Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ice Fest Season

That's me trying to fight off a deep pump. I just barely
managed to win; only on a technicality, and by time.

Two of Northeast's strongest, Josh Worley and Matty McCormick, threw one hell of a party up in Burlington, setting a great route for the Smuggs Ice Bash's first ever drytooling comp sponsored by Alpinist Magazine.

This young buck hadn't even ice climbed before,
he's just strong as an ox and almost won.

The stinger was after a bunch of steepness, trying to hang on while the log you were into, with your leg slung over your arm, just swung back and forth. Petra Cliffs climbing gym was a great site, with a perfectly set-up lead cave and a good and rowdy local crowd.

Only in Vermont.
Ivan Tighe is second from the right, he
put in probably the best performance, but
ultimately got docked for missing a clip.

The next day down in Woodstock, New Hampshire...

Congrats to the VICE Fest (Vertical Ice Climbing Enthusiast) crew for putting together a great event that got dozens of Tufts University folks out for their first taste of ice climbing. This is their second year running the VICE Fest, they were able to get about 80 people out climbing in 5 different area in NH last Saturday, and they still had a waiting list! The apres climbing festivities were a blast, they had me give a presentation about the winter climbing scene in the Northeast to the most receptive audience you could ever hope for, which was followed by a pull up contest, constantly broken up by spontaneous dancing and a gear raffle including donations from Outdoor Research. The psyche level was high.

Thanks to my wife Anne Skidmore for the photos, visit here website

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Endangered Species

When Matt McCormick, Matt Horner and I went to Poke-O-Moonshine on the Friday before the Mountain Fest, there were a couple of things that we did do, and a couple of things that we didn't do; here's the deal.

We did climb the corner system that is the first part of Gorrillas in the Mist. The ice was formed right of Gorillas in a beautiful, narrow and thin streak. We climbed it for two pitches, one of which being the most intense lead I have ever had, and then belayed. The ice continued above, but "dead ended" below an awesome roof. We took a right from the belay and climbed up into a dihedral, and around that roof, to a good ledge, and rapped off a tree.

We did not do the third ascent of Gorrilas, or even the third ascent of the "big wall" section of Poko. We rapped a pitch below the cliff top, and that pitch would not have been trivial.

Matt, Matt and I all feel good about what we did. Our climb felt complete enough and significant enough to warrent a name, at least as a variation. We climbed some really beautiful pitches, ones that you don't get many chances in life to climb, but there is room for improvement. There is potentially some really bad-ass looking climbing above our second pitch for a complete and really hard route. Where we decided to rap was an obvious break, the terrain above looked slow and time consuming and we decided to head down and proceed with the Mountain Fest festivities, instead of scrapping our way around another roof, in the dark, with one headlight.

I have read a little bit about our ascent online and it seems like there is a bit of confusion about it. I just want to make sure we are getting credit for what we did do, not what we didn't.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hanging Gardens

Its like the North End of Cathedral, but tilted up side down. They are both on the far right, in shady little, protected nooks that you have to walk right past on your way down from most routes at the crag. As a guide who spends a lot of his winter days cragging on the world class ice at Frankenstein, you tend to know know the conditions at the Hanging Gardens intimately; seeing the wild daggers and pillars that form here after every trip up Standard or Dracula.

I've been busy guiding over the past two weeks, and have been watching this one pillar grow, and grow and... It just looks really cool, coming out of a Jared Ogden route called Something About You Makes Me Wild, begging for an ascent that ended on a massive free hanger on the top of Joe Josephson's hard classic, Within Reason.

My wife Anne is making a short film with local ice climber, alpinist and all around great guy, Kevin Mahoney. Kevin keeps pulling the right size straw when it comes time to leading the goods this season, the next time I loose rock paper scissors I'm gonna have to throw some elbows and grab the rack first and go!

Anyway, courtesy of Anne Skidmore Photography, here are some stills pulled from yesterday's footage. Enjoy! See more of Anne's outdoor photography at and

It's all Coming Back Around, Sort of..

Not quite sure how, but all the ice I've seen over the past week up in Crawford Notch has come back around. All the usual stuff is good to go at Frankenstein, including most of the sunny and high water volume routes routes in the amphitheater that got really hammered over the New Year (with the exception of the regular, pillar finish on Pegasus). This past Sunday, I went into the amphitheater for the first time since the melt out with a couple of great clients and did the direct finish to Chia, which I was pleased to find in great condition; including a newly reattached top out. Chia had looked pretty bad since those warm, muddy days around the 1st of the month.

Everything at Texaco, from the amphitheater over to Embargo is growing, something I just can't quite account for because the dry ground doesn't look like it should be capable of feeding anything other than squirrels and turkeys. I have heard from north country local, Paul Cormier, a reliable source if there ever was one, that things were looking really good up in Grafton Notch as well. Lake Willoughby looks to be pretty fat from some photos posted on NEIce recently, so it seems that things are looking good, you just have to get into, or north of, the mountains to enjoy it. Cathedral Ledge is pretty bleak, with the exception of the North End, which can somehow hold ice in it's shadey grip through any mid-winter thaw, and often later than I would like into the spring.

We have up tp 8" of snow forecasted for the valleys in NH on Wednesday, more in the mountains, followed by good, cold temps; so I see a good outlook for continued ice climbing conditions' improvements. Great news, I would love to get some climbing in at Cathedral.

This just in: Eric McCallister, of McCallister Photo, reported doing Remission on Cathedral Ledge this past weekend with Jim Ewing and found it "surprisingly good and wet". He also mentioned that Repentance was not in good shape, calling it, "brittle", "dry" and making it sound scary, a conclusion I have heard repeated a few times in the last few weeks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Use Your Beater Crampons This Week

I hope somebody out there has been climbing. Between Christmas traveling and some great friends' wedding, Janet Bergman's and Freddie Wilkinson's, I'm feeling like a slob and I'm wishing for snow.

It's a little grim in the NH mountains right now, I'd post a picture but my camera got wrecked at Freddie's bachelor party. The ice got pretty hammered over the mini-mud season that just passed, and it must have rained up in the notches cause the ground is brown. What ice is left though is coming back around and the water seems to still be running. Much of the ice that looks bad has rebonded to the wall since it cooled down. It's 17 degrees in North Conway this morning with mountain snow in the forecast for today and tomorrow. Temps forecasted to be in the upper 20's during the day and the teens at night will make for a good temperature swing to keep the ice growing, just as long as we can keep pulling moisture out of the dry ground.

There's ice to climb, just be careful getting around on the frozen gravel with all those leaves stuck to your crampons!