Snake Mountain

Doing the second ascent of a burly little Snake Mountain rig, Fang Shui. Photo by Josh Worley.

There is this thing happening over in the up-side-down state. After driving past this cliff on their way to the Daks for years, huge icicles just hanging there, climbers, especially Josh Worley, started poking around up there, power drill at the ready. What they found has changed the way good wholesome Vermont boys are introduced to winter climbing. Lake Willoughby? May as well be in New Hampshire (I concur), these guys are climbing M10 before they ever chug up a WI 5 column and strap themselves into a screw belay. This phenomena has been on display at the MWV Ice Fest’s dry tool comp, held annually in North Conway – most of the contestants are employed at the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Josh Worley’s recruiting ground for the dark arts of upside down mixed climbing. Pounding pins, and grabbing turf shots? Why bother when you can sip a latte bought in town while cruising through the Iowa like fields of the Champlain Valley on your way to your own personal mixed crag, complete with fixed draws on every route? Winter climbing now follows summer’s lead west of the Connecticut River; instead of scaring the shit out of yourself learning to trad climb and ice climb, you can get as strong as a bull first and then slip into ice climbing and traditional mixed climbing (when it feels like a warm-up). Snake Mountain: the new gateway drug?

Note: I should be clear, all the developers over at Snake are hardmen who have put their time in freezing their asses off at places like Lake Willuoghby, and crankin hard rock routes in the summer time. I just love the opportunity thats afforded the new generation in the Champlain Valley by the proximity of a world class mixed crag, but not mich local ice. I probably should have written the above in the future tense.

Bayard on Solid Gold, an excellent Josh Worley route on great limestone. Photo by Ray Rice.

The man, Ray Rice, on one of the best, and truly mixed, mixed routes you could find anywhere, Matt McCormick's Paradigm Shift.

Josh Worley checking out the moves on a great looking new line.

Paradigm Shift's upper icicle, not shown is the 50' of vertical ice above.