[quote]This was something I’d dreamed of doing…[/quote] — Ryan Kleman, a long-time member of our Jesse Brown family and a fellow Charlottean, is an inspiration to us all as a community member who dedicates his free time doing what he loves while climbing towards his dreams. Let’s welcome Ryan as he shares his account of his most recent adventure:
“By this time of the year most people are tired of the cold. I’m loving it. Most head South for warmer climates. I go North. People long to be playing in warm water on sunny beaches. I want to be on frozen water on shadowy cliffs.
Late winter every year I make my pilgrimage to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for some world class ice climbing. Just as the buds are beginning to pop from their hibernation here in North Carolina, I begin to feel a panic over another winter slipping away. I pack my ice tools, crampons, ropes & gear, and an array of warm clothes, and head North.
Normally we go on the cheap. Ice climbing requires a bit of fortitude so why not go all the way and sleep outside as well. Eleven below zero with howling winds adds to our adventure and boosts our egos.
This time though, is special. We decide to book a hotel. After this trip, my partner in crime, Thomas, will be unable to climb for the rest of the year due to work, so we’ll do it in style. Besides, a hotel breakfast every morning, and an indoor waterpark and hot tub every evening will save us time and aid in recovery. Without having to take down a camp every night, and being able to slip on dry boots and clothes every morning, we can direct more of our attention and energy at climbing. This is what I’m after since this will be training for an upcoming trip to Alaska where I’ll be attempting the Cassin Ridge. I’ll need all the training I can get.
Our first day we get a late start. The Hotel breakfast backfires when our animal instincts kick in and we stuff ourselves on free food. We’re not used to this treatment and it will require some adjusting to.
Once at the Frankenstein Cliffs climbing area, we move quickly. First Thomas knocks out Standard Left, a great warm-up Then we move over to Dracula, a classic frozen waterfall that serves nearly-vertical ice for 60 feet. I lead it and feel incredibly strong. This is good.
The next day we get another late start. We’re slow learners. We set our sights on the supposedly long, moderate alpine climb, Shoestring Gully. The guidebook leads us to believe this will be a major undertaking and that with our 10am start, we may be making our descent back to the car in the dark. Since we both felt so strong the previous day, and because we want to move quickly, we decide to leave the rope behind and simul-solo the route. At 11:30am we stood at the summit, cursing ourselves for overestimating the route. Oh well, we’ll just have to kill all our extra time at Moat Mountain Brewery enjoying their incredible beers and curry crab bisque with jalapeno cornbread. Anticipation of meals like this are what keep ice climbers warm.
Our third day has us, you guessed it, out late. We spend it casually climbing some more frozen waterfalls at Frankenstein.
The fourth day, though, is our rebirth. We’re out of the hotel by 4:30am and on the approach trail to Mt Washington’s notoriously horrible alpine proving ground, Huntington Ravine by 5:30am. We have no ropes. We have no extra warm clothes in our packs. Just ice tools and water.
In the past, hiking up the trail for two hours, climbing one of the five grade 3 gullies (an alpine climb rating meaning long sections of steep snow and low angle ice with intermittent short sections of vertical ice), descending, and returning to the car was a day long ordeal. Today, going light, fueled my confidence, enthusiasm, and bagels, we plan to climb all five of the ravine’s grade 3 gullies in a day.
This goes well. 10.5 hours of constant moving. We never questioned what we were doing or if it was possible. Mt Washington’s record winds were a welcome cooling break every time we topped out on a climb. By the third gully we were feeling tired. Not cold. We were sweating. My nipples were raw from friction like I had been running a marathon. We took a break for a snack and water and we watched climbers starting up routes we’d finished hours earlier. By the time they’d topped out we had climbed our two remaining routes and started our final descent to the car. This was something I’d dreamed of doing solo for years and I’m so happy I could be doing it with my friend now.
Back at the car we were tired but refreshed. Sore but psyched. We reward ourselves with more bisque and beer.”