Shoestring Gully

I met Hiker Box and Adam in Crawford Notch to climb Shoestring Gully. Soon after we left the parking area, we crossed the Saco River on some frozen rocks and ice and followed the packed down trail into the gully. The steep, 2000′ gully started fairly easy: more snow than ice, and the rocks weren’t too big. Once we made it a little farther up, we switched spikes for crampons and poles for axes. Adam lent me one of his technical tools so I was climbing with one mountaineering axe and one technical axe.

The beginning

Super psyched! Photo by Hiker Box

For a while, the gully was wide enough that you could choose to climb over some ice bulges, or you could choose to keep hiking up snow and lesser ice. My crampons aren’t made especially for climbing so I chose the easier routes for a while until Adam got the rope out. He trailed it up as he climbed and then set up a belay for me to give the ice a shot. Just like the one time I tried ice climbing last year, I had a hard time getting good footholds in the more vertical ice, but I did make it up.

Adam going over the bulge – I went off to the side

Getting a little icier – Photo by Hiker Box

Brief rest – Photo by Hiker Box

Me getting a belay – Photo by Hiker Box

We came to a steeper area that had to be climbed, no way around it, so Adam lead again and placed some ice screws for anchors. Once he had a belay set up at the top, I climbed up, unclipping the rope from the screws, and then Hiker Box followed, collecting the screws. It was a steep snow climb from there to the next, even longer pitch. Adam got to the top, and as I started to climb, he shouted down that there was a bottleneck up there. I knew we were only a pitch or two away from the top of the gully, where there is a very easy hiking trail back down the ridge to the road, so I didn’t think going back down was really an option. Once I made it almost to the top of the climb, I could hear him better to discuss it. There were at least seven people ahead of us, who were showering ice and rocks down without shouting the customary warning, and it was too cold and windy to wait there for them to get through. Another couple was already starting to head back down, and we decided to do the same.

One of the longer pitches

Adam belaying

Hiker Box climbing

View down to the road – Photo by Hiker Box

View up the snow climb – Photo by Hiker Box

View down the snow climb – Photo by Hiker Box

I downclimbed a little bit and then Adam lowered me the rest of the way before rappelling himself. Hiker Box was comfortable downclimbing the snow unroped but I still wanted the protection so I downclimbed attached to Adam on a short rope. We got to the other major pitch we had roped up for previously and all rappelled down (my first time!). From there, easier options than straight up ice were available the rest of the way, although I did do a fair amount of sitting and scooting, which is my norm on steep downhills.

The gully is the white stripe up the center of the mountain – Photo by Hiker Box

Awesome day!


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  1. What is the difference between a mountaineering axe and a technical axe? Are there advantages/disadvantages of each axe? Looks like a fun day. 🙂

  2. A mountaineering axe is longer and straighter than a technical axe and is used in situations where you’re mostly hiking. A technical axe is shorter and curved and used for climbing more vertical ice. Because of its shape, it’s easier to swing and grab ice. A mountaineering axe is better for self arrest though, grabbing onto the mountain if you start sliding down it.

  3. Awesome dude. You are so badass. Sorry I missed this one!

  4. That last photo is pretty amazing. That’s some “gully”.

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