Matty Bowman on the wet and thin Black Dike Traverse. 2-23-17

Unprecedented February in The Northeast

Where are we and what’s next?

Remind me? What month was that?

February or April? The month started off great! Plenty of snow and ice to climb. But, right after some epic snowfalls and great skiing, things went south. It started to feel more like April than February. A day or two of warmth is normal, but a week and a half of record warmth and rain took its toll. Spring came early and devastated the ice climbing in many areas. Winter temperatures are returning this weekend but it may be too late for most climbs to recover. Keep an eye open for the rare visitors. “Omega” on Cannon cliff has been found in great shape even in April. It’s time to follow the weather, look in the shaded gullies and up high. Be ready! This is the Northeast, and we are not done yet!

Damage Report!


Tendonitis - Feb. 26, 2017 - Uploaded By Brandonian / NEice Photos

Tendonitis – Feb. 26, 2017 – Uploaded By Brandonian / NEice Photos

Ian Osteyee, owner of Adirondack Mountain Guides says, “Everything is so fat; it’s all still there.” The back side of Chapel Pond and the North Face of Pitchoff are both areas that still have ice to climb. Routes like “Chouinard’s Gully”, “Crystal Ice Tower”, and “Tendonitis” are still in. Osteyee did caution climbers about crossing Chapel Pond though, after this warm spell, saying, “areas next to the shoreline may be open or have thin ice where you could break through.” So, even if temps drop to zero, people should check ice thickness before just walking across to climbs on the other side of the pond.


Mountain guide and owner of Alpine Logic, Silas Rossi – “I’m as close to 100% as I can possibly be that there won’t be any ice to climb in the Catskills for the rest of the season. Time to rock climb in the Gunks!”

The White Mountains:

Mountain guide at Northeast Mountaineering, Matty Bowman – “I’m finding ice quality to be very mixed. In places it’s building, like early season, and other spots, it’s dry, brittle and rotten. The bottom of Parasol ice was plastic, while the top was brittle, with lots of channeling from the thaw.”

“Huntington was in good condition. We found good ice on the first pitch of Pinnacle and great snow climbing up higher. Lots of water channeling on the upper pitches, including some thin eggshell sections over running water and large holes from the thaw. Other gullies looked good. We saw parties in Damnation, Odell’s, etc.”


The Frankenstein Amphitheater last weekend. – Matty Bowman

“”Frankenstein” is pretty much out. I guided there last Saturday and we canceled Sunday. The ice was undermined and top-outs were horrendous. We could not see anything on the walk in, but walking out the amphitheater was completely falling apart. Pretty grim.”

IMCS – International Mountain Climbing School – “We’re getting into my favorite month on Mount Washington: March! Lots of snow up high, milder temperatures, and longer days transforms the little cirque into a skier or alpine climber’s paradise. It seems like March goes quickly and we only get a month of prime conditions. IMCSWe had a great mountaineering course this week; here are daughter Brandi and mother Melissa descending the East Face snowfields. We glissaded to treeline. I’ve got some BIG plans for the rockpile these few fleeting weeks: how’s about you?” – IMCS, Facebook

“This was unlike any other Feb thaws in that it was a full re-set in most areas,” said Doucette, owner of MountainSense Guides in New Hampshire, who described the damage done due to the prolonged warm spell. ““Dracula” and “Standard,” some of the last to go, were not what I would call a safe bet these last few days.” But, he added, “Now it’s cooling off again, I’d go for supported features at elevation on cooler aspects – north and east-facing.” Now that it’s March, the sun will have increasing effect and that‘s something climbers need to keep in mind, emphasized Doucette.

Doucette encouraged people to look at Mount Washington, Smuggs and Cannon as probably the best bets aside from a few north-facing crags for a while. “If folks are mixed climbing, I’d bring a full rock rack and expect to anchor with that, or gun for the trees! There may also be a lot of verglas in cracks, so favoring stoppers, pins, and hexes over cams for their reliability. Any times conditions change rapidlym you have to be that much more prepared for the unexpected.”


Conditions were rough last weekend in Smuggler’s Notch. The rain and 50 degree temperatures this week has that area basically starting over, and it will mostly be dependent on whatever forms in the coming cold snap.

Lake Willoughby flows are hurting, to say the least. Parts of “Mindbender,” WI5+, lay in the ditch by the road Sunday morning.  But, surprisingly by early Tuesday morning, things were starting to look exciting as a couple lines that rarely form, like “Five Musketeers” and “Aurora,” had come in overnight with the cooler temps and lots of water flow.  Unfortunately, they fell down just as quickly as the strong morning sun came over Mount Pisgah, and baked the dark rock.  By that afternoon, the thermometer was at 42F, and I listened to ice and rockfall echoing loudly as I safely skied the woods on Mt. Hor across the valley.

While there is some ice hanging around still on upper parts of Willoughby routes, it’s all detached and dangerous.  After temps drop in the next day or two, who knows? Some cool stuff could form quickly again. If you decide to head there, bring your rock rack, all of your stubbies and a good dose of courage. – Alden Pellett



It may well be worth the drive up if you have time, and are still in the ice-climbing mode. There is still plenty of ice up there to climb. Check out “Climbing a Dream in Newfoundland,” Joe Terravecchia, Will Mayo and Anna Pfaffs’ new mega-ice route.

Also, check out “The Unseen Sun” by Nick Bullock, where he and the b’ys find adventure, friendship, and hospitality in Newfoundland.

Weather Forecast:

Cold weather is headed our way. So cold, it’s going to hurt after these 50 degree days. It may bring in some rare visitors if you can brave the chill. Running water is everywhere, but it may be too late for a lot of climbs. The sun is high and warm this time of year.


March 2017 temperature outlook. Areas not shaded have an equal chance of above- or below-average temperatures. (The Weather Company, an IBM Business)

March 2017 temperature outlook. Areas not shaded have an equal chance of above- or below-average temperatures. (The Weather Company, an IBM Business)

Some Information from Around the Web:

Be careful out there – February 24, 2017

February 27, 2017

February 28, 2017

When all else fails, get ready for rock climbing. Jon Sykes new guide book is out. Pick up a copy and get ready for some rock climbing adventures.

Mike Pelchat on the wet and thin Black Dike Traverse. 2-23-17

Featured image: Matty Bowman finding wet rock and just enough ice on the traverse of the Black Dike, Franconia Notch NH – Photo: Mike Pelchat

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