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Archive for the ‘Ice Climbs’ Category

Before the Thaw

By Matt Ritter

matt1

P2-4 of Cannonade Direct (red) Cannonade Direct Direct (yellow)

From the exposed ledges of the Whitney Gilman Ridge it would call to me. I’d snap seemingly random photographs and stare distractedly. I’d remind myself that as a guide I should remain focused. The giant corner system above the Cannonade Buttress is exposed and looms over the talus like an inverted cargo train. The steep face below is split by a series of cracks and seams that I visually kept following back to the base of this massive corner. In the winter, I’d rack up and wonder about the imposing prow which starts as a large corner, briefly evaporates mid cliff, and reasserts itself in steep prominence like a wave threatening to break on the talus beach.

Despite having made five attempts on this route with various partners, I knew that I could put it to rest this time. The source of this confidence being an extra five feet of ice not present during my last lean condition attempt. This ice made me think I wouldn’t need to place gear in the seemingly unprotectable terrain above my highpoint.

I have climbed on this route with some of the greatest members of our climbing community. Today was no exception, Jim Shimberg owner of Rhino Guides kept telling me I was “grilled” as we made upward progression. The icy cracks of the first pitch felt heavenly and went quickly. Snow conditions were perfect which made the technical pitch two traverse a sidewalk.

“In what felt like the boldest moment of my career, I forged upward. Now, too far above my gear to not hurt myself, perched on an overhanging arete above the talus, on a pitch I’ve lusted over for three seasons.”
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Pitch One

Pitch three is where the business begins. Off the piton anchor, I clip a nest of gear and situate myself at the first crux where a splendid vertical slab becomes slightly overhanging. With both tools over my shoulder, I side pull crimp an edge, step my front points high onto nothing, and at full extension I virtually kiss my ice tool ‘goodbye’ to wrangle a solid matchable edge. Committed, a fall from here would land me below the belayer in a big swinging arc. Better not to fall. A couple solid tool placements and strenuous lock offs allows me to clip a great piton and bust some layback moves on a flake to gain a rest beneath a small roof.

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Pitch Three

Reaching out over my left shoulder, I pull through the roof and high step into the next crux which feels like muckling a greased refrigerator with an iced up rattly hand crack on the left and an equally slick rattly finger crack on the right. Surmounting this block feels monumental.  After some steep cranking, I gain a good stemming rest and a short flaring corner that becomes an in-cut, kinda sidepull rail with good hooks and some tiny gear. Stellar, exposed climbing gains a tiny ledge which, with a micro wire, and a tiny fixed pecker a body length beneath my feet, provided much spice to mantle. Placing a great piton awkwardly at my knees, I was just a few moves from mantling onto the icy sloping ledge above. I’ve always said I was gonna kiss this ledge when I got there. Tough to describe the exuberance I felt from finally reaching this point. The rest of the pitch isn’t easy but comparatively its a walk in the park. I knew it was in the bag.

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Yikes!

 

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Pitch Three During a Previous Attempt

 

Topping out Cannonade Direct. Pitch 4 is a wonderful rock finish with good gear and cracks! Photo by Steve Robitshek

Topping out Cannonade Direct. Pitch 4 is a wonderful rock finish with good gear and cracks! Photo by Steve Robitshek

Michael Wejchert, and I met at Cannon Cliff the next day. I wanted to climb a variation to Cannonade Direct that would allow me to climb the entirety of the monstrous upper corner. Being a little sore from the previous three days of strenuous climbing, I slurped multiple infusions of Mate and blasted Rage Against the Machine. Another warm day. At the base of Cannonade Direct I racked up. Having climbed this amazing pitch five times, I have it rather dialed. I torqued iced up cracks, stemmed familiarly, and sloppily sped up the 65 meter pitch. Now for the variation! I situated myself under the first crux and placed a couple bomber knifeblades.  A right arching seam catered minuscule technical edges and tenuous high steps. The rock is bomber but I enjoyed a handful of whippers due to exploding micro flakes. Making these technical face moves earned me some awe-inspiring hooks and the most elegant horizontal finger crack which welcomed the necessary gear and an adequate rest before the next crux of gaining the ice.

I tapped my battered picks into the snowy little ledge. The ¼ inch space between ice and granite dispelled any myth of security. Wet snow pressed heavily on this precarious substrate. The rock beneath my ice tools was overhanging. I hoisted my front points up to my elbows placing them on perfect ⅜ inch edges. Finally some large footholds!! Here, with my ass in space and my ice tool moving to more secure rotten worthless ice, the ledge and ice curtain detach indifferently. Taking a big clean fall onto a bomber Lost Arrow I come tight on the rope before reaching terminal velocity. My head was down and I could see Michael looking at me as generously plump chunks of aerated ice pummeled me. Without lifting my head, Michael and I made eye contact. “I guess you’ll have to wait for a colder day.” Michael is smarter than I am. “I’m making it to that belay. I think it just got easier.”

Michael initiating the techy crux

Michael initiating the techy crux

I know I’ve got one shot. The holidays are upon us. The rain is upon us. My early season project’s ice will not form again. I lower to the ledge and fire the crux, pull gingerly onto the steep ice and build a belay at the base of the mythical corner.

P3 Cannonade Direct. Cannonade Direct Direct climbs into the base of the big brown corner via the ice smear to my right. Photo by Bayard Russell

P3 Cannonade Direct. Cannonade Direct Direct climbs into the base of the big brown corner via the ice smear to my right. Photo by Bayard Russell

Everything had felt pretty safe up to this point. Despite the repeated whips and long fall followed by a heat seeking deluge of frozen water missiles, I was climbing very well and felt invincible. Obviously mixed climbing is dangerous. Nothing about climbing Mean Streak, Prozac, or Daedalus is “safe.” In fact these climbs provide one with many opportunities to get hurt. I firmly believe that in these situations our safety hinges upon our mental state. There will always be objective hazard, but when I’m climbing well, I’m not climbing scared. Surviving one of these climbs by the skin of my teeth does not seem sustainable. No route is worth a broken ankle, face, or spinal cord. With that in mind, I pulled off the ledge and soon found myself with a couple cams a few feet beneath my boots. Cannon does in fact have pockets of very steep terrain. Trust me. I look for it. I was getting pumped and I almost bailed. Casually, I told Michael I might fall as I began to ponder my exit strategy. He didn’t argue but we both knew this wasnt gonna be pretty. Looking down, I saw a small edge. Still in control, I reminded myself that someday I wanted to be a bold climber. I looked up. In what felt like the boldest moment of my career, I forged upward. Now, too far above my gear to not hurt myself, perched on an overhanging arete above the talus, on a pitch I’ve lusted over for 3 seasons. I made one more move to a solid hook and a serendipitous cam placement. The climbing eased up slightly as steep snow filled cracks and an arete composed of gravity defying loose nonsense made me feel at home. Or was it that I wished I was at home? Either way, leaving my last gear behind and pulling around the corner onto featureless slabs covered in ½ inch snice kept my attention for the last 40 feet to the trees. Seriously, do not blow it here…

Cannonade Direct (red) and second to last pitch of Cannonade Direct Direct (yellow) in much leaner conditions.

Cannonade Direct (red) and second to last pitch of Cannonade Direct Direct (yellow) in much leaner conditions.

 

(Click on images to enlarge)

More on Matt

A Dose of Prozac and Some Positive Thinking

Matt Ritter Joins the MWV Ice Fest Team


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.

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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

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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.

 

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