I found an old postcard
where it's called "Cascade Falls", but climbers usually just call it "the Cascade". The cascade is formed by Shilly Shally Brook as it spills over a line of bluffs at the eastern edge of the fells, between Melrose Rock and Black Rock.
What you see in the photos is what you get: not much more than a couple of good-sized boulders with some ice on them. Nothing exciting, really. But the Cascade is (to my knowledge) the only ice climbing venue inside of Route 128 (Boston's ring highway), and as such it's a useful place to know about.
The Cascades consist of waterfall ice which is often thin, fragile, and/or detached (when it forms at all), so it's a good place to learn to judge ice conditions and to practice setting protection. (Today, for example, I learned where not
to place a V-thread.)
Staz preparing to solo on the right side
Pick your line and climb. The lower half of the cascade has all the steep parts: a tall boulder on the left and a shorter boulder on the right, with a moderate diagonal line possible in the center. Above these is a flat section (pool) with a short low-angle section above that.
At least one mixed line has been reported: Elvis has Left the Building
, M4 or M5, according to Boston Rocks
by Richard Doucette and Susan Ruff: "This mixed climb goes up the left side of the lower central apron. It's all dry tools on the left and all ice on the right." (I don't remember seeing a line that matches that description, but I wasn't looking for mixed climbs.)
Dry tooling on nearby boulders may also be an option (don't quote me).
Top out and scramble down to either side, or downclimb, or rappel.
Difficulty ratings above are my best guess; I'm happy to be corrected.
Note: I recommend bringing a good street map with you. Street names are poorly marked.
(I've updated these directions in 2012 to avoid Ravine Rd, which is now a one-way street.)
the steep part
From downtown Boston, take Interste 93 north to Exit 34. Merge onto Main St (rte 28) and continue north for less than half a mile before turning right onto New South St, which promptly merges with South St, which promptly changes name to Pond Rd. (Just keep close to the pond on your right.) Pond St will take you past the zoo and then return to the edge of the pond. Take a left at the next intersection - this actually keeps you on Pond St.
Take your first right, onto Fellsway East (opposite Lynn Fells Parkway).
At the next intersection turn right (south) onto Fellsway East.
About 1000 feet after passing Ravine Rd on your right, take a 45-degree left onto Washington St.
Stay on Washington St until you pass Atkinson Terrace on your right (it's after Gould St and before Shadow Rd, both on your left). You are now crossing a small stream. Look to your right and you should see the Cascade in the woods.
Park along a side street.
The Middlesex Fells is a 2,000-acre park / preserve / watershed managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in conjunction with the many towns in which it lies. Access is unrestricted. Please leave no trace and be sensitive about where you park.
The history of the fells
as parkland dates back to 1891. Its attractions include some bouldering areas, many biking and walking trails, and a few oddities such as a clandestinely-built tennis court hidden in the woods (built to avoid a ban on sunday sports).
The vertical sections are very short, but a toprope may be useful especially when the ice is fragile (which it often is). There are trees all around, so setting a toprope anchor should not be a problem. A couple of medium or long slings will do the trick.
When to Climb
The Cascade frequently melts out even in January or February. I'm guessing at least three nights in a row below 20 degrees (with days never above freezing) are necessary for this fast-moving stream to freeze up.
External LinksFriends ofthe Fells
NorthEast Ice : Massachusetts Conditions board