk up to every climb to examine it. Some of what I do is look at things from the road with my good binoculars, just like you might do if you were sussing out a climb before you commit to a walk in. By having looked at and climbs these routes for many years, I think I have a pretty good idea of each climb's state. The Ice Report is, of course, simply one man's assessment. I get out climbing a couple of times a week in the winter, sometimes on Tuesday and almost always on Thursday to check on the current state of things. I can't get everywhere, but where I can't get I ask around and make judgement calls.
Just like you, I look at pictures that get posted of very early season alpine climbing. Often I wouldn't say that it is remotely IN. Of course that's the nature of Alpine climbing in the early season. And to be honest, the posters usually don't say the climbs are IN, only that it is fun. For example, Yale was climbed 2 weeks ago on blobs of ice and frozen turf. That's impressive and certainly very neat, but it's not IN and definitely not for everyone! Last year some folks told me that Hitchcock Gully was IN and good. They didn't send pictures. I went up there the very next day and there was no ice at all in the lower section. There was nothing but running water and rubble and I took pictures to prove it. Occasionally folks tell me that I am all messed up in the early last season when I say things aren't IN. That happened last season so I went out and scratched around and honestly there really wasn't anything that I would feel good guiding on, much less climbing on my own. Go figure... On the other side, a few years ago I posted that Gully 2 1/2 was IN after I soloed it on a Friday afternoon. There was good contiguous ice all the way to the top and it seemed to me that there was enough ice for stubbies everywhere you would want them to be. Someone went up there and tried it on Saturday morning and emailed me the riot act because they thought it was desperate. Again, what can I say? One man's desperate, is another's _____. You fill in the blank.
I can always count on the fact that if I go up into Huntington in late March, find that things are getting pretty baked, there are open holes in Pinnacle and I come back and call it OUT, there going to be folks climbing ice up there in April or later and taking me to task. Absolutely - that's just the way it is... You can (and SHOULD) just take the Report as another tool to use in making "your" personal decision about whether to climb or not. Let's face it, climbing is a highly personal endeavor. When you get to the bottom of that ice pillar/curtain/slab, you are the one who's going to climb it. The Report is just one thing you can use to make a personal decision to walk in, or to start up.
Hopefully it's a useful one…but always remember:
"Climbing is a very dangerous sport. You can get hurt or even kill yourself. When you go climbing, you do so of your own free will. Everything on this site is to be taken with a grain of salt. Don't blame us if you get up some totally heinous route, in over your head and fall and hurt yourself."
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I've put out The White Mountain Report consistently since 1998! You can see almost all of the Reports on NEClimbs.com archived from as far back as September of 1999! To get a sense of the popularity of the site, current traffic as of November 1 2012 on NEClimbs.com is about 2,679 UNIQUE visits a day, generating over 1.4 million monthly "HITS". The White Mountain Report newsletter goes out to over 1,250 subscribers weekly!
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Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective February 4, 2016
In spite of the rain and warmup, there is still ice to be climbed in the Valley and Notches. Some additional caution is required after an event like this, but with reasonable care you should have stuff to climb this weekend. All of the larger climbs are still there and by mid-day Friday and Saturday should be good to go. Just place plenty of pro, check for bonding and beware of some of the top-outs and all should be good. For the time being I personally would NOT go under Repentance or Remission!
We'll get there folks, we're just not quite there yet...
20th Anniversary Mt. Washington Valley Ice Festival:
Believe it or not, you should be putting Ice Fest 2012 on your calendar. This year it's this February 1-3. Plans are already afoot and you can read about them here - http://icefest.blogspot.com/. If I were you I'd get your hotel accommodations in place 'cause this is going to be a big one!
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
In 1961 I led this chimney in a state of metabolic uproar. At the base of the pitch I smoked several cigarettes (the first and last ones of my life). This was to calm me. Then I spooned half a jar of honey. This was to ensure superhuman strength. Mort Hempel, my partner, watched this silly ritual with mouth agape and eyes exploding with fear.