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Archive for the ‘Conditions’ Category

Adirondack Ice: Back On the Mend

By Courtney Ley

Alex Wakeman

Alex Wakeman

I decided to head to the Adirondacks over the weekend to see how things were fairing after the recent thaw.  I wanted to do a lot of climbing, so it only made sense to hire Alex Wakeman as my climbing partner.  A young buck from Saratoga, he climbs night and day.  When you are done blowing your arms out all day on steep ice, it’s never time to relax for Alex.  It’s time to go blow out your legs on a nighttime alpine route.  Even after you’ve warmed up and had a good meal and a beer.  I’ve never spent time with anyone else that has his motivation to climb and I knew it would be tough to keep up with him.  There was no question that I’d have a great time with his company.  The question was, what would we find for ice conditions after a few days of temperatures the 40’s and 50’s.

Chouinard's Gully

Chouinard’s Gully

I arrived at the Chapel Pond parking lot at 5pm on Friday evening and caught a glimpse across the lake before darkness set in.  The pond was open water and the cliffs no doubt had seen some warm temperatures.  Once Alex pulled up, we wasted no time.  Ten minutes later with headlamps donned, we were on our way to Chouinard’s Gully.  The ice was great in the gully and the evening was warm and comfortable.

Jeremy Haas joined us the next day and we headed over to Cascade Pass, but unfortunately the Sisters were too lean and the Quarry was looking too wet and detached.  (Sorry, I didn’t take any photos!)  So back at Chapel Pond, we climbed Lions on the Beach center, left of center, right of center, left of left and every which way.

jeremy1 800x600    alex2 800x600  jeremy3 800x600

The scene was quiet, fun and relaxed with only a few of the seasoned locals and friends out for the day.  After awhile, it was my time to pull some weight, so we headed over to Crystal Ice Tower and I led some steep ice for the first time this season.  Crystal Ice Tower was good, as were the pitches above.

Photo by Alex Wakeman

Photo by Alex Wakeman

The evening rolled in, we said goodbye to Jeremy and it was time for dinner and a beer. I knew I shouldn’t get too comfortable because before long, Alex was plotting our next objective.  A nighttime ascent of The Cascade.  Even with a good burger in our stomachs and the fireplace roaring in the Ausable Inn, I found us later in the parking lot back at the cold and windy Cascade Pass ready to roll.  The prospect of a long WI2 ice line up a drainage, through clefts, slots and wooded ridges that all led to a summit tugged at my alpine heart and I couldn’t refuse.   Unfortunately, the route needed more time to refreeze and after climbing the initial step, we ran into a gushing waterfall at the top of the first pitch.

But things are on the mend and on Sunday as we drove through the Pass, I saw some climbers on the route and it looked much better than the previous night.  Even Roaring Brook on Friday was open water, but by the time I was driving home on Sunday, it was a lot quieter and slower.

Looking up at the first pitch of Cascade

Time to abort mission The aborted mission on The Cascade

It was 8pm when we were back at the car and it took some arm twisting to convince Alex -not- to climb any more that night.  I knew laps on Chouinards until midnight was on his mind.  Instead, we settled in for an early start on Sunday.  I was hoping Multiplication Gully was in decent shape so we went to check it out first thing the next morning.  But it wasn’t quite there yet so I just snapped a conditions photo and Alex drove us to the North Face of Pitchoff.  I haven’t spent much time climbing ice in the Adirondacks.  I grew up and spent the first 20 years of my life in New York, but I wasn’t introduced to climbing until I landed in New Hampshire.  I consider New York as my hometown still, and was psyched to get the tour and go to some ADK ice venues for the first time.  This included the North Face of Pitchoff.  We opted for Weeping Winds, which was in fine shape with a lot of options.

Multi Gully.  Not yet.

Multi Gully. Not yet.

Overall, things are looking up for late this week and into next weekend.  The weather is calling for cold temperatures and snow showers every day.  For the Keene Valley area, check out Ian’s latest condition post HERE and other NEice members reports on the conditions page and photo page.

