The reports were calling for a super storm, another “perfect storm”. A cold front and hurricane combining forces over the mid-Atlantic states. I feel for the folks in NYC, Jersey, anyone that’s had their lives turned inside out by this storm. Here in New Hampshire it was not so bad, for Sandy collided into the coastline far to south. After the storm abated, the cold air started to flow into New England. I was sure that by Sunday, there would be ice to climb in the ravine. That’s what I told myself and my friends anyway. If the weather played out as scripted, visions of perfect new ice danced in my head. However, what is forecasted is not always what one gets. For the more extreme weather scenario prediction is given. Most of my time in the mountains during the early season, no matter how many small animals are sacrificed, I am denied the desired weather. This past Sunday was a no different. Sunny early, though the fog tried its best to defend the delicate ice from the sun’s rays. And temperatures were cold, but not cold enough. But we were determined, by hook and crook we were climbing up a gully, happily dealing with our roll of the dice.
After a pseudo view of Odells, all scrappy looking with water launching out of the fog into our limited view, Yale was the logical choice . It’s water flow is one of the lesser of all the gullies. Moving over the talus along the lower headwall we got a limited look into Pinnacle Gully. Spray was frozen to the walls of rock on ether side and a gushing cascade ran down the middle split by islands of ice. We joked as to the whereabouts of Rockytop. He was not up there, we figured he was wading up the Black Dike instead.
Of Yale Gully
With no surprised to any of us, the slab start to Yale was delaminated badly. But there is a corner closer to the Harvard Slabs, up and left and to us, this was climbable. This section was an exercise in balance and trust. Seventy feet of sketchy tool and foot placements on thin ice and rock running with water. Then an escape guarded by tough rock moves through a bulge with a bottomed-out seam to dry tool. Leaf led up this first and gave us the illusion of something considerably easier than what was there.
Above this we moved back and forth, ether on ice or over semi-frozen ground until halfway up the headwall. From here to the top, the soluble ice was followed directly. Being there was four of us, whomever was last had considerably less ice to work with. Somehow, it worked out that Mikeg was that person. Three more portions that required all of one’s attention lurked above.
A slip in any of these areas would have nasty results. But the moves through these sections were brilliant. Yale on this day was no easy gully. The final crease to the lip was beautiful. Frosted rocks with prehistoric looking icicles, hanging down lined the snow dusted gully.
A gusty NW wind pushed us across the Alpine Gardens to the Lion Head trail. With some sunshine and clouds slowly lifting, the views were wonderful. The day was as good as it could be. And though in a place I’ve been too uncountable times, it was all new again. A typically easy route had bore it’s teeth and we rolled with it.
~Text and photos , Alan Cattabriga
Thanks to Courtney for her photos and Doug for everything.