Speed Climbing the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle

I like setting small reachable goals to keep me motivated in climbing. These goals are quite low compared to the inconceivable feats achieved by climbing’s greats, like the recent mind-blowing free-solo of Freerider by Alex Honnold and Kilian Jornet’s 26 hour climb from Basecamp to the summit of Everest and that’s quite OK! Mere mortals need goals too!

Northeast Ridge of Pinnacle
Northeast Ridge of Pinnacle

Last summer after a relatively quick climb of the Northeast Ridge of Pinnacle I wondered if I could cut my car-to-car time down to 2 hours. Last week we did it in 2 hours 37 minutes but we saw ample opportunities to shave more time and I think this goal is in reach for me this season. My only self-imposed rule is I must fifth class belay the whole route with some limited simul-climbing allowed (no straight up soloing) and include the 5.8 variation and the Fairy Tale Traverse. While skipping these pitches would lead to a faster time these two pitches make this a classic route in my opinion.

Here’s a video I made of our attempt. Below it I share some resources, gear lists, and general strategies I’m using.


The Auto-Road Approach

First let’s address the “alternative” approach we used, the Mount Washington Auto Road. Within minutes of posting my video to Facebook some folks bemoaned the use of the auto-road for the approach. While I don’t think I need to defend a tactic that I feel is valid for my own personal goal I do want to encourage anyone who has never climbed this route to do so first via the traditional approach (Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Huntington Ravine Trail). This approach is about 2.8 miles and 2700 feet in elevation and takes most parties 2-3 hours to reach the route. After topping out the hike across the Alpine Garden Trail and down the Lions Head Trail can be very scenic and enjoyable, and will take most parties about 2 hours, for an average trail time of 4-5 hours. Strong parties on fair weather days might even include a trip to the summit but be advised that adds considerable mileage and elevation to your day.

Another reason to stick with the traditional approach is on questionable weather days. If there is any chance of afternoon thunderstorms it would be more prudent to approach from below. This makes descending in bad weather an easier choice… not so easy if your vehicle is parked 1000 feet above you!

And finally cost is something to contemplate. For a party of 2 the entrance fee to the auto-road is $38! This year I decided I would be spending a lot of time up there so I took advantage of a “locals” season pass for $99. I’m planning over a half dozen forays up there this season for various projects and expect my actual expense to come down to about $8 per person per trip which makes the next couple of points well worth it!

The Auto Road can cut the approach time down to 25 minutes. This is basically jogging down the Huntington Ravine Trail, a really steep trail with lots of 4th class terrain on it. You drop 1000 feet in only .4 miles! There are multiple places were a slip could result in serious injury so care needs to be taken here. After topping out the technical portion of the climb it’s another .4 mile 700 foot climb back up to your car, taking about 25 minutes.

Bottom line is using the Auto Road can cut the total hiking time down to less than one hour.

That leaves me about an hour for the 7 pitch climb to meet my 2 hour goal. Much of the route is easy fifth class and can be simul-climbed by competent parties in approach shoes but I do carry my rock shoes to make the 5.8 pitch feel more secure.

Once I reach this goal I’d like to combine it with some other area classics. Whitney-Gilman Ridge is an obvious choice, but it might be fun to link up some stuff on Mt. Willard or Webster Cliffs as well… and Cathedral and Whitehorse always like to be included in long day link ups.

Resources

North Conway Rock Climbs by Jerry Handren <- Best guidebook for the area. Pages 282-284.

Mountain Project Route Description and Comments

Higher Summit Forecast <- only 72 hours out, if any chance of unsettled weather use traditional approach from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center

Current Summit Conditions <- useful for real time updates on changing conditions and elevation specific temperatures, I have this book-marked on my phone as cell coverage in Huntington Ravine is quite good with Verizon.

Auto Road Hours of Operation (opens at 7:30 am starting June 18th, closes at 6 pm)

GPS Info

Huntington Ravine Trail Parking Lot

5.6 miles from Auto Road Gate

UTM 19T 0316913 E 4905267 N WGS84 5725 feet

Start of climb

UTM 19T 0317371 E 4604895 N WGS84 4692 feet

End of 5th class climbing

UTM 19T 0317295 E 4904871 N WGS84 4911 feet

Personal Gear

Mountain Tools Slipsteam Pack <- I recently got my hands on this 11 ounce alpine speed pack and it’s perfect for this type of mission. Full review coming!

