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

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.

North

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.

Damnation

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.

p4200078

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.

p4210097

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)

The Wilford Finish

Peter Doucette &  Michael Wejchert refusing to give up winter!

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.
“UNNGH!!!!”
Staggering downstairs, I pushed aside empty PBR cans and groped for the french press. The high school themed party (I never thought I’d dress like a guidance counselor before) was a rollicking success. While I wisely stayed away from whiskey and other such temptations, my room, located 15 feet away from the epicenter of revelries, afforded little chance of rest.
Let’s just say the optimism and excitement that usually welcomes in the ice season is gone by March. But with Alaska trips coming up, Peter Doucette and I thought it’d be good to stay sharp. While most friends are clipping bolts in the Red River Gorge and planning for the spring’s rock objectives, I’ve been trying to maintain winter climbing ability.

Read the rest here..

Source: http://www.farnorthclimbing.blogspot.com – Michael Wejchert

 

Never Stay Home – Erik Eisele

At 11 a.m. this morning my (non-climbing) plans for the day fell apart. I suddenly had five hours of daylight but no objective or partner. “Perfect,” I thought, “a chance to wrestle with the art of climbing firsthand. An opportunity to forgo a rope in search of focus, to see what I can learn from the experience.”

Three hours later and 200 feet off the ground, the ice reared cold and ruthless in my face. One pick felt rattly, the other was surrounded by white, fractured ice. My feet were good, but a bulge forced me off balance “What the fuck am I doing?” I thought as my hands started to ache. “I’m no soloist. This shit will get me killed.”

Read the rest here…

 

Photo: Dracula 12-16-12

 

Photos and words by Erik Eisele

The Season of the Witch

 

Tricks and Treats

The first ice climb of the season is an eventful day for all of us. As fortune would have it, every year over the last decade, I’ve found good ice in the month of October. And over the last five years I’ve shared this day with my good friend and NEIce founder, Doug Millen.  As autumn starts to wain, areas that are familiar transform to the unusual. The places we know are slowly morphing towards winter as they slip into dormancy. Moving from brown ground and fall foliage, to winter conditions and back in just hours is a wonderful experience. This time of year also offers one of my favorite treats, approaches made over frozen trails in sneakers.
One does not need any special skills to experience this, however a few ingredients need to blend together. Paying attention to the weather, thinking about a given climb’s aspect and water flow. Then lastly, having desire and passion for this equals commitment which can get you to these beautifully surreal places. And if you’re timing is right on,  the first sticks of the season.

There are many advantages to getting out early besides the pure beauty you will find. Climbing freshly formed ice up a long gully not covered by snow is an excellent workout. The benefit for the mind and body and a release of the soul is limitless.  These conditions also offer the perfect opportunity of getting into a rhythm of movement over long distance, a time to find yourself.  Simple gullies become more of a challenge when the ice is thin and there is no snow. Besides reading the ice to find the thickest place to travel, you have to keep your head up and pick the best line far ahead, for down climbing ice is a discipline best practiced in a more controlled environment. And on thin ice that is not an easy task. Another advantage is with your gear. Getting into the packing routine and making sure living room adjustments to the crampons are dialed in before the full on season.

I’ve read elsewhere that early season ice is only for a select few and that it’s not really “in” for it may melt in a few hours. Or that it’s only October. Another comment I’ve been told is it all starts with someone climbing the Black Dike. I find this closed thinking interesting and often ask myself why? If one wants to rock climb as long as you can that’s great.  My train of thought is this, the climbing of rock can happen year round. The season of ice is far to short. There is no need to be negative on early ice conditions or be shackled by the calender.  With the right weather conditions water will freeze. The calender is just like the clock we move forward then fall back. The calender receives days and losses them. It is but another human made measurement of our lives that matters not.

It is a given that every year I’ll have at lest one false start. Theses days out are still worth it for there is always something to prick your interest if you want it. Not finding  ice and climbing the Huntington Ravine trail, through the headwall in unsavory conditions is not a simple hike. Moving through fog over wet and verglas covered rock while the song of Pinnacle Gully in liquid form sings behind will keep your attention.

Lastly, I always know where I’ll go looking for ice long before the freezing takes place, except this year.

