The Technical Traverse

Ryan solos Grade IV ice in Madison Gulf - The Technical Traverse

Ryan solos up some Grade IV ice in Madison Gulf. The first technical ice of the traverse

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.

Justin and Ryan about to summit Clay - The Technical Traverse

Justin and Ryan about to summit Mt. Clay

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 all felt nauseous as we crunched up the long, terrible slope. The second we reached the top, it began to rain
Ryan “Rhino” Driscoll is an old-school climber. He loves to suffer. The guy seeks out 5.11 slabs in the woods. He prefers scrappy mixed terrain over ice any day of the week. He wears fleece gloves. He doesn’t post or talk about his climbs. Justin Guarino, another local guide and Presidential suffer hog, decided to come as well. Both Ryan and Justin have done a lot of climbing in New Hampshire and had independently been thinking of a similar traverse. Three people meant better trail-breaking if it came to that, and it was nice to split up the weight of the stove. We brought lightweight ice tools. I took the hammer off a Quark and brought a 43 centimeter Sum’tec. I took the straps off my crampons. Rhino decided bringing a helmet was too much weight. We deliberated bringing tethers before deciding against them. With food and water, our packs weighed sixteen pounds each. For emergency gear, we had a Delorme InReach and an old Wild Things Bothy Bag made out of sil-nylon.

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.

Ryan climbing Pinnacle - The Technical Traverse

Ryan climbing Pinnacle gully by head lamp

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:

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A large size map of the Technical Traverse in PDF by Marc Chauvin

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Playing Pachinko on Mt- Webster

New Hampshire’s Grade IV

Ammo Ravine 1

By Courtney Ley

As we know in the climbing world, one woman’s Grade V is another woman’s Grade II. We try to define the difficulty of the route, the time it takes to climb it and level of commitment it requires by funny little symbols and acronyms.. but ratings will forever be subjective. I even hesitate to say the agreed commitment rating for the longer gullies in Huntington Ravine is a Grade III. Damnation Gully is described as 5 full length pitches of 60 degree ice and snow with a few short ice bulges. Last November, this gully took me all day to go from car-to-car.  Last April, it took me less than an hour to climb during my one day enchainment of all the gullies in Huntington. All of Huntington Ravine’s gullies change drastically as the ice season ticks on but the grading remains the same.  Damnation Gully is a classic line that gets a lot of attention. And well deserved. So are there Grade IV ice climbs in New Hampshire?  What about a route that is twice its size with three times the amount of ice? I would imagine it would get the Northeast’s spotlight. Or at the very least, some vague description on

Last year I climbed the Ammonoosuc Ravine solo and wrote a short tale in the conditions section. It was a long day with more ice than I’ve ever seen in one place (at least in the Northeast). It was beautiful and challenging. The approach was miles, as was the descent. After I wrote that short blurb last year, I thought about this route more and more. This year, I brought a partner and a rope and I realized how massive this gully truly was when climbed in traditional pitches. After this years outing, I decided the Ammonoosuc deserved its time on the front page.

One of the reasons there aren’t climbers flocking to this route may be that getting the Ammo in good condition requires perfect timing. Too late, you are slogging in waist deep snow with barely any ice in sight. (Yes, I’ve done it.) Too early, you’ll find gushing waterfalls off steep wet and snow-covered rock. With such varied weather from day to day during early and even mid season, it is a requirement to obsessively watch conditions. Even then, it’s a crap shoot what you’ll find.  In a way, the Ammo demands commitment even before you reach the trailhead. But when you nail it just right, there’s nearly 10 solid pitches of ice and a little under 3,000 feet of elevation gain with almost all of that on the ice. There’s also three short headwalls that are no give away. Despite this, I’m surprised an ice climb of that magnitude in New Hampshire hasn’t received much attention at all.

To add to the commitment of 10 ice pitches, being in this gully means you are in. It’s very difficult in most places to bail out or work your way around the steeper sections. The walls on either side of you are serious. But if you look and are creative you can find good exits. Although once you exit, you enter the thick alpine spruce midway up Mt Washington.  Now what? Rappelling doesn’t seem appealing, but that’s probably just me, because it never seems appealing.

I’ve climbed this route three times so far. No one told me about it and I didn’t read about it anywhere. One day while cyber-vacationing on Google Earth instead of being hard at work in my office, I noticed it and wondered what it would be like in the winter time. I thought I should explore it before too much snow fell, so around the traditional early ice season time, I went for it. The ravine is a spectacular place.  It gives you a big-mountain feeling as you continue to climb further up with no end in sight.  You won’t see anyone else in there. It was a climb that made an impression on me in many ways and I couldn’t believe climbers weren’t talking about this route. This last time, as I was making the descent out with my friend by headlamp, I realized we had stumbled upon a long, committing and classic line in the Northeast.  Yes, what I’d consider a New Hampshire Grade IV ice line.

What a SummitPost entry might tell you:

The approach is about 2 miles and the descent is a little over 4 miles. The elevation gain is 2,900 feet and almost all of that is on the ice. You’ll encounter WI2-/+ for the duration and WI3-/+ ice up and over the short headwalls.  Once above the ice, you’ll have a snow climb for a few hundred feet until you reach the Westside Trail.





Suckers Aren't Made

Far North: Suckers Aren’t Made

Michael Wejchert channels his inner Hermann Buhl and runs a Presidential Range Ice Marathon

Running Water in King's. Good for Hydration.

Running Water in King’s. Good for Hydration.


