Cog Railway Announces Intentions to Build a 35 Room Luxury Hotel on Mount Washington

The Coos Planning Board Meeting

Cog Railway owners appearing before the planning board (Wayne Presby in red) – Doug Millen

When History Threatens The Future

When I heard about the Cog Railway’s intention to build a 35 room upscale hotel and restaurant along their tracks on Mount Washington, I almost didn’t believe it.  I felt frustrated and angry over the fact that there are people with the ability to tamper with something I love.  For many of us, Mount Washington is our place to experience nature’s force, and to challenge and humble ourselves in a wild and frequently harsh and unforgiving environment.  My time on Mount Washington’s slopes has made a significant impact on shaping the person and climber I am today.  Although I am fully aware of the what occurs just above me on the summit, I remain on the ice and rocks of the ravines below and see a mountain too special and unique to be the victim of selfish interests. As chronicled in Mount Washington’s long history, it’s apparent the mountain has meant something entirely different to others.

Building and development is nothing new in the White Mountains, especially on New England’s highest peak.  As early as the mid-19th century, the mountain was developed into what can be considered one of the first tourist destinations in the country. Numerous bridle paths, most notably the Crawford Path completed in 1819, were constructed to the summit.  In 1861, when the five-year road project was complete, the mountain suddenly became accessible for all.  Waiting on top for the growing number of visitors were hotels and restaurants beginning in the 1850’s all the way until 1980, when the last hotel was demolished for the construction of current Sherman Adams Visitor Center. Despite devastating fires the 1900’s, developers continued to build and re-build hotels and restaurants to attract more visitors each year. Battles over ownership of the peak frequented the New Hampshire court system, a telling sign of the mindset of that era.  It didn’t take long after European settlers first saw the mountain for it to become the center of exploitation.

After the road was open to the public, its business doubled every year until 1869, when the most impactful event happened. The Cog Railway was complete.  It was a turning point for life on the summit of Mount Washington.  “Never again by the new rail can he have the sensation that he enjoyed in the ascent of Mount Washington by the old bridle path from Crawford’s, when, climbing out of the woods and advancing upon that marvelous backbone of rock, the whole world opened upon his awed vision, and the pyramid of the summit stood up in majesty against the sky.  Nothing, indeed, is valuable that is easily obtained.” -Charles Dudley Warner, 1886.  Now, 130 years later, this same entity is trying to repeat history, but I believe at a higher cost as the sensitive alpine environment is continually under the threats of our current age.

I don’t deny or ignore the history of Mount Washington when I plead my case to stop further development on the mountain.  It would be impossible. It is that history preventing efforts to conserve what remains of not just Mount Washington but all areas of the White Mountains under constant risk of human intrusion.  The precedence has already been set, as pointed out by the owners of the Cog Railway, and used as an argument to support the hotel’s construction.  Just last year, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), who owns and maintains the existing and historic hut system along the Appalachian Trail, announced their intent to construct a new hut in the already overcrowded area of Crawford Notch.  Thankfully, days after the Cog Hotel news broke, the AMC officially terminated their plans, noting the opposition they were receiving.  Maybe it’s time to change history for a better future for our mountain ecosystem we cherish.  Let’s allow our future generations to enjoy an untarnished landscape and teach them care and conservation through our present actions.

Thank you to my fellow hikers and climbers who feel similarly to myself and are actively fighting the construction of this hotel.  The following information has been pulled together by the help of this community who love the White Mountains.

-Courtney Ley

The Facts:

Mt Wash Summit

The Summit of Mount Washington NH

Mount Washington State Park is a 60.3-acre (24.4 ha) parcel perched on the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States. Summer seasonal amenities include a cafeteria, restrooms, gift shops, the Mount Washington Observatory and its museum.

In April of 1894, the Mount Washington Summit Road Company, owners of the summit at the time, sold a 49 acre circular tract to the Mt. Washington Railway Company.  That land constitutes the bulk of today’s Mount Washington State Park.  A small segment of the summit is still owned by the Cog Railway and used as the upper terminus of the railway.

