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climberism JANUARY 2014 | ISSUE #20

MOUNT

WASHINGTON Ascents | Weather | Accidents

THE NORTHEAST CLIMBING MAGAZINE


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Trevor Hobbs makes a dash up (and down) the Beckey-Chouinard route. The Bugaboos, Canada. MIKEY SCHAEFER Š 2014 Patagonia, Inc.


Contents JANUARY | 2014

8 10 14 16 24 30 33

EDITOR’S NOTE // Facing Fear By David Crothers NORTHEAST NEWSWIRE // LOCAL LEGEND // Matt McCormick By David Crothers FEATURE // Mount Washington By David Crothers & Shey Kiester FEATURE // Harvard Cabin By Brian Fencil Focused // Image Gallery TECH TIP // When to Clip Direct By Kel Rossiter

Brendan O’Brien following the second pitch of Three Sheets to the Wind (WI4) in Smugglers’ Notch, Vt.

[Photo] David Crothers

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InternatIonal MountaIn ClIMbIng SChool’S 21St annual

MOUNT WASHINGTON VALLEY

ICE FESTIVAL

Jan 31-Feb 2, 2014

www.mwv-icefest.com 603-356-7064

north Conway, nh


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EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

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ON THE COVER: Ryan Stefiuk working his way up Skywalker (M6+), just to the right of Pinnacle Gully (WI3) on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. [Photo] Erik Eisele Most of the activities depicted in this magazine carry significant amounts of risk with the potential for serious injury or death. We do not recommend you try or participate in any of the activities depicted within this publication. Seek professional guidance or help from someone of expertise. You assume all risks associated with your decision. Copyright Climberism. All Rights Reserved. No material in this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent.

Contributors Ryan Stefiuk is a climbing guide residing in Northampton, Massachusetts. The consumate tinkerer and gearhead, Ryan can be found tweaking websites, Android devices, and climbing gear in his spare time. He is the owner of Valley Vertical Adventures and blogs regularly at bigfootmountainguides.com

Before he had spent a rain-soaked spring in Vermont, Taylor VanRoekel lovingly considered New England to be some sort of Shangri-La. Wide-eyed and hopeful, he moved to the Green Mountains in the summer of ’12 with a car full of skis and shelves. Three jobs and four Craigslist rentals later, he can still be found hoofing around north of I-89 with his friends who sometimes call him to go rock climbing.

An Unknown climber takes a break midway up Chapel Pond Slabs (WI2+) in New York’s Adirondacks. This ice climb, albeit relatively moderate, is one hell of a calf workout. First ascentionists Jim Goodwin and Bob Notman climbed the slab in 1935 by chopping steps the entire way with no pitons or ice screws for protection. [Photo] Nathan Vince

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[Photo] Tim Farr

EDITOR’S NOTE // FACING FEAR

I AM MID-PITCH, FEAR SEEPING THROUGH MY BODY. My calves and forearms are on fire halfway up the second pitch of Ragnarock (WI4+ M5) in Smugglers’ Notch, Vt. Looking up, the terrain seems easy and straightforward—it looks like it should even take gear well. But it doesn’t. A blue Camalot down low is the only thing I placed that could hold a fall, but I am too far above it now for it to stop me from hitting the ledge below. I try placing a nut in some kitty litter, but it explodes when I yank on it and the ice is too thin to get purchase with my ice tools and crampons.

Standing at the belay, the wind picks up and spindrift find its way down my shirt, giving me a chill which only adds to my feeling of failure. It’s such an overwhelming emotion. My ego starts beating its chest and I consider giving it another go, but I know it isn’t going to happen. I climb back up, pull the gear and we rap off. -------------

Finally finding a good stance, I rest and shake out. I have dreamed about climbing Ragnarock for years, staring up at it like a crown jewel I couldn’t wait to pocket. And now here I am, blowing my chance.

Fear is something we all deal with in our own way. A friend of mine—a big dude that could crush me with his hands—yells and runs away when he sees a snake. I try and keep myself calm and composed while I climb, but my mind is often screaming in fear. I try and take deep breaths and pause to collect myself.

I shift my weight from crampon to crampon to relieve the burn in my calves and look below me. Tim Farr is at the belay, yelling up encouraging remarks. I can’t bail, I say to myself. I’ve got to find a way through this. What’s Tim going to think? Will he climb with me again? It’s only our second time climbing together and all I can think about is failing in front of him.

