Back on the Sharp End

After a Fall in the Mountains

By William Bevans

I climbed smoothly and efficiently through the initial ice bulges on what started out as a bumpy cauliflower pitch of AI3.  Not long into my lead on the first technical pitch, I came to a small ledge and took that opportunity to shake my arms out and rest while I looked up for the line of least resistance.  It was early morning and the sun just peeked over the horizon.  I was perched on the beautiful and tough East Face of Mt. Kidd in the northern Canadian Rockies.  The air was dry and cold.  Light winds raked the face with snow that had fallen from the prior day.  The feeling of being an climber high up on such an amazing line in that setting was a very visceral experience.  With my thoughts collected and a small recharge of energy, I moved off the ledge and into a small chimney.  I worked the chimney with a series of stems, being content and focused in the moment; finding comfort in the noise of clanging metal from a full rack of screws and ice tools.  I laid solid foot placements with my mono-points, working the cracked limestone well, continuing to move well and without issue; and then suddenly, it just happened.  I looked down and saw I was quite a distance from my last piece; I then looked up at the remainder of the chimney. It looked grim.  What began as good, solid ice thinned into a translucent coating frozen to the rock; verglas.  I could see the green lichen underneath the clear coat.  Nothing was protectable.  I had one leg loaded onto a mono point, my other leg fully extended keeping my stem position. I knew I couldn’t hold it for much longer and I knew I couldn’t down climb.  

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It’s coming.  Soon it will be the end of October.  The sky will be getting dark early, the air will be crisp and we will be waking up to frost all over everything.  This combination sparks New England climbers to morph and begin preparing for the ice season ahead.  Whatever we did all summer will slowly go to the wayside; we’ll begin scouting cliffs, sharpening our metal, pouring over weather maps and waiting for that steady spell of cold. The winter climbing community will awaken from months of slumber to make trips into the high ravines to see if Pinnacle Gully is in or wait to see who is brave enough to scrap the Black Dike first.  Shortly, most of us will be sitting at our 9-5 and get that text from our partner, “You think it’s in? You wanna go?” The beginning of many of our weekend or midweek warrior epics will be here before you know it.  


Last season, I saw some amazing climbing feats go down; ones that I wish I could have been a part of but ultimately decided I couldn’t be.  It was never easy to volley the text back to my partner and admit my truth: “Sorry, just not feeling it.” or “I just can’t do it.”  That was the first winter in over two decades of climbing where I had to turn down a number of trips.  I knew I didn’t possess the head game required to climb at those high levels.    

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East Face of Mt Kidd, Alberta, Canadian Rockies

East Face of Mt Kidd, Alberta, Canadian Rockies

It was November 2016.  We were in the Canadian Rockies.  The season was still young, and like any of us, I was trying to shake out the cobwebs and get on some good pumpy alpine ice.  In the Can Rocks, it’s imaginably cold, there isn’t much daylight, the approaches are long, the mountain weather is serious, the terrain is highly technical and the climbing is tough as shit.  You can easily see why climbers that hail from this region are absolute beasts.  We drove along the dark, cold and snowy I-93 Icefield Parkway just outside Banff.  It was some obscure hour in the morning and a natural silence filled our drive.  On our docket was the East Face of Mt. Kidd, which may only have seen one successful winter ascent.  I found myself trying to get my head straight.  ‘Am I gonna be ok? Am I fit enough? Am I really prepared on all fronts to bivy a night out if need be?  What the fuck am I actually doing here?  Why am I not surfing in Costa? How bad do I really want this? Does this just sound like a good, bad idea?’  I found myself waging the proverbial alpine war, asking myself the tough questions I rather just avoid.  You don’t know what’s coming.  You don’t even know if it is climbable.  You basically have to be as fit as possible and try to battle up it first go the best you can.

“I was surrounded by verglas and caught tight inside this chimney.  My eyes moved over every inch of rock and ice as tried to make sense of every possible move sequence I could commit to until I was in a spot of safety.”

