Harvard Cabin Report 3-17-16

March 17, 2016

Harvard Cabin Mountaineers,

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

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!

Pinnacle Gully - March 16, 2016 - Click to Enlarge

Pinnacle Gully – March 16, 2016 – Click to Enlarge

Spring Skiing

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.

Tuckerman Ravine 3-17-16 / Photo by Jake Kenealy

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,

Rich Palatino

Harvard Cabin Caretaker


Rich and Marcia – Cabin Caretakers 2015/16

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.HarvardMountaineering.org/cabin

Harvard Cabin Report 3-3-16

March 3, 2016

The Harvard Cabin, Huntington Ravine, Mt. Washington NH

Harvard Cabin Mountaineers,

How’s everybody doing? I’m sure you’re all equally as frustrated with the yoyo-like weather we’ve been dealing with here in eastern North America. It seems like there have been more storms in Texas this winter then here in New Hampshire. No, that wasn’t a political statement, but damn near reality. But, before you just give up and wait for the warm, dry rock to return let me just say; While snow and trail conditions are stuck in December, the ice conditions in Huntington Ravine are already looking like April. The ice climbing right now is phenomenal! No sense in waiting for it to get better, don’t take the chance. Not this year.

Trust me when I say it, the climbing is really good right now. So much so, we’ve been having tons of fun swinging tools in the “back yard”. The lack of snow this season might have a lot to do with my increased joy and pleasure in climbing waterfall ice. Also, I realized I can stop waiting for the fan to “fill-in”. Three quarters through the season, it’s probably not happening this year! But, If not for the lack of snow or deciding not to be lazy, it could simply be the great ice conditions that have gotten me into steep terrainwithout my skis!

Pinnacle is so fat and plasticky right now, that “stick, stick, kick, kick” is as joyful and efficient as skiing a thousand feet of beautifully linked powder turns. My point is I think you should come to Huntington Ravine soon. More importantly, you should spend some time at the Harvard Cabin! It’s good up here!

As odd as it may sound, we just enjoyed our first weather event of the 2015-2016 season that I would categorize as a snow storm. Tuesday into WednesdayMt. Washington collected about 8″ (20cm) of new snow. At times, it fell with the intensity of the multiple super-soaker type events we’ve dealt with this season. It was hope-inducing for sure. We dodged rain for just enough time, that I was able to make it to Hermit Lake for a top-to-bottom run on the Sherburne Ski Trail, my first of the season! It was thick and sticky and not so much fun for making turns, but the snow was over our boot-tops and a desperate bunch of powder-hungry skiers and riders were happy just believing winter was happening, even if it was just for a moment. By the time we made it to Pinkham, precipitation began to switch over to snow/rain mix. A couple of hours later temperatures plummeted, winds began to rage, and the heavy, wet, tracked-out Sherburne would become an ugly two-miles of nasty, frozen mashed potatoes.

Snow and Ice Conditions

In case my intro didn’t make things obvious, the ice is in and well-worth climbing even if the approaches are less then ideal. Without being crass, travel through the “bowels” of the ravine can be described accordingly. Still, things have much improved. Despite still following the summer hiking trail for much of the way, the trail is well-packed. Some pretty dense, wet-slab debris that cleared out all gullies during the last rain event (1.75″ Rain on Feb 24/25) has settled between many of the large boulder fields that still sprinkle much of the fan. This has helped to fill-in the ravine a bit and provide better “catch” for the snow that followed. Point is, while wide-spread slope stability concerns are absent across much of the lower ravine area, crampons are still useful and provide somewhat speedy movement towards your intended climb.

Snowfield development is still severely delayed down low. However, slopes are starting to come into season in the upper stretches of gullies, particular those with a northern aspect (Escape Hatch, South, Odell, (Hillmans Highway, Left Gully in Tuckerman Ravine). This past week, such gullies have begun to offer the possibility of a descent option other then Lion Head. While many climbers have made the bushwhack necessary to climb these routes, there is much better climbing to be had elsewhere in the ravines.

Central and Diagonal Gullies have also made fantastic descent options given proper conditions. They have also been pretty scary to even look at some days. Central was awarded a danger rating of High only yesterday. I’m sure today’s wind event will have cleaned central bringing it back into condition for the weekend. Come on up, the weekend weather outlook is favorable. Bundle-up and stay attached, it’s going to be windy!

Love For Landen

Truth be told, this has been a tough season for Marcia and I. Besides the lack of winter, our 8 year-old nephew started experiencing unexplained seizures on December 1st. Long story short, symptoms persisted which led to the the discovery and resection of a 4.5 cm tumor from his brain on Jan 11. Two days later, we received just about the worst cancer diagnosis one could get – Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme. After reaching out to cancer centers around the country, Landen began receiving radiation therapy in Hartford, CT. He is now into his fourth week of a 6.5 week course.