Mountain Tools Slipstream Backpack
Mountain Tools Slipstream Backpack

Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles <- I never considered carrying trekking poles on a technical climbing mission until I tried this pair. They only weigh 8 ounces each and pack up so small you can fit them into any “bullet” style climbing pack. I’ve noticed I can more downhill much faster with them so I’ll have them for the majority of my trips now!

Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS watch <- After testing 5 different GPS watches for the Gear Institute this one won my heart and I’ve been using it year round for both it’s GPS tracking capability and heart rate info

GoPro Hero 5 Session <- The small size of the session was what convinced me to start rolling with a GoPro again… above video was made with this. I really like how I can stream videos to my iPhone on the drive home and then do all the editing with iMovie on my phone!

Revo Cusp S Sunglasses <- high performance sweet shades!

LaSportiva TX 2 Approach Shoes <- My current favorite approach shoe! I need to order another pair before I wear these out and they stop making them! Full review here!

In the pack

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket <- a really nice ultralight jacket that I reviewed in detail here.

Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hooded Shirt <- another staple of my summer wardrobe, you can read all about it in my detailed review here.

AMK .7 First Aid Kit <- my basic first aid kit with some personal modification

SOL Emergency Bivy Sack <- weighs 4 ounces, lives in my pack

Nalgene Tritan 32 oz water bottle <- I only carry one bottle but I pre-hydrate like crazy, use Nuun Hydration Tablets, and carry a small bottle of iodine tablets in my first aid kit for emergency use.

Petzl Zipka Headlamp <- The new 2017 version of my longtime favorite headlamp has doubled its brightness. The retractable cord has been my favorite feature as this light does not get tangled up in climbing gear!

 

Petzl Sirocco Helmet <- my original 2013 review is here but stand by for a new review on the 2017 model coming this summer!

Petzl Sitta Harness <- review here!

Five Ten Rogue Climbing Shoes <- my comfy all day trad shoe

Five Ten Rogue Lace Up Climbing Shoes
Five Ten Rogue Lace Up Climbing Shoes

Rack

The below rack is slimmed down from a normal rack based on intimate route knowledge and personal comfort running out long sections of easy 5th class terrain. For those on-sighting the route I would recommend a “regular rack”, i.e. set of nuts, 3-4 smallest tri-cams, set of SLCD’s up to a #2 Black Diamond Camalot or equivalent, 8 alpine draws, cordelette or two. My slimmed down rack for this mission:

Racked on a nylon shoulder sling:

Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots sizes .4 – #2 racked on Black Diamond Oz Rackpack carabiners <- loving the lightweight of these!

Black Diamond Camalot X4’s sizes .1 – .4 racked on a wire-gate oval carabiner <- these have replaced my long loved CCH Aliens!

Set of DMM Wallnuts sizes 1-11 racked on two wire-gate oval carabiners <- these are noticeably lighter than the Black Diamond Stoppers I have retired to when I need to double up on nuts

Light climbing rack
Light climbing rack

Petzl William Screw-Gate Locker with 5 alpine draws and 2 “mini-quads”… more on the “mini-quad” later!

Alpine Draws and Mini-Quads!
Alpine Draws and Mini-Quads!

Rope

For this mission I’m taking one of my older Sterling 9 mm Nano ropes and chopping it to 30 meters! This might seem dramatic but it makes a lot of sense to me on this route. The first concern many might have after reading that is “What if you need to bail?” Obviously retreating with just a 30 meter rope could be problematic on many similar alpine routes. Two points to justify this decision. 1) You can escape into 4th class terrain to the left of the route at just about any point on this climb. 2) I’ll only be attempting this with really favorable weather conditions. The savings are not just in total carry weight, but also speed of stacking and coiling at every transition. Even the 5.8 pitch is only 25 meters long so a 30 meter rope will allow us to belay the pitches we are not simul-climbing.

