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The Climbing Club • View topic - New Hampshire ice over winter break

The Climbing Club

at the University of Washington
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2003 12:26 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 21, 2002 5:12 pm
Posts: 464
Location: probably behind a desk
December 28-January 1
North Conway, NH
Participants: Ryan Bidwell, Marcie Bidwell, Nick Bratton, Chris ________, Keith McCallister

Day 1- Ryan and Marcie picked me up in Ridgefield CT, and we met their friend Chris at a Dunkin Donuts, then drove up to NH. Chris had never been ice climbing before. We spent the afternoon warming up and getting back into the swing of things since none of us had been on waterfall ice since Marcie broke her leg last season. At the Cathedral Ledge climbing area we climbed a WI 2+ slab to show Chris some basic technique, and then moved over to a steeper wall to lead and TR some grade 3 climbs.

Day 2- Up early and out the door in 12 degree weather, brrr. Since it was Sunday we decided to go to Champney Falls, a crag that has an approach of a couple miles. We figured the more remote location would be less crowded on a weekend than some of the more popular spots. We were the first to arrive and we set up a couple routes, but soon the place was packed. The climbing area was pretty cool, a narrow slot canyon with an uninterrupted 150-foot wide wall of ice coming down one side. The longest routes were only about 20m high. The canyon became quite a social scene, and quickly everyone there was trading ropes and making friends. We climbed every square foot of ice that day, including a couple mixed routes and some steeper grade 4 thin ice. We were also the last to leave, satisfied with a full day of climbing. That night I got in touch with Keith and we arranged to meet up the next day.

Day 3- Since much of the weekend crowds had gone, we decided to head over to Frankenstein. This area is fantastic, it has a wonderful variety of climbs, several multipitch routes, and they are all really close together after an easy approach. We started out on the cleverly named "Waterfall," a grade 3+ full pitch. It was wide enough to have two parties on, so Ryan led the left side and I led the right. Everything was going well for me until about twenty feet from the top when I unexpectedly ran out of ice. The mixed/dirt finish looked a little unstable, and I was already about 20 feet above my last screw, a shorty in thin ice that didn't exactly inspire confidence. Keith showed up right then and I managed to top out by scraping my way up with the security of a rope that Marcie lowered to me. Sketchola. Keith and Chris each tied in to separate strands of my doubles and cruised up, agreeing that the exit was a nasty affair. We rapped off and went in search of other climbs.

Near the railroad bridge was a wall that had some very thin smears on it and some challenging mixed routes. Ryan soloed up one side and dropped a couple ropes down the juicier lines. Keith had a go at the mixed route first. His moves to clear the blocky roof crux were creative, and he was happy to reach the hard smear of ice to top out. I went next and did the crux a little differently, camming my adze into a crack and using it as a handlebar. Mixed climbing is so much fun, there is so much room for inventiveness and the movement is really interesting. Each of us that climbed that route did it differently, and my favorite move was when Chris used a hand jam between the rock and an icicle to get into the crux.

It grew dark so we packed up and headed back to the hostel in Conway where we were staying. It was a beautiful old farmhouse that had been converted, with a great kitchen and private rooms. Unfortunately there was a "no alcohol" policy, but we kept some beer and wine outside in the snow and retrieved it by crawling out the window. We made a huge dinner and hung out in our room eating, sharing stories, and having some drinks. Keith retired to his truck and we went to bed around 10:30.

Day 4- Back to Frankenstein. There were some longer routes we had been eyeing the previous day. Ryan wanted to lead Chia, a grade 3+ in the corner of the Amphitheater, which he did in fine form despite the generous humidity of the route. Keith was itching to get on Pegasus, just to the left of Chia. Keith led the first pitch, which had some large tiers, and I followed him up to a screw anchor below two vertical pillars. They had looked good from the ground, but from up close we saw they were dripping and fragile. No thanks. Instead we traversed up and right to a set of shiny bolts beneath an overhang. From there we contemplated the short, fat, but steep pillar to a 5.8 rock finish.

While we contemplated I decided I wanted to TR the Hobbit Couloir, since we were right above it and had a great anchor. Keith lowered me down and I zipped back up, then he had a go at it. It was a fun climb, very alpine feel to it. We debated the rock finish to Pegasus and finally agreed that Keith would lead it with my tools, since his picks were bashed up from hitting rock on his lead.

Up he went, gingerly moving up the pillar, protected by a screw at the base. As he pulled the bulge he vanished from sight but I was happy to hear another screw going in. Right about then I was joined at the anchor by an EMS climbing school guide, and we struck up a conversation. It turned out he used to serve with John Gukin in the marines and then went on to teach cliff assault to the special forces. This guy was an old hardman who could climb really well. Keith, meanwhile, was scraping away on the rock, and I could hear his crampons and his grunts. Sounded tough. I followed him up and was impressed by the lead. That pillar, even though it was short, was mighty exposed and too steep to stop and protect. Above it Keith had wisely chosen to augment the four rusty pitons with some of his own gear, and he was thankful for having brought up his brass stoppers. The rock finish was really fun, and we were psyched to have finished the route. It was a great little adventure.

Back down on the railroad tracks we all met up again, and Keith decided to cruise back to Mass for new year's eve. It was too bad he had to take off, we were just starting to have fun and do hard climbs. Ryan, Marcie and Chris had just finished Smear, to the left of Pegasus, and described it as being a great route. Ryan and Chris then toproped a steep and strenuous mixed climb at Hanging Gardens while Marcie and I chilled out on the train tracks.

Day 5- Following a festive new year's in rocking North Conway where we had danced in a frozen park to a classic rock cover band, we went back to Frankenstein again. We really liked that area. Ryan wanted to lead Dracula, a long grade 4 classic, and Chris wanted to try leading. He and I went to a grade 2-3 slab nearby and took turns leading it. We then hiked over and met Ryan and Marcie at the top of Dracula, and took turns toproping it. What a fantastic climb, long, sustained, steep, and so much fun.

After walking off, we noticed Ryan and Marcie had disappeared so Chris and I decided to go adventuring on our own. Between my ropes and 5 screws we thought we could get up anything. We hopped on Standard, a classic grade 3+ that sees the most traffic of any route at the area. I led the first pitch placing only four screws, saving my last one in case I needed it for an anchor. Fortunately there was some fixed gear below a roof and Chris followed me up, armed with more screws from Ryan. He led the second pitch, taking his time, and it was getting dark as I started up. The upper section was pretty exposed, it was a fun climb. We rapped off in the dark and hiked out, happy to end the day on a high note.

From there we went to Dunkin Donuts, and that made for another happy ending.

Pictures to follow, I hope.

_________________
"The only true sports are bullfighting, motor racing, and mountain climbing. All others are merely games." Ernest Hemingway


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2003 12:44 pm 
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An Old Geezer
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Joined: Wed Sep 04, 2002 2:27 pm
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Awesome, Nick! How come there's no ice here? Oh yeah, NH has "12 degree weather"...


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