I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time away from the cabin this winter. I spent my birthday moving Landen’s medical records around New England only to realize how overwhelmed with pediatric patients cancer treatment centers are. Talk about depressing. At a glance, it can seem like gaining treatment for certain types of cancer becomes competitive. This whole experience has been surreal. News and nervous phone calls from the fire road. Long walks down the trail in pouring rain so you can help your sister deal with a life-threatening diagnosis. For two months, I’ve been wanting and needing to be in two-places at once. Suffice it to say, it’s been difficult to keep the stoke factor high this winter. Sorry if that has been evident in my updates, caretaking, or cabin life..

Landen, Audrina, and Uncle Rich – March 2013
Thank You….

On a personal note, Marcia and I have been able to balance the needs of the cabin and family life. Thankfully, we’ve been able to maintain our responsibilities at the cabin without interruption. I was uncertain of how the season would unfold. At one point, we were considering the possibility of needing to find a new caretaker in order to be closer to Tina and the kids. It’s been difficult. I can’t imagine how my sister is dealing with all of this. My heart goes out to her and all of those who’ve ever dealt with cancer in any capacity. It’s been really hard to go out and have fun this year realizing more fully that at any given time millions of people are dealing with this terrible disease.

At the same time, it has really made me ever thankful for the Harvard Cabin and the lifestyle and relationships and “struggles” it has brought into my life. All good things. I am forever thankful and never take it for granted. Climbing in general has given me something that I can never stop being thankful for. Appreciating the terrain in which we are able to move and enjoy. The great climbing community of which I feel a part of. I am really fortunate. So much so that I feel guilty at times. Often left searching for ways to make sure I am putting more good into the World then I receive. That is the ultimate struggle.

While I am thankful and appreciative of how my life has evolved, for the first time I am left wishing I had played my cards a little differently so that I could better support my sister at this moment. She is a single mom with two amazing children. She has been a strong example in my life of what is means to persevere, to stay the course, and to always demand excellence of yourself and those around you. She worked hard in college and continued to educate herself as she built her career in early-childhood education. As of late, she is employed as a social worker providing early childhood intervention for families with children with learning disabilities, but she is currently out of work on medical leave. Given the aggressive form of cancer, Landen’s treatment is intense and requires daily hospital visits. Following Radiation, Landen will begin receiving chemo therapeutics as part of a clinical trial at Sloan Kettering on Long Island, NY.

If you interested to learn more about my sister Tina and my niece and nephew, Audrina and Landen, you can click here.  Thank you for letting me share this part of my life with you.

Welcome Back Ted Carman, Cabin Visionary

To end on a more upbeat note, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been contacted by Mr. Ted Carman, the President of the Harvard Mountaineering Club circa 1962-63. To my great delight, Ted will be spending the weekend of March 19th, 2016 with us 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’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ted on a number of occasions. In August 2012, I spent time with with him and members of his family at the Harvard Cabin in celebration of the cabin’s 50th Anniversary.

Cabin Construction

In his words, Ted is looking forward to seeing the cabin in its winter habitat. With a little bit of luck, we’ll be  in the clutches of winter come March 19th. While we can’t control the weather, we can ensure the cabin is full of alpine ice climbers and true winter mountaineers which is when the cabin in full-glory and serving its intended purpose. Let’s help show Ted the great effects and affects his vision and tenacity as a twenty-something have had on the east coast climbing community. Please help show Ted what a great institution the Harvard Cabin has become over the years. Let’s fill the cabin with technical climbing teams!  Come be part of share in the camaraderie that keeps me coming back season after season! Come meet the guy that has made a huge impact on everyone reading. If you never read the store of the cabin construction, you’ll appreciate the article Three Sweaty Months on Mount Washington. The writing, as does the cabin, requires your full attention and appreciation. It is amazing!

Think Snow,

Rich Palatino

Harvard Cabin Caretaker
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Ow0kjRFKsHI/VbrSBKBRUAI/AAAAAAAAeaA/2k3Gp6CnfQs/s288-Ic42/Chautauqua.jpgRich and Marcia
Cabin Caretakers 2015/16

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.HarvardMountaineering.org/cabin

Harvard Cabin Conditions Report 2-12-16

Harvard Cabin Mountaineers,

Hope life finds all of you well. Thanks to all of those who visited the Harvard Cabin Table at the 2016 Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest. Once again, the organizers have put on a world class ice climbing festival. No surprise, given the fact that this is the land where this whole crazy sport grew-up! I’m sure we all agree. Thanks to IME/IMCS, all guides, sponsors, and participants. I’m looking forward to MWV Ice Fest 2017!

