NEice takes a deep look at Ice Screws. What you need to know.
In the past two seasons, Bunnell has been quietly ticking off some of the region’s hard traditional classics and has been on a tear recently.
Kevin MacKenzie, aka “MudRat” of www.adirondackmountaineering.com gives us a tour of “Apex Predator” in the remote Panther Gorge
A Climber’s Guide
by Alden Pellett
I opened the door to the sound of howling wind, blasting horizontally in front of the cabin loaded with fresh snow that felt like sandpaper on my face. The thought of ice climbing in this harsh below-zero weather made my gut turn. I closed the door, turning to my climbing partner Ryan, “We’re going to need more hot tea.”
For us, that was an early experience on the road to discovering the ice climbing potential in Newfoundland. We had arrived in mid-January that year, learning the hard way by enduring a long sub-zero cold snap with nasty winds that convinced us that it’s better to go later in the season. Before we left on the trip, Joe Terravecchia, one of the earliest pioneers of ice climbing in Newfoundland and whose slide show on climbing in the area had whet our appetites, had not offered up much beta, leaving us to discover what we could as we went.
“The striking Cholesterol Wall, an intimidating steep rock shield often covered in overhanging fat-like ice blobs”
Motivated by those tales of huge remote ice climbs, my friend Ryan Stefiuk and I had piled all of our climbing gear into my rig and headed out from Vermont. We drove out across Maine, through New Brunswick, and out to the tip of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. There, in North Sydney, as we drove onto the massive overnight ferry late in the evening, a ferry worker motioned us forward as we followed the line of heavily loaded semi-trucks down into the belly of the beast. We awoke the next morning in the upper deck to the sound of ship engines rumbling as we arrived in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, relieved that we hadn’t experienced one of the legendary boat-tossing, vomit-inducing, heavy sea crossings the route can occasionally produce.
Hunting down where to ice climb in Newfoundland has never been easy. Information on first ascents and route beta has always been difficult to get from previously closemouthed visitors who were possibly hoping to keep the area quiet, to keep potential first ascents to themselves, and to maintain a sense of adventure for others, leaving other first-timers feeling more like they were on an expedition. In fact, this tight-lipped ethic has led to more than one climbing team declaring first ascents, only to find that the routes had been climbed years earlier.
On that first trip ten years ago, Ryan and I eventually found our way to the coastal town of Rocky Harbour. Along the way, the scenic windswept coastal lands scattered with stunted spruce trees that sprouted branches growing only on the downwind side hinted at severe weather. One highway sign along the way warned drivers of poor visibility and dangerous winds over 100 kilometers per hour.
Arriving there in the small fishing village near Gros Morne National Park, we soon learned that the prime area in the region, full of the huge classic ice climbs we had dreamed of, was Ten Mile Pond.
This deep freshwater fjord just outside of Rocky Harbour is home to dozens of big classic winter routes of world-class quality, from 600 feet long to near-Alaskan proportions of 2000 feet in length – many of which have only seen one ascent. Each of these stunning routes is every bit as classic as Quebec’s legendary 800-foot La Pomme D’ Or (WI5) or Polar Circus (WI5) in the Canadian Rockies.
The area is also home to the striking Cholesterol Wall, an intimidating steep rock shield often covered in overhanging fat-like ice blobs. The fat theme plays out on routes with names like Fat of the Land and Tundering Lard, both WI5+ and over 800 feet tall.
Thanks to a relatively accessible location with good comfortable lodging nearby and very friendly locals, this beautiful backcountry destination should eventually be on every serious ice climber’s tick list.
To help open the door for NEIce readers to find their way to this incredible spot, and actually enjoy the weather instead of fighting it, we’ve compiled some past stories and photos along with some good beta.