“I blame Hermann Buhl. That rat bastard. For those of you who don’t know (a lot of hands are still up), Hermann Buhl was the Austrian nut who soloed his ass off in the 1950’s. He rode a bike, hitchhiked, slept in hayfields, and did all sorts of stupid stuff to go climbing. This culminated in his epic, 41-hour solo ascent of Nanga Parbat in 1953. Unfortunately, it also killed him the next year when a cornice broke on Chogalisa (no, not a Mexican restaurant, a big mountain in the Himalayas). When I was in High School, I read his book, Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage about as many times as I watched Star Wars: A New Hope. A shit ton.”

Read the story here:

The Great Gulf

The Great Gulf



by Courtney Ley

The Great Gulf.  There could be no other name for it.  When I look at it from the vantage point of Mt Clay, I imagine the walls of this giant cirque begin to expand suddenly, high rocks and cliffs start breaking apart and tumble into its gaping mouth. I see the summit of Mt. Washington tilting, the buildings shake and crumble, sliding into the dark abyss with deafening sound. All that’s left is a giant cavern.  The Great Gulf just swallowed Mt. Washington whole.

But as I stand on the summit of Mt. Clay on this day, all is still.  The only moving object is the sun as it lowers over Franconia Ridge to the west, creating long shadows across the Presidential Range. I hear no tumbling rocks or collapsing cliffs.  I only hear the sound of the wind beating on my jacket.  I am alone and feel at ease.  I watch the sky turn pastel colors and soft lenticular clouds form high above me. I adjust my hood to block the wind the best I can and head down the mountain towards Sphinx Col.

PB090086                                               PB090093

My need for seclusion brought me to the Great Gulf.  Some approach the gulf from Huntington Ravine and do it in March or April when the gulf is filled with the years snowfall and travel is relatively easy.  I had two days and decided to approach it from its beginnings. I wanted to wind my way through its endless water courses and forest canopies.  It’s not very far in miles, but the wilderness trails are left to the forces of nature.  The trees fallen across paths remain in place and water is not forcefully diverted away.  Long bogs and difficult river crossings are a norm here.  I enjoy the wilderness feel, as it’s hard to find in the developed White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The Great Gulf is by no means ‘out there’.  A quick jaunt up the Chandler Ridge finds you at the Auto Road and once you top out of the headwall, there’s Mt. Washington’s summit with its restaurant and gift shops.  The Great Gulf Wilderness was conceived in 1964 and is New Hampshire’s oldest yet smallest wilderness area, comprising just 5,658 acres.  Despite this, the giant glacial cirque leaves you feeling like you are somewhere remote and far away from anyone and anything.



‘Wait Until Dark’ Gully (on right)

Admittedly, I also had another motive.  I was hunting down ice and I had a good feeling I’d find some here.  Not only is the gulf at a high elevation but it’s predominately north facing and it’s walls rarely see sunlight.  It had the elements necessary for early season capture.  I pitched my tent at one of the designated tent sites along the Great Gulf Trail and set out.  Unlike other ravines, the gulf doesn’t show its full self until you are just about at its walls.  The spruce are tall and the tiny Spaulding Lake proves the only vantage point from the floor during this time of year.  When I worked my way around the lake I got a glimpse of ‘Wait Until Dark’ Gully.  It begged me forth. I knew reaching the entrance would be no easy task.  I was proved wrong, it was much harder than I imagined.  Giant truck-sized boulders were scattered among thick spruce.  Enormous crevasses littered themselves between boulders.  The terrain was so difficult I couldn’t fathom enough snow falling to fill it all in.  I thought about turning around several times, but each time I dreaded going back more than I dreaded continuing forward.  It took me almost two hours from once I left the trail until I crawled to the start of the ice begging for mercy.

My spirits lifted when I saw the gully filled with beautiful solid ice.  For a full length pitch, I enjoyed a continuous flow of grade 2 ice.  I fell into my rhythm of swings and kicks, focused solely on ice in front of me. Occasionally, some ice would break loose and fall away, echoing as it hit into the rocks.  A reminder of the vast amphitheater that I was climbing in.  At times, the wind would funnel down the gully, picking up snow and swirling it in a cold dance towards me. I lowered my head and let it pass each time.  The wind tried to push me backward, as if I did not belong.  But I knew I did, at least for this brief while.   A short steep step led me to the upper ice which was at a lower angle with a few short bulges.  I stopped more frequently here and took in my surroundings.  Eventually the ice relented to a rock and vegetation finish.  I hit the Mt. Clay summit loop trail immediately when I topped out, as it hugs the lip of the gulf.

PB090045    PB090051    PB090061     PB090054

I never saw anyone all day and nor would I during the night and majority of the next day.  Now I stood on the summit of Mt. Clay with no one else in sight on the ridge.  I sat down in a wind-sheltered area and looked back at where I had come from.  I couldn’t think of my time in the gulf spent any other way. It had granted me my solitude.  It was as it was meant to be.  I imagined the entirety of the Great Gulf as it expanded, shuttered, and devoured the nearby peaks.  I imagined the Great Gulf as it swallowed me too.


Photographs by Courtney Ley (click on images to enlarge)




Huntington Dreams

By Courtney Ley


Dawn on Pinnacle Gully

Dawn on Pinnacle Gully.

It was dawn.  Admittedly, there was some anxiety.  I was well aware I was alone.  The winds blew crystallized snow in my face at a high rate of speed, accompanied by the occasional gust with enough force to move my body.  It was freezing.  Gearing up felt like it took hours because I’d have to warm my hands back up after I took off my gloves in order to gain enough dexterity to tighten my boot laces or figure out what the hell to do with those long pesky ends to my crampon straps.  All the awhile, I stood at a base of a route I’ve never climbed unroped before. Not to mention alone.  I looked up at the ice.  Things always look more daunting when they are dimly lit, right?  I was familiar with the route. I knew what was around the next corner and above the next bulge.  On the start to this day, however, for any or none of the reasons stated above, it required that conscious effort to turn my brain off and just start climbing. So I did just that and I took my first swing into the ice of Pinnacle Gully.

