For the month of October I am excited to announce you can now book a private half-day lesson or guided climb with me through Northeast Mountaineering! This offer is only valid for the month of October and is based on my availability which I will try to keep updated below. If you are interested in any of these three half-day custom offerings use the contact form below or message me on Instagram or Facebook with the date you would like to book. Once I confirm the date is still open Northeast Mountaineering will invoice you to lock the date down!
1 person* $175 2 person* $250 3 person $330 4 person $400
Hours, you pick what works best for you!
8am-noon or noon-4pm
Beginner- Square Ledge Top-Roping
If you have never rock climbed before you can’t pick a better place to try it than Square Ledge in Pinkham Notch. A short 25 minute hike brings us to this 140 tall cliff with amazing views of Mount Washington and it is just covered in good hand and foot holds. There are climbs here that anyone can do! A great choice to see if you’ll like outdoor rock climbing, and the foliage right now is EPIC!
Intermediate- Guided climb up Upper Refuse
This three pitch 5.6 climb on Cathedral Ledge is an excellent introduction to multi-pitch traditional climbing and happens to offer an incredible view of Mount Washington Valley. You should have some prior outdoor top-roping experience for this program. *only available for 1 person or 2 person groups
Intermediate/Advanced- Self Rescue and Multi-pitch Efficiency
This skills based program will help intermediate and experienced sport and trad climbers acquire the skills necessary to perform a self-rescue and improve your overall efficiency on multi-pitch climbs. The curriculum includes improvised hauling systems, belay escapes, smooth transition techniques, and rope ascension. A solid foundation in basic belaying, rappelling, and lead climbing will help you make the most of this program.
Dates Still Available*
October 10 (AM Only),11,13 (PM Only),17 (PM Only),18,23,24,25,26,27,29,30
Interested? Just fill out this form and include your billing address, phone number, the date(s) and which program you would like to book, including the AM or PM hours, and I will get back to you as soon as possible to confirm the date is still available and Northeast Mountaineering will invoice you!
Let me know if you have any questions and see you in the mountains!
I like setting small reachable goals to keep me motivated in climbing. These goals are quite low compared to the inconceivable feats achieved by climbing’s greats, like the recent mind-blowing free-solo of Freerider by Alex Honnold and Kilian Jornet’s 26 hour climb from Basecamp to the summit of Everest and that’s quite OK! Mere mortals need goals too!
Last summer after a relatively quick climb of the Northeast Ridge of Pinnacle I wondered if I could cut my car-to-car time down to 2 hours. Last week we did it in 2 hours 37 minutes but we saw ample opportunities to shave more time and I think this goal is in reach for me this season. My only self-imposed rule is I must fifth class belay the whole route with some limited simul-climbing allowed (no straight up soloing) and include the 5.8 variation and the Fairy Tale Traverse. While skipping these pitches would lead to a faster time these two pitches make this a classic route in my opinion.
Here’s a video I made of our attempt. Below it I share some resources, gear lists, and general strategies I’m using.
The Auto-Road Approach
First let’s address the “alternative” approach we used, the Mount Washington Auto Road. Within minutes of posting my video to Facebook some folks bemoaned the use of the auto-road for the approach. While I don’t think I need to defend a tactic that I feel is valid for my own personal goal I do want to encourage anyone who has never climbed this route to do so first via the traditional approach (Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Huntington Ravine Trail). This approach is about 2.8 miles and 2700 feet in elevation and takes most parties 2-3 hours to reach the route. After topping out the hike across the Alpine Garden Trail and down the Lions Head Trail can be very scenic and enjoyable, and will take most parties about 2 hours, for an average trail time of 4-5 hours. Strong parties on fair weather days might even include a trip to the summit but be advised that adds considerable mileage and elevation to your day.
Another reason to stick with the traditional approach is on questionable weather days. If there is any chance of afternoon thunderstorms it would be more prudent to approach from below. This makes descending in bad weather an easier choice… not so easy if your vehicle is parked 1000 feet above you!
And finally cost is something to contemplate. For a party of 2 the entrance fee to the auto-road is $38! This year I decided I would be spending a lot of time up there so I took advantage of a “locals” season pass for $99. I’m planning over a half dozen forays up there this season for various projects and expect my actual expense to come down to about $8 per person per trip which makes the next couple of points well worth it!
