By Matt RitterFrom the exposed ledges of the Whitney Gilman Ridge it would call to me. I’d snap seemingly random photographs and stare distractedly. I’d remind myself that as a guide I should remain focused. The giant corner system above the Cannonade Buttress is exposed and looms over the talus like an inverted cargo train. The steep face below is split by a series of cracks and seams that I visually kept following back to the base of this massive corner. In the winter, I’d rack up and wonder about the imposing prow which starts as a large corner, briefly evaporates mid cliff, and reasserts itself in steep prominence like a wave threatening to break on the talus beach.
Despite having made five attempts on this route with various partners, I knew that I could put it to rest this time. The source of this confidence being an extra five feet of ice not present during my last lean condition attempt. This ice made me think I wouldn’t need to place gear in the seemingly unprotectable terrain above my highpoint.
I have climbed on this route with some of the greatest members of our climbing community. Today was no exception, Jim Shimberg owner of Rhino Guides kept telling me I was “grilled” as we made upward progression. The icy cracks of the first pitch felt heavenly and went quickly. Snow conditions were perfect which made the technical pitch two traverse a sidewalk.
Pitch three is where the business begins. Off the piton anchor, I clip a nest of gear and situate myself at the first crux where a splendid vertical slab becomes slightly overhanging. With both tools over my shoulder, I side pull crimp an edge, step my front points high onto nothing, and at full extension I virtually kiss my ice tool ‘goodbye’ to wrangle a solid matchable edge. Committed, a fall from here would land me below the belayer in a big swinging arc. Better not to fall. A couple solid tool placements and strenuous lock offs allows me to clip a great piton and bust some layback moves on a flake to gain a rest beneath a small roof.
Reaching out over my left shoulder, I pull through the roof and high step into the next crux which feels like muckling a greased refrigerator with an iced up rattly hand crack on the left and an equally slick rattly finger crack on the right. Surmounting this block feels monumental. After some steep cranking, I gain a good stemming rest and a short flaring corner that becomes an in-cut, kinda sidepull rail with good hooks and some tiny gear. Stellar, exposed climbing gains a tiny ledge which, with a micro wire, and a tiny fixed pecker a body length beneath my feet, provided much spice to mantle. Placing a great piton awkwardly at my knees, I was just a few moves from mantling onto the icy sloping ledge above. I’ve always said I was gonna kiss this ledge when I got there. Tough to describe the exuberance I felt from finally reaching this point. The rest of the pitch isn’t easy but comparatively its a walk in the park. I knew it was in the bag.
Michael Wejchert, and I met at Cannon Cliff the next day. I wanted to climb a variation to Cannonade Direct that would allow me to climb the entirety of the monstrous upper corner. Being a little sore from the previous three days of strenuous climbing, I slurped multiple infusions of Mate and blasted Rage Against the Machine. Another warm day. At the base of Cannonade Direct I racked up. Having climbed this amazing pitch five times, I have it rather dialed. I torqued iced up cracks, stemmed familiarly, and sloppily sped up the 65 meter pitch. Now for the variation! I situated myself under the first crux and placed a couple bomber knifeblades. A right arching seam catered minuscule technical edges and tenuous high steps. The rock is bomber but I enjoyed a handful of whippers due to exploding micro flakes. Making these technical face moves earned me some awe-inspiring hooks and the most elegant horizontal finger crack which welcomed the necessary gear and an adequate rest before the next crux of gaining the ice.
I tapped my battered picks into the snowy little ledge. The ¼ inch space between ice and granite dispelled any myth of security. Wet snow pressed heavily on this precarious substrate. The rock beneath my ice tools was overhanging. I hoisted my front points up to my elbows placing them on perfect ⅜ inch edges. Finally some large footholds!! Here, with my ass in space and my ice tool moving to more secure rotten worthless ice, the ledge and ice curtain detach indifferently. Taking a big clean fall onto a bomber Lost Arrow I come tight on the rope before reaching terminal velocity. My head was down and I could see Michael looking at me as generously plump chunks of aerated ice pummeled me. Without lifting my head, Michael and I made eye contact. “I guess you’ll have to wait for a colder day.” Michael is smarter than I am. “I’m making it to that belay. I think it just got easier.”
I know I’ve got one shot. The holidays are upon us. The rain is upon us. My early season project’s ice will not form again. I lower to the ledge and fire the crux, pull gingerly onto the steep ice and build a belay at the base of the mythical corner.