Marcia and I continue to enjoy cabin life as Winter ever so slowly tightens its’ grip on the Presidential Range. We are going to be feeling that squeeze this weekend for sure. Last night, temperatures at cabin elevation dipped a few degrees below zero (-20 C) while summit temperature plunged to -27 F. Given the week that concluded the 2016 New Hampshire Primary Election, it is fair to say that a lot of hot air has left the State. It is very cold outside and could be getting colder over the course of this holiday weekend.

Snow and Ice Conditions

As a whole, there isn’t much new to report from the rock pile. The ice is as in as it has been for weeks! Climbers have been enjoying the usual go-to adventures in O’Dell, Pinnacle, Yale. There have only been a few climbers in the northern gullies this winter, given their still talus-filled approaches. For a peek into Hungtinton Ravine this week, Click Here.

A Feb 3-4th warm-weather event has left the snow pack with an almost uniform bullet-proof ice/crust. While we did receive 10+ inches of new snow this week densities didn’t allow for a great improvement in over all snow conditions. New snow that fell was what skiers and snow geeks call blower smoke! Super light snow made of perfectly formed stellar crystals. It really is millions of little tiny miracles leeching out of the sky. While we certainly welcomed the the new snow, the less the 5% water content didn’t do much for our base as much of the snow was transported out of the gullies.

This combo of hard ice layer and low-density snow resulted in “dust and crust” conditions. This has made mountain travel in steep terrain difficult with long-sliding falls being the most concerning hazard at the moment. There have been a few close calls reported this week that have proven “eye opening” for some new climbers moving around in the Alpine. There was also an evacuation of one such climber injured after experiencing a long sliding fall while approaching Central Gully. Thankfully Injuries were non-life threatening.

Of course, any snow is favorable trend. Last night (Feb 11), as wind velocities were on the increase, it was easy to see snow moving from North to South – From Nelson Crag to Lion Head and from Boot Spur into the Gulf of Slides. My view point from Conway today also showed continued snow transport across the range. Point being, natural avalanche activity was almost certain in the ravines today and hopefully that will help in bringing the Huntington Gullies and the “Fan” a step closer to their winter glory.

While the summit of Washington was in and out of the clouds all day, it was easy to see the wind battered summits below 6000 feet. It was cold, clear, and BRUTAL up there today. This will continue to be the case for the remainder of the weekend.

We’d sure enjoy your company this weekend but, we might suggest bringing a V-Thread tool and staying out of the Alpine Garden. Given wind and temps, the notches of Northern New Hampshire could prove to be less hospitable then usual, so why not come up and enjoy some quality alpine ice and show your love for the Harvard Cabin this Valentine’s Day. Retreating to a cabin warmed by the rare day-fire might not be so bad. The trail to the cabin is snow covered. Skis and Skins are suitable for those so equipped. While the John Sherburne Ski Trail is still far from ideal, it has also seen significant improvement this week. For what it’s worth, I actually had fun skiing to Pinkham today.

What ever you do this weekend. Stay safe, stay warm, and THINK SNOW! We’ll look forward to seeing you sooner then later if not this weekend.

Rich Palatino
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.HarvardMountaineering.org/cabin

Harvard Cabin Report 1-21-16


January 21, 2016

Harvard Cabin Mountaineers,

Howdy, y’all! I trust everyone is enjoying the political climate developing in the lead-up to the 2016 US Presidential Election. After seven years of mildly entertaining (boring, maybe even depressing) politics in the good ol’ US-of-A, we’ve returned once again to another unforeseen period of American political excellence! Could we have ever imagined another leading political figure as entertaining as the former “Decider-in-Chief”? More so, you say? Not in a lifetime would I have thunk it possible. Talk about a trump card! You can’t make this stuff up!

SnowmanGood news! If it is not the political climate you’re yearning for, don’t worry, New Hampshire is still the place for you. Finally, it seems winter has settled in for the season. Now that is one party we can all get behind! Many of you should know by now but in case it’s not obvious, I really enjoy politicking so long as we are able to enjoy the free, open, and peaceful exchange of ideas. That said, this go-around I think it possible for anyone, anything, or any idea to gain a podium spot at the next Republican Presidential Debate and so I am encouraging you, my fellow North Americans -Citizens, Immigrants, Illegals, and other variously labeled Earthlings – Vote for Winter 2016, It’s gonna be HUUUGE!

Snow and Ice Conditions

Huntington Ravine ICE is IN!

We’ll folks, we are inching little by little towards full-on winter. Right now, we have a solid 15 inches (40 cm) of settled snow pack from Pinkham Notch all the way to the ravines. Thanks to what has been a relatively snowy and WINDY week, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and Fire Road are both snow covered. After a busy MLK Jr weekend, trails are packed out and fast moving. Some light traction or skis and skins will make for a speedy approach to the cabin.

