EMS Alpine Ascender Stretch: The Every-Condition Jacket

You might think that creating an article for goEast is as simple as sitting in front of a computer and writing about your favorite trip, piece of gear, or outdoor activity. However, the reality is, for most articles, you spend just as much time outside taking photos, recording GPS tracks, and refreshing your memory of a trail’s nuances. With deadlines looming this winter, we’ve often had to take trips in typical Northeast winter conditions—think cold temperatures, high winds, and snowy weather. It’s here that we’ve come to appreciate the EMS Alpine Ascender Stretch.

The Ascender’s versatility managed to give us a good time up and down this ultra-classic route.

On a recent reconnaissance trip up Mount Washington via the Winter Lion Head Trail, the Ascender proved its merits. There, we made frequent stops—in spite of the winds gusting up to 100 mph—to gather waypoints and shoot photos for an upcoming article. Layered under our hard shells while we were above treeline, the Ascender performed equally well when we dashed across the Alpine Garden as it did while we stopped for photos. Throughout, it breathed on the move and insulated when we stopped, thanks to its Polartec Alpha insulation. Overall, the Ascender’s versatility managed to give us a good time up and down this ultra-classic route—always a concern during the short days of winter. In part, this was due to not having to dig around our packs for a puffy every time we stopped.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

A recent ice climbing trip in Crawford Notch further highlighted this go-to layer’s value. Ice climbing’s mechanics involve working hard and getting warm while climbing, only to stop and freeze at the belay. The misery builds up if you’re pausing here to take notes or photos for an upcoming article, like we were. The Ascender proved its versatility once again, however. That day, we wore it as our outer layer and found that it breathed while on the go and still kept us warm when we stopped. As well, the insulated hood fits well over a climbing helmet. We also appreciated the large internal pockets for stashing a notebook, camera, snack, and gloves.

These days, it seems every innovation gets labeled “game-changing.” But, the EMS Alpine Ascender truly is the next step forward.

The Ascender looks and functions like a traditional puffy coat, making it easy to pigeonhole. But, we’ve discovered that it’s so much more. In fact, this winter, we’ve used the Ascender just as much as a traditional midlayer as we have as a lightweight belay jacket. Accentuating that, the Ascender is much warmer and more packable than a traditional fleece midlayer, and you can still wear it like a standard soft shell.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

These days, it seems every innovation gets labeled “game-changing.” But, the EMS Alpine Ascender truly is the next step forward. Particularly, its overall construction increases the functionality of an essential layering piece.

Over the past year, we’ve tinkered a lot with active insulation. With the Ascender, we’ve been trying to find the perfect application for it within our layering strategies. At the end of it all, we’ve concluded that it will be either on our bodies or in our packs on most trips. Whether you’re freezing on the ski lift and then shredding downhill, working hard while ice climbing and cooling off while belaying, or doing any other activity that involves varying exertion levels in cold environments, the Ascender should be a key part of your layering system.


10 Tips for Backcountry Skiing This Spring

Although most people consider skiing a winter sport, true aficionados of sliding on snow know that the season’s best turns often occur during the spring. While ski resorts celebrate the season with Gaper-Days and pond skims, backcountry skiers enjoy not just the milder weather, but also everything from fewer crowds to a more stable snowpack. So, with longer days and warmer temperatures on the horizon, here are some tips for making the best out of one of skiing season’s best parts.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Location, location, location

The Northeast is replete with outstanding backcountry options for spring skiers. Mount Moosilauke and the Cog on Mount Washington are great intermediate spots, as is Vermont’s Camel’s Hump. In Maine, Sugarloaf Mountain offers backcountry-like skiing, accessed via touring gear or snowshoes on Burnt Mountain. Just don’t forget to buy an uphill pass. And, of course, spring in Tuckerman Ravine is a rite of passage for every New England skier. Pro Tip: Go on a weekday, so you don’t have to enjoy it with every other New Englander.

2. Play the conditions game

There’s nothing worse than driving a couple hours to the mountains, only to find that the snow has already melted. Before you settle on a location, do some research. For forecasted areas, like Tuckerman Ravine, read the avalanche forecast. It typically hints at skiing quality, too. For the rest, between Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you should be able to figure it out.

Credit: Douglas Martland
Credit: Douglas Martland

3. Wherever you go, start early

In spring, snow typically melts during the day and freezes at night, and within this cycle, the best runs happen when the snow has softened but hasn’t become slushy. An early start is often necessary, as you want to be at the top of your run to take advantage of that magic moment. It’s better to be on top of a line too early, rather than too late, as you can always wait for the snow to soften.

4. Protect your skins

Nothing kills the uphill pace (and stoke) faster than waterlogged skins. In addition to being heavy, they attract snow, causing it to build up on your ski’s underside. Pretty soon, you’ll be off on the side of the skin track, scraping snow off your skin. To avoid the indignity, treat your skins the night before with a skin wax, like Black Diamond’s Glob Stopper. Also, make sure at least one person in your group tucks a bar into their pack before hitting the trail.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

5. Protect your other skin

The only thing worse than turning red from the indignity of scraping your skins is the red you’ll turn if you forget sunblock. The spring sun might not feel strong, but the skin on your ski isn’t only what needs protection. Snow reflects the sun up at you, exposing you to its intensity from above and below. So, be sure to apply sunscreen before arriving at the trailhead and throughout the day.

6. Just say no to postholing

Soft spring snow is especially prone to postholing, which is the quickest way ruin a skin track or ski run—and get yourself exiled from the local backcountry ski community. Postholing is particularly egregious in the spring, since the likelihood of a storm undoing the damage is low. Prevent postholing by traveling on skis designed for touring, by splitboarding, or by using snowshoes.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

 

7. Find the shades

The reflected sun also poses a threat to your eyes. Fortunately, on many spring days, sunglasses are suitable for both the ascent and the descent. Get a good polarized pair, and say goodbye to goggle tan lines.

8. Drink up

Spring’s warmer temperatures typically mean more sweating while touring, and more sweat increases your chances of dehydration. During the spring, get in the habit of bringing more water with you and stopping more frequently to drink than you would in the winter, or consider using a hydration bladder. While these can be difficult in the freezing cold, spring’s warmer days make them a reliable option.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

9. Don’t forget the puffy coat

Spring skiing in the backcountry often exposes you to two entirely different seasons, with summer weather in the parking lot and winter at the top of your run. Because of this, we regularly tuck a puffy (or two) into our packs. It’s lightweight and always a welcome sight when you wander into winter.

10. Wax your skis

Speaking of snow conditions, earning your turns loses a lot of its enjoyment when you suffer from sticky skis on the descent. Having a freshly waxed pair, then, is especially beneficial in slushy spring snow. Even better, wax your skis with a warm-weather wax to avoid those grabby moments. Interested in tuning your skis at home? Check out this goEast article for some great tuning tips.

 

Spring ski season frequently comes to an abrupt end in the Northeast, as seemingly huge snowpacks melt out over the course of a few days. Because of this, every spring ski day is precious, so follow these tips to make the most out of the season’s last hurrah!