It would be a terrible intrusion, and assault on the fragile alpine zone of an already overcrowded Summit. It sets a bad precedent of commercial use for profit above treeline. Mt. Washington is the Jewel of the state, let’s treat it as such and preserve it for future generations to enjoy. – Doug Millen
Sources: Mt. Washigtion Cog Railway, NH Divishion of Parks and Recreation, Mount Washington Auto Road and

Sources: Mt. Washington Cog Railway, NH Division of Parks and Recreation, Mount Washington Auto Road, Google Earth and – Doug Millen /

The Environment on Mount Washington:

Mount Washington is home to the unique alpine tundra natural community system and the Presidential Range accounts for more than half of the 13 square miles of alpine tundra in the northeastern United States. The mountain contains an exemplary (high quality) natural community of the alpine zone.  It supports the richest assemblage of arctic-alpine plants in the region, most of which are rare in the coterminous United States. Scattered areas of krummholz, which are composed of dwarfed and matted black spruce and balsam fir, are also present. The Alpine Garden Research Natural Area (RNA), contains a former candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the Boott’s rattlesnake-root.  The New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory has determined that the RNA also contains 7 state endangered plants, 24 state threatened plants, 7 state rare plants, 3 state endangered animals and 2 state rare animals. (Source: USDA, Forest Service)

The Initial Steps:

A Planning Board meeting was held on December 8th where owners of the Cog Railway discussed their general plans for the hotel.  The purpose of the meeting was a preliminary discussion with no consensus or decision making at this early stage.  No formal application was submitted and it was not open to official public comment, however, over 40 members of the hiking and climbing community attended the meeting.

A Brief Synopsis of the Coos County Planning Board Meeting

Nickie Sekera – Social and Environmental Justice Alliance
December 9, 2016

The Coos County Planning Board held a meeting tonight (12-8-16) in Lancaster, NH where we listened to a preliminary review of a (conceptual) proposal of a 35 room hotel and restaurant at about 5,200′ of elevation in the alpine zone on Mount Washington.  The Cog Railway owners opened up the discussion with their history on Mt Washington, citing that a previous hotel sat on the summit, to lean on the fact that a precedent of there being a hotel above treeline had previously been set.

They also framed the project as being a solution to the issue that they pinned on the state as a shortcoming, stating that they are unable to provide “proper services” to address “overcrowding” at the summit.

Funny, at the planning board meeting the owner of the cog was comparing his 35 room hotel proposal to the alps hut system and how similar it would be to there. Interesting to read how different you think this proposal is from the alps. The White Mountains is 1,225 sq mi and the Alps are 80,000 square miles (the state of Minnesota is 79,617 sq/miles), something to think about when you’re considering development here vs there.
-Anne Skidmore Russell

It was also stated that the Cog Railway currently subsidizes state operations at the summit to the tune of approximately $200,000 annually. While this project claims that it will be completely privately funded, they did ask for latitude on zoning.

No one could answer the question as to what the “maximum capacity” of the summit could sustain-ably accommodate, nor what the projected impacts would be with increasing the traffic, except that New Hampshire continues to promote the mountain without apparent concern of consequence.

We noticed that Fred King, the vice chair, presented with an air of confidence in this project. It’s difficult to say how the others level of concern may or may not be, but it is apparent that the Cog Railway folks are doing a “temperature check” and may be responsive to push-back if concerned parties start applying pressure to them publicly, citing the negative impacts.

Arguments in Favor of the Hotel:

Provide the Crowded Summit with Additional Amenities

They State: With the number of people visiting the summit, there needs to be additional accommodations.  Wayne Presby, president and co-owner of the Cog Railway said in an interview that Mount Washington has become a victim of its own popularity. With 300,000 coming there every year and as many as 5,000 on the mountain on a given day, they said there aren’t enough amenities to serve the public.  He stated it would ease congestion.

We Respond:  The people already visiting Mount Washington, whether by the auto road, cog railway or hiking to the top, are there for just the day and most only stay for an hour or two. They aren’t looking for a hotel room or a fancy restaurant.  The hotel will simply increase traffic in the alpine zone with its own guests and will not relieve the stresses of the current situation on the summit.  The current configuration of the summit should be the limiting factor on the traffic it receives.  Do not encourage more.

