I just got back from New Hampshire where I once again enjoyed two weeks of great ice climbing with my amazing colleagues from Fox Mountain Guides. Like last year, I was placed in charge of cooking and managing the cabin. Last year, I learned a lot about the job and was psyched to try and take it up a notch. It did prove to be just as difficult if not more difficult than last year. This year, I was focusing on improving my leading ability on ice and filly my ice climbing resume. Doing my work and trying to get the amount of climbing in was quite the task. Many days this left me rushing from climbing to shopping to cooking. Either way, I enjoyed being able to cook for everyone. Now, on to the climbing part.
Ron and I arrived midday on the 30th of January. Once we got into town, we met up with the rest of the crew; Karsten, Lindsay, and Cristin. We did a few climbs at Trollville that were super fun. As we were finishing up, it started raining. The forecast had called for rain and warmer temps for the next 24 hours. This could really mess up our plans since rain destroys ice. That night, I tried lobster for the first time. Much to everyone's dismay, I did not think that lobster was that great. The next day, we were scheduled to have a guides training day. Since the weather did not cooperate, we had a training at the Frontside Grind, a coffee shop in North Conway. The training them moved to the ice which surprisingly was still there. The rain had melted quite a bit of the ice and snow which limited our choices that afternoon but I was able to take Cristin and Karsten up a route at Cathedral Ledge to do some on ice training. Soon after that finished, my duties began. I went to the store with Cristin, got two cart loads of groceries, then headed back to the cabin to get supper started.
The next day, Cristin and I headed out to get some climbing in. I would be leading my first complete multipitch ice route with Cristin following. I chose Standard Route at Frankenstein as our plan. It seemed that nearly everyone else chose that as well. Either way, we eventually started up the route and made our way to the top. Other than being a bit hollow at the top, the route was superb. We then did one easy single pitch route to finish the day out before heading back.
View of Mt. Washington from the tracks at Frankenstein
On the 2nd, I had the opportunity to do some instructional work. That day, I was able to teach our guest, Mac about placing screws, leading ice, ice anchors and just get more time on the ice. It was a super fun day. We also had some entertainment provided by an extended family with "Uncle Bob" taking everyone ice climbing. Judging from their accents, they were from the Boston area and some of them had not spent much time outdoors. The best thing, which I regret not getting a picture of was of a woman climbing the route they had set up in platform boot which strap-on crampons on, snake print flaring jeans, and cotton gloves. After this, Mac and I headed over to do a fun two pitch climb called the Thresher Slabs.
Karsten got a sweet picture of me leading at Trollville
The next day, Cristin and I headed up to do Hitchcock Gully on Mt. Willard. I had read some stuff on this climb and it sounded amazing. What it failed to mention was the slogging up a rock and ice filled gully when there is not much snow. Other than that, the climb is amazing. The pitches are great WI2/3 climbing with a bit of rock mixed in there for some spice. That evening, the Ice 101 course wrapped up. The 201 would start the next day and Karsten asked if I would help. I quickly jumped on the chance to help.
Cristin on the second pitch of Hitchcock Gully
The first day of the 201 course, we headed to Trollville. There we worked on doing harder climbs and a bit of drytooling. Karsten had me lead three of the main ice routes there with each one coming in around WI4. The first was a thin route in a corner. The next was a corner that had thicker ice with sections that involved a lot of hooking. The last one goes up to a roof, pulls the roof with some amazing hooks then climbs near vertical ice to the top. Later in the day, we worked on some advanced movement on ice and did a little bit of drytooling on an M7. I also joined the 201 course the next day. We headed to Champney Falls. It is a bit of hike back to this little slot canyon but was worth it. On the right side of the canyon, there are many ice climbs from WI3 to WI5/M4. I led a route on the right side while Karsten set up a route on the left called Champin' at the Bit. It is a WI5/M8+ according to the guidebook. It follows thin ice up a steep section on the wall and has some sections of rock that you much navigate. We had a great day despite it being quite cold there. The next day, I took a rest day.
