Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ice Fest Round-up!

Post by Josh Wharton on 2/20/08

Finally settling in at home after a few weeks spent traveling and participating in the Ouray, Michigan, and Mt. Washington Valley Ice Festivals. These events are a fun way for me to play an active role in the climbing community by teaching and giving slideshows. They’re also a great way of doing something concrete in return for all the generous support Mammut throws my way. And best of all it’s a great excuse to visit new places, meet new people, and check out climbing areas I might not otherwise visit.

This year the Mt. Washington Valley Ice Festival in northern New Hampshire was far and away the most fun because I was able to spend time with my Dad (I grew up in NH) and do a bunch of climbing! New England has great winter climbing, with big ice routes at Lake Willoughby, cool scrappy mixed climbing at Cannon Cliff, and lots of other great areas scattered all over the place. The traditional mixed climbing is especially good, because most of the crags are granite with natural crack and chimney lines. This makes for lots of great drytooling and fidgeting with gear, which we don’t really get as much in Colorado where most of the best mixed climbing is on relatively chossy rock and often bolt protected.

On the first day of the festival I was free to get out and do some climbing, but unfortunately all of the east coast climbers I know were busy guiding. I decided I couldn’t waste the day and just got out after it on my own. First I checked out the North Conway locals “secret” mixed crag, Trollville. I soloed a few thin ice lines and dropped a rope on one of the harder mixed routes. Feeling a bit silly to be hanging around on a mini-traxion, I decided to pack up and check out the New England classic Repentance at Cathedral ledge (have a photo for you, but still figuring out how to add it). The route looked in decent condition, so I headed up, but dragged a short rope and a couple pieces with me in case things got scary. Luckily things went smoothly and I had a great time. What a cool route! Three hundred feet of steep offwidth and chimney climbing with ice choking the back, little steep pillars towards the top, and a couple of tricky drytooling moves around a chockstone to cap it all off.

The next couple days proved to be just as good as I had some nice folks and talented climbers in my clinics, and we were all able to get in a bunch of pitches. I owe everybody in my clinics many thanks, because I’ve realized that teaching is actually the best way to learn! I think my personal ice and mixed climbing abilities have improved simply through the process of trying to help everyone else learn and master the various techniques. Now that I’m home it’s time to get back in shape after a few weeks of beer, margaritas, cold belays, and hanging on juggy ice tools. I’ve got a sport climbing project at the Fortress, and a few unfinished mixed routes in Rifle Mountain Park that all need some serious attention. And before long I’ll be headed to Alaska to climb in the Kichatnas in April!