It's that bittersweet time of year when the temps drop, the snow falls and even the hardiest among us have to admit that it's too cold to climb rock. Reactions to this turn of the season vary: some stick with the gyms while others strap on skis. But others arm themselves with crampons and ice tools to attack the ice!
Early reports from November tell us that there is already ice in the upper reaches of Mt Washington and it's only a matter of time before all the "hot" spots come in with their own climbable stuff. From the banks of Lake Willoughby to the gullies of Crawford Notch, New England is home to some of the best, most accessible ice climbing in the world. On the one hand, there are ice crags like the Flume Gorge where top ropes are the norm and anyone with gear can try it out. On the other, there are multi-pitch mixed routes on Cannon that are the stuff of legend and lore. Some folks revel in the glory of short but technically difficult routes to test their meddle. Others prefer long, sustained romps up gentle slopes more akin to alpine climbing. Either way offers great rewards (and some deep chills).
If you're psyched on ice, you're reading this and nodding along, perhaps while sharpening the points on your tools. If you're curious, try it out! It's a gear intensive sport with more inherent risks than rock so going along with a guide or experienced friends is a must for your first outings. IME and Lahout's in NH offer rental options for boots, crampons and tools. There are a dozen or so guiding services that can outfit you and take you out if you're looking to reduce the risk.
Yeah, it's cold. Sure, the thing you're climbing could potentially crumble to the ground. Puffy jackets, chemical hand warmers and a thermos full of something hot can keep the chill away for a while and in good conditions, you're unlikely to see more a few chips fall off the ice. But the feeling of a solid pick on your first swing and the crunch of your crampons on solid ice is so good, it's worth every minute!