Matterhorn Prep Climbs
White Horse Ledges and Huntington Ravine
May 12 & June 9, 2012
White Horse Ledge, North Conway NH
Preparation for the Matterhorn
Last summer I had a couple of great trips with my climbing partners, Gary and Jill Rogers, and really got the bug for climbing big mountains – particularly those with a reasonable amount of “low intensity” rock climbing. I really loved climbing the Grand Teton, and started looking around for comparable mountains – lots of vertical with climbing not much exceeding 5.5. A little research led me directly to the Matterhorn – the storied Swiss peak first climbed by Edward Whymper in 1865. This gigantic hunk of limestone offers about 50% more mountain than the Grand Teton, but with the addition of fixed ropes and other protection to facilitate climbing fast – a key element of safety.
A little more scouting around led me to International Mountain Guides – an outfit with a great reputation. These types of expeditions always require some pre-qualifications – this is a dangerous and difficult climb and experience is key to success. The folks at IMG suggested that I spend at least 3-4 days with Eastern Mountains Sports really getting ready for the rock climbing requirements that the Matterhorn presents. They did not need to ask twice. The guys at EMS were fully conversant with the Hornli Ridge Route and plotted out 3-4 days of training with one of their guides, Keith Moon.
The Matterhorn, with Hornli Ridge in the center
White Horse Ledge with Keith Moon
Keith Moon is a young EMS Guide from the topographically challenged state of Minnesota. He loves the mountains – climbing, skiing – whatever, and really knows every inch of the Hills in the Mt. Washington Valley. We set out for White Horse Ledge in North Conway, named for a long vanished outline of a horse on its granite face. This is a multi-pitch climb, with a bunch of friction slabs grading into blocky pitches over its total height of over 1,000 feet. The day was spectacular, the Hill crowded, and the views terrific – Mt. Washington had more snow on it in mid-May than it did in late March. This was a single climb day – but a great way to start training.
Keith Moon of EMS Climbing School
Views near the summit of White Horse Ledge
Mt. Washington from White Horse Ledge
Henderson Ridge and North Gulley – our first route of the day
A Multi-Climb day in Huntington Ravine
This was a top down day – we drove to the top of Mt. Washington and descended into Huntington Ravine via the eponymous trail to do a couple of down and up laps. Huntington ravine is a large glacial cirque, and has some large crystal gneiss – which makes for some great climbing. This country is remarkable similar to the topography on the Matterhorn – but with obviously less total exposure. I had never spent any time in Huntington Ravine, although it has some of the classic ice climbing routes in the eastern US. We descended the somewhat challenging Huntington Ravine Trail, and ascended the Henderson Ridge and then into the North Gulley. This was simply wonderful climbing, with the highlight being a trip out onto the diving board, a rock slab thrust out over the Gulley – and a lot of clear air.
Keith on the Diving Board
Wes considering the view from the diving board
The second trip up and down the Ravine was fast and pretty straight forward – more exercise than climbing – but still a lot of fun.
The trip home was marked by a visit to my favorite North Country pizza parlor, and included a chance to visit with some people traveling with their dog (in a side-car) on a motorcycle – simply fabulous.
Eating ice cream in the side-car
Adios from Huntington and White Horse