NEClimbs - information for New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont rock and ice climbers
Current conditions in North Conway, NH at 11:59p on 07/04/22 - Temperature: 56.9 °F - Wind speed: 0.0 mph - Wind chill: 56.9 °F - Barometric pressure: 29.982 in - 3 Hour Barometer Trend: Rising Slowly - Humidity: 51 %
BugCON 4: almost too intense for climbing, DEET required
4 out of a possible 5
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January 23, 2020

Hi Folks,

"It's like a seesaw baby..." That song has been going through my head over the past week or so, for good reason. But maybe things are stabilizing a bit. Who knows... This is one of the more topsy turvy winters I can remember. But at least we have had some ice and some snow. And the temps haven't been all that bad.

I got a call from my friend David on Tuesday asking if I was interested in climbing Wednesday. He and our mutual friend Jim were interested in checking out Unicorn, which I've been watching for the past couple of weeks. I didn't have much optimism, but I figured we could go up and have a look-see, and at the very least it would be nice to get out.

They showed up in David's truck at 9:30 and we headed over. I was surprised to see that Cathedral Ledge Road had obviously been plowed all the way down to the gate. Go figure... We gathered our stuff and hiked up to where I normally start the climb, up a corner in between Child's Play and the Scottish gully start to Thresher. You usually scramble up to a ledge at a smallish tree, but there wasn't that much snow so it was pretty tricky going over a couple of large boulders that you usually don't even see! From there I climbed the corner on thin brittle ice. I usually put in a Try-Cam in a crack on the left, but I had forgotten it so I put a sling around a small tree. Usually I continue straight up, but the ice was very thin and up above I could see it was just snow plastered over rock. That wasn't appetizing so I bailed left around a small buttress and continued up to the first ledge and a good sized tree. I brought Jim up and had him belay David while I continued up the little gully to the larger upper ledge. Near the top there is a small rock steep that I've done a hundred times, but it always has a little entertainment value. I hauled up rope and brought up Jim, who then belayed David up.

While this was going on I wandered over left to where the little 5.9 slab is that leads to the upper main Unicorn Ledge. I could get a good view of the main Unicorn corner, the face and the climb Yuki Fujita and I did the FA on many years ago, Broken Pick. The 5.9 slab never has a lot of ice on it, and this time was certainly no different. In fact it was probably as thin as I've ever seen it, other than the FA for Broken Pick. At that time it was verglas and Yuki knocked almost all of it off, leaving me with a fairly desperate follow. [sigh] This time wasn't that bad, but it was probably only 1/3" thick crusty. From the belay tree to the slab you go behind a bunch of large bushes, which are actually your initial protection and this time they were pretty much all of my pro! I got up about 3' and put in a yellow Petzl screw about 1/2 way in, and then up another 3' I slung a fairly worthless icicle. [SHEESH] Then it's 40' of tap-tap on thin crust over granite slab to the big ledge. Fortunately there is the nice 2-bolt anchor for George's route Raising The Roof right there, behind a few drips of ice. I brought up Jim and again he brought up David while I looked around. The face looked impossible, Broken Pick didn't look good, but the Unicorn Corner looked possible.

In the summer you have 30+ feet of blank 5.9 slab climbing to get to the corner, which is the rock route The Liger. I knew there is a bolt on the wall, but it was covered in ice and I couldn't see it. About 15' from the belay the crusty ice/snow turned to snow pasted on rock. I couldn't scratch my way over, and without finding the bolt, I said NO.

Next step was to see if I could get up onto the ledge where the Broken Pick pillar is. The pillar didn't look terrible, but I wasn't sure about getting there. I went over to the left corner where there were come trees and scratched my way up to the second tree. Feeling OK with two slung trees, I decided to see if I could traverse right to the ledge just below the pillar. As it turned out all of what I though was actual ice, was ice covered bushes. None of which was solid enough to hold up to a swing of an ice axe, and hooking just pulled its apart. I could tell that while I COULD get up there, I wasn't sure I could reverse my moves if I couldn't get to the pillar. [SIGH] I REALLY hate to get skunked, but discretion took over and I backed down to the tree and lowered off.

With our 60 meter doubles we were able to rap all the way back to the ground at the base of They Died Laughing. At least it was fun getting out and hopefully it will come in later in ether season. Here's a few pictures:

Things are finally getting packed out. The snowshoers are out as are the snowmobiles, and even the groomers have been out there in places. I looked up Sawyer River Road this morning and it apparently has been groomed for snowmobiles and is packed down. It's my next stop...stay tuned.

Mobile Version Of NEClimbs:
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:

Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.

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Have fun and climb safe,

Al Hospers
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire

I strode among giants, friends tell me now, though at the time I felt more like a misfit associating with oddballs.
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