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!