Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ice Climbing Arethusa Falls, New Hampshire

Ice climbing the highest waterfall in New Hampshire!
Iced out Arethusa Falls, New Hampshiire
Its still winter!! Despite the terribly warm temperatures and lack of snow, me and a friend were still able to get a late season ice climb in. Arethusa Falls, located in Crawford Notch State Park, is usually one of the last routes lingering through the spring. Its also a great place to learn how to ice climb because there's plenty of places to set up a top rope and most of the ice is rated WI3-WI4 although more difficult routes are possible. The sides of the waterfall are mostly single pitch climbs but the middle could be a pitch and a half. Whatever your pleasure, Arethusa Falls is an excellent destination for ice climbing.

Getting to Arethusa Falls

Arethusa Falls is located in Crawford Notch State Park in New Hampshire's White Mountains. The trailhead is the first one you will encounter in Crawford Notch if you're driving North from North Conway. Its the same one you would take if you were checking out Frankenstein Cliff. There's plenty of parking at the trailhead.

There's good news and bad news about the trail. It's 1.3 miles to the falls which can be killer if you're carrying 50 pounds of gear and rope. However this also works to your advantage in keeping the crowds down. We've done a fair amount of rock climbing but we're still new to ice climbing so it was nice to not have a bunch of pompous climbers critiquing everything you do. (you know what I mean)
Arethusa Falls in March
General Impressions

The great thing about the falls is that it is large enough to support a multitude of routes. The left side has some easy first-timer routes and plenty of places to set up a solid anchor for top-roping. The ice is rated WI3-WI4 in most parts too (easy routes). The right side has some more difficult routes and it might be tougher to set up a top rope. The middle of the falls supports some routes that are about a pitch and a half. I imagine that would be a great place to try some lead ice climbing but it looked a little sketchy when we were there.

We elected to do the routes on the left side of the falls. It was easy to skirt up and around the falls and set up an anchor on the trees you see. Also, we could anchor in at the bottom for belaying. The climb itself wasn't more than half a pitch.
Top of Arethusa Falls
These falls tend to have a longer season than most routes in the Whites. Its well protected from sunlight and tucked away in the trees. Every season's different, of course, but even in this crappy winter there was still enough ice to support a couple of climbs. By the time you read this, all of the ice routes are probably out for the season. However I'm definitely going to be headed back here as soon as next season starts! I think I've picked up yet another adventure sport.

New England is a huge destination for ice climbing! New England Climbs is a website that has updates on most routes and is maintained by professional climbers. NEice is another website which has trip reports and descriptions of routes all over the Northeast. If you're not into ice climbs, well Arethusa Falls is still a great short hike in the summer and winter!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

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