With over 374,000 coming every year to this, the highest point in the Northeast and as many as 5,000 on the mountain on a given day, do we just keep building to accommodate everyone that wants to come with no regard for the mountain, or the people that love this mountain?

Provide Local Jobs and Bring Tourism Dollars

They State:  “The hotel and restaurant would create 20 new jobs, and provide an economic boost to the North Country through the use of local contractors,” Wayne Presby noted.  In response to the opposition, he is on record saying the hikers who want the outdoors preserved are “elitist” and “[they] resist compromise that opens the outdoors to more people and brings in more tourist dollars to a region that needs them.”

We Respond: Are 20 new seasonal jobs and temporary contractor work worth the cost of potential environmental degradation? Any additional dollars to the local economy will only be captured by the owners of this development as they provide their tourists with transportation, luxury lodging and meals.  With the hotel near the summit of the mountain, the surrounding towns at the base of the mountains will not see these hotel guests, and not profit from their visit.

Important Matters:

Requires changes to the zoning laws

The Cog Railway owns a 90′ wide strip of land under the current railroad with National Forest land on each side. The required setbacks are 25′ on each side. That leaves 40′ to build on. Current zoning prohibits building above 2700′. The proposed building is at 5000′. Zoning laws were meant to protect against projects like this and should not be compromised.

I don’t like the situation now and I just don’t see a scenario where this new development improves it. I ski and climb a lot in the Alps and I love the hut system there. Huts are small, and friendly and don’t interfere with your adventure, they are never on the summit. But you can swing in on the way down or up for a cup of soup and staying at one is very affordable. Unclear why things must be so very different here at home.
– Olga Mirkina 

Fire & Safety Issues – It’s remoteness causes real concern for fire and safety in this sensitive area. How would a major fire be dealt with? And putting more potentially uneducated hikers easily on top of a mountain with some of the worst weather in the world would add extra burden to the local search and rescue members.

The narrowness of the building site – How grand can a hotel be when you are restricted to these building dimensions. What happens if this business venture fails? Are we left with a forever deteriorating blemish on the mountain?

Development for Profit – The driving force in most developers is profit! And the rest of us suffer while they profit.

From the News:

Boston Globe

December 10, 2016

“Mount Washington is big, but it may not be big enough for this hotel.”

An online petition created Dec. 2 in opposition to the hotel had attracted 6,307 signatures by Saturday — more than 11 times the 562 names attached to a counter-petition in support of the plan.

Gareth Slattery, a local man who gave the hotel his online backing.

This proposal would change all that, and would flood the high peaks nearby with ill-prepared, and worse than that, ill-educated “hikers”. I predict that the sections above treeline but below the area of broken rock, will be severely damaged within a few years.
– John Currier 

“I actually live here, unlike most who have signed against this project,” Slattery wrote. “Tourism is our industry and provides livelihoods to thousands in our area. It seems most who sign against [the hotel] would like to keep it their personal playground. Nothing greedier than that.”

“The mountain has been so developed, and it continues to be exploited for obvious reasons — financial gain. It’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Dave Dillon, a 32-year-old hiker from Tewksbury, Mass.

“If you’re up there to enjoy the outdoors, the summit of Mount Washington is exactly the opposite. It’s like a little city,” said Dillon, the hiker. “We can’t continue to keep adding and adding and adding. We’ll be left with nothing,”

“To Presby, much of the pushback smacks of what he sees as elitism by hikers who understandably want the outdoors preserved. But many of them, he added, resist compromise that opens the outdoors to more people and brings in more tourist dollars to a region that needs them.”

“There isn’t a thing that gets done in the North Country that doesn’t get opposition from these groups,” said Presby, who previously owned the Mount Washington Hotel, a sprawling Victorian-era landmark in the valley.”

That argument received a thumbs-up from Gareth Slattery, a local man who gave the hotel his online backing. “I actually live here, unlike most who have signed against this project,” Slattery wrote. “Tourism is our industry and provides livelihoods to thousands in our area. It seems most who sign against [the hotel] would like to keep it their personal playground. Nothing greedier than that.”


The Concord Monitor

December 8, 2016

Chris Magnes of Conway-“I respect the auto road and the train, and the history that surrounds it, but we don’t need anymore buildings or people on that mountain.”