Temperatures over the last several days have ranged from -10 to +15 Degrees F (-23 to +10 Degree C) preserving snow and encouraging the continued growth of climable water ice. The explosive growth of frozen waterfall ice can be largely attributed to what is known as the Arctic Oscillation Index finally entering a negative phase. In simple terms, high pressure over-took the arctic zone, pushing very welcomed cold air into the middle latitudes. The opposite was true for all of December. Low pressure dominated the polar region, allowing for a strong and consistent east-west jet stream to dam-up arctic cold air.

Thanks to this change in AO, the dam was finally breached between January 10 & 11, 2016. The metaphor is appropriate given the 1.4 inches (3.5cm) of rain that fell on the summit of Mount Washington on January 10. The tropic-like monsoon brought thigh-deep water to some parts of the fire road and the Cutler River seemed to become a tributary of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The latest gully-washer of the season was followed immediately by the sudden rush of arctic air that brought the first substantial winter weather of the season. It’s been cold ever since!

If you are interested, you can read more about Arctic Oscillation HERE. I’d also like to take the time to admit that I learned only this week of the existence of a National Snow & Ice Data Center. Where the hell have I been?

Travel in Huntington Ravine


Huntington Ravine – January 20, 2016 – Click to Enlarge

While the veil of winter is a welcomed sight across the Presidential Range, it should come as no surprise that we are still dealing with quite a snow deficit here in the Northeast. Thankfully, last weeks’ snowfall has made most travel on the mountain feel like it should given the time of year. Unfortunately, the lack of snow thus far has kept travel through the lower portions of Huntington Ravine very summer like. You can expect plenty of boulder-hopping, alder-cursing, and longer then usual approach times into your favorite gully. This weeks winds have been the major culprit. Velocities peaked on Tuesday night reaching 127 MPH (~205 KPH). With recent snowfall I would have expected improving travel conditions in lower portions of Huntington Ravine (The Fan), but as winds raged most of the snow was transported to treeline or below. The upside being, once you make it to your intended climb, the ice is what you would expect it to be for late January! So, come and get it, there is plenty for everyone!

Avalanche Conditions

5-Scale Avalanche Forecasting has begun for the 2015-16 Season.

AvalancheLadies and Gentlemen, Skiers, Climbers, and Mountaineers – WE HAVE AN AVALANCHE SEASON! On Monday, January 18th the first 5-Scale Avalanche Forecast was issued for Tuckerman Ravine. Snow safety concerns in Huntington Ravine remain within the context of a General Bulletin. However, with the implementation of 5-Scale forecasting Rangers will be in the drainage daily and will keep a steady eye on changing conditions in Huntington Ravine. Until then, be sure to continue reading daily updates posted by the snow rangers. This will help keep you up-to-date with the developing snowpack and key weather events that will result in unstable layers to be of concern in coming weeks.

Even with the disparity in snow conditions, human triggered avalanches have been reported in both ravines this week. An obviously “upside-down” snow-pack kept climbers on their toes in Huntington with a few close calls being reported. An avalanche accident occurred in Tuckerman Ravine on January 17th, 2016 when two mountain travelers triggered an avalanche in the area known as “The Chute”. A total of 6 people from multiple parties were effected by the slope failure. Injuries were all non-life threatening, but one victim was transported from the ravine to Pinkham Notch where an ambulance was waiting. You can read more about this avalanche on the Incidents and Accidents portion of the MWAC Website.

Avalanche Advisories and MWAC Website – Know Before You Go!

You can receive the daily avalanche advisories through several social media outlets. Of course, I find it easy enough to browse over to the recently remodeled MWAC website at http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org.

Once there, you can read the latest advisories, check out recent photos from the ravines, get in-depth insight into the snow-pack as snow rangers blog from “The Pit”, and share in a wealth of news and resources relating to snow, weather, and safety on Mount Washington. Oh and don’t forget Rangers are looking for your snow-pack observations from across the White Mountains this Winter. Observations can be submitted via the MWAC Website at this link.

Plenty of Winter Ahead…

This year, Martin Luther King weekend was back to normal in terms of mountain travelers. Last year, the same weekend was absurdly quite. It probably had a lot to do with super cold temps and plenty of winter weather south of the White Mountains. Fortunately, this year MLK weekend came just after the first real dose of winter here in New England. The right combination of precipitation (snow), temperatures, wind, and sun made perfect the recipe for playing in the mountains. The Harvard Cabin filled to capacity on Thursday night (as well as the tent-sites) and remained so throughout the weekend. It was a much needed change of pace and we are looking forward to continuing the trend this coming weekend. Plenty more sunshine in the forecast for the weekend without much in way of weather.

If you need a little extra motivation, it will be a good weekend for a true alpine start. Not only will you get a good view of mountains but, you’ll also have a great shot to 5 of our planetary neighbors. If you haven’t heard, for the next couple of weeks in the wee hours of the morning the planets Mercury, Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter will be on display in the eastern sky. The 2016 Planetary Conjunction should look great from Mt. Washington!

