Headed up to Crawford Notch the weekend of Jan. 21-22. Chris, a new friend from Harvard Cabin, Brian, and me packed into the Subaru and went northward to take advantage of the finally winter conditions in the North Country. Saturday we did Shoestring Gully (WI2) on Mt. Webster. The approach was a bit tedious because of the 8-10″ of super fluffy powder that had fallen a couple days earlier. The climb itself was busy but easy. More of a snow climb than ice for sure. The very soft snow made it a little less exciting than I imagine it could be. Brian’s first wack at alpine style gullies went pretty well. We were a bit slow on belays and could have benefitted from some short roping, but its all part of the learning experience.
Sunday we were more modest in our commitment level. We headed to Frankenstein for a little outdoor ice gym climbing. Normally I’m not a fan of this type of thing in rock, but it is a great way to get stronger on steep ice without having to put yourself at too much risk in the backcountry. We queued up for Standard (WI3+). While waiting our turn we got to chat it up with a nearly 70 year old climber who had more mobility and fitness than I probably do. He even runs marathons. Just picked himself up a girlfriend about his age and his running pace, which he was quite proud of.
At the suggestion of Jack the 70 year old we went passed the cave belay and up the bulges above that to the nice big belay ledge. Pitching it this way made for a long lead, probably 120 ft. I was a little tired at the top but not too bad. A good sign that I’m getting stronger leading ice. I belayed Chris up who made pretty quick work of things. The weather was sunny, though the climb was in the shade. Little to no wind made for a great day. The length of the pitch did have me over gripping a bit and my hands got a little cold, even with my new awesome Black Diamond Enforcer gloves.
I had Chris take over for the belay so I could get a couple shots of Brian up his first long sustained near vertical ice. He did pretty good for his first time out. A couple falls but I think with a little more practice and some sharper picks he’ll be in good shape. Once all up at the belay ledge I was eager to get moving because I had gotten cold belaying. Climbing with three definitely slows things down and on ice that isn’t usually a good thing. I ran up the next pitch which was quite a bit easier and brought up my seconds.
After Standard we decided to set up a couple top ropes just passed the tressle cut, which I think is called the practice slabs. There were anchors and the routes where low angle, perhaps WI2+. I was very glad to see Chris take the sharp end, even on the thin start to one of the routes. I lead the other which had a bit less ice on it than Chris’. We all ran up the ropes to wind out the time we had left. Since the weather was turning for the worse on Monday we decided to head back to CT and not waste a vacation day on crummy weather.