 Finding the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

 
The drive had begun. For the next six hours there will be times of intense conversation and also moments of complete silence. In these times the only sound is that of rubber making contact with asphalt. When that time takes over, we all slip into our own private space. In the mean time, there is talk of climbs done and of those to do. But on this day the conversations are not of some faraway area, they are of one place in New England and of one mountain.
 

I fall silent, listening to the excitement in the car. The live human voices are in competition with the recorded sounds coming from the car’s speakers. The voices increase in volume in an unconscious effort to take center stage.  It’s Friday, August 31. Mt. Katahdin is in the rearview mirror and the talk is of coming back for one more rock climb before winter descends on the mountain.

After the usual reentry back to everyday routines and the thermals of the brilliant Pamola 4 route had dissipated a little. It was time to book another trip back to Baxter State Park. I picked the second weekend in October. A time when the first ice of the season, under the right circumstances, can be found here in New Hampshire. Doug and I knew we would climb ice soon, but figure it would be on Mt.Washington or Adams… not Katahdin.

Seven days before our departure, the forecast in northeast looked promising for ice. The NEIce weather guru, Smike was predicting   an ascent of Pinnacle Gully. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was calling for overcast skies, snow flurries with temperatures in the low twenties. But for us, the coup de grace on climbing rock and the finding of ice came with this. Clearing Friday night, winds ramping up and temperatures bottoming out in the teens. Doug and I spoke the day before we left. The rock gear would still come with us to Roaring Brook, however our packs were made ready with ice gear even before we left our homes.

Roaring Brook

We arrived late Friday to snow flurries.  I was up Saturday at 5am. The predawn was cold, clear and the stars were shinning bright.  By 6:30 we were on the trail chipping away at the 3+ miles to Chimney Pond and the dramatic walls of the South Basin. The minuscule shadow of doubt that lingered unspoken of, in darkest corners of our minds evaporated with each mile. The trail conditions were frozen ground with patches of hard ice. The decision was right and our commitment to finding ice was about to be realized.

The North Basin

The first view of the South Basin comes before Chimney Pond. It was here where Doug and I were greeted with the sight of the incredibly beautiful Cilley-Barber route. This line of ice sliced like a silver sword through the dark headwall, then on up into the cloud mantle that hung anchored to Katahdin’s summits. Though the climbing had yet to come, we shook hands like we had just accomplished something big, for in a strange way we had. The walls were shinning with ice on all the routes and from the ranger station we decided on our line. After telling Mark, the ranger on duty our plan and feeling his enthusiasm we were boulder hopping along the edge of Chimney Pond as fast as we could.
 

We emerged from the Cilley-Barber drainage and on to the talus proper, here we switched from sneakers to our climbing boots. There was now a few inches of snow on the rocks and alders.  Our intended route was in complete view, the ice went for hundreds of feet up huge slabs to a talus break.

The Cilley-Barber

 
 

Start of Piggy-Wiggy

Above the talus the flow dropped into a corner, over steeper ground. Next was mixed, tricky terrain that eased off to snow, scrub and huge boulders.  The Piggy-Wiggy would go all the way to the Cathedral Ridge. The gold mine of the Lost Dutchman was found.

Doug on mixed ground near the top

Back at the Chimney Pond Ranger Station we chatted with Mark. He was psyched for us. A change back to the tennies and we were off. Light footed and higher then Hendrix, we practically ran back to camp. Doug and I had threaded the weather needle. Sunday night it snowed and we woke to several inches,  the temperatures were also on the rise. Like thinking, being prepared, the willingness to adapt and take a chance gave us the best first ice of our season of our lives.

 

Photos and text by Alan Cattabriga

With help (as usual) from Doug Millen

Early Season Luck On Katahdin – 2

 Photos from our Trip

[nivoslider id=”10756″]

Photos by Doug Millen & Alan Cattabriga

Early Season Luck On Katahdin – 1

Piggy-Wiggy

Katahdin, Maine 10-13-2012

[nivoslider id=”10739″]

Photos by Doug Millen & Alan Cattabriga

Road Trip – Newfoundland Ice 2012

Mike Wejchert climbing in Newfoundland

Michael Wejchert leading out of the belay ledge on a WI5 pitch of an 800-foot route in Gros Morne Park, Newfoundland. Windy and snowing hard – Alden Pellett (click to enlarge)

by Michael Wejchert

Newfoundland Ice

“Walt Nichol, man of few understandable words, slows the snowmobile to a stop about twenty feet form my battered Toyota Corolla and I jump out. For the third time in as many days, Alden Pellett, Ryan Stefiuk and I thank Walt and step out of his cedar sleigh. We’ve all agreed before we’ve hit the beer store: the past three days of climbing in Newfoundland have been the best consecutive days in the mountains we’ve ever had…..”

