Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Little Expedition That Could.

Jon Garlough at home leading a new route way back there.

Jon Garlough was a Chino.  In fact, far as we could tell, Garlough was the Last of the Chinos; a dying breed of mountain men hell-bent on climbing every scrap of available granite hitherto untouched in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  He first told me about some new ice lines out near the Captain during the dog days of summer, when cold, clean snow seemed wonderful.  They were tucked in a little north-facing nook I took to calling the Cabin Boy.

"These lines are classic, dude."

Elliot Gaddy and I were sick of being on the JV team.  We were sick of hearing about cool climbs by our friends and never getting in on the action.  Damn sick and tired of being tossed around in the Alaska Range, of being relegated to belay duty on tricky first ascents at home, sick of failing.  We didn't want to clean the proverbial lockers of the Bayard Russells and the Peter Doucettes of the North Country anymore.  We wanted in on the big leagues, even if it meant signing a deal with the devil, or in this case, The Last of the Chinos.

So we stole some skis, some sleds, and placed them smack dab in the living room of the house I was watching, made three quart-sized manhattans, and hatched a plan to get off that wretched JV team once and for all.  We'd climb the ice next to the Captain.  We faced a seven-mile ski and bushwhack in on the Sawyer River Road.  From there we'd attack the routes on the left-facing, unclimbed cliff.  We had no idea how big they were.  We didn't care.  We'd be out for two days.  It was the little expedition that could.

"New routes."

Sometimes skiing at night is better with PBR.

Garlough showed us photos again and we packed a massive rack.  We got ready to go.  Elliot stalled for a while.  That bastard.  He stalled us because of the brakes on his car, which is a good reason I guess, but ultimately we ended up leaving at night, sans Gaddy.  Jonathan and I drank a beer at around 6 p.m. and skied in.  It took some time.  We set up camp.  It was late.  In the morning we heard Elliot's bindings thunking against his skis and then after we had breakfast we bushwhacked the rest of the way in and climbed a new route.  Jonathan had the approach dialed even in the winter.

Elliot, despite his late arrival, won the rock paper scissors match.  He smiled at me and headed up a grade 5 smear that looked like Positive Thinking.  It was snowing a ton, just really snowing.

Elliot and Jon.  The approach was gorgeous actually now that I think about it.
Actually now that I think about it the approach was really bad.

That bastard.  I'm going to short rope him.  I'm taking that smug bastard off belay.  I hate him.  How long is he going to take?

Only I didn't say that.

"You are doing GREAT.  You are a very fast and good ice climber!  I am glad you won this pitch!  You deserve it!"

About to lose the RPS for...

Kind of a plum line.

The Captain is the cliff behind Elliot.

Last of the Chinos.

It was late after the long ski and bushwhack so we stashed our gear and hiked out and I started to feel a little sick.  At camp we ate some dinner and drank a little bit of whiskey and then went to bed.

The ski back to camp was gorgeous now that I think about it.

Our skin track was still down from the day before and we made good time.  I felt like death.  I was sick.  I led a grade 5 to the left of Elliot's.  The ice was brittle, as the Cabin Boy crag is North facing.  Today was clear anyways.  We felt like we were on an expedition because our gloves were cold and I had not camped with Elliot since Alaska when we were in the same poorly designed tent.

You'll have to ask the Last of the Chinos what the hell he's doing with his eyes.  Fuckin' weird.  

Garlough led a great grade 3-4 route to the left of ours.  He's relatively new to ice climbing, but he pulls like the Borax Mule Team on rock, so it wasn't too hard for him.  Elliot and I watched, impressed, as he calmly dispatched with this new medium 7 long miles from an ambulance.

How often do you get to climb new pure ice in New Hampshire?

We skied out, all the way.  I had trouble keeping up.  Next morning Jon and I guided the first day of a mountaineering course.  I could barely stand.  I called Brad White and cancelled the next two days, which he graciously accepted.  I did not leave bed for a long time.

The climbs aren't standard setting, long, and no one will ever repeat them due to the approach, but we knew that going in.  Sometimes you need a nice excuse to camp out.

Garlough late-day sending.

El Gaddro.


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