Northeastern Ice Climbing Guide



The Northeast is rich in ice climbing options.  Rick Wilcox's An Ice Climbers Guide to Northern New England is an excellent resource, but it is out of print and copies are hard to come by.  This online ice climbing guide is an attempt to make information more accessible.  It is a work-in-progress that eventually hopes to provide useful information regarding the most popular ice climbing routes throughout the Northeast; at present, we offer up information about the Frankenstein area in New Hampshire.

You Must Read This Before Proceeding...

This climbing guide is simply one person's views and recollections about various climbs. Memories fade, climbs change, conditions go in and out. Moreover, each climber has her/his own climbing style, quiver of techniques, and tolerance for risk. Therefore, the information presented here is not a substitute for your own personal decision making. Each and every climber must take responsibility for sharing her/his thoughts with the climbing team and that team must take responsibility for the decisions made and the consequences wrought. This is not only the duty of the climber, indeed it is the essence of climbing, its appeal and allure.

Climbing is not unlike many other arenas in which there may exist multiple views on a situation, each perhaps legitimate in its' own way. In reading some of these climb descriptions and some of the advice given, you may find you have different ideas from the ones I disclose. If you have constructive and respectful feedback to provide, I welcome it. If you wish to nitpick or complain, please instead use your time and energy to instead write and post a better free ice guide online for the climbing community.

Climbing is dangerous. Ice climbing is particularly dangerous. Falling, being struck by ice, being punctured by sharp tools, environmental hazards, and avalanche hazards are just a few of the countless hazards that exist in the ice climbing environment. There are way too many hazards to list them all. These hazards can cause injury or these hazards can kill you. Do not proceed with reading this online ice guide unless you are ready to assume all of the risks involved. In fact, do not proceed with climbing until you are ready to assume all of the risks involved. The world is a strange and crazy place. There is so much in the world that we do not control. The climbing environment is not different. But in the face of that unceasing uncertainly, climbing offers us the opportunity to take control of, and responsibility for, our actions. It is a refreshing antidote to much of modern living. You should not use this ice guide and you should not climb unless you are ready for that antidote. The author assumes no responsibility for any injury or death that occurs in the process of using this online ice guide.


You Should Read This Before Proceeding...

A first blush, it may seem strange that a climbing guide service would provide free, useful, online advice about how to climb many of the most popular climbing routes in the Northeast. Isn't that a bit like killing the goose that lays the golden egg? In a word, “No”. In a few more words: This would be like thinking that by providing a neophyte NASCAR racer a map of the route, you have given him the keys to a victory lap in the Daytona 500.

There is a world of difference between knowing a route and knowing how to maximize efficiency and safety while climbing a route. Efficient and safe climbing is a lifelong craft. How quickly you develop in your craft will largely be a function of how effectively you are instructed along the way and how reflective you are throughout that learning process. As Paul Petzholdt (who climbed the Grand Teton at age 16 in his cowboy boots and later went on to found the National Outdoor Leadership School) opined in his matter-of-fact style: “There's a lot of fellers out there who say they've got twenty years of climbing experience. That's horseshit! They got two years of climbing experience and eighteen years of repeatin' the same mistakes over and over again.” A skilled guide-instructor can help you to avoid repeating costly, annoying, and dangerous mistakes over and over again. Your climbing will become safer and your climbing will become more efficient.

Most people are aware of the idea that effective guided-instruction will increase their safety on a climb—that's the most oft-cited reason I hear of for hiring a guide. And many people are aware that effective guided-instruction will increase their climbing efficiency, fleshing out their climbing toolkit with techniques to tackle bigger, harder, routes in less time. But the part of the equation that is often overlooked and seems to go oddly unspoken concerns that element which brings us to the sport originally: enjoyment. Whether it is the enjoyment of sharing an expansive view at the top of a cliff with your favorite climbing partner, the enjoyment of utter exhaustion back at camp after a summit, or the enjoyment of pulling the crux sequence on a sport climb that has been heckling you for months, it is enjoyment—in its myriad forms and facets—that draws us to climbing.

You don't need to climb long to discover that people are often definitely and definitively not enjoying their climbing day: Climbing partners screaming at each other because they've set their belays way too far apart, or a belayer hunched awkwardly over the ill-placed anchor by his knees, trying to bring in rope while his partner frantically yells “up rope!”, or a climber soloing up sketchy terrain to free a stuck rappel rope because she doesn't know the first thing about rock rescue. Perhaps worst of all is the couple you encounter in the parking lot, who pack up their things, and drive off in dead silence. These are just a few of the myriad scenarios that can unfold when people's technical skills sets do not progress in unison with their climbing ability. I know you'll see all of these examples and many, many more as you continue climbing. I have seen such things and—sadly—over the course of my climbing career I've lived many of them as well. But over the years I took steps to advance my learning and these moments happen less and less...and I'm enjoying climbing more and more.

So don't just consider hiring a climbing guide so that you can become a safer climber.  Don't just consider hiring a climbing guide so that you can learn to climb harder, longer routes more efficiently.  Hire a climbing guide so that you will learn techniques that allow you to enjoy your climbing more.