Thursday, February 14, 2008

Some Happy Ice Climbers!

Todd and I on Mt. Willard

I was able to venture out Ice climbing with some friends on Saturday 2/9/08. We knew with the Ice Fest going on in North Conway and out at the local climbing spots we would have to get an early start. We met in Rochester, NH at 5 am for the journey north on RT. 16. The ride up was uneventful as I was driving, though; I was occasionally getting a laugh while my passengers were "head bobbing" trying to keep from falling asleep!

We make it to N. Conway just in time for some fresh Java at;
Front Side Grind. A local coffee shop in the Eastern Slope Inn. Traditionally, Todd and I will hit the local post office/ convenience store/ gas station/ deli/ grill in Bartlett, NH for the homemade breakfast sandwiches. You know the place, it's just over the bridge from Glen. Coffee, food! We are good to go! We drive north on 302 into Crawford Notch. The Ice at Frankenstein looked mint for the Ice Festers. Standard Route is Big and Blue! Dracula as FAT as can be! Looks like lots of Ice and Snow in the Webster Cliff Gullies...

We arrive at the Willard parking to no wind and a relatively warm temperature. So many times getting ready to head out is the CRUX with the wind racing through the Notch. We install our boots, clothes, and strap implements of destruction to our back packs and head down the railroad tracks. Wow! The snow is deep! A beautiful Sun shines down on the three travelers; Sparky, Todd and Liz. We locate the bottom of the Gully and begin our ascent. I quickly discover that I'll need my crampons, so Todd and Liz stop well below me and put theirs on as well. We make a quick climb out of the lower snow section of Lower Hitchcock Gully. I find what looks like previous tracks and a worn path through trees toward the base of Left Hand Monkey Wrench (LHMW). Along the way we encounter deep snow and some questionable slope stability issues, with all the snow this season up North, it is no surprise that a lot of areas not normally concerning for Avalanche issues are now growing with questionable slopes. I proceed with caution and my fellow mountaineers follow. We arrive at the base of LHMW and I quickly encourage Todd to lead this pitch, I had other motives!

Todd makes quick work of this pitch and anchors off on a tree up top and brings Liz and me up, we simu-climb to the base of the steep ice (pictured above with Todd on Lead) and tackle it separately. Liz moves quickly and I do as well...What a great feeling, Swinging Tools, Climbing with my feet, freeing my mind! Soon I am at the belay and moving through the trees and up a steep snow slope towards the upper tier of Mt.Willard and Upper Hitchcock Gully. We arrive and a party of two is cleaning the climb of their pro. I am psyched to lead this pitch. I fuel up with some energy bars and power gel. We decide to wait as Ice chunks fall into my line. Better to not get nailed in the head with a big piece. I finally am able to climb and it is SWEET! I feel confident and happy to be Ice Climbing while on the lead! Todd and Liz second and clean my pro and we rappel off the route. We further rap down Lower Hitchcock Gully and descend back to the Railroad Tracks.

What a FANTASTIC DAY of Climbing

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