It’s between January and March that locals earn the right to claim that New Hampshire’s Mount Washington gets the worst weather in the world. Temperatures hover below freezing, and 30 inches of precipitation falls on the 5,000 feet of relief that separates valley towns like North Conway from the peaks of the White Mountains. In other words, it’s an ice climber’s paradise. Within an hour's drive of North Conway there are more than 400 ice routes. The most consistent ice climbing is at Frankenstein, where a series of natural springs flow over, and then freeze to, a 300-foot band of granite cliffs. The result is a collection of 40 routes that range in difficulty from WI 2+ (beginner friendly) to WI 5 (experts only). To access Frankenstein, drive 20 miles northwest of North Conway on Route 302, and hike out the railroad tracks until you hit a trestle built in the 1800s. The cliffs are a short walk to your right. First timers, try Lost in the Forest, a 100-foot tall ice flow with a good mix of WI 2+ and WI 3+ climbing.
YOU NEED: A lesson from the North Conway-based International Mountain Climbing School (starting at $120/per person/day with equipment), an extra down puff for the belayer, and a reservation at Nere Ledge Inn, a bed and breakfast with a special room to dry wet climbing gear ($95/night).