“The issues of overcrowding are related to access because it’s a very accessible summit from the railway and the road.”


New Hampshire Public Radio

“So far, about 6,400 people have signed petitions against the proposed hotel, saying it would diminish the wilderness experience on Mount Washington. About 550 people have signed a petition in favor saying it would help the economy and pointing out that the mountain is already commercialized.”


Herald Courier

December 8, 2016

Appalachian Mountain Club withdraws White Mountains hut plan

“The proposal drew mostly negative feedback from hikers and outdoors lovers who contend the region is already overcrowded. Others said the hut rates were out of their price range.”


Union Leader

December 3, 2016

“I just feel it would be a blight on the landscape,” said Mike Cherim, a longtime hiker who’s trekked up the mountain 90 times himself and runs Redline Guiding that offers guided hikes especially in the winter.”

“I am adamantly opposed to the construction. The whole project just sickens me. I love this mountain and feel like this is going to ruin the experience for a lot of people.”

“The ones who actually hike to the summit are stuck waiting in line behind a sea of khakis and sandals. With the added Cog traffic this issue is sure to increase.”

There is no doubt the North Country has benefited by the presence of the Cog Railroad, as it should continue to do so. We don’t want to take anything away. We’d even be open to the idea of the same hotel built at the base station as a compromise. But what we don’t want is more development on the mountain.
-Mike Cherim

Presby said in an interview last week that Mount Washington has become a victim of its own popularity. With 300,000+ coming there every year and as many as 5,000 on the mountain on a given day, they said there aren’t enough amenities to serve the public.

“Tourism is the lifeblood of Northern New Hampshire,” the pro-petition states.

But Presby notes the conditions are Spartan at the current huts and bringing a luxury hotel to the mountain merely returns Mount Washington to its history of having an elegant dining and residential space.

David Dillon, a veteran hiker who wrote a blog in opposition to this plan, said he fears that bringing a full-service hotel back to this site will only encourage more growth.

“I think if we open the door to new construction it will be a slippery slope and this won’t be the end of development,” Dillon said. “Some places are meant to be difficult to get to and enjoy. That’s part of what makes them so special.”

How You Can Help

Sign these Petitions:

Stop the Cog Railway from building a motel on Washington

DERAIL Cog Railway hotel proposal

Share these petitions, share this article, share the news stories and Get The Word Out.

Below is the contact information for every member of the Coos County Planning Board, retrieved this morning from I strongly oppose the development of a new hotel on Mount Washington, especially so high on the mountain. I plan to share my thoughts directly with each member of this Board and I encourage others to do the same. Sarah Garlick

Coos Planning Board

Coos Planning Board – Photo: Nickie Sekera

John Scarinza, Chair
375 Randolph Hill Rd.
Randolph, NH 03593
[email protected]

Fred King, Vice Chair
PO Box 146
Colebrook, NH 03576
[email protected]

Edwin Mellet
1165 Lost Nation Road
Groveton, NH 03582
[email protected]

Scott Rineer
PO Box 121
Errol, NH 03579
[email protected]

Rick Tillotson
111 Munn Rd.
Colebrook, NH 03576
[email protected]




Michael Waddell
45 Alpine St.
Gorham, NH 03581
[email protected]

Thomas Brady
597 Ingerson Road
Jefferson, NH 03583
[email protected]

Jennifer Fish
PO Box 10
West Stewartstown, NH 03597
[email protected]

Rep. Leon Rideout
28 Causeway Street
Lancaster, NH 03584
[email protected]

Mark Frank
7 Grandview Drive
Lancaster, NH 03584

Thomas Mccue
27 Cambridge Street
Berlin, NH 03583
[email protected]

Historical Resources:

The Stone Hotels of Mount Washington, Jeffery R. Leich, Appalachia, June 15, 1997

Possession of the Summit “A Prolific Subject of Contention”, Jeffery Leich

History of the Road, Mount Washington Auto Road

Central Buttress – Mt. Washington NH

Cental butress

Michael Wejchert climbing on the Central Buttress , Mt. Washington NH – Photo: Bayard Russell

Just thought I’d fire a cool shot your way to get the early season psych up.

