The Boston Mountaineering Committee will offer the 2019 Ice Climbing Program this winter. This program teaches waterfall ice climbing and technical mountaineering skills. Prospective students should have rock climbing and winter sports experience. Please attend a mandatory free informational lecture at Arc’Teryx Newbury Street in Boston on Monday, December 3rd at 7 pm (2nd and 3rd lectures for admitted students only on Jan 7th and Feb 4th). The program will be held in the White Mountains on Jan 25-27 and Feb 8-10. Cost is $315 (members) or $375 (non-members). Info: www.amcbostonclimbers.com or [email protected]
An October ascent of the Black Dike is rare, but it is just as rare to find a good balance in your life. Family, work and following your passions. The Doucette / Burhardt family is right on track. After a late night speaking event and the morning logistics of two young children, Peter and Majka still managed to pull off the coveted first ascent of the Black Dike this season. A 10am start “delivered the goods” for them. Another experienced party with an earlier start, backed off the climb that morning. The Black Dike is not in by normal standards and the little window that was there has passed. The ascent is a testament to their ability and balance in their lives.
Find out more on Majka from her website www.majkaburhardt.com/
Photo by Peter Doucette, Mountain Sense Guides
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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
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!
Ian Osteyee, owner of Adirondack Mountain Guides says, “Everything is so fat; it’s all still there.” The back side of Chapel Pond and the North Face of Pitchoff are both areas that still have ice to climb. Routes like “Chouinard’s Gully”, “Crystal Ice Tower”, and “Tendonitis” are still in. Osteyee did caution climbers about crossing Chapel Pond though, after this warm spell, saying, “areas next to the shoreline may be open or have thin ice where you could break through.” So, even if temps drop to zero, people should check ice thickness before just walking across to climbs on the other side of the pond.
Mountain guide and owner of Alpine Logic, Silas Rossi – “I’m as close to 100% as I can possibly be that there won’t be any ice to climb in the Catskills for the rest of the season. Time to rock climb in the Gunks!”
The White Mountains:
Mountain guide at Northeast Mountaineering, Matty Bowman – “I’m finding ice quality to be very mixed. In places it’s building, like early season, and other spots, it’s dry, brittle and rotten. The bottom of Parasol ice was plastic, while the top was brittle, with lots of channeling from the thaw.”
“Huntington was in good condition. We found good ice on the first pitch of Pinnacle and great snow climbing up higher. Lots of water channeling on the upper pitches, including some thin eggshell sections over running water and large holes from the thaw. Other gullies looked good. We saw parties in Damnation, Odell’s, etc.”
“”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. We had a great mountaineering course this week; here are daughter Brandi and mother Melissa descending the East Face snowfields. We glissaded to treeline. I’ve got some BIG plans for the rockpile these few fleeting weeks: how’s about you?” – IMCS, Facebook
“This was unlike any other Feb thaws in that it was a full re-set in most areas,” said Doucette, owner of MountainSense Guides in New Hampshire, who described the damage done due to the prolonged warm spell. ““Dracula” and “Standard,” some of the last to go, were not what I would call a safe bet these last few days.” But, he added, “Now it’s cooling off again, I’d go for supported features at elevation on cooler aspects – north and east-facing.” Now that it’s March, the sun will have increasing effect and that‘s something climbers need to keep in mind, emphasized Doucette.
Doucette encouraged people to look at Mount Washington, Smuggs and Cannon as probably the best bets aside from a few north-facing crags for a while. “If folks are mixed climbing, I’d bring a full rock rack and expect to anchor with that, or gun for the trees! There may also be a lot of verglas in cracks, so favoring stoppers, pins, and hexes over cams for their reliability. Any times conditions change rapidlym you have to be that much more prepared for the unexpected.”
Conditions were rough last weekend in Smuggler’s Notch. The rain and 50 degree temperatures this week has that area basically starting over, and it will mostly be dependent on whatever forms in the coming cold snap.