I had entered this world of bizarre ice formations, undoubtedly from the few freeze-thaw cycles of late season, but I didn’t quite feel like I was in Pinnacle Gully.  The clouds hung low and it was snowing, obscuring my views.  The familiarity of the ravine left me quickly.  I suddenly felt like I was in a strange place.  I had not yet reached the top of the first ice section when it happened.  My tool hit the ice and the result was a very loud CRACK followed by a large vibration that felt like the ice was shifting underneath me.  I don’t remember what my first thought was besides envisioning the entire ice route collapsing with me in tow, but I do remember starting to climb over and away from where I was to find more solid ice.  I also tried not to be hesitant swinging hard for a good stick, for obvious reasons, but I was slightly shaken.  When I reached the top of the first pitch, I was never so relieved to see a pathetic little ramp of broken up snow.


Pinnacle Gully.

The rest of the gully was anything but straight forward, but at least the large areas of unbonded snow and ice were obvious so I could maneuver around the sketchiest sections.  I feel more comfortable making delicate and tricky moves then climbing a large blob of ice without having much idea whats under it, for example, a large amount of air.  So my focus was easily regained and I topped out to the usual hurricane force winds of the alpine garden.

Looking at South Gully

Looking at South Gully topping out of Pinnacle.

I wished I remembered to bring my balaclava.  Views began to open and then close up as the winds also knocked the clouds around.  I took a little time to watch the horizon appear and disappear before my frozen face asked that I please move out such an exposed place.  South Gully is a fairly quick descent as the grade gives way towards the bottom and I could quit down-climbing and simply walk down.  The distance to Odells was short and the sight of the no frills and thrills gully was welcoming.  The forecast called for decreasing winds and “in the clear under sunny skies” later in the day, so when I topped out of Odells, I patiently walked across the lip of the ravine in the same strong gusts hoping I wouldn’t have to endure that all day.  I had a lot of questions on my mind walking under the starry yet snowy skies of pre-dawn.  My headlamp gave me an idea what was about ten feet in front of me, but I wondered what was 2,500 feet higher than me. One of those questions was what lower Diagonal would look like in such scant snow, late April conditions.  The last time I used Diagonal to descend was in a high snow year and negotiating around Harvard and Yale bulges was a no-brainer.  It turned out I needed to traverse all the way across in some bushes to the start of Damnation Gully in order to reach the fan safety and not get cliffed out.  That was ok with me at the time because I was heading toward North Gully.

I stopped at the base of North for the first time since I left my car at 4:00 a.m. and ate a few things.  It was now around 9:00 a.m.  I decided to take the path of least resistance into the entrance of North so I skipped the bottom half of the ice.  Going up the subsequent ice bulges, it was clear they were feeling the heat from the previous days as they began to levitate off of the snow.  I didn’t feel like anything was going to collapse but I did feel better when I was able to reach my tool passed the hollow ice over into the hard snow.  The snow gave way to rocks and vegetation eventually and I wound my way in between boulders and bushes to Nelson Crag.  By the time I topped out, the winds started to decrease, the clouds all blew off and the sun began roasting the ravine.  The ice in the alpine garden was disappearing rapidly.  With three more routes to complete, I was wishing for those cloud to return.


Levitating ice in North Gully.

On my way down Diagonal, I exchanged hellos with three climbers on their way up and headed towards Damnation Gully.  Two years ago when I was attempting this same plan, I looked up at the first ice step from the start of the route and my immediate reaction was that I didn’t want to climb it unroped.  Sticking with that initial feeling and knowing that it would never be a wrong decision, I never even climbed up for a closer look.  This year, with more experience behind me, I didn’t hesitate to climb up to the first ice step for a look.  In this gully, the snow moats were big and getting to the ice required a lot of careful steps.  The ice itself was big and of questionable quality. I lingered at the base and almost talked myself out of climbing it but once I took a few swings, kicked my feet in and worked a few moves up, it seemed solid enough for me to continue.  When I reached the crux ice step, I thought less and climbed more.  But maybe that was due to the fact that the snow bridge was crumbling under my feet and for the first time, the ice was the safer medium. The ice all over the ravine looked nice and soft, but every time I was fooled.  The forgiving spring ice was rarely encountered.

The sudden change from vertical to horizontal hit me again as I topped out on Damnation Gully.  This time, as I reached the huge rock cairn at the start of the summer trail, I sat down for my second short break of the day.  I may have just been delaying the inevitable tediousness of down-climbing Diagonal again.


The second ice step in Damnation Gully.

With the end of Diagonal in sight (again), I stopped for a minute to look back up the gully and noticed a climber hanging out at the top, perhaps waiting for me to finish before he started down.  The snow had turned slushy under the suns rays and a fleet of battle-ready snowballs rolled off with each step downwards.  Whether or not he was waiting for me to finish before launching his snowball attack, I wasn’t sure.  I was glad that my next gully was right at the bottom of Diagonal.  Less down meant less up.  My heels had been in a lot of pain going up North and Damnation.  For some reason, my usually comfortable boots decided to revolt and I was getting hot spots.  I stopped for breaks frequently on my way up for some relief.  When I was getting ready to head up Yale, I noticed the climber on top of Diagonal was already down, having jogged his way to where I was.  He was having a lot of fun doing it and it made me crack a smile.  Diagonal, for me, felt too steep and I was feeling tired, so I chose to down-climb it each time.  We had a quick conversation and when I told him about my day, he was psyched for me and it boosted my energy levels.