That’s a new route on Central Buttress that Ryan Driscoll starting working on last year. He, Michael Wejchert and I went up there yesterday (12-4-16) and had another go. Ryan is killing it. We all took turns getting the gear in, but Ryan took it to the ledge on the top of the pitch. Fucking cold up there! He had to hang and warm his fingers up, otherwise he’d a done it. Guess we’ll just have to go back.


Ryan Driscoll – EMS  / Michael Wejchert – IMCS

Cathedral Mt Guids Logo Amb

CATHEDRAL MOUNTAIN GUIDES is a New Hampshire based climbing guiding service founded in 2008 by American Mountain Guide Association certified instructor Bayard Russell, Jr. and now run in partnership with local guide, accomplished alpinist and Piolet d’Or Recipient, Freddie Wilkinson. 

It’s about Time, Where have you Been?

Winter is finally headed our way

Last weeks warm weather took it’s toll. On Saturday conditions looked worse than the week before. But on Sunday, with a night of below freezing temps the ice is starting to form again. There is plenty of water flowing and a dusting of snow to feed it. The forecast calls for below freezing temps all week and mostly cloudy weather with snow showers. The perfect conditions for forming ice. The water is cold and the climbs should build fast. This next weekend should provide some of the best conditions to date. Not fat by any means, but it should be better than anything we have seen so far this season.

The Forecast

7 Day Forecast for Latitude 44.15°N and Longitude 71.69°W Elev. 3720 ft

More Weather links here:

Crawford Notch NH – 12-4-16

It does not look like much now, but give it a week! Nothing builds ice like Cloudy, Snowy weather below freezing.

[supsystic-gallery id=1 position=center]

Photos by Doug Millen

Layering 101

Layering 101

Dialing in your Alpine System for Optimal Performance and Protection

Layering Jackets

By William Bevans

The Three Layer System

Your comfort and even survival in the backcountry is highly dependent on your layering system. Since a single piece of apparel cannot do the job, many different layers are used in sync to adapt to the constantly changing conditions. In this article, I will outline the basic three layer system commonly employed in alpine climbing with some extra considerations and tips. Below are the three foundational clothing layers generally utilized:

1) Base layer

The main purpose of your base layer is to wick moisture away from your body. This is your first line of defense because if this fails, your whole system will fail. First and most importantly, do not ever use cotton products. Cotton products will wick a small amount of moisture away from your body but will not rid the moisture completely or properly. Cotton acts like a sponge and if you are wearing wet cotton in cold temperatures, your body will struggle to stay warm. In an alpine environment, this can lead to numbers of issues, including hypothermia.

On your cold zero dark thirty (12:30am) start right out the tent, you may feel the need to pile the layers on. Once you get moving, however, you’ll find yourself heating up.  Start managing that heat so your base layer can manage the moisture. You have a long day ahead and if you get wet early its gonna be even a longer day!

The two common base layer fabrics are wool and synthetic. Which one you decide to use is a matter of personal preference.


Synthetic layers include the poly-groups (polyester, polypropylene). Synthetics are generally inexpensive, dry very quickly, pack down efficiently, and tend to be quite durable. The downside is that they provide little insulation and therefore, only a small amount of body-warming qualities. Some claim poly fabrics retain odor, but usually you have bigger concerns on a climbing trip than having stinky clothes! On longer, two month expeditions, I often take my synthetics and wash them in a large hot water bowl with soap, lay them on my tent and after a few hours in the sun, they are clean and good to go.

Wool has seen many improvements recently and has made a strong comeback into the outdoor clothing industry. The common wool used is known as merino wool. Efficient insulating properties and excellent breathability are wool’s top trademarks. Wool comes at a price, typically higher than synthetics. One of the common complaints of wool is that it can be itchy. If you decide to dunk your wool in a bowl of hot water, you should certainly expect it to take considerably longer to dry than a synthetic.

