Fun day of Private Ice Climbing at Cathedral, and a quick set-back…

Saturday, February 21st, I was stoked to get out with a regular guest, Spencer, for some great climbing over at Cathedral. Spencer took a 3 Day Mountaineering Course with me two years ago, returned last winter for some fun at Frankenstein (Standard & Dracula), and was back this year to really start honing his steeper ice skills and anchor building as he has amassed the gear every hooked ice climber will start amassing!

We started off on Goofer’s Direct, 160 feet, Grade 3. This climb is one of the most aesthetic moderate pure ice climbs in New Hampshire!

The second in the party in front of us starts cleaning the pitch
The second in the party in front of us starts cleaning the pitch

I’ve climbed this route dozens of times and it has two distinctive “moods”. Early season it is often quite thin for the first 40-50 feet. Here’s a pic from an early season ascent in 2004 when I was still looking for ice thick enough for my 16cm screws…

Keep breathing...
Keep breathing…

But come mid/late season this climb becomes pure fun. Especially after Ice Fest when it has seen so much traffic it is quite hooked & pegged. There is a bit of a steeper bulge to surmount at the crux but it is easy to protect and really stepped out this time of year. Usually I would bring two 60m ropes to rap from the bolted anchor at the top of the climb. Today I opted to try something different with just one 60m. I decided to stop after the last steep bit, with only about 25 feet of mellow ice climbing above. From here a nice stance allows one to see their second for pretty much the entire climb. If you go to the bolts you really can’t watch your partner or get cool shots;

Spencer tearing it up...
Spencer tearing it up…

There really is only 25 feet of mellow climbing to the bolts from here and we wanted to get on to more climbing. I was able to quickly lower Spencer back to the deck and already had built a V-Thread to rap of myself. From here my 60m just touched down, and we were on our way to our next climb.

Note: If you have a 70m you can rap from the bolts and just barely make it without the need of a second rope or stopping short of the anchor, as I watched the party ahead of us discover.

We headed over to Thresher, Grade 3/3+. Up that in 2 quick pitches I left a top-rope in place so I could coach Spencer from below while he took some laps on the steeper left side. We finished up Thresher and made our way up to the top of The Unicorn, Grade 4+. This stout route would be a test of Spencer’s grasp of steep ice climbing, and he performed very well.

Alain was training a Special Forces team down below the North End
Alain was training a Special Forces team down below the North End

To wrap up our day we headed over to the North End Pillars for a quick lap on the furthest left pillar while a boisterous and motivated group of special needs & amputees got to climb ice organized by an out of state guide service. It was pretty awesome to see what these motivator’s could do!

A bit crowded, but awesome to see how much fun everyone was having!
A bit crowded, but awesome to see how much fun everyone was having!

And that concluded our very productive day!

Unfortunately after that I needed to take some time off. A growing pain in my back had finally reached a point where I wasn’t able to lie down at night, and my first trip to a doctor in over 2 years resulted in a herniated disk diagnosis. Good news, one week off and Prednisone and I’m pretty much 100% again. I was bummed to miss a few days of guiding work but very glad it wasn’t more serious! Tomorrow is looking pretty nice and I have a serious case of cabin fever so I may stretch the legs with a ski into Gulf of Slides with my buddy Steve, then an avalanche course is scheduled to start Friday.

Thanks for reading and see you in the mountains!


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