Monday, March 24, 2014

Late Season Ice

For the past few trips, I've been climbing at the Hatchery... but decided to give it a rest given the recent access concerns (which are now thankfully solved). A week or two of reduced pressure there may help the situation further.  

Sonia and I decided to gamble on the conditions at Mt. Misery. We knew that it was likely to be mostly sun-baked and rotten, but it's been cold enough at night still to have hope. 

Before talking about the ice I'll mention the scene that greeted us. Upon dropping our packs and making our way to the anchor trees we found a scene of harsh natural selection.  A deer had been cornered at the edge of the cliff by coyotes and was freshly torn apart a few hours before we arrived. Not much of it left to look at... a bit of fur, part of a rib-cage and spinal column, and most of the lower guts. You are going to go right through it if you want to top-rope there for now. I tried my best to get Sonia to pose for a selfie with it... she was game right up until we found the cute little hooves.  Too bad.  

Not your typical scene!
The ice was rotten, but stable and full. We top-roped a few pitches and one was lead at the upper tier. Screws were marginal and took a bit of time to remove the bad surface ice. The melt-patter has actually left most of what's left in steeper conditions than normal... and very fun. The ice has the consistency of dense hard Styrofoam... and every swing is a guaranteed stick! I think it will survive until next weekend! 
Late season ice

Baked but full conditions.
I also realized the best part about late-season ice isn't the hero texture. When it's early-mid season my ethic is to leave daggers and overhangs alone. They are forming... and may yet touch down for someone to enjoy. During the late season that ethic goes away and I go out of my way to smash, bash, and drop anything that will make a big crash. Makes me think there should be a date on the calendar around March 15th for this. Fuck ice ethics... Super fun! 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ice Hub

Yesterday Dom and I got out for a day of ice at the Hatchery.  As I said last time, this is a 3-star ice crag. It will prove to have some of the best late-season ice in N.B... that's my prediction. Yesterday's temperature called for +6 degrees and full sun. The 48 hours before that were all above zero as well with some rain reported. A spell like this would seriously bake any ice in the Welsford valley or the coast but the Hatchery had actually put on girth to it's already fat ice.

The ice cave behind the first pillar is rapidly shutting itself in. It may be blocked in the next week. 
Having a 60m rope and being out of shape we were definitely a bit limited. I led the long WI3 Standard Wall which proved to be a rope stretcher. Nice pitch. I also picked the weakness and led the WI3+ variation of Le Mur Des Barbots. This puts you in excellent position to top-rope any number of grade 4 and 4+ lines if you don't feel up to leading them. Some are strait-shots while others offer interesting stemming.  The variety, length, and accessibility of this place is great.

We did find that the heavy snow that fell the week before had covered many of the slabby sections. Some of it had clearly sloughed off into the gully in mini-avalanches. I'd say the snow in spots was 10'-12' deeper than it was 2 weeks ago. A person caught under it would be in trouble. It also made possible for us to cut off about 10m from our climbs making them more feasible 60m rope. Simply scramble a short snow-slope and build a belay anchor on the first ice you find. Voila:

Don't trust v-threads? Set one... weight it... then start chipping away ice with a tool. You will surprise yourself.
Between the Hatchery, the Aquarium, Glebe, Parlee, Hullhomes, Truancy, and the coastal ice ranging from Quaco to Walton Glen I figure Sussex could market itself as a destination-quality ice hub. There is easy ice with short approaches, long and committing ice, and everything in-between. A guiding business centered in Sussex would be sustainable. I'd pay for a snow-mobile shuttle ride into Parlee or Walton Glen. Add dependable ice to the possibility of other winter adventure sports in the area and I think it's a winning equation. Too bad nobody local to Sussex really is aware of what they've got. Would be nice to showcase non-consumptive uses of the landscape in the area and set a model for other communities like Welsford. What do you think?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Ice - The Hatchery

I need to write about The Hatchery. Believe the hype.

Last Sunday I agreed to help the Rock & Ice club with their annual ice school. For several weeks, I'd been hearing rumors and hearsay about a new ice place that boasts huge volume, and the shortest ice approach in N.B. How can this be true? It's generally accepted that southern N.B. is completely tapped for opportunity right? Wrong. Marty T. and Luc G. have thoroughly laid waste to that idea.

Their plan was to make a grand unveiling... and rather than invite the experienced members of N.B.'s ice community, they decided to make it first available to never-climbed-before beginners at ice school. A great opportunity for their $50.

So after a 15 minute and easy hike through the woods east of the Parlee Brook Abby, we turned up a steep ravine and smack... there's the ice. This spot seems to have a perfect mixture of terrain, seepage, shelter from the sun, and cold weather. We walked past deep blue ice from WI2 - WI4+. The variety is excellent: pillars coming over caves, dead-vertical pitches, and long moderates. Marty estimates about 30 independent lines formed this year with a few other very large and very steep smears promising future opportunity. If you subtract the snowfields that are common during most winters at Parlee Brook, I think you'd say that this area about as much ice! It is certainly going to be one of NB's premiere destinations.

Topo can be found here until the new ice guide is compiled. Excellent work on the discovery Marty & Luc!