I’m pretty sure since my first ice season in 2001 I have always climbed ice in December, and often in November. In fact my earliest season ice climb was before Halloween, 2003 I think, “The Open Book” in Tuckerman Ravine. This year was a late start, a combination of terrible early season conditions and a newborn will put a slight damper on your early season adventures. But winter is finally here and today was one of the best “first” days I can remember.
My good friend Tom was driving up from Nashua and met me at EMS NoCo. We car-pooled up to Crawford Notch and left the car at about 10:20am, right behind a party of 3. We caught and passed the party who had a similar plan, Left Hand Monkey Wrench to The Cleft. At the bottom of Hitchcock Gully we harnessed up as 2 climbers where negotiating the water ice section at the beginning of the climb. A few minutes later I caught up to the lead climber, my friend David G., who was also heading for The Cleft. We chatted a bit then forged ahead getting to the start of The Cleft just before the party of 3 arrived (having opted for the direct bushwhack approach). Since we were geared up and ready we cruised LHMW in 15 minutes or so.
On the upper tier East Face Slabs Right looked great, but we decided to have a look at Upper Hitchcock. 2 climbers appeared to be rapping from the birch at the top of the first pitch so we continued over to East Face Slabs. This is one of my favorite settings in the White Mountains. Great belay ledge/view and super fun easy climbing with blue skies… I always have fun here…
I led the fat plastic main line and lowered off a fixed carabiner on some slings at about 95 feet, then Tom cleaned and lowered.
We decided to move back over to Hitchcock which was empty and finish up that. I always like checking out the parasol effected ice above this feature. Tom made quick work of the first pitch.
I finished up the short last pitch and we made for the summit.
This was the first technical climb I got to test my new Hyperlite 3400 Ice Pack.
First impressions are extremely positive and I’ll be working on a detailed review for later this month.
We cruised down the Willard Trail without to much difficulty but micro-spikes would have definitely been nice in a few spots. We got back to the car in just over 3 hours.
It felt great to be moving through steep frozen terrain again. Luckily I don’t have to wait long to get out again. Tomorrow I’m leading a Mountaineering 201 Course then Sunday it’s a Mount Washington Ascent.
Maybe I’ll see you out there,