Questions unanswered, I began the approach with my partner, working as smartly and efficiently as we could, as there wasn’t much in the way of a trail.  It was dark and still very cold out.  No matter how much we tried to keep our packs light, they still felt heavy.  My body was trying to acclimate to the aches of climbing after a long summer of surfing.  Moving along, we tried to make sense of a path by connecting obscure recesses of dirt between patches of fresh snow.  I knew if we just got off the trail a little bit, it would set our game off and we’d start doubting things.  The calm pre-dawn was interrupted suddenly by an avalanche barreling down the south face of Kidd.  Although there was nothing to be seen, the sound was unmistakable.  It took a minute, but we shook it off and started moving again.  We crossed glacial fed creeks, and trekked in the forest along beautiful, massive cedars and larches as the smell of fresh pine filled the air.  We started to feel our engagement in this mission come to life.  Our senses filled with adventure and peace from the natural beauty around us.  Once the light broke, we found ourselves greeted by the intimidating East Face towering over us in full winter ware.  The approach was behind us, and it was time to get real as we started the technical terrain.      

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Climbing light ice in Mt. Blaine Canyon

Climbing light ice in Mt. Blaine Canyon

As climbers, we are interested in the grades or ratings of our climbs for they allow us to gauge our ability and give us a somewhat quantitative measure in our advances.  We also want to get better and climb harder.  Like many young budding ice climbers, I was quick to work up to WI3s and 4s but truth be told it would be many years, hundreds of routes and countless hard lessons before I climbed into the next realm of WI5.  Any climber can attest that between these two grades, the parameters change significantly and I would certainly attest that the head scare factor significantly increases in that jump.  Being a good climber is one thing; we all know those who climb well have skill, sound technique, and usually an above average degree of fitness.  But what does it actually take to climb larger objectives with significant difficulties?  Arguably, a climber’s mental strength and conditioning is usually the single most important factor in their potential and their capacity to be successful on advanced difficult climbs.   The training regimen or composition of what makes a mentally strong alpinist is not completely understood or it is esoteric at best.  A climber with advanced mental conditioning who has committed to creating a bulletproof head is capable of solving complex problems while staying task focused, operating in pretty terrifying conditions all while remaining calm.

 

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I was surrounded by verglas and caught tight inside this chimney.  My eyes moved over every inch of rock and ice as tried to make sense of every possible move sequence I could commit to until I was in a spot of safety.  Committing, I went for the “do or die” move. Then, I caught a little spindrift and goofed my placements.  I remember hearing metal clang all over like wind chimes while I fell.  Several meters of air time passed me by before I bounced off my rest ledge crushing my shoulder.  The ledge slowed my fall, but I continued down another 10 meters until I finally, just stopped falling.  Hanging there, I remember doing a quick motor drill like, move toes, move fingers, blink, blink, you good? I’m good. I’m good!  No major injuries, a few cuts and the adrenaline flowing hard.  Now what?  Head game damaged, ego beat up a bit and feeling a little humble, I pick myself up and my partner and I limped it back out to the car.  Hiking out, I began thinking of the consequences should things have ended up worse.  What if I couldn’t walk out?  What if this? What if that?

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Mental conditioning could be the single most difficult trait for a climber to improve on.  This is especially true after a serious accident, as our climbing psyche can be left damaged, weak or fragile.  This is the side of alpinism that we tend to glance over; the psychological and the mental strength dimension of being a climber and specifically, getting back on the sharp end of the rope after an accident.  Sometimes our egos get in the way and we don’t talk through those issues.  I didn’t really know the extent of how was I affected by my fall until I went climbing in Mt. Blaine Canyon the next day.  I get in, everything is looking good; nice grade 3 cruiser.  I hop on, start climbing and a few feet up it all starts coming back. I fire in a screw and signal to my partner, “Just lower me.”  This would be my head for most of the remainder of the season.  At this point, after so many years, countless trips, expeditions, big walls, alpine assaults, and high altitude objectives where I enjoyed the complex head game of being an alpinist, the incredible focus climbing gave me; it all seemed over.  After my fall, I got my first taste in what it is like to have lost my head game.

