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If you listen to other people tell you what's in good shape, or not, you certainly run the risk of getting yourself in over your head. While that's more often the case in ice season, it can take place on the rock just as well. Hmmm… George Hurley came over this morning to go climbing and I'd figured we'd go over to the Geriatric Walls at Humphrey's to get a variety of pitches of different types. However, he'd heard from a friend, that their other friend had said that Three Birches was dry. That's pretty rare for this time of year and that was enough for George, so off we went!
At the base of the climb we both commented that while it wasn't overtly seeping, it didn't really look "dry". But, George was still up for it and I was happy to let him have a go. I guess I first did Three Birches in '88 or '89 with John Gonoza, a friend from Boston. When I followed it I thought it was stout, but not ridiculous. Of course I was 25 years younger, 30 pounds lighter and had no real sense of the grades. When I led it myself several years later, I couldn't believe it was "only" 5.8, but I managed it OK. As the years have gone by I've felt that it's gotten slicker and of course now I know that it was never really 5.8. But then, that's Cathedral grades for ya!
George still climbs hard, but he has a bit greater aversion to risk than he had in his youth. In this case when things didn't feel that good to him he pulled on a piece here and there to get through. At 78, and with 2 bionic knees, I surely don't begrudge him those points of aid. Of course I watched him float numerous grade IV ice climbs this winter and I know that earlier in the week he had followed Cold Day In Hell and led the crack pitch on Hotter Than Hell. So I know the man can still do-the-doo!
Then it was my turn, so I headed up pitch 2. There's a few so-so moves up some flakes to a really nice finger crack, then you layback a nice but somewhat unprotected flake that takes you to a small niche at the base of a headwall. The moves over the little headwall definitely keep your attention, especially since your gear is all down below your feet. And then after all that, the little unprotected slab, tho not difficult, will server as a bit of a stung in the tail. It's always surprising how heady unprotected 5.6 slab can feel with your gear 30' below you! Needless to say, George followed all of it in good style.
We were using this as a warmup for our trip to the Gunks next week. We went for 2 days last fall, but this time we're going for 4 and it's going to be a great time as long as the weather holds out. Of course that means that the White Mountain Report for next week won't come out until Friday afternoon. I'm going to try and post some short comments about our shenanigans on the NEClimbs forum while we're away, so check in there if you're interested.
Local Boys Make Good:
Check this article about local guides Peter Doucette and Silas Rossi. These guys are really pushing it…
Selected Ice Conditions effective February 11, 2016
For the most part the ice is IN almost everywhere. Some places are still thin and the top-outs are not always great, but if you can climb, there is stuff for you to do. Some of the climbs in the Frankenstein Amphitheater are problematic as of today, but with the cold that is expected for the weekend, that may change pretty quickly.
Instant Bug Report:
There are lots of bugs out there, but the mosquitoes and blackflies don't seem to be biting yet. HOWEVER, the ticks are pretty bad right now. While I was climbing at Cathedral on Thursday, I found 4 on me. My son has found them on him when he came in from walking the dog in the back woods. George says that in Sandwich where he lives he and his wife can't go outside without finding 3 or 4 on them when they return! Just be aware and do a thorough tick-check when you come in.
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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:
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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.