Willey’s Slide – Multi-pitch Ice Climbing

Willey’s Slide, WI2
Mount Willey
Crawford Notch, NH

It's a beautiful, blue sky day, and you don't think you'll get wet but from the bit of sweat from climbing. But anything can happen. And thin ice with running water under it happened to us on today's climb at Mt. Willey!

Is it cold enough yet? Zero degree temps were forecasted for today but Sean and I went anyways. We were the first at the parking pullout below the Slide and the cold blasted us as we stepped out of my truck. There is a direct correlation between the cold temps and my profanity. Immediate frustration set in as my fingers went numb. I couldn’t get the toe and hand warmers going and that didn’t help as well. Sean was able to get two pairs of hand warmers going, but I went without toe warmers.

Views from Willey's Slide (2)

The approach was a workout for me, especially with my EIA (exercise-induced asthma) and the cold temps. We finally reached the base of the Slide, were still the only ones there and we set up for the first pitch on the left-hand side. 

Sean gearing up

From my belay:
Everything went smoothly except for the ropes getting all twisty and frozen. Sean placed his first piece of pro and then disappeared out of my sight as soon as he went over the first low bulge. I started thinking it’s taking a bit too long to be placing a piece of pro when he reappeared. He climbed a bit more to set the belay station, then yelled down to me, “I’m soaked, I fell in!” I have to admit, when I heard him say the word “soaked” I panicked a bit. It was really cold and just not a good day to be wet. My only thought then was to get him down. I yelled up to him that we were done for the day and going home. I climbed up to him, then we traversed left into the trees to walk off.

Sean's side:
Sean placed his first piece of pro just before stepping over the low bulge. He spotted another bulge to the left. But next to it was a bit of snow and so he decided to step onto the snow instead of going over another icy bulge. As soon as he stepped onto the snow, the ice underneath him gave way. He was up to his hips in water and he could feel the current pulling him under. Both his boots quickly filled with water. The only thing that kept both his hands dry, was his axes. He tooled his way up and out of the water!

Icy bulge with running water beneath

Although Sean and I ended up only climbing 400 feet, no one was hurt and Sean's toes/feet are still intact. But climbing in zero or near-zero temps is not something I would really want to do again. And although my brand new ice screws went in “like butter”, both Sean and I agreed we would climb Willey’s Slide when it was a lot warmer and our tools and crampons weren’t bouncing off the ice! 

Left: Removing pro before traversing left to the woods. I look like I'm in "Downward Dog" Yoga pose!

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