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 tick list. Even better, to tick a person off your shopping list, hook them up with a key piece of gear for sending this awesome route.

Alpha Guides

1.The Beta

Moderate climbing in an incredible surrounding makes Shoestring Gully popular with novice and expert ice climbers alike. This also means that the route can be crowded at times. So, 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 a Heavy Pack

For all the great ice climbing in Shoestring Gully, the trip involves as much hiking as it does climbing. To help the ice climber on your list lighten their load and reduce the amount of weight they need to schlep up and down the gully, hook 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.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Harness the Stoke

If the climber on your list is fairly new to the sport, they might need to upgrade their harness to something more winter friendly. Options like the Petzl Adjama and Petzl Women’s Luna feature adjustable leg loops, allowing them to easily accommodate a variety of layers. Furthermore, both come equipped with five gear loops that deliver more than enough room to store winter climbing essentials. As a bonus, they’re compatible with Petzl’s Caritool Evo Holder (an awesome stocking stuffer, by the way), a special tool designed for holding ice screws.

4. Moving Comfort

For tackling long ice lines like Shoestring Gully, keeping warm and staying in motion are two of the main challenges. Because of this, puffies using active insulation are preferable. Unlike with traditional puffers, which are worn at belays and put away before climbing, active insulation pieces like the EMS Alpine Ascender Stretch and Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody (men’s/women’s) breathe when you’re on the move, and keep climbers warm when they’re hunkered down at a belay. All this adds up to being comfortable, moving fast, and going onto the next big climb.

5. Keep Your Tools on a Leash

In recent years, leashless ice axes have become the norm. While they hugely improve maneuverability, they may be a liability on long routes like Shoestring Gully: In a moment of inattentiveness, one might disappear hundreds of feet below. Luckily, an umbilical leash, like Black Diamond’s Spinner Leash, provides climbers with the best of both worlds—the unrestricted movement of leashless ice tools with the security of a leashed tool.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

6. Shell Game

A midweight softshell, like the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol (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.

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, all of which help conduct the cold, and restricted blood flow—from over-gripping axes—that seems to happen every time the ice gets steep, and you’ll soon recognize your hands are particularly susceptible. The easiest way to keep them warm is with a high-quality, super-insulated pair of mittens, such as the Outdoor Research Men’s Altitude (men’s/women’s). Match them with Yaktrax Hand Warmers, a chemical hand warmer packet that keeps everybody’s hands toasty and, in this case, also makes the perfect stocking stuffer.

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

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 withstand going in and out of a pack, and it keeps contents warm for up to 12 hours. Similarly, the Hydro Flask 18 oz. Food Flask is rugged enough to live in your pack, will keep food hot for up to three hours, and is perfect for someone who prefers tomato soup to tea.

9. The Gift of Speed

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. Additionally, they’ll need a pack like the Black Diamond Speed Zip 33 to transport it all. The Speed packs are staples in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, thanks to their just-stripped-down-enough build that delivers everything climbers need without the frills. Featuring ice tool pick pockets, crampon straps, a tuck-away rope strap, and a removable hipbelt (so the pack won’t interfere with a harness), the Speed Zip 33 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 the person on your list would like to do, but you don’t think they’re up to the challenge themselves, enlist the services 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 Intermediate Ice Climbing, which are designed to teach the skills needed for tackling routes such as this one on your own.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck