Back to Business, Round Two!

Adam-Bidwell on Cocaine, Frankenstein Cliff NH - Photo by Ryan-Driscall

Well things are shaping up, again. It has been two weeks since the major melt down and the ice climbs are forming and there is plenty of great climbing.  We now have more ice to climb than before the meltdown. There is plenty of ground water flowing and things are growing fast. With no warm weather in sight, I expect good to excellent conditions from Maine to the Adirondacks and South for the foreseeable future.

This weather is greatly appreciated as we enter the Ice Festival season. Every year it’s a crap shoot with the weather and we are lucky this year, so far. By next weekend there should be plenty of ice for the the 19th annual Adirondack International Mountainfest. January 16, 17 and 18, 2015.

So dress warm, get out, and get some!

 

Doug Millen

Adam Bidwell on Cocaine, Frankenstein Cliff, Crawford Notch NH
Photo by Ryan Driscoll

Frankenstein Cliff NH

You know things are good when the south face of Frankenstein Cliff has ice to climb. Below are a few photos from Adam Bidwell with Ryan Driscoll

Ryan-Driscall---Adam-Bidwell-climbing-Cocaine-Cover-Web2

Adam Bidwell climbing Cocaine

Adam---Ryan-Driscall-climbing-Cocaine2

Ryan Driscoll halfway up Cocaine

Bragg-Pheasant-Adam-Bidwell-2

Second pitch of Bragg-Pheasant. The strongest sun of the day bore down just as I was reaching the thinnest ice.

Bragg-Pheasant-top-Adam-Bidwell-2

Ryan Driscoll on the Final boney pitch of Bragg Pheasant


Beware of  the cold temps

When it’s this cold after a warm up, watch out for ice dams. Both on the climbs and in rivers and streams. Below are two posts that will make you think.

NEice.com – Hydrophobia at “The Lake”

An Ice Dam busting loose at Lake Willoughby Vt in 2010 – Photo by Dave Powers

Careful of that stream crossing!


Assessing Ice Conditions

glace-etude-resistance-13And don’t forget that drastic cooling followed by a period of intense cold leads to strong thermal contractions in the ice. See this great information for assessing ice conditions from Petzl – Waterfall Ice Study


Ice Guide Training

The American Mountain Guides Association Ice guide training course in NH is in full swing. The EMS guides are sending the steep ice routes at Frankenstein which are in good condition and building fast with this cold weather. – Art Mooney
Chia Direct 1-7-15 Art Mooney

Chia Direct

Chia 1-7-15 Art Mooney

Chia

Hobit 1-7-15 Art Monney

The Hobbit


Mount Washington

Conditions Update 1-8-15

by Rich Palatino, Harvard Cabin Caretaker

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is nearly completely covered. While it is very hard-packed and slick there is very little water ice to speak of. Light Traction is nice, but not necessary in the least. That being said, full crampons on the trail wouldn’t be unreasonable, just not advised…or enjoyable.

The fire road is still in rather early season condition. However, it is mostly snow until you are above the Dow Rescue Cache where you will find a series of stream crossings. Again, nothing major. Access to the ravine is quick and easy and the rangers have been using snow machines to travel most of the road.

It’s goes without saying, the ice is IN! The Ravine is still filling in for the season. Run-outs are far from being fully-developed and in many cases descending will mean a walk down the Lion Head Summer Trail. The Fan is sporting a variety of snow conditions as you travel from gully to gully. Overall you can expect excellent condition for cramponing. However, along with long sliding falls, spatial variability can present a problem. Don’t travel with a persistent green light in mind even though things seem locked up solid. We’ve been getting nickled and dimed for weeks so you should be on the look-out for protected lee areas, wind slabs of varying strengths, buried weak layers, and I personally have been starting to worry about persistent weak layers. I’m really not sure how valid my concern for persistent layers is, but as a skier I’m suspect of the rapid heating and cooling we’ve seen over the last few weeks. I’m keeping that in mind as I travel in avalanche terrain until we see the next major storm/avalanche cycle. But, you really don’t have to take my word for it. Luckily you can hear what the experts have to say via the Mount Washington Avalanche Center’s website and it’s many social media outlets.


Get Out and Get Some!

It’s the Start of December

The time when the sun begins to rise, it’s nearly set.  The nights are long and cold and the days are short and cold.  It’s the best time to catch the mountain gullies with abundant ice and perfect snow conditions. This past weekend I joined a crew up Mt. Lafayette’s Escadrille Route.  The day was cold and windy and the alpine in New Hampshire is in great shape!  Here’s a few photos from the day.

In Franconia Notch, down much lower on Mt. Lafayette, Ace of Spades is looking ripe.

