Shawn Bunnell and Phil Schuld climbing “Called On Account Of Rains” IV 5+ (M4 R) on a bluebird day at Lake Willoughby VT
Poke-O-Moonshine – A flight by “Angel Eyes” 12.01.18
We had some eyes on the condition of two early season prizes in on Wednesday the 8th! A close look at Pinnacle Gully revealed some unconsolidated and thin, but hopeful, frost and ice. No rock pro options that morning led to a ‘No Go’, but with temperatures remaining frigid, it may be climbable soon! I’m sure the motivated will head into Huntington Ravine this weekend.
No doubt Cannon Cliff will get a close inspection as well. We have a ‘from-the-road zoom in’ to the dike area and Fafnir. Who will be enticed to take a walk up and peer around the corner?
In Vermont, it’s currently snowing on the higher peaks and I know a few climbers who only need a millimeter of ice on the cliffs of Smuggler’s Notch to make it go.
A look at our Instagram feed shows crampons to ice! @willclimbz posted a sweet pic of Slide 1 on Whiteface in ‘Thin But In’ conditions. Right on!
We certainly had some warm temperatures in October and my usual Halloween ice was far from happening this year. Now temperatures are remaining below freezing up high for a few days leading into the weekend. Finally! Hope to see some great photos and reports of ascents coming in. Have a great weekend!
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.
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!
Winter is HERE! Big Time.
A few photos that caught my eye this week.
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.
More Weather links here: https://www.neice.com/weather/
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
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
More on Peter Doucette, and The Black Dike
March 17, 2016
Harvard Cabin Mountaineers,
In celebration, The white mountains have been turned green! But, don’t worry, there is still plenty of skiing and climbing to be had before we let all the ice fall down. Sure, it’s been raining like the Emerald Isle, but with what little luck we have had this season we are psyched for this weekend’s forecast – SUNNY AND COLD! This might be the last time, if not the first time, you will have felt ol’ jack frost all Winter. So, why not try your luck at a chance for thescreaming barfies? Come defy the winter that wasn’t, grab the fat bastard and file away a seasons worth of anticipation, come climb and ski some of the last snow and ice remaining in the northeast.
With superfluous amounts of water draining from the mountain along with plummeting temps, you might even consider scratching around a buttress or two this weekend. This will be a fun few days on the mountain. Right now, it looks like we could have a 72+ hour reprieve from the persistent melt-out we’ve been dealing with over the last two weeks. We could even pick-up a few inches of snow over the next couple of days, which would help to cover up all of the green decorations.
Snow and Ice Conditions
- O’Dell, Pinnacle – In
- South, Escape, Yale/Harvard – Out
- Damnation, North – Possible with Re-Freeze, but not recommended
With the low snowfall this season and above normal temperatures, Trails on Mt. Washington look like you might expect in May. Tread-way on the lower 1/3’rd of the Tuckerman Ravine trail between the trail-head and Hermit Lake is comprised of mostly mud and rock.
The remaining 2/3’rds is mostly melting ice and snow. TRACTION IS REQUIRED! The ice has become much more manageable in recent days as temps have soared. This is an improvement over the nearly bullet-proof and contiguous sheet of protectable ice that has made the Tux trail a viable water ice adventure for most of March. No exaggeration, V-Thread practice was possible on the the Tux trail some weeks. Think I’m kidding? A couple of weeks ago, Snow Rangers felt the need to perform technical lowers of snow machines in order to get them safely back to their summer berths. It’s been a tough winter, but Spring has sprung and conditions are improving as they degrade. Come enjoy what remains!
The Huntington Fire Road is mostly snow covered and should be so through the weekend and beyond. The fan hasn’t really changed too much from what is has been most of the season. Travel towards your gully of choice remains mostly summer like. Snowfields do still exists on the upper portions of approaches to O’Dell, Pinnacle, Central, and the Yale Buttress.
As far as ice conditions – O’dell and Pinnacle are hanging tough. Ice/snow above the first pitch of Pinnacle has really taken a beating in the last few rain events. There are climber-sized holes in the snow and ice caused by excessive water draining on-top of the ice during monsoon-like events. With the potential for new snow fall tonight, Friday, and Sunday, I would be mindful of possible snow-bridging that could occur in the gully, particularly above initial steep-ice pitch. Slipping into a water-fall thanks to a hidden manhole could be unpleasant.
