What a wild week in New England! My friends Steve and Andrea Charest invited me to speak at their ice climbing festival, the Smuggs Ice Bash, so I decided to do a “Tour de New England,” climbing classic routes across the region before the grand finale at Smuggs.
We started off in New Hampshire with Piolet d’Or winning Alpinist Mark Richey. As we drove into the heart of the Crawford Notch, a cold front set in, solidifying the recent moisture into beautiful sheets of ice, prime for climbing. Day 1 was spent at Frankenstein Cliff, a massive amphitheater filled with classic lines, including our choice routes “Pegasus” and “Smear.”
The next day, feeling warmed up and ambitious, we joined forces with my friend Alden Pellett and headed up to Cannon Cliff despite the frigid forecast to attempt a rarely formed line called “Omega”. After a grueling approach through an icy boulder field, we arrived at the base to hurricane-force winds and frostbite-inducing cold. The three of us have all climbed in some pretty chilly conditions, but decided this was a bit ridiculous, and sacrificed our attempt on Omega to keep our fingers and toes.
After a hasty retreat, we warmed up with tea and a wonderful dinner cooked by Mark’s wife, Teresa. The exquisitely fresh seafood and cozy vibe at the lakeside cabin reminded me of why I love the northeast!
We then headed west to Vermont for another rendezvous with Alden Pellett, meeting in the sub-zero dawn at Lake Willoughby, an ice-climber’s dream destination and Alden’s local crag. As the sun crested the ridge and warmed our backs, Alden and I climbed the 3-pitch “Who’s Who in Outer Space,” an ephemeral, difficult route overlooking the lake and the entire Northeast Kingdom. In an odd coincidence, Mark Richey first climbed the route – his name is on climbs all over the region and world, so it was great to climb one of his masterpieces.
For the last leg of the trip, we drove over to Burlington, encountering an unexpected detour in rural Vermont and passing through some of the quaint villages the area is known for. We met up with Steve and Andrea at their climbing gym, Petra Cliffs, for the festival kickoff party. And, after a bit of schmoozing, we made our way to Jeffersonville, a small town with big ice situated right at the entrance to Smuggler’s Notch. The next morning, we geared up and strode into the Notch with Alden, in search of a rarely formed line called “Ragnarok Direct,” 400 feet of thin, chandelier-like ice high up the canyon walls. After a steep, snow slope approach, we were greeted again by epic winds, but we were in luck: Ragnarok was “in”! After two beautiful, difficult pitches, we decided to call the climb on account of rain, and cruised back down into town for my keynote address.
At a beautiful country barn in Jeffersonville, I delivered my No Barriers message to a crowd of rowdy ice climbers and families from across the region. Folks from past No Barriers trips, Summit attendees, and old climbing friends popped up left and right, giving the evening a special feel. It is rare that I get to sit and chat with such a tight-knit, caring community. Thank you Steve, Andrea, and the Smuggs Team for the invite!