Base Layer Tips

• Consider getting a quarter zip top to assist with dumping heat during periods of high output.
• Dedicate clothes to sleep in and clothes to climb in. At the end of your epic day, when you’re with your partner sharing a whiskey, get out of your climbing clothes and allow yourself to yourself to mentally and physically recharge.Think of it like getting out of your work clothes at the end of the day. It might take some effort, but if you sleep better, you will climb better.
• Consider a one-piece base layer. Picture yourself at home, wrapped snugly in a one-piece, keeping you toasty on the couch by the fire. Pretty sweet, eh? Alpine onesies are the same, except there probably isn’t a cozy fire or a couch where you are going to be. Onesies are quite comfortable and leave fewer cold spots and areas for the cold and snow to creep in. I pretty much guarantee once you have one, you will wonder why you didn’t get it sooner. Thank me later!
• Most base layers are compressible. Be creative by stuffing that extra base layer into something that doesn’t pack well (kitchen pot, etc…) 
Layering - Using quarter zip synthetic base layers on the Kautz Glacier, Mt Rainier.

Using quarter zip synthetic base layers on the Kautz Glacier, Mt Rainier.

Dialing in fit.

A lot of companies are in the market today making gear. What works for you might not work for the next guy. Layering is as much an art as it is a science. Fit is extremely important and requires good ole trial and error. Just because all your flannel shirts at home are size M does not mean your size M for all of your climbing outerwear. Different companies cut items in different and sometimes mysterious ways. Take the time to dial in fit from your base layers to your harness.


2) Insulation layer

Your insulation layer’s primary role is to keep you warm and to regulate your temperature though breathability. Insulation can come in the form of fleece, which can be broken down into several different weights (100, 200, 300) combined with several other technical fabrics (windstopper, etc…). In alpine climbing, loft insulation is considered the benchmark where warmth is key. There are generally two types of loft insulation: synthetic and down fill.

Synthetic Insulation: In short, synthetic insulation jackets have come a long way. In today’s market, there are several synthetic jackets geared towards climbers that perform very well. Gone are the days where down fill insulation was simply unmatched. Top brands have developed jackets to handle your entire day start to finish, from a high output ski approach, to swinging tools, to a quick summit tag in full raging conditions to the long descent back to the car. These jackets that once didn’t pack so well now pack very nicely. While down fill still remains the best insulator, the biggest improvement with synthetics is the breathability factor and the jacket’s ability to regulate temperature. The clammy feeling that went along with synthetics is a thing of the past. Synthetic jackets can dry fast when wet and continue to keep you warm when wet. Synthetic jackets remain at a lower price than down jackets and for the earth conscious climber, many jackets now have insulation produced from recycled materials.

Spectrum of use

When considering any piece of gear, imagine how it looks on a scale of use. How many functions does the piece of gear serve? Does it reduce redundancies so you are not carrying three of the same thing? Most of the time it pays large dividends to have a piece of gear that can do many things. Ensuring your gear or clothing can serve a multitude of purposes can make packing easier, the weight you carry much less and the gear you have to manage less stressful. When you have redundancies in your pack, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of items you have and that can damper your experience.
Layering - Synthetic insulation catching a beating on Alpamayo, Peru

Synthetic insulation catching a beating on Alpamayo, Peru


Down Fill Insulation: For those venturing into the mountains where the cold is a major factor, down fill insulation is the gold standard. Down-fill insulation comes in several weights, from lower grade 550-fill to a no compromise 900-fill power. Fill power measures the amount of puffiness, which directly effects the amount of air the down fill can hold and ultimately insulate. Fill powers commonly seen by alpinists are 600, 750 and 800. I generally recommend utilizing down at 750-fill power and above. If the fill weights are still a little confusing, think of the lower grade down fills as ones you would use to walk around town. When in the mountains, having higher grade down really does make a lot of difference. To see first hand, go to your local store and compress a 600-fill jacket and then compress an 800-fill jacket. The compressibility makes a major difference. When down is taken care of it last several years and continues to keep you warm like no other product. Down has excellent breathability and packs down like a dream. The negative: down is always priced higher than synthetics and the higher the fill, the higher the price. Down is also useless if it becomes wet, so be very conscious of the condition of your jacket and limitations of your jacket shell. Overall think of your down jacket as an investment piece of gear and if you take care of it, it will take good care of you.

3) Shell layer

Your shell layer is your main line of defense against the elements. Your shell layer keeps your insulation layer, your base layer and you dry and warm. Shell layers are built to take a beating. They come in two different constructions: hard shell and soft shell.

