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.



Harvard Cabin Open for the Season – 2015/16

A sure sign that the winter season has started! 


Greetings Harvard Cabin Mountaineers,

Bet you were wondering when you’d see another cabin update. I know because I found a few inquires in a dusty corner of my inbox…sorry I didn’t get to them sooner.

I’m sure you’ve been making plans to get up to the Harvard Cabin this season. You’re in luck, the Harvard Cabin opens for the season today. The 2015/16 ice season is off to a fine start with consistently cold temperatures and a fair bit of early season snow. I’ll have a better feel for conditions as the week goes on but, I hope you’ll come up and see for yourself…..we’ll be here until April!Come join us for our best season yet!

FYI, if there are any early birds heading up the hill, be advised we will be cutting-off the pad-lock at the cabin around mid-day. If you are out and about on the mountain and planning to spend the night at Harvard, feel free to stash your gear in the vicinity of the cabin. Rest assured, the cabin will be open and warm when you return.

Staying at the Harvard Cabin

As a reminder, staying at the Harvard Cabin is on a first-come, first serve basis. The rate is still $15 per person, per night. (US Cash only). Check for space available at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center before heading up the trail. You can find the Harvard Cabin Register at the Trading Post Front Desk or downstairs in the pack-up room after-hours. All guests need to arrive prepared – sleeping gear, toiletries, food, and other equipment as needed. The cabin is equipped with full-kitchen amenities, so bring fresh food and leave the stove and cook kit in the car. If you will be camping at the Harvard Tent-Site, we are happy to help you any way we can, but campers need to be fully-prepared for a winter bivy – tent/shelter, cook stove with fuel, adequate warm weather gear. The water source is the Cutler River, located behind the cabin. No need to melt snow. Due to it’s size of the facility, cabin amenities are to be used strictly by those guests who have signed-up to stay inside the cabin.

The best approach to the cabin from Pinkham Notch is to travel about 1 3/4 miles up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Huntington Ravine Fire Road. If you are not certain of the way, be sure to ask a trail information specialist at Pinkham Notch.

You can find out more about the staying at the cabin at http://www.harvardmountaineering.org/cabin/

Rich, Marcia, and Sprinter Update

It’s been a hectic few weeks since Marcia and I returned to New England following a summer of skiing and climbing the the western US. Fortunately, we made it back just in time for the annual Harvard Cabin work weekend on Nov 14/15th. At that time, we delivered eviction notices to the summer “residents” and began hauling gear and supplies up to the Harvard Cabin.

As is always the case, it was wonderful to be back at the cabin. A couple of weeks before our return trip up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Marcia and I enjoyed a wonderful ascent of Mt. Whitney via the East Buttress. A week out, we were still enjoying Southern California and the shores of Malibu where I snapped this photo. Heading across northern Arizona and New Mexico we encountered a pretty sweet snowstorm. We would of broke out the boots and boards had we not made plans with family in the midwest. Soon after, we arrived back in the northeast. I’ve said it time and time again -There is no place like New England. We are so glad to be back at the Harvard Cabin for another season. Thank You to the Harvard Mountaineering Club for having us back for a 7th season!

Many of you may have heard of the stress we had been dealing last week. In the end, it turned out to be nothing more then a bizarre event. In trying to process what happened, knowing that we came really close to loosing everything we’ve worked so hard to obtain – a lifestyle more then anything -we were left looking for some higher meaning. We come up with a few far-out ideas, but simply stated we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thankfully, everything turned out okay. The Sprinter was recovered and all of our belongings were safe and sound. A crazy, stress-filled 18 hours. Thanks to everyone who reached out and offered support. Given the lengthy theft reports and insurance paper work we were dealing with at the police department, we hadn’t realized the extent of the response from the climbing community until after the van had been recovered. We were truly humbled. Thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement throughout. I’d like to thank my sister ,Tina, for being so pro-active after being awoken at midnight with the news. She really helped spread the word. If you have no idea what I am referring to, you can read about it here. But, please don’t mention it 😉

With that said, thanks for reading. We are hoping for a record breaking season in terms of overnight users. Thanks for making the Harvard Cabin what it has come to be. It’s constructed of wooden logs, but it is held upright by an amazing climbing community here in the Northeast! Let’s have another safe season on Mt. Washington. Come, enjoy a pinnacle backcountry experience at The Harvard Cabin!