The Auto Road can cut the approach time down to 25 minutes. This is basically jogging down the Huntington Ravine Trail, a really steep trail with lots of 4th class terrain on it. You drop 1000 feet in only .4 miles! There are multiple places were a slip could result in serious injury so care needs to be taken here. After topping out the technical portion of the climb it’s another .4 mile 700 foot climb back up to your car, taking about 25 minutes.
Bottom line is using the Auto Road can cut the total hiking time down to less than one hour.
That leaves me about an hour for the 7 pitch climb to meet my 2 hour goal. Much of the route is easy fifth class and can be simul-climbed by competent parties in approach shoes but I do carry my rock shoes to make the 5.8 pitch feel more secure.
Once I reach this goal I’d like to combine it with some other area classics. Whitney-Gilman Ridge is an obvious choice, but it might be fun to link up some stuff on Mt. Willard or Webster Cliffs as well… and Cathedral and Whitehorse always like to be included in long day link ups.
Higher Summit Forecast <- only 72 hours out, if any chance of unsettled weather use traditional approach from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
Current Summit Conditions <- useful for real time updates on changing conditions and elevation specific temperatures, I have this book-marked on my phone as cell coverage in Huntington Ravine is quite good with Verizon.
Mountain Tools Slipsteam Pack <- I recently got my hands on this 11 ounce alpine speed pack and it’s perfect for this type of mission. Full review coming!
Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles <- I never considered carrying trekking poles on a technical climbing mission until I tried this pair. They only weigh 8 ounces each and pack up so small you can fit them into any “bullet” style climbing pack. I’ve noticed I can more downhill much faster with them so I’ll have them for the majority of my trips now!
Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS watch <- After testing 5 different GPS watches for the Gear Institute this one won my heart and I’ve been using it year round for both it’s GPS tracking capability and heart rate info
GoPro Hero 5 Session <- The small size of the session was what convinced me to start rolling with a GoPro again… above video was made with this. I really like how I can stream videos to my iPhone on the drive home and then do all the editing with iMovie on my phone!
Petzl Zipka Headlamp <- The new 2017 version of my longtime favorite headlamp has doubled its brightness. The retractable cord has been my favorite feature as this light does not get tangled up in climbing gear!
Petzl Sirocco Helmet <- my original 2013 review is here but stand by for a new review on the 2017 model coming this summer!
The below rack is slimmed down from a normal rack based on intimate route knowledge and personal comfort running out long sections of easy 5th class terrain. For those on-sighting the route I would recommend a “regular rack”, i.e. set of nuts, 3-4 smallest tri-cams, set of SLCD’s up to a #2 Black Diamond Camalot or equivalent, 8 alpine draws, cordelette or two. My slimmed down rack for this mission:
Set of DMM Wallnuts sizes 1-11 racked on two wire-gate oval carabiners <- these are noticeably lighter than the Black Diamond Stoppers I have retired to when I need to double up on nuts
Petzl William Screw-Gate Locker with 5 alpine draws and 2 “mini-quads”… more on the “mini-quad” later!
For this mission I’m taking one of my older Sterling 9 mm Nano ropes and chopping it to 30 meters! This might seem dramatic but it makes a lot of sense to me on this route. The first concern many might have after reading that is “What if you need to bail?” Obviously retreating with just a 30 meter rope could be problematic on many similar alpine routes. Two points to justify this decision. 1) You can escape into 4th class terrain to the left of the route at just about any point on this climb. 2) I’ll only be attempting this with really favorable weather conditions. The savings are not just in total carry weight, but also speed of stacking and coiling at every transition. Even the 5.8 pitch is only 25 meters long so a 30 meter rope will allow us to belay the pitches we are not simul-climbing.
(EDIT 6/26/17- Having reached my goal last week we ended up using a full 60m Sterling Nano and I think that is probably more prudent. Where we could have saved some time was having the second use a backpack that could fit the whole rope “pre-stacked” so when we reached the route zero stacking would be required. At the top of the route the larger pack would let us stuff the rope vs. coiling it saving another few minutes.)
