Saturday, January 29, 2011

Return to my old stomping grounds: Smuggler's Notch, VT

It was so great to be back in Vermont today experiencing the ice I learned to climb on! Smuggler's Notch in Northern Vermont is among my favorite places to climb, and has the greatest concentration of alpine-like ice on the East coast. I was lucky to meet up with my long-time climbing partner Frank, and fellow FMG guides Karsten and Lindsay made it up from the Catskills in NY. We were a little worried about the Smugg's Ice Bash festival taking place, so we got up and left the house by 7:15AM. Parking was easy to come by and it only appeared that a couple other parties were heading out. We worked our way to Jeff's Slide, Lindsay taking first lead with Karsten in tow, and myself starting up to their left with Frank belaying.

On Jeffersonville Slide (WI3+) with Frank belaying. Happy to be done freaking out!

Further up Jeff's Slide loving the blue ice hidden under the snow.

I started the day with a little bit of a sketch fest. I chose one of the harder starts available with about fifteen feet of vertical before a bulge. I got up a little over half of that, put in a screw, and started further up. Nearing the bulge I started pumping out big time! I don't know if it was the Fusion tools I was trying out, or the backpack I was climbing with, or just bad technique, but I decided to furiously down-climb to hang on the screw. It was probably a combination of all those things, but poor technique contributed the most. I started up again slightly to the left and finished the rest of the route, taking my time and focusing on my movement. The second pitch was short but fun, and we hiked down to meet back up with Karsten and Lindsay whom finished before us.

Lindsay likes coiling rope!

So do I! I look silly while dancing to keep warm.

We hiked up to ENT gully, looked at the rad mixed line out the overhanging wall to the left, and decided we didn't have the stones to take it on. The gully had a group on it so we went back to the road and continued further into the notch. We were scoping out both walls and spied a couple vertical pillars on the east side of the notch. I think this is called the Playground or something like that. We hiked up an already broken trail and split up between the vertical pillars and a longer flow of WI3 of the left side of the gully. This was a really fun lead for me and I felt really fluid on it. Karsten lead one of the vertical pillars only to find that it was nearly completely detached at the top. Yikes!

Leading the WI3 in the Playground with Frank belaying me below. The background is the other side of the notch some distance away. I love Smuggs!

Karsten, Lindsay, and I left Frank's place early the following morning to drive across the state two hours to Lake Whilloughby. Mt. Pisgah on the east side of the Lake has the hardest ice climbs on the east coast! Super sustained WI5+ routes of 3 pitches and more. We were aiming for a 'rest' day and got on an easier WI4. A great route none-the-less. Sorry no photos, we forgot the camera. I'm inside working all week but can't wait for next weekend when our Fox Mountain Guides NH trip starts. NH ice here we come!

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