(EDIT 6/26/17- Having reached my goal last week we ended up using a full 60m Sterling Nano and I think that is probably more prudent. Where we could have saved some time was having the second use a backpack that could fit the whole rope “pre-stacked” so when we reached the route zero stacking would be required. At the top of the route the larger pack would let us stuff the rope vs. coiling it saving another few minutes.)

Belay System

Personal Climbing Gear
Personal Climbing Gear

Kong GiGi Belay Device <- currently my most used belay device. Since I’ll be leading the whole route no need to carry a tube style belay device. I really like the following carabiner combination pictured above to use with the GiGi for security and simplicity… more on that later perhaps.

Black Diamond Vapor Lock Carabiner

Black Diamond RockLock Magnetron Carabiner

For ounce counters the entire pack and contents above come in at 15 pounds sans rope!

Strategies

Pre-hydrate. I mentioned this earlier but I want to emphasize that only carrying 32 ounces of water is a risk management issue. I drink a full Nalgene during the night before and another 32 ounces on the way to the mountain.

Early start. If we are at the gate at 7:30am we can be on the trail by 7:45am, and climbing by 8:15am. I’ve easily made it back to the car by noon on multiple occasions. Most parties using the traditional approach would need to start hiking by 5:30am to start climbing the route at the same time.

Rack at the car. While I didn’t do this in the above video I can easily see how this will save 5 or more minutes. That means harness and helmet on at the car, gear organized to lead and belay, and off you go. Clock doesn’t start until I leave the car so might as well maximize prep time here!

One climber does all the leading. No question swinging leads slows the team down. We lost at least ten minutes switching driver seats for the crux pitch. One leader means the leader gets a good rest at each belay.

Have fun. This is really why I want to do this. Moving quickly and efficiently in this type of terrain is really enjoyable to me. At the end of the day whether I hit the 2 hour mark or not I enjoy the planning, the anticipation of trying again, the time spent in the mountains, and the friends who enjoy the same.

I hope this post helps you come up with your own personal climbing goal this season. For many it’s “climb a grade higher”, but this season I think I’ll be focusing mainly on becoming more efficient, which I think will ultimately lead to climbing a higher grade. It will definitely lead me to climbing more! Wish me luck, and see you in the mountains!

Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle
The author heads out on the exposed but quite moderate “Fairy Tale Traverse” a last pitch variation of the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle that should not be missed!- photo by Benny Allen




Book any course at Northeast Mountaineering and use promo code “DavidNEM” at checkout. This will enter you into a monthly raffle to win a free guided day of your choosing!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Square Ledge, Waterfall Rappelling, Mount Washington, then back to Square!

What a great and busy long weekend that was! The weather for the most part was better than forecasted and I got out the last four days for quite the mixed bag of fun. This past Thursday I met up with my friend Alex to shoot some video and pics to go along with an in-depth review I’m writing on the new Petzl Sirocco climbing helmet coming out early this summer (stay tuned!). After some shooting we got some climbing in, the highlight was definitely watching my friend Brittni lead her first New Hampshire trad climb!

rock climbing new hampshire
Brit cruises her first NH trad lead (and second ever), “The Chimney”, at Square Ledge- photo by @alexandraroberts

On Friday I guided my first ever Waterfall Rappelling trip. Despite some chilly water temps this young couple had a blast and rappelled the 140 foot waterfall three times together!

Waterfall Rappelling White Mountains New Hampshire
Adventurous way to spend your birthday weekend!

Saturday I traded shorts and t-shirt for full on winter clothing to co-guide 19 inspiring hikers up Mount Washington in quite burly conditions to raise money for the 5 most severely wounded veterans in New Hampshire via AidClimb. Below freezing temps, 50 mph winds, low visibility, rain and sleet, all provided a very memorable June ascent for everyone involved. I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to play a small part in this fundraiser that has raised over $30,000 for these veterans and their families!

Climbing Mount Washington
Summiting Washington in winter conditions… in June

Finally I finished off the weekend Sunday back in t-shirt weather co-guiding a Cliff Rappelling course for a group of 8 Bostonians who came up for the day as part of a Meetup.com event.

