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

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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

By Tooth and Claw

A new climb in the remote Panther Gorge, Adirondacks NY

by Kevin MacKenzie

By Tooth and Claw (WI4)

Panther Gorge, Adirondacks NY

Date: January 30, 2016
Climbers: Kevin MacKenzie, Bill Schneider & Devin Farkas
Duration/Mileage/Elevation Gain:
 15.75 hours /18+ miles /5,300 feet
Approach: 8.5 miles from the Garden Trailhead, Keene Valley

The first views, Panther Gorge

The first views, Panther Gorge

I needed my Panther Gorge fix and the warm January temperatures in the valley prompted me to consider how much ice might have formed up in the gorge. The low snowpack made it even more tempting given the 8.5 mile-long approach. Panther Gorge veteran Bill Schneider and Devin Farkas, assistant director of the Outdoor Program at St. Lawrence University, jumped on board. It’s nice to have friends that like to suffer! We met at the Rooster Comb parking lot at 5:00 am to sort gear and drive a single car to the Garden Trailhead. Temperatures hovered at 15F though they were forecast to rise to the mid-thirties in the valley.
We hoped to have a firm crust on which to bushwhack from the Phelps Trail to the climbing walls. It was 10:00 am. when we stepped off trail at the Marcy/Haystack col. I sank to my knees in snowshoes…so much for easy. I broke trail to the Panther Den wall while dodging snow bombs from the balsams. Bill and Devin emerged soon after I crawled out of the last, particularly dense section. This was Devin’s first visit to the “promised land”—God’s country—and he wasn’t disappointed based on his reaction.
A large right facing corner, usually wet during the summer, held ice though it was thinner than I expected. Haystack was decorated with fat ice flows from nearly every ledge. Linking them could be an interesting route for the future. We continued lower to southern end of the Panther Den wall. Continuous tiers of ice led up to the vertical wall that Bill and I climbed this past summer when we put up Cat on a Wet Tin Roof (5.8). Enticing as it appeared, we wanted to explore deeper in the gorge.

Looking up pitch 1 from a tier or two up the route.

Looking up pitch 1 from a tier or two up the route

Bill broke trail to the Feline Wall where Devin took over. A smear touched down though it was partially delaminated and thin. The line was fatter in November when Adam Crofoot, Allison Rooney and I spotted it while bushwhacking along the Haystack side. Longer days of sun on the black rock had taken a toll. A nearby gully held interesting possibilities.
We climbed up along the left side of the Feline Wall; Bill and Devin continued down to the Agharta (NOT pronounced AgarTHa) Wall where the Agharta ice route was fat and tempting. There were no options for a new independent line so we re-ascended to the aforementioned ice at the Panther Den Wall (44°6’49.4”N, 73°54’23.9”W). The approach and exploration had taken seven hours. It was 12:15 pm and time to climb.
The first strikes of Bill’s tools shattered the ice. It was very dry. We’d hoped that the recent rains at lower elevations might have kept the water moving up high. Apparently the precipitation was snow at 4,000 feet in elevation. Yes, it gets colder with elevation, but temperature inversions have been common lately. Moderate winds swirled the snow as Bill climbed out of sight. I considered the possibilities as he climbed—would it be more of a snow/ice mountaineering route or consistent ice? The gorge is a roll of the dice, summer or winter so I hoped this would turn out to be a good choice and go the full length. About an hour later he set up an anchor and pulled up the slack.
I started via a short vertical pitch into a narrow gully and up to a tier of thick white-yellow ice. The tiers continued to a large right facing corner. Another higher vertical section led to the belay station 150 feet from the base. Any concerns about the quality of the line evaporated. It was interesting, consistent and had a killer view.
Valley temperatures in the 30s Fahrenheit didn’t make it warm on Marcy where the ambient temperature was probably around 20. Strong winds accompanied the ascent and dropped the wind-chill to somewhere around zero degrees. Devin followed and we regrouped on the spacious terrace. An ice filled chimney (a mossy dripping mess in the summer) sat in a huge corner on the left side of the terrace—the money pitch.

Bill in the crux chimney, about 170 feet up

Bill in the crux chimney, about 170 feet up

Bill led again. Delicate strikes kept falling plates to a minimum. The wind strengthened and cleaned nearby snow covered ledges. Smaller pieces of falling ice combined with the spindrift and took flight to the south. Devin belayed while I photographed and studied the ice flows on Little Haystack. It would be a war to get to them, but a couple could be worth the effort.
It was impossible to hear anything except Devin who was only a few feet away so three tugs on the rope from Bill signaled that it was time for me to climb again. A series of awkward moves in the chimney led to another terrace. A lightly iced corner led to a committing step up and left to lower angled ice below a right facing corner. Twenty more feet led into the krummholz and into a talus cave, Bill’s man-cave. He’d found a protected nook about 30 feet deep and was belaying from a pinch-point between two pieces of talus. The 250-foot By Tooth and Claw route was up.
Two rappels later found us back at the base at 4:30 pm. Only a bushwhack out of the gorge and 8-mile walk back to the trailhead stood between a hot dinner, cup of coffee and comfortable bed. The steep climb out of the gorge was in sync with a setting sun and still-increasing winds that whipped through the pass. The previous effort of trail-breaking paid dividends during the exit; it had consolidated into a supportive trail. The best adventures begin and end in the dark and this was no exception. We arrived back at the trailhead at 9:05 pm, 15 ¾ hours after starting—about average for day trips to the gorge.