Stories on Newfoundland Ice Climbing:
Dreamline (WI6+, 1,260′) February 21, 2017 Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada Joe Terravecchia,Will Mayo and Anna Pfaff climbed a new, and spectacular line today, “Dreamline” (WI6+, 1,260′). Dreamline is a spray ice climb to the right of The Pissing Mare Waterfall on Western Brook Pond. Joe and Casey Shaw have been dreaming of, and eyeing this line since 1997, waiting […]
A Trip Report by Ryan Stefiuk – bigfootmountainguides.com The MV (marine vessel) Leif Ericson crunches through sea ice in the Cabot Strait. The ship’s hull groans and 2-3 meter thick ice buckles underneath. Cracks in the ice expose the intimidating midnight blue waters of the North Atlantic. I see the long low hills of the […]
by Ryan Stefiuk I buried my face inside my puffy coat as Andre’s snowmobile lurched into motion. The rubber tread beneath us occasionally slipped on the thick black tiles of ice as we sped along the pond. To my right, Alden and Walt were cruising along, closer to the shoreline. The Cholesterol Wall, looming just […]
Newfoundland Ice by Michael Wejchert “Walt Nichol, man of few understandable words, slows the snowmobile to a stop about twenty feet form my battered Toyota Corolla and I jump out. For the third time in as many days, Alden Pellett, Ryan Stefiuk and I thank Walt and step out of his cedar sleigh. We’ve all […]
How to Get There:
The best and cheapest way to get to Newfoundland is really to drive your own car. Yes, it’s a long drive!
Otherwise, fly into St. John, NL, and either rent a car there (A nine-hour drive to Rocky Harbour) or arrange an additional flight to Deer Lake, NL, where you can rent a car from any one of the major rental agencies. From there, Rocky Harbour is just an hour away.
If you are coming from most areas of the Northeast, get yourself to Bangor, Maine. From here, it is 550 miles out to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. From Bangor, take Maine State Rte. 9 across the southern part of the state. Cross the Canadian border to follow New Brunswick Rte. 1E (NB-1E) nearing the Bay of Fundy and eventually through Saint John, where the road heads more inland. Near River Glade, merge onto the Trans-Canada Hwy (NB-2E) and continue past Moncton, NB, where the highway starts heading more southerly finally reaching Nova Scotia, where it becomes NS104E. Eventually, the road becomes NS105E. Follow signs for Trans-Canada Highway/Cheticamp/Baddeck/Sydney. In North Sydney, turn right onto Orangedale Road (signs for Marble Mountain/Lona). Turn left onto Portage Road, then turn right onto NS-223 E (signs for Lona/Grand Narrows/North Sydney). Finally, continue onto Seaview Drive/NS-305 N. Once you are in the parking area for the ferry, you will find a terminal with bathrooms. Be prepared for a long wait if seas are rough. It is best to buy your tickets well in advance. You should arrive at least three hours before departure time.
Board the ferry for an overnight journey to Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. Get your tickets and find the schedule and other information here: https://www.marineatlantic.ca/en/plan-your-travel/ferry-rates/
The Marine Atlantic ferry has overnight cabins with beds and a bathroom/shower, or you can go cheaper and opt for one of the less private bunkbeds. There is a cafeteria serving decent dinners and breakfasts on board. Note that you are not allowed to return to your car in the hold during the voyage, so bring whatever you need up top with you.
Once in Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, get on Trans-Canada Hwy/NL-1 E from Caribou Road and High Street. Continue through Corner Brook to Deer Lake. In Deer Lake, take NL-430 N eventually coming to views of the ocean in East Arm, fifteen minutes away from Rocky Harbour.
It’s possible to ski in and pitch camp by the fjord if you want. It’s been done, but why suffer? It’s much more enjoyable staying in town and hiring a local person to snowmobile you in for an early start and back out at the end of the day where you can have a shower, a cold beer, and a hot meal after climbing all day. Once in the fjord, the hard part will be deciding which of more than a dozen world-class routes to do that day. One could spend two weeks climbing in Ten Mile and still be left with plenty more to do on your next visit. If you are looking to tick off a first ascent here – good luck! Climbers have been quietly coming here for over twenty-five years. To quote an early first-ascensionist, “We climbed that place silly!” But, if you find an unlikely challenging line that catches your eye, give it a try! You just might get lucky. The ethic established at Ten Mile Pond and other fjords in the region is one of traditional ground-up climbing with no bolting.
