2013 Mugs Stump Award Opens For Applications October 1, 2012

Think of a dream and make it happen!

From October 1 through December 14, 2012, the 2013 Mugs Stump Award will be accepting applications. The grants are for small climbing teams with fast and light alpine objectives.

Climbers who share Mugs’ vision of climbing are encouraged to apply.

REEL ROCK 7 Coming to the Adirondacks!

The REEL ROCK Film Tour is coming to the Adirondacks on Saturday, October 6th at 7 p.m.

Come watch the world’s best climbers battle to establish the first 5.15c, tackle imposing alpine first ascents, free solo 5.13 routes and set speed records on The Nose in Yosemite. There will also be a raffle of gear donated by our sponsors!

Hosted by The Mountaineer in Keene Valley. More information on The Mountaineer’s website.

"Live Your Dream" grant

Last chance for 2012

Deadline Sept. 15 for Northeast climbers

The American Alpine Journal is HERE!

I just received mine in the mail and can’t wait to start reading it.

This is an exciting time of year for the AAC publications staff and volunteers, as the fruits of a year’s labor are reaching members’ homes. The 2012 American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering have been mailed to all AAC members. If you haven’t received them yet, you should any day.

If you’re not an AAC member, paperback editions of the 2012 AAJ and Accidents in North American Mountaineering are also now available on our store. Order them before they sell out or consider joining the AAC today!

More here …..


Source: http://www.americanalpineclub.org   /  The American Alpine Club Publications Newsletter — September 2012

Submitted by:  Doug Millen  /  NEice.com



With temperatures reaching into the mid-80s last week, it seems that winter is finally over.  Tools, boots, and screws are being replaced by chalk, shoes, and rock gear all over the Northeast.  Some of the more stubborn among us may hold out for one last hurrah, but most are calling it a season.  Below two members of the NEice team reflect on the season that was and look ahead to the season that will come at the end of next fall.

A Long Early Season

Article by Courtney Ley

For me, the ice season started on Halloween weekend.  The day before the big snowstorm.  I got lucky and found a shaded corner in Yale Gully with enough ice to swing my tools into.  For that time of year, hiking in for just that tiny flow of ice was completely worth it.

Halloween ice in Yale Gully (Photo by Robert Williams)

Pat Cooke called it No Mans Land.  That ‘catch me if you can’ time when you are wondering if you are even going to take your tools off your pack.  I love early season.  It’s a full on hunt for ice.  It involves a week of dedicated weather watching, condition guessing and decision making on where to go for your best chance to find ice.  I live for those weekends where I feel climbing becomes what it is meant to be..a leap into the unknown, when you don’t know what’s around the corner ..where you plan hard but with no guarantees and when the difference between climbable and unclimbable ice can be mere hours.  It’s a time that I find what I do really captures the true spirit of climbing.

November went lazily on: there was an honest attempt at Pinnacle Buttress under cold temperatures and icy conditions, a warm day of rock climbing at Cathedral Ledge and a rather heinous and scary ascent of Odells Gully right after a weekend snow dump.  Certainly nothing that compared to last year’s November when I had my own personal four day Thanksgiving ice-feast back to back to back, well, you get it.  I began to wonder how the season was going to shape up.  There were similar thoughts. Was Winter Cancelled?  At least I knew when I was getting on ice I really was ice climbing. Whew.

The first weekend in December, my partner Joel and I nailed it right in Kings Ravine and then I knew the game was on.  It was followed by a quick Shoestring Gully day and then a long, fantastic day in Damnation Gully.

Joel Dashaw in Damnation Gully (12/17/12)

But did it still feel like November out there?  Was it time to sit on the couch whining and complaining that Standard Route in Frankenstein looked like the frost on my windshield?

Standard Route on 12/11/12

If you were getting out, there was no time or any reason for such complaints. As I was messing around in the ravines, the heavy hitters were making their rounds on the Black Dike and Fafnir.

By the time January hit, new climbs like Seams Thin and Road Warrior were put up as I was keeping Joel out until dark on Mt Willard, pretending I could climb a M6 at Kinsman Notch and learning the most efficient way to blow out my forearms on full day of Grade 5 at Rumney with Art Mooney.

