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Heart of Winter: Pinnacle Gully, Mount Washington

Last fall, I wrote about climbing fifty classic climbs of my own choosing, after the age of fifty-five. This is the second installment. 

February 1st is the heart of winter, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Mount Washington is the heart of winter in New England, the coldest, windiest, iciest spot imaginable. Pinnacle Gully is the most classic, most famous ice climb on Mount Washington, and has been a goal of mine for years.

As Silas Rossi likes to say, in the mountains we have options, not goals. But the weather looked good, the avalanche risk was moderate, and so Pinnacle Gully started looking like the best option for the day.

Geology, geography, geometry…we love mountains because their shapes speak to us, sculptures that transcend human notions of time and space. The ingredients are few—rock, ice, sky—but the variety is infinite. Pinnacle Gully is such a singular sculpture, a wall of rock to the left leaning and looming overhead, blocking out half the worl…

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