Eric, James, Anthony, Kyle
Jan 10/11 2013
11:30pm – 11:30am
~13 pitches (we lost count exactly)
(Written by guest author, Eric)
Friday night Kyle, James, Anthony and I climbed what we think may be the longest ice route in the Whites. And it isn’t in a single guide book. Rain was in the forecast for all day Saturday starting early morning, Sunday we were all leading winter school trips, and Friday was supposed to be rainy. But Friday night appeared to be the calm between two storms, and we were willing to lose a little (or a lot) or sleep for this climb.
We parked just below the cog rail station on the west side of Mt Washington and started hiking up the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail around 11:30pm. After a mile or so we reached gem pool, where the trail starts to climb steeply, and cut left into the main ammonoosuc ravine drainage. The short bushwack was easy and painless.
Anthony rockin the onesie
After following the stream for about 30 minutes we reached the base of the long ice section ahead. Surprisingly, we actually saw two sets of fresh footprints ahead of us, and later learned from neice.com that someone had just climbed the ravine earlier that day, probably also trying to beat the rain.
We climbed as two teams of two, with me leading the Eric+Anthony team and James and Kyle swinging leads on their team. Climbing in the dark was thrilling, especially since we never had any idea what was ahead of us beyond the headlamp’s range. What we found was pitch after pitch of fun moderate ice, with WI3+/- headwalls in almost every ropelength.
The climb was very committing, since rock cliffs guarded the sides of most of the gully and escape could only be done by climbing up or rappelling back down.
Our teams moved very efficiently at about 30 minutes per pitch, and we finished the final steep pitch just at sunrise, and just when the freezing rain started as predicted.
When we packed up the ropes there were still a few more pitches worth of ~WI2 ice ahead, and we decided to solo these to avoid belaying and standing around in the cold rain.
Above the last of the ice we followed the snow-filled top of the gully to the west side trail, and headed down to Lakes of the Clouds. By now it was raining very heavily, and we were all completely drenched. The temperature was just below freezing (the rain was turning to ice), so ideal hypothermia conditions. We took a quick food break at Lakes of the Clouds then continued down the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail, reaching our car just about 12 hours after we’d left.