New England's Top 3 Manmade Ice Crags

Anybody who’s slipped on black ice knows that it can form in the most unexpected places. When that ice starts to freeze vertically, we, as ice climbers, typically want to climb it. How that desire manifests is sometimes quite ironic, however. In the Northeast, you’re equally likely to find climbers swinging their way up a roadside culvert, an abandoned quarry, or the walls of an old railroad cut as you are an alpine classic, like Shoestring Gully.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Auburn Ice Canyon

When most people think of ice climbing, their minds turn to frozen waterfalls, alpine cliffs, and remote gullies. What they don’t think of is shopping plazas, busy roads, and concrete, much less Worcester, Massachusetts. However, that’s where they’ll discover one of Massachusetts’ most popular ice climbing destinations: Auburn Ice Canyon.

Located at the corner of Worcester, Millbury, and Auburn—just minutes from the Mass Pike and Route 290—Auburn Ice Canyon started as a flood diversion channel for the greater Worcester area. Later, some discovered that the channel’s steep walls and melting snow above consistently icing over created steep ice climbs. Although the entrance can be seen from the busy local road, Route 20, you’ll find the best climbing and longest routes by following the culvert to its end. Here, the rock walls turn to concrete and the channel into a tunnel.

Because Auburn Ice Canyon is a drainage, its floor may consist of varying levels of water. Thus, the best time to visit is after a long-enough cold stretch, which then freezes the canyon’s floor. Popular with beginners and experts alike, Auburn Ice Canyon delivers routes steep enough for strong climbers to get a workout, and top-rope friendly attitude that newbies will appreciate. Leaders, beware: Suspect rock and interesting top-outs may make straightforward-looking climbs spicier than anticipated.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Quincy Quarries

Although most people associate Quincy Quarries with rock climbing and graffiti, you’ll also find solid ice climbing at this close-to-Boston locale. Operating as a quarry from 1825 to 1963, Quincy Quarry earned the nickname “The Birthplace of the Granite Industry,” as places and businesses across the nation used its stone. More prominently, the Bunker Hill Monument features it to some degree.

For the best ice climbing at QQ, start with “A Wall,” the first wall on the left after you make the five-minute approach from the parking lot. Depending on conditions, QQ has as many as five distinct ice flows, each providing 35-foot vertical climbs with multiple variations. The climbing itself is Scottish-like, mixing sometimes quite-thin ice with rock moves and turf sticks. This is especially true at the starts of the routes, with the best ice usually found higher up.

Of course, the ice here can be ephemeral. As a good rule of thumb, hold off on visiting until after a heavy rain or snow followed by two to three nights of colder temperatures. Although the ice usually hangs around once it comes in, it doesn’t survive every thaw. So, before you set up your top-rope, it’s a good idea to scope out A Wall from across the “Cove.” And, if the ice has unexpectedly come down, you’ll find fantastic dry tooling on Layback Corner and M Crack on M Wall (both 5.8) and on Finger Flux (5.11) in the nearby Swingle’s Quarry.

As you work your way around QQ, you’ll easily notice remnants of the historic operation. Climbers regularly use the old “staples” for anchors, and even some “feathers”—shims used to help split the granite—are still in the rock. Particularly, you’ll see one at the base of a route on A Wall. And, if history is your thing, make sure to check out the Granite Railway on the Quarry’s backside. Established in 1826, it was the country’s first railroad and is now a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Find it by walking down the path between J and K walls.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keene Railroad Cut

Keene is known as a quiet college town located on the New Hampshire-Vermont border. However, long before Keene State was founded, the city, like many in New Hampshire, was based around manufacturing. In part, the Cheshire Railroad spurred this development, carrying goods to market and outdoor enthusiasts (including Henry David Thoreau) to Mount Monadnock and the surrounding region. Although the railroad hasn’t run since the 1960s, the send train runs all winter on the Keene Railroad Cut’s walls, provided it’s cold enough.

Approaching the climbing is easy, as it’s a short walk from an obvious pullout on Route 12 near the city limits. Even better, the approach is almost always packed down, thanks to the snowmobiles that frequent the Cheshire Rail Trail. This 42-mile long trail begins near the the Massachusetts border in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire and ends in North Walpole, New Hampshire.

You’ll know you’ve made it to the Keene Railroad Cut, or simply the Railroad Cut, when you get there. Here, the walls sharply rise above the old railroad bed, and numerous ice flows line its sides. Most routes stand between 20 and 30 feet tall, and while short in stature, they deliver steep climbing. And, convenience isn’t only found in the location and approach here. As well, sturdy trees, fixed anchors, and straightforward walk-arounds make top-roping a simple affair. Thus, it’s a popular destination for newer climbers and locals looking for a workout.

Pro Tip: Play nice with the snowmobilers, and keep your kit out of the middle of the trail. Their cooperation is key for access.

 

Although these three spots are not natural treasures, their local outdoor communities appreciate them for their easily accessible, close-to-home ice climbing. Have a manmade spot you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments, so we can check it out!


Alpha Guide: Mount Washington via the Lion Head Winter Route

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Take on a genuine mountaineering challenge by going for a winter ascent on the Northeast’s tallest peak. 

Mount Washington is the pinnacle of winter mountaineering in the Northeast, and the Lion Head Winter Route is the trail of choice for many looking to summit this iconic mountain. Although this is the least technical way to summit the “Rock Pile,” mountaineers will be challenged by everything from the route’s steep, icy terrain to the mountain’s notorious “worst weather in the world.” Depending on the day, you could find yourself huddling behind one of the summit’s buildings, trying to escape the wind, or proudly posing in front of the summit sign while taking in grand views of the Presidential Range.

Quick Facts

Distance: 8.2 miles, out-and-back
Time to Complete: 1 day
Difficulty: ★★★★
Scenery:★★★★★


Season: November through March
Fees/Permits: None
Contact: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whitemountain/recarea?recid=78538

Download

Turn-By-Turn

Parking for the Lion Head Trail is at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in Gorham, just north of Jackson on Route 16. It’s about a 25-minute drive from North Conway or Gorham.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Gearing Up

The Pinkham Notch Visitor Center (44.257320, -71.253052) is a great place to get ready. The gear room, in the basement, has tables and benches that are perfect for getting organized, tying your boots, and doing those last-minute gear checks. It also has bathrooms and a water fountain, and snacks and meals can be purchased upstairs.

Equally important, the AMC posts the Mount Washington Observatory’s daily Higher Summits Forecast and the Mount Washington Avalanche Center’s daily avalanche forecast on a cork board in the visitor center’s basement. Make sure to read both! And, while you’re there, sign the winter hiker register, too.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Starting Out

To get on the trail, leave the basement, and follow the sidewalk towards the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center’s main entrance. Continue past the entrance and around the back of the building to the large sign marking the beginning of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which you’ll take for the first 1.7 miles and more than 1,000 feet of elevation.

The easy-to-follow Tuckerman Ravine Trail begins as a very rocky dirt road and is wide enough to allow side-by-side hiking. Depending on the weather, trail conditions range from ice-covered rocks to packed snow. In most cases, starting out in MICROspikes is usually a good idea.

