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Guide to Classic New Hampshire Ice Climbs

Ice Climbs Gallery

Climbers living in the Northeast are very fortunate to have so much excellent climbing available to them during the winter months. Whether your goal is to go out and climb steep or low angle waterfall ice or do some winter mountaineering, the Mount Washington Valley and the White Mountain National Forest has an abundance of excellent terrain well-suited to your needs. Beginners and experts alike can find the winter challenge they are looking for. The terrain here ranges from short top-rope problems practically right next to the car to long multi-pitch ice and alpine climbs high up in the mountains and everything in between.

High Up on Mt. WashingtonMount Washington at 6,288 feet is the highest point in the Northeast and has an excellent assortment of ice and alpine climbs within it's ravines. It's normal route to the summit also provides an excellent and challenging introduction to winter climbing. Tuckerman Ravine is a good source of early season ice providing many opportunities for climbing low angle ice often as early as mid November. Once the famous Headwall and surrounding gullies fill in with snow the ravine is an excellent place to go for some moderate alpine snow climbs. These are technical climbs on snow slopes and in gullies and can be as steep as 55 degrees. Huntington Ravine begins with climbs like those in Tuckerman Ravine but then also has a number of climbs which are longer, more difficult and more serious. There's a fine mixture of routes here. Some are all snow, some are ice, some involve some rock and others are a combination of all these. Pinnacle Gully, one of the Northeast's oldest and most sought-after ice climbs, is located here as well as other classic alpine climbs such as Central Gully, Yale Gully, Damnation Gully, and Odell's. It's about a two-hour hike up to the start of the climbs in these two ravines from the AMC's Hut on Route 16 in Pinkham Notch.

Ice ClimbingCrawford Notch, approximately a 30 minute drive from North Conway on Route 302, has an outstanding assortment of ice and alpine routes on both sides of the road and all with very short approaches. Probably the most famous (and therefore most popular) area in the notch is Frankenstein Cliff. Frankenstein has waterfall ice routes ranging from low angle and easy to very steep and difficult. We do a lot of our steep ice climbing courses and guiding here. Classic steep ice climbs at Frankenstein include Standard Route, Pegasus, Dracula, Chia and too many others to mention. The short flat approach along a railroad track and numerous fat ice climbs make this one of the best and most user-friendly places to go ice climbing in the East.

Another place in Crawford Notch where we do a lot of ice climbing is at Willey's Slide. This is a big, wide, low angle ice slope just a short hike uphill from a pullout on Route 302. In midseason the bottom is full of snow giving us a great spot to practice with our ice axes, crampons and to work on snow techniques. Higher up the low angle ice gives us an opportunity to begin working on our ice techniques. A climb from the bottom to the top is pretty exciting with excellent views across to the Webster Cliffs on the other side of the notch. The huge glissade (fancy French word for buttslide) to get back down from the climb can be better than any amusement park ride you've ever been on!  At the head of the notch Mount Willard also has some good ice and alpine routes. Here, Cinema Gully is one of the classics of the area. Finally, the steep gullies along the flank of Mount Webster provide a number of long and excellent alpine snow climbs when they are in shape.

Yale GullyMentioned above are some of the more common areas we visit during the winter. We go to other places as well when the conditions are right and we have a need or desire to go there. Champney Falls is one of these areas. It's a pleasant 45 minute approach from the side of the Kancamagus Highway to this excellent top-rope area. Located in a narrow gorge you have the option of climbing steep ice or steep mixed routes, all of which are easily set up from tree anchors at the top of the gorge. It's an excellent place to get a lot of mileage in on the ice and really hone your technique. The Black Dike on Canon Cliff is a famous ice and mixed route which provides more experienced climbers with a good challenge. Finally, we also make trips up to Lake Willoughby in Vermont. This area has an amazing amount of long steep ice routes towering above Lake Willoughby that will challenge even the best ice climbers. We here in the Northeast have more easily accessible ice in a smaller area than probably any other place in the country. Get out and take advantage of it!

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Chauvin Guides International, P.O. Box 2151, North Conway, NH 03860 Voice: 603-356-8919