Upper Refuse in 30 minutes, one pitch

I know people who solo Upper Refuse in less than 10 minutes, so we are not trying to break any free-solo records here. I would like to share in detail what I think is a really fun (and relatively safe) way to cruise this classic moderate route if you, and your partner, are quite comfortable at the grade (for arguments sake let’s say 5.6+). A little back-story is in order…

About 10 years ago I was sitting with my buddy Rob at the well known “Moat” watering hole after climbing somewhere. We had just finished our 2nd mugs of libation and somehow the conversation made its way to Upper Refuse. I think it was because we were talking about how full length pitches on a recent Red Rocks trip were changing our perception. I mentioned that the three pitch Upper Refuse route could be done in one 60 meter pitch. Rob balked. We told the bartender to leave the tab open, we would be right back.

Bar-stool to bar-stool we took 58 minutes.

Here’s the detailed beta on how to not only climb this route quickly, but with only 2 slings to manage rope drag! Obvious detailed spoilers ahead:

1) Drive to the top of Cathedral. Rack up at the car. My slimmed down rack after a couple hundred ascents of this moderate (in order of placement, all Black Diamond C4’s):

.4, .5, 1, 2, .3, .75

2 alpine draws.

No nuts, tri-cams, etc… cams are faster for all involved.

Slow jog down the climbers trail and take the Barber Wall approach trail to the base of the route.

Rope up.

If you take the left-then-right variations of this ramp, you can have almost no rope drag and reach the 2 pin anchor at the top of the 3rd pitch in a 60m rope stretch using only 2 extend alpine draws (and 6 pieces of judiciously placed pro).

Proceed as follows:

Stay in the corner and climb easy 5.3-5.4ish face until about 40 feet up. A perfect splitter crack on the left side of the corner takes a .4 up high, clip straight to the sewn draw.

Stay close to the corner and wander right just a bit before stemming out to a great stance with a tapering crack about level with the traditional 1st pitch anchor 20 feet right. Bomber .5, clipped direct as well.

As the flaring crack ends step right to great foot holds and up to what I think of as the 5.6 crux. Bomber #1, clipped direct as well, before making a few steps up to easier climbing and crossing over the traditional chimney section of the route.

#2 placed under the small roof before making the side pull move up and right to leave the original chimney corner variation (extend with alpine draw). Staying in the original chimney is less exposed but adds to much drag.

Reach the 2nd Belay Ledge, then .3 placed in the left side twin cracks after making one easy step up off the ledge, and clipped direct.

Move up and out right on great foot holds, place the .75 in the nice horizontal 10 feet from the top of the ramp, clipped with the other extended alpine draw, and finish the ramp. Your belayer may need to remove their belay device for you to reach the pins.

Looking down the route the rope runs very straight and there is minimal drag.

This past week I got to run up this with my friends Christa and Jason and as a party of 3 we went car-to-car in 35 minutes.

I would strongly discourage someone from trying this unless the had already climbed the route a few times to get acquainted. A good warm up would be to combine P1&P2 staying left so you have better communication with your second. It is quite possible with a “short 60” your belayer may need to start climbing a few feet before you can reach the pins, so both climbers should be very competent at the grade. This past session I skipped the pins at the top of the ramp and continued all the way up to the fence, knowing my two partners where super solid at the grade.

This is a crazy busy route in the summer, especially on weekends. Traffic from Fun House, Three Birches & Bombardment, can bottle-neck here around noon-2pm almost every nice day of the summer. My advice? Climb it really early, or later in the day. Using the Barber Wall approach trail can make it a quick adventure (getting lost finding the Barber Wall approach trail can make it a long adventure).

For someone that is really comfortable on 5.6, it is a really stellar climb to combine the whole ramp into one pitch. Don’t hose your second though! If they have never climbed Upper Refuse slow down and let them enjoy it! Stop at the Bombardment Pin anchor, the cozy 2nd pitch ledge, the top of the ramp, and add a fun 4th pitch right to the fence to give them that feeling of “finishing” on the top of the cliff.

But… if you’ve climbed it dozens of times, and want to stretch your lungs & legs… well… have at it. I’m pretty sure you could car-to-car it in under 20 minutes (and still be on belay where it matters). That’s my next goal when I feel like doing something stupid.

Thanks for reading… oh, pictures from a great week with good friends from New Paltz!

Jason starts up Wanderlust, 5.8, Humphrey's Ledge

EMS Schools Guide Jason Hurwitz starts up Wanderlust, 5.8, Humphrey’s Ledge

Christa starts her first 5.9 lead, They Died Laughing, Cathedral Ledge

Christa starts her first 5.9 lead, They Died Laughing, Cathedral Ledge

Great rest before...

Great rest before…

A great bit of climbing...

A great bit of climbing…

Looking relaxed

Looking relaxed

Some visiting Adirondack climbers were looking for a diversion since the well known North End routes were a bit occupied so I steered them to the great over-looked gem, originally call “The Roof” but now currently called “Raise the Roof” after a more recent 2nd pitch has been added. I hope they stop by here for the pics I offered:

Raise the Roof

Raise the Roof

Reaching the roof...

Reaching the roof…

That’s it! Thanks again for reading. Been a bit humid for my skin but cool Fall air is just around the corner! Oh, wait… it’s not August yet? Well, Camelbak climbing weather continues then!

See you in the mountains,


About David Lottmann

David grew up skiing in the Whites and started climbing at a summer camp just north of Mt. Washington when he was 16. Those first couple of years solidified climbing as a lifetime passion. From 1996-2000 he served in the USMC, and spent the better part of those years traveling the globe (18 countries). After returning to civilian life he moved to North Conway to focus on climbing and was hired in 2004 as a Rock and Ice Instructor. Since then Dave has taken numerous AMGA courses, most recently attaining a Single Pitch Instructor. He has completed a Level 3 AIARE avalanche course, is a Level 2 Course Leader, holds a valid Wilderness First Responder and is a member of Mountain Rescue Service. When David isn't out guiding he enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, backcountry skiing, trying to cook something new once a week and sampling new micro-brews. He lives in Conway, NH with his wife Michelle, son Alex, and daughter Madalena.
This entry was posted in Rock Climbing, Trip Reports. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Upper Refuse in 30 minutes, one pitch

  1. Heather Neddo says:

    Thanks for the Raise the Roof beta. It was a great route. If you find yourself in the Adk park look us up through Rocksport and we will repay the favor.


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