It seems embarrassing to compare my failed attempt to Bouchard and Zajchowski’s success. Getting shutdown on a route I’ve wanted to attempt for years feels humbling, but part of me believes it’s good to be humbled from time to time. It gives you a reason to stay motivated. Sometimes, embracing your moments of failure helps to fortify you, allowing you to come back when you’re stronger, mentally and physically.

I get angry with myself and desperately begin searching for something that will hold my tools. I need to get above the rocky bulge that stands between me and solid ground. As I scratch my tools against the rock, brushing away snow, I find nothing more than empty slab and ice too thin for purchase. Furious with myself and the conditions, I back off and down climb.

Two weeks after my failed attempt on Ragnarock, I went back and fired the pitch. I knew the moves, the placements, but most importantly, I knew that I couldn’t let my fear be my defeat. There was a bit more ice to get some purchase while climbing and once I reached the rocky bulge, I commited. A couple easy, but mentally jarring moves later I was on good ice, running up to the next belay.

Immediately, my mind switches from fear to disappointment. I think of John Bouchard and Steve Zajchowski climbing the same route in 1975 with straight-shaft ice axes in hand and leather strap-on crampons on their feet. Mark Twight would listen to music on his solos, get into a rhythm and commit—fully. Committing fully is hard for me now—I relive falling. In 2011 while climbing Katahdin in Maine, a refrigerator-sized came tumbling down on my foot, leaving it in permanent pain with hardware, screws and a hell of a scar.

Once back on the ground, I could breathe easier and as my partner and I headed back over The Notch, I gave Ragnarock a bright smile, walking away without saying goodbye. I knew I would be back.

“You can’t think about that stuff,” Tim says. “You’ve got to block that stuff out.”

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------------How do you face your fears? Do you embrace them and tackle them headfirst? Send a letter to david@climberism.com. I am curious to know what gets you to the top of your pitches and what inspires you to keep moving.


NORTHEAST NEWSWIRE NEW ROUTES, YOU’RE CLIMBING ON THIN ICE, AND CHECK THE AVY CONDITIONS!

TWO LUCKY HIKERS SURVIVE AVALANCHE ON MOUNT WASHINGTON

[Photo] Mark Meschinelli

IAN OSTEYEE ADDS NEW TESTPIECE ON POKE-O-MOONSHINE IN THE ADIRONDACKS The volatile weather in New York’s Adirondacks this season has been creating some interesting ice. On December 27, Ian Osteyee and Mark Meschinelli encountered very rare conditions that allowed for a thin, runout, first ascent. They started the day with “fun, sticky ice” on Stingray (WI5+) on Poke-O-Moonshine. While rappelling, Osteyee gave another look at a much thinner smear to their left. From the Stingray Ledge, Osteyee tested the ice. “I went up a little just to see how it would climb—that’s how you trick yourself, because you know you can’t come back down,” Osteyee said. He climbed 50 feet of very thin ice above the ledge to an overlap, hoping to place a small TCU, but he found the blue cam he brought to be useless. He left it and headed to the bolts for the Unforgiven anchor, 100 feet off the ground. “It steepened through a little roof right after the clip, and the climbing was a bit more strenuous, but the ice had gotten a little more inspiring,” Osteyee said. Meshinelli told Osteyee about another bolt 40 feet higher, which Osteyee clipped after some excavating. The ice improved before linking up with Stingray, but it was still too thin to take a 10 centimeter screw. With the anchor close and familiar terrain ahead, Osteyee moved on, high above his gear, to reach the anchor. “Mark and I were both happy, but I think I was happier,” Osteyee said about the ascent.

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Adam Herman and Conor Lodge were descending from the summit of Mount Washington late on December 29 in white-out conditions when they accidentally walked into the Lip above Tuckerman’s Ravine, an avalanche prone area. They then triggered a slide that carried them about 800 feet to the base of the Ravine. Racing adrenaline and cold temperatures kept the two from immediately realizing the extent of their injuries. Herman had broken his back, shoulder and his arm in seven places. Lodge was not carried as far as Herman in the slide but suffered a concussion. They were both lucky, and we give our thanks to the people that helped get Herman and Lodge off the mountain.

BIG BRUISER (WI3, M6/M6+) A few years ago, much of the crux pitch of Grand Contusion (WI3+) fell, and a new line was unearthed. In mid-December, Alden Pellett and Matt McCormick made the first ascent of the new terrain in five short “Ed Webster pitches,” McCormick says. They climbed WI3 ice to the crux, “a quick roof pull to a low angle corner with slopping feet…pretty classic Smugglers’ Notch climbing,” McCormick ads. From there, good hooking led to an icicle and a long ice gully. The two climbers topped out on a turf plateau. “It’s definitely a route that a lot of people could go do. The gear is right there and it is almost always in,” McCormick added.


