Sunday, March 1, 2015

My First Ice Lead – Ice Climbing

Willey’s Slide Center (WI2)
Mt. Willey
Crawford Notch, NH

Super stoked! Did my first lead on ice today! The second pitch of Willey's Slide (center) with Geoff N. Didn't go too far....about 40 meters to set up an anchor on the face of a fat bulge. Placed two pieces of pro (very snowy pitch).

The approach (steep uphill) wasn’t what I was looking forward to. But once at the base of the climb, it was all but forgotten. The Slide looked different. When Sean and I were here this past January, there were hardly an rolling bulges. It was a different story today. There were rolls and rolls of ice, most of it on the left side. Geoff decided on the center of the Slide.

There was a group of 3 in front of us and Geoff and I quickly set up to come up about 20 feet to the right of them. In the meantime, a group of half dozen showed up, plus two more teams which set up on either side of us. The entire climb went on without a hitch. It was a bit chilly and few periods of sunshine, but hardly any wind. At the first belay station I stayed focus on belaying Geoff, it made me less nervous not to think about leading the 2nd pitch. 

Once at the 2nd belay station Geoff asked me if I wanted to lead the next pitch. There was no pressure to do so. In fact, he told me that I could place a few pieces of protection and lower down if I didn’t want to continue. Or I could continue to a bulge and set up our 3rd belay station. I decided to go for it. We made sure I had all the necessary gear for my lead. At first I was a bit nervous and slightly anxious. But once I left the belay station and started climbing, I was able to focus and relax. I don’t know why, but there’s something about ice climbing that always relaxes me.  

The pitch was really snowy so I didn’t have to place much protection. Two pieces to be exact….in some small bulges where I found safe stances. My ice screws went in easily - love that color-coded handle that makes it so easy to place/remove. I also made use of a couple of my Yates Screamers. At the belay station I set up 3 ice screws for anchors, clove-hitched myself into them and attached the cordelette for the Direct Belay. I didn’t know it then, but I should’ve been much lower than my belay device. It would’ve made it easier for me to take up rope. Once Geoff got up to the belay station, he gave me feedback. He demonstrated how easy it was to take up rope when well below the belay device and he critiqued my belay/anchor system. It was a good day! :)

Geoff's GoPro vid of my lead up the 2nd pitch. At time 43/44 seconds the ax slips out of my left hand and I thought to myself, "c'mon, get your butt going!" LOL!

We ended up climbing the Slide in 4 pitches. That group of 3 (guide and two students) on our left took the “good tree” for an anchor so Geoff set up anchor just slightly right of the middle of our finish. We finished at the very tip-top of the Slide and that last pitch stretched out the 70m ropes to their very ends.

Back in the parking lot I had forgotten to hand Geoff his orange rope.  When I got home I didn’t empty my pack right away. I left Geoff’s rope and all my gear in my pack and weighed it….33 lbs! Didn’t realize I had hauled that weight up and down Willey’s. 

Overall, this was a fun day, but then again, any day climbing with Geoff is great! I do have to admit, however, it was tough. I thought climbing the Slide was tougher than climbing Lake Willoughby the week prior. Don’t get me wrong, the leading part was easy. But climbing that angle of the ice was tough on my calves. And shit, I even got a cramp in the arch of my right foot! LOL!  But I really enjoy leading ice, and look forward to doing more leading. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Tablets Center - Ice Climbing

The Tablets Center (WI3-4)
Lake Willoughby State Park
Westmore, Vermont

A tiny branch, really? I damn well knew it wouldn’t be secure but I grabbed onto anyways. Why that small branch and not one of the tree trunks that the rap webbings were around or the two cordelette that my leader Geoff had set around the tree trunks….I have no idea. I do know that in that very moment that I lost my balance, fell back and that tiny branch I had grabbed snapped, I felt incredibly stupid. But I was lucky today. We were 4 feet from the edge of a ledge and Geoff still had me on belay. So when I fell, Geoff caught me. (so now you're reading this blogpost instead of a news article on how-I-fell-from-a-rap-station-because-I-wasn't-anchored-in-and-hanging-onto-a-tiny-branch.)