If you are in the mid-Atlantic states, I’d consider jumping in the car right now. If you don’t waste anytime you’ll miss the apocalypse and things will be all cleaned up by the time you return. In the mean-time, you would have enjoyed a few great days in the Alpine and helped carry-on the fine tradition that is The Harvard Cabin! We hope to see you!

Upcoming Events:

2nd Annual Backcountry VE Session @ The Harvard Cabin
HAM Radio Exam Session – Feb 20, 2016

EventOkay…well, many of you know that Marcia and I are shameless promoters of the hobby that is Amateur Radio (HAM Radio). Many of you also endure the endless harassment that goes with our promotion of the utility of radio, especially among all of you – our mountain friends! The White Mountain Amateur Radio Club will once again be hosting a Volunteer Exam Session at the Harvard Cabin this Winter. All License Class Level Exams will be offered this year. So, weather you are new to the hobby or an “old fist”, if you spend time in the mountains, we’d sure love to have you stop by for our 2nd Annual Backcountry VE Session. Click here for photos of last years session!

If you are interested but, not sure where to start, fear not. You too can join the increasing number of backcountry travelers who have joined the ranks of radio operators. There have been many who caved to the Marcia’s persuasive wit and so far haven’t any regrets except for not having done it sooner! The utility of radio is not only fun, it is also a great way to increase safety for yourself and your group. But, don’t take my word for it. Read this short White Paper presented as part of the International Snow Science Workshop 2012 titled TALKING THE TALK:Human Factors, Group Communication, and the Next Frontier in Snow Safety.
Ham RadioThe Ham Radio License Manual, published by the American Radio Relay League, is all you’ll need to pass your test. The book may be available at your local bookstore or library. Check there first or order from Amazon by clicking here.

Study time is about an hour a day for a week. Then you take a 35-question, multiple choice test. Get 26 correct and you’ll be issued your own callsign and have instant access to the Harvard Cabin from anywhere in the world…I kid you not! Pricing for high-powered, light-weight, handheld transceivers begins ~$30 US. Click here to browse!
Smugg’s Ice Bash – January 22-24, 2016
Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival – February 2-7, 2016
Adirondack Backcountry Ski Fest – March 5-6, 2016

Rich Palatino
Harvard Cabin Caretaker
Rich and Marcia
Cabin Caretakers 2015/16

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.HarvardMountaineering.org/cabin

Our mailing address is:
Harvard Mountaineering Club
Student Organizations Center at Hilles
59 Shepard St #73
Cambridge, MA 02138


Avalanche in the Chute 1/17/2016

“A minute or two later I heard a rumble and glanced up to the choke to see a size-able amount of snow come flying by. I yelled “Avalanche” multiple times as I tried to keep a visual on the 2 climbers I was able to make out in the fast moving slide. I had two students to my right, who were still 10-15 feet from the mass of snow that had just came blasting down the gully.”

Follow this link to read an analysis of yesterday’s avalanche in Tuckerman Ravine by EMS Climbing Guide, David Lottman.

Avalanche in the Chute 1/17/2016

A good read and reminder to stay aware, get educated and be safe out there this winter.



Smuggs Ice Bash 2016 – Recon Report


by Tim Farr

Smuggs Ice Bash 2016Petra Cliffs

The ice in Smugglers Notch is building fast! With the Smuggs Ice Bash taking place in a little over a week, January 22-24th, there should be plenty of ice and mixed terrain for all of us hungry and deprived climbers to whack away at!

This past Sunday’s heavy rain and thunderstorms that commanded the day didn’t impact the ice conditions quite to the level one would expect. Many of the climbs that were in condition and had been seeing ascents remained climbable. The biggest hit from the storm was to the snowpack. Practically non-existent in much of the Notch, many of the deep drifts and wallowing we are accustomed to by now just aren’t there this year. The heavy rain followed by several days of cold temps that went well below freezing at night have made traveling on the snow quick and easy. Strap on the ‘pons for the firm crust and away you go.
Many of the gullies used for approaching some of the longer climbs are nice and firm making for easy approaches and even extending the length of a few routes that are usually covered by feet of snow. There is still a lot of moving water and one could find holes and pockets where a boot could pop through soft snow, but the moving water is only going to aid in growing more and more ice with the extended forecast looking very good for continued ice growth.IMG_4414

Throughout the Notch there are currently a number of things to climb, though many of the routes still have thin or mixed sections; I imagine this will fill in quickly. Up in the Blind Fate Amphitheater both Blind Fate and Norton-Gibney are in climbable shape and Blue Ice Bulge seems to have a couple of variations possible as well. One can hope that the ephemeral line left of Norton-Gibney, ‘Illogical Hydrology’, makes an appearance this year.
Hidden Gully has seen numerous ascents this season but the crux still seems to be the first 15 feet at its entrance. This year the typical thick bulge of WI3- ice that forms at its entrance has formed into a thin ribbon tucked into the right corner. Pull this crux, minding the top out, and the route will get much better with good conditions higher up in the gully. All three variations in the amphitheater are in climbable shape.