Soft Shell: There are a few major differences between soft shell construction and hard shell jackets. Soft shells are designed with fabrics with superior ergonomics, performance and movement in mind. The user will experience a jacket that “flows” and wears much smoother with them than a hard shell.

Many different types of fabrics are used in soft shell construction and each provides a very different experience based upon activity type and conditions.

Soft shells are more breathable than hard shells, but they do a mixture of repelling and absorbing the outdoors. They don’t completely protect you against snow, wind or water, so the trade off is performance and comfort versus weather defense. All soft shells are going to respond to weather differently, so it is important you try to dial in the comfort level you have with your jacket slowly. Consider using a soft shell for shorter trips, roadside ice or places where you are very comfortable with conditions.

Hard Shell: Hard shell jackets are the ultimate guard against the elements. A hard shell will use materials that do not allow water or wind to penetrate the fabric. The downside to this defense is that the fabric does not breathe as well as a soft shell. Another downside to the hard shell is lack of ergonomics and how the jacket wears during activity. The hard shell is going to feel a little bulkier and have a general lack of smooth movement. Both soft and hard shells are pricey but hey…what isn’t in climbing anymore?

Still not enough ?

Layering - Soft shell on the sharp end of Snot Rocket (W5) Mt. Willard, NH

Soft shell on the sharp end of Snot Rocket (W5) Mt. Willard, NH

For epic cold outings bring a belay jacket. When your up at Lake Willoughby ripping up Twenty Below Zero Gully and your soul is on its way to being frozen stiff, a belay parka may just save you!  A belay jacket provides the highest levels of warmth and protection when mountain conditions begin to rage on you.  This jacket earned its title for saving you during the periods of time when your caught on the belay ledge while your partner stitches the last pitch and the mercury has seriously begun to dip.  The belay jacket will allow you to remain warm and focus on your belay duties instead of suffering from the cold.   On the flip side, a belay jacket is also great in big mountain base camp settings, or just back at the climbing cabin when your just hanging around by the stove waiting for your partner to make a hot brew and heat up the tasteless evening gruel.  The versatility of this jacket that excels in the field, and on your downtime makes it a staple in every climber’s closet.  A belay parka/jacket is cut two different ways.  The parka is cut bigger and will usually cover your harness and have a bulkier feel.  A jacket will be waist cut and fall just above your harness.  Which you pick is just a matter of preference.  Sometimes the parka zipper can come up a bit from the bottom and this will allow you to clearly see your belay loop, tie-in knots and such.  While in the field, keep in mind you will be taking this jacket on and off and stuffing it in your pack constantly.  This jacket will be taking a good beating, so pick a good one.

To wrap up, I hope this helps with all your layering needs. Dial in your alpine costumes at home before you head out. Buy the gear you like and don’t make a habit out of compromising. If you like your gear, you’ll look good; if you look good, you’ll feel good; if you feel good, you’ll climb good, and if you climb good, you’ll be happy!

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 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.

The Expected and Unexpected of Early Season

Splashing through the rushing water currents on the trail did not invoke confidence that anything would be frozen up higher.  Still, my climbing partner and I did not slow our pace into King Ravine.  We climbed over the countless snow covered boulders trying not to slip into the human eating crevasses as we picked our way towards Great Gully.  It was warm and wet.  By the time we started our final approach to the drainage in low visibility, I had already resigned to the fact that we would be just out for a hike inside the low lying cloud bank.  To no surprise, Great Gully was a mess of rushing water and soft snow.

The floor of the ravine in the clouds. (photo by Joel Dashnaw)

If you are like me, you can’t choose your days to go climbing.  I’m chained to a desk Monday through Friday and on some weekends I’m working my second job as a photographer.  This particular weekend, I only had Sunday free. So despite the rain on Saturday and rising temperatures, I found myself clinging to the desperate hope that the ice that existed a few days before would still be hanging on. It was a tradition for me to get out and climb ice on Halloween weekend.  Rather, get out and attempt to climb ice.

