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Around the next corner?

Winter is chugging along as we draw closer to March.  The warm February days and cold nights are helping some climbs fatten up while others with no snow above or with full southern aspect are getting beaten up pretty good.  Tales of 75 foot falls riding pillars off from the Promenade at Lake Willoughby make it seem like ice season is coming to a close.   Even if I could tell the future I wouldn’t post it.

It is an uncomfortable feeling not knowing what is left to climb.   How can plans be made for the weekend when there might not be any ice to climb?  Ahh but that is the charm of winter.  If ice climbs were as predictable as rock climbs then there would be no sense of mystery, no haste, no need for 2:30am starts.

Some of the most meager ice seasons have produced some of my most memorable climbs.

The winter of 01/02 was one of those similar seasons that left you wanting.  Hunger is healthy.  The beginning of March brought precipitation, both snow and rain followed by cold temps.   This created unique conditions on Cannon Cliff.  Driving over the Kanc. with my partner Ben Gilmore in the predawn hours we were excited.  It felt like early season with the lust of the unknown.  What would cannon offer us?    When we pulled into the parking lot with Boston blaring from my feeble speakers, there was already a car there with two climbers preparing for the single digit tempratures.  Josh Hurst leaned out the window and offered us was “power rings?” (Dunkin Donuts for millions of Northeasters) while Bayard Russell spoke over his shoulder “you want one!”.  Since then we have shared the rope many times on Cannon and else where.

This was going to be a good day.  Ben and I started up many first pitches over near the Triple S buttress.  None provided a good second pitch option.  After spending much of the day scratching around we were still hungry to climb something.  We headed over to Omega.  Once there we were drawn towards a parallel line to the right.  The start was shared with Omega but soon tilted right following corners.  The second pitch was heart stopping shell ice leading to a ledge capped with a broken roof.  By this time our 3pm start on Omega was catching us in the dark with no head lamps.  We rapped and made it back to the car.  The next day we returned and once again our new friends were in the parking lot.  After bidding Josh and Bayard good fortune on their day we headed off to our project.

We swapped the leads from the day before.  Not because we didn’t want to face the same gut retching second pitch from the day before but because we wanted to share the clarity it offered.  Once at our high point from the day before I got to lead the last pitch.  This was the lead I had been waiting for all season.  The lead that required full commitment and willingness to shake the cob webs free.  The lead that would cure my sinking psych.  Knife blades with screamers, stoppers heads, marginal cams all added to the mix.  I dropped a tool (this was the time of leashes and I was trying the Android leash for the first time) fortunately ben was close by to tag a tool on to the rope.  Once at the trees I was different,  not the same sulking man that my fiance was wondering if she should marry.  Those two days on Cannon had set me right.  Ben and I named the new route Prozac.  Nine years later I can still enjoy those two days with Ben on Cannon and hope conditions like that come again so Prozac can get a second ascent.

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