Now THAT’S Cold and Impending Doom

07 Feb 13
Ice Face

Day four, in the bag. Temperatures sulked in the single-digits all day, but luckily a bit of sun kept us from untying and ending it all.

The clouds rolled in late afternoon, but by then we were on the home stretch and knew the suffering was almost over. We spent day four of our AMGA ice-instructor course on Mount Willard, high above the road in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire. Above you’ll see Silas Rossi swinging his way up the “East Face Slabs,” on the upper tier of Willard. No, he’s not chubby; he’s wearing belay pants and a DAS parka. Yes, it was that cold.

We jumped into more convoluted terrain today, climbing “Hitchcock Gully” up, then doing a pitch on the east face, then descending the gully again. I got to work with Marc Chauvin, which was cool because he’s an alpine instructor/examiner (as well as rock). I down-guided Hitchcock Gully while he gave advice and showed me several cool, new techniques.


Check out this quick, efficient, and safe system for rigging the top of a climb where you’ll be transitioning into a rappel and the belay anchor is far from the edge of the cliff. Chauvin rigged the rap through a tree anchor, then had the candidate rappel to the edge of the cliff, tie figure-8-on-a-bight, then set up his autlocking belay device in the figure-8/master point. Once the climbers arrived at this station, they could immediately move into a belayed rappel.

From that rappel we swapped guiding duties and moved into descending Hitchcock. I took the lead at this point, but rather than pulling and coiling ropes, we just took the end of the rope we’d normally pull, tied clients into the end and I clove-hitched 25 feet from them. I short-roped them down to the rappel anchor while the rope from above simply pulled down and then snaked down the slope while I walked. No wasted time coiling just to uncoil at the rap station. Cool.

Down the gully we worked on short-pitching, belayed downclimbing, and some short-roping. Short-roping is definitely one of the nuanced and tricky skills in the guiding world–always psyched for the practice and feedback.

Meanwhile, “Winter Storm Nemo” is bearing down on the East Coast. They’re forecasting two-plus feet of snow in Boston and up to 15 inches in NYC. It’s going to be carnage. Naturally it’s due to hit within two hours of us being done with the course. I have a flight Saturday afternoon, but as 1000 flights have already been cancelled, I imagine I’m stuck until Sunday. Where that will be exactly, I’m not sure. My buddy wants to try and get to Boston by Friday evening…but the Weather Channel assures us that means certain death or at least humiliating spooning in a frigid Subaru on the shoulder of I-95.

Train Bridge

Well, we survived the cold and hopefully Nemo isn’t as bad as they say. A half day of climbing tomorrow, then course debriefs, and we hit the road. Wish us luck…might be Mad Max out there. I’ll try not to end up slung to the hood of a post-apocalypse hot rod. That’d be poor form, friends.


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