From the Visitor Center, the trail is moderate for the first few minutes, and then begins to climb consistently. As it climbs, an occasional path cuts off to the left, heading over to the Sherburne Ski Trail. A bit higher up, there is also a signed cutoff to the right for the Huntington Ravine Trail (44.261887, -71.269882). Hikers should ignore all of these cutoffs.

Trees protect this portion of the trail, keeping the wind and wind chill at bay. And, although the trees also limit the views—especially compared to the awesome ones you’ll get once you’re above treeline—the Tuckerman Ravine Trail does pass a few key scenic spots as it climbs out of the valley. The most notable are the two bridges that cross the Ellis River and the Cutler River and the waterfall—or icicle, in this case—Crystal Cascade. It might be tempting to dig the camera out, but don’t stop. You have a long way to go, and the days are short this time of year.

If the weather permits, you’ll also get a preview of the Lion Head as you move up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, giving you an appreciation for the route’s expansive scale and how much distance you have left to travel.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Cut Off

After about 1.7 miles, the junction with the Huntington Ravine fire road (44.263844, -71.277946) is on the right. The junction is well-marked, with a sign pointing toward the base of the Lion Head Winter Route. The wide, flat fire road makes for easy hiking. Take it a short distance to a junction (44.264603, -71.279106). Look for a rescue cache on the trail’s opposite side for confirmation.

The flat area at the Winter Route’s base is a great spot to grab some food and water and add a layer. Most people, too, put their crampons on here and get their ice axe out.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Rock Step

The steeps on the Lion Head Winter Route come pretty quickly. Climbing along a tree-lined trail, the route gains almost 1,800 feet in elevation.

While most of the climbing is on steep but easy snow, there is a short, 30-foot, rocky section near the beginning that has some exposure. Almost all the guided parties carry a short section of rope to use as a hand line, but it is probably unnecessary if you are comfortable climbing in crampons.

Pro Tip: The Lion Head Winter Route is the Whites’ most popular guided winter route, and there is sometimes a bottleneck at the rock step. So that you can maintain your pace, try to stay ahead of guided groups, if you see them gearing up at the base.

Above the rock step, the route continues up, staying in the trees until it eventually breaks treeline. Around treeline, you’ll find numerous spots along the side of the trail to take a break (44.264332, -71.286575) and enjoy the excellent view of the Wildcat Mountain Ski Area across the notch. Since you’ll be fully exposed to the wind from here on, now is a great time to don your above-treeline gear. On windy days, remember full-face protection, including goggles.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Lion Head

From treeline, the trail continues up over open, rocky terrain towards Lion Head proper (44.264.042, -71.291275). As you climb, you’ll probably feel the wind speed increasing. And, be on the lookout for another steep and exposed section just before the Lion Head. It’s easy, but you don’t want to fall.

As you approach the Lion Head, you should evaluate the weather, the wind, and your group’s motivation. If the wind’s too strong, the weather’s getting worse, or it has taken longer to get here than anticipated, this is a good place to turn around without significant consequence.

Crossing the Alpine Garden

Above the Lion Head, the trail continues along the edge of Tuckerman Ravine, crossing the Alpine Garden. If it is a nice day, enjoy the view of the ravine in all its splendor. But, don’t get sucked too far left, especially if it’s windy. You don’t want to get blown in!

This section is also likely to be one of the hike’s windiest segments. Since the trail here is mostly flat, it’s a great idea to hustle across as quickly as possible. The prevailing wind is west to northwest; so, once you are in the shadow of the summit cone, you’ll likely get a brief reprieve.

After a short time, the trail intersects with the Alpine Garden Trail (44.265045, -71.295603). Some scrub here makes a passable wind break, but you’ll probably want to keep going. From the junction, continue straight on the Lion Head Trail.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Split Rock

The trail begins climbing again after the junction, crossing a couple of open snowfields on the way towards Split Rock (44.265850, -71.301437). Since there are few landmarks here, route finding is critical. Moreover, the consequences of a sliding fall on this section are significant, so make sure to have your crampons on and ice axe ready.

Split Rock is easily identifiable: As the name implies, it’s a large boulder that is split in half. Split Rock is also the last place that offers passable protection from the weather before you reach the summit. Many parties choose to take advantage of the flattish area and windbreak to grab a snack, make a final determination of the weather, and prepare for their summit push before following the trail through the boulder itself. Once you’re ready, the next junction (44.265980, -71.302155) is just a few minutes ahead.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Summit Cone

The Lion Head Trail traverses west for a short ways before connecting with the Tuckerman Ravine Trail at a large cairn. From here, turn right and follow the cairns uphill on the final 0.4 miles to the top. Frequently, this section provides a respite from the wind. Enjoy the break, as the wind will only increase as you near the top.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail leads to the first sign of civilization—the Auto Road (44.269550, -71.302048). Shortly thereafter, you’ll pass the tracks for the Cog Railway, before you come to the final small hill leading to the summit (44.270424, -71.303375).

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Summit Pose

If it is a nice day, spend some time to enjoy the summit view of the Presidentials and the surrounding White Mountains. More likely though, ripping winds and cold temperatures will have you taking shelter by the buildings and putting on an extra layer before you make your way to the summit sign to get the requisite shot.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Getting Back in One Piece

To quote the world-famous mountaineer Ed Viesturs, “The summit is just a halfway point.” Although getting back to Pinkham Notch is as simple as reversing course, you have ample opportunities to get lost or disoriented above treeline, especially when the weather is at its worst. So, take the time at trail junctures to ensure you’re descending in the right direction, and look for memorable landmarks. Most notable are the large cairns marking the Tuckerman-Lion Head junction, Split Rock, the scrub at the Alpine Garden Trail junction, and the flat area on top of the Lion Head. As you make your way towards treeline, look for several sets of reflectors attached to the trees for descending at night or in deteriorating conditions.

The final crux for hikers will be reversing the rock step and the terrain just above it. Once again, many guided parties use a rope here, but those comfortable climbing in crampons should be fine simply downclimbing.


Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit

  • The Lion Head Winter Route is steep and often icy. Because of this, an ice axe and crampons are essential equipment. The Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe and Contact Crampons are great choices.
  • The combination of high winds, snow, and ice often necessitates the use of goggles, like the Smith I/O 7, to protect your eyes and maintain vision. We suggest bringing a second pair in the event one freezes.
  • Summiting Mount Washington in the winter is a long day even in the best conditions—not to mention, the days are shorter this time of year. A headlamp like the Black Diamond Revolt helps prevent getting caught in the dark and provides peace of mind if you fall behind schedule.
  • It’s easy to get disoriented or lost above treeline on Mount Washington, especially if it’s snowing and the wind is howling. A route plan, pre-set waypoints on a phone-based mapping app like GAIA GPS, and a map and compass as backup are all extremely valuable when you’re trying to stay on course no matter the weather.
  • A heavy puffy coat, like the Black Diamond Stance Parka (Men’s/Women’s), and summit mittens, such as the EMS Summit (Men’s/Women’s), are must-haves for extreme cold. Using chemical hand warmers is also a great way to keep your hands warm.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • Mount Washington’s reputation for the “world’s worst weather” is well-deserved, and weather conditions play a huge role in any successful ascent via the Lion Head Winter Route. Before you head out, make sure to read the Mount Washington Observatory’s Higher Summits Forecast. If the conditions don’t look right (for instance, high winds are forecast or the temperatures at higher elevations are just too cold), consider a different trip for the day: A hike up to HoJo’s at the base of Tuckerman Ravine or skiing the Sherburne Trail is a nice alternative that never leaves the protection of the trees.
  • Similarly, if the weather starts to turn during your hike, bailing is a smart decision. After all, the weather rarely gets better the higher you go, and the “Rock Pile” isn’t going anywhere.
  • Before leaving the Visitor Center, take a moment to make sure the Lion Head Winter Route is actually open. Its opening depends on the amount of snow received, and in recent years—like the 2017-2018 winter season—it has not opened until late December.
  • Early starts on Mount Washington are par for the course. The AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge is a great place to stay if you want to roll right from bed to the trail. Accommodation options include private and bunk rooms, with most options encompassing breakfast and dinner.
  • Not confident doing this journey yourself? Consider a guided ascent of Mount Washington with the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. EMS guides have climbed the “Rock Pile” hundreds of times each winter, and have the skills and knowledge to get you up and down the mountain safely. And, if you’re looking for more than just the up-and-back, consider combining a guided climb with an overnight at the Mount Washington Observatory.
  • Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co., or simply The Moat, is the place for Conway-area climbers to eat, grab a pint, and brag about everything from their successful summits to just how bad the weather was above treeline.

Current Conditions

Have you hiked the Lion Head Winter Route on Mount Washington recently? Post your experience and the trail conditions (with the date of your hike) in the comments for others!


Outings for a Presidents' Day in the Presidentials

Presidents’ Day falls on the third Monday of every February. In the Northeast, New Hampshire’s White Mountains make the perfect place to celebrate the holiday. Home to nine 4,000-footers named after past Presidents, they offer numerous outdoor activities with a historical connection. So, whether you’re looking to ski, climb, or hike, here’s how to have a genuinely Presidential Presidents’ Day.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Forget the White House – Visit the White Room

Presidents’ Day originated in the 1880s to commemmorate George Washington’s birthday. For those looking to slide on snow while also honoring the nation’s first President, the slopes of Mount Washington deliver something for everyone.

The Sherburne Ski Trail, often called “the Sherbie,” links the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center with HoJo’s, the caretaker’s cabin at Hermit Lake. Dating back to the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal Legislation, built the Sherbie just for skiers. Considering the innovations since then, most will find the Sherbie sufficiently broad for turning and never extremely steep. As David Goodman notes in his book AMC Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast, the Sherburne never exceeds 24 degrees and is as much as 60 feet across at its widest point.

Although many advanced skiers view the Sherburne Trail as a quick way to descend from the steeper Tuckerman Ravine, it’s a worthy destination by itself. Because of its moderate pitch and tree-lined location, it’s a great place to head when the weather above treeline is unfavorable, if avalanche danger is high, or to just gain confidence on less-consequential terrain.

The trail, however, is for downhill use only. You can access it via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which also leaves Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Heading up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, skiers will notice various entry points to the Sherbie on their left. As another popular option, you can cut over below HoJo’s to avoid the trail’s flat upper portion.

Of course, the Sherbie is just one of Mount Washington’s fantastic ski routes. You can find other intermediate backcountry skiing along the Cog Railway, while the Gulf of Slides and the iconic Tuckerman Ravine present more advanced options.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Better than Climbing the Political Ladder  

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

In the 1970s, Congress officially moved Presidents’ Day to the third Monday of February to give federal workers more three-day weekends. But, many believe that the move also broadened the holiday’s scope by additionally commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 15th). If you fall into this camp, get your presidential celebration started on Mount Lincoln.

While most people get to the summit via Franconia Ridge, ice climbing Lincoln’s Throat is the most direct way up. Viewed from a distance, Lincoln’s Throat is the pronounced gully between Lincoln and Lafayette that tops out on Franconia Ridge just below Lincoln’s summit.

The route also offers a bit of everything (except crowds) for alpine climbers. You’ll hike or bushwack off trail, do steep snow climbing, climb a single moderately rated WI3 ice pitch, and have the opportunity to summit a 4,000-footer. Or, if you choose to descend down the Old Bridle Path, you’ll get in two 4,000-footers.

If Lincoln Throat’s sole ice pitch isn’t fully formed, is rotten, or is over your head, consider alternatives. However, those involve mixed climbing, and not the type you’re thinking of. Instead of rock and ice, you’ll find krumholtz and snow. These might be less treacherous, but they’re also slower and more frustrating.

Consider making this trip early in the season or in low-snow years. But, if you’re going when heavy snow covers the ground, be sure to bring snowshoes, an avalanche kit, and the knowledge of how to navigate avalanche terrain.

Of course, if this President-worthy climb gives you a case of the willies, you can always check out the beginner-friendly Willey’s Slide in Crawford Notch. It’s not on a peak named after a President, but on a clear day, you’ll get a great view of the southern Presidentials.     

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Don’t Settle for Fake Views

Over time, the public consensus about Presidents’ Day has broadened even further. These days, we think of it as a celebration of all past Presidents. Fortunately, the White Mountains include eight more 4,000-foot peaks named after Presidents (Adams, Madison, Jefferson, Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce, and Garfield) or with a Presidential-sounding name. For the latter, Jackson is actually named after New Hampshire State Geologist Charles Jackson, not the seventh President, Andrew Jackson.

Of these, Mount Pierce—named after the only President born in New Hampshire—and Mount Garfield are both great options for a moderate day hike with fantastic views. For more of a challenge, Mount Adams (named after John Adams) is one of the Northeast 115’s toughest winter climbs. And, if you’re supremely motivated and the weather is good, consider attempting a Presidential Traverse. In one trip, you’ll hopefully bag Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce, and Jackson.

Although the President might spend his days in the White House, you can get out of the house, away from the office, and into the fresh air to honor our nation’s past leaders. Let us know how you spent your Presidents’ Day in the comments below.


Alpha Guide: Ice Climb Shoestring Gully

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Easily accessible alpine-style climbing at a modest grade and in an amazing setting make Shoestring Gully a must-do climb for ice climbers of all levels.

An ascent of Shoestring Gully in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch is a rite of passage for aspiring ice climbers in the Northeast. Offering 2,500 feet of varied climbing, an incredible view of Crawford Notch, and an alpine feel without the above-treeline weather and exposure, Shoestring Gully is perhaps the best moderate ice climb in New Hampshire.

Quick Facts

Distance: 4 miles round-trip and 2,200 feet of elevation gain
Time to Complete: Half day
Difficulty: ★★★ (WI2, Grade III)
Scenery: ★★★★


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Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Turn-By-Turn

Shoestring Gully is located off Route 302 a few miles south of Crawford Notch and the AMC Highland Center, with the best parking at the Webster Cliff Trailhead (44.170673, -71.388153). The parking area accommodates anywhere from five to 10 cars, but space fluctuates depending on snowfall. This is a popular climb, so parking spots fill up quickly. There is additional parking available along 302 in both directions, but will add roughly an extra half-mile of hiking in each direction to your outing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Acing the Approach

From the Webster Cliff Trailhead, the most straightforward approach to the gully is crossing Route 302 and hiking up the Webster Cliff Trail. The trail is flat and, after you walk for a few minutes, comes to a bridge that crosses the Saco River. Take the bridge across, and at the trail junction slightly uphill from the river (44.171936, -71.385475), turn left (upstream) onto the Saco River Trail. The trail is often icy, however; if you find that’s the case, this is a good spot to put on either MICROspikes or crampons.

