We spend the beginning of the winter in Franconia, NH. Since we were only going to be there for a short time (6 weeks or so), we thought we could check in into a RV park and manage to live in the bus despite the intense cold. After some searching, we settle into the "Living Water Campground" near Crawford Notch on November 19. They offer a reasonable monthly rate, and even though water sources and restrooms are closed, they advertise 30A electrical plugins, which are essential for survival in cold climates in the middle of winter (solar panels don't do much for you in NH in winter). It doesn't take long after we plug in to realize that the advertised 30A is more like 5A!! We barely have 85V left on the line with nothing but a small heater running (15A). It becomes pretty clear that night that we won't be able to stay here. Without enough power to run two electric heaters and the electrical tape on our water pipes, our pipes will freeze (and we might, too!).
Anything in red on the map below can be "clicked" on for a summary report and related photographs.
We switch to plan B the next day, and start looking for a place to stay. After looking at a variety of options from long term cabin rental at Crawford Notch to a hotel room with kitchenette in Littleton, we luck out: we find an ad for a room for rent in a big house on 88 acres of land, a couples of miles from Franconia, and with amazing views of Cannon Mountain! We meet with our three roommates that evening and move in the next day. We are even able to park the bus right in front of the house. This is particularly convenient, as it keeps us from having to find (and pay for) a storage facility, and allows us to leave most of our gear in the bus, within easy reach.
During the next 6 weeks, we climb at Crawford Notch, Smugglers Notch, Cannon Mountain, and Lake Willoughby. Conditions are really tricky. One day it's below zero (Fahrenheit, or -18°C), windy, and too cold to climb, the next it's 55°F and raining cats and dogs. From late November to mid-December, we climb a grand total of 7 pitches... we climb more than that is a single weekend in South-Western Colorado! Not sure if it's climate change or what, but you need to be more patient than a buddhist monk to climb ice around here! We've stopped counting how many times we packed our gear, drove to one ice area or another, found unclimbable conditions, drove back, and unpacked again. Fortunately, we found a nice indoor gym not too far from here (20 miles), where we spend much time cranking stationary bikes and lifting weights in an attempt to stay in some kind of shape. It doesn't help that we skipped the entire winter season last year (since we were enjoying a bonus summer in NZ and Australia), so we haven't climbed ice in two years. At least, we have a comfortable place to stay, and a fireplace!
Nevertheless, when the conditions are good, New Hampshire and Vermont do offer good ice climbing. Lake Willoughby has the greatest concentration of long ice routes in the US and "The Black Dike" on Cannon Mountain is a true classic. Smugglers Notch also has good routes, with a more alpine feel. Crawford Notch is the most popular ice crag in the Northeast. It offers a good selection of short (1 to 2 pitches) ices routes with easy access. The map above shows all 4 areas.
We will be posting more detailed pages on the climbs we've done in the Northeast later (likely in the fall). It's too warm and sunny right now to think about ice climbing!
Guidebook: "Selected Climbs in The Northeast" by Peter Lewis ans Dave Horowitz has a good selection of ice routes in the area. For an extended visit, purchase the complete guidebook: "An Ice Climber's Guide to Northern New England" by S. Peter Lewis and Rick Wilcox.
|The beautiful house in Franconia where we spent six weeks.|
|Our first ice route in two years! Eric leading "Standard" (2-3p, WI3, Crawford Notch) in late November in rather lean conditions.|
|Jade the cat, enjoying the views at sunrise.|
|Great views of Cannon Mountain from the dining room table.|
|Eric on "Ace of Spades" (2p, WI4), at Franconia Notch, a mere 15 minutes from the house.|
|Mt Pisgah above Lake Willoughby (aka The Lake) has the highest concentration of long ice routes in the US. Great place to be when the conditions are right.|
|Typical Lake Willoughby approach: short, yet treacherous in bad conditions (shallow loose snow is the worst).|
|Eric on "Twenty Below Zero Gully" (2p, WI4+) in early season conditions.|
|Getting back to the car after a day of climbing at The Lake (early season; later, the lake is frozen).|
|Eric shaking it out on the unrelenting "Glass Menagerie" (2p, WI5).|
|Views from high on "Twenty Below Zero Gully" on a pleasant sunny day.|
|Enjoying sunny conditions on "Crazy Diamond" (2p, WI4+).|
|Eric on "Renormalization" on a more typical day at The Lake (snowy and cold).|
|The small farm that we rented during our first visit to The Lake in 2006.|
|Smugglers Notch, in western Vermont, has a surprizingly alpine feel.|
|Eric searching for good ice on "Dave's Snotcicle" (2p, WI4).|
|Views from high in Smugglers Notch.|
|Following pitch 2 of "Dave Snotcicle".|
|Rapping down "Dave Snotcicle".|
|Rest day at home by the fireplace.|
|The Black Dike on Cannon Mountain is a true classic.|
|Eric on pitch 2, just above after the mixed traverse.|
|Signing out after climbing the Black Dike.|
|The health club at Loon Mountain in Lincoln where we spent lots of time during bad conditions.|
Ice Climbing in New Hampshire and Vermont