White Mountain Conditions

All that rain did some good things up in the notches here in NH. The rare formers are super fat, while the more reliable routes at Frankenstein are suffering from too much water, and are undermined by the massive flow. This week’s forecast of moderate temps hovering around the freezing mark will be great for shady routes, especially higher up where there is still some snow on the ground. I wouldn’t expect too much of anything in the sun.

Here are some shots.

What’s Happening

I couldn’t get a good read on what was going on with the ice up in the Notches so Elliot Gaddy and I decided to go check it out, and burn off the previous night’s birthday party haze while we were at it. I hadn’t expected much, but was surprised to see even less; there was almost no substantial ice at Frankenstein. There was snow on the ground, but nothing just south of the Frankenstein turn off. Should have gotten plenty today, though.

Instead we took a run up Shoestring Gully on Mt Webster and had fun swinging the tools into the sticky, fresh stuff. The right had finish, up a three foot wide runnel, was in great shape.

It seems to me that by next weekend there will be plenty to climb in the White Mountains, and judging by some shots of Lake Willoughby I saw today on NEIce it looks like it’ll be good to go in no time.

November Rain

Early season drips on Cannon Cliff.

This is the time of year when climbers go from dismissing horrible weather by saying, “we’ve got the water, now all we need is the cold,” to embracing it as we scramble to find a partner for a last second predawn start in the season’s first sub-freezing temps. With all the holiday obligations we have this time of year, finding the time to get in some early season climbing can be really difficult, especially with the short warning typical of the changing seasons. The reward for the observant and flexible ice climber, though, can be some of the season’s most interesting climbing, right when you’re the least used to it.

Bayard on an unfinished early season stratch-fest on Cannon.

Cannon Cliff is where quite a few seasoned New England climbers’ eyes turn this time of year; waiting for just that sort of weather pattern that disgusts most people, late fall rain. Not just any rain though, the kind that gets followed by a ferocious clearing wind and falling temps. The flash freeze. Cannon gets “locked up” in January’s persistent cold, but in December it is still in transition, and long, hard-to-get-to drips can be the result, dangling up high over some obscure overlap above the Big Wall, off to the side of Omega or over the Old Man’s dog.

Smaller, but subject to the same effects of bad early season weather is the cliff above Greely Ponds in NH’s Mad River Notch; most well known for hosting The Drool of the Beast. It has been a productive, mostly single pitch, Cannon-esque, traditional mixed crag; complete with yellow drippy ice and requisite pin placements. One wall in particular, shown below, now has a couple of interesting routes, put up on the lead, still with a little more potential for bolt-free, back country, mixed routes.

Peter Doucette getting the ball rolling on Doghouse, M7. Visible on the left side of the roofs is the prominent overhanging corner of Kevin Mahoney's Ironclad Reactor, missing it's icicle.

Kevin on the FA of Ironclad Reactor, M7+.

Peter up high on the Doghouse. We finished up the hanging icicle above, a fixed pin now protects those final moves.

Both of these routes, and a third called the Drool of the Bitch, M6+R (Wilkinson/Russell/Mahoney), haven’t seen a second ascent. Probably the same is true of a route or two on the east side of the ponds reportedly established by Joe Terrevechia.


After the early season spasm of winter’s first freezes, the most jaded of ice climbers quietly retire to indoor workouts and plans of trips to the south rock climbing. It is the interesting thin fresh ice that won’t survive January’s cold sublimation that parallels that rare individuals motivation. This recent spate of cold temps has me thinking we’re almost to it’s beginning.