(603) 986-5614 bayard@cathedralmountainguides.com freddie@cathedralmountainguides.com www.cathedralmountainguides.com


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NORTHEAST NEWSWIRE PATAGONIA IS GOING OFF, BLACK DIAMOND FUELS UP, AND NEW 4X4 SPRINTERS!

NEW BD ICE TOOL COMING At the Bozeman Ice Fest, Black Diamond handed a few of their athletes a new pair of tools they are prototyping. The tool, dubbed The Fuel, seems based on the current Fusion, with a couple of changes to make it perform better on mixed and steep climbs. The Fuel is hammerless which will keep weight down and also affect the tool’s balance, giving it a more forward feel. The spike has also been shortened and there are rumors that it has probably been lightened. It is also speculated that the tool will be released in the fall and will cost about the same as the Fusions (MSRP $279.95). Photo by Colin Haley

HALEY’S NEW ROUTES IN PATAGONIA In the last few years, the austral summer has allowed for epic first ascents and repeats of demanding routes like an ascent of the 29 pitch Pollone Traverse (5.11d), and a repeat of the 1,250 meter El Corazon (5.11b, A4). This year however, weather in Patagonia has been less than inspiring. Brief windows, high winds, lots of precipitation and colder temperatures have been keeping climbers off committing and difficult routes. However, inspired by moderate lines, alpinist Colin Haley has been able to make a few interesting ascents this season. El Lobito (AI4+ M5 A0) In early December, Haley and Sarah Hart climbed a “fun and engaging” gully just left of Aguja Volonqui’s East Ridge. The gully started as steep névé, and the fourth pitch was one of the hardest: funky ice and AI4, M4 climbing over bad gear. “The only ‘low’ point was when the sun would come out…ice would start to fall,” Haley recalled. La SuperWhillans (AI3 M3). In late December, Haley and the famous Rolando Garibotti snuck in a first ascent up a 60 degree ramp on Cerro Marconi Central, a “wild, beautiful and…alpine” peak, Haley said in his blog. One pitch of AI3/M3 climbing brought them to the summit ridge. “In hindsight [the route] would’ve been perfect for relaxed free-soloing,” Haley said.

SPRINTER 4X4 MIGHT MAKE AN AMERICA DEBUT There are rumors that Mercedes will release an all-wheel drive version of their popular Sprinter van in America next year. The Sprinter 4x4 has a push-button all-wheel drive system that splits traction 35/65 between the front and rear axle. It also comes with an extra four inches of ground clearance. The van burns diesel, and has several engine options, ranging from a fuel sipping 2.1 liters and a large 3 liter with nearly 200 horse power. The 4x4 has been selling for about $10,000 more than the twowheel drive version and if it ever is released in the States, buyers can expect a similar markup.

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[Photo] Matt McCormick Collection

I MET MATT MCCORMICK AT PETRA CLIFFS in Burlington, Vermont a few years ago. You’re likely to see his familiar face out climbing with his buddies in North Conway, the Adirondacks and around Vermont. He is one of the most motivated climbers I know and trains hard to climb well. He says he doesn’t have a natural ability to climb hard but he looks pretty natural when he’s getting after it. McCormick has traveled pretty extensively for climbing, but his real passion lies here in the Northeast. I caught up with him to talk mixed climbing, new routing and how he used his dad as a belay slave. 14

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You climbed with Alden Pellett and put up a new route. What was it like? That whole route was Alden’s vision. Even though I’ve lived out here for six years, I haven’t climbed as much in the Notch as I would like to, and I am still getting to know it. To me, that line wasn’t that obvious, but after years of climbing in Smuggs Alden really has an eye for picking these lines out. It ended up being really cool. It used to be Grand Contusion (WI3+), but the route had a massive rock fall and changed the character of the whole area it was in. We climbed in from the left—there is a more direct start to a big, hanging


MATT MCCORMICK // LOCAL LEGEND by David Crothers icicle that is probably do-able. But that day we came in from the side, climbed a little ice pitch and then there was this really cool mixed climbing pitch up this right-facing corner that started with some thin moves in a little overhanging corner. It was classic mixed climbing where the pump comes from having to hang out and find the gear. I don’t think the climbing itself was all that hard, but it was more the fact that you have to scratch around and find gear in weird rock.

really psyched on mixed climbing from the start of the season. I’ve been putting a lot more energy into it than I have in the last couple seasons. I’ve been feeling really good, and climbing more at Snake Mountain—our local mixed crag—and trying a couple of cool things up there. Trying to get out and tick off some of these lines that I’ve had in my head. Nasal Drip in the Notch was super cool to do, because that was one that I had seen right when I first moved here, and I took a while to finally get up and try it.