Cliff rappelling White Mountains New Hampshire
Pretty scenic spot to learn how to rappel right?

I love swinging from 10 degree wind chills to 60 degree sunny weather within 24 hours! New Hampshire White Mountain weather will certainly keep you on your toes! I hope everyone had a good weekend as it looks like the start of this week will be a bit damp. It gives me time to catch up on some reading and writing I’d like to do and store my winter gear again for the season… or maybe I should keep it handy…

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See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Two Parties Rescued off Mount Washington

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of summiting Washington with 4 hardy climbers in very pleasant Spring weather while guiding for Northeast Mountaineering. This really is a cool time to climb Mount Washington as you start out in summer-like conditions but soon discover above treeline it is still winter. There is a lot of snow still up there and aspiring hikers should be aware that crampons and ice axe are still needed along with proper clothing.

We passed a group heading up the mountain while we were descending around 2 pm and they were crawling up the snowfields in sneakers with bare hands grasping at the snow while clad in sweatpants and flannel shirts. I considered chatting with them about their level of preparation for what lay ahead but allowed the “Tuckerman Spring Effect” to hold my tongue and we continued our descent. I regret not attempting the conversation. They ended up requiring some assistance to get off the mountain along with another party who needed a rescue off the auto road.

Make good choices folks! Three websites every White Mountain Hiker should be familiar with:

HikeSafe

Mount Washington Observatory Higher Summits Forecast

Mount Washington Avalanche Center

And if you’re new to above tree-line hiking consider hiring a guide for your first time. It is probably much cheaper than a rescue.

Anyways, our hike was great. Here’s a quick video of the trip and a photo gallery:

Next up I started my rock climbing season yesterday while guiding on Whitehorse and Cathedral Ledge, trip report tomorrow, along with a review of the Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack I skied with for most of the winter. Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help support this blog.

Mount Washington Ascent 12-19-16

This past Monday I headed up to the rockpile again with Virginia/Maryland based Max & Rachel. After gearing up at the Northeast Mountaineering bunkhouse we hit the trail at about 8:15. Following last weeks snow/rain/deep freeze trail conditions were quite nice on the lower Tuckerman Trail. The first “step” on Winter Lionhead had considerable water ice but full crampons and ice axe, and a little coaching saw us through it in quick time. Above this step cramponing was great all the way to the summit which we reached around 1:15pm in really low wind conditions. Definitely a great day on the mountain and I hope to see Max & Rachel back for another adventure this winter!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

P.S. If you decide to book an adventure with Northeast Mountaineering use promo code “DavidNEM” to get a chance at winning a free guided day of your choosing!

Cathedral & Whitehorse, Rumney & Huntington Ravine

This past 3 day holiday weekend had me guiding Yu Chih Chieh from Taiwan as he finished up 8 days of climbing instruction. Yu Chih, who goes by Brendan in the US, is in doctorate level program at Brown University in Rhode Island and is a die-hard botanist (and motivated aspiring alpinist).

Anchor building clinic
Cathedral Ledge

We started the morning with a brief anchor clinic and I show’d Brendan a couple options for extending top-rope anchor setups. Anchor theory is a hot topic with this guy’s scientific mind! We then hiked down to the Barber Wall for a quick rappel and discussed some of the finer points of the process.

Cathedral Ledge Rock Climbing
Rappelling the Barber Wall, Cathedral Ledge, Echo Lake State Park, NH

We then took a quick trip up Upper Refuse with a focus on seconding proficiently and transition efficiency.

Cathedral Ledge Rock Climbing
Thumbs up
Cathedral Ledge Rock Climbing
Topping out Upper Refuse, Cathedral Ledge

After we got a little heckled by the tourists at the top (the frat party was a bit offended I declined the beer they offered me for climbing the cliff, but I was working, and I do not drink Bud Lite) we made our way over to the quieter Airation Buttress for some lunch. Then a quick drive over to Whitehorse Ledge for 600 feet of slab ascent/descent.

Whitehorse Ledge Rock Climbing
Whitehorse Ledge

After 4 pitches of Beginner’s Route we headed back to the shop to look at a quick demo/practice of a belay escape.