One of the countless moats.

I bypassed almost every ice section on Yale because I felt like I’d pushed my luck enough on Pinnacle and Damnation.  The heat of the day was waning but the sound of running water was still everywhere and the occasional sounds of ice collapsing could be heard, especially on Harvard bulge.  Going up the snow ramp riddled with moats and crevasses was enough excitement for me.  It was around 2:30 pm as I was halfway up Yale and for the first time I started allowing myself to feel like I could complete what I had set out to do.  I was glad to see the top out on Yale covered in some snow and before long I was staring back down Diagonal.  Before I started down, I walked over to the top of Central to take a look at the conditions.  I saw a line of safe passage and I deemed it ‘good enough’.  My only motivation to start down was the fact that this was the last time I had to do it.  I’m not sure why, but down-climbing murders my wrists.  Maybe it’s from my carpal tunnels, but just as it was necessary for my heels, I had to stop frequently for pain relief.

I met back up with the the climber who had skipped down Diagonal.  He went over to Damnation after we parted and did some climbing in there.  He offered me water and some encouragement. Then later I heard some cheers once I started traversing across to Central.  Continuously climbing for nearly 12 hours straight was taking it’s toll and his cheer was energizing.  Now with him heading out, I was alone again in the ravine.  Since the safest way back to fan from Diagonal was to traverse all the way over the Damnation’s start, I was not looking forward to hiking it all the way back across in sub par snow conditions.  I just put my head down and walked slowly and deliberately, keeping in mind not to stop under Harvard Bulge.  I dug deep for the willpower to just keep moving towards Central and not bailing.  Someone had skied across and I used their tracks as a narrow sidewalk but my feet would slide occasionally.  I took the time to create a good step before I put my weight on it.  It may have been unnecessary to be that cautious but I figured I still had plenty of daylight to take it easy.

It was 4:00 pm when I looked up at Central’s first ice bulge and attempted to muster the energy to walk towards it. I took my third and last short break of the day and fueled up.  By this time, the sun had fallen low enough and most of the ravine was in a shadow.  I was glad the snow and ice in Central had an hour or two to freeze back up by the time I reached it.  I followed an existing boot pack, as I did on some of the other gullies which saved my calves.  The first ice bulge was, for a change, straight forward.  This came after I had to step across a deep crevasse that reminded me of a glacial bergshrund.  The last ice.  I thought I was home free.  I had gotten that quick glance of the top of the route and there would be some loose rock to pick through in order to exit and the snow was broken up but it looked ok from that vantage point.  I wasn’t ready for what I saw.  It wasn’t a snow slog. It was what looked like a mile of low angle ice waiting for me.  All of the snow had melted out and glazed over during the past week.  I put my head down for a moment to collect myself.  I took a deep breath.  It was a fight up until the very last moment.  I was forced to swing my tool into the hard ice which sent pains from my wrists down my arms.  My calves suddenly decided they had had enough as well.  Refusing to be casual on this top section was my top priority.  With nothing to stop me from sliding all the way down to the base of the route except for large pointy rocks, I climbed slowly, making every stick and kick bombproof despite whatever pain I was feeling.

In a perfect ending, the sun hit my face at the exact second of topping out.  I had removed my sunglasses about two hours ago but gladly squinted at the sudden beam of light.  I stood on top of Central looking at my shadow across the ravine. It was 5:00 pm. The top of the ravine was now all bare rock as the passing afternoon had melted the ice away.  Spring felt like it just arrived.  It marked the official end to my winter and my ice climbing season.  I felt overwhelming satisfaction and contentment.  The wind had completely died off and the still air made a silent moment even quieter.


Ready for spring.

I spent 15.5 hours, from car to car, climbing snow and ice in some of the most bizarre conditions I’ve seen.  It was clear.. I was in Huntington Ravine. A place that immediately drew me in from the first time I saw it not too long ago.  And every time I step out into the floor of the ravine, I am struck by its intense nature.  It is a place of raw beauty.  A place where that beauty can turn savage almost without warning.    A place where I can dream up seemingly endless challenges for myself, push my limits and continue to discover my boundaries as I change as a person and as a climber.  That is what Huntington Ravine means to me.  And for those who know me well, know what this day meant to me.


(All of the photos from the day – click to enlarge)

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Madison Gulf

  Madison Gulf and Mt. Adams

The Eastern aspect of Mt. Adams and the ice of Madison Gulf

The Eastern aspect of Mt. Adams and the ice of Madison Gulf (lower right) Click image to make larger.


The Great Gulf  is a massive area shroud with mystery.  In the early years of hiking for many of us here in the White Mountains, the huge drainage of the West Branch Peabody River, the “Great Gulf Wilderness”  was a place filled with intrigue.  The remote drainage with its many tributaries, gulfs & ravines holds something almost lost to us here in the New Hampshire. And is a place that harbors silence and a true feeling of being alone.  Experiencing this area in summer or winter, total responsibility for one’s actions is paramount.  This is especially true during the winter months.  However, it is during this time when one perceives the rare peacefulness that resides here.  A peacefulness so complete, a single bird singing a short song goes right to the heart.  During all of my time spent out in the winter months, I try to mimic the quiet of this season.  A small and perhaps vain attempt at keeping human noise out no matter where I am.  Often I think to myself, this is what goes on, all the time, when I am not here. I’m just a blip on the screen in this environment and attempt to have my passage go unnoticed.

