A rare combination of a day off, day care, and no pressing household matters to attend to let me escape up to Crawford Notch this morning for a quick solo ice climb. I figured I’d grab some pics and try to get a sense of how this past weekends 1-2 inches of rain had impacted our late starting ice season. I was pretty happy with how well things held in there.
Driving by Frankenstein I noted Chia looked climb-able, along with Pegasus Rock Finish, but Pegasus proper was still a raging waterfall. I didn’t stop for pics here as Al Hospers of NEClimbs got some good shots yesterday:
I wanted to focus on Mount Willard and pulled over to get a shot of the south face:
Gully #1 looked like it had survived, and while not “in” it looked climbable. Cauliflower Gully looked similar. Cinema looked scary thin. Climbable? Yes. Protect-able?…. ehhhh…
Higher up the notch both Silver Cascade & The Flume still had high volume open water on the main flows, with climbable ice to the sides. I saw one party of two when I was leaving working their way up the far right side of Silver Cascade:
Elephant’s Head looked good to go, the thin section getting into the upper right finish had really filed in and to me it looked better than last week. Great plastic growing ice at the start…
I parked at the top of the notch and quickly threw my pack on. That has to be one of the coldest parking lots in the Northeast. I briskly followed a set of fresh tracks to the base of Hitchcock Gully, first grabbing a quick pic of the growing “Snotsickle”. That right hand start came in great last year and looks like it might be returning this year.
I reached the base of Hitchcock Gully as two climbers where setting off and followed them up the washed out approach gully of Hitchcock. Quite a bit of frozen rock climbing but things were locked up enough to make the going quick.
Jamie (from Boston) and his partner were heading up Lower Hitchcock so at the cutoff to Left Hand Monkey Wrench (LHMW) we chatted briefly and parted ways. I headed north and cut over to the base of LHMW. It was fat & plastic looking on the bottom half:
Side note… I’ve done the direct uphill tree swim to reach this route a half dozen times, as well as the Hitchcock Gully approach. Using Hitchcock Gully is without a doubt easier & faster than the uphill tree swim approach IMO. Just sayin’…
The climbing was plastic ice for the start, then drier and a tad brittle at the moderate “crux” of this route. A stem here and a stem there and I was hooking nice looking roots to the great frozen turf shots at the top. I realized at the top this was my first solo of this climb. Meh, it’s just ice climbing, no need to celebrate. Up I went to the base of East Face Slabs Right, which looked quite fat:
A quick walk over to check out fat & plastic Upper Hitchcock:
I decided to look down Lower Hitchcock and see if I could spot Jamie and partner, who were starting the last bit of technical climbing of the lower route. The route was pretty washed out but Jamie reported climbable ice to the sides and made quick work of the rock moves to finish that half:
After another social chat I headed up to my exit, The Cleft. The very bottom was washed out but thick ice came soon.
The climbing in here was actually slightly un-nerving. First off, the ice was very dry & brittle in comparison to LHMV. No speed soloing happening here. Second, the winds were being funneled up The Cleft in a way I’d never seen before. It’s usually dead quiet and serene in here but the wind chill was pushing me to keep moving in my light soft shell. I reached the classic chockstone crux I’d seen mentioned and pictured in FB posts over the last couple weeks and for a second wondered if it would go well. It is awkward… no question about that. I did get a spark off a pick trying for something I knew wasn’t there. I also managed one nice knuckle bash before relaxing, getting a solid 4mm stick in some fresh verglas, then stemming the right leg on that little rock edge, and pulling the move right before my leg would have cramped.
Most epic Grade 2 move ever. If only I had a film crew to capture it for Reel Rock 11. Oh well. The rest of the route was easy cheezy.
I spent a little time at the summit. I realized I hadn’t stood on a winter summit alone in over a decade. All my winter summits are shared with clients or friends. It was kind of nice to be up there for a bit alone. A feeling I almost had forgotten. I don’t intend to delve into this deeper now in a general conditions report but I might come back to it at some point…
Anyways, the descent trail, the Mount Willard Trail… looks like this:
I hiked all the way out in my Black Diamond Cyborg crampons as I did not bring micro-spikes. No regrets. Car to car in 2.5 hours. Ok, no more bragging. Summary of ice conditions:
We survived the rain. Things are pretty good in many places. Long range forecast is quite promising:
Final thoughts: Otterbox Defender case is trapping moisture in my iPhone6+ making pics “foggy”, didn’t notice that with my older 5s. I’m researching a solid point & click dedicated camera. I miss my old Olympus 1030sw and want something comparable. Suggestions?