How did you get into climbing? I got into climbing when I was in high school, when I was 14 or 15. My family used to always go hiking and camping and I went on this trip with some friends in Colorado. We saw some people climbing and I thought it was really cool. I started climbing in the local gym in Boston and the REI near where I grew up had a climbing wall, so my friends and I would go there and climb on it. It progressed to top roping at some of the crags around Boston and in Central Mass. Then, around the same time, I got ice gear. I didn’t have any ice climbing partners so my dad would come along and belay me all day. I used to set up top ropes on all these railroad cuts in Western Mass. and Southern New Hampshire and he used to belay me all day. It’s pretty crazy to think back on these eight-hour belay sessions he used to do.

What about ice and mixed climbing? It was all at the same time. When I first started, I was probably more into ice and mixed climbing than I was rock climbing. I think it’s a little different than a lot of kids now who are starting at that age. I was really inspired by people who were climbing well in all different genres of the sport: alpine, mixed and rock. Now it seems like things are a little more specialized. For one reason or another, right from the start, I was pretty passionate to grow my skills in all aspects of climbing.

Where do you see yourself progressing in mixed climbing this year? Each year my psych for different types of climbing ebbs and flows. This year I was

The time I’ve spent mixed climbing has definitely translated into more confidence on traditionally protected winter routes. Some of my most memorable climbing adventures in the Northeast have been on new trad mixed routes where the outcome was uncertain until the end. Post Nasal Drip (WI4+ M7) is definitely one of the coolest mixed lines I’ve done in the Northeast. It starts on The Snotcicle (WI4+), which, in and of itself, is a beautiful route overlooking the whole Notch. After The Snotcicle, it follows three more challenging mixed pitches traversing out left and culminating in an outrageously exposed final pitch of drytooling. We had tried the first of those three pitches a week prior, but we were unsure whether or not the final two pitches would go. Peter Doucette had an impressive lead through the middle pitch using some thin hooks and unearthing just enough gear to continue. With the generally chossy nature of the schist in Smuggs, we felt fortunate to find a line both protectable by gear and still pumpy and challenging.

not long ago was considered cutting-edge for the sport. I read some trip reports from people that climbed Mean Streak last year and many of them had this idea that the route was beyond their skills and once they got on it they found it wasn’t so bad. I think a large part of that is really mental and that as people perceived limits expand, we’re going to see more and more people pushing the mixed envelope here in New England.

You mentioned Alex Lowe as an inspiration; do you have anyone else you look up to? It’s hard to name one person whom I really looked up to. I have and continue to be inspired by a lot of different people. But it was that type of all-around climber that I grew up looking up to. I went to school in Plymouth, New Hampshire, and Jim Shimberg was a huge influence to me. He used to teach rock climbing at the college when I was there, and he had recently soloed Cannon’s Omega (NEI5+ M6) in New Hampshire. I thought that was super cool, so I signed up for the rock climbing class he was teaching and I thought it was so cool to be in Jim Shimberg’s class. We became really good friends; he took me to Lake Willoughby for the first time. He more or less guided me up the Last Gentleman (WI5). Pretty cool. I used to work at the Rock Barn that he owned there. One year he bought me and a friend a ticket to Yosemite and we all went and climbed Royal Arches (5.10B or 5.7 A0) and Nutcracker (5.8) In a day. That was a huge day for me. He was someone whom I learned a lot from.

Do you think mixed climbing is growing?

Your parents were cool with you climbing?

Oh yeah, I think it is growing exponentially. I think a great example is something like Mean Streak (WI6 M7) on Cannon in New Hampshire, or Diedre (WI5 5.9 M4) on New Hampshire’s Cathedral. When Will Mayo and Andy Tuthill did Mean Streak only just a handful of years ago, it was super cutting-edge. Last year, or the year before, six or eight parties climbed it. There is a trend of more and more people mixed climbing at a pretty high level. There are just a lot of people doing some stuff that

They have always been pretty supportive. My dad used to belay me all day in high school. My mom came once to check it out but she was kind of freaked out. But now she is over it and they are extremely supportive of everything I do. I am pretty fortunate about that.