P3 of Weeping Winds Photo by Alex Wakeman

P3 of Weeping Winds
Photo by Alex Wakeman

After I left Alex for the drive home at 5pm, I wondered if in ten minutes he’d be putting on his headlamp and going after the next piece of ice.

 

Photos by Courtney and Alex.  Click on thumbnails to enlarge.  Do it!

 

 

 

Get Ready for a Thanksgiving Ice Feast!

(Featured image by rockytop)

Climbers are getting out there and posting ice condition reports and photos.  Here’s a quick recap of the latest from all over the Northeast.  Ice routes in the upper elevations are doing well and things down low are thin, but building fast.  Thanks to all the NEice members for sharing their experiences!

New Hampshire

Huntington Ravine

from 11.21.13 (mlynchdogger):

“Climbed O’Dells on Thursday 11/21. Found soft hero ice. The crux of the main flow looked thin on top and was open with running water but very doable to the right and was done by other parties just before me. Skirted up a thin snow gully right of the main flow and the steeper flow to the right. Atop of the ice went left. Plenty of snow to a few hundred feet to the top. Finished on a 5.5 crack. Parties in Pinnacle. Yale looked sun baked and thin down low. Damnation thin but possibly doable.”

yale

Yale Gully
Photo by leaf

 

 

from 11.23.13 (leaf):

“Yale Slab, a bit thin.  Middle of Yale Gully, the lower half after the slab is nice.  Then you’d need to work your way around the big dry rock ledges. No ice there.  Next up, there’s a ton of ice to enjoy after the gully constriction.  Very top, knee deep loose snow.  The deli counter was open taking numbers for all those wanting to wait around for Pinnacle!”

 

 

 

Tuckerman Ravine

from 11.17.13 (ajcormier):

“Got up to the headwall and decided to go straight up. “The Book”, to the right, was pouring water. We solo’d the first 1/2 pitch and roped up for the next two. Lots of undermining and more like late spring climbing.”

from 11.22.13 (mlynchdogger):

“Climbed the left ice flow high up left of left gully with DG yesterday. The separate flow to the right looked fun but thinner. Broke the climb up into two pitches but could be done as one. The first being fat with great ice. took up to 19’s. The second being short but steeper – stayed left. Found fat blue hero ice. Walked off and down into left gully.”

from 11.23.13 (JGassel):

“Hiked in to check out conditions and ended up at the Open Book pitch, which looked like the fattest from a distance. Up close, things didn’t look that good imo. There was lots of water running down behind a small amount of ice that was formed on it.”

2013-11-23 tucks

Tuckerman Ravine Headwall
Photo by JGassel

Frankenstein

from 11.24.13 (JGassel):

There was some ice on Frankenstein on Sunday 11/24, making a few of the routes climbable. I wouldn’t say anything is in by most people’s estimation though.”

2013-11-24_dracula

Dracula
Photo by JGassel

2013-11-24_standard

Standard Route
Photo by JGassel

The Black Dike

from 11.25.13 (Adventure Spirit)

“With the exception of a few chances to sink a 16 or 19cm, it was mainly 10-13cm territory. The mixed middle pitch was mainly dry and went on gear up to 0.75 and used no pins.”  

11.25 black dike            pitch 3

Photos of Pitch 1 and 3 by Adventure Spirit.

Vermont

Lake Willoughby

from 11.24.13 (Broken Spectre):

“The tablets are taking screws (stubs) at the 100′ level. before that you get nothing. Found some nice steeper pillars high on the tablets that almost felt fat at times. Otherwise nice plastic 1-3″ thick ice. Building very fast. 20 below may be in shape by tomorrow.”

Smugglers Notch

from 11.23.13 (tfarr3):

“Conditions up by EHG are coming along. O of I is almost there for early season, Watership Down is trying to come in. EHG is probably good but thin. Ragnarock – 1st pitch goes, 2nd would go. 3rd not yet. EHG South Face could be a scratchy adventure.”