Portions of Pinnacle above the main ice flow will become more difficult to protect over the next two weeks. Thankfully, I believe melting will slow significantly over the weekend. If you were hoping to climb Pinnacle before the season is out, I would consider doing so in the next week.
Thanks to Eric Winter and Jake Kenealy for the great photos taken earlier today in Pinnacle. Eric and Jake live and work in Vermont and are totally stoked for skiing and climbing in the East. Sure hope to see more of these guys in the future!
While I’m not definitely not one that welcomes the crowds that come with a spring snowpack, we are definitely in the period of persistent isothermic snow. In other words, the spring corn cycles have begun. Besides the obvious ski lines over in Tuckerman Ravine, there are some manageable turns to be earned in Huntington Ravine at the moment. The forecast return of freezing temps might keep skiers out of the steeps this weekend, but once we begin to warm up again the experienced ski mountaineer might find some worthy turns in the upper stretches of O’Dell, South, and maybe Escape. None of which, are offering top-bottom skiing, unfortunately. As always, there are plenty of turns high-up on the summit cone, but don’t expect to make it down to the ravines without first removing your skis. Better luck next year.
On Wednesday (March 16th), I had the pleasure of making a very vegetated approach into Diagonal Gully (Huntington) for a very nice snow climb followed by a fantastic ski descent. It certainly wasn’t the best conditions I’ve ever experienced in Diagonal, but it skied about the best I can remember as a result of the stable snowpack. It was quite pleasant to charge hard! I was skiing with Sarah, Hermit Lake Caretaker, a super stoked skier and climber! We are looking forward to having Sarah in the drainage again next winter again, for sure!
After some tight turns in Diagonal, it was time to boot back up to the ridge and head over the Tuckerman for a surprise two-ravine day. I wasn’t sure it would happen this season, citing mountains condition and motivation problems. We considered dropping into Right Gully, which has been fun this season, but it never really filled-in the way it normally does. As Sarah pointed-out as we wandered across the Alpine Garden, “Skiing Right Gully would be like voting for Trump; Doing so probably wouldn’t effect the election, but it would be a crappy thing to do.” Coincidentally, we decided to head over to LEFT Gully, where we launched off the top and skied some truly hero snow all the way to the mouth of the ravine. That run alone seemed to make-up for an extremely painful and frustrating season. Not only that, it put a the wrapper on a fantastic day on the mountain! I predict we have only a few more similar days left in the season. It’s already skiing like May, so you better hurry-up and get here. Come prepared and stay safe! Keep an eye on the avy report for daily condition reports.
Welcome Back Ted Carman, Cabin Visionary
As a reminder, Ted Carman will be spending the weekend (March 19 & 20) with everyone at the Harvard Cabin. In no uncertain terms, Ted is the Father of the Harvard Cabin. He built the place. He got the permission, he did the fund-raising, he had the itch that had to be scratched. He drew up the plans, literally, in his dorm room. He then went on to recruit volunteer labor and got the supplies uphill. Not bad for a college kid. Following his time as a Naval Officer, Ted went on to a career in non-profit community development. It’s no surprise that the construction of the Harvard Cabin is still listed on his CV.
I was hoping the mountain would be more winter-like for Ted’s return. Luckily, it does seem like the forecast calls for the most winter-like weather we’ve seen in weeks. You can help fill-in the gaps by bringing along a rope, rack, a partner, and your love for the Harvard Cabin. Please consider coming up and spending the weekend with Ted. If you can’t make the overnight but are on the mountain – Please stop-in and introduce yourself to the guy we all owe a great deal of gratitude, if you don’t mind my saying. As you might have guessed, he’s a pretty interesting and lively fellow. Click Here for the complete story of how the cabin came to be.
Hope to see you this weekend,
Harvard Cabin Caretaker
NOTE – Harvard Cabin is not affiliated with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Harvard Cabin is maintained by Harvard Mountaineering Club for use by the general public. The cabin is operated under a special-use permit granted by the USDA Forest Service. Cabin space and tent-sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis between December 1st and March 31st each year. Specific instructions for staying at the cabin can be found online at http://www.