In The Early Season


What happens when the ice runs out: scratching around on Cathedral Ledge, December 2014.

I never know quite how to approach the early season. One year I started it off with a mellow romp up an area classic – Shoestring Gully – with good friend Elliot Gaddy. Thinking that got me dialed in, I then flung myself at some hard mixed pitch. Whoooa. That kinda backfired. Since then I have tried to take the same tack that I like for climbing trips – hurl myself at something challenging just to get the shakes out. I don’t like having something hanging over my head, best to just deal with it.

With winter climbing there is the added push of the fickle conditions. For our first pitch of this season, Sam Bendroth and I scrapped our way up Karen’s Variation on Cathedral Ledge to get up to some cool looking ice above the Blueberry Terrace. This was Peter Doucette and Ray Rice’s route, Cryo-Kinesis, which they pioneered a few years ago.  Water was moving pretty heavily up there, so, in an act of unprecedented restraint, we decided to come back the next day after it had a chance to build a bit.

Bayard channelling his inner Jedi on the thin-ice start to Cryo-Kinesis.

Bayard channelling his inner Jedi on the thin-ice start to Cryo-Kinesis.

Overnight was too cold for optimal building conditions, but the ice had sured up some. After a morning of work we took the fast track up, hiking to the top of the cliff and then rappelling in. I clipped a nut I had placed the afternoon before, right off the ledge, and started up some thin little ice bubbles. It was…scary, but I managed to find gear and keep myself on the wall – for a while. Lots of awesome climbing culminated in a less-than-shoulder-width-pillar.

Everything went pretty well until I was about to launch into some pumpy, gently overhanging dry-tooling above the pillar. While placing a Camalot, my tool shifted and I went flying – fall #1. Once back in location at the top of the pillar, I tried a straight up version, which resulted in fall #2. Finally, now fully pumped, I saw the obvious line of holds out left. Ahhh.. that was the way, but i was pooped.

Stellar line Ray and Peter! The top out – swinging into sticky yellow overhanging ice – would have made a true send so sweet.


Fall #2. Cathedral’s flawless granite often provides good rock protection, making falls an acceptable risk on high-end terrain.


Alas, the finishing moves are longer and pumper than one would have hoped.

Words by Bayard Russell, images by Freddie Wilkinson, copyright 2014.


New Hampshire Ice Climbing — The Classics from Outdoor Research on Vimeo.

A new Outdoor Research video from a series about the “Classics” from Duct Tape Then Beer, and Fitz Cahall. See more from the series here.

By the way, Dropline was, in fact, renamed for this video..

The Cycle Continues

Spring time can rush pass with so many wonderful days out climbing in near perfect conditions that I can forget about the rest of the world. Right through April, and into May, rock climbing is so fresh, everything, from the warm sun on your arms to the grippy dry air, just feels so good. Routes and areas that may feel worn by October, are old friends and familiar benchmarks to check in with as the world opens up and comes alive.

But the world also catches up with me, maybe it’s the blackflies, the humidity or just the fact that I’ve been a total slackass for two months.

Back down on earth looking around, I can see I’ve got a little catch-up to do, but it was a good run.. I wish I had pictures to share, the camera was in my pack everyday, but as fun as the shots are to have later, simply getting out climbing, and not thinking about anything else, seems to be a necessary part of my yearly mental health schedule. Well I checked that off, time to get back in line.


I’ve got some exciting programs and trips coming up this summer, including two weeks of climbing with a pair of great teenage climbers from Toronto; we’ll be traveling around the area checking out the best we have to offer in New England, hopefully then, a trip to Norway for 10 days of rock climbing out of a boat, sponsored by Outdoor Research and Fjords Norway tourist board (still working out the details on that one, I have my fingers crossed), a few weeks of guiding for the Kismet Rock Foundation, and finally a one year anniversary trip to the Sierras with my wife, Anne, come August.

I have a few weeks in July to still fill in with day guiding in New Hampshire, so if you have any questions you want addressed, if there is something you want to climb, or if you just need a day out of your busy schedule, you can get in touch with me through my guiding website here.


(Anne did take some great shots of our trip to this spring’s New River Rendezvous, have a look here. You’ll note my conspicuos absence; I was laid up with a terrific cold between the clinics I taught. What a great event.)