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Archive for the ‘Conditions’ Category

Chronicles of the Overly Motivated

boots1

Mud and fall leaves typically found on the boots of the overly motivated

By Courtney Ley

I’ve been inflicted by a disease.  It leaves my muscles constantly sore, my body screaming for sleep and my family and friends worried about my mental stability.   I become antsy and unable to sit idle for too long. I prefer the trunk of my car to my soft bed and prefer pre-dawn hours to high noon. The worst of the symptoms seem to arrive in late fall when the cold begins to settle in.

“All I need is a few cold nights and my mind begins the activation process”

 It’s not too far off to say that I become inflicted with an energetic state similar to what most animals succumb to during mating season.  In summary, ‘Out of my way! I’m fit and ready to get some.’   My doctors say that certain tendencies can increase my symptoms exponentially. Such as, the habit of thinking positively – all the time. Well, I am doomed for the foreseeable future, so I thought it best to reach out to others who have similar diagnoses.

All I need is a few cold nights and my mind begins the activation process.  Like a slideshow stuck in fast forward, images appear and disappear in front of my eyes. The darkening skies, howling wind, freezing fog, ice crystals forming and snow falling.  Then dawn breaks and that yellow ball strikes that crisp blue sky with intensity but no warmth manages to penetrate the atmosphere. The mountains hold on to the cold of the night, despite the light revealing their sharp ridges and smooth valleys.  When the temperature drops, I find myself on the move.

P5020081

May Ice. Why Not?

Sometimes this behavior is rewarded.  When it comes, it feels sweeter than anything you’ve had before. Late last season in May, I hiked into Huntington Ravine accompanied by a friend with a similar ailment. We were pretty damn positive there would still be ice to climb, even if it took climbing a few hundred feet of wet rock and precariously placed vegetation to reach it…and it did.  I had a grin on my face for the entire 80 feet of ice.  Yes, that was it, 80 feet. We were motivated to savor the last licks and it was worth it.  But for the afflicted, the most delicious reward is that first ice of the season. And for me, this comes early, just as the last ice had come late.

Sometimes though, your plate comes up empty.  That doesn’t deter the overly motivated, however. We only get hungrier.  This past Sunday, with my usual high hopes, I packed my gear the distance into the rocky depths of King Ravine.  Sitting on the north side of the mountain, the shade lingers.  This Halloween weekend, however, I didn’t need the shade as a low cloud bank parked itself above the summits.  With those clouds also came hurricane force winds.  Even better, I thought. It’ll freeze any water molecule that decides to visit the alpine arena.  My mind envisioned the drainage of Great Gully just frozen enough.  The slideshow of winter images played themselves out in front of my eyes as I started the approach.  Water slowing, ice crystals forming and snow falling.   Right away I noticed winter had greeted the mountains.  Snow clung tenaciously to the tree branches.  Further up, it hid the withered and wrinkled fall leaves.  Even higher still, the white crystals coated the cool rocks. By the time I hit the ravine, I was negotiating the boulder strewn floor with an inch of snow blanketing everything.  I was fully in the grips of my disease.

IMG_1835

The cloud bank settles in low.

Being overly motivated and yes, overly positive has many advantages, in my opinion.  I travel miles in beautiful woods before most people had even woken up.  I am able to spend time alone in the mountains.  Really alone without encountering any others.  Whether it be the time of day (or night), or the place I’m in for that time of year, I can be in the mountains with only myself or the people I choose to accompany me. When I’m walking up the trail on those approaches during early season, my surroundings seem quieter and I feel more meditative.  My mind clears itself of distractions without any effort on my part and my focus is simply on my breathing and my immediate surroundings in that moment.  The wind up high snakes its way through the stunted alpine spruce and produces a sound not unlike a distant river.   I linger blissfully in the idea that few had thought to see of there is ice there to climb and fewer still were motivated enough to trek that far.  When the walls of the ravine rise on either side of me, I feel small and humbled against the forces that created the mountains so long ago and the forces that are presently making themselves known. The wind, the cold air and the rough terrain.

Of course, the best prize of all is capturing the ice you’ve been hunting for.  On this day however, I stood in the half-frozen drainage looking at slush on top of running water.  Damn!  What was it?  Was there more water flowing this year than last?  Were the clouds blanketing the ravine and keeping it warmer than usual?  It was clear that the few cold nights just weren’t frigid enough.  In the end, the disappointment was brief as the morning had been sublime.  I made my way back down the trail and the air of late morning fought off the chill.  The ground radiated heat and melted the snow off the leaves along the path. I returned to my car having enjoyed the morning, but a deep rumble in my empty stomach would urge me back to the mountains soon.

No dice

No dice

Ok, maybe I am guilty of being too positive about the conditions.  But I’ll allow my disease to take over and I’ll allow my friends and family to call me crazy.  My body was glad for the sleep that night and my muscles were feeling the hours of climbing over giant slippery boulders.  Soon my episodes will become more frequent until I can get a few millimeters of metal into some thin ice.  And from that moment of hitting rock bottom with my malady, I’ll realize that from there, I’m only going UP.


Baxter – Fall 2014

Conditions Report!

October 12-14, 2014

Some years you find ice to climb in October, other years you are hiking in your underwear. The weather started out cold on our trip and we were hopeful, but this was not an ice climbing year. We still had fun and explored some new areas to the Northwest of Baxter Peak. The Northwest Basin is simply amazing and worth the 8 mile approach. Below are a few photos from our trip. Enjoy!

Doug Plateau 2

Doug on the Northwest Plateau headed back to Roaring Brook after exploring the Northwest Basin. Yes, underwear time!

Alfonzo enjoying some early season ice two years ago on October 13th

Alfonzo enjoying some early season ice two years ago on October 13th


Photo Gallery

*Click Photos to Enlarge

- Doug Millen


September rime ice!

It was an excellent day above tree line on Sunday.  Cool temps with a bluebird sky above and an undercast below.  Not to mention, evidence of the first overnight freeze of the season!

There’s nothing like a little rime ice to feed the psych!

(click on thumbnails to enlarge)

Photos by Courtney Ley

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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