Where to Stay:
On the return trip, we have found it nice timing after leaving the ferry behind, to have dinner and stay in the small town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
In Rocky Harbour, we love Gros Morne Cabins. Not too fancy, comfortable, cozy, and an easy walk to the store for beer, food, etc. Kitchen, stove, oven, refrigerator, shower, and wifi. http://grosmornecabins.ca/
When to Go:
Early January can be windy and frigid. For longer days, more ice, and better overall conditions, go in February into early March. It’s mandatory for the inland fjord of Ten Mile Pond to be frozen in order to facilitate easy snowmobile or ski access without having to go over the top of Gros Morne Mountain. Once on the shore of the fjord, it’s generally only a thirty- to forty-minute approach uphill with snowshoes or on frozen neve if conditions are perfect. Weather is a serious topic in Newfoundland. Whiteout snowstorms can sneak up on unsuspecting visitors. Local residents keep close tabs on the forecast, often planning their travels to town around it. If what the locals call “dirty” weather is coming, it’s best to stay close to home or indoors.
There is actually usable cell service at the west end of Ten Mile Pond, so you can call if needed. There is excellent cross-country ski touring and backcountry skiing to be had throughout the region. Ice fishing is a popular local activity along with snowmobiling.
Smaller routes can be found everywhere around the region. Oceanside ice climbing on the cliffs at Cox’s Cove makes an excellent half-day adventure. Be sure to go at low tide.
A Flight along the Big Wall of Mt. Pisgah, Lake Willoughby VT. by “Angel Eyes”. #northeastice
Just six years ago, Tyler Kempney, 27, from Carthage, New York, started climbing rock, learning the basics here in the Northeast. Now he’s on the UIAA U.S. World Cup Men’s Ice Climbing team, living in Colorado and just recently sent M15. NEice had a chat with him.
Tyler, where are you from?
I am from the small town of Carthage, New York.
How did you get into climbing?
I have always wanted to do it! But I really began climbing at Houghton College in 2012, where I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Outdoor Recreation.
What’re your least favorite foods?
Olives. But, I feel like I should acquire their taste before I go on my trip to Italy.
Any snacks you just can’t avoid but know you should? 😊
I eat all the snacks and never look back. Ha,ha.
Favorite food while climbing?
Rock climbing: Donuts. Ice and mixed climbing: Anything warm. Usually miso soup… and donuts.
Any favorite tunes to get psyched for climbing?
Hip hop, rap, or heavy metal. I have been digging Wu Tang, Run the Jewels, Rage Against the Machine and Tool lately.
What is your favorite route in the Northeast?
Paradigm Shift, WI5, M8, at Snake Mountain, Vermont.
What really motivates you to climb hard?
I am honestly mostly motivated by aesthetics and the love of movement. This love for difficult movement tends to encourage me to pursue hard ice and mixed climbing. And it seems most of the beautiful lines are either long ice smears or steep mixed lines that lead to an ice dagger. So I am motivated to climb hard out of necessity! haha
What person has had the biggest influence in your climbing?
Through mentorship; Mikael Williams.
Through inspiration; Ian Osteyee, Josh Warton, and Will Gadd.
You recently sent America’s hardest mixed route, Saphira, M15-, in Vail. Any tips on getting strong for mixed climbing?
My favorite way to train for big roof routes like Saphira, is with gymnastic rings. And big traversing routes also require a good deal of figure 4 training.
What are you using for gear these days?
Tools: CASSIN X-Dreams (aka the greatest tool ever made).
Crampons: CASSIN Bladerunners.
Boots: SCARPA Phantom Tech for ice and mixed, SCARPA Rebel Ice for hard mixed and drytooling.