The climbs found within the Easy Gully vicinity have held on and will be rebounding quickly over the next several days. Grand Confusion, Poster Child, Grand Illusion, Dominatrix and Black Sunshine are all in climbable shape or building fast for those willing to take on the challenge.

Grand Confusion is in climbable shape and the mixed route to its left, ‘Confusionism’ is a great route to climb if you’re waiting for a party on Grand Confusion or as the main objective.

Many of the routes closer to the road are all in climbable shape except for the odd thin or mixed move required with any deviations from the fattest line. With little snow on the ground, travel to and from these routes should be nice and quick.

As for routes surrounding the Ragnarock, Elephants Head and South Wall Areas, all are in some form of climbable shape, but all show evidence of varying states of delamination or require a few mixed moves. While Ragnarock’s P1 and P2 could be climbed, the top pitch seem like it could use a bit of growth. Give it a week with the expected forecast and the climbs in this area should fatten up immensely.
Come time for the Smuggs Ice Bash, next weekend, the Notch should be in great shape to host the flood of climbers hiking up the road to find their intended climbable lines.

~Tim Farr
Membership / Staff Manager
Smuggs Ice Bash Coordinator
Petra Cliffs Instructor & Guide
AMGA Certified SPI, Apprentice Rock & Ice Guide
NY State Lic. Rock and Ice Guide
105 Briggs St.
Burlington VT 05401
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December UPdate – What the f&@k?

New Hampshire

The beginning of this ice season has been anything but consistent. We’ve had thigh deep snow topping out of Huntington Ravine in October followed up by spring-like temperatures on the high summits for weeks with only splashes of short cold spells here and there. Usually I can get a sense of what the ice conditions will be like, but this year I’ve been off my game. Two weekends ago, I stopped thinking about ice and went for a three day backpack in the Wild River Wilderness. Just this past weekend, I thought there wouldn’t be much to climb out there, so I donned my summer trail running shoes and headed up and around the side of Mt. Jefferson with some friends.

DSC_0283I found out that evening, when my phone buzzed with picture messages, that I was dead wrong.  While I was in and over the clouds that day, there was a duo climbing what was likely the longest and fattest ice line in northeast as of that moment.  That was Hillman’s Highway in Tuckerman Ravine, and yes, there was a lot of ice.  At least the beautiful undercast was worth missing out on the climbing action.


Hillmans Highway (11.28.15)           Photos courtesy of Nick Yardley


Others tackled Tuckerman Headwall on the day, the day before and the one after.  Despite it getting sun baked, the ice seemed to hang in there just enough.  Huntington Ravine also saw some action, with Odells Gully, not surprisingly, seeing the most traffic.  Check out the condition reports for information on those climbs.

Elsewhere in New Hampshire, Alden Pellett explored the Big Slide area up Mt. Lafayette on last Sunday to find a thin runnel of ice from bottom to top.

Taylor Luneau on the Big Slide.

Taylor Luneau on the Big Slide. (11.29.15)



Center Tablets (11.29.15)

Up in Lake Willoughby, things are admittedly looking a little sad. This picture of the Center Tablets about sums it up.

Smuggler’s Notch has been like a bad relationship: on, off, on and then off again.  Like some mystical land, the routes appear and disappear in mere hours and at random times.

Reports from last Saturday in the notch confirmed there was a lot of moving water and some verglass on the rocks in the gullies but the ground wasn’t frozen yet.  Jeff’s Slide appeared as a thin apparition and then disappeared again this week with the warm temperatures.  But there’s hope!  The road officially closed and I’m sure climbers will be heading in this coming weekend to see what’s there.


Gully left of blue ice bulge, above & right of Terrortory, just the day before. (11.27.15)

photo 3

Jeff’s Slide before it disappeared again. (11.28.15) Photo by Tim Farr

New York

News has been quiet in the Adirondacks, but I’m sure that doesn’t mean the locals haven’t been climbing.  The last bird I saw told me Chouinard’s Gully was climbed in super thin conditions, but that was days ago and the way this season has been going, that fact becomes totally irrelevant.

So what now?  What’s going to happen this weekend?  What the f&@k is going on with this weather?  It’s anyone’s guess, but the forecast calls for a high of 40 degrees on the summit of Mt. Washington Saturday.  Go figure that it’s snowing and cold up there as I write this article.

What’s been going on in your neck of the woods?  Find some good ice?  Let me know at courtney@neice.com!  Till then, good luck out there!

I’ll leave you with these videos, as they sum it up best.  Some great footage of the changes in Tuckerman Ravine, courtesy of NEice Community member, Matt Bowman!  Thanks for sharing these.