On the East Face of Mt. Adams, glowering above Madison Gulf resides a cliff.  The ice that hangs in various lengths and hues of psychedelic colours off this wall offer wonderful climbing in a wilderness setting.  At the end of a day your body will be tired and the mind satisfied with all it had seen.  This is especially true if the summit of Adams is reached after the ice climbing is over.  Madison Gulf is a climbing area that will not appeal to everyone.  The approach and descent, the weather, ice and the mountain itself are all ingredients that make this a very satisfying day for those that come here.

I’ve been into the Gulf many times, via both aspects of approach, the East and the West. For the past four years my preferred approach is from the West via the Valley Way Trail in Randolph.  Not only is this way going to be packed to the col, it’s skiable  and lends itself to summit Adams as a finish to the climbing and subsequent descent.  My last time in via the Great Gulf/Madison Gulf Trails in 2009, took 7 hours just to get to the ice. It was a beautifully epic day that opened my eyes to put away the guide book and approach from another direction, one that made sense to me.  Check out the Post  here.

Milage to the ice, with ether choice is close.  However the time may not be. The Western approach, the Valley Way is  ~4.7. The Eastern, Great Gulf/Madison Gulf trails about ~5.3. The key to the approach for the Great Gulf Trail is a lean snow year or early season.  Alternatively, catching the Valley Way tracked to the col. can happen almost anytime.  To each their own, I’ll not say one is better than the other, it all depends on what you seek.  The Valley Way is faster and can have complete solitude, that is if you leave early enough.  It also has the wonderful terrain of the Madison-Adams col. The beauty of Star Lake and passing the craggy Parapet en-route to the descent could be a destination in itself.  The Great Gulf Trail feels remote after the first bridge. The river sings almost throughout the entire hike and you’ll pass through some of the states most beautiful forest and countryside.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The day after an excellent session of lift service skiing, Doug and I are on the Valley Way Trail.  In a few hours we are at the Madison-Adams col.  The fog and stillness join together to create an eerie, though appealing environment.  Our view of the ice from the Parapet is not available for fog is dropping like a heavy veil over the mountains face.

I kept the descent on the high side, not wanting to get drawn too low. And though the visibility and snow conditions were less then perfect, in little time we came to the northern most route, Point du Pinceau.  A traverse along the base brought us to our destination. The line of Point is the longest on the cliff.  This is the best route to do if one is not rappelling and continuing on by ether traversing off via the Buttress Trail back to the col or upward to the summit of Adams, Point gets you closer to both of these two exits.

The ice is perfect. The large flow was a cascade of movement caught and frozen in a kaleidoscope of colours.  We climbed side by side until a headwall of steeper ice at one third height. Here we climbed through a weakness one at a time.  Above, the ice was like an azure sea with islands of white sand. It flowed upwards,  lapping like the tide  into a green mainland of stunted trees.

The snow through the trees was airy and deep, snowshoes were once again required.  After crossing the Buttress trail which runs from Star Lake down into the Great Gulf, we continued up an unseen mountain looming above. Part way to the summit the snow became firm and the rime iced rocks more exposed.  We stopped in the surreal landscape, packed the snowshoes and took a tea break.  The fog was thick and the wind light and we took the wonderful atmosphere into our souls.

The summit came to us like the face of a wraith out of the fog and after a quick handshake we were off.  The Airline Trail drops off the top and after a half-mile merges with the Gulfside Trail.  We followed this back to the col and flowed like liquid back down the Valley Way.

Reanimating areas and climbs is my passion.  I look at Madison Gulf as a challenging way to summit Mt. Adams.  The unusual weather we had, the constant changing of ice and conditions made this another wonderful experience.  Grades did not matter and without any expectations of what lay before us, this was about experiencing an amazing area and climbing a mountain, pure and simple.

Another great link-up  when the snow is just right is that of King Ravine to Madison Gulf. Here is the link to a post from 2009.  Link

Thanks to all for taking the time to read this. And thank you to Doug for being there.


Alan Cattabriga

Photos from the Climb

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Photos, Doug Millen and Alan Cattabriga

The Tooth Traverse

Here are some pieces of the attempts Zack Smith, Freddie Wilkinson and myself, Renan Ozturk, have put into climbing the ‘Tooth Traverse’ of the Ruth Gorge, AK.

The Tooth Traverse from Camp 4 Collective on Vimeo.

Playing Pachinko on Mt.Webster

Crawford Notch, Mt. Webster 4×4


words & photos; Alan Cattabriga

The Gallery

The Horses are on the Track

In late October the first ice was climbed. The ice season was starting.  As usual I was chomping at the bit and wanted more.  Then the temperature started to show signs of being bipoler.  The swings so far this season have been up and down like an out of control EKG reading.  And although there is a prediction of 6-10″ of snow as I write this, a very lean snow year is upon us.

Hitting the conditions while the weather was in a state of mania was the trick. Some of us failed and were caught in the quick swing back to manic. Many climbers have voiced disdain for the start of the season, those that have, are not totally wrong.  The usual steep suspects have been slow to show up and some of the big routes many not even form this season.   However, if one looked, there has been plenty of ice to climb and in some of the best conditions a climber could ever wish for. A lean snow year has it’s advantages too. All that one has to do is stop the neighing and giddy-up.

Katie Ives, Trick or Treating in Damnation Gully, Huntington Ravine

Of  Little Snow and Cold Air

I had this day planned for some time. It’s early January and with very little snow, a good shot of cold air, the time was right.  Even ice at the lower elevations was forming at last and getting climbed. Repentance, Remission and Dropline,  being some of the steeper lines, were sent. But for me I had something else in mind.  The conditions were ripe for a day of continuous movement over a variety of terrain before any snow falls and sucker punches my plan right in the throat.

