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August 21, 2014
One great thing about living up here in the North Country is that there are so many places to climb other than Cathedral, Whitehorse and Rumney. I know many readers live other places so they are really excited about doing the Valley classics, but for someone like me who lives here, another run up Thin Air or Slabs Direct is like putting a gun to my head - figuratively of course. [wry grin] Other than when I've been out guiding this summer, I've been trying to go to places that I've never been to or ones that I haven't climbed at in a long time. Mt Forest in Berlin was a place I've never been to before, Lost Ledge was a place I used to frequent 10 years ago but hadn't been to in at least 5 years, and tho I was involved in putting up several routes at Found Ledge I hadn't been up there in at least 2 years.
Today I wanted to climb some rock with my winter partner Monica Stillman, but it is quite a hike for her to climb in the Valley, and I didn't want to climb here anyway. We had talked about doing something on Cannon, but the weather didn't look all that promising, so we decided to check out Echo Crag in Franconia Notch. I had climbed there with my then fiancee, now wife, Alyssa and some AMC folks several times in the late 90's. When Jon Sykes put out his guidebook Secrets Of The Notch I spent a wonderful day climbing there with him and my occasional partner Danielle Gelinas. That was in 2001, and since I haven't been back since it seemed like a fun thing to do.
Monica and I met at the Governor Gallen Memorial parking area at 10am. Tho it was a little cloudy, it was reasonably warm and dry. The weather was for a dry and cloudy day. As we walked in were somewhat surprised to see a locked green tool box with a peace sign painted on it, about 100' down the trail on the right. I have to wonder what's up with that. We wandered along past the Bouldering and Square Inch Walls to the first ladder. I had a note in my guidebook about climbing Avalanche (5.7) so I figured I'd give it a try again. I thought that the start was a bit harder than 5.7, maybe more like 5.8, but the upper section was quite nice. I know I've been climbing a lot of friction lately, and not much in the way of cracks, so maybe this was why I felt that all of the crack climbs I did today were a bit on the stiff side. Next up was Maiming Of The Shrew (5.5) which Monica led admirably. We both agreed that this climb was in fact a 5.5 and was quite nice.
We moved a little further up the trail and I decided that Skeletal Ribs (5.6) looked like a reasonable option. The climb starts off with fingers, goes to hands and widens to true off-width. I'm no master of off-width climbing, I leave that to my friend George, and again found this a bit stiff. Not to mention that once you get in the wide crack part, unless you don't have a number 4 or 5, there isn't any gear. I stuffed my left leg in the wide part and shuffled up to where I could get a piece in up on the right. Of course once I did that, I had a hard time getting my leg out of the crack. Why was I not surprised? [sigh] The tree shown in the guidebook is long gone, but the stump is a good stance and the climbing got a lot better as I went.
I think that this was the climb that the screw links on the anchor weren't good at all. They were quite thin and looked worn. I definitely wouldn't consider putting a TR on them. IMNSHO it would be nice if someone went up there and replaced the hangers with some nice ring ones!
We continued up the trail past the next ladder, which is now a piece of an old aluminum ladder - not wood. We took a little break for a snack and then started to decide what next to climb. VH-1 (5.7) was right where we had thrown our packs and looked pretty good to me. It was another crack climb and once again it felt a bit harder than 5.7 to me. So are you detecting a pattern here? And once again the upper part was really nice.
Just to the right was Cooler Sacrifice (5.7), a neat climb distinguished by twin cracks. An interesting start led to a ballroom-like alcove about 25' up. The left side in the back has a little roof that takes great gear, then you move out, step out left on the lip of the roof to grab the sharp edge of a large flake to power to the top (5.6). It's brilliant climbing and very Gunks-like. This was my favorite climb of the day. While I was climbing this one it started to rain a bit. Fortunately I was past the lower smoother section and up in the rougher more positive section, so it didn't bother me.
We took a break to see if the rain would stop, and it did, for a bit. I had looked at Bee Line (5.6) earlier and tho it really looked stiffer than 5.6, it looked to have very good gear/ The trees had also protected the start from getting wet, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I thought that the start was fairly tricky and again harder than 5.6, even by the standards here, but the gear was good and once I was past the crack the climbing was nice. There is quite a difference in the rock when you get about 25-30' up on all of these climbs. The holds are generally a bit rounder, the rock more reddish-brown in color and the texture rougher. It's pretty neat. Monica followed this one with ease, as she did all day. That lady hasn't been climbing rock all that much over the past several years, but you'd never know it. She has great balance.
I had hoped that we would get down a bit further, but by now it was pretty steadily misting and so we decided to call it a day. There are tons of climbs at Echo Crag and other cliffs in the general area so it's a place I want to revisit this fall if I get the opportunity. As I started out saying, there enough great places to climb up here without having to repeat the same climbs. Maybe next week I'll head south to Longstack Precipice. Hmmm...
Still the same rating. Occasionally in places the gnats may get annoying or there may be mosquitoes, but overall things are great. Enjoy it!
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
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The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
|Consider what you want to do in relation to what you are capable of doing. Climbing is, above all, a matter of integrity.|