Ice climbs take on many different forms. Plastic, concrete, sticky, brittle are just a few of the terms passed around to describe the conditions of the day. Ice conditions vary wildly from one day to the next and this is one of the reasons ice climbing is so captivating for many. One never knows exactly what condition the ice route will be and what type of ice will be found. The winter ice climbs are certainly filled with adventure and surprise.
Ropes are a critical part of the success of a climb. Older thick ropes will easily ice up and become a cable like form once it slides through flowing water or sticky ice. I am very fortunate to be a member of the Mammut Athlete Team and with this I am gifted ropes to put to use in my guide work and climbing days. The pictured above set of ropes is the Mammut Twilight dry ropes. This pair of ropes is extremely light and strong. This pair of 60 meter 7.5 millimeter ropes is one of the strongest in use on the ice today. Add to this the dry treatment and you have a perfect set of ropes to ascend and then descend ice routes of all mediums and lengths.
Twenty Below Zero Gully is a prime example of changing conditions. On the first pitch you may note the deeper blue colored ice on the left. This ice is secure,easy and fast to climb. This ice has a bit a water dripping and flowing over the surface. Just enough to soften the ice for easy sticks with the axe and crampons.
Jerry is climbing pitch two which is widely different from the first pitch. Hard and brittle conditions were found here especially at the exit of the climb. Jerry adjusts his techniques to the different forms of ice he finds on each pitch. Jerry must choose the right spot to place the tool and also apply a lighter force to ensure the ice maintains its form while passing through this section.
Lake Willoughby Vermont is arguably the finest ice area in the northeast. Above is two of the entry ice lines at the lake. This route called Renorm has two lines coming in at Grade 4 and 4+ this year. The right line is dry and brittle and the left soft and drippy.
A prize of a route the Beast at Kinsman Notch NH. The beauty of this lines invites one in for the climb. A steep wall of ice with hollow and candled conditions keep the climbing engaging for the entire pitch.
Jerry shaking out as he works through the Beast. Jerry found this was a pumpy and technical route that required precision placements of the tools and feet. Nice job!!!
Each season beautiful ice routes form up in different ways and the conditions vary so much. It is this that keeps ice climbing on top of my list for favorite activities.