Everything had felt pretty safe up to this point. Despite the repeated whips and long fall followed by a heat seeking deluge of frozen water missiles, I was climbing very well and felt invincible. Obviously mixed climbing is dangerous. Nothing about climbing Mean Streak, Prozac, or Daedalus is “safe.” In fact these climbs provide one with many opportunities to get hurt. I firmly believe that in these situations our safety hinges upon our mental state. There will always be objective hazard, but when I’m climbing well, I’m not climbing scared. Surviving one of these climbs by the skin of my teeth does not seem sustainable. No route is worth a broken ankle, face, or spinal cord. With that in mind, I pulled off the ledge and soon found myself with a couple cams a few feet beneath my boots. Cannon does in fact have pockets of very steep terrain. Trust me. I look for it. I was getting pumped and I almost bailed. Casually, I told Michael I might fall as I began to ponder my exit strategy. He didn’t argue but we both knew this wasnt gonna be pretty. Looking down, I saw a small edge. Still in control, I reminded myself that someday I wanted to be a bold climber. I looked up. In what felt like the boldest moment of my career, I forged upward. Now, too far above my gear to not hurt myself, perched on an overhanging arete above the talus, on a pitch I’ve lusted over for 3 seasons. I made one more move to a solid hook and a serendipitous cam placement. The climbing eased up slightly as steep snow filled cracks and an arete composed of gravity defying loose nonsense made me feel at home. Or was it that I wished I was at home? Either way, leaving my last gear behind and pulling around the corner onto featureless slabs covered in ½ inch snice kept my attention for the last 40 feet to the trees. Seriously, do not blow it here…
(Click on images to enlarge)
More on Matt
By Courtney Ley
Let’s get right to it! More noteworthy news coming out of Cannon Cliff again this weekend!
Jeff Previte and Matt Ritter made the second ascent of Prozac on the Omega Wall this past Friday. The mixed route, finishing right of Omega, was first established by Kevin Mahoney and Ben Gilmore in 2002.
“We swapped the leads from the day before. Not because we didn’t want to face the same gut-retching second pitch from the day before but because we wanted to share the clarity it offered. Once at our high point from the day before I got to lead the last pitch. This was the lead I had been waiting for all season. The lead that required full commitment and willingness to shake the cob webs free. The lead that would cure my sinking psych. Knife blades with screamers, stoppers heads, marginal cams all added to the mix. I dropped a tool (this was the time of leashes and I was trying the Android leash for the first time) fortunately ben was close by to tag a tool on to the rope. Once at the trees I was different, not the same sulking man that my fiance was wondering if she should marry. Those two days on Cannon had set me right. Ben and I named the new route Prozac. Nine years later I can still enjoy those two days with Ben on Cannon and hope conditions like that come again so Prozac can get a second ascent.”
You can find his whole story remembering that day, on his blog post, Around the next corner?
As Jeff and Matt made their way to the base of the climb, Majka Burhardt and Peter Doucette were already on the route. Peter, just coming back from Nepal only 30 hours earlier, was leading the second pitch. Majka and Peter decided to call it a day after three pitches and rappelled down passing by Matt and Jeff. As they continued up, Matt described the third pitch as a “run-out muckle of ‘egg shell’ ice which gave way to a sketchy mantel and an awkward perch beneath the steep, more solid ice.” Sounds fun eh?!
Now they were perched at the Pitch three belay looking up at the last and final pitch which was waiting patiently, as it had for 12 years. The sun was lowering and the cold air began to penetrate their now shivering bodies, but Matt didn’t need to think about the next move. He was motivated.
As Matt started up the final pitch he wrote:
“There was no obvious path other than the gnarliest looking corners and roofs which got me pretty excited. Confident, I knew I could make this pitch go. I began by down climbing 15 feet after sinking a Lost Arrow just above the anchor. I traversed left to a stance and climbed a techy vertical crack and T4 (turf ratings) front point placements. Getting situated in a sweet corner below a grooved roof I found a piton and a tiny fixed wire I assume were placed by Kevin. I took a while here making sure not to rush anything. Hooting, hollering, singing Taylor Swift, laughing maniacally, I found myself torqueing micro cracks perfectly designed for pick placements in steep terrain. Tiny cams and wires protected most of the tough bits decently well. At the crux I stopped laughing, and Jeff said he wasn’t gonna take my picture again due to the long encroaching shadows. Locking off on a sinker left tool I found myself traversing right out of a shallow corner onto a steep face using elegant and technical foot crosses and a high step to a one inch gloved thumb undercling! A bit of aggressive snarling and soon enough I was in the Krumholz. I found a Spruce or a Fir with an old loop of rope and belayed Jeff up from here. Ecstatic, I thought about Kevin standing at the previous ledge scoping his line. Of the handful of in-obvious options, we had chosen the same path, and how 13 years ago he fished that dinky little wired nut into a constriction and cruised onward. I took a few moments to laugh uncontrollably. When laughter gave way to the largest perma-smile I own, I experienced a deep appreciation for life, for Cannon Cliff, (the old old grandpa cliff) for Kevin and Ben being supremely badass, and for the holistic nourishment these experiences provide.”
