Sunday, August 28, 2011


'There's a jug right there', I tell myself as I stare longingly at an angling crack above me. I'm standing on a narrow, slopey ledge, 600 feet off ground. Between my nice stance and the taunting holds in the crack are 8 feet of friction slab. The wind is absolutely howling. With every move it feels like I could be blown right off the rock. I just stepped off the tip of the Finger of Fate, and my last piece of gear is 15 feet below me and to the right.

'Balls', is what I'm thinking, 'I need more gear'. The slab is easy enough, 5.6 or something, but with the wind it feels horribly insecure. I gently reverse the move back down to the top of the Finger, the tip of which juts out sideways. I crouch down and try and drop a sling over it. The wind whips it back up in my face.

After leaving Pawtuckaway we decided to head back up the White Mountains, this time to the west side and the impressive, 1000 foot high, Cannon Cliff.

It also happens to be a pretty impressive pile of choss. There's a reason the talus slope at the base is so big. Rock fall is a common occurrence, and over the years entire chunks of routes have fallen to the ground. Even New Hampshire's famous state emblem, the Old Man of the Mountain, used to make his home at the top of the cliff. It was a chunk of blocks that when viewed from the side revealed the profile of a man's face.

Sadly, in 2003, the whole thing came crashing down to the ground. All that's left of him now are the man-made devices that were put in place to try and prevent his inevitable downfall. Lesson learned: Nature always wins.

On day one the cliff was still wet from the previous night's rain, so we drove back to North Conway, on the other side of the White Mountains, to climb the fun Sea of Holes, 5.7, on the quick drying slabs of Whitehorse Ledge. Here is Kristal at the top of the unprotected, yet easy, first pitch.

And me heading up the crux pitch 4, which was pretty chill except for some wet mossy slab near the top.

On day two Cannon looked in good shape, so we headed up the all time classic Whitney Gilman Ridge, 5.7, which climbs up along the edge of the distinct 600 foot high ridge on the left side of the cliff.

This route sees a lot of traffic, some climbers more experienced than others, and we managed to scavenge a nice collection of gear that other climbers had bailed on or abandoned.

We climbed the excellent 5.8 hand crack variation on pitch 3. Here I am standing on the small belay ledge atop pitch 3, looking straight down into the black dyke gully.

There was a nice section of scary exposure on the fourth pitch, with holds all angling the wrong way on rock that looked like it was about to slide off into oblivion. Thankfully Kristal led that pitch.

Day three started out calm and beautiful, and we started up another classic, Moby Grape, 5.8, which climbs up 1000 feet near the center of the cliff. With so many named features, like Reppy's Crack, the Triangle Roof, the Sickle, the Finger of Fate and the Cave, Moby Grape is covered with interesting movement and unique features. It is a spectacular climb, and one of the most varied we've ever gone up. Here is Kristal heading up the amazing Reppy's crack.

Here I am on pitch four about to finangle some gear in a non-existent crack before slabbing up to the Sickle.

Unfortunately what started out as a beautiful day turned into a what felt like a tornado. We've definitely climbed in windy conditions before, I've blogged about it more than once, but this was intense, and the worst we've ever experienced.

I eventually had to completely lie down on the edge of the Finger of Fate to work my sling into place, and with the extra protection I sucked it up and made the slab moves up to the crack. The last three pitches turned into an interesting exercise of 'not getting blown away'. We were so relieved to finally scramble over the top and down into the protection of the trees on the lee side of the mountain.

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