I couldn’t ask for more in February. Neither could others finding sweet lines that don’t come in often or get climbed much at all.  It was a year for Cannon Cliff and off the Kancamagus. Bust ice season?  I don’t think so.  Once again, I walked into Huntington Ravine and caught Yale Gully with a belly full of ice, finally got into the Green Chasm high on Mt.Webster and spent a little time cragging at Frankenstein.  Then on the last Friday in February, I trekked into the woods with my good friend and climbing partner, Kristina, and snagged a prize in Jobildunk Ravine on the north side of Mt. Moosilauke.   The low snowfall and prolonged early season conditions gave us the opportunity to be among the few that have ever swung a tool into the ice in that ravine.  It was no prize in terms of hard climbing or first ascents.  There were no insane overhanging mix sections, chandeliered ice in the grill, or exposed pumpy moves.  In fact, we climbed one and a half pitches of grade 2+ ice.  Prior to that, we hiked a mile on a road, 2 miles along a trail and 3 miles bushwhacking up a drainage.  After that, we endured one of the tougher snow engulfing, scrub thrashing, pure heinous wallows I’ve ever experienced to reach the remnants of an abandoned trail that ran along the top of the ravine.. just to slog down 6.5 miles back to the car.  And oh, there were no views.  But that day will probably be the one I remember most about this ice season.  The timid winter had handed us a great little adventure.

Kristina Folick enjoying the Mt. Moosilauke Wilderness (2/24/12)

Now it’s March, and for me, the ice season ended where it began – in Huntington Ravine.  Sure, the ravine looked and felt like Mid April, but I wasn’t complaining.  Its how the whole season played out. It was December, but it felt like November.  Now it’s March and it might as well be April.  But that is what I love about ice climbing.  Ice is ever changing, rarely predictable and always keeps you on your toes.


Seasons Change

Article by Patrick Cooke

The title of the post is pretty self-evident.  Seasons do indeed change.  In fact, it was inevitable that winter would come to an end.  Granted, it’s ending at least a month too early after starting at least a month too late, but you have to play the cards you’re dealt.  It’s probably possible to limp the season along at this point by going high and staying in the shade, but it’s 80 degrees out here in Boston.  I figure if my wife is wearing shorts (she’s perpetually cold… shorts are not a given, even in the middle of summer), ice season is officially over.

The weather is turning, but the passing of Joe Szot last week is another telling sign for me that it’s time to hang up the tools for the year.  Before I moved to MA this past summer and started climbing more in NH and VT, Joe was the mayor of my ice climbing experience.  Sadly, I never had the chance to rope up with Joe.  I was always somewhat intimidated by him and the fear of not living up to his high standards or expectations.  I truly regret that I did not jump at the opportunity to share a rope with Joe when I had a chance.  Nevertheless, I’m extremely thankful for the many evenings of Bivy Golf and conversations by the wood stove I shared with him over the past several years.

Thinking of Joe leaves me with a small feeling of emptiness, but more importantly it leaves me psyched to get out and push myself.  Joe established many great lines in the northeast over the years, and his passing is a blunt (because let’s face it, if there’s one thing Joe wasn’t, it was subtle) reminder that we only have so many opportunities to get out and get after it.  For years Joe’s eyes would light up when he mentioned Spike as a route I should get on.  Granted, there was no way I was ready for it at the time, but Spike and Dark Lord just moved to the top of my tick-list.  What better way to pay tribute to Joe than to enjoy the lines he put up and that inspired him to push the envelope.  Winter may be over, but that won’t stop me from thinking about next year’s ice season already.

This winter may not have been a banner year, but there was plenty out there for those who were willing to look for it.  Courtney even managed to get out every weekend between Halloween and mid-March!  I may not have gotten on every route I had hoped to this winter, but I wasn’t lacking new routes to climb either.  For me, the sign of a good season is a list of routes to go back and clean up, finish up, or finally sack up and get on.  I finally finished off some unfinished business with the Dike, but now I can add Repentance, Remission, Dropline, and Fafnir to an already long list of routes that’ll be messing with my head from now until next winter (and probably beyond!).