Ragnarock
Photo by tfarr3

from 11.23.13 (rockytop):

“Blind Fate amphitheater. All climbable but no real gear on lower parts, maybe an occasional stubby? Not really “in” yet. The top column on Blind Fate was a wild wind-blown formation. The left-hand line with the free-hanger is about as good as it ever gets.”

“Grand Confusion in somewhat thin conditions. Climbable but rotten, narrow and detached in spots, fresh plastic in others. Crux up high would be protectable with stubbies.”

“Jeff Slide – Good recovery after the warm spell. Would probably take stubbies in places.”

Blind Fate Amphitheater
Photo by rockytop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maine

Grafton Notch

from 11.21.13 (suunto):

“Drove by Grafton Notch for a short hike today.  The ice is coming pretty well.”

 Mt. Katadin, South Basin

from 11.22.13 (lukecushman):

“The stars aligned for a one-day car to car ascent of the Cilley-Barber. Four of us took Friday and the opportunity to see if there was any ice up on Katahdin yet this year, and found C-B to be in pretty ideal conditions. All ice sans about 10 meters at the start of the crux pitch and the hike off the top. Could not have asked for a better day!”

Cilley-Barber Route
Photo by lukecushman

New York

Trap Dike

from 11.22.13 (TrevorK):

“Went up and climbed the trap dike yesterday. Its amazing how little snow there is everywhere up in the high peaks. The climb was in but thin. There was a bit of water running but much less than I expected. Compared to later in the season, when it is mainly snow, the dike is mostly all ice. The upper slabs were very thin and basically snow free. As for protection, there’s not much yet. If you wanted pro, I’d say bring some rock gear.”

______________________

With this new onslaught of freezing rain, sleet and snow, I’d get ready for a great Thanksgiving weekend of ice climbing!

And I heard rumors of a photo contest in the near future.. so get your cameras out and continue to post photos and condition reports.

Make sure to check the Conditions Page and Photo Page for more.

 (As always, click on images to enlarge)

 

 

By Courtney Ley / NEice.com

 

 

There’s Still Ice!

By Courtney Ley

Did the recent warm up get you down? Did you think about rock climbing?  Did you… actually rock climb? Once I get in my first ice of the season, there’s no turning back!  And no small rise in temperature is going to stop this alpine train!

All aboard!

It was high noon on Mt. Lafayette’s Escadrille route by the time I finished the long approach.  The sun was baking everything, including me!, but the ice was still hanging in!  It’s a beautiful alpine route that leads directly to the summit.

IMG_3529a

An excellent mini-guide to the high routes on Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln can be found here:

The Spirit of Adventure

Enjoy the ride and these photos!

Photographs by Courtney Ley

 

 

Driving up Hillman’s Highway

by Doug Millen

Fred-Hillmans-2

Ever since Irene,  Alfonzo and I have been wanting to catch this drainage, in that perfect moment. We’ve scrambled up Hillman’s in the summer,using it to access the rock ridges of the Boott Spur.  The movement of earth and boulders caused by that massive rain event were impressive. We wondered what it would be like frozen and finally last  Saturday we were given that moment. The climbing was excellent.  A ribbon of ice with steeper steps running for 1000′. Winter is coming and the ice was building during the day…I look for more building during the week and good early season ice climbing this weekend,  in the high ravines. Here are a few photos of our “Drive up Hillmans Highway” on Saturday November 9th 2013.

 

The Great Gulf

PB090072

THE GREAT GULF

by Courtney Ley

The Great Gulf.  There could be no other name for it.  When I look at it from the vantage point of Mt Clay, I imagine the walls of this giant cirque begin to expand suddenly, high rocks and cliffs start breaking apart and tumble into its gaping mouth. I see the summit of Mt. Washington tilting, the buildings shake and crumble, sliding into the dark abyss with deafening sound. All that’s left is a giant cavern.  The Great Gulf just swallowed Mt. Washington whole.