Read the whole report on his blog,  Farnorthclimbing.blogspot.com

 “Michael Wejchert put together an awesome trip report about our little Newfoundland adventure last month. It can be found at his blog Far North. Expect big things from this youngster.” – Ryan Stefiuk

See more on their trip at Ryans website Bigfoot Mountain Guides with a post titled – The west Coast

More photos on NEice.com  – Newfoundland and the NEice Cover Shot 2-14-12

Source : NEice photo post, Alden Pellett, Michael Wejchert & Ryan Stefiuk
Feature Photo: With the sea rocking below, Michael Wejchert finds his way to the bottom of the route in Cox Cove, Newfoundland. Photo by Ryan Stefiuk

 

 

Cathedral's Last Gasp, or not!

The winter is waining and the lower elevation climbs have their days numbered but Erick Eisele and Peter Doucette are still getting after it on Cathedral Ledge NH. – Sunday March 4, 2012

Click photos to enlarge

Peter Doucette, Super Goofer

Peter Doucette finishing up “Super Goofer” Cathedral Ledge, NH

 

Peter Doucette, Barber Wall, Cathedral Ledge NH

Peter Doucette Climbing the thinly iced “Double V” The Barber Wall, Cathedral Ledge NH

Double V — much harder as an ice climb, especially if it’s falling as you are trying to climb it – Erik Eisele

Peter Doucette, Barber Wall 2, Cathedral Ledge NH

Peter Doucette Climbing the thinly iced “Double V” The Barber Wall, Cathedral Ledge NH

Feature photo – Erik Eisele on “The Big Flush” Cathedral Ledge NH – photo by Peter Doucette,  Mountain Sense Guides

Source: Erik Eisele, Facebook

Mountainfest 2012 Wrap-up

The Adirondack Mountainfest 2012,  Keene NY

Mountainfest 2012

Sunday, January 15

Once again, the Adirondack Mountainfest was a great combination of  people, places and the thing we love….. climbing ice.  First of all many thanks go out to the folks and the venue that make this event one that is very special. Also thanks to sponsors, guides and the folks that participate. Without you all this would not happen.

To those that do a ton of work……

Vinny McLelland and the great staff at the Mountaineer.  These folks are  knowledgeable, super friendly and know the conditions and the area like they know their products. Also a special thanks goes out to Nick Gully &  Drew Haas and to all the kids for making the raffles fun. I have to mention the example Drew gave of proper layering at Emilie’s show was nicely done.

Now to the venue,  Rock & River . Thank you to the owner Ed Palen, the staff  and a huge thanks to Jenny, Nancy & Julia.  These awesome ladies provided some of the best meals one could have ever wished for and let Doug and I share their kitchen like we were family. I almost have no words worthy enough for the venue , it’s such an amazing environment.  I will just simply say Rock & River is a beautiful place nestled in the quintessential Adirondack setting.

And lastly the slideshows. For me slideshows are almost always a exercise in staying awake for they are always too long.  However the gods must have heard my thoughts and we all were treated to three wonderful shows loaded with humor and spectacular images.

Thank you to; Zoe Hart, Bayard Russell, Matt McCormick and Emilie Drinkwater. ( that pie chart was the best! )

Images from the Cascade Pass clinics run by Don Mellor, Mark Meschinelli, Matt Horner & Matt McCormick. And the NEice soup delivery.

Word!

~ Alan

More reports on Mountainfest 2012

Day one Report

Day two Report

Look for more  soon:  “Rollies” at the Bivy and a look at the “ice rack” of Adirondack hard man, Joe Szot.

Katahdin Tales

Mt. Katahdin, Baxter State Park ME

11/30 – 12/6/11

By Alan Cattabriga

Morning light touches the summit of Baxter Peak after a light snow.