Mt. Webster in Crawford Notch is like home for me. But the funny thing was, I had yet to visit as many of the beautiful, alpine rooms it contains in one session.  These rooms would be full of water ice flooring. The typical rugs of white were not installed as of yet. The descents would be more challenging however. Steep, gothic style tree fencing and icy to bare hard earth. But the beauty of hitting these gullies filled with ice, would be well worth the pain of the descents.

The lighting of the day.

The Gauntlet

Linking gullies on Mt. Webster has not been an easy thing for me to envision.  Which order to do them and how to get down after each ascent has raged like a battle in my mind, back and forth, always ending in stalemate.  Though I think of the climbs on this mountain as alpine routes, the mountain is at a low elevation and trees ring the routes like a crown of thorns.  You have but two choices to get down after each climb.  The winding Webster Cliff Trail or throw down the gauntlet and bushwhack down the steep, thickly wooded slope of this mountains western aspect.  I decided to take the pill that makes you small and chase the white rabbit down through the woods to my next climb.

Shoestring’s deliciousness

With a plan conjured up during my drive, I’m off for Shoestring Gully. Being the most popular route I need to do it before the tsunami of people arrive. The approach is easy and the ice could not have been better.  After topping out, I do the opposite of a normal Shoestring session. I plunge up hill into the woods then crank a hard left and angle down to the start of Horseshoe Gully.

The descent is through a variety of flora & ground conditions. Tightly growing trees and eight inches of snow lead to open rock with small cliffs. This in turn gives way to more deciduous trees and bare, hard ground. I work my way down and north to the next crease in the mountain.

Horseshoe is a line I had never been on.  The climbing was not it’s redeeming feature, its character and mood was.  To be in a place I had never tread was wonderful. The views out, towards the notch and Mt. Willey were different for me.  While in this gully the clouds had lowered and a light snow started to fall.  I look up to a mixture of snow and ice, rolling upwards to the deep woods hemming in this upper zone. It’s there I moved out and south to make my descent.  In what seemed a short amount time I was following my tracks down once more.  Another act of stumbling, falling, getting stabbed and slapped in the face was underway.  All the while yelping like a hurt coyote or growling like a bear as I pay my fee for traveling through this place.

I make for my car and move up to the Willey House parking and my next climb, Landslide Gully.  My plan being to ascend that climb then continue north along the Webster Cliff Trail to the mountains summit.  Once there I would drop down the Mountaineers Route and work my way south to  Central Couloir. But first, Landslide Gully.

Typically buried with snow, Landslide sported enjoyable ice for hundreds of feet                                                                                                                      

Chapter Two; Of Landslide & Central

This landslide scar is the longest, continuous line on Webster  and is a gem  of a route with little snow. Long before the leg burning, low angle slab ( top in the shot  above ) a narrow cascade of ice meandered downward through the lower reaches of the boulder strewn gully.  I put on my crampons and roll along this. Moving up this frozen water like a part of it, but in reverse fashion from which it was formed.

The Headwall section, Landslide Gully

After the calf burning slab one rounds a corner to the headwall section. These two tiers had beautiful, soft columns to ascend. Above this the meandering cascade continues for some distance. Then the exit slot appears. This deep gash is similar in form to the Cleft on Mt.Willard. Very hidden and only revealing its beauty to those that venture to it’s door.  The bushwhack to the Webster Cliff Trail is short and easy. I use the walking along this trail as a rest for my legs before what I know will be a tense descent of the Mountaineers Route. This line has a very long talus tongue that will have about eight inches of snow on it. I feel a healthy dose of butt kicking will be coming my way all too soon.

Along Webster’s ridge

Hiking along the ridge is wildly beautiful. The wind has picked up, the feel is pure winter and not a soul is around.   From the summit  I move down a steep exposed section to the main opening of the Mountaineers Route.  The talus is as I expected,  loose and covered with just enough snow to make it a major epic.  However off to the side I find a little ease.  The scrub and trees offer better ground and more snow has accumulated covering some of the roughness.
I descend fast and in a blink of an eye, the deeper snow disappears, the woods thicken and I’m back on frozen brown ground.  My movement down is an uncontrolled, reversed version of Tarzan.  At last I come to the Gallery area.  This is an excellent place to climb, one totally overlooked though in plan view from the road.  From here I traverse the base of the huge rock slab that becomes the left side of Central Couloir.   The footing is treacherous, a light dusting of snow covers waxy  oak leaves, roots and sticks. Another body beating takes place.  My legs are tired and cramp up something awful.  I’m hobbled by spasms and  begin to doubt  if I’ll be able to climb Central.

When I arrive at the start of the route my legs are sore and close to being sloppy dead but the cramps are gone. The start of the route is thin but soon it becomes another awesome connection of ice walls and slabs. At the upper cliff band I have to call the day.  To do one of the finishes would be hard and there is no easy way out.  Not to mention I would have to descend ether the Mountaineers Route again or take the Webster Cliff trail back south and the road back to my car.

The Willey House in Crawford Notch

The journey down to the Willey House parking from my high point will be no easy task.  I chill for a moment and enjoy the place I’m in.  After a few photos I begin my descent through the woods on the south side of Central.  One last marble run takes place.  Except this time I’m completely spent . However I have beer in my car and get one more click of energy out of my body so it all balances out.

 The Skinny

A total of eight hours was spent moving up and down Mt. Websters  west face. The elevation gain & loss for the day was ~ 12,800′. Not bad for starting at ~1,100′  on a mountain that is only 3,800′ high.



The Trifecta

Pinnacle, Shoestring and The Throat in a day

By Alan Cattabriga

The Details:

1. Pinnacle: Leave Car 6am,  Back down 9:15am.  (3hrs. 15min.)

2. Shoestring: Leave car 10:20am,  Back down 12:10 (1hr.50min.)

3. The Throat: Leave car 1pm, Back down 5:50pm. (5hrs.50min.)

Total Time: 10 hrs. 55 min.