Rich Palatino
Harvard Cabin Caretaker

Rich & Marcia

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

Winds crush ice climbing tower in Bozeman

Bozeman Ice Tower Crushed

Climbing tower damaged by heavy wind Wednesday at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds – Photo by Troy Carter / bozeman daily chronicle.

With the North American championships only weeks away the organizers scramble to repair the newly constructed tower damaged by strong winds on Wednesday.

“Financially, this is a big blow,” he said. “We were trying to go bigger this year. We wanted to be able to run the men’s and women’s competitions simultaneously.” – Joe Josephson

Read more here…

Source: Troy Carter /bozemandailychronicle.com / Facebook






“Just amazing, a ‘T’ RATED wood ice tool. The future is here!” – Doug Millen

Fellow Ice Climbers,

We are extremely proud to finally release the KRONOS Wood Ice Tool. You can get yours HERE.

The KRONOS is the World’s First ‘T’ Rated. CE Certified Ice Tool made of WOOD. T ratings and CE Certifications are the standard among technical ice axes which must be able to withstand extreme forces and abuse. To have been able to make an ice tool out of wood that passes the T test is truly a unique accomplishment and we are excited to finally be able to share the KRONOS with the world

Climb safely and in good style.


Dry Ice Tools

DRY ICE Tools, by Furnace Industries
Ben Carlson
[email protected]

Follow us on
Facebook: DRYICETools
Twitter: @DRYICETools
Instagram: furnaceindustries


Weight: 1 lb 7.8 oz (675 g)
Size: One Size
Dimensions: Length – 48.26 cm
Material: Densified Beech Laminate / Hardened Tool Steel
Other Features:
– Axe comes with a hand finished removable type B Furnace Industries Ice pick
– Type T Pick available (sold separately)
– A softer swing as the wood absorbs shock of the pick strike offering increased sensitivity at all temperatures
– Wood handle offers enhanced grip and thermal insulation
– Hand finished handle offers multiple grip options
– The Kronos ice tool has a type T shaft

Catskill Ice Festival 2015


The 17th Annual Catskill Ice Festival

January 30, 31, February 1, 2, 2015

This year again they will have multiple clinics on all the skills and techniques you need to get out on ice – from basic skills, to dry-tooling, to glacier travel techniques.

Demo ice climbing gear from Black Diamond, Petzl, La Sportiva, Outdoor Research and Rab.

Slide show will be held  Saturday at Rock and Snow at 8pm.

Saturday Slideshow:

NEice’s Doug Millen – Oh What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been!

Doug Millen reflects on the last 15 years at the helm of of NEice.com. Doug takes us on a journey of the ups, downs and glory days of NEice “A journey beyond my wildest dreams”. The Best of the Best from NEice.com. Including never seen photos and video from the Northeast. And a look at the UP project. Drones are fast becoming common place and Doug is on the leading edge. Have a look at his latest machines and where he is headed.

The demo gear will be located at Rock and Snow – so you can try out the latest Harnesses, Ice Tools, Crampons, and clothing from the best companies. You know them – Black Diamond, Petzl, La Sportiva, Outdoor Research & Rab.

Rates are $150 per person per event – Slideshows are free!

As an added bonus – Rock and Snow will offer 15% off for ice gear and apparel for all icefest registrants from the time they sign up through the end of the ice fest. All you need is to print out and show them the confirmation email we send when you register for it.

NEice will be at the Devils Kitchen on Saturday handing out hot soup and flying the drones. Hope to see you there!

More Information Here…

Catskill Ice Fest Cover Image

Smuggler’s Notch Ice Bash 2015

This Weekend!

Join NEice at the fastest growing Ice Festival in the Northeast! We will be at the notch road gate Jeffersonville side, dishing out hot soup and flying the drones. Hope to see you there.


January 23-25, 2015

Kick-off party | Clinics | Slideshows| Raffle | Camaraderie

Drytooling Competition: The East’s only Mixed Spectacle

Free gear demos, clinics for the beginner to advanced climber, multimedia slideshows, dry tooling competition, raffles and camaraderie in Vermont’s premier ice climbing destination, Smuggler’s Notch.

Don’t miss Saturday nights slide show by Climbing Magazine’s Golden Piton Award winner  for Ice Climbing for 2014, Will Mayo. Local hardman Alden Pellett and Michael Wejchert of North Conway will also be giving some great presentations.

