Sunday, April 19, 2015

Farewell Ice!

Huntington Ravine
Trails: Tuckerman Ravine, Fire/Service Road

I had a phenomenal ice season and I owe it to several lead ice climbers; Jeff Stone, Geoff Nichols and Sean Bowen. I've benefited greatly from and am inspired by their experience and patience. Thank you!

This was supposed to be a multi-pitch ice climb and my last of the season, but it was not meant to be. I met Jeff and Maggie in the gear room at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. We headed up the Tuckerman’s Ravine trail along with a large crowd headed toward Tuckerman Ravine. Once at the floor of Huntington Ravine, Maggie headed back down to the trailhead and Jeff and I made our way up to Yale.

“Oh crap!” I thought to myself! I couldn’t believe it! I got cramps in both calves just before Jeff and I got to the base of Yale.! I shook it off, stretched out, took in fluids and a couple of bites of my protein bar. We got up to Yale and so far so good, the cramps had subsided. From the base the right side of Yale was running water. In fact, so was Harvard’s Garden. It sounded like someone turned on a water faucet in Huntington Ravine! 

So we headed over to the base of Central Gully where Jeff told me that once we were on the climb, we should commit to it and stay on it. So I decided not to climb. I was really bummed but had to consider that I may cramp up again while on the climb. Jeff would head up Central and over Washington to descend down the Jewell Trail. I would head back down to the trailhead and we both agreed to text one another once back down at the trailheads. Looking up at it and watching Jeff solo climb it as well as another ice climber and 4 skiers, it was hard to imagine just January of last year that a soft slab avalanche occurred taking 3 roped teams down along with it.

Jeff and I making our way to Central Gully with Pinnacle Gully in the background

I descended towards the ravine floor but not before stopping at the base of Pinnacle and snapping a couple photos of folks going up the Pinnacle Gully.

Here (left to right) is Amanda Stern, Peter Columbia and Jay Beaudoin (on lead).

They made their bad-ass way up the Pinnacle Gully to watch the sunset from atop Mt. Washington! Way to go folks!

The day before I stopped at IME in North Conway to drop off some consignment items. I also bought a pair of La Sportiva Nepal EVO on sale for 20% off! My current Boreal boots were giving me problems. Bigger, too loose in the ankles and way too stiff for me. I did everything to pad them in order to fit but nothing worked. Love the Nepal Evo and they stood up to their reputation of fitting without problems straight out of the box. I had no hot spots and the boots were plenty stiff for me. But today wasn't the day I'd be kicking in them.  :(

Forgot my camera at home so used my iPhone for picture taking today.

Farewell ice…..until next winter!

Huntington Ravine with the Wildcats in the distance

Yale & Damnation Gullies in the background - also a skier making his way up

Jeff and I at the base of Central Gully

Pinnacle (left) and Central (right) Gullies

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Huntington Ravine “The Fan” - Solo Spring Hike

Huntington Ravine Floor (4,100ft)
Elevation Gain: 2,100ft
Distance: 5.2 miles roundtrip
Trails: Tuckerman Ravine, Huntington Ravine, Fire/Service Road

Not my usual hike to a summit, but above 4000 feet for sure. The Huntington Ravine floor, commonly known as “The Fan” was my destination for this morning. I had originally planned to hike this yesterday but today the forecast called for a sunny, deep blue sky day. 'The Fan' is a huge open boulder field below the headwall that spreads out like one of those old hand fans.  Normally you would have to navigate around, over, and in between some huge boulders in the scrub to get to the Fan. But the snow and ice make it easier to get around.

I was pretty surprised at the amount of skiers and boarders at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. The parking lot was packed so I ended up parking on the side of the road just outside the entrance. Tuckerman Ravine Trail was packed with folks of all ages with downhill and XC skis, snow boards, sleds and butt sleds. Lots of dogs hike this trail to the ravine as well. Even on my descent there were folks hiking up. It was pretty cool to watch skiers come down the John Sherburne Ski Trail. I used information on Marc Chauvin’s website to plan my solo hike:

Crystal Cascade Waterfall from Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Tuckerman Ravine from the fire/service road

A peek of the ravine - Central Gully

First Aid cache just below the floor of the ravine

The mouth of Huntington Ravine

Yale and Damnation Gullies

Pinnacle and Central Gullies

Odell's Gully

South Gully

Escape Hatch Gully

Overall this was a great solo hike….well, not so much solo as Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail was packed. The snow was packed well but on my descent, with warm temps, the snow was a slushy and slippery mess.

I was blown away when I got into ‘The Fan’, the views were phenomenal! I was glad to experience the immensity of the ravine. There were climbers making their way up Damnation, Yale, Central and Pinnacle gullies and a few glissading down the Escape Hatch gully. I hiked the entirety in my ice climbing boots and I’m not ever doing that again. They are super stiff and my feet started aching ¾ of the way up. Anyways, hope you enjoyed some photos that I took of my visit to the Huntington Ravine floor! Here’s a short video from the ravine floor.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Drone Camera - Standard Route - Multi pitch Ice Climbing

Standard Route  (WI3+)
Frankenstein Cliffs
Crawford Notch, NH

All last winter I had been asking him to go out ice climbing and he kept declining. So when I got Jeff B ’s email last week about ice climbing, I thought it was a joke and had to I read it several times. Jeff’s son Todd is a professional photographer/videographer and he needed some ice climbing shots/vids via GoPro Drone.