Total Distance: 16.07 Miles

Total Elevation Gain: 7613 ft

The Story….The Adirondack climbers had the cool name, “The Trilogy”, damn it!! I grew up reading Tolkien,  my other main staple in my youth was Castaneda,  a load of killer titles, but the “collection” of books had no name. Good thing they did not, for I don’t think I could ever climb as many alpine routes in a day as Carlos has books. But “Trifecta”, now there is a sweet sounding word. A word that can be applied to a few different activities…..Of testing the legs and getting some times;In Jan ’08, Ted Hammond & I did a Shoestring/Lincoln’s Throat combo. It took us like 11hrs; Shoestring went like clock work but the approach to the Throat was hideous, with deep snow and the stream open here & there. In one of the “here” portions I took a little dip. We also lost some time for we wanted to do a unknown left finish to the Franconia Ridge that leaves the main drainage before the Throat, but we took our turn too soon (my fault) and after a long, cool gully, it dead ended at a spruce wall that resembled the Spartan spears in the movie 300. We descended the gully (I was really pissed at my faux pas) and motored up to the Mullet (right slab) line to Lincoln’s summit and enjoyed an awesome sunset. Our mistake took time but gave us a huge sunset gift.
This past Dec. I dabbled again, this time with Damnation, descending Lion’s Head then Shoestring combo. I kept my pace at a slow boil in the ravine, but being alone I went hard on Shoestring and took 20mins. of my fastest time there. (6.5 hrs. total time.)The ice season comes full circle every year, we start & end in the alpine zone, time to stop thinking and start doing. The second wk. of March had started, conditions in the zone were looking good. The next few days were going to be sunny and nights cold. My day was going to be Friday the 13th. Worry? Why should I? I’m not superstitious, though the last time I took this date off, I augured into the ground off of Omega’s first pitch and got totally owned.Of the Trifecta: Pinnacle Gully, Shoestring Gully & Lincoln’s Throat;I’m up early Fri. morning and leave the house at 3:45am. I’ve gone over the times I want to do each section and the best way to do this. For the ravine portion, the fastest way would be Pinnacle then down South. I leave the car in Pinkham at 6am. The moon was just starting to wan and low, but lit the trail nicely.
I get to the ravine just as the sun is lighting up the headwall, it’s cold, single digits and a bit windy but bluebird. I hear the sound of a snowmobile coming and talk with avy ranger, Justin, as I get ready. The snow in the Fan is glazed and rock hard, Pinnacle looks beautiful. The ice was hard and brittle, with thin cracks/lines running this way and that. Because of these cracks my tools were breaking off triangular chunks which made tool placements kind of a pain. After the first 200′ the rest of the climb is hard, ice covered snow. Total fun, single tool climbing. I’m down South Gully fast, remove the ‘poon’s and jog the trail down.I find the snow absolutely perfect on the approach to Shoestring. So hard, I put the crampons on as soon as I started going up in the woods. The gully was in great condition and the direct finish awesome. The Webster Cliff Trail was very hard snow and crampons would have been the ticket, but I wanted to jog down so I took them off. After the first steep sections, and a few borderline out of control glissades, the rest of the trail was nice. It was now 11:50 and I wanted to start the approach to the Throat by 1 to stay on time. Perfect..
Now I thought the driving parts would be great, time to refuel, crank some Dead, take the boots off, give the feet a break and it was…. but when I got out at Lincoln’s parking, my legs had stiffened up pretty bad. It took a fair amount of hiking to loosen them again. Even though the snow conditions had been great, I decided to bring the snowshoes, I did not want to get into the Lincoln’s approach drainage and have a posthole party.
The Old Bridle Path was good & packed, I put the shoes on for the steep bushwhack down to the Throat’s drainage. Once there I discovered a gift – two people had gone up earlier and broken the hard crust. I removed the shoes and followed their tracks. The going was good and eventually the snow hard enough to stay on top. The Throat was fat and I climbed it right of the usual ice hose, the snow above the ice was excellent. On Lincoln’s summit there was a light wind and I could see for miles. I’m stoked!! While digging the viewsAl I drink a Red Bull and eat the last of a cookie & Balance bar. It’s 4pm and time to go, the Franconia Ridge to Little Haystack was all ice and hard snow, very nice. The hike down the Falling Waters Trail was packed, hard snow so I keep the ‘poons on almost the whole way down. I got back to the car just shy of 12hrs. (10hrs of total hiking/climbing) after starting in Pinkham… A phone call home and the next stop is the nearest beer store.There are many link-ups one can do around here. Adding Adams Slide on Cannon to what I did would be very doable. For this linky I thought of the car as a base camp and I could keep my pack light, once above tree line I had on all I brought for cloths, a little food and 1 pint of Gatorade per section, except on the Throat, I had only about 8oz. left and the Bull.
Come to find out The “Trilogy” got sent about the same time as my day by Joe Szot & and a friend. Awesome! Then Emilie Drinkwater repeats it a few days later, solo. Yeah, totally awesome.. To be out there, a long day, alone takes some fortitude, but the feeling you get……Now I’m in no way am thinking that I’m the first person to do this link-up. I’ve never heard of it being done though, it was a test just for me.AlanMore Links ……..Lincoln’s Throat – Mt. Lincoln – eguide on NEicePinnacle Gully – eguide on NEiceThe Throat– Photo search on NEicePinnacle– Photo search on NEiceShoestring – Photo search on NEicePhotos & content by Alan Cattabriga, maps, links and web page by Doug Millen

The Trilogy, Adirondacks NY

The North Face of Gothics, Grand Central on Marcy and Colden’s Trap Dike in a day.

by Emilie Drinkwater


My decision to try the “Trilogy” was made on a Sunday afternoon, March 15th. Inspired by recent link-up activity in the Northeast (Alan Cattabriga’s Trifecta in NH and Joe Szot’s Adirondack Trilogy), I decided that conditions wouldn’t get any better for my own attempt at the Trilogy. This link-up starts on the North Face of Gothics and continues up and over Saddleback, Basin, and the shoulder of Little Haystack, dropping into Panther Gorge, ascending a line called Grand Central to the summit of Marcy, down Marcy, into Avalanche Lake, up Colden’s Trap Dike, down the backside and out.