Special thanks to Nick Yardley, Alden Pellett, Tim Farr and Matt Bowman.

Weekly UPdate – November Rations

Early morning alpine glow in Huntington Ravine. October 19, 2015.

Early morning alpine glow in Huntington Ravine. October 19, 2015.

On the day of the Black Dike ascent on October 19th, I was in Huntington Ravine to scope out what, if anything, had formed after only two days of below freezing temperatures.  I chose a winding line up Yale Gully, avoiding the slab sections that had a coating of ice that was almost immeasurable to the human eye.  Thin runnels of ice over rocky grooves kept me engaged and deep snowy drifts clinging to the upper sections made for a great winter day in mid-October.  I wouldn’t say it was ‘first ice’ for me that day, but the adventure was well worth the effort.

Fighting a blast of wind-driven snow midway up Yale Gully.

Fighting a blast of wind-driven snow midway up Yale Gully.  October 19, 2015.

After that weekend, the brief shot of winter died off and the thermometer climbed back up.  For more than two weeks after, above average temperatures killed any hope for more ice.  Tools and spikes were sharpened and ready to go.  We all waited impatiently for that next cold spell.

Winter tried again to beat back this warm Autumn with another two days of bitterly cold weather and high winds this past Friday and Saturday.  And for those of us who went out on Sunday, we made that approach thinking it’s a 50/50 chance of climbable ice, at best.  Were we just a bunch of dedicated fools?  Perhaps.

I rolled the dice in King Ravine, usually a good early season bet.  Zac St. Jules walked alone into Huntington Ravine as Max Forbes with his team, Russell Frisch and Steve Rahr started their own approach into the ravine under windy skies and cold morning temperatures.  King Ravine was ready for me.  My first swing into the drainage ice of the Great Gully was thin but sticky.  Water was flowing underneath the ice, leaving a fountain at times where my pick had been.  The ice ranged from just thick enough to almost too thin for comfort but it was secure and a total blast to climb.  Above the ice, the snow began filling in the upper portion of the gully.  Solid winter conditions greeted me at the top and underfoot I crushed thousands of rime ice feathers.

The beginning of the drainage. November 15, 2015.

The beginning of the drainage. November 15, 2015.

The top of King Ravine., looking toward Mt. Madison.

The top of King Ravine., looking toward Mt. Madison.







Starting up the first ice.

Starting up the first ice.

Meanwhile in Huntington Ravine, the high winds were forcing Zac to fight through some nasty spray from the open sections of running water midway up Pinnacle Gully.  At the base of the climb, the party of three were about to head up the committing mix climb above them.

Pinnacle Gully. November 15, 2015. Photo by Zac St. Jules.

Pinnacle Gully. November 15, 2015. Photo by Zac St. Jules.

The first pitch was led by Russ Frisch, who placed two screws low and then quickly ran out of ice. Max Forbes took the next lead and  found himself having to cross a wide section of running water in the middle of the route.  He placed a knifeblade and began moving through the water course.  “Since there was not enough ice over the running water to support my weight, I bashed through it with my hammer exposing the running water and rock below. I stepped through the water and did a bit of a jump to get across to solid ground. I moved up a short ramp with 4 inches or so of relatively attached ice and moved up into a small corner to rest. I placed a .2 X4, one of the only solid pieces of the day, and then crossed back over the running water to reach the fixed anchor at the top of Pitch 2.” – Max Forbes

The final pitch.

The final pitch.  Photo provided by Max Forbes.

The last pitch was pretty moderate, exclusively mixed climbing with patches of ice and hard snow that provided a bit more comfortable stance.  More photos from the day here.

As for the rest of Huntington, Max reports:  “O’dells was filling well, and the first pitch looked climbable. Central looked full of mostly snow, some ice at the crux. Yale and Harvard bulges were in pretty fat, but the gullies above were not looking as good. The ice is definitely coming in though. North seemed to have filled in pretty quickly as well, but the start didn’t seem to be there. Hopefully it stays cold up there but it looks like conditions will hold and allow everything to continue to build.”

At the Pitch 2 Belay of Pinnacle Gully on November 15, 2015. by max-forbes

Twenty miles southwest of Mt. Washington, two more climbers were picking at the meager winter rations.  Noel Normandin and Ryan Ferry were perched high on the Black Dike, which was dishing out a 90% mix climb.  Noel describes the route:

  • P1 : Mostly well-bonded, thin unprotected ice.
  • P2: Thin ice going up to the rock traverse, then no ice in the hose for 40ish feet.  A little ice after the grade eases off, taking a stubby in places.
  • P3: Started out on ice, then after a short steep parasol capped headwall turned to mostly loose snow covered rock.

While starting the third pitch, another party was spotted below.  Winter is finally getting a hold of the mountains!  Keep those metal bits sharpened!