“Years later, I still remember that day vividly and respectfully consider it one of the most important lessons I have ever learned; acknowledging and respecting where your head is while climbing.”
How do you get your mental game back once you feel it slipping away? A few days later, right across the way from my mishap, in Ghost River Valley, a local climber fell 40 meters on the climb Kemosabe (W4).  Luckily his partner, a physician, was able to  stabilize him to the best of his ability and initiate a cooperative air rescue.  I was deeply moved by this accident as a 40 meter fall is no joke and it was close in time and location to where I fell.  He and I stayed in contact throughout the year and we spoke recently about re-evaluating how much risk we are willing to put into climbing.  We discussed how similarly our paths forward would be; focusing on moderate climbing with much less emphasis on difficult routes and naturally working back up into difficult routes down the road.  Climbing used to be a major part of who I am and a significant priority in my life but as I approach this upcoming season, I’m seeking a healthier balance.  I need to acknowledge that I recently kissed the edge of what could have been a much more serious accident.  As for retraining the mental strength required to climb such lines, a good start for me is not forcing anything and to trust the natural process.

Rescue on Kemosabe

Rescue on Kemosabe. Courtesy of Kananaskis Country Public Safety Section Rescue

An incident that touched closer to home was when highly respected and accomplished Adirondack guide Matt Horner took a serious 20 meter fall last winter shattering several bones in his face.  Matt has rebounded quickly and in recent conversation stated he is eager to get back on the ice anticipating only minor tweaks in his game like placing more pro, climbing more cautiously but ultimately no major plans but to go with the flow.  

The first major incident where I witnessed a partner lose his head game was a few years ago on an expedition.  My partner was an accomplished climber, having ascents on several of the world’s great difficult lines.  He is humble, smart, fit and was destined to be a natural and successful leader on our climb.  We climbed together for a solid month and I believed we would work seamlessly together to succeed in our upcoming trip.  After so much work and several weeks on the go, we finally made it to base camp and we were ready to climb.  In Himalayan expedition climbing it is mandatory to complete paperwork regarding the disposal of your body should an accident occur resulting in death.  It’s actually quite a head trip to fill out.  As we stood staring at the 7,000-meter Himalayan beast in the face, he simply said to us that this wasn’t his trip and he was out.  It was the first time I saw someone back down like this, a career defining trip left to the wayside; a sixth sense telling him to walk away.  Years later, I still remember that day vividly and respectfully consider it one of the most important lessons I have ever learned; acknowledging and respecting where your head is while climbing.  

A mentor imparted on me that climbing in the mountains is really all about how much you are willing to suffer and the answer to that is all in your head.  I never really understood that until I started to put together the common themes among my trips; shivering all night in a bivy, eating tasteless gruel day after day, post hole, soul sucking marches across summit fields, being scared shitless 30 feet above your last piece,  freezing on a belay ledge and hoping your partner is down to rope gun the crux.  Anybody who has done this type II kind of climbing knows that it’s a very deep, inward experience and it’s barely as romantic as it appears on Instagram.  It is the type of grind we as climbers are proud of, that gives us character and always has us coming back for more.  Everyone has their different reasons why they climb, but our common thread is found in our processes.  No matter what discipline you climb in, no matter where in the world you climb, climbers across the world speak the same language.  You can climb anywhere in the world and most outings begin and end with striking similarity; morning coffee, catch-up on the approach, a stoked first tool placement, enjoying hard earned views and who ever guns the crux drinks for free that night.  For me, many of the toughest and grueling experiences I have been lucky to be a part of have forged the strongest relationships in my life.  The dedication to our craft arguably makes our collected commitment to alpinism one of the greatest activities in the world.  Co-workers say to me “You’re crazy doing that.” I say “You’re crazy, you watch football all day Sunday.” I really don’t know any other way so I guess crazy is all relative.  So as the saying goes “most people prefer comfort forgetting that difficulty is what actually nourishes the human spirit.”

The season is starting soon and we will all be shaking out our summer cobwebs, checking conditions, pondering where the ice is good and trying to put all of the data together to plan a good, safe outing.  For newer climbers, trust the process, stay patient and allow your learning to flow through the high and the low points.  If you come up short on a climb, don’t let it shake you, everyone has been there.  Re-think a different, smarter approach.  Learn from your mistakes and always be open to learning from others mistakes.  Alpinism is a lifelong study that never ends.  There is always something to improve upon.  Learn to trust your gut and remember that most of climbing is mental and it’s not any easy game.  Remember that everyone at one point or another has had some time where their head wasn’t in the game.  When you’re out there, be safe, check on each other, climb within your headspace, have fun and make smart calls so you can rope up and climb another day.  See you out there!