Follow the Saco River Trail for approximately 0.5 miles, until you see the climber’s path leading uphill on the right (44.175751, -71.391571). Looking for a clue that this is the right gully? As a great landmark for heading uphill, a large boulder displays large painted trail markers for the Saco River Trail. Also, thanks to the popularity of this climb, the approach heading uphill is usually pretty broken in.

Historically, climbers have approached by parking roughly a half-mile further north on Route 302 and crossing the Saco at an old dam. Over the years, however, the crossing has gotten a bit spicy. Although this approach puts you directly below the gully and is shorter overall, it also means a road march back to the car on the descent.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Getting to the Start of the Climb

The climber’s path slowly gains altitude as it steadily moves into Shoestring Gully. Once in the gully, the trail steepens as you ascend a bouldery stream bed that gradually opens up near the first ice flow. If you haven’t yet put on your crampons, this is the place to do so, as this section is often slippery, and the “real” climbing is fast approaching.

After roughly 1,000 feet of elevation gain, climbers will encounter the day’s first ice flow (44.178432, -71.386986) at the top of the stream bed. Just below this bulge, a well-worn flat spot is perfect for getting kitted—harness, helmet, crampons, ice tools, rope, and protection—for the climbing above. It’s also a convenient place to have a drink and a quick bite to eat before the rhythm and mechanics of climbing are involved. From the trailhead, it’s roughly 45 to 60 minutes to get here.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The First Ice Bulge

Most years, Shoestring Gully has a short (20- to 30-foot), moderate ice bulge at the base of the climb. The bulge’s right side is typically less challenging, but one of the joys of Shoestring Gully is the opportunity to increase or decrease the climb’s difficulty to meet your skill level. On top of the bulge, climbers will find trees on both the gully’s left and right sides to use as anchors. As a tip, building an anchor on the left side offers a better view of followers, while building it a little higher on the right provides an easier transition to the snow pitches that follow.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Snow Pitches

After the first ice bulge, the next few rope lengths of the gully typically consist of moderate snow with a few interspersed ice patches. Climbers use a variety of techniques to move through this terrain, depending on experience, comfort, and conditions. Some parties will simply pitch out the snow, as they would on any other type of multi-pitch climb. Others will shorten the rope and simul-climb—that is, climb together with running protection between them. No matter how you choose to approach this terrain, however, the ice patches and occasional trees on the gully’s sides provide protection and anchor opportunities.

This section is also a great place to give your calves a break and show off your French technique (or practice it), thanks to the angle and nature of the snow. When the snow starts to transition to ice, the pitch begins to steepen, and the gully’s walls grow in prominence, build an anchor, and get ready for the day’s most technical climbing (44.17893, -71.385422).

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Climb Some Ice

The next three to four rope lengths are Shoestring’s “Ice Pitches.” They begin with a one-to-two pitch climb up several steps of moderate ice, before eventually transitioning to steep snow. The most consistent ice in this section is typically on the gully’s right side.

After a brief snow climb, the gully widens and becomes comparatively steeper. From here, there are three ways up. The rightmost variation climbs the line that hugs the wall on climber’s right and is generally considered the easiest route. The center variation heads directly up the middle of the gully, putting climbers on steeper—closer to WI3—and more difficult ice. Heading farther left puts you on even slightly steeper ice. Beware not to take the fun climbing on the far left variation too high, as it eventually climbs out of the main drainage and will require some bushwacking to get back on course.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

No matter which option you choose, the gully narrows after about two more pitches, with terrain turning into a combination of snow and intermittent ice patches. Trees line the left side, providing some protection and anchor-building opportunities. After roughly one-and-a-half rope lengths of snow-ish climbing, exit the gully into the woods.

Pro Tip: Parties that move quickly through the Snow Pitches can sometimes catch up to slower climbers just starting the Ice Pitches. Although the much-wider gully makes the Ice Pitches a tempting place to make a pass, be careful to avoid tangled ropes or getting stuck at an unprotected belay below a climber who’s raining down ice.

The optional WI3 finish looking thin. | Credit: Tim Peck
The optional WI3 finish looking thin. | Credit: Tim Peck

Optional Finishes

Shoestring Gully offers two alternative finishes for those looking to do more than simply slog up the snow at the top. The first option involves climbing the obvious rock wall on the climber’s right roughly one rope length below the woods. The climbing is moderately rated at 5.5, but finding protection can be tricky, especially if the ice is thin. The second alternative is found above the rock finish, and involves climbing a corner with ice rated up to WI3.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Descent

From the proper finish, climbers should continue walking into the woods until they reach the Webster Cliff Trail (44.179947, -71.382828). The path to the Webster Cliff Trail is often well-broken in, making it easy to locate. The intersection of Shoestring Gully and the Webster Cliff Trail is a great spot to regroup, pack away the climbing gear, and have something to eat. Once everything is packed and you’ve refueled, simply follow the Webster Cliff Trail back to Route 302 and your vehicle. As you head down, make sure to stop at the overlook just a few minutes from the top for a fantastic view of Mount Willard, Mount Willey, and the rest of Crawford Notch.

If you didn’t bring MICROspikes, leave your crampons on for the descent. The Webster Cliff Trail descends several steep sections and is often extremely icy. You’ll want the extra traction.


Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit

  • Never climb steep ice without a helmet. Shoestring Gully gets a lot of traffic, and the potential for someone knocking ice down is high. The Black Diamond Vector is a long-time favorite for its great fit and minimal weight.
  • Lugging a heavy rope 2,500 feet up is no fun. Consider lightening the load with the Sterling Rope Fusion Nano 9.0 dry rope.
  • The Black Diamond Dirtbag Gloves are just warm enough for most winter days, durable enough for ice climbing, and offer enough dexterity to handle the rope, making them a key to any Shoestring Gully kit.
  • Whether you’re pitching it out, simul-climbing, or mixing the two techniques, an ascent of Shoestring Gully often involves several stops and starts. A jacket like the EMS Alpine Ascender is the perfect insulation piece, as it keeps you warm when you’re stopped at the belay, but breathes when you’re on the move.
  • Winter days are short, and everything from conditions to other parties makes it longer than anticipated. Avoid getting stuck in the dark with the super-bright and easily rechargeable Black Diamond Revolt.
  • The Petzl Caritool Evo can be added to most harnesses and makes it easy to keep your climbing gear organized.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • Get there early! This is a popular climb, and arriving early is the surest way to beat the crowds. And, thanks to Shoestring Gully’s moderate grade and fun climbing, expect to encounter people of all abilities—from people taking their first turn on the sharp end to climbers going ropeless.
  • Shoestring Gully gets lots of sun, so it’s a great option even on cold days.
  • Be willing to do variations. There are ample opportunities to pass slower parties by doing different (and sometimes harder) variations of the route’s pitches.
  • If you finish with time to spare, consider climbing to the summit of Mount Webster, approximately 1.5 miles further up the Webster Cliff Trail. Or, consider climbing another of the area’s moderate multi-pitch routes, including Willey’s Slide, Flume Cascade, and Silver Cascade, to name a few.
  • If you worked up an appetite climbing, Fabyan’s Restaurant, located across from Bretton Woods, is nearby, or head into North Conway to visit Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Co., which is the place for climbers to congregate.
  • Not sure if you’re ready for Shoestring Gully? Contact the EMS Climbing School to arrange for a guided ascent, or spend a day brushing up on your ice skills with one of our guides.