I heard about the “big ice” in Vermont. So when a meetup (Mountaineering, Climbing & Backpacking of New England) got posted for a day of ice climbing at Lake Willoughby, I quickly RSVP’ed and made my reservations with the local inn down the street.

I drove up to stay overnight on Saturday. The next morning Geoff and I met up with 6 others at the off-road parking area on the south side of the Lake. We geared up and walked north along the road a bit, then headed into the woods and up to the Tablets flow. It was a pretty steep ascent and Microspikes helped. I couldn’t help but think how much fun it was going to be to butt-slide down. :)

At the Tablets Center there were already two other parties climbing and Geoff and I set up for our ascent. To the left of us the others in our Meetup set up on two steeper routes.  After 2  pitches, Geoff and I traversed about 60 feet to our right and into the trees. From there we rapped down using the webbing, cordlette and rap rings set on trees. I packed everything into my pack and enjoyed the butt-slide all l the way down to the road!

From our roadside parking

The Tablets Center approach

Looking back at Geoff



I'm loving my Eddie Bauer First Ascent

The rest of the gang

Geoff & I at the 3rd belay station

Route 5A

Back at the base of the climb and cleaning things up

Beautiful sunset over Mt. Hor

At the Willoughvale Inn & Cottages
Willoughvale Inn & Cottages is just under 5 miles North from the crag. This was my first stay here. It’s a very pretty inn but there were several  issues I found to be an inconvenience; they had lost their chef, so no dinner served at night. Breakfast served at 8:30am but I spoke with the innkeeper and she was able to get me breakfast 30 minutes earlier. If you have Verizon as your service provider, forget about texting, emailing and phone. I did, however, manage to find a spot in the corner of my room where I was able to receive/send calls, texts and emails.  In between the crag and the inn is the Willoughby Lake Store. It’s owned and run by a couple Jim & Sandy and they have a Blue Shar Pei named “Buddy.” There’s one gas pump outside and they serve hot/cold sandwiches, pizza and soup. Not to mention several “Made In Vermont” items. I made sure to purchase some to send home to my mom in Hawaii. 

Ice fishing shantys on Lake Willoughby

Climbing at Lake Willoughby felt like climbing at Cannon.....its that same expanse, that same exposure.....that same gratifying feeling of climbing something so much bigger than yourself. I loved it. Also, the weather was beautiful! Warm temps of mid-20's with periods of sun and hardly any wind, we lucked out!!! I hope to be back again to climb at Lake Willoughby, gotta get my “big ice” stoke on.  So long Mt. Pisgah ice!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Crampon Frontpoints - Ice Climbing

Last season I climbed with the AMC-NH Mountaineering Group and got some good advice on my crampons. Tom Sintros noticed that the frontpoints of my crampons were too far back. He adjusted the toe bail for me and in addition to my Frontpoints protruding further, this adjustment got my secondary points to protrude past the front of my boot as well. And this adjustment prevented me from hitting the ice with the toe of my boot. *thumbs up*

Here’s a great post from Will Gadd’s blog on getting front and secondary points stability;

And here’s some photos of my setup: Boreal Krangi ice boots, Mountain Tools Insulated SuperGaitors and Petzl Lynx crampons.

Toe bail in farthest back position to get
frontpoints foward as much as possible.