 

About the Author: William Bevans is a New England based alpinist with over 20 years of experience in the mountains.  His studies are concentrated in the area of technical alpine climbing and high altitude mountaineering.  He has completed climbs and led expeditions in the Cascades, Rockies, Alps, Himalayas, Andes and big walls in Yosemite, Zion and Mexico.  Currently he is involved in mentoring next generation alpinists and climbing the New England classics.  

 

Other articles by the Author: Layering 101

NEice 2.0

The leaves are starting to turn and the nights are cooler. Soon we will enter another season of ice climbing and I am excited. This marks the 18th season for NEice.com

At the end of last season the site was hacked by spammers. After days of work, over many weeks we finally cleaned up the infected files and code. But the cleanup has left NEice severely crippled. One big issue is the Forum and Photo Post are down and need to be reinstalled.

It’s time for a total remake of the site and I need help. More importantly I looking for a partner. Someone or Organization that lives and breathes Northeast Ice Climbing. They would help with the site and eventually take over NEice.com. I am looking for a Partner and Two Interns to help with the site this season.

The NEice model was based on how things worked pre Facebook and Instagram. When I started NEice phones did not take photos and were not connected to the internet. I was one of the few with a digital camera. The new site will take advantages of the latest social platforms and technology. I have many other ideas and need help implementing them.

It is time to rethink NEice from the bottom up.

If you are interested please email me at neice.com@gmail.com

Requirements:

• Experience with Word Press

• Experience in crafting articles for web sites

• Connections to the Northeast Ice Climbing Community

• A never-ending obsession for ice climbing

I also need donations to help with the cost of reinstalling the Forum and Photo Post section and other expenses to upgrade the site.

Please help by donating to the site. Make a Donation to help rebuild NEice

I hope to have the new site up by the end of October 2017. Just in time for the ice.

Thank you
Doug Millen

The Technical Traverse

Ryan solos Grade IV ice in Madison Gulf - The Technical Traverse

Ryan solos up some Grade IV ice in Madison Gulf. The first technical ice of the traverse

Michael Wejchert, Ryan Driscoll, and Justin Guarino take New Hampshire’s presidential range traverse to a whole new level. – The Technical Traverse.

by Michael Wejchert

I pulled over on the side of the trail: a spot I usually stop with clients to enjoy a lunch break on the third day of Presidential traverses. The rain kept pouring down. We were soaked to the bone. I unzipped Justin’s jacket just a little bit, bent over, and heaved up 400 calories of salami, a liter of water, and the coffee I’d forced down four hours earlier. Ryan and Justin collapsed on their packs. I zipped the jacket back up and wiped my mouth.

“I don’t think I got puke on the jacket, Justin.” It was my first time climbing with him.

Killian Jornet isn’t likely to visit the White Mountains anytime soon. Nobody’s drawn to spruce traps, or short ice climbs, or knobby little summits with weird buildings on top. The terrain isn’t sexy, or long. New Englanders are really great at ice climbing, or climbing on granite, but we’re bad at long days in the mountains; if you want a long alpine day, you’ve got to get really creative. The trick lies in trying to do a lot with a little.

One day, while pouring over the ice-climbing guidebook, I came across Kurt Winkler and Doug Huntley’s “Link ‘em Up,” an enchainment of ice climbs in the Presidentials over three days. I was also deeply impressed with Alan Cattabriga and Gabe Flanders’ efforts to link three ice climbs with a full traverse, from Webster to Madison.

Justin and Ryan about to summit Clay - The Technical Traverse

Justin and Ryan about to summit Mt. Clay

King Ravine, Mad Gulf, the Great Gulf, Huntington Ravine, and Tuckerman’s, all ravines with established climbs, in addition to the nine summits of a standard guided winter traverse: 5,000 feet of climbing or mountaineering, and 27 miles of hiking. I started calling it the “Technical Traverse.” It’d take three days; you’d need to carry a firstlight, a sleeping bag, and food. But then again, while trail running in the Tatra Mountains of Poland a few summers ago, I came across the account of Slovakian Dodo Kopold’s nonstop traverse of the Tatra Mountains, linking up climbs and summits; out went the bivy kit. You’d just need a stove to stay hydrated, a pair of ice tools, crampons, microspikes, (it’s New England), and a puffy jacket!