Other stuff: CAMP Storm Helmet, CAMP Alpine Flash Harness, Camp Nano Carabiners, Petzl or BD screws, Wild Country Friends, DMM Dragons, DMM nuts, any trustworthy thin rope.
Soft goods: Psyched on NW Alpine! They are a small US based company that makes all of their products in Oregon. I try to wear as much of their product as I can to help support a great company. For gloves, I find that the CAMP Gecko Hot has been my all-time favorite for ice and mixed.
In 2017, I went to Ouray Ice Festival and watched the competition and from then on I knew I wanted to compete. It looked so fun! Like America Ninja Warrior with ice tools. So I signed up for the 2018 Ouray Ice Fest Competition and finished in 5th place for the Men’s category right behind Will Gadd! I didn’t have any proper training and tried it “off the couch.” Then I thought, “What could I do if I actually trained?”
The American Alpine Club announced that the Ice Climbing World Cup Finals would be in Denver, only 30 minutes from where I currently live. A few of my friends applied to be on the team and we all began training together. This past August, my friends and I found ourselves driving down to Ouray just to go dry tooling. The thought of dry tooling in the summer was funny to me, and it was my first time purely drytooling rather than ice or mixed climbing. But climbing and hanging out with the other competitors was such a great time, I decided to apply for the US team. I honestly just thought it would be a great opportunity to see the world!
As for the team, the US team is still very young. There are a couple members that have competed for a few years, but it isn’t until this year that we have all come together to act as a team. Kendra Stritch, the USA team manager, has been competing for 6 years and has been working with the American Alpine Club to help develop an actual US World Cup team. In years past, it was more like a few individuals representing the US on their own.
Through the persistence of a few team members, we are all really becoming a close-knit team! Our conversations are laced with inside jokes amidst the training and travel plans, and we all get along so well. It truly is a great group of people to help represent the US ice climbing community.
Was learning to ice climb in the Northeast instead of out West important in your skill set?
Yes. In my opinion, the North East will prepare you for ice anywhere out West. But the ice out West won’t prepare you for the ice in the North East. It’s the scrappy nature of the climbs, the tough weather conditions, and the raw amount of high-quality ice in the East. You can’t really get that skill set out here in Colorado. You can become a good dry-tooler for sure. But it would take much longer to become a good ice climber. Here the ice lines are farther apart from one another, there is avalanche danger, and the ice tends to have less water content. Yes we have places like Ouray, Bozeman and Cody. But they are somewhere between six and ten hours away from Boulder, Colorado. That type of drive would get you ANYWHERE out East.
Do you think it’s important for competitors to be able to ice climb?
Unfortunately, no. But for me, yes! I compete because it provides me the opportunity to travel to new places and experience ice in different regions of the world. Plus, ice climbing is my favorite form of climbing.
What’s your most excellent adventure(climbing trip) so far?
The first ascent of Conditional Love on Longs Peak. That route is so aesthetic, rare, and climbed so beautifully, that I climbed it 4 times this season!
What’s on your tick list? – One northeastern route too, please. 😊
Goals this winter: Tick as many of the U.S. test-piece mixed climbs as possible and get in as much ice as possible. I also have a few big objectives that are pretty hush-hush.
Goal this weekend in Bozeman: Inglorious Bastards M12 and House of Flying Daggers M13
Big goal out East: The Fecalator, an M10 trade route, in the Adirondacks. TOP of the list. It always has been. Plus, I have never ice climbed at Lake Willoughby or anywhere in New Hampshire. So my ticklist is HUGE for the Northeast.)
Big goal for drytooling: A Line Above the Sky, D15, in Italy.
Check out a video of Kempney on the F.A. of Conditional Love, WI5+, M5R, on Long’s Peak.
Check out his Instagram feed at tkemp315.
Peter Doucette of Mountain Sense Guides and Mike Houser racing the sun on the Bragg-Pheasant / Frankensteins South Face, Crawford Notch NH
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