Photo above and left is of Todd starting our first roped pitch.
Huntington Ravine 3/9/11
The weather was absolutely stellar for us, blue skies, no wind and warm, by Mount Washington standards. Together, we climbed Odells Gully on November 28, 2010 in quite opposite conditions and we had made other attempts to get back into the ravine, but either weather or higher than acceptable avalanche danger turned us back to go off and enjoy excellent days of climbing in Crawford Notch.
We followed the boot pack of a skier who climbed to just below the first ice pitch in Damnation. We found him anxiously awaiting our arrival to a safe zone, which allowed him to ski down through. Todd and I moved to climber's right below a large rock and told him to "send it".
Solar gain was working to his advantage, but a very thick layer of rain crust was still a factor in his descent. He seemed to be a very controlled and experienced skier as he jump turned past us, exclaiming how good it was to be up here on this day! Watching his turns down the lower gully and into the fan, he nailed the whole run in fine style. Pictured in the photo above is the skier we followed into Damnation.
Speaking of "sending it" Following Todd's most excellent lead on the first pitch, I took the sharp end on the second pitch. One bomber screw, a very well placed nut, followed by a long 150 foot run out on super stable, but steep snow and I was at the second belay stance, happy, calm, confident and thinking only good thoughts.
Todd climbing up the steep, stable, snow slope on the second pitch
My sweet rock pro belay anchor at the top of the second pitch.
Quote of the day "I love placing rock pro when ice climbing, it makes me feel so happy" Aside from making me feel so good, it definitely is needed with conditions such as we had. Little in the way of available or good quality ice to place screws, yet ample cracks and crannies for placing rock gear. A long fall on this steep terrain with the slick crusty coating could spell disaster.
On that note, and to my point of the bond and brotherhood of the rope, what a difference a day makes! Yesterday, 3/10/11 at 10:30 AM, a solo climber triggered an avalanche in Pinnacle Gully (photo left) just above the first pitch, which swept him over the first ice pitch (about 180 feet) and he then proceeded to fall in total 1300 feet to the floor of the ravine. Details are still emerging, but this climber is most certainly feeling lucky to be alive! He is reportedly recovering in the hospital with a broken femur and other injuries. I'm not willing to Monday morning quarterback his climb, but I wish him well in his recovery.
I am barely visible in the photo above on the crux pitch through the rock band.
Photo -Todd Ringelberg
Photo -Todd Ringelberg
The third pitch of the day climbed more low angled snow to the crux of the climb. Arriving at his belay anchor I took Todd's advice to climb straight up through the rock band, keeping to the right of the gully. I found some spicy moves on thin ice covered rock and good mixed moves finishing up a steep snow slope to a meager belay stance with marginal (at best) protection placed at the anchor. I hunkered down, belaying while sitting, with feet firmly placed in the event of a fall from Todd, I would have to hold his weight while belaying from my waist, in true mountaineer style. As expected, he did not fall and quickly joined me at the anchor, where we exchanged pleasantries about the pitch I had just lead, then he moved on through to the final pitch. I was relieved to have him place a solid nut, followed by an ice screw just above that, which allowed me to worry less about my anchor having to hold us in the event of a mishap. Then he disappeared, as I quickly fed out rope in meters. Knowing he had arrived at the top of the ravine, I began to dismantle my sketchy anchor and quickly started to climb after getting "the signal" (energy through the rope) that I was on belay. The exit moves up the final snow slope were just amazing and I finished up the gully seeing Todd, sitting in the snow, all bundled up belaying me safely through the finish. I looked left and the sun was shimmering through approaching thin clouds showing the summit cone just full of snow and gleaming from the shiny crust covering the entire mountain.
Another Great Day on the Hill!