For three years, I dreamed about pulling off the traverse. Only in the spring, with good snow and perfect neve, would it be possible. Normally, the temptations of clipping bolts in the sun won out. But this year I tore the labrum in my right shoulder on a sport climb. I’d have to hold off on rock climbing until I got surgery, which I opted to do in the springtime. So I just ran a lot, sometimes logging forty to sixty trail-running miles a week. As I guided mountaineering courses and presidential traverses throughout the winter, I piled weight in my pack, often carrying upwards of 65-70 pounds for hours on end, and my legs transformed with that specific mountain endurance you can’t get from Crossfit or trendy stadium workouts.

The warm-up last week was heartbreaking for ice climbers and skiers, and for anyone concerned about our environment. It devastated our snowpack. I went from skiing fresh, perfect powder to guiding in the rain. But it also meant that, if it got cold, even briefly, the entire range would be coated in perfect alpine neve. There was a short window where the temperatures were slightly below freezing, and the wind was quiet enough to warrant speedy moving. Problem was, it would only last about twelve hours before turning to warm, freezing rain. But, if we finished our last climb, we could always suffer through a little rain for the last nine miles of easy walking.

We all felt nauseous as we crunched up the long, terrible slope. The second we reached the top, it began to rain
Ryan “Rhino” Driscoll is an old-school climber. He loves to suffer. The guy seeks out 5.11 slabs in the woods. He prefers scrappy mixed terrain over ice any day of the week. He wears fleece gloves. He doesn’t post or talk about his climbs. Justin Guarino, another local guide and Presidential suffer hog, decided to come as well. Both Ryan and Justin have done a lot of climbing in New Hampshire and had independently been thinking of a similar traverse. Three people meant better trail-breaking if it came to that, and it was nice to split up the weight of the stove. We brought lightweight ice tools. I took the hammer off a Quark and brought a 43 centimeter Sum’tec. I took the straps off my crampons. Rhino decided bringing a helmet was too much weight. We deliberated bringing tethers before deciding against them. With food and water, our packs weighed sixteen pounds each. For emergency gear, we had a Delorme InReach and an old Wild Things Bothy Bag made out of sil-nylon.

We started hiking at 7:15 a.m., figuring it’d be better to get a full night’s sleep than start super-early. We were in for plenty of night climbing, anyway. We forced ourselves to go slowly up the Valley Way trail, then dumped our packs to drop into Mad Gulf. It was potentially the cruxiest part of the day, but we raced down before the warm sun began melting the ice too much. The ice climbs in the Madison Gulf are awesome: perfect, warm sticks and a beautiful setting. We picked the one Kurt Winkler and Doug Huntley had done on their traverse—a great WI4 line. We trudged up corn snow and summited Madison. Four hours. Good. The sun beat down. We drank from ice melting off the roof of Madison hut, and continued on down into Great Gully in King’s Ravine. This was our easiest climb, and next time I’d opt for “PF Flyer,” something more difficult, though that climb requires bushwhacking that we didn’t have time for. More meltwater, a trudge back up the 600-800 feet or so, to summit Adams. We moved over Jefferson, down into Sphynx col, and spent an hour brewing up more water and eating. Nine hours in. We summited Clay, and dropped into the Great Gulf, and down-climbed perfect neve. We each picked a fun little mixed rib to climb up—the climbing was so much more enjoyable than the hiking, especially without packs. The terrain was classic, easy ravine climbing, with turf-shots, ice, neve, and little mixed bulges. We front-pointed back up to Clay and slogged up Washington. By now, fog was setting in, though it was still clear enough to see town sporadically.

At nightfall, we summited. “We are about to enter the Upside Down,” said Justin, quoting the Netflix show Stranger Things. As the darkness fell, our legs would feel a little more tired, and everything would feel a little bit harder. We down climbed Central Gully into Huntington Ravine, and started up Pinnacle. It was undermined, and actually kind of scary, especially after twelve hours of moving and having three people soloing at the same time. We carefully picked our way up so as not to break the old ice and fall into the waterfall below.

