Early Season Ice Climbing on Mt Washington

Pinnacle Gully

I got a call this week from good friend and local guide Matt Shove of Ragged Mountain Guides inviting me up to New Hampshire for some early season ice climbing on Mt Washington. The forecast on the observatory website warned of bone-chilling temperatures well below zero, wind gusts to 130mph and wind chills exceeding 60 below at the summit.

Pinnacle Gully

“I’m in!” I was psyched to get first “sticks” of the season before the forecasted rain and holiday busyness set in.

Pinnacle Gully is located on a dark, north-west facing wall of Huntington Ravine. The mountain is famous for some of the worlds worst weather and highest recorded wind speeds. High winds, low visibility, cold temps, fostbite and avalanche are just some of the hazards on a winter ascent. But as I drove north from Connecticut, it looked like we could catch a break in the weather. Skies were clearing and the low snow accumulation totals meant avalanche risk would be virtually non-existent.

When the route came into view we commented that the ice looked a little scrappy and might not be thick enough to accept even short ice screws. Climbing conditions on the route turned out to be pretty good. The climbing was fun and moderate but protection and belay anchors were scarce. Rushing water could be seen and heard just a few inches under the surface. We opted to move quickly and simul-climb the easier sections in search of belays and protected stances. Thin ice meant that loose rocks would fall in the narrow gully.

Stats: Pinnacle Gully, Huntington Ravine, Mt Washington

Grade: III WI3
First Ascent: 1930, Scoville & Whittlesey
Temps: 0 to 10 F, wind chill ~30 below
Winds: Gusts to 62mph
Round Trip: 8 miles (approx)
Duration: ~7hrs Pinkham to Pinkham

Thanks to Matt Shove for an awesome day!

The cold temps this week mean there is lots of ice climbing already available in upper elevations and nearby in the Catskills!

We’re booking our ice climbing programs now!

Get in touch or call (203) 675-5510 to book your ice climbing trip!

Pinnacle Gully, Huntington Ravine, Mt Washington – November 25, 2013



REEL Rock 8 Film Tour in Connecticut

Reel Rock 8 Film Tour in Connecticut
This will be the 5th year we’ve hosted the REEL Rock Film Tour in Connecticut. It started with a few small shows in borrowed classrooms at Yale and a few good friends. Its still a small community event, we just have a few more friends and I am psyched to show this years films!

Two Connecticut Shows

Buy REEL ROCK 8 TicketsTrinity College (Hartford) – Saturday, October 26, 2013

Yale University (New Haven) – Friday, November 15, 2013


Help support a worthy cause

These past years we’ve raised several thousand dollars for some great causes. This year we’re sharing proceeds with two non-profits that create opportunities and access for climbers right here in CT and across the north east.

Ragged Mountain FoundationRagged Mountain Foundation
A local group of climbers working hard behind the scenes to preserve access to Connecticut’s climbing areas. Become a member, join an Adopt-a-Crag or attend a meeting to keep your favorite crag clean and open for climbing.

Paradox SportsParadox Sports
Based in Boulder, Colorado Paradox Sports works to improve people’s lives by creating adaptive sports communities, built to inspire. Funds donated to Paradox will help support adaptive rock and ice climbing events at the Gunks in NY and the White Mountains in NH.

Gallery – Scenes from REEL Rock 8

An Evening with Mingmar Sherpa


Update 1/29/2013: A huge thanks to Mingmar Dorji Sherpa and the 70+ folks that came out to the slideshow. Learn about future film screenings, sideshows and events by signing up for our newsletter (here). Thank you!

Ascent Climbing is pleased to present a free slideshow and talk with Mingmar Dorji Sherpa!

Mingmar Sherpa is a trek leader for Destination Hamalaya and has summitted Mt. Everest 4 times. He was an assistant to David Breashears on the filming of “Storm over Everest”, a film about the 1996 tragedy on Everest. He also served as head filming Sherpa to Conrad Anker during the making of “The Wildest Dream”, a film about George Mallory’s ill-fated 1922 expedition to Mt Everest.

Mimngmar will be sharing photos and stories from his mountaineering adventures on Mt. Everest, Nepal and beyond. More about Mingmar Sherpa.

Mingmar on the summit of Mt. Everest 2007.

Monday, January 28, 2013 | 7:30pm

Yale University
WLH207 – William Harkness Hall (Map)
100 Wall Street, New Haven
Admission: Free
Open to the Public

Download show poster (.pdf)

REEL ROCK 7 Film Tour in New Haven

Reel Rock 7

Reel Rock 7

This year I’m psyched to host not just one but two REEL ROCK 7 screenings in Connecticut to benefit the Ragged Mountain Foundation. The show is aways a blast and its one of those rare opportunities where the whole Connecticut climbing community comes together.

Last years show was a huge success and we raised more that $1200 for the Ragged Mountain Foundation; a climber-run organization that advocates for recreational climbing access in Connecticut.

This year promises to be even bigger. Our sponsors have been extremely generous with their donations to the raffle…bring a few extra dollars to purchase raffle tickets.

Don’t miss this awesome film and opportunity to support climbing access here in CT. Hope to see you there!