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[Photo] Ian MacLellan

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MOUNT WASHINGTON A TIMELINE OF ASCENTS, MISHAPS AND WEATHER STATS. by David Crothers and Shey Kiester IT COULD BE ARGUED THAT MOUNT WASHINGTON IS ONE of the wildest places on earth. Since 1849, 135 people have perished on the mountain. Four bodies have never been found. In addition to these harsh numbers, the mountain is certainly considered to have some of the harshest weather patterns on Earth. The average temperature is 27.2°F, the average wind speed is 35 mph and the average annual snowfall is 26 feet. And the highest wind speed ever recorded on Mount Washington? It was measured at 231 mph, and it holds the record for the fastest surface wind speed ever recorded. Because Mount Washington is so accessible—for most Northeast climbers it’s less than a day’s drive—many people underestimate just how harsh the conditions are above tree line. Storms and fog can limit visibility in a matter of minutes, disorienting and sometimes separating climbers from each other. Getting lost high on the mountain can have serious consequences in bad weather. The combination of cold, wet and windy conditions is a recipe for hypothermia. Aside from its ominous weather, Mount Washington has a rich climbing history dating back to the early 1920s when the first ascent of Central Gully was completed. Unfortunately, not much information exists about the Ivy League rivalry that look place in the early days between the Yale Mountaineering Club and the Harvard Mountaineering Club, but when you’re climbing Yale Gully, Harvard Slabs or even staying over night at the Harvard Cabin, you get a sense of competiveness. As the names suggest, many of the early ascents of the gullies completed in Huntington Ravine were completed by students from Harvard and Yale. Today, Mount Washington is a year-round destination for climbers. In honor of this wild place, we put together a timeline of some of the ascents, mishaps and stats that make Mount Washington the place it is.

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ASCENTS

February 23, 1927 | Central Gully (WI1) is the most obvious and least technical route in Huntington Ravine. The first ascentionists, John Holden and Nathaniel Goodrich, led two roped teams up the gully, initiating the first era of ice climbing in the Northeast. At the time, they had cut steps in the steepest ice that had ever been attempted.

March 16, 1929 | Noel E. Odell, Jack Hurd, Robert Underhill and Lincoln O’Brien raised the bar of Northeast ice climbing during the late 20s and 30s by climbing Odell (WI2/3). Noel E. Odell was an Englishman who taught at Harvard University for a brief period of time. He was also well known for being the oxygen officer during George Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s tragic attempt of Mount Everest expedition. Though Odell felt the difficulty of the route wasn’t that of those in he was used to in Europe, locals were blown away.

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Yale Gully | A very cool, long route with variable terrain. Its first ascent went undocumented but was likely completed circa 1930s-1940s. On March 25, 1977, Margaret Snyder Cassidy, Daniel Cassidy and Jim and Mike Snyder were ski touring and planned to descend via Huntington Ravine. The party made it to the lower part of Yale Gully before the first injury. Jim Snyder tried to cross the icy gully, but slipped and fell 200 feet to the bottom. Daniel Cassidy and Mike Snyder then tried to cross in order to rescue their friend. Both slipped and fell to the bottom. After seeing her husband fall, Mrs. Cassidy made an attempt. Her fall was the worst. She ultimately perished during rescue. The others suffered broken bones and bruises.

February 8, 1930 | Almost a year after Odell was established, two inexperienced climbers from Yale, Samuel Scoville and Julian Whittlesey, climbed the infamous Pinnacle Gully (WI3), perplexing many local climbers. Before they completed the route, it had turned around some of the best climbers of the day.


Escape Hatch and South Gully | The Escape Hatch is to the left of South Gully and most commonly used for descending from the Alpine Gardens above. South Gully is not technically hard, but it does have ice to climb. It is also commonly mistaken for the Escape Hatch. First ascents are unknown.

December 1942 | After a brief halt in activity, Maynard Miller and William Latady climbed the short but fierce North Gully (WI3).

January 1943 | Damnation Gully (WI3) was first climbed by Robert Underhill and Lincoln O’Brien in 1929 avoiding the route’s main crux. The two climbers christened the route Nelson Crag. Andrew Kauffman and William Putnam, oblivious of its first ascent 14 years earlier, climbed the route direct and through the crux, renaming it Damnation.

[Photo] David Crothers


WEATHER April 12, 1934 | A wind gust of 231 miles per hour was recorded on the summit. To date, no surface wind speed recorded has exceeded this measurement. During the storm, Observatory attendant Sal Pagliuca recorded in the log book, “I dropped all other activities and concentrated on observations. Everyone in the house was ‘mobilized’ as during a war attack and assigned a job.” Although 1996 Cyclone Olivia’s winds speeds surpassed the 1932 record, no human was present to measure them.

