From Seattle, WA
Oct 11, 2012
Well, it really depends on how you define "ice" and "season"...
I used to live in Vermont, so I can speak for the ice season in VT, NH, and the Adirondacks. I never climbed ice in Quebec, so I can't speak for the season up there, although you may be able to get a slightly earlier season if you drive way north...
Anyway, the first hints of ice season in northern New England hits around Halloween, in a good year. There are a few spots were the ice-obsessives push in the season. These are generally north facing, mixed gullies up fairly high in the mountains. Think the Black Dike, some gullies in Smugglers Notch, and Mt. Washington In early Novemeber, you can usually find some thin ice to climb in these places. Not really ice climbing yet (i.e. you probably won't find thick ice for an ice screw), more like verglassed mixed climbing.
Generally in the later part of Novemeber is when you hope to start finding some pockets of proper ice climbing, especially in the higher elevations and north facing areas. Still only some areas are in season, and it is of course "early season" conditions.
By early December, you actually stand a chance of finding fat, blue pillars to climb on (in a good year), and a greater number of areas are in condition. In all but the worst years, there is usually something frozen to climb on in early December.
It varies highly by the year, of course. In some years you will get skunked until mid-January, while in other years there is thick ice everywere, even at low elevatins, in the first week of December.
So, I'd say it is probably worth bringing the pointy things. Bring some rock shoes too; if it is a warm November and there is no ice, there is decent chance of finding tolerable conditions on some sunny rock.