Ryan climbing Pinnacle - The Technical Traverse

Ryan climbing Pinnacle gully by head lamp

We texted our respective significant others to let them know we were alright, hiked across the Alpine Garden, and bailed into Right Gully in Tuckerman’s Ravine. Another brew stop, taking advantage of the running water by the Ranger Station. We had initially planned on climbing a mixed runnel up the Boott Spur, but we were so exhausted that simply climbing up Hillman’s Highway was good enough. It was ten o’clock. We all felt nauseous as we crunched up the long, terrible slope. The second we reached the top, it began to rain.

We’re in it now. I pulled the GPS out. We couldn’t see fifteen feet. The Upside Down. We’d always thought it’d be over the second we topped out Tuck’s – a victorious slog to the road. My GPS died as we reached Lakes, and we took a compass bearing from the sign. It took us nearly an hour to find the hut from 0.1 miles away. I’ve been there hundreds of times, more than that, in all sorts of weather, but I’ve never encountered fog like that. I headed in a general direction to reach Monroe, where the trail gets easier. I was completely soaked through in my Houdini Jacket and soft shell pants. The down puffy in my pack wouldn’t help much, either. We went from cairn to cairn. If I couldn’t find the trail, I’d yell “Stop!” and the Rhino would hold fast to the last cairn and we’d stretch out as far as we could see each other—a hundred feet or so, and sweep around. It got easier as we wove down the Crawford path, but each time we stopped, I’d start shivering uncontrollably. We were all pretty darn close to hypothermia.

“Michael,” said Justin. “When’s the last time you ate or drank?” He was right. Having three people was starting to seem like a good idea, if for nothing else besides a little bit of control. He gave me his synthetic jacket—a lifesaver. A slog with tired legs over Eisenhower and Pierce, some vomiting (I’m always the one to vomit), and then all we had to do was force ourselves down to the Highland Center. It got warmer in the trees, as the windy, sideways rain gave way to mist. We arrived at 3:30 a.m., twenty hours and fifteen minutes after starting. We’d done it! Ryan started to get excited, “You could do a hut-to-hut traverse with ice gear, and end on the Black Dike!” But, after driving back home, soaked to the bone, all I wanted to do was sleep.

A few more photos:

A large size map of the Technical Traverse in PDF by Marc Chauvin

Related Story 

Playing Pachinko on Mt- Webster


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!

Adirondacks:

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.

Catskills:

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.”

Frankenstine2

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.”

Vermont:

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

Quebec:

Newfoundland:

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.

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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

Climbing Dreamline in Newfoundland

“Dreamline” (WI6+, 1,260′)

Feb, 21, 2017
Gros Morne National Park,  Newfoundland, Canada

Joe Terravecchia,Will Mayo and Anna Pfaff  climbed a new, and spectacular line today, “Dreamline” (WI6+, 1,260′). Dreamline is a spray ice climb to the right of The Pissing Mare Waterfall on Western Brook Pond. Joe and Casey Shaw have been dreaming of, and eyeing this line since 1997, waiting for it to come into condition. Today it was in condition. Unfortunately, after waiting out a week of storms and bad weather Casey had to return to work and was not around to finish his dream of climbing this phenomenal ice route.

Will Mayo – “It’s the raddest ice climb I’ve ever done”. Anna Pfaff – “we sent a new mega line up wild medusa like formations of spray ice and other worldly features”.

“This was the most adventuresome and satisfying ice climb of our careers, we all agree.” – Will Mayo

Dreamline" (WI6+, 1,260') - Will Mayo

Dreamline” (WI6+, 1,260′) – Will Mayo

Pissing_Mare_Falls,_Western_Pond

Pissing Mare Falls, Western Brook Pond. A summer view – Wikipedia

 

More here..https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pissing_Mare_Falls

 

Sources: Facebook, Wikipedia, Instagram, Gripped.com & Will Mayo

 

Matt Horner’s Recovery Fund

Help Support Matt Horner’s Recovery

Matt Horner, one of the cornerstones of the Adirondack ice climbing community needs our help. Please visit the link below and give whatever you can to help.