1932 | The Mount Washington Observatory was founded, occupying the summit in order to collect more accurate scientific data. It was built to withstand winds of up to 300 mph.

1968-69 | During the snowiest winter on record, 47 feet of snow fell on the mountain.

[Photo] Ben Dale

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645 Centimeters | The average snowfall seen annually on the summit reaches nearly 31 feet. Snowfall has been recorded in every month of the year. February | The coldest month on the mountain, temperatures average 6°F.

110 Days | On average, winds classified as hurricane force (gusting more than 75 mph) are recorded on the summit 110 days out of the year. From November to April, these hurricane-force winds account for two out of every three days.

-50 °F | Although the lowest temperature ever recorded on the summit is disputed, for 71 hours starting on January 13, 2004, the MWO’s wind chill never rose above -50 °F (-46°C). MWO accepts a January 1934 temperature of -47°F as their lowest on record, but a handwritten entry of -59°F, logged in 1885, is often considered to be the coldest temperature ever documented on the summit.

19 Feet | Because of Mount Washington’s yearround cold temperatures, a permafrost layer on the summit reaches 6 meters deep.

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ACCIDENTS

1982 | Robert Jones suffered a sudden heart attack while hiking the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and died. DEATHS FROM NATURAL CAUSES: 19

1933 | Simon Joseph became separated from his friends while hiking near Lake of the Clouds Hut. Joseph had no food with him and got lost in cold fog and rain. His body was found three days later, a quarter-mile from the Hut. DEATHS FROM EXPOSURE: 30

1961 | 16 year old Betsy Roberts was swept away in Dry River during unusually high levels and drowned. DEATHS FROM DROWNING: 6

[Photo] Ian MacLellan

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1994 | Sarah Nicholson was killed when more than 15 tons of ice fell from the Tuckerman Headwall. She was skiing in the ravine and was struck with a large piece of ice. DEATHS FROM ICE FALLS: 5

1994 | Cheryl Weingarten fell into a crevasse while glissading the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and was instantly killed in the fall. Her body was found the following morning. DEATHS FROM FALLS: 42

1982 | Mountain Rescue Service volunteer Albert Dow was killed in an avalanche below treeline while searching for missing climbers Hugh Herr and Jeff Batzer. DEATHS FROM AVALANCHES: 12

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HARVARD CABIN ~ CELEBRATING ~ 50 YEARS

BY BRIAN FENCIL PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPH BURNING, DAVID LEONARD & ERIC MERIDITH


For the last 50 years, Harvard Cabin has been a Northeast climbing icon— more than just a reprieve for people seeking arctic conditions. Tens of thousands of people have spent a night there, most of them return-

ees who harbor some nostalgia for the drafty windows, dim lighting and warm, welcoming atmosphere below the cold Huntington Ravine. It has been a catalyst for famous climbs, late night banter and many good times.


THE HISTORY OF HARVARD CABIN STARTED 30 years before it was built with Spur Cabin. Recognizing the value of Mount Washington climbing and skiing, Harvard Mountaineering Club (HMC) built the Cabin, on what is now the John Sherburne Ski Trail, in 1932. The cabin was a place for club members to stay, dry ropes and clothes. For the club members, the “comradeship at the cabin [was] probably the most lasting asset of the club” (HMC Journal 1943). After World War II, HMC membership exploded from a handful to over 50 members. For these members, Mount Washington was seen as a “proving ground…a logical stepping stone between Sunday afternoons in Quincy Quarries and expeditions” (HMC Journal, 1943) and trips to Spur Cabin became the club “standard” (HMC 46). On some weeks, the cabin overflowed as more than 30 people stayed in the cabin and in tents outside.

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Through the harsh weather, heavy uses and lack of a caretaker and foundation, the cabin aged poorly and the Forest Service started threatening its demise in the 1940s. The cabin was also blocking development of a ski trail and the Forest Service did not like having a private cabin on public lands. The final blow to the cabin came when the Forest Service designated the Cutler River Drainage, where the cabin sat, as a precious resource. During this time there were also better accommodations below Tuckerman’s Ravine and the club was focusing more on climbing in Huntington Ravine. The club President, Ted Carman, organized the building of a new cabin. He staked out land and got permission from the Forest Service to build it, with a stipulation that it had to be built within a year. Later, Carman learned that the Forest Service and the AMC figured it would be OK to give permission to build it because the monumental task was prob-


