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Washington Break: Ice Adventure

Wicked by Mikey Barro ’19


A couple of summers ago I had the pleasure of attending a mountaineering course through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) where I formed some of the strongest friendships I’ve ever known. Perhaps my closest friend from that expedition is Charlie Tomb who shares my passion for climbing.

Charlie and I make an effort each year to reconnect and make our own climbing trips. This year, during Feb break, I drove to Maine to meet Charlie at Bowdoin College where I picked him up and together we drove down to New Hampshire with the intent to climb Mt. Washington- the tallest mountain on the east coast, and  record holder of the planet’s highest wind speeds at 231 mph.

At dawn we were approaching the mountain when a pair of climbers met us on the trail going the opposite direction. They told us that avalanche conditions were considerable and that climbing Pinnacle GullyBig Charlie (our intended route) would be inadvisable without locating beacons. We decided then to turn around and make the 30 minute drive to Frankenstein Cliffs where water falls regularly freeze into glistening columns of chandelier ice that draw climbers from all over the east coast.

We searched the cliffs for a route that would satiate our climbing appetites eventually to stumble upon “Chia” which sat at the highest point in the cliff’s looming amphitheater overlooking the iconic trestle bridge that traffics freight trains in the summer. After a quick risk assessment we recognized these facts: 1) We had never climbed on our own without a professional guide 2) Neither of us had extensive experience climbing vertical ice 3) Falling anywhere on the ice could result in serious injury including impalement by ice axe 4) Neither of us had any medical training. However, we all had the gear, ice conditions were ideal, and we had considerable rock climbing experience which transfers to ice climbing. So we rolled with it.


Luckily, we managed through the first pitch of the climb with out a problem. I found myself exclaiming from the second belay station, “Charlie!!! This is freaking AWESOME!!!” The mood continued through the climb until a faulty bolt connecting Charlie’s blade to his axe blew under the pressure caused by Charlie’s efforts to lever the axe from the ice. The only solution required me to figure out a way to give Charlie my axes, but I was thirty feet above his head. So I fixed my end of the rope to rappel down to him. We swapped axes and I ascended the rope to return to my belay and allow Charlie to follow me up to the top-ending our climb.

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun on that climb, and I look forward to using those lessons I learned on future climbs- climbs that perhaps we can facilitate through our developing Outing Club.


Mikey is a rising sophomore majoring in Business and Philosophy from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he grew up with two older brothers and a younger sister. He has spent a significant amount of time involved with the outing club and the CRUX climbing team, to which he will serve as a co-captain next year. He will also be a University Big, where he hopes to have as much of an impact as he had through climbing.

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