|climbing with a view|
What do you do on a winter day when the weather is nasty above tree line but perfectly sunny in the valley? Most people go skiing which might explain why we had the Texaco Slab, in Harts Location NH, to ourselves for some top rope ice climbing in perfect conditions.
I am at home on steep ascents, exposed ridge lines or gnarly ski slopes but I had almost no vertical ice experience until this trip. Thankfully my crew for this adventure had a veteran ice climber and a rock climber who were eager to show me the ropes of vertical climbing. We picked the Texaco Slab because it was far north enough to have good ice and it provided a lot of WI 3 and WI 4 top rope routes. Are you wondering what WI 3 and WI 4 mean? Ice routes are rated on a Water Ice scale from 1 (very easy) to 7 (very dangerous). Check this out to learn more.
|The Texaco Slab from the parking lot|
We pulled into the parking lot to find bluebird skies, 13 degree temps and a sustained wind. I thought these cold temperatures were great since I was about to spend a day climbing on a surface that has the potential to melt. The slab is clearly visible from the parking lot so I knew it would not be long before the climbing began. We loaded our packs with ropes, ice screws, axes and other climbing gear.
|approaching the slab|
We began the 15 minute hike to the slab along a flowing stream. A few steps off the trail reminded me that there is plenty of snow here and that snowshoes would have been helpful. After a short but steep climb we found ourselves at the foot of the Texaco Slab.
|a view I don’t get sick of|
The area was a classic NH forest with mountain views peaking through the trees.
I was amazed at the variety of 40-50 foot routes and that no other climbers were there. The ice had a deep blue hue and no two sections were the same. My climbing partners’ eyes lit up which told me that these were ideal climbing conditions.
|setting up the route|
It took about an hour to unpack gear, set up ropes and get ready to climb. The ice climber in our group lead climbed the first WI 3 route to set the rope up. After that we were ready to top rope. I used to think that ice climbing was as simple as sticking your ice tools and crampons into the ice and then walking up the wall but I my first climb proved that ice climbing requires just as much technique as rock climbing.
|an easy start to the day|
Climbing ice requires precise axe and crampon placement along with a healthy amount of trust that a few metal spikes will hold you on the wall. With each step up I took a second to warm my hands and look for the next places to swing my ice tools.
|learning to trust my crampons|
Before long I learned to correctly disperse my weight and to trust my gear and realized that ice climbing can be addictive.
|getting a little more vertical|
We moved the ropes onto two WI 4 routes that were much more vertical and a lot more challenging than our first WI 3 route. I made some bad foot placements here which caused my first fall but I still topped out with some coaching from my climbing partners.
Texaco Slab is south facing which meant we were in the sun all day and also shielded from the winds that were pounding higher elevations and the cold temps also ensured that the ice was solid. Conditions were so perfect that we kept climbing until 20 minutes before sunset. As the sun headed down we packed our gear and heading back to the parking lot.
The next day my sore muscles reminded me that ice climbing is also a great workout. If you are looking to try ice climbing then I highly recommend heading to the Texaco Slab; just be sure to stay safe.