but he didn’t have the modern Chouinard axes that would make it possible. He told Wilcox that he wanted to try these new axes and invited him to climb Pinnacle with him and Putnam the next day. Wilcox agreed and the next day he handed over the tools to McCarthy and the three climbed the route without cutting more than a few steps at belays. Each year many people still use Mount Washington as “the stepping stone” (HMC Journal, 1943) between crag climbing and bigger alpine climbs and Harvard Cabin is often a huge resource. Guided groups also use the cabin as a staging area before heading up for a climb, a place to stay during the night and as a landmark during the approach to Huntington. What many people don’t know is that the cabin is open to the public. “There is a real public safety aspect to the cabin,” Rich Palatino, who’s been the cabin’s caretaker for five seasons, says. “That’s the umbrella. That’s why [they] have the permit.” This lack of public awareness has unnecessarily lengthened response time to emergencies. In Palatino’s first season, a climber on Central Gully got into trouble and another climber was sent to get help. Unfortunately, the climber heading down the mountain didn’t know about Harvard Cabin and hiked three miles to Pinkham Notch. Palatino got the call about the climber hours later, when it was already getting dark. Fortunately, the climbers on Central were able to get themselves down safely, and the gully was empty by the time Palatino got there. Several more incidents like this occurred during Palatino’s years at the cabin. For those just passing by, the cabin acts as an information outpost. Each morning, a detailed weather report is posted by the cabin’s caretaker inside and a new avalanche advisory is posted on the nearby board. Also, the Forest Service has integrated Harvard Cabin into its Winter Operating Plan which makes it vital in emergency response and preparedness. Inside the cabin there is also a two-way radio and a script for getting help in case the caretaker is away.

ably beyond the capacity of a group of Harvard undergraduates. Once they got permission, the club asked members for support and within six weeks they raised $1,500, which paid for materials, and hired lumberjacks and woodworkers. The fire road up to the cabin was made, trees were cut for lumber and the cabin was finished in November, 1962. For Carman, the cabin was the start of a long career. He spent many years running a non-profit community development company and is now the owner of a planning and development company in Boston. For others, the cabin has been the start of long and famous climbing careers. In 1970, Jim McCarthy and Will Putnam spotted Rick Wilcox’s new Chouinard ice axes while staying at the cabin, a chance encounter that incited one of the most famous ascents of Mount Washington. At the time, McCarthy was eager to get the first ascent of Pinnacle Gully without chopping steps

Now 50 years old, with an untraceable number of caretakers obsessing over the place, Harvard Cabin is doing much better than its predecessor Spur Cabin. However, many improvements still need to be made. Old, single-pane windows need to be replaced and the cabin’s logs need work this summer. The club is also attempting to get a permit for a solar project that will replace the current gas lights with LED lights that, Palatino says, will mimic the soft-glow of the gas lights. Solar will also make the cabin’s radio more reliable and allow caretakers to recharge headlamps. For five decades the cabin has given climbers a warm place to stay near Mount Washington. On a busy night, drying lines above the fire are full, and stacks of boots encircle the stove. People cook as steam fills the windows and they talk about the day. These years of use have given the cabin a “rich, amazing, vibrant history,” Palatino says. And with the help of obsessive caretakers and volunteers, the cabin will be around for many more.

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STAYING AT HARVARD CABIN: The AMC has a cabin of the same name located just off Route 16, about 10 miles away from Pinkham Notch. People often get these two cabins confused. The Harvard Cabin below Huntington Ravine is open to the public from December 1 through March 31 each season. Cabin space is reserved on a first-come-first-serve basis. It is $15 a night to stay in the cabin; which has a propane stove, dishes and gas lamps. A wood stove is lit from 4 p.m. to 9

p.m. for the purpose of drying wet gear. If the cabin is full, there is also camping outside the cabin ($10 a night). Campers staying outside need to arrive fully prepared for winter camping, including stove and fuel. For more information, see the Harvard Mountaineering Club website: www.harvardmountaineering.org/cabin.htm


INSIDER TIPS: Bring a pair of booties, preferably ones you can wear in snow. The pit toilet is outside and the floor of the cabin is cold, so you don’t want to walk around barefoot. Don’t forget your toiletries, the outhouse is not stocked.

Pack it in! The cabin already has a stove, pots, pans and dishes, so you won’t be carrying that up the mountain, which means you can eat better than you would if you were tenting it. And don’t forget to pack it out!