New Hampshire isn’t the only place where ice is forming.  I bet some things are going down in NY and VT this week, if they haven’t already!

A wintry mix is forecasted for the higher summits on Friday night with blustery weather and snow moving in over the weekend, the ice season is well on its way!  Check out the weather page for more info!

Special Thanks to Zac St. Jules, Max Forbes and Noel Normandin for their photographs, video and additional words.


Back to Business, Round Two!

Adam-Bidwell on Cocaine, Frankenstein Cliff NH - Photo by Ryan-Driscall

Well things are shaping up, again. It has been two weeks since the major melt down and the ice climbs are forming and there is plenty of great climbing.  We now have more ice to climb than before the meltdown. There is plenty of ground water flowing and things are growing fast. With no warm weather in sight, I expect good to excellent conditions from Maine to the Adirondacks and South for the foreseeable future.

This weather is greatly appreciated as we enter the Ice Festival season. Every year it’s a crap shoot with the weather and we are lucky this year, so far. By next weekend there should be plenty of ice for the the 19th annual Adirondack International Mountainfest. January 16, 17 and 18, 2015.

So dress warm, get out, and get some!


Doug Millen

Adam Bidwell on Cocaine, Frankenstein Cliff, Crawford Notch NH
Photo by Ryan Driscoll

Frankenstein Cliff NH

You know things are good when the south face of Frankenstein Cliff has ice to climb. Below are a few photos from Adam Bidwell with Ryan Driscoll


Adam Bidwell climbing Cocaine


Ryan Driscoll halfway up Cocaine


Second pitch of Bragg-Pheasant. The strongest sun of the day bore down just as I was reaching the thinnest ice.


Ryan Driscoll on the Final boney pitch of Bragg Pheasant

Beware of  the cold temps

When it’s this cold after a warm up, watch out for ice dams. Both on the climbs and in rivers and streams. Below are two posts that will make you think.

NEice.com – Hydrophobia at “The Lake”

An Ice Dam busting loose at Lake Willoughby Vt in 2010 – Photo by Dave Powers

Careful of that stream crossing!

Assessing Ice Conditions

glace-etude-resistance-13And don’t forget that drastic cooling followed by a period of intense cold leads to strong thermal contractions in the ice. See this great information for assessing ice conditions from Petzl – Waterfall Ice Study

Ice Guide Training

The American Mountain Guides Association Ice guide training course in NH is in full swing. The EMS guides are sending the steep ice routes at Frankenstein which are in good condition and building fast with this cold weather. – Art Mooney
Chia Direct 1-7-15 Art Mooney

Chia Direct

Chia 1-7-15 Art Mooney


Hobit 1-7-15 Art Monney

The Hobbit

Mount Washington

Conditions Update 1-8-15

by Rich Palatino, Harvard Cabin Caretaker

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is nearly completely covered. While it is very hard-packed and slick there is very little water ice to speak of. Light Traction is nice, but not necessary in the least. That being said, full crampons on the trail wouldn’t be unreasonable, just not advised…or enjoyable.

The fire road is still in rather early season condition. However, it is mostly snow until you are above the Dow Rescue Cache where you will find a series of stream crossings. Again, nothing major. Access to the ravine is quick and easy and the rangers have been using snow machines to travel most of the road.

It’s goes without saying, the ice is IN! The Ravine is still filling in for the season. Run-outs are far from being fully-developed and in many cases descending will mean a walk down the Lion Head Summer Trail. The Fan is sporting a variety of snow conditions as you travel from gully to gully. Overall you can expect excellent condition for cramponing. However, along with long sliding falls, spatial variability can present a problem. Don’t travel with a persistent green light in mind even though things seem locked up solid. We’ve been getting nickled and dimed for weeks so you should be on the look-out for protected lee areas, wind slabs of varying strengths, buried weak layers, and I personally have been starting to worry about persistent weak layers. I’m really not sure how valid my concern for persistent layers is, but as a skier I’m suspect of the rapid heating and cooling we’ve seen over the last few weeks. I’m keeping that in mind as I travel in avalanche terrain until we see the next major storm/avalanche cycle. But, you really don’t have to take my word for it. Luckily you can hear what the experts have to say via the Mount Washington Avalanche Center’s website and it’s many social media outlets.

Renormalized at “The Lake”

Ah! The conditions are getting better and I am back to my normal state, once again, at “The Lake”.



Below are a few condition photos from our trip to Lake Willoughby VT on Saturday December 13, 2014. Plenty of challenging ice to climb. There is a good snow pack now for easy approaches, unlike years past where leaves covered  the frozen ground with a dusting of snow. The ground is now  insulate and plenty of water is flowing. When some real cold hits this place, it is going to go OFF!

Enjoy the photos!


~Doug Millen

Cover photo: Tom Yandon on “Renormalization” WI 4, Lake Willoughby VT.

All photos by Doug Millen