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January 9, 2014
I just gotta say that this has been one of the most event-filled winters that I've experienced in my 17 years of living in the Valley. There is always some kind of Christmas/January thaw that takes place, even in the coldest and most snowy of winters. But this year surely takes the cake. And with all the predictions I'm reading for later this week, I gotta say that all bets are off the table. Right now the 2014 ice season has been surprisingly good, especially considering the turnarounds we've had with the rains and warmups. But the following cold snaps have made things form up that don't always form and reset the normal things, so we've hung in the game right to half-time. It's kind of like the Patriots this year. If you bet on them, you could win big 'cause they've really had a lot of setbacks this season and they are underrated, but if you bet against them you could loose big time 'cause they are serious overachievers. Don't bet against the 2014 ice season folks!
For fairly obvious reasons I don't usually check out Whitehorse in the winter. However I saw a picture Jim Surette posted on Facebook the other day of Whitehorse with the ever-elusive Myth clearly in place. It couldn't tell if it had come in fully, since that's only happened a few times since the mid-70's, so even a full sighting is pretty rare. I haven't heard that anyone has jumped on it, but I took a ride over to Whitehorse this morning to have a look-see.
Turns out that Whitehorse is kind of covered in interesting lines! And on top of that I spotted someone finishing following a line that's left of Echo Roof, pretty close to directly below the finish to Last Tango. I don't have any idea who it was, leader had on a green jacket and second red, but I'll bet it's a FA.
On top of that there is ice all up the right side of Echo Roof and I'm certain that you could find a line that goes all the way to the top of the cliff.
Next I drove over to check on Cathedral and low-and-behold again there was ice everywhere. Lots of stuff was on the Barber Wall, even over to the Asylum area! Ice was even on the right of Goofer's, left of Thin Air, as it was late last season when Brad, Conrad and I climbed it.
FYI the road down to the kiosk and North End is passable, but be careful. The ruts are very iced up and deep. I'd pretty much suggest parking and hoofing it unless you have a 4WD truck or car that's pretty high!
I drove on up into Crawford Notch to meet my partner Monica Stillman. On the way by I checked things out and took the weekly pictures. Everything that I saw looked pretty darn good IMO. A few things like Welcome to Machine didn't look good, but that's the exception. I was pretty darn amazed at how well things held up to that 24 hours of 40+ degrees and rain.
I haven't been climbing as much as I did last year and have been feeling a little down on my ice skills this year so I had in my mind to do something moderate like Hitchcock, LH Monkey Wrench and Read Between the Lines. All stuff I've done many many times and that I feel comfortable on. But, as we walked down the tracks I was intrigued by Snot Rocket. I've led t he right side many times and love it, but I've never done the left. This time the right isn't in, but the ice on the left of the buttress looked fatter than I've ever seen it and very attractive in the sun, so I suggested it. We dumped the packs next to the tracks, geared up and scurried up the slope to the ledge beneath the climb. The wind kept gusting and it was colder that I expected. Both of our hands got quite cold before I even started and the ice was very brittle. Of course right as I started up the sun went behind the clouds and it felt even colder. [burrr]
I started up and realized that, besides being fluted and brittle, it was actually quite thin and I wasn't going to get in a screw until the first ledge. [sheesh] I moved up carefully and got in a 10cm screw in about 2/3 of the way right at the move onto the ledge. Fortunately I was able to get some good sticks to get situated on the ledge and then run in a reasonable screw from the stance. The next 15' wasn't any better, and neither was the gear! By now tho I was almost to the upper corner next to the left side of the buttress and I was able to get a good stance, run in a good screw and try to warm my hands. Didi I say that it was cold & windy? Well it was, and my hands felt like icicles, or rather I couldn't feel them. A bother 2 screws, another 20 feet, a tricky move up through some frozen bushes and I was into the cave. I quickly set up an anchor to the tree at the back wall and called; "Off belay." My hands were killing me and I called down that this was going to be a few minutes while I windmilled my arms, gritting my teeth from the pain, just trying to get past the agony. A always the pain subsided as the blood warmed up my fingers and a few minutes later I hauled up the rope and put Monica on belay. She did a good job and made it up relatively uneventfully. Still, when she arrived her hands were like icicles as well!
I had been thinking that I was spent from the pitch I'd climbed, but by now my hands felt great again and the sun had come out so I started looking at the two big pillars. The one to the left that went with the pitch I'd just climbed went all the way to the top and was free-standing, but was only about 3' thick! I swung an axe into it and it really didn't sound like something I wanted to lead. On the other hand the pillar on the right, the usual second pitch of Snot Rocket, was good. It was thin for about 10', but then looked excellent - PLUS it was plastic! That's right, I could actually get real sticks in it and the ice wasn't all fluted like the previous pitch.
I transferred over all the gear and headed up. I placed a single screw down low, just in case, and another about 10' up. It was very steep, almost dead-on vertical, but very swing was a stick. Compared to the previous pitch I felt like an ice god! A couple of more screws and ~40 more feet and I was at the belay tree. I was totally psyched and my hands felt great. Now I ask you, what's not to like about steep climbing on good ice? I set up the anchor and brought up Monica. She did great and was ecstatic to have done the whole thing. It was the steepest ice we'd both climbed so far this season and it felt GREAT.
We rigged the belay and I rapped first. The rope went all the way to the tracks so it was a piece of cake, other than I had to kick off a few large "hangers" and there were 2 free-hanging sections. She followed with no problem, the ropes pulled easily and the wind had died down do it was actually very nice - for 16 degrees.
I was spent and she had a ride back over to Vermont, so we called it a day. All in all a great time was had by all and I built up some confidence for the season. Now the only thing I have to do is get some new screws…mine are crap! [sigh]
All I can talk about is what I see and hear about right now, 'cause with this roller coaster of a winter you never know. As of Thursday lots of ice is IN in all the regular places and also in some that aren't so usual. Based on what I'm seeing and hearing, if you want to climb ice right now, you won't have any problem finding stuff to do. You're going to want to stay tuned tho, 'cause the weather may be taking another turn into the crapper starting on Saturday afternoon and running into early next week, before returning to more seasonable conditions.
Amazingly there was ice on Whitehorse today, and tons of stuff to do at Cathedral. I saw a party on Black Pudding as I went by and it looked as wide as I've ever seen it. the Texaco Amphitheater and slab both looked good for a change. Frankenstein has stuff everywhere. All of the trade routes are IN and there are also some other interesting lines. Willy's looks good, but strangely enough Webster looks as if it's lost some ice. Go figure! My Willard is in great shape right now. The main face has all the usual suspects and even Cinema looks fat. There are many options on the upper right tier, so have a ball up there. You can read my Report on climbing the left side of Snot Rocket and the trestle cut is in excellent shape. Couple that with a big fat Elephant Head Gully and you're good to go.
On the potentially down-side, the weather looks problematic for the weekend and it's ring to warm up again. I don't know what that's going to do to the conditions, but hopefully it will just get things running and building, stay tuned. In the meantime, here are some pix from today-
A full set of pix are on the Facebook page.
Ever been thwarted by thin or discontinuous ice? Learn how use your axes and crampons on rock to open up the possibilities of what you can climb. Outdoor Research is presenting three mixed-climbing clinics, one on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Learn the trick of the trade from some of the best!
Check out the blog for more: http://www.mwv-icefest.com/blog/
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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