FOCUSED PHOTO // BRIAN FENCIL Dave Erbe fighting the cold on Central Gully (WI1) in Huntington Ravine

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PHOTO // TED CARMAN HMC members sporting flannel and chainsaws working on Harvard Cabin in 1962

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// Tech Tip by Kel Rossiter - Adventure Spirit Guides

CLIPPING WHEN DIRECT TO DO IT FLIPPING THROUGH PICTURES OF TRAD climbers getting after it in any climbing magazine, you’ll see an array of approaches when it comes to clipping your gear. A woman crushing her hands into an Indian Creek crack clips directly into her cams, while a fellow at Cannon Cliff pulls a roof with nothing but air and double-length sling underneath him and an alpine climber going au cheval on Mount Stuart’s North Ridge clips short to a tri-cam. With all of this conflicting input, it’s not surprising that a friend of mine who is breaking into trad leading asked what was up with clipping draws. When is the best time to clip, and how?

Clipping direct is also quite useful on traverses. Depending on the situation, I am alternately amused or terrified to see how often people unthinkingly add draws or slings to their traverse pieces, thereby adding several feet to any potential fall they or their second may take. Clipping short won’t eliminate your chances of taking a ride, but it will shorten the length of the fall and it will shorten the distance you’re traveling over the rock. A hint here: Think about the diameter versus the circumference of a circle. This same idea holds true for the person seconding the pitch. Moreover, as traverses don’t generally wander, clipping direct typically won’t add drag.

Speaking broadly, there are two predominant types of draws used in climbing: quick draws and slings. Quick draws are favored by sport climbers, and even many trad rock climbers, for their ease of use. Slings, favored in alpine environments (in fact, they’re sometimes referred to as “alpine draws”), are known for their versatility on meandering trad rock routes where rope drag is a concern. They come in two standard sizes: shoulder length, 60cm draws fit quickly and easily over your shoulder and they can also be doubled-up for convenient storage on your harness: While double length, 120cm draws are a bit more cumbersome, but oh-so-useful for slinging big horns or eliminating rope drag when pulling a corner, going over a roof or putting together a long pitch. So in a nutshell, you’ve got three kinds of draws and two choices: clip direct or clip a draw?

If you’re thinking critically and you’re a fan of Black Diamond C4-style, “syringe trigger” cams, you may now be asking, “If clipping directly can be useful on traverses, how about clipping really directly—straight into a wire loop?” While that’s not verboten, according to Black Diamond it does weaken the holding power of the device by about 2KN. And if you’re that concerned about falling, perhaps you should log added time on some more moderate climbs—a theme which takes us smoothly into the next scenario.

Deciding not to use any draw or sling is one option, and it’s useful in many situations for many different reasons. For starters, clipping directly eliminates a whole step in the clipping sequence, as there’s no need to grab a draw off your harness and then clip it to the pro before clipping your rope. This method is speedy and efficient. But as is often the case in life, saving time in one area can waste it in another. Clipping short frequently tends to increased rope drag as the line zig-zags from piece to piece. Soon, you’ll be doing Olympian-quality squats just to overcome the drag. As a climbing mentor of mine once said, “Never take a shortcut unless you have a lot of time.” Plus, without a draw or a sling to absorb play in the rope as it is carried up the cliff, pieces of pro tend to walk more easily. In the best case scenario, this means your piece is hard to remove. But the worst case scenario involves your piece popping quite easily when you fall onto it. With these considerations in mind, clipping directly is best applied on smooth, steep, straight lines—splitter cracks on desert sandstone or Yosemite-grade granite. And, because stoppers tend to walk more easily than cams and because quickdraws don’t absorb play in the rope as well as slings, clipping quick draws into stoppers is best avoided.

What about clipping directly on your first piece so as to shorten the length of the fall and potentially prevent ground impact? While it is true that clipping directly will reduce your potential fall by about two feet (and there is certainly something to be said for that) speaking more broadly, I’d say that if you’re that concerned about a ground fall, perhaps you need to get more comfortable on climbs a grade lower. The last thing you want is horrific rope drag higher up on a climb as you’re hitting the crux. One important last note about clipping directly: in all of the above scenarios I make reference to clipping a cam. Don’t ever clip directly to nuts, hexes or tri-cams (or ice screws for that matter), as the play in the rope will send those things flying faster than a fat man BASE-jumping in his birthday suit.

BENEFITS OF CLIPPING DIRECT Can be a useful time saver on difficult routes that are generally smooth, steep and straight. Can be useful on traverses to minimize potential fall. Can minimize fall distance and potential ground impact on your first piece—but maybe you should get more solid at the grade first. Should not be done on nuts, hexes, tri-cams or ice screws.

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Issue #20 - Mount Washington  

Issue #20 - Mount Washington

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