Alex and I are living full-time in a converted Ford Transit and following our noses to mountains, climbing, and friends. Right now, we’re watching winter get established and gearing up for all the cold-weather fun that the White Mountains have to offer. Last week, that meant tall winter boots to cope with the snow, now that it’s here, and also new skis, telemark boots, and ice tools from International Mountain Equipment  in North Conway.

It also meant getting some jobs to help pay for all that gear–you can find me on Saturdays helping people with high-quality cutlery from Microtech , Benchmade, and Spyderco at the Sawyer River Knife and Trading Company , and Alex on weekends at the equipment shop at Attitash Mountain Resort . We also now have to finance delicious coffee and fresh pastries as our regular routine takes us right past Vintage Baking Company . It’s been fun to get to know some local folks and businesses–we’re not pretending to be locals in New England of all places, but at least we are working in local businesses and have time to get acquainted more than on our previous week-long visits. Being in a van and being around for a while means real-life stuff, like laundromats, places to get oil changes, and likely someone to help soon with snow tires and chains.

As you might expect for this early in the season, weather and trail/crag/mountain conditions are still pretty variable. A storm last week dumped a foot or more of fresh powder on top of a few existing inches, and ushered in the first really chilly temps of the year. That meant that we got to go exploring on our XC skis, briefly try out our new telemark rigs at Wildcat Mountain Ski Area, and get a taste of some scrappy ice at Frankenstein and up in Crawford Notch. It also meant that things were variable from day to day, and will be for a while yet. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be warm and rainy, and then cold again, and then the whole cycle all over again. Even New England mountaineering, as opposed to the mid-Atlantic mountaineering we’re used to, requires timing and opportunism. Neclimbs.com does a great job of providing weekly conditions reports, and neice.com has a forum page for NH that often has useful info and both sites also have Facebook pages.

If you want to come up in your van and climb, check out the “vanlife climbing” group on Facebook, which has a thread almost thirty comments long on the notoriously complex subject of insulating your camper van. And whether you just need a quick break from vanlife, as happened to us last week during the cold snap, or want a room and a home base for day trips, the White Mountain Hostel is a great place to catch a shower, cook a meal, dry some gear, and meet like-minded souls.