Just back from the first day of Ice Climbing season for 09/10. It was a full-on-winter-conditions-day out there. I climbed with my good friend Todd today. We headed to one of my favorite areas to climb, Mount Willard in Crawford Notch, NH. It was a blustery day, but not terribly cold. We climbed the lower section of Hitchcock Gully before traversing right to the base of a climb called Left Hand Monkey Wrench. I urged Todd to lead this pitch, saying "It's your turn to lead this one" (last year we did this one together and I lead this pitch), and so he did, in fine style I must add. I forgot my camera, but I managed to take this shot below with my Iphone.
Left Hand Monkey Wrench is such a great climb, and sure does beat the tricky mixed lower Hitchcock Gully pitch. Plus, we were out to ice climb, not frozen moss, and dicey rock with crampons on! After cleaning Todd's gear from the route and joining him at the belay, we coiled the ropes and moved to the upper tier of cliff band. The wind was HOWLING and snow was blowing around intensely. We looked at East Face Slabs right, one of the climbs on the upper tier. I really would have liked to have lead this one today, but looking up at the top section of ice and the trees up there getting blown all about, it was a good call to save for another day and not risk getting blown off the climb. So we opted for the more "sheltered" upper Hitchcock Gully. It was my turn on the sharp end and it felt like I had just climbed yesterday, not last spring! My head was in it and feeling the climbing love. I started up and quickly got blasted from up slope winds and blowing snow, I looked down at Todd, only 40 feet or so below and I could not see him, complete whiteout conditions. It was pretty intense! At the first ice screw, it went in quick and felt very secure, bang, quick draw clipped, rope clipped, climb on! Only about four feet above my pro, my head says, wait a second...lets put a little more safety in this system! Bang, shorty screw in quicker than you can say "shorty screw", quick draw clipped, rope clipped, head level...climb on! I ran it out to the next screw about 20 feet, just before a tricky ice bulge, I put in another screw. Some of my screws are old and not so sharp...this third one was a bit more difficult to get good purchase in the ice, but eventually gave in to my efforts and I was off ascending this beautiful blue ice on such amazing terrain. I think I placed one or two more and ran the rope out to the top, as the difficulty eases the higher up you get. I absolutely LOVE climbing on Mount Willard. The routes we climbed are not necessarily difficult, but great for breaking off the couch (not really) and getting back to placing gear and climbing with good technique. I took this next photo of Todd seconding my pitch up Hitchcock in furious winter conditions.
We were going to traverse to a climb called "The Cleft" and top out on the Mount Willard Hiking trail and hike back to the car, but decided to rappel off the cliff and head to town for some food at the Flatbread in North Conway. Once again, a great day in the mountains with a great friend.