Lake Willoughby flows are hurting, to say the least. Parts of “Mindbender,” WI5+, lay in the ditch by the road Sunday morning. But, surprisingly by early Tuesday morning, things were starting to look exciting as a couple lines that rarely form, like “Five Musketeers” and “Aurora,” had come in overnight with the cooler temps and lots of water flow. Unfortunately, they fell down just as quickly as the strong morning sun came over Mount Pisgah, and baked the dark rock. By that afternoon, the thermometer was at 42F, and I listened to ice and rockfall echoing loudly as I safely skied the woods on Mt. Hor across the valley.
While there is some ice hanging around still on upper parts of Willoughby routes, it’s all detached and dangerous. After temps drop in the next day or two, who knows? Some cool stuff could form quickly again. If you decide to head there, bring your rock rack, all of your stubbies and a good dose of courage. – Alden Pellett
Found winter…after a 13 hour drive and lots of rain in southern Quebec. Plenty of time to read, and by read I mean decipher the French guidebook. A post shared by Keith Sidle (@capt_crabwalker) on
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.
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.
Some Information from Around the Web:
Be careful out there – February 24, 2017
February 27, 2017
Today I shared a rope with @klocktower on Pinnacle Gully, Huntington Ravine. #nemguides #findingwinter #whitemountains #mountwashington #huntingtonravine #tuckermanravine #iceclimbing #northeastice #optoutside #getoutsidenh #mountainstrong #rei1440project #igersnh #petzlgram
A post shared by mattybowman (@mattybowman) on
February 28, 2017
Usually in February we see photos similar to this one, only built from ice screws or threads. Seems pretty strange to be climbing warm, dry rock in February. In the North East. Sun’s out, gun’s out I guess. I hate climate change. Winter please come back. #hirecertifiedguides #seekqualifiedinstruction #raggedmountainguides #traprock #climbct
A post shared by Ragged Mountain Guides (@matt_shove) on
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.
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 Mountaineer , Rock 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.
– By Alden PellettMy leg plunges through the crust into the waist-deep snow again. I fight to keep my balance on the slope but find myself in an embarrassing situation: my pack pulling me over backwards, my arms flailing, I am wallowing upside down and swimming in a heavy layer of powder. It’s not my first rodeo post-holing up a steep approach to ice climb in Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont, but this time my pack feels three times heavier than usual. It’s the start of a new year, and like many people traditionally do, I had my New Year’s resolution. I resolved right then and there, I needed to lose some of this weight.
Unless you’re gearing up for a big objective in the Himalaya, the key to success with this gear-intensive sport here in New England often means keeping things as light as possible.
So, just because you’re climbing a two to three pitch route at the local crag doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother keeping the weight off. NEice talked with some of the top guides in the region to hear some of their insights. We’ve gathered a list of tips and tech stuff that hopefully helps you with your own climbing resolutions this year.
A week ago, I stood with IFMGA guide Silas Rossi, owner of Alpine-Logic in New Paltz, N.Y., below “Mindbender”, WI5+, at Lake Willoughby. We peered up at the unrelenting steepness and started getting ready to swap leads up some fairly mean-looking terrain. If there is one place in the Northeast that gets you sweating just thinking about how heavy your rack is, it’s there.
With that in mind, Silas offers up this bit of advice: “Do more with less. A lot of people carry too much on their harness. Three lockers, a belay plate, a cord, and a 4′ runner. A prussic loop and your rack and draws should suffice most of the time.”
I caught up with another one of the strongest climbers and guides in the East, IFMGA guide and Piolet D’Or-nominee Kevin Mahoney to get his take on how to improve on my slimming New Year’s resolution. When it comes to mixed terrain and keeping it light, Mahoney says to go for the Ultralight BD cams. When on ice, he explained, he pares things down even further by sizing down screws and carrying more of the short 10cm rigs.