It seems like winter’s come to it’s end, but enjoy the summer and the many vices it brings.  Trade in alpine starts and freezing belays  for lazy mornings and clipping bolts.  There’s a rhythm to the seasons and winter will be back again.  Until it is, enjoy the video clip below as Courtney and Alfonzo say goodbye to the ice season:  A Send off to the Ice

Diary of an NEice Junkie…

How much time do you spend on NEice?  Are you an addict?  Do you come home from a day of climbing and immediately check to see what else people were doing?  Do you have a regular schedule?  Or do you just check it out whenever the time seems right?  These were some questions I was asking myself, so I figured I’d actually keep track:


Confession* by Patrick Cooke

I put this together in the week leading up to MLK Weekend.  It only covers the weekdays, but you get the picture!



7:00-7:45  Breakfast, Mindless drivel on TV – Checking photos and boards… what got done over the weekend?

12-1:15 Grading…. Sanity Break (photos, conditions)!  How did I manage 4+ hours without checking NEice?

12:45-1:10  Touch base w/ a friend about his experience on Repentance on Sunday

1:45-2:00  Students completing a reading for class, might as well check the boards while they catch up (nothing earth shattering, but hey, Poko is building)

2:15-2:20  Check N. Conway weather for weekend while students start next reading assignment

Looking Good!

3:00-5:00  Catch up on Grading/Planning that I ignored so I could go climbing this weekend… resist urge to check NEice compulsively

5:05  Give in and check boards

7:40  Waiting for Dinner to finish heating in the oven, don’t want to continue to tackle the work to-do list…. hitting the forums (someone lost a hat on Shoestring Saturday…)

8:00  Email partners to figure our who can get out over the weekend.

9:10  Wife and friend discussing God and religion…  ice climbing seems like a better way to spend a Sunday morning than other activities.  Might as well see what people are posting on the forums.


7:15  A little NEice for breakfast… nice little review of Julbo glasses by Alfonzo.

9:50  Advisees don’t screw up enough… no real issues to address with them, anything new happening on the boards? (not really)

10:37  Students reading a section for a discussion… killing time looking at photopost

3:13  Feel compelled to see what’s happening on NEice… starting to think I may have a problem…

4:25  Apparently “Franks” and “Willo” are cool now, but not with everyone.

4:45-7:20  Long stream of emails with friends to figure out plans for upcoming weekend.

7:29  Grading, the curse of all teachers… sadly, nothing really exciting to report on the board or photopost  : (

9:00  Watching the Bruins game  since I can’t bring myself to do more work tonight… adding to discussion of tethers for leashless tools.  Only checked NEice 7 times today…


8:20  Check the boards and see this:  Smike’s latest bag of lies

Does anyone even understand this?


1:25  It’s been 5 hours… gotta get my fix!  It seems the rediscovery of tethering leashless tools is the topic du jour.

7:30  There really isn’t all that much going on right now on the boards… someone needs to go check out conditions and post up!

8:00  On phone, wife and friend watching trashy TV… sadly nothing really new happening on the boards.  This may actually be the fewest number of times I’ve been on the site all winter… obviously I need to remedy this!


7:20  With the weekend coming, it’s time to start paying more attention to the conditions posts.

4:25  Sadly, this is actually a noteworthy accomplishment… 9 hours without NEice.  Maybe I’m not as addicted as I thought I was.  Apparently both Rock and Ice and Climbing are running some pieces on Catskills Ice/Mixed.  Both with shots, and at least one of the articles, from NEice contributors!


Rock and Ice Issue 200

6:40  Killing time before I need to go proctor studyhall…  This project is not nearly as interesting as I thought it would be… post up people!!!!!

8:47  Taking a well-deserved break from lesson planning/busting freshmen who are on facebook instead of working…   It’s kind of mind-blowing what topics will be popular:  Leashing leashless tools just reached 40 posts.

9:48  Can’t….. Stay….. Away…..

10:53  Can I go to bed yet? Damn dorm duty! Oohhhh, new photos on the photopost


7:15  Literally nothing new on the boards… I really thought this would be a more exciting post!

1:12  Done teaching, time to drive North… one quick check of things!

5:05  Settled in up in NH, things are picking up on the boards…

6:16  The consensus on the board is it’s going to be COLD this weekend, and green wool hunter’s pants are “in”!

10:07  After an hour of kicking ass and taking names in MarioKart with my brothers I checked the boards and wished I hadn’t.


Well, there we have it, we’ll have to leave the weekend edition for another day!


*Like any experiment, observation affects results…  Let’s just say, this actually makes me look less addicted then I think I am!





Time to Sharpen your Gear!

Climb safe, Climb sharp!

IceAd2Ice Season is upon us and now is the time to sharpen your gear for the sketchy early season thin conditions and the mid-winter fatty flows.
Griz Guides offers a complete ice gear sharpening service for screws ($8, Ti $12), crampons ($25) and picks ($5).
Check it out online at: www.grizguides.com or call at 215.499.7832

Griz is a long time NEice contrubiter and auther of the guide book, Ice Climbing in Pennsylvania.

Climber’s Library

by Richard Doucette

When I first began climbing I had no idea there was such a thing as climbing literature.  A few years into it, I was hanging out with all these AMC types.  It seemed they were all a hundred years old and knew a lot more than me.  I made a fool of my self in a conversation when I admitted to not knowing who Fred Becky was.  This is like a basketball fan not knowing who Red Auerbach is…or a young republican unfamiliar with Ronald Regan.  I figured I oughta read up on things before I make a complete ass of myself.  But where to start?  I looked over the bookshelves at the local climbing shop.  I picked up a copy of Chris Jones’ “Climbing in North America”.  This was a good choice.  It wasn’t literature or anything, but gave me a good overview of the sport and a lot of names to look up.  At least now I knew who this guy “Whitney Gilman” was.

So I started reading and about 10 years later I have a few opinions on what’s worth reading among climbing literature (and books too).  I have asked others to recommend their favorites and this has expanded my list.  I will refrain from saying these are the best books; they are just the ones I like and can recommend.

First off, I will not make any recommendations regarding books on technique or other reference material (although “Climbing in North America” and “Mountaineering, Freedom of the Hills” should be read by all.  (There I go recommending things in a category I said I would not get into.)

Here is my list of favorites:

“No Picnic on Mount Kenya” by Felice Benuzzi

Amazing story.  Check this out, an Italian diplomat is imprisoned in a POW camp in Africa in WW2.  Gets bored, sees this really nice mountain off in the distance.  Decides to escape and climb the mountain.  Gathers up a few prisoners to go with him.  Scrounges and manufactures gear and provisions.  The approach is through uncharted parts of deep/dark Africa. You won’t believe what they do after the climb…

“The White Spider” by Heinrich Harrer

A look at all of the ascents of the Eiger’s north face.  See what one can do even if you forget your crampons…and have Anderl Heckmair to lead the hard stuff.

“Starlight and Storm” by Gaston Rebuffat

Accounts of climbing the 6 great north faces in the Alps, by the first person to climb all of them.  Rebuffat’s great joy of climbing shines through.  (If I had categories for  guidebooks or coffee table books, Rebuffat’s “Mont Blanc Massif, The 100 Finest Routes” would make the list in both.)

“Annapurna”  by Mauric Herzog

I believe this was (at least until recently) the highest selling mountaineering book in History.  The story of the first ascent of an 8000 meter peak.  Those French are a tough lot.  The book was a bit too…something…I never could quite put my finger on it.  Herzog just made everything sound too positive.  People were losing fingers and toes left and right, it can’t be all THAT positive.   Turns out maybe it wasn’t.  Consider reading “True Summit” by Dave Roberts.  Some might not appreciate revisionist history.  Herzog may have been brought down a notch by Roberts, but then again so was Rebufatt.  Terray comes out on top though.

“The Breach: Kilimanjaro and the Conquest of Self” by Rob Taylor

If you read this one, just remember that it is only one person’s account of a tragic climb.  The writer comes across as too angelic, and his climbing “partner” was likely not the evil one he was portrayed to be.  But a great book nonetheless.

“Seven Years in Tibet” also by Heinrich Harrer.

Just barely made the list of “climbing” books because it starts out as a climbing expedition but goes far beyond that.  One of the great stories of all time.

“Touching the Void” by Joe (I’ve fallen and can’t get up) Simpson

This appears on everyone’s list of favorites.  An absolutely amazing story.  I will never bitch again if I sprain my ankle and have to limp an hour back to the car.  When you have a bad day, or a bad climb, or a bad trip, remember this story.  Your day coulda been worse than it was.

Also in the “I am lost and screwed, now what do I do” category, are a few of my other  favorites.  In “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer, the protagonist doesn’t climb, but Krakauer gives some personal accounts of his own climbing.  Great book for the nonclimber.  Also, any book about Shackleton is a great read (Alfred Lansing’s account is my favorite).  This amazing story ends with a brief but still significant climb.  “The Long Walk” by Slavomir Rawicz is another hard to believe but true story.  Similar to Harrer’s “7 Years” but with no rest after the escape.  Not much actual climbing, but after reading this you will never ever complain about a “long” approach.  Trust me.

But, getting back to real climbing books, Honorable Mention goes to the following:

“In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods” by Galen Rowell

I knew the guy could take great pictures, but he can write too.  It’s interesting to read a book about an expedition which failed miserably.  This is one of the few books where the writer had access to the journals of several of the other expedition members.  These accounts are woven into a great book.

“Yankee Rock and Ice” by Guy Waterman (Rest in Peace)

A must read if you are from these parts.  Worth reading just to try and find the picture of Bill Atkinson among the other Appies, and the very 70s looking shot of Al (I once had a lot of hair) Rubin.

“A Most Hostile Mountain” by Jon Waterman

Waterman (local boy) re-enacts the Duke of Abruzzi’s sail to Alaska and ascent of Mt. St. Elias; thought at the time to be the tallest peak on the continent.

“Burgess Book of Lies” by Adrian and Alan Burgess

These two crazy characters kept turning up in other books.  I finally found out they had a book of their own.  I would love to party with these cowboys…but I would likely end up dead.

“K2 Triumph and Tragedy” by Jim Curran

One of the first climbing books I read.  Tragic story, well written.  Other writers (including the aforementioned Burgess Twins) have written about this same season on K2 when 13 die on the mountain.

One of the best “other accounts” of the 1986 K2 story is covered in “The Endless Knot”,  which I discovered in the “Kurt Deimberger Omnibus”.  (Omnibus = collection of the works of one author.)  I read in that hefty volume that Deimberger was one of only two men to complete first ascents of two 8000 meter peaks.  Hermann Buhl is the other; and of course he has an omnibus also (but doesn’t call it one).  “Nanga Parbat Pilgramage” is a fine account of the life of this important individual.  He was doing “light and fast” long before Messner, who was before Bouchard or Twight or these other Johnny-come-latelies.  Other good Omnibuses include:  “Boardman Tasker Omnibus” by Joe Tasker and Peter Boardman; and (my favorite) “Six Mountain Travel Books” by Eric Shipton.  If you call yourself a mountaineer and don’t know who Shipton and Tillman were, then shame on you.  That might even be worse than not knowing who Fred Becky is…

But the typical Omnibus can be bit cumbersome.  Collections of Short Stories are easier for most people to handle, particularly for us TV-degenerated Americans.  Among this category one must include:

“Eiger Dreams” by John Krakauer. Stories of climbing in Chamonix and The Eiger are a good read.

“Tales from the Steep” by John Long includes rousing stories by one of the great storytellers in the sport.  Long’s description of a notable fall (referred to as a “Homeric whipper”) in the “Green Arch” is particularly memorable.

“Thin Air, Encounters in the Himalaya” by Greg Child (Child’s “Postcards from the Ledge” is good too.  A catchy title always helps.)

You will note that I haven’t yet mentioned the most popular mountaineering book ever, probably sold more copies than “Annapurna”…well I will add it here.  John Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” is a riveting account of a very well known tragedy.  But I am sick and tired of reading about Everest.  Poor Mallory and Irvine roll over in their respective graves every time a new book is written on this topic.  But, I will make a deal with you…I will give it at least an honorable mention if you will promise to read Anatoli Boukreev’s “The Climb” also.  Its only fair, as Boukreev came out looking a bit shabby in Krakauer’s book.   Too bad Henry Barber (oops that’s Harley) never wrote a book to respond to Taylor’s “Breach”.  Then again maybe he did and I have not read it.

That’s it so far; but there are still many books to read.  Some are old and hard to find…others are yet to be written.  I haven’t yet read anything by the two men who were perhaps the best mountaineers of our time:  Reinhold Messner and Jerzy Kukuczka.  Messner has many to chose from, the late Kukuczka has one that I know of.  (Note: the Poles make even the French look like pansies.)  I still haven’t read “Seven Summits” by Bass, Wells & Ridgeway or Paul Pritchard’s “Deep Play”, but I will.  Hey, I am a slow reader.

Two things I just realized after writing this.  First, three of the books mentioned here include escapes from prison camps…perhaps escapism, striving for freedom and disdain for authority are important themes in climbing literature (and climbing itself).  Second, none of the recommended books is written by a women.  Either I need to branch out a bit more (Julie Tullis…Alison Hargreaves…) or maybe there just aren’t enough women in prison camps.

Winter Climbing on Mt. Katahdin

By Steve Prettyman


The Red-Tape

It’s true. Baxter State Park, in northern Maine, has a registration process and a set of rules that rival just about any other climbing area in the country. It ensures that properly equipped teams of climbers have a thorough knowledge of just what their getting themselves into. Although it might not be the intent of the park, it also contributes to the relatively small number of ice climbers who visit this amazing alpine playground. 

Contacting the Park and requesting their Winter Procedures and Information packet is the first step in putting a trip together. This free information will bring clarity to the winter party application process, the camping reservations, and the required equipment list. Most of the information in this packet is also available on the Parks website, www.baxterstateparkauthority.com

Building the Team

One of the major obstacles involved in climbing Katahdin must be tackled well before the mountain is even in view. It’s no small feat to assemble a group of four or more individuals (the minimum team size that the park will allow is four) that are willing to make the trip a priority. Scheduling conflicts, ability levels and transportation solutions are just a few of the many logistic details to contend with. Start by selecting a trip leader. This individual should begin the process of gathering information and communicating with Baxter State Park four to six weeks prior to visiting the peak.

When to go?

The next piece of the puzzle will be scheduling the actual trip. The length will be affected by many personal variables but six to eight days would be ideal. Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll want three to four days just for travel. This includes traveling to and from the park, plus the 24 mile round-trip ski tour. Another three to four potential climbing days make the overall investment worthwhile. Because of the extensive planning involved, you’ll most likely be choosing the trip dates well before Mother Nature reveals her winter plans for the area. Snow pack, precipitation, temperature, and wind play a large role in the daily route conditions as well as the approaches and descents. Most of us here in the Northeast have grown accustom to scoping route conditions from the warmth of our vehicles. We don’t like the look of a particular climb; we drive to the next pull-out and check out something else. On Katahdin, be prepared to spend some time waiting for the weather to cooperate with your intentions. Teams who are able to schedule their trips in mid to late season will have longer hours of daylight, a substantial snow pack for the ski tour, and potentially milder temperatures.

Gearing Up

Once the team is assembled and the dates locked in, thought should be given to the mound of equipment that you’ll need. For a list of the mandatory gear, visit the Park’s website and look under the Winter Visitor Rules and Procedures section or check out the extensive chapter on Katahdin in An Ice Climber’s Guide to Northern New England by Peter Lewis and Rick Wilcox.

Instead of repeating the information found above, I decided to use the space for offering ideas and a few tips concerning some of the individual pieces of equipment.

pam ice cliffSleds

The benefits of hauling a sled usually outweigh the drawbacks. This is especially true when the majority of the terrain on the approach to Chimney Pond is perfect for hauling. Most climbers will carry a pack and drag a sled with a duffle bag in it to contain the load being hauled.

Making a sled is relatively cheap and easy. Below are two links that you might find useful in designing and constructing your rig.



There are two basic schools of thought here. The first one involves the use of Alpine Touring (A.T.) skis, bindings and plastic double boots. This set-up’s main advantage is that your climbing boot will work for the ski approach. The second option consists of using a lighter set-up all together. Backcountry skis, bindings and boots usually offer a significant savings in weight. Although both will work, it will pay to figure the pros and cons of each set-up. For the ski tour involved with climbing Katahdin, a set of lightweight backcountry skies with metal edges and flexible backcountry ski boots would work fine. The Tote Road up to Roaring Brook Campground receives a lot of snowmobile traffic from the rangers who use the winter months to shuttle supplies and materials. So this eight mile section can very easily resemble a groomed cross-country trail with many small climbs and enjoyable downhill’s along the way. I know what you’re thinking… this means carrying another set of boots for the technical climbing. I justify this by realizing the benefits of the lighter skis and boots that will be shuffled thousands of times on the approach. Plus the added advantage of keeping your climbing boots totally dry until you start the climbing.  Whatever set-up you choose, a pair of skins will be useful for the final three miles to Chimney Pond.


Even if you plan to ski, which is by far the best way to go, consider bringing snowshoes. The last 3.3 miles to Chimney Pond climbs 1400 feet. Add the steeper terrain with the extra traction needed to haul a sled and some climbers might be more comfortable with snowshoes. Another situation where snowshoes might be a bonus is during the approaches and descents from the actual climbs where post-holing can be a harsh reality. If nothing else, consider bring them to the trailhead and making your decision there after talking to the rangers or getting a current conditions report.

chimney 1

Bunkhouse, Tent or Lean-to?

For those willing to pay the extra cost of sleeping in the bunkhouse at Chimney Pond you’ll have a warm, lighted, dry place to spend your evenings.  Just be sure to make your reservations as soon as possible to ensure availability. The other options include sleeping in one of the traditional three sided lean-tos or in your tent. Because each designated camping site has a lean-to as well as space to pitch a tent, using the two in combination seems to be the norm. The lean-to provides plenty of space for cooking, gear storage, and hanging out. Making the extra-large 4-season mountaineering tents overkill. Save weight and bring a smaller 4-season tent that’s just big enough for sleeping. Snow walls can also be built in front of the lean-to opening to provide better protection from the wind and snow. A lightweight 10’ x 8’ tarp might also work, just be sure to leave adequate ventilation for the stoves.

Vapor Barrier Socks

If you’ve never used VB socks before, now might be the time to experiment. The initial ski tour will generate enough foot sweat to saturate your boots on just the first day. And keeping moisture in check is the first step to alleviating frozen boots. Unless you’re staying in the heated bunkhouse, you’ll want to be overly concerned with keeping things like clothes, boots, ropes, etc. as dry as possible. The main thing here is to experiment before your trip. I usually grab a dozen produce bags from the grocery store and sandwich them between a pair of liner socks and a pair of thicker insulating socks. Don’t expect to get more than a day of use from these super thin bags, but they do the trick.


Water and Food

Water is usually available at both the Roaring Brook and Chimney Pond camping areas. So factoring in fuel to melt snow shouldn’t be an issue. The rangers at Chimney Pond cut a hole in the ice to scoop water out of. MSR Dromedaries make hauling larger quantities of water back to camp easier. Bury any unused water in 10” to 12” of snow overnight in covered pots for use in the morning. The insulating properties of the snow will keep the water from freezing, although you might get a thin layer of surface slush.

Pine martens, the weasel like creatures that live around Chimney Pond, should not be underestimated. These things can grab your food bag and drag it down one of their many deep lairs below the lean-to faster than you can shred a new pair of gaiters. In a few short minutes, we lost 24 sausage patties, numerous packets of GU, some crackers and a cell phone. Although the cell phone was later found deep in another stuff sack it was a devastating loss none the less. Hang your food! Even if you’re only leaving it for a few minutes use the nails in the lean-tos. There is a cable and hook type set-up located in the middle of the camping area for overnight hangs.

The Rack and Ropes

The perfect alpine rack seems akin to those mythical creatures like Big Foot or the Yeti – people swear they exist but I’ve never seen one. That being said, here is a general list of stuff for each rope team.

Bring 10 to 12 sharp ice screws, a few more if you like to keep the run-outs to a minimum. Keep in mind this is alpine terrain (i.e. no trees) so you’ll be using a portion of your screws for belays.

Assorted slings and biners

Unless you’re planning on tackling a mixed or thin ice route that requires rock gear, you can get away without bringing a substantial rock rack. A couple of pins, six assorted nuts, and two to three assorted cams up to 2” should be plenty for supplemental rock placements.

In my opinion, 60 meter dry treated half ropes provide more security and easier retreat options than a single rope system.

While most routes are climbed to the top and then walked off, rap rings along with webbing and a v-thread device should definitely be kept close at hand. Don’t plan on finding established rap anchors if the need to bail arises.  Practice your v-threads beforehand on frozen wind blown lakes or at the base of obscure ice routes.

knife edge 1

The Climbing Rangers

These guys are probably your best resource for up to date information but they can be hard to track down until you’re actually in the Park. The ranger cabin at Chimney Pond has a small collection of resource books, as well as the current third edition of Lewis and Wilcox’s guide to Northern New England. A weather report and forecast for the mountain is also available from the rangers on a daily basis. It’s a good idea to stop by the ranger station in Millinocket for detailed trail reports, directions to the trailhead and parking information.

Pre-Trip Preparations

Before any extended trip, especially those involving winter camping and climbing, it’s a good idea to do a few system checks. Take your newly designed sled out for a test drive. Go skiing and practice putting on and removing your skins. Fire up that new stove a couple of times. Ignore those convenient tree belays so common on Northeast ice routes and get proficient in building gear only anchors. Review rope signals. Learn about snow pack stability and the factors that increase avalanche activity. Last but definitely not least, go climbing on really cold days. These are just a handful of things that will contribute to your overall experience and success on Katahdin.

Off Mountain Information

Millinocket is a pretty small town. It does have a Hannaford grocery store, a McDonalds (located near the ranger station), Rite-Aid pharmacy, and a handful of restaurants, bars, and gas stations. A few hotels in the town are able to be booked using online reservation sites. The Appalachian Trail Café, on the main street in Millinocket has good food, big servings and really great prices.

If you’re traveling to Baxter State Park from the south, you’ll pass right by the town of Freeport, Maine which has North Face, Patagonia and Cloudveil outlets right in a row. As well as the L.L. Bean store which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  You might find great deals on clothing, skis and snowshoes but don’t expect to find much technical climbing hardware.

Want more Information?

Check out the following books for specifics on routes, great pictures and other useful advice.

An Ice Climber’s Guide to Northern New England by Lewis and Wilcox

Selected Climbs in the Northeast by Lewis and Horwitz

DeLorme’s Map & Guide to Baxter State Park and Katahdin

Rock and Ice Magazine Mountain Guide Special Issue No. 123


What does “a minimum of four people in a climbing team” actually mean?

A ranger explained it to me this way – Baxter State Park will only allow teams of four to ten people to venture above tree-line. This doesn’t mean that all members of the team must climb together on the same route. An example: two members of your team climb the Waterfall Route and two members climb an adjacent route like the Cilley-Barber. Both rope teams must have a shared knowledge of the others intentions, such as descent plans, turn around times, etc. Although if the rangers sense you might be stretching your teams limits, they will probably suggest a more conservative option.

Do I really need to bring a saw and an axe?

Yes. Gerber makes a pretty light weight short camp axe. For the saw, find what’s called a cable saw; its super compact and weights considerably less than most small camp saws.

How much climbing can I expect to actually get in?

Depending on the weather, your team might get shut down completely or have the opportunity to climb a few classics. Even if the conditions keep you off the longer routes, there are a few days worth of climbs on the lower Pamola Cliffs. To give you and idea, we spent four nights at Chimney Pond and climbed the Waterfall Route, the Chimney with a traverse of the Knife Edge to summit, and a couple routes on the lower ice cliffs.

Is it worth it?

Without a doubt yes! The planning, the expenses, the details and the travel are worth the chance to climb some of the Northeast’s greatest ice routes. Standing on the frozen surface of Chimney Pond and looking up into the South Basin by the light of countless stars is a memory that will replay in my mind for what I hope is a very long time. Good luck!