Monthly Archives: December 2012

The adventure started early – our 5am drive up the snow covered highway was slippery and slow.   We arrived at the finest Dunkin Donuts in the area and adjusted our strategy. One car left behind as we piled into 4×4’s to continued onward to the Ammonusuc Trailhead. Franconia Notch was icy and covered with drifts of the light snow then the Base Road to Marshfield Station was unplowed. It was exciting to be the first on unplowed roads then untracked mountain trails to climb Mt Washington. The Ammo trail had a foot of new at the start then as we ascended we found about two feet of new snow. We were amazed at the difference a thousand feet can make – truly a winter wonderland.

At treeline the wonderland changed – we layered up and entered the arctic alpine zone.  Wind, ice, driving snows kept us in line and focused. The team followed Alex and we all climbed for 500 feet to the Lake of the Clouds Hut. The hut is closed but is one of the main stopping points on the Ammo climb. We headed for the leeward side to gain a break from the driving winds.

It was time to make a decision!!!

The weather was extreme and the forecast was for much worse to come as the winds were on the increase, temperatures were dropping, and frequent whiteout conditions existed. It was best for our team of climbers to enjoy the Lakes area as our high point and come back another time to climb higher.

After fueling up with drinks, high energy foods, warm gatorade we adjusted face masks and goggles and headed down the Ammo Trail directly into the wind. Frequently we grouped into huddles to check for exposed skin areas. Slowly we descended and entered the tree line area which immediately felt comfortable – like an average winter day.

It was clear to us all that above treeline travel in these conditions was extreme. We descended to enjoy the winter wonderland once again.

Early morning light while breaking the first path up the road.

Adventure seeker Stu enjoying this winter climb.

MMG Guide Bob our Mammut gear specialist.

Learning and practicing Crampon Techniques – The French Step.

Nate and Doug – Southern friends loving this place!


Alex in lead getting his leg workout breaking the trail

Pillows of snow bending over the trees.

Nick, Kevin and Tony taking a break from the slopes to try out mountaineering.

Masked men – full coverage needed for sure.

Rime ice on the brows and face mask.

Thanks to all for this weekend of adventure, excitement and fun.

Art Mooney

Steve organized the first ice climbing trip this season to NH with Mooney Mountain Guides. On board were Steve, Chris, Mark and Adel. Our goal was to climb new terrain on mountains, on snow and ice climbs and of course have a great adventure in New Hampshires White Mountains.

Mt Lafayette is a tough climb, very similar to Mt Washington in distance and elevation gain. Alex and I joined up with the group at the C Man Inn in Plymouth for a quick bite to eat then we quickly headed out to climb. The trail was in good shape despite the recent wash out so the push was on to the summit. Our start time was a bit late and this was the shortest day of the year but if we kept at a solid pace I figured we could summit and make it to the Woodstock Inn for a Happy Hour treat at the end of the day.

Mt Willard was the second peak. This Cleft route involved climbing on ice, snow, and a bit of bushwhacking to gain the summit view of Crawford Notch. The day was crisp and clear – really felt like winter for the first time of the season. The conditions of the snow and ice was good – the route was in shape for our ascent. Today Alex was climbing with Adel and Steve and I were the other team. We climbed the route in stages keeping some friendly chatter with each other on the ascent. The view from the summit was spectacular, looking down the notch towards Mt Willy and Mt Webster

Kinsman’s Ice was our third objective. It was day three and we were in cruised mode today. The team arrived at the base early – just ahead of the crowds. Alex and I roped up and led the two classic center climbs. The fun was on – steep ice, technical moves, a solid  pumpy completion to our Triple Crown!!!

Lafayette approach – The Bridle Path.

Mark suffering on the way to the summit.

On top – cold and windy – time for face protection and goggles.

Morning approach to Mt Willard.

Snot Rocket ready to go.

Steve in the Cleft of Mt Willard.

Kinsman routes – Alex on lead up high (right) and Steve just over the crux (left).

Great weekend. Plenty of physical activities to get the holidays of to a proper start. Thanks to Steve, Chris, Adel, Mark and MMG Guide Alex for all the fun we had climbing on New Hampshires snowy peaks.