Katahdin, late November.  Doug, Fred, Chris and I are booked. All our friends thought we were nuts. I think the Baxter State Park Rangers did too.  I guess I don’t blame everyone. After all, early season ice is a gamble, never mind the fact that this seasons start has been an on again, off again affair.  To roll the dice on something being climbable in this remote place with the commitment needed?  Ok, perhaps a little nuts. But there is something still very intriguing about going into this mountain with the earth still brown.

However, snow is a beneficial ingredient, one can ski in with a towed load. And it would not take much snow to ski the road to Roaring Brook.  As our departure date closes in, the park is still without snow. We would have to get crafty on getting the gear in. And with the chance of conditions  being entirely different getting out, a quiver of  special gear must come with us.

Sleds, Skis, Wagons, Bikes & Cars – photo Fredwardo

 

I know one thing, I’m not carrying a huge pack to Roaring Brook. Just the amount of wine, whiskey and food out weigh me. Add in the other gear and I’m totally out horse powered. From RB to Chimney Pond is only 3.2 miles so thats fine. I can make two trips if necessary.

On the day of our departure Doug gets a call from Ranger Rob. The gate is open and we can DRIVE to Roaring Brook! There is one tiny catch, we can’t leave the car there for if it snows, we’re screwed. Our orders are to park at the visitor center after we unload the gear. No problem, I’ll bring my mountain bike and ride the 8 miles back to RB. We laugh at this news and think “Now who is crazy for going in so early!!!”

Rob has one more piece of info though, it rained recently and most of the ice that was forming, fell. Yeah, who is crazy now. But ice is not our only goal, for Katahdin offers many wonderful adventures.

 

The places and the characters in the story below are a blend of both fact and fiction. Some events have been changed. Any resemblance to places, people, alive or deceased is pure coincidence and a dirty shame.

After an insane night in Millinocket, a night of partying with inked, edgy, Russian chicks, a bar fight and racing across the road in front of logging trucks, the day dawns blue and cold. A healthy serving of eggs & hash at Angelos Pizza Grill is consumed and we are off. There is not a speck of white to be seen along the drive in. We pass the gatehouse and motor the dirt road to Roaring Brook. A quick unload of our stuff at the bunkhouse ensues. Plastic bottles are filled with the plethora of liquors we brought. Jagermeister, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Makers Mark, Fireball Whiskey, Root and Laphroaig. Alas, the amount of alcohol to empty bottle ratio is way off.


Essentials of the trip – photo Fredwardo

 

I move the car back to the visitor center.  After a few belts of Makers Mark and a heavy application of green wax,  I’m on the bike riding like it’s my job. Except I’m not a bike rider. I arrive back at Roaring Brook with burning thighs and a slightly abused ass. But that was nothing usual.
The rangers are not around much. I recall hearing something about firearm, taser and truncheon practice needed for the coming season. We were left a radio and asked us not to burn the bunkhouse down or get killed. We told Rob would do our best.
Our first full day at Chimney Pond opens socked in with undercast.  After multiple coffees, ramen with tuna and many smokes with Man with Smoking Face, we are ready. The Machine wakes with a sore knee and decides to lay low for the day. Fredwardo, Smoking Face & I, not knowing what ice is climbable decide to hike up to the Cilley/Barber to see if we can tell what is going on. Our paper work is hung on the clipboard at the ranger outpost and we’re off.

Our perfectly filled out paper work – photo Fredwardo (click to enlarge)

                                                       
 With the pond not frozen we must bushwhack along the right side.  And for added spice, it snowed a few inches during the night. This causes us to move like hooded, clumsy thieves thru the fir and spruce. Once at the headwall we get some views, the best hope for some ice looks to be along the Cathedral side on the slabs under Dougal’s Delight. Once above these slabs we would work right and slide up Gully #3 to the Cathedral Ridge then down that trail.
 

The view from Pamola to the slabs

Thin but very climbable ice is ascended for hundreds of feet.  A unique talus field greets us high on the mountain above the ice. As we weave thru its huge stones, our voices ring out with admiration of this beautiful place.

Fredwardo working on the slabs

 
Gully #3 is and order of the Northeast Special. Snow, ice, turf, alders and rock. However we do possess some environmental ethics and not wanting to hurt the little plants, climb onto the ridge forming the right side of the gully as soon as we can.
We return to the bunkhouse and find the Machine engrossed in a book. The book speaks of the mythical being, Pomola. Our friend reads us a few of its short chapters as we sip whiskey.