Yale University ( New Haven )

Friday, November 30, 2012 | 7:30pm

Tickets: $10 ea / $7 Yale University students & faculty
Location: Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High Street, New Haven (Map)
Note: This show is likely to sell out! Purchase your tickets online today.

Buy REEL ROCK 7 Tickets

Proceeds benefit:

Ragged Mountain Foundation: Preserving access to Connecticuts high and wild places.

Please support our sponsors:

Ascent Climbing
City Climb Gym
Prime Climb

Connecticut Top Rope Anchor Survival Kit

The Top Rope Anchor Course is one of the most popular courses I teach. We cover lot of information in those first couple days out and I’m often asked “what kind of climbing anchor equipment should I buy now?”

Following is a list of equipment you’ll need for top rope climbing in Connecticut complete with tips on what to buy and gear you should stay away from. The focus here is on rigging anchors from natural protection i.e. trees, boulders and horns.

Anchor Equipment

A Connecticut top rope anchor setup often requires long static ropes and creative anchoring to reach the cliffs edge.


If you’re thinking about purchasing your own top rope rig wait until after you take a course. Practicing with the guides equipment will allow you to make more informed decisions on what to buy. Keep in mind that retailers often (or probably should) have policies against returning safety equipment.


When it comes to safety equipment it’s best to stay away from used gear, especially products made of nylon (i.e. ropes, harnesses, etc). Carabiners can last indefinitely but harnesses and ropes have a life span of only a few years for most users. Retire your equipment in accordance with manufacturer specifications and store in a cool, dry and chemical-free environment – contamination is to be avoided at all costs.


It seems obvious but avoid re-purposing ropes, harnesses and safety equipment from other activities, hardware stores and marine supply shops. Despite the labels strength ratings you may find the wear properties, intended uses and ability to hold knots are not appropriate for climbing.

Look for a CE and/or UIAA marks to ensure the equipment has been tested and meets minimum requirements for use in climbing.

CE Mark

Products that carry the CE mark meet minimum EU safety requirements.

UIAA Safety Label

Products with the UIAA mark meet the safety standards of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation

Here’s your top rope anchor shopping list


If you climb outdoors (especially around here) you must wear a helmet for protection from falling objects i.e. loose rock at Ragged Mountain and airborne glass bottles at Pinnacle Rock.

Recommendation: Buy a lightweight helmet you like, cover it in stickers and don’t skimp on the price. You’re far more likely to carry and wear a helmet you like it vs. one of those heavy miners helmets we used to wear.


You’ll want a long low-elongation rope to reach those far away trees and blocks common at Connecticut crags. Stay away from spooled webbing – the durability of a static rope vs. tubular webbing will dramatically increase the security of your anchors.

Recommendation: Nearly all major climbing rope manufacturers are making good static ropes. Your static rope should be 10mm or greater in diameter and about 40 to 50 meters long. Buy dark solid colors not easily confused with your dynamic climbing ropes.

I like to use the Sterling 3/8″ SuperStatic2 in our climbing school.


Which dynamic rope you choose has much to do with the terrain and type of climbing you like to do. For top rope climbing in Connecticut you’ll want something a little thicker for durability and at least 60 meters in length to reach the tallest climbs at Ragged Mountain.

Recommendation: Look for a dynamic rope between 10-10.2mm in diameter x 60 meters in length. Dry treated ropes will cost a little more but tend to be stronger and last longer that non-treated lines.

I like the Sterling Marathon Pro and the Mammut Gravity for their handling and durability.


You’ll want to have several locking carabiners available in addition to the ones you used to belay. Most anchors will use at least three and you’ll find the extras useful for rigging ground anchors, rappel backups and a myriad other uses.

Recommendation: Avoid small D and modified D shaped locking carabiners. You’ll often need to clip bulky knots and masterpoints that require a larger gate opening. Pear and large D shaped carabiners work well in top rope anchors.

I like to use the Petzl Attache and William carabiners.


A necessity for tying off trees, flakes, blocks or for equalizing multiple pieces of protection into a single anchor point. So useful you might want two!

Recommendation: Purchase ~25ft of 7mm accessory cord. Form a loop by tying the ends together with a double or triple fishermans knot.


Slings come in a variety of lengths, strengths and materials. For top rope anchors you may want to have a couple longer runners available. For top rope anchors use thicker nylon or dyneema blend slings for their durability and strength – you probably want to avoid the super-thin, lightweight dyneema slings meant for lead and alpine climbing.

Recommendation: Carry (1) 120cm (double-length) sewn sling and (1) 240cm (triple-length).

I like to use the Black Diamond Dynex and nylon (22kn) and the Bluewater Titan (27kn) runners.


Increase your security while working near the edge with a brake assist belay device attached to your anchored working tail. Go hands-free with a bomber catastrophe knot within arms reach of the device. The brake assist devices are pricey but can also come in handy for self rescue, belaying from the top and belaying your partner while they hang-dog their project.

I like to use the Petzl GriGri 2 or the Trango Cinch for securing myself at the cliff edge.

Rock Climbing Anchors by: Craig Luebben

Recommended Reading

Rock Climbing Anchors by: Craig Luebben

Self study is an important part of your continuing education in climbing. There’s a lot of questionable information out there. Be sure to learn from reputable sources.

Nothing can replace professional instruction but his book is one of the better printed sources of trusted and tested anchoring techniques.