|Arethusa Falls, up close and personal.|
Last weekend, the Mount
Washington Valley saw its 23rd
annual Ice Fest
As I mentioned in the last blog, this three
day event is hosted by International
Mountain Climbing School
in North Conway
Ice Fest is a celebration of ice climbing, mountaineering, and the ethos
and culture of these pursuits.
festival has been growing since its inception, climbing frozen waterfalls and
craggy mountains can still seem relatively abstract – even to those who are no
stranger to outdoor recreation.
rate, I was able to attend Ice Fest on Friday.
Here’s my story.
I showed up outside International Mountain Equipment
at 8 am.
While IME and IMCS are different entities,
they are run out of the same building because some of the leadership and
personnel are involved with both the shop and the school.
I sat in my car for a while, watching winter
enthusiasts flock toward the doors.
Brightly colored jackets and packs were everywhere.
Eventually, I grabbed my gear and got out of
|Sponsors, demo gear, and a lot of climbing enthusiasts.|
Inside IME, a line was snaking
through the store so people could check in and fill out some paperwork.
After making it through the line, I was
Tables were set up in
a circle on the second floor, each staffed by one of the festival sponsors and
covered with climbing gear.
instructors for the different courses were scattered around the room as
I checked in with my instructor to
get some beta for the day ahead.
suggested I take a lap around to chat with the sponsors and demo some
I saw boots, gloves, helmets, and
everything in between.
, boots from La Sportiva
, ice tools from Black Diamond
, jackets from Mammut
, backpacks from Hyperlite Mountain Gear
…among plenty of other toys.
Plus, TONS OF STICKERS!
really, everyone loves stickers.
I have my own gear, but I decided
to demo a pair of modern ice tools.
just had to provide my name and they were mine for the day.
Before long, everyone in my course was geared
up and ready to go.
We figured out where
we were headed and how best to carpool, and took off around 9 am.
I’ll skip the course itself
for now and describe the rest of my day.
After the course, we got back to IME around 4 pm.
A food truck was stationed outside for
The sponsors were still at
their tables upstairs, collecting demo gear and answering questions.
Before long, IMCS fired up a microphone for a
fun swag dump.
They threw out t-shirts,
, and more.
there were more selective giveaways: to the participant that traveled the
farthest to get to there.
To the most
The two most
enthusiastic people then had a showdown: which could do a classic backpack
the fastest, with a 360 degree spin and 10 pushups while
wearing the coil added for good measure.
That more or less wrapped up the daytime events.
The evening’s entertainment
was a fellow named Nick Bullock
Nick is a
prolific Scottish climber with caustic wit, well-timed colorful language, and a
penchant for telling fantastic stories of things gone wrong.
He explained bivying in a cave halfway up a
monster climb in the Canadian Rockies without a sleeping pad or sleeping
He derisively described his
decades-younger climbing partners and scorned their youthful speed.
He described a grizzly bear
attack – a Smartcar with fur and teeth.
in all, Nick provided many laughs.
Saturday and Sunday saw more
courses, and another presentation on Saturday night.
Although I missed that presentation, a pair
of hardcore ladies named Jewel Lund and Chantal Astorga described successfully
tackling what can only be described as an unimaginably ridiculous route up
|Arethusa Falls Trail|
Okay, now jumping back to the Ice
Last year, I took Ice Climbing for Rock Climbers
was a great introduction.
I had climbed
with friends before, but it was nice to get some formal instruction.
This year, I took it a step further and opted
for the Steep Ice
The Friday course was taught by a fellow
named Bob Baribeau and only had four participants.
The small group made for what felt like a very
personal experience, and the group itself was great too.
Aside from me, there was a former dirtbagger
from South Carolina (very experienced on rock but less so on ice), a biochemist
from Boston (who went to the same college as me and evidently lived a block
away), and an engineer from Sterling Ropes
(one of the companies that helps sponsor
the Ice Fest).
Our group went to
Arethusa Falls, a popular climbing area in Crawford Notch
Arethusa Falls is also a popular destination
for hikers in all seasons.
|Standing on Bemis Brook...|
Being as this is meant to be a
trail conditions blog, here’s the scoop on the Arethusa Falls Trail as of
There is a parking area
right off the road and another one set farther back.
Both are clear, but the far area is a bit
After crossing the railroad tracks and
heading south for a few hundred feet, the trail heads uphill and into the
On the trail itself, there was
generally an inch of powder on top of ice.
would have been useful, but we were all bare booting.
Being involved with trail construction and
maintenance in the warmer months, I tend to notice trail structures when I hike.
There were some nice looking log check steps,
a pair of bridges, and a handful of waterbars (that are working well
The last bit of the trail heads
downhill to the waterfall, 1.4 miles from the parking area.
Arethusa Falls are the tallest non-seasonal
falls in the state at roughly 140 feet – give or take some depending on who you
ask and how they measured it.
are wide too, and impressive in all seasons.
We were greeted by a variety of shades of ice, ranging from blue to gray
The falls were tall, broad,
There were a few holes in the
center, but a variety of routes were possible.
Two groups were already climbing in the center.
Now, onto the climbing. The first time I climbed on ice, my friend
helped me strap on crampons and handed me two ice tools. “Kick kick, swing
“That’s it?" I asked, gawking at her. “That’s my climbing lesson?”
Unsurprisingly, there is much
more to ice climbing than that. And
indeed, last weekend Bob taught us how that method, while simple, is
inefficient and unsustainable for more challenging terrain. I won’t give away too much of the wisdom Bob
imparted – it’s better coming from him or one of the other instructors.
Before getting too close to
the falls and the climbers who were already halfway up, we stopped to don our
helmets, harnesses, and crampons. We
checked and double checked everything – straps, buckles, and the like. Bob set up two top ropes, gave a couple introductory
safety reminders, checked our carabiners and knots, and quietly watched each of
us on our first climb of the day. After
identifying a few common areas of improvement for the four of us, Bob had us do
some training exercises. Among these exercises
were climbs using no ice tools and using only one tool, to emphasize the
importance of good footwork. Bob also
introduced us to ice screws, one of the primary tools for protecting and
anchoring ice climbs. We learned about
the theory behind the screws, identifying locations for screw placement, the
placement procedure, and cleaning them (removing them from the ice). Around midday, it started snowing. Finally!
Although it was relatively warm, probably 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, there
was at least a wintry ambiance. And
indeed, it’s finally feeling like winter around here.
Arethusa Falls Trail for hiking, ice climbing, or anything else is on AMC Map #3 for Crawford Notch and the Sandwich Range. You can find the hike in the AMC White Mountain Guide.
|Tip: if you don't wipe off your camera lens after taking it out of your pocket, you might end up with blurry pictures.|
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please call (603) 466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm. Come spend a weekend at the Joe Dodge Lodge and have adventures in Pinkham Notch!
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Labels: Crawford Notch, Hiking, ice climbing, New Hampshire, Waterfalls, White Mountains