by Tim Farr
The ice in Smugglers Notch is building fast! With the Smuggs Ice Bash taking place in a little over a week, January 22-24th, there should be plenty of ice and mixed terrain for all of us hungry and deprived climbers to whack away at!
This past Sunday’s heavy rain and thunderstorms that commanded the day didn’t impact the ice conditions quite to the level one would expect. Many of the climbs that were in condition and had been seeing ascents remained climbable. The biggest hit from the storm was to the snowpack. Practically non-existent in much of the Notch, many of the deep drifts and wallowing we are accustomed to by now just aren’t there this year. The heavy rain followed by several days of cold temps that went well below freezing at night have made traveling on the snow quick and easy. Strap on the ‘pons for the firm crust and away you go.
Many of the gullies used for approaching some of the longer climbs are nice and firm making for easy approaches and even extending the length of a few routes that are usually covered by feet of snow. There is still a lot of moving water and one could find holes and pockets where a boot could pop through soft snow, but the moving water is only going to aid in growing more and more ice with the extended forecast looking very good for continued ice growth.
Throughout the Notch there are currently a number of things to climb, though many of the routes still have thin or mixed sections; I imagine this will fill in quickly. Up in the Blind Fate Amphitheater both Blind Fate and Norton-Gibney are in climbable shape and Blue Ice Bulge seems to have a couple of variations possible as well. One can hope that the ephemeral line left of Norton-Gibney, ‘Illogical Hydrology’, makes an appearance this year.
Hidden Gully has seen numerous ascents this season but the crux still seems to be the first 15 feet at its entrance. This year the typical thick bulge of WI3- ice that forms at its entrance has formed into a thin ribbon tucked into the right corner. Pull this crux, minding the top out, and the route will get much better with good conditions higher up in the gully. All three variations in the amphitheater are in climbable shape.
The climbs found within the Easy Gully vicinity have held on and will be rebounding quickly over the next several days. Grand Confusion, Poster Child, Grand Illusion, Dominatrix and Black Sunshine are all in climbable shape or building fast for those willing to take on the challenge.
Grand Confusion is in climbable shape and the mixed route to its left, ‘Confusionism’ is a great route to climb if you’re waiting for a party on Grand Confusion or as the main objective.
Many of the routes closer to the road are all in climbable shape except for the odd thin or mixed move required with any deviations from the fattest line. With little snow on the ground, travel to and from these routes should be nice and quick.
As for routes surrounding the Ragnarock, Elephants Head and South Wall Areas, all are in some form of climbable shape, but all show evidence of varying states of delamination or require a few mixed moves. While Ragnarock’s P1 and P2 could be climbed, the top pitch seem like it could use a bit of growth. Give it a week with the expected forecast and the climbs in this area should fatten up immensely.
Come time for the Smuggs Ice Bash, next weekend, the Notch should be in great shape to host the flood of climbers hiking up the road to find their intended climbable lines.
AMGA Certified SPI, Apprentice Rock & Ice Guide
NY State Lic. Rock and Ice Guide
Burlington VT 05401