Majka Burhardt and Alexa Siegel Kickoff New England's Ice Climbing Season
Alexa Siegel and Julbo Athlete Majka Burhardt officially kicked off the ice season here in the Northeast when they climbed the Black Dike on New Hampshire's Cannon Cliff for the first time of the 2015/2016 season.
Around these neck of the woods, climbing the Dike has become an annual "battle" among the locals as to who will get to scratch their way to the top of the infamous climb and push the metiphorical start button to the ice season. We caught up with Majka about the first ice of the season and got a little insider scoop:
Majka Burhardt stemming out the thin ice on pitch three. Photo by Alexa Siegel.
Nice work on getting first dibs on the Black Dike this season, how does that feel? Anyone bummed they didn't get to it first?
Thanks! It feels really fun, especially because I was gardening in a tank top the day after. As for people being bummed, I think people are overall stoked that the ice is coming around the Northeast. I moved from Colorado to New Hampshire, in part, for the ice climbing. The Dike likely gets over 100 ascents a year when it’s in prime shape and heading up it in thin early-season conditions with young ice is a boon. Alexa and I were happy we made it happen.
You guys could have done a ton of other things in the North Conway area, why the Dike?
I met a 90-year-old farmer the other day here in North Conway. We got to talking about winter and I told him I ice climbed. “Don’t you have anything better to do?” he asked me. I didn’t know then that two days later I would be ice climbing. But it got cold. And when it’s cold, I go ice climbing. It might be just that simple.
Pitch two was dry on the traverse, a bit of everything in the hose, and sticks up top. Alexa finishes it off, photo by Majka Burhardt.
So since this kicks off the ice season, do you have any project or goals you wanted complete this winter?
I’m hoping to get out to a few remote flows this winter. This will be my 8th winter ice climbing here and every year I get on new climbs. Alexa and I are also talking about doing a big all-women ascent push of a number of lines if they come in this season. That would certainly be fun, and satisfying.
What does it take to pull off an early ascent of the Dike? What did you guys take for gear?
The main thing it takes is belief in it being possible. I have my own personal North Country ice expert in house— my husband Peter Doucette (Mountainsenseguides.com). He grew up fifteen minutes from Cannon and has a formula about how many nights it needs to be below freezing at his childhood home to make the Dike climbable. We were pushing it and I figured we had a 60% chance of it being in shape.
The best part of early season ice climbing is that it reminds you how to be delicate and use your balance versus muscling your way up a fat line. We brought the mini-arsenal: stubby screws, pins, hexes, single rack, and double 70 meter ropes. I got in far more pro than I expected— and still not quite enough to make it feel flush. That’s part of the deal this time of year and what makes the whole experience an unknown and therefore more exciting. View up the Dike, 7:45 am October 19th and the moment of “Oh yeah! It’s in.” Photo by Majka Burhardt
What are your plans for the Winter? Are to you sticking around the Northeast?
I’m largely in the Northeast for the winter although also considering a quick trip to Patagonia. I’ll also be touring with my new film, Namuli which comes out in January and is the story of a crew of rock climbers, biologists, and conservationists as we set off on an unconventional expedition into one of the world’s least-explored and most-threatened habitats on Mount Namuli, Mozambique.
Well cheers to kicking off the ice season here in the Northeast, Majka. And lets hope for some more early-season ice! —David Crothers