Current Conditions

Have you climbed Shoestring recently? Post your experience and the conditions (with the date of your climb) in the comments for others!


Getting Ready for Backcountry Ski Season

Ski season is in full swing in the Northeast, with many New England-based backcountry skiers having already earned their first turns. Of course, with skiing in Tuckerman Ravine extending often into July, the reality is that now is just the beginning of the season. If you haven’t stepped into your ski boots yet, however, no worries. You still have a lot of time left! So, make the most of it with these tips to get you primed:

Skis

Tuning your skis is one of the simplest things you can do to prepare for the upcoming season. Doing so requires a little free space, a few simple tools, and a little elbow grease, making it a great way to pass time while waiting to get out there. Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable, bring them into the shop now, and beat the rush that occurs upon the season’s first real snowfall.

Want to learn more about tuning your own skis?

Bindings

While your skis are on the bench, take a minute to inspect your bindings. Start by checking their mounting screws to make sure none are loose. If you encounter a loose screw, back it all the way out, and add some wood glue or epoxy to the hole before re-inserting and tightening the screw. Or, as another option, bring it to your local shop to have a pro do it. Next, give your bindings a visual inspection to ensure the binding itself has no cracks or loose screws, before finally clicking in your boots and making sure they still securely attach.

Pats-Peak-skinning

Skins

One of the main disruptors of early-season tours is skin failure. So, before you’re midway to your first pow day, make sure your skins are up to the challenge by giving them a good inspection. Is there a bunch of dirt and debris that should be removed? Are they still sticky? If not, it might be time to re-glue them. Is the skin showing much wear? Are the tip and tail connectors in good condition? As these small parts see significant use, tip and tail connectors are a common place for a skin to fail. Is it simply time to buy new skins? Remember, it’s better to make this decision yourself, rather than waiting for the universe to decide for you.

If your skins look good to go but you’re planning on using them with a new set of skis, make sure they are trimmed to match the skis’ shape. Using a skin-cutting tool, trim the skin to cover the ski’s base while leaving the ski’s edges showing. Exposed edges give your skis some bite on ascents with steep or icy traverses.

Beacon

If your tour plans include some avalanche terrain, now is the time to get your avvy kit in order.

To start the season off right, treat your beacon to a fresh set of batteries. As a rule, old-fashioned alkaline batteries work best for beacons, while lithium-ion and rechargeable ones should be avoided. Checking with your beacon’s manufacturer is the simplest way to ensure you’re using the proper battery. However, alkaline batteries can leak, causing corrosion of a beacon’s contacts and negatively affecting its performance. So, if you didn’t take your beacon’s batteries out before storing it over the summer, check the contacts for corrosion as you replace the batteries.

If you have an extra beacon, now is the time to confirm that it’s functioning with a range test and a couple of practice searches. If you don’t have an extra one, consider getting together with your ski partner or group to confirm that everyone’s beacons function properly. Even better, this serves as a great chance for early-season avvy practice, and lets everyone you ski with re-familiarize themselves with their equipment and the basics of conducting a search. While you’re at it, check out the Backcountry Access website, which has a series of detailed videos designed to help skiers and riders improve their avalanche transceiver skills.

Pro Tip: Many newer avalanche beacons feature updatable firmware. If your beacon is updatable, check the manufacturer’s website to make sure yours is using the latest software.

Earning-turns-at-cannon

Probe and Shovel

Just as with your beacon, you’ll want to be familiar with your avalanche probe and shovel before you need it. Before the season starts, spend some time practicing assembling them quickly. While you’re at it, confirm that your probe’s shock-cord still works. If it doesn’t, it’s time for a new one.

Hit the Resort

Thanks to snowmaking, Northeast resorts are far more likely to have skiable terrain than the backcountry early on. Take the opportunity to ride the lifts, find your ski legs, and make some low-consequence turns. Of course, if you’re committed to earning your turns, many resorts have something to offer skiers who like to go uphill as much as down. Places such as New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain sell “skinning” tickets and have designated uphill travel routes, while ski areas like Vermont’s Magic Mountain not only allow free skinning on their slopes, but also reward skiers and splitboarders who climb the 1,700 feet to the resort’s summit with a ticket for one free lift ride via their “Hike One, Ride One” program.

Skinning at the resort has numerous benefits for backcountry skiers, as it allows them to build fitness for the upcoming season, dial in transitions, and, most importantly early on, confirm that their gear is in good workable condition in a comparatively controlled environment. Every mountain has unique rules and restrictions, however, so make sure you know its policy before you go. The United States Ski Mountaineering Association is a great resource for uphill policies across the U.S.

Early-and-empty

Repair Kit

Things break. To be prepared for these types of failures in the mountains, always carry a repair kit. A good one can mean the difference between an inconvenience and an epic.

For day trips, a multitool is extremely valuable, good for clearing ice from tech fittings, making a binding adjustment, cracking a beer in the parking lot, and doing far more. It’s also worth adding the various bits you will need to repair your boot or binding and a driver for the bits. Another lightweight addition to your kit, a spare ski pole basket can save an unfathomable amount of aggravation. The same can be said about skin wax. A few blocks weighing just a few ounces can prevent snow from building up on your skis, saving energy and frustration.

Additionally, we like to bring two or three ski straps—basically, the duct tape of the backcountry ski world. Extremely helpful, the material can be used for everything from holding your skis together to fixing a boot. And, speaking of duct tape, we carry that, too! Lastly, complete your kit with a few extra binding screws and tip and tail loops for your skins.

First Aid Kit

Since many backcountry areas don’t have ski patrol or pre-placed rescue equipment, the knowledge to provide first aid and the gear necessary to treat and evacuate a patient are essential. A good backcountry skiing-specific first aid kit starts with the staples: gauze, bandages, and ibuprofen. We then like to add a few ski-specific items, including a bivy or small sleeping bag to keep an injured person warm.

Seeing that cold is the enemy, we also tuck in a few hand warmers, as they are great for everything from an emergency to a morale boost. As well, a SAM splint fits into most packs and makes splinting easy. We’ve also gotten into the habit of bringing along an extra set of batteries, in the event that a headlamp dies or someone shows up to the trailhead with a beacon but no batteries.

Carrying a rescue sled is a good step to safety and self-sufficiency. If building a makeshift sled to evacuate an injured skier seems overly complicated, you can simply carry one of the numerous lightweight models sold for backcountry skiing.

Finally, it’s extremely critical to know how to use the equipment you’re carrying. If you’re heading into the backcountry this winter, seriously consider taking a wilderness first aid or wilderness first-responder course. SOLO offers classes throughout the Northeast.

