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December 12, 2013
While it may not officially BE winter, it sure has felt like it this week. I guess it was cold everywhere, but in case you didn't the local weather, we had our coldest day on record for this YTD on Tuesday. When I checked the weather station here at the cliff at 6am it was -8. Friends who live in Chatham and Lovell posted as low as -18. No wonder I've been going through wood at such a record clip. At this rate I'll have to dig into the green stuff by the end of March. SHEESH! Besides the deep cold on Monday night, the moon was darn close to full. About 4am I was woken up by the moonlight streaming through my bedroom window. It was so bright it looked like there was someone out there with a halogen spotlight. Pretty darn amazing.
I had made plans to go climbing on Tuesday with my friend Monica who was driving over for Vermont and I was a bit concerned about just how that was going to be. Some other friends had been out on Monday and, in spite of it being a really sunny day, it was still near 0 degrees. They said that the ice was nice, but quite hard. When I left my house at 9am it had risen to a balmy -4 degrees, but that cooled off back to -8 when I got to Frankenstein. I took a quick drive down the road to check out the Amphitheater and Standard Route. While the ice looked lots better than it was last week, it also looked to me as if the sunniest place in the area was going to be Cave Route.
We met at the top of the Arethusa parking lot and hiked down the tracks. Even in spite of 50 years of playing rock and roll I could still hear the high pitched squeak of the dry snow under my boots announcing the low temps and I was glad to have on my puffy down jacket. At the trestle we were both surprised to see that no one had walked into the Amphitheater since the snows several days before. We looked at each other & I just headed on in. It's funny how, even tho the trail hadn't been beat out at all, I could tell where it was supposed to be through the trees. The nice thing was that by the time I went up the hill and banged right over to Cave Route I had fully warmed up, in spite of the cold.
When we finally got to the belay tree I took off my coat and pulled off my hat, it felt quite wonderful standing in the sun. I had on my old Patagonia fleece and another couple of layers and it was nice. I started putting on my harness and crampons when one of the big hangers in the middle of Widow's Walk gave way and crashed down, spewing huge hunks of ice downslope. Where we stood there was no chance anything was going to get to us, but it was still disconcerting. Having seen this happen so many times over the years, there is no way you could get me to walk across under that area unless it was totally filled in. And even then I would be very nervous about it.
Water was running behind and over the ice and it was so warm that I considered just climbing in my fleece. However, I figured that if some clouds came in I was going to get really cold right away so I kept my puffy jacket on. Good call! While the start was wonderfully plastic, the higher I went the harder and more brittle the ice became. Still, it was fat ice and vertical in sections, and great climbing. At the top I traversed right and set up a toprope to we could climb the Widow's Cave pillar, just right of what I had just climbed. About this time the sun went behind some high thin clouds and my hands started getting cold. Monica lowered me off and I cleared off some icicles on the pillar and checked out the start. It was thin, but since it was completely attached at the base I figured it was good to go.
When I got down I grabbed a snack while Monica got ready to go. While I was still warm, my left hand was cold. I had to take it out of my glove to blow on it a bunch to get it feeling OK. I was expecting a round of the "screaming barfies" but somehow thankfully that didn't happen. Monica headed up and made short work of cleaning the gear and getting to the anchor. Since she was there, I figured it was just as well for me to lower her and have her go ahead and climb the pillar. She started up and it was assuredly thin, requiring some tenuous moves getting up to the larger ice. Since it is free-hanging, it made some big sounds when she swung the tools hard. She did great, so I lowered her down and it was my turn.
The start up the base was on some very cool mushrooms, the like of which I don't see too much in the East. They are really neat features to climb. She had left me plenty of ice at the bottom, but it was definitely a delicate start. It would be a very ballsy lead since you would be a good 20' up the pillar, to including the 20' up the mushroom, before you could get in a solid screw. Regardless, it made for a fun and steep climb on a very cold day.
Sorry I didn't get any pictures this time. I forgot my camera and my cell phone didn't like being out in the cold.
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This year's NEClimbs 2014 fundraiser will end on December 30th and there are now 3 cool books in this year's raffle.
1) Boston Rocks guide to rock climbing in Boston and the vicinity
2) Michael Wood and Colby Coombs "Alaska Climbing Guide"
3) Cameron Burns' hysterical book "Postcards From The Trailer Park, The Secret Life Of Climbers"
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Here's a few additional pix:
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
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