Come winter, the spidery fractures of Vermont’s schist spin a web of ice delights that will capture any ice aficionado. While the choices are extensive, fortunately whatever locale you settle on, you’ll find yourself surrounded by unsurpassed, stark, and serene winter vistas. Smugglers Notch offers quiet solitude and great venues for both introductory ice and long and steep mixed lines. Unsurpassed views of the Notch’s rugged, rocky expanse meld in with that of the Stowe village below. On the other side of the state, Lake Willoughby is world-renowned for its unrelentingly steep and massive ice lines, stretching high above the wildly scenic glacially-carved lake below. Here’s a bit more about some of our select ice picks:
Bolton Quarry—Just 25 minutes outside of Burlington, Bolton Quarry’s fractured flanks now provide ample avenues for steep ice. Columns, corners, and curtains of ice in the WI3-5 range stand side by side, waiting to challenge you to your fullest pickin’ potential.
Bristol Cliffs—Just west of Vermont’s Green Mountain’s rises up the Taconic Range. These shaggy mounds of stone and ice offer jaw-dropping views of farmland, Lake Champlain’s expanse, and the Adirondacks beyond that etch your memory for long after the sun sets on your climbing day.
Smugglers Notch—Craggy, steep, and narrow, it feels like you could stretch out and touch both sides of Smugg’s steep aperture with the two ice tools in your hands. During the winter months the road in the valley far below is closed to all but intrepid winter travelers. Ice climbers quickly find that the crags and cliff potentials abound. The Driving Force area offers top-roped climbing in the WI 2-3+ range. Workout Wall is also very beginner-friendly, with ice in the WI2-4+ range. ENT and Elephant’s Head Gully offer multi-pitch adventures at a similar grade (WI3); both leading you up narrow ice-encased, mystical caverns for several pitches. Those more comfortable with the idea of hanging off of frozen water with sharp points of steel will enjoy Dave’s Snotcicle (WI3-4), Ragnorock (WI4-5, M5), and the 1000' alpine ice line Hidden Gully )WI3-4). And all of this just scratches the surface. Whatever the objective at Smugglers Notch, the quiet solitude and sweeping views of Mount Mansfield offer ample reward.
Lake Willoughby—Way off in Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom,” the cliffs of Willoughby rise majestically from the lakeshore…and keep on rising. Moderate multi-pitch climbing and even top-roping can be had on The Tablets (WI2-3). As you move north on the cliff, the challenges build. Twenty Below Zero (WI4+) and Crazy Diamond (WI4+) tempt your ice tools with vertical curtains and free-standing columns. And as you head north on the cliff, the routes just get steeper, longer, and more enticing: The Promenade (WI5+) and The Last Gentleman (WI5) are reliable favorites and more emphemeral options like Stormy Monday (WI4+) and Called on Account of Rains (WI5+) are sweet peaches to pick when possible. No matter the choice, as you climb, your attention focuses on the surreal medium in front of you, until you arrive at the anchor and the sweeping view of the enchanting Northeast Kingdom awaits.
Click here to read an article about Vermont's incredible ice in Climbing Magazine, written by Lead Guide Kel Rossiter.
Click here for a complete Clothing & Equipment List and to learn a bit more about what a day of ice climbing adventures looks like and how to best prepare.
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