This year I turned 25 years old, and for my celebration I spent three days from the 13th to the 15th in New Hampshire ice climbing and learning different skills in mountaineering and alpine climbing, with my girlfriend Madison. We hired Matt Shove from Ragged Mountain Guides, we had hire him in the past to teach us how to rig anchors for climbing, and he tagged along on this winter adventure.
On the 12th Madison and I got into our car at 4pm and drove 8.5 hours to North Conway. We arrived at 1am and we had a 830am meet up time with Matt at the local bagel shop.
Day one: We met up with Matt at the bagel shop and headed out to Frankenstein Crag. After a beautiful drive through the White Mountain National Forest, we arrive at a parking lot that was pretty empty. We step out to fresh snow, and thin ice and I realize that we are going to have a hard time walking. We started following Matt into a possible 30 - 50 minute hike through a unbroken trail of snow. There was a beautiful trestle with one railing on the left side that went over this beautiful snow and ice covered valley, it was a little sketchy walking over it. We arrived to a section of the trail with two large rock walls on both sides. After this section, it opened up to beautiful open air and a large drop to our rights, and to our left was ice, a lot of ice that reached up at a decent 60°-70° angle for a maximum of 100ft. Once we had our fill of 'warming up' ( it was at least 20 degrees outside) we moved down the path to what was called The Standard. We have to trek up maybe about 50 feet up some step snow to a large boulder, that to me seemed like a great place to hide in an avalanche. Matt lead the pitch of ice to a cave where there was a rappel set up. I climbed up a route and then quickly came down and instantly when up a different line.
On day 2 we went to a location called Willey's Slide, a multi-pitch climb that involves a 300ft hike through a forest and snow to the base of the Slide. Willey's Slide is named that because it is a solid 700-1000 feet of a steady constant 60°angle, meaning, if you fell you were sliding far and fast. We started our climb up pitch one with no problem. Pitch two is what really tested Madison. We simal-climbed, meaning we climbed at the same time. Matt had lead pitch two and was top belaying Madison and I. Pitch two was a minimum of maybe 200 feet of ice. Half way up the climb Madison started to cry and have a hard time. She later told us she was feeling the first steps of frostbite. It was a big deal for her because she had experienced the same feeling when she had reached the crater edge on top of Kilimanjaro. Matt had told us right at the beginning of day 1 about how it is important to make sure we are changing our gloves and keeping our hands warm. Madison and I had very good gloves, -20 mittens and 10 degree liners, none of that matters when they get soaked in water. I watched as Madison screamed and cried up the wall of ice, I wanted to help but I knew I couldn't. Madison is a strong woman that will kick and scream to the end, and with me helping it would make it worse. We got to the top and I made the decision that we should turn around so we could be rested for day three and avoid injuries. We were only two pitches from the end.
On day 3 we met at the local bagel shop for one last time. We had decided the day before that we would make an attempt to summit Mt Willard. The weather that morning was beautiful. Crisp, blue skies, and I had on all my layers because I knew it was going to be a cold day. The approach to the mountain was simple, drive to a parking lot, and walk along some train tracks. Then up a small gully of ice and keep trekking, pretty much alpine. Mt Willard was tough but oh so much fun. On pitch 2 I threw my axe into the ice and instantly a gush of water covered my hands. I stared at my gloves and my mind instantly went 'Start moving or you're going to lose your hand!". On pitch 3 the beginning was a straight vertical for 10 feet then a flatter section followed by another 5 feet of vertical. Madison had a hard time, a sketch swing onto the ice and the risk of dropping your gear was not making it better for her. Madison swung her axe in the ice and slipped she was holding on only by one had and had to get back on to the wall, she screamed and cursed her way up the pitch. She did how ever drop her gloves. After 3 pitches of ice climbing and some alpine, we came to a beautiful climber trail through the forest. We came to the end of the trail, and to the summit of Mt Willard. We could see the beautiful snow covered valley for miles and all the surrounding mountains. The best part of the whole trip was, that in order to come down, we followed an established 1.5 mile hiking trail that was flatter then a pancake.
New Hampshire was awesome. Matt Shove was awesome. Ill be back to conquer Mt Washington next winter.
For more information on hiring Matt, check out his website: http://www.raggedmountainguides.com