Art Moooney

Friday was a rainy day, a very rainy day. Someone informed me that we received an inch of the stuff between 4pm and 5pm! I believe it because as I was in my kitchen cooking dinner on a camp stove in candlelight due to a power outage, I was amazed and appalled by the thunderous impact it had on the roof. “This is supposed to be Winter! What Gives?” Worried about the condition of The Black Dike on Cannon for the next day’s climb, I packed some extra rock gear in case we opted to make a Winter ascent of the Whitney Gilman Ridge instead.

Paul and I arrived at the base of the route before anybody else had. We heard the sound of moving water. In fact the rain had washed out good sized sections of ice. We decided to give it a shot and found it to be safe enough, though it was very drippy and candled. We moved fast on the route to prevent from getting too wet. All in all it was a fun day, but I was praying for colder temps to lock it up for more enjoyable climbing.

Saturday night dipped below freezing up in the hills and I new the previously flowing Black Dike would be in stellar condition. Based on the fact that the ice in the area has been rather lean, Paul and I chose to make another ascent of this magnificent route. True to our predictions, the climb was in awesome shape on that chilly Sunday morning. The snow that had been washed away was replaced but a fresh dusting. We weren’t the first ones there this time so we layered up and waited in the sun.

Thanks Paul for another great weekend together! Have fun in Ouray!

Matt Ritter – Mooney Mountain Guides

Alfonzo says it – get out there and see the conditions first hand. It would have been easier to stay at home today as rain, sleet, warm temps were expected. Matt and I decided late last night to go have a look. We found wintry conditions and some very fine ice and mixed climbing. See the photos of Matt on one of Cannons testpiece routes called Meanstreak. To add Matt chose a nice variation on the top. A route called Pilaf a seldom climbed 5.9 pitch.

Excellent day on the cliff with Matt Ritter.

Matt wrote:

“I have been addicted to winter climbing on Cannon Cliff for a few seasons now. The wallpaper on my laptop and desktop has gone back and forth between a photo from Freddie Wilkinson’s blog highlighting the winter routes Mean Streak, Omega, and Prozac, to more recently, a photo that Bayard Russell posted on his blog after establishing Daedalus with Elliot Gaddy and Minatour with Matt McCormick. Bayard’s photograph shows the full length winter routes gracing the central section of Cannon; The Quartet Ice Hose, Daedalus, Minotaur, Mahoney-Gaddy, Icarus, and The Ghost. These are all inspiring routes put up by inspiring climbers. The “Desktop Wallpaper Technique” is a scientifically proven method to keep the psyche high. It is something you see each day maybe multiple times a day. It is a reminder as you go sport climbing or crack climbing. It keeps one motivated through painful training sessions, and for me, more than anything else it gives me incentive to not give up. Weather I am on that specific climb or another, it helps me to get my mind into a certain zone of calm intensity somewhere between The Incredible Hulk and the Dali Lama. When I am scared and pumped on a mixed climb or a crack climb, sometimes the most nauseating thought is the possibility that I will fall and have to do it all over again. But if I have been looking at that photo for a year or two, I try hard, and sometimes it all comes together. It came together for me the other day. Art and I went out to look at Mean Streak, a tough mixed route first climbed by Will Mayo and Andy Tuthill in 2007. I have been looking at other people’s photos of the route and had wondered about an alternate 2nd pitch which I knew was a crack climb known as Pilaf. So after spending 2 hours piecing together the sustained first pitch I saw Pilaf up there encrusted in a bit of snow. Amidst the Scottish whiteout conditions, I couldn’t resist. We found a splitter crack in a steep smooth wall that would be at home in the middle of any classic Cannon rock climb. Above this we climbed two moderate pitches to the top. This kind of climbing requires a high level of mental and physical toughness. A hard mixed pitch can take one, two, or three hours to lead while the belayer, hopefully in a position where they aren’t being attacked by falling ice or rock, shivers to stay “warm.”  If you aren’t totally psyched, it just isn’t going to happen, but for some folks it’s easy to be psyched for these sufferfests because, Holy Cow is the climbing fun!’           Matt Ritter MMG Guide

Matt – thank you for this awesome day on Cannon. Nice job leading those excellent pitches.

Art Mooney