New Hampshire Alpine Climbing
As the epicenter for the Northeast’s weather, New Hampshire’s White Mountains are also the epicenter for Northeastern alpine adventures. Which adventure you choose is limited only by what goals you hope to accomplish: building alpine travel and living skills, becoming adept at roped mountain travel, integrating vertical ice climbing into your alpine repertoire, on and on, up and up! Our favorites include some of the classics and some lesser-known but equally appealing options:
The Winter Presidential Traverse—In a word: incomparable. In several words: challenging, inspiring, tough, satisfying…something you should do. An enchainment of the Presidential Range is a true test of one’s mountaineering mettle and the crown jewel of Northeastern mountaineering. This is one of our core climbs. For a more extensive look at the layout and logistics of the climb, click here.
Winter Mount Washington Summit—You’ve heard the stories—that Mount Washington (6288') is “home to the worst weather in the world,” that the wind has hit 238mph and clocks above 100mph pretty regularly, that temperatures below zero are more common than above zero much of the time—now come experience it! Another part of the story that is often left out is that a winter Mount Washington Summit is a truly magnificent experience. Gone are the gads of summertime tourists, replaced by the sound of the wind, brilliant white slopes, and crisp winter air that can provide views stretching to the Atlantic. For a more look at the layout and logistics of the climb, click here.
Huntington Ravine—This huge glacial cirque is ribboned with ice gullies ranging in the WI2-3 range. The tremendous views and often challenging weather make any of these gully climbs a true alpine test and a valuable way to build technical alpine travel skills for larger objectives. And on a really good day, after topping out on the Ravine rim, we may even be able to touch Mount Washington’s summit!
Willey’s Slide—Carved into the southern part of Crawford Notch, Willey’s Slide stretches for up to six pitches of low-angle WI2 travel. The terrain provides a good opportunity for practicing how to use the range of crampon techniques efficiently and how to handle multi-pitch ice belays.
Shoestring Gully—Across from Willey’s Slide sits Shoestring Gully, a perennial winter favorite. Positioned on the flanks of Mount Webster, the Gully is a narrow ribbon of ice etched into a thin rock couloir, spooling up several pitches in its close confines. The top out provides an option for continuing the ice fun or opting to try a challenging mixed rock and ice finish. Whichever route you choose, topping out in the windswept world of Mount Webster makes it clear that the mountain has been climbed, but not conquered.
The Flume and Silver Cascades—When the cold really snaps, Silver and Flume Cascades (WI2-3) freeze over, offering aspiring climbers a range of skills-building options that combine classroom and playground. Steps of vertical ice challenge your ice technique and the snow and ice ramp travel in between provide an opportunity to introduce snow and ice anchors and cover efficient roped travel skills. The journey is made complete when we arrive at the mystical ice cave at the top, filled with ice stalactites, lenses, and other translucent and gleaming jewels.
Oliverian Notch—The sweeping 500’ face of Owl’s Head is broken only by a cleft down the middle. Come winter, that cleft transforms into The Nose (III, WI2-3, M1), a snow, ice, and yes even (this is the Northeast!) bush route up the wall. Scraping your crampons into a thin layer of suspended water, mantling off of a rock ledge, and grabbing the occasional “thank god” stem of brush, The Nose is a true alpine route, testing your whole quiver of climbing skills and demanding a spirit of adventure.
Lincoln-Lafayette Traverse—The Lincoln-Lafayette Traverse is Franconia’s version of the larger Presidential Range’s larger traverse. Doable in only a day, the Traverse begins with an ascent of the Falling Waters trail, typically demanding crampons in the higher sections. Topping out at Little Haystack (4780’), the Traverse then stretches north along a stunning snow and ice capped ridge. Passing by the rocky precipices of Lincoln (5089’), we then head toward the summit of Lafayette (5260’). This traverse of three of the “4000 Footers” in winter is a must-experience for any lover of the winter Whites. Add in a third 4000 Footer, Mt. Liberty (4459’) and you have a day of stunning alpine beauty, achievement, and athleticism (or an optional overnight!).
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