Finding winter after December’s big thaw

What a great start we were off to this year for both skiing & ice climbing! Hard to believe that the ice climbing season started for many of us a month and a half ago! Apparently Santa didn’t get my letter though for instead of a few feet of powder we were all delivered many inches of rain over a very warm three days which pretty much pushed the “reset” button on our winter playground.

Hope is on the horizon for 2015 though! Arctic cold has dropped our daytime temps about 50 degrees in just the last two days! On Monday I guided two young guys from New York up a very thin Willey’s Slide in Crawford Notch. I have never been on it in such lean conditions and it was actually pretty fun, though I could have left the ice screws at home. We hugged climber’s left the whole way and got a couple half pitches of actual ice climbing towards the top. The gushing waterfall 2/3 of the way up was pretty impressive, especially when the winds kicked up and sent the water sideways!

Travis learns proper crampon & ice axe technique
Looking pretty lean
EMS Schools Guide Keith Moon instructs another group nearby
EMS Schools Guide Keith Moon instructs another group nearby
Travis & Matt nearing the top of the 800 foot slide
A 3rd EMS Schools Group starts rappelling as we near the top
A 3rd EMS Schools Group starts rappelling as we near the top

The next day Erin, Brandon, Travis, and Matt all joined me for an assault on Mount Washington. The weather forecast spoke of “coldest air of the season” and wind chills down to around -48. Sounded like it may be a challenging day on the hill, but the winds died down early enough in the day and with careful moisture management and pacing we summit-ed at about 12:40 then descended back down the Summer Lion’s Head Trail to the cars in only 2.5 hours. The entire trip was done in micro-spikes (with crampons in reserve) and a short arm-wrap rappel on the most technical step of the route.

Erin & Brandon (sorry this one is blurred guys)
Erin & Brandon (sorry this one is blurred guys)
Matt & Travis
Matt & Travis
Erin getting close to treeline
Erin getting close to treeline
Last few steps to Lion's Head
Last few steps to Lion’s Head
Great visibility!
Great visibility!
Base of the summit cone
Base of the summit cone
Looking back towards Lion's Head
Looking back towards Lion’s Head
Erin showing off a frozen face mask
Erin showing off a frozen face mask
Summit shot
Group Summit shot
Erin & Brandon
Erin & Brandon
Matt & Travis
Matt & Travis
Brief stop at Split Rock during descent
Brief stop at Split Rock during descent
iPhone Pano... click image to see whole pic
iPhone Pano… click image to see whole pic

So despite the disappointing thaw it looks like it will be a distant memory soon. Continued cold is on tap for the first few days of 2015 and snow is likely for Saturday & Sunday. That is especially welcome as our second avalanche course of the season starts Friday! So ciao 2014, you were a pretty decent year for climbing conditions. Let’s usher in some great skiing & climbing for the start of 2015!

Happy New Year & See You in the Mountains!

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