The goal of the Smuggs Ice Bash is to promote the sport of ice climbing, to educate climbers, to exhibit and demo new gear, and to share a weekend of fun, challenge, and inspiration with other winter enthusiasts in one of Vermont’s most amazing places, Smuggler’s Notch. Learn forme some on the best guides around.

The Smuggs Ice Bash is managed by Petra Cliffs Climbing Center & Mountaineering School 105 Briggs Street Burlington, VT 05401 802.657.3872

See more here…http://www.smuggsicebash.com/about/     https://www.facebook.com/SmuggsIceBash


 Saturday Night, January 24th, 2015 @ 6pm

Presentations will take place at the Smugglers Notch Resort in the Meeting House Ballroom


$20 for Italian Style Food Buffet and Presentation – Starting at 5pm


$5 for Presentation Only

Purchase Tickets in advance here:

Food and Presentations -or- Presentations only!

Cash Bar available too!

Adirondack International Mountainfest 2015


The 19th annual Adirondack International Mountainfest

January 16, 17 and 18, 2015.

Mountainfest is an annual celebration of ice climbing and mountaineering, featuring guest athletes who entertain us with tales of climbing adventures, instructional clinics taught by visiting climbers and local guides, demo gear, and a chance to gather with the climbing community for an exciting winter weekend.

Mountainfest 2015 boasts an excellent lineup of speakers, including Marmot and CAMP/Cassin athlete Fabrizio Zangrilli and Patagonia Alpine Climbing Ambassador Kitty Calhoun. Their slide shows on Saturday and Sunday evenings promise to be entertaining and also offer a chance to win raffle gear and free giveaways.

We’re offering more clinics than ever this year, including tons of ice climbing courses, snow and alpine climbing, snowshoe mountaineering, avalanche safety, and wilderness first aid. Many of the event sponsors will be here with the latest gear for you to take and climb with on both Saturday and Sunday.

Whether you come for the clinics or just climb on your own and check out the evening entertainment, Mountainfest is the place to be this Martin Luther King weekend.

More information on the event can be found here….


A message from Don Mellor

Greetings to ice climbers near and far:

Mountainfest is coming to Adirondacks for the 19th consecutive season. Most folks are really psyched – about the clinics, the demos, the presentations, the camaraderie, and the opportunity to meet some of the world’s best.

But we are also VERY aware that our presence can put a serious snag in your own climbing plans. We don’t own the local ice. We often wonder if it’s even right to get up early and drape a crag with ropes. But what we hear over and over from you is that Mountainfest is a good thing, and as for the crowds – well, most of you are happy to adjust. Thanks!

Our plan, so that you can plan:

Mellor’s Steep and Chicken-hearted course will be at the Pitchoff Quarry.

Visitor Fabrizio will do his advanced thing in Chapel Pond Canyon.

James and Andrea will be at Rock and River’s private property ice park.

Ian O. usually scouts out some ridiculously thin things around Chapel Pond, probably starting at Laceration.

Horner and McCormick are waiting to see how things set up.

Whether or not you are in a clinic, there’ll be a friendly welcome to hang out, listen, maybe even share a rope. The ice ain’t ours (except for the ice park!), that’s for sure, and we’ll do our best to make it a happy, jazzed weekend. See ya.

Things could change – we’ll keep you posted. Check in at the Mountaineer for the latest.

An Early Christmas!

The holiday came early for Matt Ritter this year.  He and partner Jim Shimberg established a new route on Cannon Cliff this past Monday! And that’s not all. Hungry for more, Matt returned yesterday with Michael Wejchert and put up a new variation to that route!

Stay tuned for an NEice exclusive story and details after the holiday from the man himself.  Nice work, Matt!


Matt Ritter starts the third Pitch of his new route, Cannonade Direct, with Jim Shimberg belaying.  Photograph taken by Bayard Russell.

Wow, what a day…. [  ].., I got a front row seat to watch this… although I can’t figure out how Matt did the crux to the ledge…. after hanging for 30 mins, getting pumped most would call it a day, especially with the last bit of pro was 10m below..[ ].. somehow he found a way up to a tiny ledge. Then collapsed on the ledge… then discover maybe it wasn’t the crux !! Amazing, well done.”  – Damon Clark, climbing with Bayard Russell on the Black Dike.


~Courtney Ley