AMGA Rock Instructor and Assistant Alpine Guide, Matt Shove, who runs Ragged Mountain Guides in Plainville, Conn., echoes Mahoney and Rossi, recommending the lightest in new carabiners and slings. To paraphrase Matt, if you’re carrying around ten-year-old carabiners, it’s time to upgrade. Matt is also pretty enthusiastic about one of his favorite lightweight tools, the J Snare. “It’s the lightest ‘V’ thread tool. There are no sharp points, so it won’t shred your pack, your expensive belay parka, or more importantly, your lunch.“ In fact, we at NEIce are witnessing many guides putting this baby on their racks this winter!
Perhaps Rossi sums it up best, “Update to modern gear, everything from carabiners, runners, screws, clothing, boots, crampons.” Today’s new equipment, he says, “…keeps getting lighter and lighter.”
LIGHTEN UP FOR THE NEW YEAR
Petzl Laser Speed Light screws: These babies are sharp! They bite into ice ridiculously fast and weigh next to nothing. They cost more than others but on a long pitch or route, the weight savings is really a game changer. Some of our test guides say they don’t seem as durable over time as the Black Diamond’s Turbo Express screw, but for ‘fast and light’, there is really no substitute.
ALL TIED UP?
Mammut Twilight 7.5mm ropes: Got the feeling that your rope is trying to pull you off the climb? At 38 grams per meter, you’ll shave some real pounds off the trek towards that big route with the latest in skinny ropes. At times on some difficult ice leads, I’ve almost forgotten I have these tied to me.
Beal makes an even skinnier set of ropes: their Gully 7.3 Unicore ropes. Regardless of the brand, these thinner models thread nicely into the ice for rappels, leave no trace, and make carrying extra cordage up a route for descents almost obsolete.
Patagonia Galvanized pants: Superlight with all the features an ice climber needs including suspenders. NEIce founder and longtime gear tester Doug Millen says he’s run these pants all over the White Mountains this season already. From soloing long easy routes to beating them through deep snow approaches, they’ve performed for him, no complaints.
KEEP THE STOKE HOT
Stanley Adventure Stainless Steel 17 oz. vacuum bottle: Personally, this is one tool I won’t ever go without on a cold day of ice climbing. At under a pound dry weight, I bring it up anything longer than a single pitch. A good cup of hot honeyed ginger tea before leading up a steep pitch is worth its weight and this is a sweet rig that takes a beating. Stanley also offers larger sizes but this fits right in my ruck alongside my puffy belay parka.
LOCK IT DOWN
Lightweight carabiners: There’s so many now that it’s hard to pick just one brand. Petzl’s Attache’ locking carabiner is a popular one, and at just 56 grams, it’s a keeper. Pair one of those with Mammut’s Wall microlocks (47 grams) for safe clip-in points at the belays and you might start seeing the slim results in the mirror. DMM also offers a super light version: The Sentinel MS locker ticks in at 54 grams. Like I said, there’s a lot of choice out there. For this category, it won’t hurt to take a trip to your local gear store and watch the pounds melt off your rack.
Petzl Attache’ locker
DMM Sentinel HMS locker
Alden Pellett, Photographer
Merry Christmas to All
This has been the best start to an Ice Climbing Season in recent memory. Seems like most climbers have been “nice” this year. Thank you Santa!
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.
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
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.
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:
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.”
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.”
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.
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:
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 http://www.cooscountynh.us/planning-board. 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
John Scarinza, Chair
375 Randolph Hill Rd.
Randolph, NH 03593
Fred King, Vice Chair
PO Box 146
Colebrook, NH 03576
1165 Lost Nation Road
Groveton, NH 03582
PO Box 121
Errol, NH 03579
111 Munn Rd.
Colebrook, NH 03576
45 Alpine St.
Gorham, NH 03581
597 Ingerson Road
Jefferson, NH 03583
PO Box 10
West Stewartstown, NH 03597
Rep. Leon Rideout
28 Causeway Street
Lancaster, NH 03584
7 Grandview Drive
Lancaster, NH 03584
27 Cambridge Street
Berlin, NH 03583