NEClimbs - information for New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont rock and ice climbers
Current conditions in North Conway, NH at 7:00a on 07/01/22 - Temperature: 58.5 °F - Wind speed: 0.0 mph - Wind chill: 58.5 °F - Barometric pressure: 29.912 in - 3 Hour Barometer Trend: Falling Slowly - Humidity: 67 %
BugCON 4: almost too intense for climbing, DEET required
4 out of a possible 5
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January 12, 2005

Hi Folks,

I don't know about you, but most of my climber friends and I have these ongoing "tick lists" that we run all the time. It's so bad that whenever we're out climbing or just talking to the other Valley climbers, in the back of our minds we're always parsing the chit-chat: "Wow, Freddie did Big Science on Tuesday, I've always wanted to get that one, today's Wednesday, I can get out on Friday, it's been cold and the weather report is for cold and cloudy until the weekend, it should still be in by then, I wonder if John can get off work for the day, I better call him now..."

Tuesday afternoon I got a call from Brad White, master climber and part-owner of IMCS in North Conway. In spite of having climbed in the Valley for close to 30 years, he still has one of the biggest tick-lists going. It doesn't matter where we go, he's always pointing out some climb along the way that's on his list. Ever since he went along with me last winter when I ticked off Snot-Rocket, he'd been talking about an ephemeral drool-to-a-drip that comes in on the left side of that same buttress. He'd been eyeing it growing for the past few weeks every time he came through the Notch. The weather prediction for Wednesday was light snow in the morning and temps in the low 30's and so he'd decided both it and he were ready. Time to rock & roll!

He picked me up at 8:30 and after a few short stops for me to snap pictures at Frankenstein, we got up to the top of the Notch. For starters, it was anything but light snow and the temps were far from the low 30's. In fact it more like heavy wind gusts, blowing snow and temps in the low 20's. Shall we say - Full Conditions! I was thankful I'd thrown a balaclava, Gortex jacket and my heavy gloves in the bottom of the pack a few weeks ago. <wry grin>

As we walked down the tracks I was surprised to see a newly erected gate with a prominent STOP sign on it. Apparently this was to keep the snowmobile riders from going any further down the tracks. I was happy to see it there. It's hard to imagine hiking down the tracks with the snowmobiles zipping past.

When we got to Snot Rocket we walked around the left side of the buttress. The ice looked surprisingly good, but we wouldn't be able to tell how the column up on the ledge would be until Brad got up there. We put on crampons and hiked up the slope to the base of the climb. We were sheltered from the wind in the trees but it was still very cold. I had to take off my gloves for a minute to get my harness on and my fingers got instantly numb. Both of us commented how the first time this season that our hands had been that cold. In a very short time we were ready and Brad headed up.

The ice was really thin at the start, but Brad got surprisingly good sticks right away. It made him feel good about the climbing. He got in several short screws as he worked his way up to the ledge and a great nut in the right-hand wall just before he made the move onto the ledge. There were several cracks in the wall and I remembered that Doug Madera, Mark Richie and Mark Wilford had put up a new route on that wall over the Ice Festival weekend last year. As I remember it Doug told me later that they used mark Richie's amazing strength to get the gear in. Then when he came down and the others sent the route.

Brad got to the ledge and hit the pillar. It gave off a hollow sound and some of the ice near the bottom shattered. It wasn't too confidence-inspiring. He poked around and found a good nut and purple Camelot placement in the rock behind the pillar, plus he got a sling on the tree to the left, all together making him somewhat happy. He tapped his way up, dropping off some large chunks of pillar as he went. Of course he didn't put any screws for the 20' of the pillar itself as if it had broken while he was on it, the remains would have surely brought him to the ground with it. Right at the top he paused and got in 2 mediocre screws and one bomber one.

3 more moves and he was in the pucker-brush at the top and off belay. He set up an anchor to a tree up high and lowered himself back down to the lip where he could see me. Now it was my turn... I'd like to say I ran up it, but it definitely took all my focus to get it clean. Between the howling wind, occasional blowing snow and totally numb fingers it was more like work. I must say it was really annoying to have to use my thick gloves with the leashless tool. The handles on the Ergo's are certainly made for thinner gloves like the Ice Flow or BD Mixed gloves. It didn't help my circulation at all.

At the ledge I took out all the gear other than the Camelot, as it was up higher than I could reach. Oh, did I tell you that Brad has about 2 inches on me? <sigh> I tapped my way carefully up the pillar until my waist was just above the cam. I had to very carefully reach around behind the pillar to the rock & take it out, all the while with my leashless tool perched on my shoulder. Brad hollered down that if it fell I would have to finish the climb with one tool. I grinned wryly, knowing full well that wasn't going to happen. At the top of the pillar I could see that it was well cracked up. I took out his 3 screws and took a deep breath, really happy that the thing had held my weight. 3 minutes later I was at the top and we both were happy campers. We picked out 2 trees to rap from and headed down to the tracks. The wind was still howling and the snow blowing when we walked out, but this time it was at our backs and we didn't care. We were really warm with the feeling that we had ticked another climb off the list.

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Have fun and climb safe,

Al Hospers
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire

Tick marks abound, so even the stupid can climb.
Matt Samet
In his preface for the original Rifle guide.
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