Saturday 27 February 2016 – To Roaring Brook

Alex flew into Boston early Saturday morning, traffic was easy and he was on time. We made quick work of the drive to BSP only stopping for diesel and last minute junk food. We arrived at Abol Bridge around 1200 and packed 200 lbs of shit onto two sleds. We set off at 1320, leaving a bag of BBQ chips for motivation later. My biggest fear leading up to the trip was the road conditions with the low snow year; as it turned out the road was a fast, but icy, and we were at Roaring Brook by 1830. Inside we found the fire going and a cool group of three who had just summitted and were on their way out. Some booze and cards made for a great first night and start to the trip.

Sunday 28 February 2016 – To Chimney Pond

A semi- early start on Sunday took us to Chimney Pond in just over two hours. We arrived mid morning and gear-exploded; put up our gear tent; put the tarp on the lean-to, blew up pads, etc. At noon we were comfy enough and we headed out to check on the approach and conditions on Cilley-Barber. The approach was just as bad as I remember it being – bushwhacking on skis. It seemed to get better each time we did it (in total: three up, one down). In just about an hour we reached the start of Cilley-Barber and we climbed the first pitch to get an idea about the ice conditions – they were surprisingly good. We made two single raps down on v-threads and then the dreaded down-skin back to Chimney Pond. We boiled some water and had our dinner in the bunkhouse with a fun group of 10. It was then off to bed in the lean-to for an early wake up.

Monday 29 February 2016 – Cilley-Barber

We wanted to be up at 0400, but with the late night we delayed until 0430, then at 0430 it was howling wind and cold so we snoozed for an additional 20 minutes – putting us on an awesome 50 minute delay off the bat. We boiled some water, chocked down breakfast, and packed out kits. We were off across the pond by 0615 (original goal was 0500). After about 15 minutes of glorious skinning Alex realized he did not have his crampons – oops. He dropped his shit and hightailed it back to grab them, and was skinning back across the lake around 0645.

I continued very slowly up to the start, and was all geared up and ready to start climbing when Alex arrived with the rope. I tailed the rope up the first pitch to give Alex time to get ready, by the time he was set and on belay he was ready to climb, so the crampons did not end up costing us too much time. The second pitch was steeper and besides the crux pitch I found it to be the most challenging. Alex arrived at the belay around 0830. Alex led up through the snowfield to the third pitch of ice. I led off around 0900, and then Alex took us up another snowfield. We started the fourth pitch of ice at about 0950. By 1045 Alex climbed the pitch of ice, led the next snowfield, and was at the base of the crux corner; I arrived 15 minutes later. To this point we had fantastic blue-bird weather with little wind.

Once at the base of the crux the weather started to turn. We had light precipitation and the wind started to pick up. We got moderate spindrift action every 10-15 minutes or so, and visibility was starting to deteriorate. We took a long break to food and water. Since I was not sure where the route was actually going to go, and because I did not want to have ski tips restricting where I would be able to climb, we transferred my skis over to Alex’s pack – what a champ! I started up the (fifth ice) pitch around 1130. It was thin and awkward at first, but got progressively better. One depression in the middle made for thin and overhanging conditions; and very thin conditions on the right near the top made for a tricky exit left. Overall a fantastic and challenging pitch. Alex met me at the belay around 1220. I led a sixth pitch of technical ice for about half a rope length, then brought Alex up. At this point we believed we were out of the highly technical terrain, and only had several rope lengths of snow and low angle rock and ice. We still could only see about half a rope length, so we shortened our rope to about 30m and Alex set out for the top with all the gear. He made it to the Knife-Edge Ridge and I arrived around 1350.

Once on the Ridge, we un-roped, and put most of the technical gear away. We had terrible visibility and 40+ mph winds and were actively being rimed on. We made it to the summit cairn at 1430. Some quick white-out navigation via GPS brought us to the Saddle Trail where at some point below treeline we transitioned back onto skis. We were back at the Chimney Pond Ranger Station before 1600.

Fortunately this was our night in the bunkhouse, as we and all our gear were caked in about 3mm of rime. We dried everything, socialized, and made plans for the next day’s attempt at the Chauvin-Cole.

Tuesday 1 March 2016 – Chauvin-Cole

Similar to the previous day, we were late on our alarm and hit the snooze button more than once. We felt better about the timing as Chauvin-Cole is shorter than Cilley-Barber. We were skinning across the pond at 0700, but incredibly windy conditions coupled with cold temps above treeline forced us to change our plans and we headed over to the Chimney Route – something we could solo and stay moving on all day vice technical climbing. But, as we reached the start of the route we noticed the winds were dying down … decision time …

We opted to change plans again and head back across the basin to the Chauvin-Cole. Alex set out on the first pitch at 0915. I followed and then we simul-soloed to the start of the second technical ice pitch, arriving around 1030. Alex led the second ice pitch and we were both at the start of the third ice pitch at 1120. Alex took the third ice pitch to the base of the crux pitch, and I arrived around 1220. The crux pitch looked steep and thin, I poked around the right side of the rock to see if there was a rock weakness that might offer more options for pro, but nothing showed. We repositioned the belay to some better ice, once again transferred skis to Alex, and had some food and water. I started the crux pitch around 1310, it was slow and methodical. A cave-like feature made for a very thin and semi-overhanging section, but otherwise was fairly straightforward. I stretched our 70m all the way to the end and used my last three screws for a belay. Alex was up the next snowfield and working through the last section of technical ice at 1440. We both topped out around 1520. We weather was awesome, light winds with a blue-bird sky – but cold.

We buzzed up to the summit and descended to the Saddle Trail. With better visibility Alex and I transitioned onto skis at the earliest opportunity and both skied all the way back to the Chimney Pond Ranger Station, arriving around 1700.

The weather for Wednesday was not looking so good, but with good weather forecast for Thursday and Friday we decided to stick around. Our remaining objective would be A) Waterfall Buttress, but with snow in the forecast that would likely not be a good option; B) Chimney Route with a ski descent; C) something in the North Basin; or D) skiing other objectives in the South Basin.

We loading packs and a single sled and moved down to Roaring Brook; leaving our lean-to and gear tent up at Chimney Pond. We got water, ate some food, heated the place up, and went to sleep.

Wednesday 2 March 2016 – The Rest Day

Started off lazy and only got worse. We took a huge nap in the middle of the day. We ate a ton of food, drank all of the alcohol we had left. We each probably moved only a total of 100 linear yards all day. We talked to the Ranger about Chauvin-Cole and the upcoming weather. We set alarms for 0500 the next day.

Thursday 3 March 2016 – The Exit

We woke up characteristically late and when we got up to Chimney Pond it was much colder than forecast (-11F) and very windy. Not good conditions for skiing or climbing. We debating some more options, but finally decided to go climb ice in North Conway and Lake Willoughby. We quickly broke down the tent, packed the gear, and loaded the sleds, and off we went at just after 1000. We quickly arrived at Roaring Brook, and a long slog out to Abol Bridge put at the truck at 1500. We were originally planning on skiing out on Sunday, so we left a full three days early.

Pictures to follow