Helmet and Goggles

If you’re backcountry skiing in the Northeast, you’ll most likely be carrying a helmet and goggles. Before the season starts, inspect your helmet to ensure that it has no cracks or dings. If the inspection gives you any doubt about its reliability, upgrade! Also, spend a few minutes cleaning your goggles, and give them a coat of anti-fogging Cat Crap.

Did we miss anything? Share with us your favorite tips for the preseason in the comments!

Sunrise-skin-change


The Top 6 Outdoor Podcasts

Getting to our favorite places to hike, climb, or ski often involves a long time riding in the car. As a solution to keep the drive from getting monotonous, tune in to one of these great outdoor podcasts. While they won’t make the miles go by any faster, they’ll certainly make your trip a bit more stimulating.

 

The Enormocast

The Enormocast’s tagline is “A Slice of the Climbing Life,” which is precisely what this bi-weekly podcast delivers. The show’s interview format typically features host Chris Kalous sitting down one-on-one with climbers from all over the world and touches on all climbing disciplines. A quick glance though The Enormocast archives—all episodes are available for free to download—reads like a who’s who of climbing, with such notable guests as Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Colin Haley, Lynn Hill, and Henry Barber, just to name a few. However, what sets The Enormocast apart is that it provides a place for climbers to share their stories with an informed audience, without the dumbed-down, oversimplified talk that clutters mass media conversations.

The Dirtbag Diaries

Unlike most on this list, The Dirtbag Diaries is a melting pot for all things outdoors. Rather than focus on a single niche, The Dirtbag Diaries might give you an episode about skiing one week, followed by a story about paddling the next. Acting like a virtual campfire, the podcast features some of the outdoors’ best storytellers sharing their unique voices and adventures. Overall, it covers everything from inspiration to advocacy, and aims to both entertain and educate.

The Firn Line 

Chronicling the lives of alpinists in Alaska’s mountain ranges, The Firn Line is the best and most interesting mountaineering-specific podcast. Hosted by Evan Phillips, the podcast blends one-on-one interviews with some of Alaska’s most renowned alpinists—including Jack Tackle, Mark Westman, Vern Tejas, Clint Helander, and Charlie Sassara—with music and backstory. The conversations in Season 1, now 19 episodes strong, share their stories while simultaneously exploring sport-centric questions like why we climb, the meaning of partnership, and overcoming injuries and setbacks in the mountains. Check it out.

Totally Deep Podcast

Totally Deep features cult-classic movie Aspen Extreme in its opening credits, so it’s easy to get hooked. As you would expect from a podcast that uses a so-bad-it’s-good ’90s movie to lure you in, Totally Deep is a rambling, fun, and informative look at everything backcountry skiing. Leaving no backcountry skier unserved, it covers all aspects of the sport, from skinning laps at the resort to mountaineering racing to simply skiing for fun. Hosted by Doug Stenclik and Randy Young, the show never takes skiing too seriously. As such, it’s a great listen, no matter if you’re in the car, uphilling at the resort, or tuning skis in the basement.

The Sharp End

Stories of other climbers’ screw-ups might not be the most inspiring thing to listen to on the way to the crag. However, they’re probably the most educational. Based on the American Alpine Club’s annual “Accidents in North American Climbing” report, The Sharp End shares stories of mishaps, epics, and accidents from the perspectives of those who’ve lived them. But, it’s not all storytime. A thoughtful analysis of each accident is designed to keep you from repeating it. While they might not all be pick-me-ups, the information might just save your life.

Outside Podcast

No time to read a monthly magazine? Get your dose of the adventure world’s best through Outside Magazine‘s podcast. Episodes from The Outside Podcast are a healthy conglomerate of stories told in print and then expertly crafted into audio, interviews with the biggest names, and stories analyzing survival in all conditions. Want to find out what it’s like to (almost) freeze to death? Listen to one of their earlier episodes.


When should I retire my gear?

Everyone has a story about an indestructible pair of boots or jacket whose age is counted in decades rather than years, but the truth is that everything wears out eventually. Even the mountains can’t avoid it—the Appalachians are presumed to have been taller than the Rockies at one point, before wind and erosion wore them down to their present height. While age may simply take a toll on the aesthetics of some items, it can hurt the performance of others. If you’re looking for an excuse to start the new year with new gear, consider the expiration date on some of these everyday outdoor items.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Biking

If you bike, you should own a helmet. And if you really love biking, you probably own multiple helmets, as everything from mountain to road to cruising around town all have brain buckets designed especially for them. But is your helmet as safe as you think it is?

As a general guideline, you should replace your helmet every five years, as everyday wear and tear, cosmetics like shampoo, and even sweat can degrade the materials in your helmet. Additionally, today’s helmets are much more sophisticated than those of five years ago. Give your head a happy New Year with a new helmet.

Oh, and the five year rule doesn’t just apply to bike helmets…make sure to check your ski/snowboard helmet and climbing helmet as well and replace if necessary.

Paddling

PFDs have a hard life. They are constantly cycling between wet and dry, regularly exposed to too much sun, and forever battling against salt, whether from the ocean or sweat. Not to mention, PFDs are not always the most well-cared-for piece of gear. So let’s start with the basics: you’ve cleaned your PFD recently, right? While you’re doing that, check if the color is fading, the fabric is ripping, or the webbing looks tattered. If so, it’s probably time for a new vest. Also critically important is the quality of your PFD’s foam. If it’s starting to feel hard or doesn’t quickly regain its original shape after being squeezed, replace it.

While you’re checking your PFD, look over other high-wear items like your kayak’s rigging, bulkheads, and seals. Then check out the gaskets on your drysuit, the buckles on your dry bags, and the rope in your throw bag. When you’re done, give your boat a coat of 303 Aerospace Protectant, it’s basically sunscreen for your boat.

Climbing

If you’re using your climbing harness regularly, it is recommended that you replace it every three years. But many factors—including regularly taking big falls—can shorten an individual harness’ lifespan. Before you rope up this year, give your harness a good visual inspection. First check the tie-in points, making sure they are free from any tears, cuts, or abrasions and that the fabric is uniform and no one section is thinner than others. Moving along, make sure the rest of your harness isn’t showing any suspect wear, abrasion, or fading. Furthermore, make sure that the buckles are intact, don’t have any burrs or rough edges, and are free from corrosion.

After checking you harness, spend a few minutes inspecting your other climbing gear. Ropes that have flat spots, are frayed, worn, beat up, or feel stiff—a sign its losing its elasticity—should be retired. Ropes older than 10 years should also be replaced, even if they haven’t been used regularly. Additionally, check your slings, as their strength can be affected by both abrasion and UV exposure. Finally, examine your carabiners for wear and grooving.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Hiking

Finding boots that are comfortable, supportive, and fit right is a tricky task, so it’s no wonder so many people wear theirs into the ground. There is no set mileage or magic number of days a hiking boot has in its life, so the easiest way to tell if a pair needs replacing is to give each boot a quick inspection. Examine the soles to see if they still have tread and all the lugs. Scrambling down wet rock can be dangerous when the rubber has been worn down. Then check the stitching and liner—both inside and out—for fraying or signs of giving out, to avoid them from bursting open when you’re in the middle of your next hike. Another good indicator that it’s time for new boots is how they feel on your feet. If you’ve recently started getting hot spots, blisters, or unusual aches, you might want to kick off the New Year in…well, new kicks.

