Smuggs Ice Bash 2016

Writing: Peter Hoang

Photography: Peter Hoang, Matthew Sapiecha, Steve Andrew

In case you missed last year's trip report, Smuggs Ice Bash is one of the raddest ice climbing festivals on the East Coast, taking place annually in Smuggler's Notch, VT.

For all the good things they have to offer, check out their site and consider a visit next year!


Friday's my all-around favourite day at the Bash. I get to drink beer (with a donation to Crag VT), watch and compete in a wild dry-tooling comp, have a chance at a giant raffle, and I get see cool new things from vendors. It's a really welcoming environment, and you'll get to meet a lot of folks to get you kick-started for the weekend.

Photo: Matthew Sapiecha

Photo: Matthew Sapiecha

The men's dry-tooling route (set by Matt McCormick, Nick Bullock, Doug Madara, and Bayard Russell) was a little harder to read than the previous year. The holds in the roof weren't obvious from the ground. Turns out it was alright to pull on them straight-on as long as the head of the tool was pressed into the roof for security. The rest felt great to climb (especially the crack), and it turned out to be a great experience!

Unfortunately, instead of getting to go 2nd like last year, I was set to go last, so I didn't get a chance to actually see anyone else compete. Got to be well acquainted with my anxiety instead, for what felt like a long time in iso...

Congrats to my friends Anna, Steve, Neil, and Stas for stepping up and competing! Like my experience from the year before, Steve rolled into 3rd as a first-timer - woo!

Photo: Matthew Sapiecha


I mentioned last year that climbing in the Notch is a lot like climbing in the Gunks, where everything is off one main path. This year, things were made a little easier with signs posted along the way to indicate the different crags - huge props for whoever's idea that was!

Photo: Steve Andrew

After a bit of motivation from Friday's dry-tool comp, Steve and I headed over to Dominatrix to give it a go.

Dominatrix goes up a short ramp, some overhanging crack, and then some ice. The start of the crack ended up being more overhanging than expected, but thankfully there was some bomber jugs to slot your picks into though and some good pro. The second overlap wasn't so good, and I found myself wishing that I had brought pins.

The ice up top was bomber, and the route ended with some turf shots and a bushy belay. I wasn't 100% sure of how to get down, but luckily a guide passed me and told me that I had to just literally walk through this weird rock cave to rappel - it was awesome.

Overall, a great route, utilizing many different skills to get to the top!

Photo: Steve Andrew

Photo: Dude at our table!

The evening closed off with all-you-can-eat Italian, quite possibly one of the most enjoyable slideshow experiences ever from Nick Yardley & Nick Bullock, and a HUGE raffle event. I think after the raffle was done, almost everyone in our group had won something at some point...


Sunday is Funday, and the day Matty and I hit the classic Ragnarok.

Raganrok's the ultra-classic in the Notch and has all the things:

  • high up location from the valley
  • low angle ice
  • scratchy mixed
  • exposed and steep finish on ice
  • alternate direct route
  • bolted belays

Ragnarok definitely delivered. We were originally going to take the direct route, but with a party above us and some miscommunication, we ended taking the mixed variation. Still good!

Unfortunately somewhere at the top, I dropped my glasses..... so if anyone happens to find a pair at the base of the route.... let me know :( . 


Monday was the driving day... which meant we either had to wake up super early, or do a shorter cragging day.... so we chose the convenient Bolton Quarry.

Highly recommending the Quarry if you want a quick day, where the approaches range from 1-5min for steep climbs.

Things got a little spicy later in the day when temps went up to 4C and the ice started to peel off the walls. 

Closing Comments

There's a lot of love put into this festival, and it really shows, so if you haven't already gone, you should go. It was also really nice to see the amount of backing from major sponsors!

The North East breeds good folk - thanks for the Bash!