The Book of Dudley – photo Fedwardo

My mind entertains the thought of this winged beast. I move from one reality to another, to that of what we call a dream, though I’m fully awake. Day turns to night quickly this time of year. Even on a sunny day, this aspect of the mountain, denies the light from entering.  We all step outside. The clouds have departed, a strong wind has pushed them away.  I watch the crescent moon above Pamola Peak. The stars are bright and the myth beckons. With the ice being compromised by the mild air, tomorrow we shall walk in Pomola’s realm.
Day four is beautifully clear. A stout wind caresses the place we hike in. We are all together and on the Hamlin Ridge.  This ridge amazing, for the location splits the North and South Basins. The basins of light and dark respectively.

Machine and Man with Smoking Face, Hamlin Ridge

Our pace is leisurely. Moving in this place on a day such as this, with just my three companions, is an experience to savor. The clouds are in rare form. Their shape, colours and depth are wonderful, once again I feel as if I’ve slipped into a dream state.

Clouds

However there is not a hint of Pomola.  From Hamlin’s summit I gaze to Pamola Peak then along the jagged ridge to Baxter.

Pamola, Chimney Peak & the Knife Edge

Tomorrow we will do the traverse from the Cathedrals to Pamola Peak. We will tread where Pomola dwells and I greatly desire to feel something yet unknown.
We stop by the ranger outpost on our way back. Leroy is there. I’m not sure if he is a ranger or not for he is very old and his clothes looks like that of a Maine hunter from the past.  We get some Poutine and smokes from the snack shop and each get a ranger snow globe from the gift shop.

The place for gifts, smokes, & salty meats

A quiet evening is in store. The Laphroaig comes out. As we sip, the Chimney Pond Tales flow like the whiskey. After a few chapters all of us drift into our own thoughts then sleep comes down.
Morning comes. The clouds have returned and the air though damp has warmed more. Our visibly is limited. Once on the Cathedrals fifty feet is about as far as one can see.

Gorillas on the Ridge

 
 On Baxter Peak the mist has become  heavy, just short of rain.  Even though a view would be nice, I’m enjoying moving along the Knife Edge in this fog.  Its the perfect environment for the image of I’ve conjured. Close to Chimney Peak the clouds open with little holes for a few seconds and offer us a chance for some views.
 
 
 
 
Nearing Chimney Peak- photo Fredwardo

The mountain sweeps down and contours around in the quintessential ancient cirque form. This is the place where Pomola roams, but where is he?

Man in Sneaker, Chimney Peak – photo Fredwardo

The clouds close upon us once more and on Chimney Peak, a light rain greets us. The down climb is a little tricky as is the ascent to Pamola Peak for the rocks are slick.
On the summit we pause. This is the place Pomola had his first smoke. A smoke that consisted of birch bark, balsam fir and tar paper. It is here his beard caught fire from the pipe. This is the place he dove headlong from, eclipsing even the brightest comet, down into Chimney Pond.  As I think of this another part of the myth enters my thought. He does not like humans and his spirit causes cold weather.  It’s all too obvious now, Pomola is away. We pay homage to him before we descend. A smoke in this magical place, a small gift to the wind and leave some pipe-weed in a nook for the beast.
Its our last evening in the basin. With heavy hearts we finish off the Laphroaig, the last of our whiskey.

Not so good. In fact, not good at all!

 
Rain is falling. In the morning we play the valet card, and radio the rangers to bring our car to Roaring Brook. Early season on Katahdin is a time of no guarantees.  But many things can happen that are unforeseen.  Short days and total solitude better be on the agenda,  if not perhaps you should stay away.
 
 

Acknowledgments;
To my companions, Doug, Chris & Freddie. Thank you for enduring me on the trip and suffering thru this tale. I know walking with Man in Sneaker was tough. But it was not my frickn’ fault you all just brought ice boots and slippers. Fucking-A!
Many thanks to the Baxter State Park Rangers and especially Rob, you guys are awesome! But I suggest you get more meats on your snack menu.
And lastly to any fool that reads this cone of crap. Good job and remember to use the hand sanitizer after.
~Alfonzo