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December 13, 2012
It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better
Get-ing so much better all the time…
(At least up on the Mountain)
I know that there have been a number of folks that have been finding reasonable ice to climb in the upper elevations like Kings Ravine, Huntington, Mt Lafayette and other places. For the purposes of this Report, I'm usually not all that interested in those places. However, after a day of rainy slush on Saturday, and another warm day on Sunday, Brad White and I decided to brave the icy Tucks Trail and have a look-see.
Brad swung by the house Wednesday morning at 7AM and we headed up to Pinkham. As we were gearing up we ran into guide Silas Rossi. He'd just gotten back into town the day before and was already taking a client up to Huntington for 2 days of climbing, cool! We also saw Rich, the caretaker of the Harvard Cabin, and his girlfriend. They were heading over to the Wildcat Ski Area to get MARRIED! A big congrats to them both!
As always at this time of year, the trail was boney and ice filled. In deference to my aging body, I generally prefer to wait to do this hike until it's filled in with snow and generally packed out. However, if I want to climb ice now I have to just suck it up. I can remember the first time I went up up on the Mountain, some 20+ years ago. It was early season and the trail was just like it was on Wednesday. At that time we didn't have Micro-Spikes, we justy stayed along the edges of the trail on the snow wherever we could and occasionally we had to actually hop from rock to rock. The hike down, in the dark with a barely working headlamp, was truly brutal. Now, with the Micro-Spikes, it's a whole lot better. I highly recommend that if you are doing any hiking at this time of year, you keep these in your pack. Anyway…moving right along.
We didn't see anyone else on the hike up and as we generally do, we just plodded along at our own pace chatting away about anything and everything. There was no signs of anyone at Ho Jo's nor at the Snow Ranger hut. As we hiked up the trail past the rescue cache we noticed tracks from someone coming up and coming back down, as well as dog tracks! When we got out of the trees to a place where we could clearly see the Book and the lower part of the Headwall, we decided to change our plans a bit. After a little discussion we agreed that the Book and ice around looked kind of thin and we would get more out of climbing up the middle of the Headwall to the Lip and then walking off via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Plus we both wanted to actually climb some pitches and even (woo woo) place some screws for the first time this season.
We traversed out to below the middle of the Headwall, kick-stepping up through the frozen turf to a stance just left of a large slab. There were crampon tracks that seemed to indicate that someone had been up there the day before. We geared up and soloed up the middle slab to a stance by a right-facing corner. The bowl was in full sun and in spite of the chilly temps, the ice on the slab was really wet, mushy and not very confidence inspiring. Occasionally we heard ice falling off the Sluice on the right side of the bowl and it made us a bit nervous about the large "hangers" up above us! I took the first real lead up a curtain, across a small slab and up another steeper curtain. It felt so so very good to swing, kick and place some screws. I got up to the right of the next corner/ramp and started looking for a belay. I had a hard time finding any good screw placements, but I did find a great ice-block that I slung! It was totally solid so I brought Brad up. The sun was strong peeping over the Lip and I opened up my jacket and took off my gloves as he climbed. It was really sweet.
Brad took the remaining gear and launched up this nice corner. I soaked in the sun for a while, but when the sun dropped back below the edge of the Lip it instantly got cold again. I bundled up, but by the time it was my turn to climb I was getting chilled. As I climbed, for some reason every screw I removed I had trouble getting the ice out of it. No matter how much I tapped and blew, the ice core remained frozen inside. It was the worst I'd ever seen! I just finally gave up, clipped them to my harness and climbed on. At the belay I just grabbed a couple of clean screws and pushed on. It wasn't far up to the Lip, just a short awkward curtain that I managed to get one screw in. At the top I was once again in the sun and I traversed over to the right through the pucker-brush where I found a large rock block that I slung for the anchor. Brad followed pretty quickly and we sat there for 10-15 minutes, soaking in the sun and snacking out. It was 1:30.
Looking over to our right we saw that we were only a few hundred feet from the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. We could see the really dangerous section where it was just a sheet of ice, so we decided to leave on our crampons for the descent. As we walked down the trail we saw our friends Joan V and Mike P coming up the Book right below the trail. We said hi and continued on down. I always hate to walk around on rocks like that in crampons, but it was just icey enough that it was probably a better idea than using our Micro Spikes. I can't even imagine being on this trail without something. You can see how you could easily slip and fall hundreds of feet with a single mistake!
Down near the base of the Book we swapped our crampons for Micro Spikes and kept going. We stopped at HoJo's just long enough for me to pull off my down belay jacket and then just kept on hoofing it down the trail. At the intersection of the Huntington and Tucks trails we came across a party of three with their map out and who were confused about where the Harvard Cabin was. We pointed them in the right direction and kept on going. Although the trail was very icy in places and there was a light snow falling, the Micro Spikes made travel a lot easier. We got down before dark, right about 4. It was a slower hike down than when the trail is packed out, but still not too bad.
All in all it was a great day out with a good friend. Hopefully we'll get some ice down in the Valley soon, but with no ice in the lower elevations you just have to make the commitment to the Mountain.
While the ice season hasn't exactly gotten off to a resounding start, I have made every effort to keep you informed so you can make a rational decision about what to do with your valuable climbing time. I am well aware that the economy hasn't been great. However, if the winter Ice Report has saved you any amount of time and effort, please consider making a donation. As of today there have been 57 donations to NEClimbs and the White Mountain Report, out of a bit over 1,100 subscribers. Thanks to all of you for your kind words and your support. I am still hoping to reach my annual goal of 100 donors before we close this one down. I'm a little more than half way there and I can make it, with YOUR help!
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Here are some interesting pics for you:
Check the web site for additional pix. Hang in there folks, it's gonna come soon…
Erik Eisle wrote this really great blog the other day about why he chooses to climb. I really like it and think you might as well. Nice one Erik!
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!
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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