Ace-of-Spades

12/8/14 Conditions  Photo by Doug Millen

And across the street…

The-Dike

Black Dike Conditions 12/8/14 – Photo by Doug Millen

Omega

12/8/14 Conditions / Omega Wall –  Photo by Doug Millen

With some very cold rock, cloudy weather and mixed precip this week, I’m sure this cliff is being watched carefully by some!

 

 

The drips are forming in the low elevation climbing areas, and even when the ice runs out, Bayard Russell of Cathedral Mountain Guides keeps going!  Here he is on a mixed variation of Kinesis at Cathedral Ledge. cathedralIn the Crawford Notch things are shaping up. The Twin Mountain crew and guests climbed “Read Between the Lines” on the upper east face of Willard and reported good conditions. They said “Damsel In Distress” is very thin but building. They also climbed “The Snot Rocket” at the Trestle Wall with a delicate top column. Dracula is not quite in but building fast.

To note: The first General Advisories by the Avalanche Center was issued for Mt. Washington’s ravines.  That was followed by the first reported avalanche incident on Monday in Yale Gully.  Keep an eye on conditions as more wintery weather moves in this week!

Over to the Adirondacks, local climbers have been getting out at all the standard venues.  There is definitely ice and mixed climbing to be had!  Check out the Adirondack Mountain Guides condition report HERE.  And don’t forget about the awesome alpine climbing arena that the High Peaks have to offer.  Just keep an eye out on the snow pack conditions.  The Adirondacks are getting slammed with snow this week, so give it time for the weather system to move through and the snow to stabilize.

In Vermont, Smugglers Notch updates have been coming in on an almost weekly basis on the Conditions page.  And all you need to do is click on the Photo Page to see Nick and Alden’s climb of a “lean and mean” Promenade at Lake Willoughby.

Bottom line, Get Out and Get Some!

By Courtney Ley

Baxter – Fall 2014

Conditions Report!

October 12-14, 2014

Some years you find ice to climb in October, other years you are hiking in your underwear. The weather started out cold on our trip and we were hopeful, but this was not an ice climbing year. We still had fun and explored some new areas to the Northwest of Baxter Peak. The Northwest Basin is simply amazing and worth the 8 mile approach. Below are a few photos from our trip. Enjoy!

Doug Plateau 2

Doug on the Northwest Plateau headed back to Roaring Brook after exploring the Northwest Basin. Yes, underwear time!


Photo Gallery

*Click Photos to Enlarge

– Doug Millen


September rime ice!

It was an excellent day above tree line on Sunday.  Cool temps with a bluebird sky above and an undercast below.  Not to mention, evidence of the first overnight freeze of the season!

There’s nothing like a little rime ice to feed the psych!

(click on thumbnails to enlarge)

Photos by Courtney Ley

 

 

 

 

Driving up Hillman’s Highway

by Doug Millen

Fred on Hillmans Highway

Ever since Irene,  Alfonzo and I have been wanting to catch this drainage, in that perfect moment. We’ve scrambled up Hillman’s in the summer,using it to access the rock ridges of the Boott Spur.  The movement of earth and boulders caused by that massive rain event were impressive. We wondered what it would be like frozen and finally last  Saturday we were given that moment. The climbing was excellent.  A ribbon of ice with steeper steps running for 1000′. Winter is coming and the ice was building during the day…I look for more building during the week and good early season ice climbing this weekend,  in the high ravines. Here are a few photos of our “Drive up Hillmans Highway” on Saturday November 9th 2013.

 

The Black Dike, Early Season by Erik Eisele

AAC Logo

It begins each year with the first frost. Around the time the calendar flips to October, I find myself sneaking glances at the high peaks forecast and pulling out my screamers. Rock season is still in full swing, but I start calling a few ice partners to sort out schedules. Three days, we tell each other, it only takes three days of freezing temperatures.

The calls go out to limited people — a devoted cadre of climbers with a passion for the unofficial opening act of ice season, the seasonal first ascent of the Black Dike. Ryan Stefiuk, Michael Wejchert, Peter Doucette, Elliot Gaddy — all strong climbers, all solid partners, who become competitors and co-conspirators as we all jockey to be the first to reach the top.

Three days (and more importantly, nights) can transform the rotten, black chimney on Cannon Cliff into the most famous ice climb in the North East, and we all know it. The Dike in early season fully lives up to its reputation. Every member of this team of rivals knows what they are in for. The first pitch will be covered in half-an-inch of ice. An eggshell-like layer covers the rock, and often the only gear is a cam less than halfway up. The next pitch is scratchy chimney climbing with only a handful of ice sticks, all of them thin. Launching off the belay is still the crux, but unlike mid-winter you never get the respite of a buried pick. The third pitch may or may not have enough ice to keep it safe. Some years there won’t be a screw placement on the entire route. Even in good years 10cm is as good as you’ll get.