For Sunday, July 3rd, the weather forecast was the same as the whole weekend. Bluebird. Knowing every cliff would probably be a bit of a zoo I decided to do something rash and head to the biggest zoo of them all. Rumney.

It had been a few years since I last visited this mecca of sport climbing. We pulled into the lot right at 9:30am and spaces were starting to fill up. The Meadows wall wasn’t too busy and we grabbed “False Modesty” and “Rose Garden” while discussing sport climbing issues that crop up every year (rigging to lower, closed systems, belayer placement, clear communication, etc).

Rumney Rock Climbing
Brendan cleans “Rose Garden” at The Meadows

We then headed down the road and up the hill to the Main Cliff to check out some of the new 2 pitch moderates that have been getting talked up on Mountain Project lately. “Crowd Pleaser” had quite a long queue on it but an obvious local regular pointed out the nearby 2 pitch 5.8 called “Tipping Point” with no line on it. We hopped right on and greatly enjoyed this fun little route.

Rumney Rock Climbing
Brendan reaching the first pitch belay ledge
Rumney Rock Climbing
Pretty scenic spot

The next pitch was super fun 5.8 with a solid crux right at the end… felt a bit closer to 5.9 to me but I’m not that well calibrated to Rumney grades ATM.

We then headed across and up the hill once again passing hordes of climbers on the wildly overhanging and popular crags like Darth Vader & Waimea making our way up to the highest bluff, the Jimmy Cliff. Up here we did two 2 pitch cruiser routes and enjoyed a steady fresh breeze the whole time.

Brendan had quite a bit of lead climbing experience in the gym and no “second belaying” experience so we covered some of the multitude of ways to properly belay the second while enjoying the cool breeze and lack of crowds.

Rumney Rock Climbing
Clip a Dee Doo Dah
Rumney Rock Climbing
Brendan finishes the last climb of the day

We stopped by the Black Crack Boulder on our hike out for yet another anchor building session (a critical trad climbing skill), then headed back across the Kanc to Mount Washington Valley. Despite some concerns about hitting the busiest cliffs on what might have been the busiest weekend we managed 5 climbs at 3 areas with 8 pitches total (plus that whole area is a botanist dream according to Brendan, who would often disappear while hiking behind me only to be found crouched at ground level camera in hand).

For July 4th, the last day of Brendan’s 8 day excursion, I picked an objective that I thought would be a suitable way to finish and also prepare him for his home country objective, Mount Yu Shan, the highest point in Taiwan!

Mount Yu Shan
Mount Yu Shan, highest point in Taiwan: 3,952 metres (12,966 ft)

We headed to Mount Washington with sights set on the Henderson Ridge. I had never climbed this route and found it to be fun outing. It took us 3.5 hours car to car with a leisurely pace and many stops to examine the unique flora that exists on Mount Washington (Alpine Garden Trail). We only saw one other climbing party of two on Pinnacle Ridge, and greatly enjoyed the cooler than valley temps!

After three days with Yu Chih Chieh I know he is well on his way to accomplishing whatever goals he sets for himself. An inquisitive scientific mind and desire will take him far in all aspects of his life and I look forward to the next time I share a rope with him.

Hope you all had a great Fourth of July weekend and spent a little time contemplating how lucky we are to have our freedoms!

Did you get out this past weekend? Let me know what you got on in the comments below!

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX Mountaineering Boots Review (and Giveaway!)

I have just finished my 2nd winter season climbing in the award winning La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX Mountaineering Boots and I should have shared my impressions of this boot long before now. As the saying goes, better late than never!

La Sportiva Batura Review
La Sportiva Batura Review- Photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com/

Shopping for a high end mountaineering boot is stressful. Climbers will pour over online reviews, solicit advice from guides, climbing partners, shop employees, and so on. No doubt about it pulling the trigger on a $500+ purchase while imagining black toes, blisters, or cold feet can feel as sketchy as running out 50 feet of verglas with no protection. While there is some truth to the saying “If the shoe fits” the unfortunate reality is few climbing shops will stock the high end models, and special orders may seem risky with various return policies and shipping costs. What is a prospective buyer to do? Read, read, then read some more. To that end I’ll add the following personal opinions to the plethora of  positive reviews already out on the interwebs.