Nice work guys! To read his entire account of the day, check out his report on Walkabout Wild.
If you are still feeling the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder after that dose of Prozac, here’s some Positive Thinking!
The next day, over in New York, Jeffery Dunn and Bryan Kass climbed Positive Thinking at Poke-O in 90’s fashion. The route in early season mimics the days when the ice rarely touched the ground. They pulled some Patagonian-style tricks out of the bag and had a little fun with it along the way…
It seems climbers everywhere were heading to the hills this past weekend, taking advantage before the warmth and rain hit during the early part of this week. Check out the Photo page for what got done.. including some sweet shots at Lake Willoughby! In Crawford Notch, Mt. Willard offered up a taste of ice and in the Adirondacks, the climbs at Chapel Pond froze long enough to see some action.
Now if we can all sit still long enough, waiting for the warm front to move out of here and the cold to return later this week, who knows what we’ll find!
~ Special Thanks to Majka Burnhardt, Peter Doucette, Jeff Previte, Matt Ritter and Jeffery Dunn.
One Reckless Youth, an Ice Devil and several Polar children
Times like these don’t come along often, I mean, when was the last “Polar Vortex”? But when they do, you better be ready. The conditions were ripe for the picking last week on Whitehorse & Cathedral Ledges, North Conway NH. Peter Doucette – Mountain Sense Guides – along with IMCS guide Sam Bendroth, Erik Eisele, and Adam Bidwell had “Mountain Sense” and dropped everything to take full advantage of these rare conditions. With plenty of ground water and a “Polar Vortex” to bring in some great “Streaks”, they hit the jack pot.
Peter had a few days of training earlier at Cathedral Ledge before his Whitehorse rampage. And as Bayard said, “Peter, now fully warmed up and ready for the next event, takes it to the next level. In the next three days he proceeds to climb everything. I mean everything!” See more on Peter’s warm up from NEice Ambassador Bayard Russell of Cathedral Mountain Guides on his Blog Post Sending Streaks
“Taking a page out of the Russell/McCormick play book, during the nearly unrelenting deluge today, Erik and I followed “Endangered Species”, (Webster/Winkler ’82) and branched out on a slight variation to get into the Children’s Crusade finish up ice glazed corners yielding “Reckless Youth” (M8 WI5+) shown in Red.- Peter Doucette
” We were soaked to the bone, used umbrellas for the approach and first belay, and reached the ground just as a thunderclap ripped through the valley. Pete led the crux pitches, one and three, both of which were incredible to watch. On the Eradicate Dike he was looking at huge falls into ledges, and in the upper corner he was climbing a six inch vertical smear while clipping bad fixed pins. It was raining so hard water filled my boots. I went through four pairs of gloves. To watch Peter work in such conditions was pretty amazing.” – Erik Eisele
“Ice Devil” (WI5+ M6+) shown in blue, followed a smear right of the rock route “Seventh Seal”, up “Scare Tactics,” then angled left into the upper reaches of “Beelzebub” with some variations. Brilliant climbing both days, full conditions today. Who know’s what will form in the next couple weeks if the “Polar Vortex” kicks back in.” – Peter Doucette
The Myth of Sisyphus
The Myth offered some rare and spectacular climbing.
” The Myth with the absent top-out sadly apparent from below…sometimes you have to see it in person to believe it :-)” – Peter Doucette
The routes are as follows:
- Dresden South NEI5 Peter Doucette with Sam Bendroth 1/10/2014 / Cathedral Ledge, Left margin of the Barber Wall.
- Winter Asylum NEI 6- R (thats 6 minus) Peter Doucette with Sam Bendroth 1/10/ 2014 / Cathedral Ledge, The Barber Wall
- Ice Devil M6+ NEI 5+ Peter Doucette with Adam Bidwell 1/9/2014 Ice Whitehorse Ledge, South Buttress
- Reckless Youth M8 NEI 5+ with Erik Eisele 1/11/2014 / Whitehorse Ledge, South Buttress ( through the upper corners of Children’s Crusade).
