Cinema Gully to Cauliflower, and REVIEW of EMS Packable Pack

Today was the perfect wrap up to a great three days in the mountains. Friday I had the opportunity to be the “turn-around guide” for a group heading to the Mount Washington Observatory for an overnight. Having an extra guide on these groups makes sense if someone isn’t feeling well during the ascent. At Lion’s Head everyone was feeling strong so I parted ways and made my way back down the mountain.

Yesterday I had a 3 person AMC group for a 101 Mountaineering Course. We worked on basics at the North End of Cathedral in pretty cold temps, and even worked in a hike to the top of Cathedral after a short lunch break.

AMC chillin' out on the North End Slab
AMC chillin’ out on the North End Slab

Today I met Seamus for a private day of ice climbing. Seamus had a fair amount of rock and ice climbing experience so we set our sights high and made our way to Mt. Willard. Before I get into the climb I want to mention a product I would like to review today. Earlier this season during internal guide training EMS Schools Manager Keith Moon suggested the use of the EMS Packable Pack inside a more substantial alpine pack like the EMS Prez Pack that I reviewed here.


The idea of carrying an ultra-light packable pack like this is excellent for a day of cragging where a large pack is comfortable to haul all your climbing gear to the destination but a bit too bulky once emptied of the rack, harness, and helmet. In these situations where you are returning to the ground an ultra-light pack would be ideal for keeping your “puffy” jacket, water bottle, first aid kit, and a couple snacks with you while you climb a couple pitches. Today I pushed the use of this pack a bit further by racking up at the car and leaving my alpine pack behind. More on this later…

We hiked in to the base of Cinema Gully (650 feet Grade 2) by about 10am. Lots of sluff piles reached the tracks before we reached the route and I spotted well known guide Marc Chauvin getting started with two clients on the first pitch.

Cinema Gully, 650ft, Grade 2-3
Cinema Gully, 650ft, Grade 2-3

The fall lines can be managed fairly well on this route and knowing Marc would cruise we decided to follow suit. The start was quite thin requiring a couple moves or two on rock before reaching decent ice 20 feet up, with the first screw going in around 50 feet from the start. As typical it was just shy of 200 feet to the steeper ice where we had a nice natural thread anchor backed up with a full length screw. The next pitch is kept short, just about 50 feet, to make the 3rd pitch “reachable”.

Looking down 2nd pitch
Looking down the 2nd pitch

Another 200 foot pitch from here brought us to the base of the last pitch. Marc’s team took the direct finish and I grabbed a shot of the father/son duo while I headed left up the traditional finish:

Cinema's Direct Finish
Cinema’s Direct Finish

After gaining the treed ledge we refueled and we started the uphill waist deep snow swim to the base of Cauliflower Gully. This was a full 40 minute all body work-out and I was quite happy Seamus offered to partake in some of this trail breaking.

Cauliflower Gully, 200 feet, Grade 2-3

This is a long-time favorite of mine. The setting is spectacular and the top out lands you about 200 feet from the well traveled and packed Mt. Willard trail which is an excellent descent after a full day of climbing. The climb was in typical condition, great ice down low, then a bit thinner but mellow, then the hollow-ish awkward-ish grade 3 crux, then fun swinging right up to the top.

Looking down Cauliflower Gully
Looking down Cauliflower Gully

We topped out right about 3pm and cruised down the packed Willard trail in 25 minutes. 850 feet of pitched climbing plus a few hundred feet of uphill tree swimming had built up quite an appetite for Super Bowl Appetizers and we drove back to North Conway with thoughts of good food & beer. Seamus has a few more days planned with us so I’m sure I’ll be seeing him in the mountains again soon!

To wrap up today’s post I want to finish my call out on this EMS Packable Pack. It’s almost Halftime so I will keep my thoughts short and to the point:

1) It weighs 9 ounces.

2) It can be stuffed into any large alpine pack with out notice

3) It has 1,500 cubic inches, so I carried: One puffy belay jacket, one very warm pair of Kincos Gloves, one first aid kit, one Petzl Myo Headlamp, one knife, one 32oz Nalgene bottle of water, 4 handwarmes (unused), a bunch of snacky food.

4) It only costs $40!

This gear doesn’t have a noticeable weight so lack of padding/suspension is not an issue.

Eastern Mountain Sports Packable Pack
Eastern Mountain Sports Packable Pack

OK, time to focus on the game. Pats are up 14/7. Alex will be drawing the ice screw winner during Half-Time show and I’ll announce the winner tomorrow on Facebook and NEClimbs & NEIce!

See you in the mountains!


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