Silver Cascade & Lionshead Summit

This past weekend I got to spend a couple fun days in the mountains. It started Saturday when I got to take Oklahoman’s Taylor & Stephanie and Vermonter Melissa out for our Mountaineering 201 Course. Expecting large crowds at classic Willey’s Slide and Mt. Willard I opted for an old favorite, Silver Cascade, Grade 2+, 800 feet (2 miles round-trip), pg. 211 in guidebook.

Only 2 parties of two were on the route when we arrived which gave us a little time to talk about some glacier roping strategies.

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Silver Cascade

After giving the lead groups some space we started up.

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Stephanie & Taylor enjoying the first pitch

A couple of pitches later we stopped to talk about ice anchors and practiced building V-thread anchors.

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Learning about ice screw placement

We then finished off the last of the technical ice.

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Melissa tops out of the last technical section

We explored a bit higher in the brook before making our way back down to the base.

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Back at the base

That evening I attended a fundraiser at International Mountain Equipment for our local Mountain Rescue Service. It was great seeing the community support that came out for a showing of the Reel Rock 10 Tour. I especially liked the video of Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell documenting their traverse of the Fitz Roy range. Quite a few laughs and amazing cinematography, I’m hoping IME still has a few copies of this DVD so I can pick one up this week.

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Rick Wilcox addresses the full house while most enjoyed free beer provided by event sponsor Tuckerman Brewery!

The next morning I met back up with Taylor & Stephanie and also met Portland based Mike & and Boston based Kevin. Out team of 5 would be heading up Mount Washington in some pretty full value conditions. The Higher Summits forecast called for Southeast winds around 80mph in the afternoon with heavy rain arriving in the afternoon. It would be… interesting…

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Stephanie & Taylor are all smiles on the Summer Lionshead Route.

It was comical seeing some of the parties who had started early come down the trail. Most had 1-2 inches of clear water ice encasing ice axes, backpacks, even hair braids! The freezing rain they must have encountered above tree-line had lessened, but pellet snow hitting us at about 30 mph required goggles & face mask to stay comfortable.

We pushed on to Lionshead where we met up with the other EMS team on the mountain who had made it to the Alpine Garden trail before retreating. Conditions were dismal up high where we later learned the summit got a 100 mph gust (much higher than forecasted) at about the same time we started our descent.

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The purple shaded area shows how incredibly “gusty” our winds were, going from 50mph to over 90mph from noon on.

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Lionshead summit photo- from left to right: Taylor, Stephanie, Mike, Kevin

We made our way back down quite content with what we had just accomplished, but the day was far from over. We took a brief stop on a steeper section of the Lionshead Summer Route to practice an “arm-wrap rappel”, then cruised down to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. From here progress slowed as the 1.3 inches of rain the mountain was receiving had completely saturated the thin snow pack that had started to smooth out the trail and footing was pretty tricky with 8+ inches of slush on top of the notoriously uneven path. We still reached Pinkham just before 3pm and hopped in the car, 5 very saturated, but content climbers.

A fun weekend to be sure and while it took a full 12 hours of wood stove heat to begin to dry my gear out I am anxious to see how great the ice will be forming with all this free water and dropping temps. Probably get out somewhere tomorrow!

See you in the mountains,

-NEAlpineStart

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