“Matt had an ice climbing accident Feb 8, 2017, at Chapel Pond near Keene Valley. He fell 60 feet and suffered severe injuries. He was first taken to Elizabethtown Community Hospital, then transported via helicopter to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, VT. His injuries include a 2cm brain hemorrhage, a severe concussion, multiple fractures in his face (a La Fort fracture), and soft tissue injuries to his right wrist, left knee, and hip.”

https://www.gofundme.com/Matthew-Horner

Bill Schneider

Matt2

“Headed down South to spend time with my family, rest and have facial surgery to stabilize broken bones in my face while I’m there. Broke most of them:( Very fortunate to not have worse injuries! Still dealing with my head injury/concussion, so please don’t take it personally if I haven’t responded to messages (as I’m supposed to avoid screen time). I am blown away by all the love and help! Thank thank thank you! Thank you all so much for all the messages of love and support!” – Matt Horner

Source: Facebook, Bill Schneider, Matt Horner & Gofundme


Black Pudding Gully

Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival 2017

Out For Some Exercise

It’s been a great year for “Black Pudding Gully”. Hardly a gully, this climb can be steep and challenging at times, but it is fat and wide this year. And has seen a lot of traffic. It has been many years since I have climbed it, so we figured we would go have a look. Surely by now it would be stepped and hooked out making for an easy solo. Just what we needed, a little physical and mental exercise for our midday break. But we were late and two other parties of three were in front of us having fun climbing this classic line. So we took a line less traveled. A nice ice flow just to the right. It was steep and candled but Alden took one look and said “If I can’t climb that, I should not be going to Newfoundland”. He walked right up it with grace and confidence. I followed, it was just what I was looking for. BAKP showed us she is ready for harder climbs making it to the top easily with only a few squeaks ;-). Off I went to heat up the soup. Fred followed the climb and then, the Black Pudding Gully was standing alone, ready for Alden to climb before heading back for his Ice Fest responsibilities.

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Don’t be deceived, the climb is very for-shortened in this photo. It’s longer and more vertical than it appears on both climbs. Black Pudding Gully on the left, Alden climbing on the right.- Doug Millen

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Alden working the climb.- Doug Millen

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Me climbing Black Pudding Gully in the 80’s…Note the lack of a helmet, and the straight shaft tools you can’t see. I slung the column then put in two airated screws, and then headed to the top for good gear.

Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest 2017

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I love this event!!! So good to see everyone. It’s like a big family reunion! My only regret is not enough time to do all I wanted to do, or enough time to spend with everyone I wanted to see. I can’t wait till next year.

Many thanks to the MWV Ice Fest crew for all the hard work they do to put this event together. Thanks to all the sponsors that make this event possible. And to the guides for sharing their expertise of this amazing sport. And IME and Theater In The Woods for hosting, and to IMCS for coordinating all the guides. And thanks to all of you that attended, to make this the biggest, and best Ice Fest in the North East!

– Doug Millen

2017 Mt. Washington Valley Ice Fest

We are getting so PSYCHED!!!

The Largest Ice Fest in the Northeast is this Weekend!

Since its inception, 24 years ago, this event has been one of the biggest and most well known ice climbing events in the Northeast.

Feb. 3rd-5th, 2017
North Conway, New Hampshire

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The Shows

FRIDAY NIGHT FEATURED PRESENTER: SCOTT BENNETT
CAMP & CASSIN are bringing a young gun out to give a killer show on Friday.
Scott Bennett and Graham Zimmerman have been climbing together for years, from dirt-bagging in Yosemite to helicoptering into remote Alaska ranges. With their sights set on the truly big mountains, they enlist the help and mentor-ship of Steve Swenson, who is perhaps the most successful American alpinist of his generation.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEATURED PRESENTER: GUY ROBERTSON
Outdoor Research is bringing this awesome Brit over for the Ice Fest!
Guy’s presentation will give the “insider’s view” on Scottish winter climbing – the basics, the ethics, and the different styles of climbing to be found in different parts of the country. He will do this by describing some of his best adventures, which he has been lucky enough to share with some of the scenes most ‘interesting’ characters. His focus is on the more remote, longer and committing climbs rather than the short hard technical test pieces.

Friday & Saturday evening festivities will be taking place again at Theater in the Wood located 4 miles north of IME/IMCS on route 16. 41 Observatory Way – Intervale, NH 03845 (does not work on GPS devices – use the coordinates GPS: 44.101547, -71.153641)

Demo This GEAR!