Pro Tip: Give your boots the “press test.” To do this, press the outsole of the boot upward with your thumb—simulating their movement when being walked in—while watching the midsole. If the midsole folds into a line with small wrinkles, it’s okay, but if you see strong compression lines or cracks, tell your boots to take a hike.

Backpacking

Do you remember the nights being a bit colder than usual during your last backpacking trip? If so, it might be time to upgrade your synthetic-filled sleeping bag. In general (it’s hard to be specific with so many different synthetic fills available these days), the more you compress your bag, the faster its fibers break down. A sure sign that your bag’s life is coming to end is if the fill is clumping or if some spots have more fabric than fill. If you come across either of these, consider downgrading your bag’s degree rating or upgrading to a new one.

Check your puffy jacket, too! Synthetic-filled puffies break down as well, often faster than sleeping bags, thanks to their year-round usefulness and being shoved in and out of backpacks. Before heading out this year, make sure your synthetically insulated stuff is up to the task.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

First Aid

Carrying at least a small first aid kit on all your outdoor adventures is a good idea. Of course, a first aid kit is only as useful as its contents. Before heading outside in the new year, take a look at the expiration date on your first aid kit’s medication and replace anything past its prime. While you’re at it, spend a moment reviewing the first aid cliff notes found in most kits. If anything feels rusty, it’s probably time to refresh those expired first aid skills as well.

Give your gear some love

Of course, not everything needs to be replaced when it starts to show some age. Giving your gear a little first aid by patching that hole on your pack or reviving the waterproofing on your favorite shell is a great way to keep your gear going strong into the new year.

Replacing expired gear is not only a great way to make sure that you’re safely participating in your favorite outdoor sports, it also ensures that you continue to enjoy them. More so, there’s no better way to get stoked to hit that big jump, send a route, or take a trip into the woods than new gear.


Checklist: 52 goEast New Year's Resolutions

Making outdoor-themed New Year’s resolutions is easy. Following through? Now that’s hard, especially when you don’t know where to get started. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered, with 52 suggested outdoor activities—straight from the goEast archives—to help turn your resolution into a weekly reality. Here’s to making 2018 the best year yet.

Courtesy: @peterkbrandon
Courtesy: @peterkbrandon

Winter

  1. Hike the White Mountains’ Franconia Ridge, a true winter test piece.
  2. Skin and ski Mt. Moosilauke.
  3. Winter camp in style: spend the night at the AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut.
  4. Visit one, or all, of these awesome ski bars.
  5. See Arethusa Falls—New Hampshire’s tallest waterfall—in its frozen splendor.
  6. Feeling masochistic? Attempt one of the Northeast 115’s toughest winter climbs.
  7. Climb Mount Colden’s Trap Dike.
  8. Ski the “Beast of the East,” Killington.
  9. Spend a weekend riding the groomers at Lincoln’s Loon Mountain Resort.
  10. Sick of the cold? Head for one of these eight warmer-weather climbing destinations.
  11. Snowshoe to the summit of Camel’s Hump, then reward the effort with a trip to the Prohibition Pig.
  12. Ski Mount Washington’s Cog Railway (while you still can).
  13. Earn your turns and ski Mount Cardigan.

_W0A9364

Spring

  1. Start the climbing season early by bouldering at Rhode Island’s Lincoln Woods.
  2. Try one of these end-of-winter/beginning-of-spring shoulder season activities or invent your own.
  3. Begin a quest to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers.
  4. Sport climb at Rumney, then check out the new American Alpine Club climber’s campground. Rinse and repeat.
  5. Don’t let April showers stop you; get comfortable taking a hike in the rain.
  6. Still too much snow on the higher summits? Check out West Rattlesnake Mountain or one of the other family-friendly hikes in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.
  7. It’ll be warm down south. Head down and backpack the Virginia Triple Crown.
  8. Try trail running on Boston’s Blue Hills Skyline Trail.
  9. Take in the views from the New Hampshire 4,000 footers’ six most-scenic summits.
  10. Start them young and take your kids climbing.
  11. Get on your mountain bike and ride Boston’s South Shore. (Just make sure the trails are dry and your bike is tuned-up first.)
  12. Head out for a post-work climbing session. If you live near Boston, Quincy Quarries and Hammond Pond are perfect!
  13. Explore the family-friendly hiking at World’s End in Hingham, Massachusetts.

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Summer

  1. Hiking Mount Washington, climbing Cathedral Ledge, and swimming in the Saco are just some of the awesome activities found in North Conway. Take a long weekend and do them all.
  2. Go alpine climbing on Mount Washington’s Henderson Ridge.
  3. Visit New England’s only National Park, Acadia. While you’re there, hike Cadillac Mountain (bonus points for getting a sunrise ascent).
  4. Whether you’re looking for climbing, hiking, paddling, or strolling the town, you’ll find it in Lake Placid. Spend the weekend.
  5. Take not just your best friend, but man’s best friend for a hike.
  6. Vacation time? Head west and visit one of the U.S.’s lesser known National Parks.
  7. Ditch the tent and live the dirtbag dream for a weekend and curl up in your car.
  8. Do the Presidential Traverse. Even better, do it in a day.
  9. Visit one of these five New Hampshire climbing destinations and stop for a slice afterward.
  10. Take advantage of the long days surrounding the solstice with one of these all-day hikes in Adirondacks.
  11. Climb above the ocean at Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park.
  12. Hike the Burrows Trail to the summit of Camel’s Hump, then treat yourself to an ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s.
  13. Go backpacking and spend a night in a lean-to.
Credit: Michael Martineau
Credit: Michael Martineau

Fall

  1. Vermont is awesome in the fall. Hike one of Vermont’s five 4,000-foot mountains. Super motivated? Try to bag all five in 24 hours!
  2. Do some high-angle leaf peeping on one of these moderate slab climbs in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
  3. Paddle through history on Massachusetts’ Concord River.
  4. Foliage is just one reason why Burlington, Vermont is great in the fall. Move past leaf peeping and explore like a local.
  5. Tackle one of these fantastic fall bike rides.
  6. Save some time in Rocktober to do The Eaglet in Franconia Notch, the most prominent free-standing spire in the East.
  7. Enjoy the fall foliage by backpacking the White Mountains’ iconic Pemi Loop.
  8. Challenge yourself to burn off Thanksgiving dinner.
  9. Try one of these late-fall/early-winter hikes on the Kancamagus.
  10. Be ready for ski season for once and tune up your skis in the fall.
  11. Go gravel grinding.
  12. Get a late-season backpacking trip in on Jersey’s Batona Trail. And if you’re afraid of the cold, check out our pro tips for staying warm.
  13. Share your adventures—start a blog, Instagram account, or write for goEast and inspire others!

 

Of course these are just a few outdoor-oriented New Year’s resolutions. We want to hear about what your planning for 2018, so leave your plans in the comments.

Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller