It looked like another perfect day for ice climbing—sunny, 25 degrees, with a light snow and a calm breeze. On Monday our party of four climbers had already climbed some smaller cliffs. After a year off from climbing, we needed to start on these easier, more familiar routes. Now on Tuesday, February 8, 2011, as we looked over the dozen or so climbs in the area, we decided to try something more challenging—like "Dracula," a well-known route that's part of Frankenstein Cliffs in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

Although Dracula is ranked 1.5 to 2 grades beyond any climb I'd ever led, I was excited to stretch my skills. I've always enjoyed ice climbing. I relish the sport's personal challenge and physical demands, but I also appreciate the teamwork and camaraderie. So on Tuesday, as I went with three other experienced climbers to the base of Dracula, I felt ready to lead. Another friend would climb as the "second," a team member who follows the leader and cleans up the pieces of ...

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