So all I want to know, when is the next “Polar Vortex” due? – Doug Millen
A few more photos
IFMGA/AMGA Licensed Mountain Guide
Intervale, NH. 03845
Photos as noted, click to enlarge
Peter is guiding Ice Climbing 101 on FRIDAY and Outdoor Research’s Steep Waterfall Ice on SATURDAY at this years Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest !
by Ian Osteyee
Mark Meschinelli and I had a good day at Poko on Friday the 27th. Things looked to be shaping up a bit when I was there on Thursday, so I brought in a substitute guide and played hooky with Mark. We looked at “Stingray” from the road and it looked intriguing, so we went for a look. It still didn’t look certain from the ground, it seemed less formed than when I did the second ascent with Chris Fey years earlier. I climbed up and across the “Sting” ledge and down to the belay. Once Mark came up, I went up to take a look, and although thin, the ice quality was good and attached.
The ice formed a bit left of where it had before, and reaching the “Sting” anchor was difficult. No gear, and 50′ above the “Sting” ledge, I took care getting to that anchor with an off balance kind of iron cross move. 30 seconds of awkward, careful chipping allowed me to clip and have a piece of gear. It gets a little steeper right after that anchor, but the ice also got a little better. The last time I did this route I climbed from that spot all the way to the dike ledge with no more gear. On this ascent I was able to avoid the 150′ run out, finding a bolt frozen in the left side of the smear about 40′ up from the “Sting” anchor. Mark had told me the general whereabouts of the bolt – a good partner indeed. This time I used a set of Blue Water 70m doubles and easily reached the anchor point, better than the scary rope stretching super stubby/bad rock anchor of the last ascent. Mark came up and we headed up the upper pitch. The upper pitch was fun, sticky ice through the small roof above and to the big tree/rappel anchor.
That would have been a great day all by itself, but as we rappelled down we couldn’t help looking over at another smear that had formed from the middle of the “Sting” ledge straight up between the rock routes “Easy Street” and “Unforgiven.” We rapped and Mark and I discussed our options. Mark cautioned that it looked much thinner than “Stingray.” I agreed, but the ice was climbing well that day, and I decided to have a look. I climbed back up the “Sting” ledge, tucking the ropes behind the ledge as “gear”, and shimmied toward the smear. I could see an overlap about 50′ up, that might take a TCU placement. The start was very thin, and crampon purchase had to be carefully managed. Already being up on the “Sting” ledge created a substantial distance above the ground. The new Cassin Blade Runner’s shined. I reached the overlap, and was disappointed. I fiddled with a blue TCU, but I should have brought the little purple one. I left it, but it was as useful as a Christmas ornament. I knew the “Unforgiving” anchor was up there somewhere. At about 100′ I saw a red sling frozen in, and 30 seconds of chipping revealed the top bolt of the “Unforgiving” rock anchor. That was good timing as it steepened right there. Having Mark Meschinelli as my partner can’t be underestimated.
Mark is a calm, cool guy, and he neither incites this kind of mischief, nor denies it. He simply inspires calm, and that is a great climbing vibe. Another thing Mark is good for is telling you where hidden bolts may be, as he’s spent a lifetime climbing at Poko. Another 40′ up above that anchor clip and I remembered Mark had said “keep your eyes open, there are a few bolts up there,” and there was a bolt. A little chipping, clip, and my mood improved markedly. Another 40′ and the angle decreased, I placed a 10cm screw just before the ledge, but the ice still wasn’t quite thick enough. From there it just links up with the same upper pitch of “Stingray.” The new pitch is a hair longer than the “Stingray” pitch, but the line is narrower, and the ice thinner. We both thought it a bit pumpier. The name is Meschinelli’s favorite new brew, which we enjoyed curbside. “Ruination” WI 6- X
by Doug Millen
Ever since Irene, Alfonzo and I have been wanting to catch this drainage, in that perfect moment. We’ve scrambled up Hillman’s in the summer,using it to access the rock ridges of the Boott Spur. The movement of earth and boulders caused by that massive rain event were impressive. We wondered what it would be like frozen and finally last Saturday we were given that moment. The climbing was excellent. A ribbon of ice with steeper steps running for 1000′. Winter is coming and the ice was building during the day…I look for more building during the week and good early season ice climbing this weekend, in the high ravines. Here are a few photos of our “Drive up Hillmans Highway” on Saturday November 9th 2013.
Acadia National Park, ME
Well you don’t have to travel to Helmcken Falls, Canada to climb “Spray Ice”. You just need the right weather and timing.