Every year is a reaffirmation. Thin, terrifying sticks have a reassuring way of letting you know THIS ISN’T SPORT CLIMBING. It is winter again. Time to get ready, ice season is here.

This year the starting gun fired on Election Day. Ryan drove three hours to meet me, and we found eight screw placements, several of them solid. Michael was close on our heels the next day — he soloed and rope-soloed his way to the top before driving to Mount Washington and climbing Damnation. Two days later he and Ryan tried Fafnir but found it lacking.

Last year Peter and I found extremely thin ice days before Halloween. We left the parking lot at 5 a.m. and were back down by 10 a.m. Two days later Elliot and Michael found sections barely frozen in place. Two years ago Ryan and Michael made the first ascent, and a day later the three of us gave Fafnir a try. Four years ago Ryan and I stood atop Cannon first.

This tradition isn’t a race. Any one of us would happily join any other team member for opening day. It’s about extending the season, it’s about sucking the marrow out of winter, and it’s about ticking the Black Dike when its ripe. In October or November the Dike is an alpine nightmare, and climbing it required every ounce of skill and concentration. After a long summer of clipping bolts and whipping out of cracks, mixed climbing above tenuous gear is a wakeup call. The Dike is a cold reminder of why we love the sport, and each year it demands you get your head in the game. There is no option to lower off, no yelling “Take!”

Every one of us will likely climb the Dike later in the season, maybe with a client or friend in tow, but we migrate to Cannon each fall because of what it offers. For one ascent each year the Black Dike represents the outer limits. It is the hardest ice climb in the North East again, if only for a few days. It serves as a reintroduction to the sport, and each year we clamor over each other for the chance to get reacquainted.

If you want to join the team start watching the weather next October. And if things look good make sure to give me a call.

—Erik Eisele, Bartlett, NH

Posted on: November 13th, 2012 by the AAC – New England Section

P.F. Flyer and More!

The Head Wall – King Ravine

It was a great weekend for ice climbing up on the “Rock Pile”. NEice team members found plenty of early season ice.

Team member Courtney Ley and partner Joel Dashnaw reported thick ice on Pinnacle Gully. Courtney said “it was taking 16cm screws” and the water flow was not bad at all. Look for her photos here.

Lori Crowningshield finda "FAT" ice in Damnation Gully

Lori Crowningshield finds “FAT” ice in Damnation Gully

Team Member Emilie Drinkwater and partner Lori Crowningshield climbed “Damnation” and found good ice also. “It was a little scrappy at the top in the sun”, but very enjoyable and a beautiful day to be in the ravine. On Sunday, Emilie and Jesse did “Shoestring Gully” in Crawford Notch and found it thin but climbable and a little slushy at the top.

Ted Hammond nearing the top of the Mullet slab

Alfonzo and Ted Hammond climbed the Mullet slabs on Mt. Lincoln in Franconia Notch and had a great day out. Look for some of his photos in the photo post section soon.

P.F. Flyer

Google Map

Google Map

Fred Bieber and I headed in to King Ravine to see what we could find. We found plenty of ice and set our eyes on ” P.F. Flyer”. I have always wanted to climb it but the conditions have never been right. Today they were. That side of the ravine never gets sun this time of year so conditions and timing were ripe. It was good to do it before the snow gets too deep. As it was, we were thigh deep in snow at times.

Let’s hope this warm up does not do much damage.

Below are some photos of the climb. Enjoy! (click to enlarge)

Doug Millen

Fred coming up on the lower section

 

The crux of P.F. Flyer

 

Great ice higher up on the climb

Fred topping out on the last bit of ice climbing

 

Early Season Luck On Katahdin

Game ON!

Condition Report – October 13, 2012
Mt Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine

Alfonzo enjoying great early season ice on "Piggy-Wiggy", Katahdin, ME

Alfonzo enjoying great early season ice on “Piggy-Wiggy”, Katahdin, ME  10-13-2012

You never know when it will happen….so be ready!

And we were!

Alfonzo made reservations at the Roaring Brook campsite over a month ago knowing it is hard to get campsites over consecutive days this time of year. We were planning to rock climb, but with the forecast calling for cold weather, the ice tools were packed along with the rock gear. You never know when you might need your ice tools.

We arrived Friday night to light snow showers. Rock climbing still seemed possible to some with the forecast . Our friends Mike & Cassy packed for the Armadillo. Alfonzo and I packed for ice. We had a good feeling about the conditions leading up to Saturday.  And with the forecast calling for low teens at 4000′ overnight we committed to ice climbing and packed light to move fast.