But as I stand on the summit of Mt. Clay on this day, all is still.  The only moving object is the sun as it lowers over Franconia Ridge to the west, creating long shadows across the Presidential Range. I hear no tumbling rocks or collapsing cliffs.  I only hear the sound of the wind beating on my jacket.  I am alone and feel at ease.  I watch the sky turn pastel colors and soft lenticular clouds form high above me. I adjust my hood to block the wind the best I can and head down the mountain towards Sphinx Col.

PB090086                                               PB090093

My need for seclusion brought me to the Great Gulf.  Some approach the gulf from Huntington Ravine and do it in March or April when the gulf is filled with the years snowfall and travel is relatively easy.  I had two days and decided to approach it from its beginnings. I wanted to wind my way through its endless water courses and forest canopies.  It’s not very far in miles, but the wilderness trails are left to the forces of nature.  The trees fallen across paths remain in place and water is not forcefully diverted away.  Long bogs and difficult river crossings are a norm here.  I enjoy the wilderness feel, as it’s hard to find in the developed White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The Great Gulf is by no means ‘out there’.  A quick jaunt up the Chandler Ridge finds you at the Auto Road and once you top out of the headwall, there’s Mt. Washington’s summit with its restaurant and gift shops.  The Great Gulf Wilderness was conceived in 1964 and is New Hampshire’s oldest yet smallest wilderness area, comprising just 5,658 acres.  Despite this, the giant glacial cirque leaves you feeling like you are somewhere remote and far away from anyone and anything.

PB090036

PB090035

‘Wait Until Dark’ Gully (on right)

Admittedly, I also had another motive.  I was hunting down ice and I had a good feeling I’d find some here.  Not only is the gulf at a high elevation but it’s predominately north facing and it’s walls rarely see sunlight.  It had the elements necessary for early season capture.  I pitched my tent at one of the designated tent sites along the Great Gulf Trail and set out.  Unlike other ravines, the gulf doesn’t show its full self until you are just about at its walls.  The spruce are tall and the tiny Spaulding Lake proves the only vantage point from the floor during this time of year.  When I worked my way around the lake I got a glimpse of ‘Wait Until Dark’ Gully.  It begged me forth. I knew reaching the entrance would be no easy task.  I was proved wrong, it was much harder than I imagined.  Giant truck-sized boulders were scattered among thick spruce.  Enormous crevasses littered themselves between boulders.  The terrain was so difficult I couldn’t fathom enough snow falling to fill it all in.  I thought about turning around several times, but each time I dreaded going back more than I dreaded continuing forward.  It took me almost two hours from once I left the trail until I crawled to the start of the ice begging for mercy.

My spirits lifted when I saw the gully filled with beautiful solid ice.  For a full length pitch, I enjoyed a continuous flow of grade 2 ice.  I fell into my rhythm of swings and kicks, focused solely on ice in front of me. Occasionally, some ice would break loose and fall away, echoing as it hit into the rocks.  A reminder of the vast amphitheater that I was climbing in.  At times, the wind would funnel down the gully, picking up snow and swirling it in a cold dance towards me. I lowered my head and let it pass each time.  The wind tried to push me backward, as if I did not belong.  But I knew I did, at least for this brief while.   A short steep step led me to the upper ice which was at a lower angle with a few short bulges.  I stopped more frequently here and took in my surroundings.  Eventually the ice relented to a rock and vegetation finish.  I hit the Mt. Clay summit loop trail immediately when I topped out, as it hugs the lip of the gulf.

PB090045    PB090051    PB090061     PB090054

I never saw anyone all day and nor would I during the night and majority of the next day.  Now I stood on the summit of Mt. Clay with no one else in sight on the ridge.  I sat down in a wind-sheltered area and looked back at where I had come from.  I couldn’t think of my time in the gulf spent any other way. It had granted me my solitude.  It was as it was meant to be.  I imagined the entirety of the Great Gulf as it expanded, shuttered, and devoured the nearby peaks.  I imagined the Great Gulf as it swallowed me too.

 

Photographs by Courtney Ley (click on images to enlarge)

 

 

 

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