I have a special place in my heart for the climbing on Hounds Hump in Franconia Notch. This alpine crag across the street from Cannon Mountain has some of the most spectacular rock climbing in the region and one of the most iconic rock features in New Hampshire, The Eaglet spire.
Yesterday Tom and I headed up there in unseasonably warm weather for a 7 pitch trifecta of the best moderate routes around. I usually tag Route 66, Salt Packed Pig Sack, and The Eaglet when I head up this way but Tom wanted to do a bit of maintenance on a relatively new 2 pitch route below Route 66 so before we reached the talus field below the Flatiron we bushwhacked north for about 10 minutes and reached the edge of the slabs.
The bushwhack point is around the green arrow and is non-descript. When you think you’re getting close to the boulder field look closely for where people may have headed north through some semi-thick pine and moss. It would be a good spot for a small cairn or survey tape.
I’m not sure what the first route we climbed is called but it starts on mellow slab and works its way up to a steeper swell with great pro. Here a dead tree had fallen over the route and Tom’s mission was to saw it off so climbers wouldn’t have to scramble over it mid-climb. He left me with the saw as it would be easier to clean it while seconding.
With the security of a tight belay I was able to keep the saw in the pack and pull/kick the dead tree down and out of the way. It’s still up there but now it does not interfere with the climbing, which was pleasant 5.5-5.6ish crack & face.
After finishing the first pitch a quick thrash through the woods brought us up to the 2nd pitch. Tom grabbed this lead as well and I switched into climbing shoes as it’s definitely an edgy 5.7. A bit of a slabby start leads to a bolt, then some decent gear, then excellent climbing on an arete with a few bolts at decent intervals.
The top of this pitch is right near the original start of Route 66 so I took the rack and ran us up to the 1st pitch anchor.
I led the next pitch, which has a great move pulling over an awkward chock-stone followed by engaging climbing all the way to a new double bolt anchor just left of the corner. Using Tom’s new Sterling 7mm Tag Line we rapped down to the base of the bolted New Variation start (and our stashed packs). After grabbing our packs we made one single rope rap down through the brush to reach the start of Salt Packed Pig Sack.
This is by far one of my favorite routes in New Hampshire. Steep face climbing on mostly positive edges leads past a couple bolts, a pin, some good small gear, and more bolts. It’t a fantastic climb at the grade (5.8) and I fondly remember on-sighting it over ten years ago.
From a new bolted anchor about 15 feet right of the old anchor we double rope rapped back to the starting anchor then carefully trended down the right side of the buttress (some loose rock) and landed right on the approach trail for the Eaglet. There is a little drag when pulling the ropes when choosing this option but it’s nice to “cut the corner” when heading up to the Eaglet.
We reached the base of the Original Route and met Cole, a familiar canine I had seen on many 4000 Footer hiking forums.
Running short on time we skipped the first pitch by scrambling up the gully to the left and caught up to my friend Ben and Cole’s human counterpart Alton. They were starting the 2nd pitch chimneys and while we were considering our time line Ben graciously offered to let us play through. After I made those chimney chock-stone moves look less than graceful we topped out.
I rapped the spire and ran up the hill to grab a couple quick shots of Tom rapping and Ben and Alton summiting.
We hiked out at about 3:30pm, about 5.5 hours from leaving the car. Hounds Hump, and the greater Franconia Notch climbing area is a real mecca for climbing. From the easily accessed single pitch moderates at Echo Crag to the commiting and often scary routes on Cannon Cliff, this area has something for just about everyone!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start