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Archive for the ‘Ice Climbs’ Category

Stingray and a new climb at Poko “Ruination” WI6 X

 by Ian Osteyee

Stingray

Ian Osteyee on “Stingray” 12-27-2013

Mark Meschinelli and I had a good day at Poko on Friday the 27th. Things looked to be shaping up a bit when I was there on Thursday, so I brought in a substitute guide and played hooky with Mark. We looked at “Stingray” from the road and it looked intriguing, so we went for a look. It still didn’t look certain from the ground, it seemed less formed than when I did the second ascent with Chris Fey years earlier. I climbed up and across the “Sting” ledge and down to the belay. Once Mark came up, I went up to take a look, and although thin, the ice quality was good and attached.
The ice formed a bit left of where it had before, and reaching the “Sting” anchor was difficult. No gear, and 50′ above the “Sting” ledge, I took care getting to that anchor with an off balance kind of iron cross move. 30 seconds of awkward, careful chipping allowed me to clip and have a piece of gear. It gets a little steeper right after that anchor, but the ice also got a little better. The last time I did this route I climbed from that spot all the way to the dike ledge with no more gear. On this ascent I was able to avoid the 150′ run out, finding a bolt frozen in the left side of the smear about 40′ up from the “Sting” anchor. Mark had told me the general whereabouts of the bolt – a good partner indeed. This time I used a set of Blue Water 70m doubles and easily reached the anchor point, better than the scary rope stretching super stubby/bad rock anchor of the last ascent. Mark came up and we headed up the upper pitch. The upper pitch was fun, sticky ice through the small roof above and to the big tree/rappel anchor.

Ruination

Ian on “Ruination”

That would have been a great day all by itself, but as we rappelled down we couldn’t help looking over at another smear that had formed from the middle of the “Sting” ledge straight up between the rock routes “Easy Street” and “Unforgiven.” We rapped and Mark and I discussed our options. Mark cautioned that it looked much thinner than “Stingray.” I agreed, but the ice was climbing well that day, and I decided to have a look. I climbed back up the “Sting” ledge, tucking the ropes behind the ledge as “gear”, and shimmied toward the smear. I could see an overlap about 50′ up, that might take a TCU placement. The start was very thin, and crampon purchase had to be carefully managed. Already being up on the “Sting” ledge created a substantial distance above the ground. The new Cassin Blade Runner’s shined. I reached the overlap, and was disappointed. I fiddled with a blue TCU, but I should have brought the little purple one. I left it, but it was as useful as a Christmas ornament. I knew the “Unforgiving” anchor was up there somewhere. At about 100′ I saw a red sling frozen in, and 30 seconds of chipping revealed the top bolt of the “Unforgiving” rock anchor. That was good timing as it steepened right there. Having Mark Meschinelli as my partner can’t be underestimated. DSC_4052
Mark is a calm, cool guy, and he neither incites this kind of mischief, nor denies it. He simply inspires calm, and that is a great climbing vibe. Another thing Mark is good for is telling you where hidden bolts may be, as he’s spent a lifetime climbing at Poko. Another 40′ up above that anchor clip and I remembered Mark had said “keep your eyes open, there are a few bolts up there,” and there was a bolt. A little chipping, clip, and my mood improved markedly. Another 40′ and the angle decreased, I placed a 10cm screw just before the ledge, but the ice still wasn’t quite thick enough. From there it just links up with the same upper pitch of “Stingray.” The new pitch is a hair longer than the “Stingray” pitch, but the line is narrower, and the ice thinner. We both thought it a bit pumpier. The name is Meschinelli’s favorite new brew, which we enjoyed curbside. “Ruination” WI 6- X

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Simian

New Hampshire’s Grade IV

Ammo Ravine 1

By Courtney Ley

As we know in the climbing world, one woman’s Grade V is another woman’s Grade II. We try to define the difficulty of the route, the time it takes to climb it and level of commitment it requires by funny little symbols and acronyms.. but ratings will forever be subjective. I even hesitate to say the agreed commitment rating for the longer gullies in Huntington Ravine is a Grade III. Damnation Gully is described as 5 full length pitches of 60 degree ice and snow with a few short ice bulges. Last November, this gully took me all day to go from car-to-car.  Last April, it took me less than an hour to climb during my one day enchainment of all the gullies in Huntington. All of Huntington Ravine’s gullies change drastically as the ice season ticks on but the grading remains the same.  Damnation Gully is a classic line that gets a lot of attention. And well deserved. So are there Grade IV ice climbs in New Hampshire?  What about a route that is twice its size with three times the amount of ice? I would imagine it would get the Northeast’s spotlight. Or at the very least, some vague description on SummitPost.org.

Last year I climbed the Ammonoosuc Ravine solo and wrote a short tale in the conditions section. It was a long day with more ice than I’ve ever seen in one place (at least in the Northeast). It was beautiful and challenging. The approach was miles, as was the descent. After I wrote that short blurb last year, I thought about this route more and more. This year, I brought a partner and a rope and I realized how massive this gully truly was when climbed in traditional pitches. After this years outing, I decided the Ammonoosuc deserved its time on the front page.

One of the reasons there aren’t climbers flocking to this route may be that getting the Ammo in good condition requires perfect timing. Too late, you are slogging in waist deep snow with barely any ice in sight. (Yes, I’ve done it.) Too early, you’ll find gushing waterfalls off steep wet and snow-covered rock. With such varied weather from day to day during early and even mid season, it is a requirement to obsessively watch conditions. Even then, it’s a crap shoot what you’ll find.  In a way, the Ammo demands commitment even before you reach the trailhead. But when you nail it just right, there’s nearly 10 solid pitches of ice and a little under 3,000 feet of elevation gain with almost all of that on the ice. There’s also three short headwalls that are no give away. Despite this, I’m surprised an ice climb of that magnitude in New Hampshire hasn’t received much attention at all.

To add to the commitment of 10 ice pitches, being in this gully means you are in. It’s very difficult in most places to bail out or work your way around the steeper sections. The walls on either side of you are serious. But if you look and are creative you can find good exits. Although once you exit, you enter the thick alpine spruce midway up Mt Washington.  Now what? Rappelling doesn’t seem appealing, but that’s probably just me, because it never seems appealing.

I’ve climbed this route three times so far. No one told me about it and I didn’t read about it anywhere. One day while cyber-vacationing on Google Earth instead of being hard at work in my office, I noticed it and wondered what it would be like in the winter time. I thought I should explore it before too much snow fell, so around the traditional early ice season time, I went for it. The ravine is a spectacular place.  It gives you a big-mountain feeling as you continue to climb further up with no end in sight.  You won’t see anyone else in there. It was a climb that made an impression on me in many ways and I couldn’t believe climbers weren’t talking about this route. This last time, as I was making the descent out with my friend by headlamp, I realized we had stumbled upon a long, committing and classic line in the Northeast.  Yes, what I’d consider a New Hampshire Grade IV ice line.

What a SummitPost entry might tell you:

The approach is about 2 miles and the descent is a little over 4 miles. The elevation gain is 2,900 feet and almost all of that is on the ice. You’ll encounter WI2-/+ for the duration and WI3-/+ ice up and over the short headwalls.  Once above the ice, you’ll have a snow climb for a few hundred feet until you reach the Westside Trail.

Some photos of the route:

(click to enlarge)

 

 

 

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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