Top view:
The secondary points protrude just slightly past the front of my boot. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Waterfall & Standard Route Cave - Ice Climbing

Waterfall (WI3)
The Standard Route Cave (WI3)
Frankenstein Cliffs, Crawford Notch, NH

Climbing Frankenstein Cliffs in Crawford Notch is my favorite place to climb. I never get tired of the ride through the Notch or the views, as well. This weekend would be busy, in addition to those in our meetup group climbing, there would be other climbers in the North Conway area for the 2015 Mt. Washington Ice Fest as well as the AMC Boston Ice Climbing Program, not to mention all the skiers. My lead climbing partner for Saturday was Jeff S. After a hearty breakfast I met Jeff at the Arethusa Falls trailhead parking lot. We geared up and headed for the Trestle area. We came up to the Waterfall climb and there were already 5 climbers there. We didn’t realize until after we started setting up on the right that 3 of those climbers were with the meetup group! Jay, John and Fred were setting up two top ropes for those meetup group members on their way up. I seconded Jeff on this climb. The bottom portion of the climb was fun especially the two sections that were kinda steep. The top portion at the end of the route was crappy and dirty. But I learned that where there’s grass/vegetation, there’s dirt to sink my tools into. 

Waterfall from the train tracks

I seconded Jeff on the right side of the Waterfall route.
Catherine A. top roping the middle of Waterfall (red rope).

From the top of Waterfall

Afterwards, Jeff and I did the right side of the Standard Route up to the cave. From the cave we rapped back down to the first belay station. More photos . . . . . . 


For dinner the entire Meetup group met up at the Flatbread Pizza place in the Eastern Slope Inn. We had a big group of 40 hungry climbers! After dinner it was off to Theater In The Woods in Intervale. There were slideshow presentations given by Miron Chlebosz who gave a short opener on the Tatras Mountains in Poland. Followed by featured presenter Alpine Exposures – Jon Griffith Photography with his hilarious and amazing photos, videos and alpine climbing experiences. There were also some really cool climbing gear raffled off!

At the Cranmore Mountain Lodge B&B
For this trip, I booked a room at the Cranmore MountainLodge B&B in North Conway, NH. This was my first stay at this B&B and I was curious about the room I stayed in. I had read online that this room wasn’t recommended for tall folks as the bed was a short Double Bed. I’m 5’2” so I had no problem with this. I arrived on Friday afternoon and checked in. Freddie greeted me and gave me a tour of her home grounds - the TV room as well as the main diningroom and livingroom areas. I was very happy with my room. Even though its small, its perfect and I loved the large private bath and appreciated the large rubber tray for drying wet boots and shoes. Breakfast is served between 7:30am and 9am. And at first I thought that this might be a problem. But since I didn’t have to meet my leaders until after 9am, the 7:30am breakfast start would be just fine. When not climbing, I usually have a protein shake for breakfast. But on the mornings that I do climb (ice or rock) I eat a big breakfast. So both mornings I ordered hearty breakfasts including eggs bacon or sausage links and toast, everything was delicious! The first morning during breakfast I met Jeff and Bill, both from New York. We talked a bit about where we were headed for the day. The next morning at breakfast Jeff invited me to join them at their table so we wouldn’t have to hold our conversation across the dining room. Jeff and Bill come out to enjoy ice climbing in New Hampshire every year. Before leaving, we exchanged information. Jeff gave me a book of his hiking, backpacking and climbing adventures and I told him about my adventure blog and the Mountaineering, Climbing and Backpacking of New England meetup group that I belonged to.

Overall, this weekend of climbing was amazing. I only got to climb one day but I met other climbers in our meetup group as well as other climbers visiting from out of state. And I didn’t bash my knuckles! :D

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Railroad Cut, NH – Ice Climbing

Railroad Cut – Ice Climbing
SW4-Cheshire North Rail Trail
Keene, NH

Okay, so I know I said I wouldn’t climb on another single digit day, but the addiction is strong and I couldn’t resist! To add, it was windy so I actually thought that being within “The  Cut” would somehow give me some protection from the wind, but not so. And the ice was sooooo hard - not getting any purchase for my feet isn’t fun for this Hawaii Girl, I hate climbing on my hands and arms! But we did get a couple of climbs in, so I'll quit whining here. Just a few photos of our day at “The RR Cut”.