Ice Climbing on a Windy Day at Frankenstein Cliffs
Saturday was a beautiful but chilly day up in the mountains! With winds on the rock pile (Mt. Washington) reaching a speedy 148 mph, we were definitely feeling the wind chill all throughout the valley. This is the highest recorded gust in over a decade, and with the temperature being 11 degrees ambient, the wind chill in the valley was frigid hovering around -10 for most of the day. This being said, the skies were clear and the sun was out, yielding a beautiful bluebird day perfect for being outside!
Finding time to get outdoors has been a bit of a challenge for me lately with the stress of grad school constantly looming. I've been so bogged down with studying it's been over a month since I did any hiking! I did ski with friends over MLK weekend, which ended up being some of the best conditions I've seen on the east coast in quite a while. That Sunday there was a massive snowfall, making for some amazing powder on Cannon!
This weekend, my dad and I ended up braving the cold to go ice climbing in Crawford Notch. It was so much fun! My Christmas present to him this year was a guided ice climbing expedition with North Ridge Mountain Guides, a small company based in Twin Mountain. We met our tour guide, Jamie, early and headed out to find some ice!
The original plan was Shoestring Gully off Mt. Webster, but because of the inclement weather we decided to go to Frankenstein Cliffs across the street instead. Shoestring Gully has a longer approach so once you get to the base you're pretty much committed to staying there all day. It's also pretty exposed so it would have been very cold and gusty given the weather. Frankenstein has many different areas to climb and is one of the most popular places to go in the notch. It had lots of routes and pitches so finding one that suits your level of climbing is easy.
We made our way to "Lost in the Woods," a pretty popular area at Frankenstein. It was very busy with a large group of climbers there taking up most of the pitches. We found a quiet spot through the woods to the left of them where there was some ice and got to climbing.
My dad and I are not the most experienced climbers by any means. I've ice climbed a handful of times, and although my dad used to do it all the time with his cousin, it had been a long time since he had done anything like this. Our guide first lead climbed the pitch, showing us how to place screws along the way with me belaying him. He then placed a top rope on a tree so we could climb using that. I then climbed with the top rope and my dad belaying me, taking out his screws as I went.
This was harder than I thought it would be because it was so cold. Although we had a little bit of shelter from the trees around us, the wind was still gusting pretty hard. My dexterity wasn't great because I was shivering and I couldn't feel my fingers, so trying to unscrew everything was a challenge. Once I got all of the screws, I was lowered back down and I belayed my dad climbing the pitch.
After that we took a break to walk up and down the hill a few times to warm up. You know it's cold when you're taking every opportunity to hike up and down just to warm up! Jamie then taught us some other basic skills like using screws to place an anchor in the ice.
Then we went to another area where there were lots of other people climbing. I climbed first and it was pretty difficult. Although the pitch wasn't terribly hard, the wind was making it a challenge. When I was about halfway to the top of the climb, a huge gust of wind came and blew my feet out from under me. Luckily I was able to hang onto my axes and recover after the gust passed.
The first time I went up that route I didn't make it all the way to the top because of the two big bulges near the end. My dad took a turn after that and Jamie gave me some tips to get up and over the tricky area. Instead of reaching really far over to put my axes far into the ledge, he told me to swing a little bit closer to the edge to give myself more leg room to shimmy my way up and over the ledge. The second time I climbed, I made it all the way to the top! It was a great feeling of accomplishment but it was also a little nerve wracking to lower myself back over the edge of the ledge to get back down.
After this last climb we made our way back to the cars because dusk was quickly creeping up on us. Although the weather posed a challenge, it was great to get outside to do some climbing and hang out with my dad! It was a really fun day, and I learned a lot in the process. I can't wait to do some more climbing, and hopefully we can get out there again sometime soon!