Winter is prime time for the ice-lover in your life. In fact, if you see the ice climber on your shopping list at all over the holidays, it’s probably due to a mid-winter thaw. While your favorite ice climber waits for the mountains to refreeze, fire up their stoke by putting Shoestring Gully—a 2,500-foot alpine climb in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch—on their ticklist. Even better, tick a person off your shopping list by hooking them up with a key piece of gear for sending this awesome route.

Alpha Guides

10 Gifts for the Ice Climber on Your List

1. The Beta

Moderate climbing in an incredible setting makes Shoestring Gully popular with novice and expert ice climbers alike. This also means that the route can be crowded at times. Give the ice climber on your list all the knowledge they need to send this superb route—including ideal places to pass slower parties—with goEast’s Alpha Guide: Ice Climbing Shoestring Gully.

2. Screw Carrying a Heavy Pack

For all the great ice climbing in Shoestring Gully, the trip involves as much hiking as climbing. Help the ice climber on your list lighten their pack and reduce the amount of weight they need to schlep up and down the gully by hooking them up with a few lightweight ice screws. Black Diamond Ultralight Screws and Petzl’s Laser Speed Light Ice Screws are both excellent choices for ice climbers who believe light is right.

Climbing Shoestring Gully
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Harness the Stoke

If the climber on your list is a newer ice climber, it might be time to upgrade their harness to something more winter friendly. Harnesses such as the Petzl Adjama and Petzl Women’s Luna feature adjustable leg loops, allowing them to easily accommodate a variety of layers. Both come equipped with five gear loops that deliver more than enough room to store winter climbing essentials and work with Petzl’s Caritool Evo (an awesome stocking stuffer by the way), which is a special tool designed for holding ice screws.

4. Big Traction from MICROspikes

Even if the ice climber on your list already owns a pair of crampons, Kahtoola MICROspikes can make an enormous difference in quickly and efficiently getting up to and off of the route. While crampons work for negotiating the approach to, and descent from, Shoestring Gully, MICROspikes are much easier to walk in than crampons and well worth the additional weight and minimal pack space that they take up. Also, using MICROspikes for the approach and walk-off saves expensive crampons from getting beaten up, keeping them sharp for the most important part of the trip—climbing.

EMS Guide Climbing Shoestring Gully
Credit: Tim Peck

5. Keep Your Tools on a Leash

Leashless ice axes have become the norm in recent years, and while they provide a huge improvement in maneuverability, they can also be a liability on long routes like Shoestring Gully, as a moment of inattentiveness can lead to one disappearing hundreds of feet below. Luckily, an umbilical leash, like Black Diamond’s Spinner Leash, provides climbers with the best of both worlds—offering the unrestricted movement of leashless ice tools with the security of a leash.  

6. Shell Game

A do-it-all softshell, like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoodie (men’s/women’s), blends the perfect amount of warmth and weather protection with the toughness needed to stand up to sharp ice axes, pointy ice screws, and the rough walls enclosing Shoestring Gully. Made with stretchy material for easy movement and harness-compatible pockets, this softshell is built for sending.

Finding Ice on Shoestring Gully
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Warmest Regards

The main challenge of any winter alpine climb is keeping warm and Shoestring Gully is no exception. Factor in metal ice axes, screws, and climbing gear that help conduct the cold, along with the restricted blood flow—from over-gripping axes—that seems to happen every time the ice gets steep and you’ll soon recognize hands are particularly susceptible. The easiest way to keep them warm is with a high-quality, super-warm pair of mittens such as the Black Diamond Mercury Mitts (men’s/women’s). Match them with a perfect stocking stuffer like Little Hotties Hand Warmers, a chemical hand warmer packet that keeps everybody’s hands toasty.

8. Drink in More than the View

Another excellent way to stay warm on winter climbs like Shoestring Gully is with a thermos of hot chocolate or tea. The Hydro Flask 32 oz. Wide Mouth is durable enough to stand up to going in and out of a pack and keeps contents warm for up to 12 hours. Similarly, the Hydro Flask 20 oz. Food Jar is rugged enough to live in your pack, will keep food hot for up to 3 hours, and is perfect for someone who prefers tomato soup to tea.

Descending Shoestring Gully
Credit: Tim Peck

9. A Freaky Great Gift

Harness, helmet, crampons, ice tools, rope, and layers are just some of the items the ice climber on your list will need to make it up and down Shoestring Gully, and they’ll need a pack like the Osprey Mutant 38 to transport everything. The Mutant is a staple in New Hampshire’s White Mountains thanks to its just-stripped-down-enough build that delivers everything climbers need in a pack without the frills. Featuring glove-friendly buckles, tool locks, a multi-position helmet carry net, a hip belt with gear loops, and a rope attachment, the Mutant 38 is made for missions like these. It’s also worth considering a Black Diamond Toolbox and Crampon Bag to protect the pack from sharp crampon points.

10. The Gift that Keeps Giving

If a trip up Shoestring Gully sounds like something that the person on your list would like to do, but you don’t think they’re up to the challenge themselves, enlist the service of the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School—the oldest climbing school on the East Coast. The EMS Climbing School offers everything from private trips, where they’ll guide you up Shoestring Gully, to lessons like Intro to Ice Climbing, which are designed to start building the skills needed for tackling routes such as Shoestring Gully on your own.