Early Season Strategies

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by pcooke, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. pcooke

    pcooke Member

    I took the tools for a walk into Tux this morning knowing it was a less than 50% chance of finding something safe to climb. Walking out, I was struck by the number of people heading up, many of whom seemed clueless about what they were getting into.

    WARNING: Rant to follow...

    My partner and I were up at 330, on the road by 415, and walking up the Tux trail by 530am. We were at the base of Tux before the sun was up by 655. We knew that it had been warm and rainy mid-week. We knew that today was forecasted to be potentially within one degree of the record high. We knew we likely were chasing a lost cause, and had a bakcup plan to go climb rock at Humphreys.

    We also knew that the best option for reliable ice would be in Huntington... ODell's is low-angle, largely shaded, low volume, and a consistent early former. But I'd done O'Dell's last weekend and we wre willing to gamble on potentially getting skunked in case there was something fat enough to look OK despite the warmth.

    Before the sun was even up we knew we wouldn't be climbing. The ice was clearly quite thin (though managable if it was colder), with plenty of running water behind many secitons, and enough water running behind the upper pillars to make us think they'd be coming down soon. There was a legitimately warm wind blowing over us.

    We passed 2 parties heading up into Tux around 730... fortunately, they seemed open to the idea of not climbing ice and maybe doing some good old-fashioned mountaineering or "walking up and taking a photo".

    Farther down though, we passed several other parties heading into Huntington and Tux... some asking about Pinnacle (look at the weather forecast... look around you... notice that everyone is in t-shirts? Know how much warmth and precipitation the Ravine has gotten over the last few days? Know how high-volume Pinnacle is?)... some (wisely) open to the idea of climbing up some of the buttresses. But we passed parties headed up for Tux at 825, 100 yards from Pinkham.

    If you're going to try to climb early season ice, you need to do your homework. The Mount Washington Observatory website should be your favorite website. This page: https://www.mountwashington.org/experience-the-weather/mount-washington-regional-mesonet.aspx is especially valuable. The base of Huntington Ravine is around 4300 feet, the top 5300... the Auto Road Profile is a good reference point for temps in the Ravine. (Btw. At 5pm the Tux sensor was reading 47 degrees, and at 615 it is reading 43 degrees. The similarly elevated sensors on the auto road showed comparable readings at those times)

    Last weekend one climber fell on a very thin and clearly out of shape (even for the standards of many accomplished climbers who were up there that weekend) Pinnacle and was injured. It's been a #$%&ed up December thus far and I know people are jonesing. I want to climb ice too, but thus far I'm 2/4 when it comes to taking the tools for a walk. Both times I COULD have climbed, but chose not to based on the conditions. If you're going to get out in the early season, especially this December while the temeperatures are wildly fluctuating, START EARLY. The sun is not your friend. And maybe this is the teacher in me talking, but DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Someone may have climbed something on the Tux headwall today, but I sure as hell hope not.

    RANT OVER - proceed with commenting, flaming, berating, and trolling
    TaiG and Phin like this.
  2. Derby

    Derby Member

    This advice should be posted on this site early every season. There are multiple ways of trying to guess when conditions are sufficient to ones abilities. Good work Pat. But maybe some tools just have to go for a walk;)
    neiceadmin likes this.
  3. Flashpump

    Flashpump Member

    I'd rather go on a possibly fruitless recon mission than bitch and moan about ice being hard to find...just think of it as cardio. Any day outside is a win.
    pcooke and neiceadmin like this.
  4. nightclimber

    nightclimber Member

    No trolling here... I admire your willingness to go explore, have an adventure and decide for yourself if you are gonna get on the ice!! I think to many people depend on others for information, at its root, climbing is and should be about adventure. Ice climbing takes this idea to its pinnacle. Knowledge is best gained from experience and you don't get experiences by sitting at the computer waiting to here/ see how the ice is from people dedicated to adventure! If people are not smart even to understand what it takes to make the climbs form up, they either have/ had poor mentors or are to ignorant to understand that SUSTAINED cold is required to make ice.
    With the ability to check weather trends at anytime there is no reason people should be currently expecting good conditions!!! An old saying comes to mind "The hot hand teaches best". If you know what this means you should be able to think figure out that ice season has not yet started!
    pcooke likes this.
  5. pcooke

    pcooke Member

    Any day outside is definitely a good day. And taking the tools for a walk is good training. That's how I approach it.

    I like that people aren't waiting for things to be listed as "in" to go check stuff out, but blindly expecting things to be in when the information is all right there to know...

    One guide who took his clients up one of the Buttresses in Huntington's described some iffy decision-making going on yesterday. Stay safe out there.

    www.mountain-forecast.com has good information as well for tracking weather in likely early-season locations.

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