Stuart climbing some thin ice at Trollville
The 201 crew at Trollville
Garrett practicing his dry tooling
At this point, I have been in New Hampshire a week and have gotten a ton of climbing in and I am super psyched to get at least one more good day in before the AIARE level 1 course starts. Cristin and I head to Frankenstein again to climb Chia, Pegasus, and Dracula if we have time. We arrive to great conditions in the amphitheater. We are out of the wind, the air temps are cold but we are in the sun for the first route, Chia. Chia is a 1 or 2 pitch WI3 that has a ton of fun climbing on it. On the upper section you traverse right following a ramp that take you over this exposed section which is a ton of fun. After that, we headed over to Pegasus which was in the shade. I had figured I would do it in two pitches so that I could bring Cristin up while I eye that last bit which is a bit harder. Well I did it all in one pitch. The funnest part was topping out the pillar at the top. I start to surmount the bulge at the top and find myself staring into a huge hole in the back of the pillar formed from the water running behind it. I managed to step around the hole and finish the route. When Cristin got to the hole she was more surprised than I was and found it very interesting. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to head over to Dracula so we headed out.
The next couple of days involved Ron, Cristin and I taking an AIARE Level 1 course. It was recommend that I take this course so I signed up. It was a great course. In it we spent time in the classroom discussing terrain that is prone to avalanches and how the weather effects the snow pack in a way to make avalanches more or less likely. On the second day, we spent some time doing companion rescues with beacons, probes and shovels. It was a lot of fun but very cold that day. A snow storm had just finished and the winds were howling at the top of Crawford Notch were we were. The next day, we met in Pinkham Notch discussed the avalanche forecast for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines on Mt. Washington. We then hiked the 2.4 miles up to Hermit Lake. There we met with the avalanche forecasters and watched a demonstration they did with their avalanche dogs. We then hiked up into the Ravine and did some snow work. After all of this we did another companion rescue scenario where after finding the "victim" I got to play the victim and get strapped to a ski sled. This reminded me of my WFR course where I had the same injury, tib/fib fracture, and I got to lay in the snow for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, I didn't ski up the mountain so I also didn't get to ski down. Three of us walked back down the mountain while the rest skied down. We then had a bit more classroom time. It was a great course.
Ron staying warm during companion rescues
Heading up to Tuckerman Ravine
Panoramic view of Tuckerman Ravine
The final day, I didn't ice climb. Ron, wanted to go skiing and since I had never skiied before decided I would join him on the slopes that day. I had never skied before. Back in college, I spent a few days in Whistle snowboarding but I was not prepared for this. I buy my lift ticket and get fitted with gear and head out to the lifts. I had gotten a case of tunnel vision and failed to see the lift for the beginners section. Instead I hopped on the lift to the top and figured that I could do this. Well, after many falls within the first few minutes I had quite a scare. Only 20 minutes into the run, I took a fall that torqued my right knee enough to cause some pain. I got out of my bindings and limped towards the edge to get out of the way of other skiers. After assessing it for a few minutes and realizing it was nothing major, I started to get back into the bindings when Ron showed up. He gave me a few pointers for the rest of the run after stating his surprise to see me at the top of the hill. Eventually, I made it back to the base. There I went inside to chill a bit before hitting the beginners slope to figure things out. I then did multiple laps down the beginners run. Feeling more confident, I headed back to the top. I did two more laps on an easy run all the way down the mountain before retiring for the day.
Once Ron was done, we headed to the cabin to get clean and pack the van, we were staring our 18 hour drive home at 5pm. After many hours and a bivy in a shopping center parking lot, we made it to back to North Carolina. I was surprised to find that I was excited to be back in my humble apartment. Honestly, I think I was ready for a few days of relaxing and not having to do anything. As I write this, I am preparing to leave after being home for only a few days. I am heading to Utah to visit my fiance, Jill. While I am there, I will hopefully be able to get a few pitches in on some of the frozen stuff. If not that is ok. I will be in a beautiful place with a beautiful woman that I love.