Conditions: Crawford Notch Jan 1, 2014

The ice in Crawford Notch is coming back around. Here’s the rundown:

At Frankenstein, the Amphitheater looked better than it has all through the early season with high water volume routes (Pegasus, Chia) finally receiving the cold temperatures they need to begin to freeze. Still not in its full glory, but on its way.

The ice left of Smear, above the well protected M5 corner of Scream, looks pretty cool. There is a great WI 3+ ish slab over there called Banshee which receives little traffic. It’s looking good now.

Beware of the top-outs. After a rain the mini-brooks that feed the amphitheater are running hard leaving the tops of these ice climbs often floating over running water. If you want to push your leading grade in the amphitheater area, I would recommend waiting until things have time to freeze further.

No pictures, sorry.

Standard looks good.


From far left (behind the trees) is the top of Standard then Penguin and break in the cliff, then Dropline, Welcome to the Machine, Coffin and Dracula. Hopefully the water continues to flow and they just get fatter!

North of Standard

This is the shadiest of the major areas at Frankenstein and does the best in the early season. If it took a hit in the rains last week it’s hard to tell now. Looks like good early season conditions and very similar to a couple of weeks ago.

Mt Willard

Mt Willard has been the champ this season with the best conditions in the Notch. Sam Bendroth and I took a run up Hitchcock Gully yesterday afternoon and found amenable conditions despite the dry debris pile on the railroad tracks at the base of the gully. The rains flushed all the leaves, etc out of Lower Hitchcock and despite some patches without snow, the whole of this section is mostly climbed on nice hard snow or fresh sticky ice. Some weekend snow will make it look more alpine, but the conditions make for a fairly low exertion outing with good cramponing. Upper Hitchcock looked fine and all the flows along that Upper Eastern Tier look really good.


Number Gullies and Cauliflower above, Mt Webster.




The moon rising over the mini-Canadian Rockies cliff band of Mt Webster.




Not much snow on the South Face of Mt. Willard, but the ice is coming in. There is ice top to bottom on Cinema Gully, but it stills looks thin.




Close up view of the lower cliff band on Mt Willard’s South Face. number Gullies on the left, Cinema on the right.



Willey’s MF Slide. Looking very icey.


Conditions Report for Jan 24th, 2014

Well, it’s cold. It’s been cold and it’s gonna remain cold. The effects of all this wobbly weather is apparent in the ice around the Mount Washington Valley. In general, here’s what to look out for.

1. Top outs are hollow. Because of the prolonged thaw, and especially the accompanying rain, the tops of many ice climbs are undermined and hollow. Generally, and I mean generally, things have refrozen, but you will be climbing floating ice as you top out many of the area’s ice climbs, especially the major water courses. Look out for some wild looking and sounding ice – dong, dong, dong! Good cramponing skills are huge when the final bulge is delicate. Remember, keep your eyes on your front points as you top out and you’ll be in the right body position to use more feet and less arms – ass out until you can bury your head and see your frontpoints!. Don’t succumb to temptation and sink your tools as far back as you can over the bulge. This is especially important when the final bulge is a floating, water sculpted piece of modern art and there is nothing but rock out where you would otherwise plant a tool!

2. Pillars are under tension. Be wary of pillars that are connected both top and bottom. Ice, like most materials, gets smaller when it gets colder. The ice that formed in the beginning of the week, formed in warmer weather, and formed bigger. Now, since it has gotten really damn cold it is too small for the area it spans –  creating tension. How it all plays out over the next 10 days of prolonged cold I don’t know, but be thoughtful. Just because that pillar felt good on the lead at the end of last February, doesn’t mean it really wants to be climbed this January… but it might. Just err on the side of caution.

3. The ice is hard. A few days ago while climbing ice on Cathedral I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my tools. They just wouldn’t stick. They just kinda bounced despite nice, new sharp picks. A few feet higher I got into some wet, fresh ice and POW! right in there. Ah Ha! This ice is just really, really hard. I’ve worked out a different swing to accomodate the conditions. Here it is:  Swinging harder doesn’t do it. It’s like hand drilling a bolt; you can swing as hard as you like, but a drill bit can only go so far into granite with each blow. Instead you swing a lot and not that hard. I’ve been swinging into this cold ice in a similar manner, planning on three or four 1/2 powered swings to set the pick. Fortunately, when the ice is this strong, you don’t need as much metal in it to get the job done. This may be a hard one to get your head around, but try it out; a few well planned out, softer swings to set the pick to the 2nd or 3rd tooth when you’re encountering a lot of resistance. Also, it’ll mean less fractured ice flying around to mar your pretty face.

On the plus side there is neve all over the place so getting around is a breeze and the ice is here to stay. The bigger flows still have water moving in them, despite the cold, so many of the classics will continue to get fat.

Specifically, I climbed Repentance Wednesday. There is more ice on it than I have ever seen… hmm, tempting. After completing the second pitch pillar I vowed to stay away from it until it warms up. It is alluring, but, now, fractured and spooky. When I lead it it is was down right scary; the pillar fractured at my feet, releasing the aforementioned tension to some degree, but leaving a poorly put together bit of frozen architecture. A party checked it out yesterday, I didn’t get a chance for a debriefing.

Here’s the breakdown:


Goofer‘s looks great and fat taking long screws way down low on the pitch

Super Goofer‘s looks a little funky. Pretty cool really, but not straight forward.

Repentance and Remission are loaded with ice, but be cautious. The pillar on Remission looks great from the ground, but from the side you can see what is really there.

Note the wimpy little point where the Remission pillar touches down in the background. It looks rowdy!

Note the wimpy little point where the Remission pillar touches down in the background. It looks rowdy! That’s the traveling Irishman Brian Seery smiling  on Repentance despite the cold.


























There is loads of ice, and it’s still forming, at the North End of Cathedral. The Thresher Slab climbs are in great shape, as is everything else.


Paul Mascioli climbingThresher Slab on Thursday, Jan 23rd.

..and another one!

What a great start to winter and the New Year. Happy New Year everyone from all of us at Cathedral Mountain Guides!

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…and the conditions are coming right along. Here are a few favorites.


Repentance, Dec. 31st


Repentance, showing a fairly well formed pillar on the second pitch crux, often the key to making the route climbable. Dec. 31st


Remission. The crux pillar coming out of the chimney up high looks pretty good. It is skinney, but looks like it formed in a very climbable way. Ice comes all the way down to where it needs to be, although low down it looks thin, as it often does. Looks good to me! Dec. 31st



Way in the Wilderness on the Painted Wall (ice line left side of buttress). My experience with Way in the Wilderness is this: When I have seen ice all the way to the ground from the road it has been in, but you always have to just walk out there and see! I would imagine it will continue to form even in these cold conditions because it is a major water course. The Painted Wall Icicle looks like it had started to form well, but broke off. It looks like it is reforming, but a big ice roof might make it pretty funky!