Report from Josh Hurst
“Ian and Owen found found some spray ice after the blizzard on Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park, ME and gave me a call at lunch to join them. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun climbing ice! If it gets cold the ice should hang in there but it was very soft and falling apart today”
Here are some photos of the climbing (click to enlarge)
“High And Dry” ( erroneously named Woodman/Dorcy in my post Spirit, the names of the FA team) is an excellent introduction to the wonderful climbing in Franconia Ridge back country. The approach up the Dry River is straight froward and easy. Depending on conditions of course. One starts this adventure by parking at the Old Bridle Path/ Falling Waters Trailhead, the same parking lot for Lincoln’s Throat.
In a short distance (.2m) turn right on to the Falling Waters trail. Hike this trail for ~ 1.5 miles until the last brook crossing ( L to R side) and then follow the Dry Brook directly to the base of the slide. The finish of this climb is on the Franconia Ridge just south of Lincoln’s summit, where it gets craggy at the little detached tower. This section of ridge is one of the most aesthetic in the state.
Friday 2.8.13 , on the toes of the oncoming snowstorm, Ted Hammond and I got into this beautiful drainage and slide before it turned into a expert BC ski run. What applies to some bc climbs applies here, High & Dry is best done early season or during a lean snow year.
Of note, this is also a great summer hike. With the climbing on the slabs in the 5.4 range, and many finishing options on the cliffs guarding the Franconia Ridge.
Below is a slideshow of our day, enjoy.
The First Ascent of CryokinesisRay Rice’s airborne antics folded him nearly in half and brought him to a halt not so far above Cathedral Ledge’s Blueberry Terrace in January 2010. “Walking”, or “climbing it off”, as was the case, Ray leaned into a no hands rest 30+ feet below his highpoint. He collected himself and prepared for his second go before the adrenaline and whatever else was coursing through his veins dissipated. Later, Ray described the upper reaches of Cryokinesis as, “climbing blacked out.” He shed his gloves late in the lead as desperation returned. He torqued, clung, quivered and willed his way upward, narrowly avoiding a second dangerous mistake. Either due to acute focus, or the pain his body was suppressing, his memory of the pitch was as sparse as the turf shots between him and topping out.
Ray’s belayer that day was Bayard Russell. Bayard simply laughed when I asked him recently what it was like belaying and watching Ray so unabashedly go for it. As his laughter stopped, he said, “When Ray got back on, (and I had to send him my tools first, cause his had sailed to the ground) I was talking to the rope, trying to push it, and Ray, to the top from below. It was terrifying to think he could take that same fall again. He was just going for it. At the end of the day, when we’d all reached the ground, we had to look for Ray’s tools. In the search, we found both, one having left a perfect tool silhouette punched in the snow further from the base of the cliff than you’d expect.”
As climbers, the top is only part of the goal. How we feel climbing, the style with which we approach objectives, choose partners, remember the stories and record ascents hold high priority, too. The “First Ascent” with the no hands rest and little memory of its upper reaches still seemed, for Ray, like a job unfinished, until last Sunday, January 6th, when we climbed Cryokinesis, from the ground via Karen’s Variation. We took turns successfully leading the (crux) last pitch, Ray first. It was my second time attempting the route and Ray’s third.
While the approach pitch of Karen’s Variation offers its own brand of delicate, awkward climbing: it’s never wildly difficult – Some ice, some turf, and a well executed hex placement get you through the bulging cruxes and lead you to more secure climbing – But upon reaching the terrace, the route’s character changes and very clean granite rises above. Powerful stemming on micro features and plenty of gear on Kinesis get you started. Cryokinesis diverges 25’ up (about 6’ below the existing bolt) with a necky pull to a good stance (Ray’s earlier no hands rest point). Higher, the fascinating pillar spouts from a crack in the middle of the otherwise blank face. Beyond the ice, the wall steepens to gently overhanging with clutch thin cracks, a lone pin, suitably techy feet and just enough turf to keep your security in question to the last swing. This is a classy and ephemeral route. Check it out, but don’t stare too much at the fall sequence before you go.
We rated Cryokinesis M7+ NEI 5
Pitch One (Climbs Karen’s Variation) at M6 180′
Pitch 2 is M7+ NEI 5 85’
First Ascent: Ray Rice and Peter Doucette January 6th 2013
Photos of Cryokinesis
Click photos to enlarge
*Thanks to Jim Surette and Granite Films for sharing his images for this publication.
Address: 84 Skyline Drive
Intervale, NH. 03845
Mount Webster, Crawford Notch NH
“The line runs right up the obvious overhanging face, although it isn’t the diagonaling crack. On the right side of the face is a straight-up-and-down crack. The ice at the start is obscured as well. The corner above is the obvious finish” – Erik Eisele