I got a call this week from good friend and local guide Matt Shove of Ragged Mountain Guides inviting me up to New Hampshire for some early season ice climbing on Mt Washington. The forecast on the observatory website warned of bone-chilling temperatures well below zero, wind gusts to 130mph and wind chills exceeding 60 below at the summit.
“I’m in!” I was psyched to get first “sticks” of the season before the forecasted rain and holiday busyness set in.
Pinnacle Gully is located on a dark, north-west facing wall of Huntington Ravine. The mountain is famous for some of the worlds worst weather and highest recorded wind speeds. High winds, low visibility, cold temps, fostbite and avalanche are just some of the hazards on a winter ascent. But as I drove north from Connecticut, it looked like we could catch a break in the weather. Skies were clearing and the low snow accumulation totals meant avalanche risk would be virtually non-existent.
When the route came into view we commented that the ice looked a little scrappy and might not be thick enough to accept even short ice screws. Climbing conditions on the route turned out to be pretty good. The climbing was fun and moderate but protection and belay anchors were scarce. Rushing water could be seen and heard just a few inches under the surface. We opted to move quickly and simul-climb the easier sections in search of belays and protected stances. Thin ice meant that loose rocks would fall in the narrow gully.
Pinnacle Gully, Huntington Ravine, Mt Washington
Grade: III WI3
First Ascent: 1930, Scoville & Whittlesey
Temps: 0 to 10 F, wind chill ~30 below
Winds: Gusts to 62mph
Round Trip: 8 miles (approx)
Duration: ~7hrs Pinkham to Pinkham