Why beat up your own gear, when you could test out, try and beat up this gear?! This is one of the coolest parts about the MWV Ice Fest. Check out all the incredible companies you can demo gear from! TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! We’re talking jackets, gloves, ice tools, crampons, helmets, harnesses, packs, boots and MORE! Also Sterling Rope will be there for you to check out and talk to them about what the best ropes they offer for the type of climbing you’re most psyched about!

DEMO GEAR BETA:

8am-9am: Demo Gear is open to clinic participants to take out

9am-10am: Demo Gear is open to the public to take out

Demo companies are Outdoor Research, DMM, La Sportiva, Black Diamond, Trango, Adidas, Patagonia, Scarpa, Cilo Gear, Petzl, RAB, Cassin, CAMP USA, Grivel, Julbo, Mammut, Arc’Teryx, Asolo, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Untapped & Good To Go Food! And you can check out Sterling Ropes at their table!

Guide ME!

Learn from some of the best guides in the Northeast.

http://www.mwv-icefest.com/guest-guides/

http://www.mwv-icefest.com/imcs-guides/

Some classes are still available. Check for current availability

International Mountain Climbing School
2733 White Mountain Highway – PO Box 1666
North Conway NH 03860
Phone: (603) 356-7064
Email: guides@ime-usa.com

Soups On!

NEice will be serving up some yummy soup at the AAC table this year once more! You’ll find the NEice.com soup kitchen upstairs at IME during Apres hours from 3:30-5:30 on both Friday and Saturday, at the AAC table.

Full Schedule

More details on the blog & website: http://www.mwv-icefest.com/blog/


Tom Yandonon on Rhiannon, Chapel Pond

Featured Photos – ADK Mountainfest 2017

We had a great time at the 21st ADK Mountainfest. We delivered some hot soup to the clinics, did some climbing and Solo had a good flight over “Cheese and Crackers” at Chapel Pond. Here are a few of the images I captured during my travels at this event. Many thanks to The MountaineerRock and River , the Guides and everyone involved for the great work they do for the community, and the participants.  Their friendliness and hospitality is unmatched. We can’t wait to return.

Photos from the 2017 ADK Mountainfest – Doug Millen

Cover photo: ADK Legend Tom Yandon getting started on Rhiannon, Chapel pond.

 

 

Smuggs Ice Bash 2017

11th Annual Smuggs Ice Bash

January 20-22, 2017

Smuggs Ice Bash 2017

Kick-off party | Drytooling Competition | Clinics | Slideshows & Speaker Presentation | Raffle | Camaraderie!

Free gear demos from the industries leading brands, clinics for the beginner to advanced climbers, multimedia slideshows by sponsored athletes, dry tooling competition and kick-off party, huge raffles and immense camaraderie in Vermont’s premier ice climbing destination, Smuggler’s Notch!

The goal of the Smuggs Ice Bash is to promote the sport of ice climbing, to educate climbers, to exhibit and demo new gear, and to share a weekend of fun, challenge, and inspiration with other winter enthusiasts in one of Vermont’s most amazing places, Smuggler’s Notch.

The Smuggs Ice Bash is managed by Petra Cliffs Climbing Center & Mountaineering School 105 Briggs Street Burlington, VT 05401 802.657.3872 www.petracliffs.com

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Friday Night Drytool Comp and Kickoff Party

The Drytooling Competition on Friday, January 20th is going to be (take your pick: awesome, inspiring, insane, off the hook, the best use of your Friday night ever, a damn good time)- it’s where you want to be. Come watch as some of the East’s strongest climbers converge to try their axe-wielding hands at hanging on and moving through obstacles on FoamIce, stalactities, steinpulls, and more…

Starting at 6pm @ Petra Cliffs Climbing Center
$5 Entry fee
Cash only for Raffle Tickets
Beverages provided by our gracious sponsors
Live DJ to keep the party going!
Public Demo’s: Drytool Route, Swing into Foam Ice, Climb with Dry Ice Tools
*Interested in competing? Email Tim@petracliffs.com for info. – Must have extensive ice/mixed lead climbing experience.

The Smuggs Ice Bash is managed by Petra Cliffs Climbing Center & Mountaineering School 105 Briggs Street Burlington, VT 05401 802-657-3872  www.petracliffs.com