But first, context. It would be good to know what similar products the reviewer has experience with if in order to validate their opinion. These are the boots I have climbed in extensively over the last 16 years, both leading ice climbs up to Grade 5 in difficulty and countless mountaineering trips up Mount Washington.

Koflach Verticals (discontinued)

Koflach Degre’s

Asolo Cholotse’s

Scarpa Mont Blanc Mountaineering Boots

Of these the Cholatse’s have a special place in my gear room as I am on my 2nd pair and are worthy of their own review. Long story short they are a tad lighter than the Batura’s but can not compete with the warmth of the Batura’s. It’s not a fair comparison though as the Cholatse’s do not have the built in super gaiter. I’ll get into more detail on the Cholatse’s in another review. Let’s focus on the guest of honor.

La Sportiva Batura 2.0 Mountaineering Boots Review
La Sportiva Batura 2.0 Mountaineering Boots Review

Style:

Is it a single boot with a gaiter? A synthetic hybrid? A double boot? What exactly are we looking at here?

The President of La Sportiva NA, Jonathon Lantz, calls it a true “1.5 boot”. Half way between the best single boot and the best double boot for warmth. An accurate description would be a technologically advanced single leather/synthetic hybrid with a built in super gaiter. Quite a mouthful, but there really is quite a bit of technology put into this boot! Before we dive into that though let’s look at fit:

Fit:

I am a very standard US Men’s Size 9 with a noticeable “Morton’s Toe”. The European size 42 fits me perfectly, as it has in the Asolo’s & Koflachs I have also worn. When comparing them to the Asolo Cholatse’s there is a slightly noticeable narrower feel to them. While my feet are medium width they are definitely not to snug for me but wider feet might have an issue with these. Narrower feet will really like the lacing system I am about to mention but low volume feet should consider swapping the factory insole out for a thicker insole like my well loved Superfeet REDHots.

Lacing:

Tucked underneath the velcro protected waterproof zipper is the boots lacing system. What sets this apart for other lacing systems is the integrated ratchet system just over the top of your foot. This ratchet system lets you get a snug lace which really holds the foot in place in the boot, critical for preventing toe bash on long descents and while repeated kicking into hard waterfall ice.

Waterproofness:

La Sportiva has essentially matched the bombproof waterproofness of a plastic boot but kept the boot breathable and much lighter. How? Two layers of Goretex. One within the boot itself, and another within the attached “super gaiter”. This technology was tested on one particularly drenching descent off Mount Washington this winter with 8+ inches of slush on the trail. I was not expecting my feet to stay dry given the conditions and felt a bit guilty when back at the shop my clients were wringing out their socks (they all wore plastic boots, so I’m thinking they must have stepped in a deeper flow at one or three of the waterbars that cross the trail).

Warmth:

I’ll need to confess a bit before I start talking about warmth. I have very warm feet. Fellow search & rescue members have raised eyebrows in the past when I’ve turned out with my Asolo Cholatse’s on, and while they have kept me warm while staying on the move in -20f temps with wind chills around -50f I have become more cautious about what I select for these missions that may involve a overnight bivouac with a patient. To that end if the mercury is down I’ll be in my Batura’s. Here’s why. The boot uses “Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort Technology“. While La Sportiva/Goretex doesn’t go into much detail about this technology there is noticeably more insulation in the boot than my 200gr Thinsulate Cholatse’s. The doubling up on the Goretex linings undoubtedly adds warmth while maintaining a small amount of true breath-ablility. The super-gaiter definitely adds a lot of warmth and I’m really a fan of having laces that never freeze (because they are 100% enclosed in the super-gaiter).

Coldest temps I’ve tested these: -27f ambient air temps with wind chills -50f to -60f. Feet were toasty while moving but I wouldn’t want to stand around for a hour. My sock of choice is the Smartwool Mountaineer Socks.