Related Post:  Chronicles of the Overly Motivated

I love everything that goes along with being back inside winter’s grip. Although nothing is as good as having your mind and body back on some frozen water for the first time, there’s always more to it.  It’s time spent with your climbing partners, or time spent solo.  It’s time spent preparing and getting the psych up.  It’s about throwing yourself back out into harsh elements.  It’s about being in the mountains.  On this day, we post-holed through upwards of three feet of blown-in snow as we neared the lip of the ravine. (The type of snow that has that layer of crust that may or may not hold your weight.) We stumbled, stammered and literally crawled our way upwards.  We weren’t going to climb an ice-choked gully that day, but we were determined to reach the top regardless.  As we were about halfway up the headwall, the clouds began to fade and a brilliant blue sky revealed itself.

Leaving the clouds behind us. (photo by Courtney Ley)

Any thought of ice I had was left below me inside the cloud bank.  We weren’t out there anymore to find ice to climb, or lamenting it didn’t exist that day.  We were thrilled to experience one of the most outstanding undercasts I’ve ever seen.  Most years, my early season tradition of just ‘going out there anyway’ finds a reward for me. Some years it’s ice to climb.  Other years, it becomes something completely unexpected.

Photographs by Joel Dashnaw and Courtney Ley

The Black Dike 10-26-16

The Dike – She GO! 10-26-16

The Black Dike

Cannon Cliff, Franconia State Park NH
October 26, 2016

Peter Doucette and Keith Sidle found just enough winter on Cannon cliff today to climb “The Black Dike”. They found thin, wet and bonded ice with just enough gear to get up the climb. Peter always seems to be in the right place, at the right time. October ascents are so sweet. Great work guys!

This is believed to be the first ascent of the season, and Pinnacle was climbed yesterday. Let the games begin!

*Photos by Doug Millen – Click to enlarge

The Black Dike 10-26-16

Peter approaching the 2nd belay

The Black Dike 2

Keith belays Peter on the 2nd pitch

The 1st pitch

The 1st pitch

The Dike 3

Keith leaving the 1st belay

Approaching the 2nd belay

Keith approaching the 2nd belay

Keith on the last pitch of the dike

Keith leading the last pitch

More on Peter Doucette, and The Black Dike

Peter Doucette
AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide
[email protected]

Ice Climbers Guide to Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Ice Guide – 2nd Edition

Available online for Free!

Ice Climbers Guide to Nova Scotia

Roger Fage has refined and updated his Nova Scotia Ice Climbing Guide and has generously put it online for free! You can download it here in PDF form. This guide will help you find the more than 200 routes in Nova Scotia and it documents Nova Scotia’s rich ice climbing history. It is the most extensive ice guide for this area to date.


““In the winter of 2010, I put together a first edition of an ice guide to Nova Scotia. It was produced in very limited quantities for the winter of 2010. It was rushed, lacked appropriate research, and desperately needed more. This is a subsequent more satisfying end product. With considerable updates and additional original route information from the original ice guide to Nova Scotia put together by A.Parson in 1994. The A.Parsons guide (or the Allan Parson’s Project as I’ve come to call it) is referred to extensively and often quoted directly in this guide.”

Source: and

Cover Photo: Marty Theriault on the first ascent of New Brunswick Pillar in Moose River, NS. Photo by of Max Fisher.

The Season in Review – 2015-2016

Just Enough to Survive


What the Fuck!

The Last Printing Ever

“The Lake”

It’s an “Ice Bash

Let it Snow

Flight into Emerald City

Some Nasal Drip


The Devil Is In The Details

Ice Fest!


One Bad Ass Climber

Up, Up and Away

By Tooth and Claw

The Wildest Pitch of Ice He has Ever Known

Blue Lines 2

The Father of The Harvard Cabin



A Solo Winter

Winter came late, and not the best of winters, but I had a ton of fun flying my new drone. Here are some of my best video clips that I shot last fall/winter with my new Drone, “Solo!”

Lake Lake Willoughby VT

Solo at The Lake


Solo climbs the Last Gentleman, Promenade and China Shop on a sunny day in January. “The Lake” always delivers.

A birds eye view of “The Lake” and The Last Gentleman amphitheater, like you have never seen before! – View Full Screen for the best experience

Video, editing and flying by Doug Millen