Winter is finally starting to come around now that it is the end of February? Jeeze would have been nice a couple months back. My usual partners were either busy with school or chicken about the weather potentially being rainy for the weekend so I had to resort to someone else to get a climbing fix. Carly has been wanting to go ice climbing for a while and we have a beginner trip planned for the second weekend in March with a few other people. But since the weekend was open we decided to head north. Since I plan to go to North Conway for the other beginner trip I decided it would be good to go to the Adirondacks. After some very last minute planning on Thursday night we solidified our plans to go Friday after work.
The complication to our plan was the first snowfall we have gotten in a while here in the northeast. While it wasn’t supposed to be more than rain in southern CT I woke up to a few inches of heavy stuff on the lawn. Work wore on and finally I got out a little before 4 and headed to Chris’ house to pick up his ice tools for Carly. Speeding home I began packing. Luckily since I’m getting better at packing and we planned to stay in a hotel I was able to get things ready, including food, in a little more than 45 minutes. Zipping off to Carly’s place we were on the road a little before 6pm. …
The snow had stopped many hours earlier and turned to just rain. The rain picked up even more as we got to Hartford and was drenching all the way through to near Albany. In a way I hoped it was snow up in the mountains but if it was it would be a bunch. As it turned out that rain we went through did dump in the higher elevations of VT somewhere around 28″ of awesome powder and made for one of the best skiing weekends period as a few friends told me. For our trip to the Dacks the snow did pick up after a few exits north of Albany. Luckily it wasn’t too bad and we were still able to maintain a good pace to Lake Placid. Once off the highway the roads were snow covered but the Subaru and the new snow tires were awesome.
Rolling into Lake Placid we headed to the place I’ve stayed a few times. It isn’t nice, but it is cheap and that’s my main criterion. Clean and dry are close runners up. Getting there I was surprised at the number of cars in the lot. I was even more surprised when the office was closed and we didn’t have a reservation. We headed back into town and stopped at a few more Mom & Pop places which were also similarly full but closed offices. Begrudgingly we went to the Comfort Inn and forked out $140 for a room. All the other places in town were either booked or not open. While the room included breakfast it was impossible to get enough to make up the difference in price.
Our first order of the day was to get another room and also pick up the rental boots/crampons from the Mountaineer. We decided to stop into the little hostel Tmax & Topos between Lake Placid and Keene. They happened to have a couple beds open so we picked them up since they came to about $31/person.
With boots and crampons in hand we headed towards Cascade Pass. While this notch is usually windy it was very windy on this day. The passing front was pushing a lot of air around and while not that cold (mid 20’s) it was probably about 40 mph in the pass. Not wanting to go to the normal top roping area I’ve been to here we went up to Buster (WI2-3) a little farther left of the Pitchoff Right area. We were the only ones there for most of the time we spent here which was nice, but it was still windy enough that communication was difficult. I gave Carly some pointers and after setting up a TR she made pretty good work of the route at probably a WI2+ grade. After this we alternated and took different routes up the same general flow. I tossed in a couple mixed lines which was quite fun. On one line I was able to just scratch my left pick into a tiny seam while stemming between rock and ice. At the top a crack appeared and I was able to torque my tool in there with surprising effectiveness. I’ll have to seek out some mixed climbing again soon.
After wrapping up Buster we headed left to Sisters Left (WI3+) for some more difficult climbing. While the route is fairly stepped and affords a lot of stemming it is a funky route and was not a gimme. The 90 ft pitch also tested Carly’s strength. I belayed her up from the top and she just unclipped the pro on the way up. She did well considering it was only her second time ice climbing.
We packed up and headed back to the hostel to clean up before getting some food in town. The showers were good and the rooms were clean–and full we would later find out. Chris and I stopped at a brewery restaurant in town last winter and had some good beer so I suggested we try that place. The menu was a little bit more pricey than I would normally spend on a climbing trip but since we already got forked for a hotel room I decided what the heck. It was certainly worth the price though. I got the price fixed option of an appetizer, entry and dessert for $35. I had a trout cheese spread that was very tasty, followed by a 22oz rib eye cooked just right. Carly had seafood wellington which had so much food it didn’t even look like she ate any after she finished. We followed those up with some brownie sundae and a growler of their saison style beer and back to the hostel. The rooms were full when we went to bed and some duelling snoring kept me up for quite a while even with ear plugs in.
Saturday’s snowy windy weather cleared out over night and we woke up to perfectly clear skies and a light breeze. Last year I climbed at the Northface of Pitchoff and had a good time so I thought it might be good to go there and try a little multipitch climbing. We strapped on some snowshoes and headed down the xc ski trail towards the climbs. Just like last year the snow became knee deep very quickly as we veered from the ski trail towards the climbs. The approach actually took twice as long to go the 200 yards from the trail as it did to go the half mile from the car to the beginning of the cliffs.
Finally after much slogging in knee and waist deep snow we got to the base of Arm and Hammer (WI3+) a route I did last year with Mark Sondeen. He had lead the first pitch and me the second shorter pitch. Many people do it as a single pitch but I though that it would be better to break it up since Carly hadn’t multipitch climbed before and it would allow me to keep an eye on her and be in better communication.
As an added twist I decided to do a time lapse of the route. I set up my tripod in a spot away from the debris and programmed the intervelometer to take a picture every 10 seconds for as long as the battery or memory card would last. The result came out great I think. I think the next time I do this I’ll try and get the camera in a better spot with a better perspective and make the file size smaller so I can capture more of the climb. Of course this is hard to do if there is another team waiting for the route, but on this day we were the only ones climbing in this area–at least until the very end of our day.
The route had snow on it in many places which made it difficult to read the ice and find the best placements for feet and picks. Carly had a much easier time as the second though. Speaking of which, she did just fine, no dropped gear at all. She only tapped the first screw on the teeth a couple times before I mentioned it would be better tapping the other end of the screw to get the ice out. Luckily the teeth are mostly unscathed.
After getting to the comfortable belay I headed up the second pitch. Carly again made the second pitch look very comfortableand no falls. Since we had a long drive and all the routes were multipitch in this area I decided we should probably pack up and head out which was much easier than coming in. We butt slid down the whole approach in 1/10 the time it took to get up. A great weekend and I’m looking forward to the beginner weekend in March to show Ben and Tom how to climb some ice.