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So here we are, near the end of yet another ice season. Sure there are a few things in Crawford Notch that will hang on for perhaps another week. And of course Mt Washington will harbor some Spring gems, potentially for another month, that is if we don't get a big rain and major warmup.
So was the ice season as good for you as it was for me? I hope so. I didn't get quite as much climbing in as I have done in some years past. I split some of my outdoor days this season with the mountain bike since I got new studded tires for Xmas. However,I did get out at least once a week, and I got in a couple of special leads. Unfortunately a few of the climbs that were on my tick-list this season (Dropline, Last Exit, Machine and Way In The Wilderness) really didn't come in and that was a bit of a drag. Still, The Hobbit and Dracula were in good shape when I wanted to grab them and I was fortunate enough to pluck Black Pudding in the short window that it was climbable.
That's the main difference between rock and ice climbing. The rock is always there and there really is no IN or OUT about it - except maybe if it's raining or now. Ice is an ephemeral substance. One day it's IN, another it's OUT, one day it's brittle, another it's plastic, one day that 4+ feels like a 3, another that 3 is a desperate 5. For me, it's what makes ice climbing such an attractive sport. You really never know what it's going to be like until you walk up to the climb and swing the tool. I always know what Bombardment will be like. The runout slab is a wakeup call, the finger pocket at the top of the crack is an old friend. The only thing truly consistent about Bob's Delight is that the topout has a flat spot with a little corner, that may or may not have ice on it. I did it twice this season and one time it felt like candled and full-on grade 4, but the top was full of ice; the other the main column was smooth and plastic, but there was almost no ice at the top, making for what seemed like a desperate finish. Still, both times it was fun. That's the beauty of winter climbing
Spring On Mt. Washington:
Of course we're now in the perfect time to be up in the Ravines on Mt. Washington. These long sunny days with moderate temps make for fantastic alpine days. If you're fast and do an early start to run up one of the gullies, you could easily be home for a late lunch. And the super good thing, IMNSHO, is that the Tucks trail has enough snow on it that it's actually a pleasant walk!
Of course the real concern on the Mountain these days is the avalanche danger. In spite of the fact that we've had minimal snow in the lower elevations and temps have been pretty darn balmy, it's a whole 'nother world up there. Here's an excerpt from the Avalanche Report on Wednesday, April 3:
"WOW-WOW-WOW! Winter has returned again. If you were dropped on Mount Washington having no idea it was spring you’d swear it was January due to a summit low temp of -3F (-19.5C). In the 24 hours proceeding midnight the summit received 4.4” (11cm) making 9.3” (24cm) for the past 2 days. This is similar to Hermit Lake and the Harvard Cabin accumulations. This was associated with a building wind yesterday that began in the morning around 50 mph (80kph) from the WNW. Velocities grew all day to around 90mph (144kph) at dusk hitting a peak of 127mph (204kph) very early this morning. All summing up to full winter conditions!"
This made for a rating of CONSIDERABLE in most places, with a few even sporting a HIGH rating. Today's report holds a more Moderate rating in most locations and that should decline over the coming weekend. Still, I strongly urge you to check the Avalanche Report before venturing up there.
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective April 17, 2015
I know, I know there are some folks who will say that this or that climb is still IN, but believe me there really is no safe ice in the lower elevation now, so the rating has been dropped to a 1. This indicates that the only ice is in the higher terrain now. And in fact, other than climbs that have some significant part of them in the shade, like Pinnacle, everything else should be considered suspect. That said the skiing is supposedly amazing right now so grab it while you can. Starting next week we will move fully into rock season and will switch to BugCON ratings.
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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:
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