Spring Break 2001

For my spring break, due to my financial and time constraints I decided to go Ice climbing with Robert. We got to know Frankenstein Cliffs very well. They have a very nice, scenic and short approach, making them ideal for quickie ice climbs.

You can see some of them from my Movies Page

Monday March 26th

So on Monday march 26th, I leave my place at 5:30am, to meet up with Robert and Alessandra, who are already there. I get there in time, I walk towards the cliffs, but I do not find Robert. After waiting a while, I check out Dracula, a New England Classic (WI4). I grow a bit impatient, and decide that perhaps Dracula does not look that bad, and that perhaps I might be able to solo-lead it. After 20 minutes, I rack up and get ready for it. Fortunately, some other people showed up, and I decide that is better for them to go ahead of me, and they might as well setup a top rope for me (since solo top roping is way safer than my other idea).

While the other people were climbing, Robert shows up alone. It turns out that the boots did not fit Alessandra so well, so she would not be climbing with us today. I tell Robert that Dracula does not look that bad, and that I would like to give it a try...

So the climb went well, although there were many hard sections. It consists of three sections; the last one being the hardest, because it is fully vertical, and a tiny bit overhang.

After the climb, we setup a top rope on Dracula Right:


Robert at the very beginning.  Notice the nice stemming technique.

On the second thin/narrow step.

Topping out of the second section.  Notice the nice footwork.

Robert is the small spot a little to the left of the center of the picture.

Way up there.  Dracula is the chimney on the left of the rope

Right before topping out, a little scary due to the pendulum fall potential (notice though that his heels are somewhat elevated...)


Tuesday March 27th

We spent the night before at Intervale.  On Tuesday Morning, we had breakfast at "Yesterday's" in Jackson.  They are open everyday 6:15am to 2:00pm, very nice place.  We dropped Alessandra off at the bus station, right on Route 16.  Then headed back for more climbing at Frankenstein Cliffs.  Today it would be Robert's first ice lead.  What better place than standard route (WI3). It all went well, except perhaps he might have been happier if I had a bigger rack (I have 4 big screws, and 2 stubbies).  Next it was my turn, Robert suggested that I lead Standard Left, since the guidebook says it is easier, and I was feeling like leading something easy.  We took a look at it.  It did not seem bad, except perhaps the thin start, and the copious amounts of snow. 

Looking at it did not seem steep, so I decided to have a go at it.  Since Robert was belaying me from snow, there was no where to anchor him, but at the same time, I had plenty of snow to fall on, if I fell near the beginning.  I started, the ice was thin, so I was only able to place a stubby, and could only get my tools in about 1/2 inch or less.  I moved delicately and got over the first bump.  I kept going up, keeping to the right;  the left seem to have more ice, but it was steeper.  At one point, the ice was very crappy, but I would be safe if I could only reach those scrubs to my left.  In a desperate effort, I manage to hook some twigs (which if I put more than my body weight on them they would break).  Finally another rest. 

Hmm this climb is starting to get scary.  I move a bit more up, and find a curtain which if I could make a hole, I could lasso.  I am down to one screw (a stubby).  I am not able to use the screw effectively to drill a hole. so I end up chopping the hole with my pick.  This takes a lot of time.  Looking up, it seems like I should be there, and looking down, my last screw is WAY down.  And looking around, looks hard, I am starting to rehearse in my mind how would a leader fall look like, the stuff is getting hard, but more importantly thin and crappy ice.  So I decide to commit all the way and backup the lasso with the stubby.  I am out of screws, and out of draws.  There better be a nice big tree up there.  I go for it, move very gently over the thin and crappy ice.  Oops, one more bulge ahead...I must push ahead, is not like I am going to protect it with those famous invisible screws...with a little rush (i.e. adrenaline rush) I make it to the big tree and bring Robert up.  He agrees with me that the climb was scary (and he also calls me insane... how rude).  He leads a traversing pitch to the rap anchor we used earlier today.

We depart for Huntington Ravine, since the plans calls for climbing the gullies in the next few days.  We stop at a local pizza shop (which was very good) on the way out.  The rational is that we'll be eating raman for the next few days.  The hike up to the Harvard Cabin was uneventful, except for the fact that the snow was PERFECT for sledding... We curse Mickey Pooh for needing and taking the sleds, we hope that he uses them.  The hike takes one and a half hours.  I taking the advice of Mark Twight, have started going very light.  After splitting the group gear mostly equal (at most 2 or 3 lbs towards Robert), we weight our packs: mine weights 45 lbs (and I am carrying 15lbs in ropes (2 doubles)), Robert's weights 65 lbs.  I was saving weight by carrying a bivy sack, a 35F sleeping bag, a smaller summer pack (3300).  What is interesting is that Robert is in such good shape, that his heart rate while hiking up, both at the same speed, was pretty much similar to mine. 

We got to the cabin at 8pm, socialized for a bit with the caretaker (Tim), a guest (Adrian?) and Jed, a skier from Middlebury.  We set up camp, after clearing lots of snow, and soon went to bed.

Wednesday March 28th.

 In the morning the alarm waked us up at 6am.  As it rang, we could hear the howling winds outside, and noticed a couple new inches of snow on the ground.  Robert was not really getting up, so I decided to sleep in.  Later he confessed, that just imagining the winds up there at the gullies, it was unlikely that we would be going up.  At 9am, he went up to find the avalanche report.  The avalanche conditions went up from Low to Moderate.  Visibility was down to 100feet, and there were 60MPH gusts up at the summit.  Not the conditions to be climbing in.  We walked up to the Ravine to check out the avalanche debris from the "once in a hundred years avalanche" that occurred the previous Saturday.  It took about 30-40 minutes to walk up to the Ravine.  The condition of the Ravine was totally transformed.  There was snow all the way to the fan.  The bushwack one does to get to the fan no longer existed.  The first aid cache, which is pretty far from the ravine proper was moved 20 feet or so.  We met a handful of people.  Half were sane, and were just looking around, having already postponed their climbing plans, and another half, who were still planning to climb in those conditions...

We returned, packed up our stuffs, and headed down.  The ravines would have to be done another time, or next year.  In order not to take too many losses, we decide to go back to Frankenstein Cliffs for a bit more climbing, before heading back to Boston.  Robert, with his new fondness of leading, decided to lead Smear WI3+.  He even got to use lassos for protection.  This time, he made a much more planned use of the ice screws, saving the good ones for last, and using them all (it turns out that he still had an ice screw left on his harness last time he lead, having to run out his last section unnecessarily).  Afterwards, we just top roped the line left of smear, and then went home.


The last three photos are credit of NEIce.com