I started this adventure at 4:30am on Monday morning (March 16th) with a two-mile uphill bike ride from Keene Valley to the Garden trailhead (having dropped my car at the Adirondack Loj the night before, I didn’t want to ask anyone to drive me anywhere at 4am). I started the actual Trilogy at 5:02am and was determined to ski as much as possible, as I had opted not to bring snowshoes and hate walking in crampons. The first mile and a half was slow going and I probably took my skis on and off fifteen times to cross large patches of bare ground or ice. Eventually the snow became more consistent and I was able to move quickly, reaching the base of the North Face at first light.

Choosing a line to the far right on the North Face allowed a straightforward ascent to the summit, which I reached at 8:30am. Little did I know, the difficult part of the day was only just beginning; having never been on this section of the Range Trail, I was under the impression that I would be following a ridgeline all the way to Little Haystack. Wrong! In fact, this section of trail descends and ascends each of those peaks and includes a section of steep, open rock that seemed to be in the range of 3rd or 4th class climbing (at least in ski boots and crampons). In addition to now feeling very sluggish in the legs, this down-climb had slowed the pace significantly.
I continued plodding toward Little Haystack, skiing sections on occasion, but mostly walking (skis on my back) on packed trail, all while snagging the skis on every overhead branch and limb, wasting energy climbing over and under downed trees. At last I started to get views of Marcy’s impressive south face and the remote Panther Gorge below. Having never been on this section of trail, let alone anywhere near Panther Gorge, I knew my only hope of getting in there would be following the tracks of Joe and his partner, four days prior. Sure enough, just past the Slant Rock/Marcy Trail intersection, I spotted a faint set of tracks heading into the Gorge. I nervously followed the tracks (these guys had wisely put snowshoes on for this section) down into the abyss of Panther Gorge. Almost immediately, I lost their trail and started desperately postholing. Panicked and exhausted by dropping into waist deep spruce holes (for more than 45 minutes at this point), I started to regret bringing skis instead of snowshoes. The skis caught on everything and what branches they didn’t break, they instead shook thousands of pine needles down my back. I knew turning around and postholing out would be more difficult than what I’d just come through, so I made the conscious decision to continue, hoping to make it to some feature that would take me up and out to the relatively open slopes of Marcy’s south face. Only minutes later, I regained Joe’s tracks (and the greatest sense of relief ever!), and followed them up a short, steep step into the Grand Central gully. The sunny, openness of this snow gully was fantastic, but my legs were now so tired that I was reduced to taking 50 steps followed by 30-second rests. I had also long since run out of water and had been forced to fill a water bottle from a dripping icicle; I did treat the water but probably not for long enough… hopefully I won’t have giardia next week!

I reached the summit of Mt. Marcy at about 3:30pm. Sadly, somewhere in my Panther Gorge struggle, my watch had set itself back an entire hour, leading me to believe it was 2:30pm at the summit. Suspicious of the sun’s location in the sky, I checked my cell phone and discovered the mistake. Feeling pressured for time, I put my skis on and immediately started my descent on the Marcy ski trail. It should be noted that Joe’s descent from the summit of Marcy took the Feldspar/Lake Tear trail down to Lake Colden, whereas my descent (because I chose to ski) took me down to Marcy Dam (a mere two miles from my car), in approximately 35 minutes. From here I headed back up into Avalanche Lake and, for the first time in the day, felt so happy to have skis, which were faster and allowed my legs some recovery time.

I reached the base of the Trap Dike at about 5:15pm and because of its western aspect, the sun beating down was warm and bright as if it were noon. I took a quick break here to eat some sugar-laden, caffeine-laced snacks, and I started back uphill again with a second wind. Tired of listening to my heart race, I pulled out the ipod to get through the last tedious section of the Trilogy, and was spurred along by such motivational classics as Eye of the Tiger and The Final Countdown. Despite this, my legs were so tired that I had been further reduced to 10 steps followed by 30-second rests.

I reached Mt. Colden’s summit at about 7:15pm, just as the sun was setting. Fear of missing the Lake Arnold trail off Colden’s summit in the dark, made me move quickly and I reached Lake Arnold before I needed my headlamp. From this point, I was able to ski the snowshoe trench out to Marcy Dam and from the Dam to the Loj, reaching the parking lot at 8:44pm.
15 hours, 42 minutes, my final time (unless I’ve done the math wrong, which wouldn’t be surprising). I went into this with low expectations, never trying to be faster than Joe, only hoping to finish at all. I like to remind myself that this Trilogy was never my vision only something that seemed like a good challenge. I believe that conditions couldn’t have been better and having a track to follow was indispensable. While I may not be at my fittest, an extensive endurance background did finally pay off. And, when Jan Wellford recovers from a broken pelvis, you can bet that my time will be crushed as well!

–Emilie Drinkwater, 3/19/09

Emilie is owner/guide; Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides in Keene Valley NY.