I contacted Jeff S. and made sure to check the weather - Sunday was the better of the two. Originally I had chosen Cinema Gully but was told that it would be too thin. So when Frankenstein Cliffs was suggested, I choose the Standard Route because of its short approach and exposure. And I thought Todd should have no problems piloting his Drone for shots. Plus, it was “still in.” But I chose Standard Route mainly because it’s a very recognizable route at the cliffs. So Jeff S. lead both Jeff B. and I up the Standard Route. We had a perfectly beautiful day for ice climbing. The sun was out, temps warm and for the sake of the Drone camera, hardly any wind. Enjoy some photos taken of our climb.

At the tracks of the Standard Route

Gearing Up

Jeff S. on lead - 1st pitch

Jeff S. exiting the ice cave - 2nd pitch

Exiting the ice cave

Me at the 3rd belay station belaying Jeff S. up our last pitch

If we hadn’t been told that it was noisy, I would’ve thought that Todd’s Drone camera was a swarm of bees because that’s exactly what his drone sounded like. Yup, at time 0:37 our ropes are intertwined. But no worries, Jeff and I navigated around one another with no problems. It ain’t sketchy until it gets sketchy, right? :) 

Jeff S. (green jacket) on lead. With Jeff B. in dark blue jacket and me (light blue jacket & white helmet) cleaning pro. Here's the YouTube video!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Monkey Wrench & Upper Hitchcock - Spring Ice Climbing

At the base of Upper Hitchcock with Crawford Notch in the background

Left Hand Monkey Wrench (WI3)
Upper Hitchcock (WI3-)
Mount Willard
Crawford Notch, NH

Forecasts called for cloudy skies and some snow. But all that gave way to blue skies and sunshine by the time Jeff S. and I reached the base of the Hitchcock Gully. We pretty much broke trail up Lower Hitchcock, traversing right to Left Hand Monkey Wrench, then onto the base of Upper Hitchcock. It was slow going but we took our time anyways since there were only two other teams in the area climbing.

At the base of Upper Hitchcock

It was my very first time on Upper Hitchcock and it was a lot of fun, except when my calves cramped up. Attributed to, according to Jeff, dehydration and probably due to my just getting over a cold. I have had my calves ‘pumpy’ before but not so much that they cramped up. Had to have Jeff ‘take’ so I could rest.

Left: Looking down Upper Hitchcock from the Rap Station

Jeff and I at the Rap Station above Upper Hitchcock

I wanted to climb this second pitch of Upper Hitchcock. It's a short section just above the rappel station but didn’t want to take any chances with my calves cramping up again. So Jeff and I rapped the entire Hitchcock Gully, right down to the tracks.

Two weeks ago we couldn’t get onto Upper Hitchcock, but today was a different story. We had the climb all to ourselves and when we rapped down, Laura and Chris came up to check it out. They decided not to climb UH but took a couple of photos of Jeff and I before heading off towards The Cleft. 

East Face Slabs Left

I do cartwheels with Jeff's rope and he ends up untangling them. ;D

Jeff rapping down the Lower Hitchcock Gully. 
He stopped at this section to check out a piece of fixed pro.

It got warmer as the day went on and the sun stayed out until we got back to the parking lot. Surely a mellow day of Spring ice climbing up the side of Mount Willard!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cinema Gully, East Face Slabs & The Cleft – Multi-pitch Ice Climbing

Cinema Gully (WI2)
East Face Slabs Left (WI3)
The Cleft (WI2+)
Mount Willard

Crawford Notch, NH
I love when Jeff S. takes me ice climbing with him - I get to do some freaking fun climbing on a little alpine playground! Mount Willard is home to some awesome ice and alpine routes. Today I had the opportunity to climb two more of those routes and then finish off on The Cleft.

Cinema Gully(WI2)
It was cool to see a bolt at the belay station of the 1st pitch. Jeff asked if I wanted to set a belay station there or walk up a bit to a thin sheet of ice. Since it would mean one-and-a-half roped pitches, I choose the latter and Jeff and I walked up to the next belay station where the ice was full of screw holes. It was a gorgeous day…see the sun and blue skies in our photos! :)  After topping off we ascended a bit more to sit and eat our lunches and then traversed over towards the Upper Hitchcock route.

Looking up at Cinema Gully from the train tracks

Jeff and I at the 2nd belay station

Looking up at our last pitch

East Face Slabs Left (WI3)
Our intention was to climb Upper Hitchcock but there were folks already on it. So we climbed the East Face Slabs Left. I thought I was being a good second, all hero and all. I spotted Jeff’s backpack at the base of a tree and thinking we were walking off once at the top, I had the genius idea to haul it up. But when I got to Jeff at the “rap station”, I found out that we were rapping down. I wasn’t paying attention when he mentioned that we were rapping down. 

The base of the East Face Slabs Left

Jeff at the rap station of East Face Slabs Left

It wasn’t easy hauling that backpack up. I hitched one end of a sling to it and the other end to my belay loop on my harness. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. On the vertical areas of the route that backpack became “really heavy.” It was a good workout pushing up on my feet to get up the vertical sections with that backpack dangling below me! And yes, I also had my own backpack with me! **Thinking back on it, I should've just shoved Jeff's backpack into mine. LOL!

The Cleft (WI2+)
Afterwards we traversed to The Cleft which Jeff led in one pitch. The Cleft is a geological gem-of-a-feature. There was more ice and snow in this slot since the last time Jeff and I had climbed it making for an easier ascent. We topped off, packed our gear away and headed to the Mt. Willard Trail. The last 10 minutes of our hike out was done at dusk. 

Definitely a mellow day of ice climbing Mount Willard! We got 5 pitches and a little over 900 feet of climbing in, hooyah!!