Prior Panther Gorge Explorations:

  1. Grand Central Slide (w/Mark Lowell)
  2. Grand Central Slide Descent, up the Margin Slide & Skylight Bushwhack (w/Greg Kadlecik)
  3. Marcy to Haystack Bushwhack with Great Range Traverse-Great DeRanged Traverse(w/Greg Kadlecik)
  4. Marcy East Face Circumnavigation (w/Ranger Scott van Laer)-2013 Aug 24
  5. Marcy: Ranger on the Rock-East Face Slab Exit via a nighttime climb of Haystack from the south (w/Anthony Seidita)-2013 Sep 6
  6. Haystack Slides and Haycrack Route– 4 days camping in the gorge (w/Anthony Seidita)-2014 June 1
  7. Haystack: All Things Holy (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Jul 12
  8. Marcy & Haystack: New Routes on the Agharta Wall & a Pillar on Haystack-Wreck of the Lichen Fitzgerald & For Whom the Lichen Tolls (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Aug 16
  9. Marcy: New on the Agharta Wall-CrazyDog’s Halo & Watery Grave (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Sep 27
  10. A Snowy Panther Gorge Bushwhack (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Dec
  11. Marcy: A New Ice Route – Pi Day (w/Adam Crofoot & Anthony Seidita)-2015 Mar 14
  12. Haystack: 3 New Routes in a New Area (the Ramp Wall) (w/Allison Rooney and Adam Crofoot)-2015 May 30
  13. Marcy’s Panther Den Wall: Cat on a Wet Tin Roof (w/Bill Schneider)-2015 Jun 14
  14. Rumours of War: Opening a New Area —the Huge Scoop (w/Hunter Lombardi)-2015 Jul 11
  15. New on the Feline Wall: Kitten’s Got Claws (w/Justin Thalheimer)-2015 Aug 1
  16. Not Every Trip to the Gorge is Perfect –No Route, but a Good Day (w/Bill Schneider)-2015 Aug 16
  17. Marcy: The Pride (w/Bill Schneider, Adam Crofoot)-2015 Aug 30
  18. Marcy: Promised Land (w/Dan Plumley)-2015 Sept 19
  19. Tour de Gorge—North to South Exploration with a Nighttime Climb of Marcy (w/Adam Crofoot & Allison Rooney) 2015 Nov 21
[mappress mapid=”9″]

On Mountainproject:…claw/111600381



Frankenstein Cliff, Crawford Notch NH

Solo captures Jonathan Baldassare leading “Drop Line”(WI5),at Frankenstein Cliff, Crawford Notch NH during the 23rd Annual Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest

Video by Solo, flown by Doug Millen


Flying High at the 23rd Annual MWV Ice Fest 2016

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_wp_text]Photos by Solo, Guided by Doug Millen

dmm_logo[/vc_wp_text][vc_gallery interval=”5″ images=”19555,19567,19557,19563,19562,19559,19560,19561,19556,19528″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_wp_text]

More photos and information on this event can be found here…

Drytools Kronos


Last Call


“Last Call”

FA: Peter Doucette & Travis Weil

Jan 22, 2016

WI6, M6+, 30m

Peter Doucette and Travis Weil did a what they believe is a new route on the South Face of Frankenstein Cliff, Crawford Notch NH. It is to the right of Bayard’s and Josh Hurst’s line “Strippers” and Left of Wrath of the Valkyries.

It was first tried by Bayard Russell last year. Bayard and Matt Ritter tried it again, with reports of some pretty proud whippers on the pins up there. 

It was a cool technical ice climb, sustained throughout”

It formed differently this year and there was a mixed sequence leading left to an ice exit through a thin curtain. “It was a wild pull over the lip with an important heel hook between two small pillars under the roof”.

A stack of stubbies in thin ice up to the middle of the climb gets you started. 2 pins right from previous attempts protect the next section. The pins are 12 and 15 feet to the right when you pull the crux. There is a decent thread under the roof that was the key to protecting the route. A heel hook gives you time to get established on and above the curtain.

“We named it “Last Call” to go with the Indecent Exposure, Cocaine, Nosebleed, Strippers, Pole Dance themes previously established in the area. It was a cool technical ice climb, sustained throughout”- Peter

It has been a tough week for any routes that get sun. Frankenstein’s South Face went from really good, to non existent in a weeks time.

Information & photos provided by,

Peter Doucette
AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide
[email protected]


The South Face of Frankenstein Cliff  1-22-16


The lower half of the climb


Looking Down the Climb


Time to clean the gear

[mappress mapid=”7″]

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