Were they as warm as my experiences with double plastic boots? Quite close really. The real difference here is the lack of a removable lining. This has implications for multi-day expeditions. A 5 day trip to Katahdin? No problem. A month long trip in Alaska? I might miss having a remove-able liner and would probably take a very close look at the La Sportiva Spantiks. As for day trip convenience if you don’t have one already pick up a decent boot dryer. I’m able to dry mine out daily during the busiest part of the guiding season and the drier really cuts down on any potential foot odor.

Comfort/Performance:

So how do they feel? Over the last two winters I have worn them up & down Mount Washington about 12 times, and ice climbed 30+ days in them. My feet were quite happy at the end of every day, which is saying something considering our low snow year has not given us the smooth sailing trail conditions we are used to. Mile after mile of uneven rocky scrambling, often with micro-spikes on to contend with acres of water ice covering trails most the season, and never a sore foot. While ice climbing the stiff carbon insole provides a stable platform while front pointing and the flexible uppers make flat footing super casual.

La Sportiva Batura 2.0 Mountaineering Boots Review
Comfy feet on the summit of Mt. Willard

Crampon compatibility:

For mountaineering days I paired them with my older style Petzl Vasak crampons. They fit perfectly and the combo made for a very light boot/crampon match. For ice climbing I spent this season in the Black Diamond Cyborg crampons, again, a perfect fit.

La Sportiva Batura 2.0 Mountaineering Boots Review
Solid ice climbing performance- Photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com/

Summary:

If you’ve read all this, or read any of the other reviews around the web, you’ve probably heard enough by now. They are one of the best single boot for ice climbing/mountaineering in the lower 48! They score high across the board and if you can find a shop that stocks them take a few minutes to slip a pair on. You can also order them from Amazon here!

Contest/Giveaway: Edit 5/1/16 (CONGRATS TO WINNER TODD R!)

It’s been far to long since I’ve offered up some tasty shwag to my readers so today I’m offering up something that any outdoors person should be psyched to get. A VSSL Supplies Kit, worth $109.99! You can read my review of this clever product here. Simple to enter, just comment below on what your favorite boots are. Hiking, climbing, skiing, it doesn’t matter. Just keep it about footwear and you’re entered! All commentators will be entered into a climbing helmet and the winner will be drawn and announced on 5/1/2016. I think we’ll have a video clip of the drawing as Alex is pretty pumped about being the lottery official.

You can now follow North East Alpine Start on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as signing up for email notifications at the “Follow” link at the very top tight of this page.

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which help to fund this website. 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington From the West 3/26/15

Kevin, Rebecca, and Jennifer had attempted Mount Washington with us twice already this winter. I was with Kevin back in early January when we made it to Lion’s Head in some of the worst conditions I’ve seen. The hike down the lower half of a washed out Tuckerman Ravine Trail in a torrential downpour was one I won’t soon forget. Rebecca & Jennifer were with another group that day that made it a few hundred yards further before wisely retreating. As luck would have it the three would meet again on another attempt the following month, this time the coldest day of the season with air temps on the summit hitting -40 and wind chills far surpassing that. Again, they made a valiant effort, then wisely turned back.

They were not, however, discouraged. And the third time, as they say, was definitely the charm!

As I rolled out of bed around 5am this past Saturday I pulled up the Higher Summits Forecast on my phone (a pretty much daily morning ritual in this household). Light winds 5-10mph, north shifting east, blue skies, temps around 30 degrees. How fortunate to get to climb “the rockpile” again in conditions like these after just having a bluebird windless day a week prior!

Having logged over 50+ winter ascents from the East via Tuckerman Ravine, Huntington Ravine, and Lion’s Head, I realized a trip up the west side would be a welcome change for both me, and my clients who had slogged up and down the first two miles of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail twice that winter. It turned out to be a great choice!

We hit the trail at Marshfield Station at 8:15am. The first half mile went quick and smooth with no traction needed. Soon after passing the intersection of the summer trail head spur we started encountering stretches of blue water ice where careful footwork alone would not suffice, so out came the micro-spikes.

I’ve only climbed this route 2-3 times, and only in summer, and I was reminded about how aesthetic this route is right out of the gate.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

As we worked our way up along the river bits of blue came through the otherwise overcast sky.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

We reached Gem Pool in just under an hour.