We were greeted with clear sky’s and temps in the 20’s Saturday morning. As we walked up the trail, the ground became more frozen and signs of solid ice were everywhere…our pace quickened for we knew climbable ice would be found.

As we walked into the Chimney pond area, the grandness of the South Basin with a winter look welcomed us. There was ice everywhere. Better than we expected and better than last years trip in early December. And the Cilley-Barber was in! All the planets had aligned. With pure luck we had impeccable timing, creating the perfect early season situation.

After checking in with Mark the ranger at chimney pond we headed UP! We chose the biggest moderate line we could see. This was the start of the “Chauvin-Cole” route up to “Piggy-Wiggy” and then to the ridge. The gift of early season ice was given again, for in the winter most of this climb would be a snow slog. We had water ice, tail to tip.

We climbed about 1500 ft of good and sometimes challenging water ice on a spectacular day. This was the best early season ice I have ever climbed. We were so lucky!

Many thanks to Baxter State Park,  a great park with excellent hospitality. And special thanks to Ranger Rob and Mark for being so excited about early season ice climbing.

~ Doug Millen

Photos by Doug Millen & Alan Cattabriga

 

Early Season Ice is Approaching!

The time is almost here!  The days are getting shorter and the air colder.  Snow has already fallen on the higher summits.  The motivated, and perhaps overly-positive, climbers will be getting out very soon in hopes of taking their first swings into freshly formed ice.   Some will luck out and find themselves at the right place at the right time.  How can you increase your chances of finding early season ice?  Here’s a few places that have seen ice form in late Fall.

Photos of Early Season Ice

So wake up before the sun rises and call in sick to work… Get into shaded ravines and gullies and check them out.  You never know what you might find, and all your friends who laugh at you when you tell them you are going ice climbing in October will be jealous when you get some!

 

An October Ascent of the Black Dike

by Doug Millen

This was my obsession for years. I spent many days waiting and plotting for the right moment. Many times going only to find nothing, or being repelled from the climb. But after 5 years of trying, it happened! And it was less hazardous and more enjoyable than all the other attempts. We found good, well-bonded ice, and everything was frozen together (for awhile anyway). We nailed it on October 20th.  But,  by the time we topped out, it was all falling apart. The warm sun greeted us for the walk down. Timing and persistence made it happen and my quest was complete!

Early season on the Black Dike is not for the faint of heart. It is R and X climbing with everything coming apart. Loose rock that is normally frozen together become portable hand holds.  The ice has water running under it and is not bonded to the rock. You put in protection and it comes out with the first test pull; screws are useless. My favorite pieces of gear for the route were Spectres. Some years the easy first pitch is the crux! Each pitch is different early season and each one has been the crux for me on my attempts. The rock traverse is easy compared to the rest of the climb in the early season. The spot I hate the most!? It’s when you finish the traverse, climb thin ice to a rock slab, have no gear and scratchy feet and a hard move to get into the chimney. You buy it here and you’re going for a long ride.

I have heard that Jim Shimberg got it one year on October 8th. It was colder back then, I think. It has been coming in very late the last few years. The Black Dike’s first ascent is the unofficial start of the the ice climbing season. When will it go down this year?

What I learned? Be patient, watch the weather, know the climb, know the area, and don’t be afraid to take the tools for a walk! And above all, be safe and climb smart. It’s not worth risking your life for an October ascent.

 

For some more early-season stoke and thoughts on climbing well before Smike’s official start to winter, see these articles on early season ice…

Is This Ice Climbing?

Pinnacle Gully 11/05/11

Game On!

False Start…

Rhythm of the Seasons – Part Two

 

The Ice Season is Off and Running!

Eugene Kwan follows on Hassig's Direct variation of The Black Dike on Cannon Cliff. (Photo by Kevin Mahoney)

Eugene Kwan follows on Hassig’s Direct variation of The Black Dike on Cannon Cliff. (Photo by Kevin Mahoney, IFMGA/UIAGM Guide, Mahoney Alpine Adventures)

Finally, colder temperatures have arrived, albeit a bit colder than most of us would have liked to start with but ice has formed all over the Northeast now. Many of the classic lines are in and the season is solidly underway! Even the often elusive “Called on Account of Rains”, WI5+, at Lake Willoughby has formed and been climbed already!

Millen Machine and Alfonzo are up in Baxter State Park this week testing themselves and the new climbing regulations. We’re looking forward to a fantastic trip report and great photos as always from the duo!

Enjoy, send hard, be safe and stay warm!