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Here we switched Microspikes for crampons and started the steady climb up to treeline. The abundant amount of hard water ice on this trail ensures those without full crampons will be at a real disadvantage. As the angle decreased the view increased.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

Under-cast spilled out to the west as far as we could see.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

As we approached treeline we started encountering the first of many massive ice sheets, all by-products of the Lakes of the Clouds drainage.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

I took a panoramic from the center of one of these huge ice sheets with the summit of Mt. Washington looming behind Kevin.

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Despite the abundant ice there was virtually zero wind and the climbing was very comfortable. Layers were adjusted accordingly (I could have left the long underwear in the pack).

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

We reached the Lakes in the Clouds AMC Hut (closed for the season) at about 11am. Since it was early, and conditions so prime, we opted for a quick side trip to tag Mt. Monroe.

EMS Climbing School
Mt. Monroe with descending climbers on the sky line an a group we caught starting up

I decided to take us off trail a bit to the east on a nice snowfield before scrambling up a short easy gully just below the summit.

EMS Climbing School
A slightly steeper ascent of Mt. Monroe

The party we caught here offered to get a group shot of us on Monroe summit.

EMS Climbing School
Mt. Monroe

We then descended back to the Crawford Path and I went off trail again to save a small bit of mileage by wrapping around the higher of “the lakes”.

EMS Climbing School
Looking back on Mt. Monroe and our boot track around the larger of the lakes

I had opted to transition back into my Micro-spikes at this point thinking any significant difficulty would be behind us. About 10 minutes later as we traversed onto one of the Crawford Path snowfields I started to regret my decision. This snowfield we were traversing was only about 15-20 degrees in pitch, but its western aspect meant it didn’t absorb much of the solar radiation that had been pouring over us all day. It was still a relative sheet of ice with nice looking granite cheese graters sticking out 100 feet below.

Half way across the 200 foot wide snowfield I found myself focusing on my steps a bit more than I should have in that terrain. Aggressive flat-footing got me to a nice mid-field island where I converted back to crampons and felt about 110% more secure than I had moments before. Chalk that one up to error recognition (albeit a bit late) and correction.

By 12:20 we were on the summit basking in mild temps, 100 mile visibility, and only a hint of a breeze. Rebecca found that rime ice had mysteriously grown on her arm.

EMS Climbing School
Weird how there was no riming anywhere else that day….

After what was probably my longest stay on the summit during a day trip we started making out way down at 1:10pm. We headed north off the summit and I linked a few snowfields until we reached the tracks of the Cog railway. While this is not an official hiking trail, it does provide a somewhat fast descent of the west side that is non-technical compared to descending the water ice of the Ammo Trail.

Disclaimer: 90% of the time this is not a good “escape” off Mount Washington as bad weather is usually hitting us from the W-NW. Walking into high winds from this direction can literally be impossible and kill you. It is also considered trespassing by the Cog Railway when they are in season, so don’t do it in the summer!

EMS Climbing School
Looking down a 20% grade of the Cog

Walking was easiest to the sides of the Cog linking snowfields where ever we could.

EMS Climbing School
West with Bretton Woods and Franconia Ridge in the background
EMS Climbing School
Burt Ravine drops off behind me

Just below the “Halfway House” we removed our crampons and booted our way back down to Marshfield Station, taking only an hour and 45 minutes to descend from the summit.

This appears to be my last guiding day of this winter. I couldn’t have asked for a better day weather wise or better people to spend it with. Quite a few laughs along the way and I really hope to cross paths with Kevin, Rebecca, and Jennifer again.

Higher Summits calling for 3-7 inches of snow through Tuesday with nice weather on Wednesday if you’re still looking to ski up there it might be really good Wednesday!

MWAC Update: Still some avalanche danger out there, don’t let your guard down

Review/Contest Update:

Review for the LaSportiva Batura’s coming this week along with gear giveaway contest! Subscribe at top right!

La Sportiva Batura Review
La Sportiva Batura Review- Photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com/

See you in the mountains!

NEAlpineStart