Kong GiGi Belay Device <- currently my most used belay device. Since I’ll be leading the whole route no need to carry a tube style belay device. I really like the following carabiner combination pictured above to use with the GiGi for security and simplicity… more on that later perhaps.
For ounce counters the entire pack and contents above come in at 15 pounds sans rope!
Pre-hydrate. I mentioned this earlier but I want to emphasize that only carrying 32 ounces of water is a risk management issue. I drink a full Nalgene during the night before and another 32 ounces on the way to the mountain.
Early start. If we are at the gate at 7:30am we can be on the trail by 7:45am, and climbing by 8:15am. I’ve easily made it back to the car by noon on multiple occasions. Most parties using the traditional approach would need to start hiking by 5:30am to start climbing the route at the same time.
Rack at the car. While I didn’t do this in the above video I can easily see how this will save 5 or more minutes. That means harness and helmet on at the car, gear organized to lead and belay, and off you go. Clock doesn’t start until I leave the car so might as well maximize prep time here!
One climber does all the leading. No question swinging leads slows the team down. We lost at least ten minutes switching driver seats for the crux pitch. One leader means the leader gets a good rest at each belay.
Have fun. This is really why I want to do this. Moving quickly and efficiently in this type of terrain is really enjoyable to me. At the end of the day whether I hit the 2 hour mark or not I enjoy the planning, the anticipation of trying again, the time spent in the mountains, and the friends who enjoy the same.
I hope this post helps you come up with your own personal climbing goal this season. For many it’s “climb a grade higher”, but this season I think I’ll be focusing mainly on becoming more efficient, which I think will ultimately lead to climbing a higher grade. It will definitely lead me to climbing more! Wish me luck, and see you in the mountains!
Book any course at Northeast Mountaineering and use promo code “DavidNEM” at checkout. This will enter you into a monthly raffle to win a free guided day of your choosing!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
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This past Saturday I had the privilege of taking the New Jersey based Schenck family out rock climbing at Whitehorse and Cathedral Ledge. Having spent the previous day kayaking the Saco River they were ready for some vertical fun.
Super fun day with this outdoorsy family! I think a multi-pitch climbing day with Alexa & her dad may be in-store for the near future!
Hope everyone is enjoying this spectacular climbing weather!
I’ve been hearing about the climbing out at Mt. Forist for a couple years now. One can’t drive through Berlin and not notice the prominent looking 500 foot cliff on its northern outskirt. I only had time to today to jump on 5 of the 20+ routes listed in the new mini-guide published by Matt Bowman “firstname.lastname@example.org” but I will definitely be heading back there soon to explore some more. I’ll keep this post super short and share a video I threw together, largely with the help of some cool new cell phone tech I am reviewing for The Gear Institute (and will also publish here).
Really fun day today climbing with this family from Austin, Texas! The Weaver’s are adventurers extraordinaire and were wrapping up a 3 week trip in New England before heading back south. Fresh off some intense downhill mountain biking the day before they were ready to rock. We started out day over at Whitehorse Ledge under the giant Echo Roof.
After climbing “Holy Land” 5.6 and “Relic Hunter” 5.7 we had some lunch then headed over to the North End of Cathedral Ledge.
Everyone took a spin on Child’s Play, then we headed for the top for some rappelling to round out our day.
Thank you guys for another fun day in the mountains! See you next time for another adventure!
Plenty of great climbing days ahead and the forecast looks great! Come climb with EMS Schools before the summer slips away!
It’s been a great summer so far with lots of families & camp groups climbing with EMS Schools. I haven’t done as many individual trip reports as most of my free computer time has been spent on reviewing some of the coolest new packs & gear on the market. Hope everyone has been enjoying the summer!
This past Wednesday Oliver returned for some more preparation before his Yosemite trip next month. We started the day with a full length route up Whitehorse via Standard Route (1080ft, 9 pitches, 5.7).
65 degrees, sunny, light breeze… perfect climbing weather… and we had the whole cliff to ourselves all morning! We quickly climbed up to the Crystal Pocket.
After a quick snack on Lunch Ledge I decided to climb the original “Brown Spot” 5.5 variation since I always take the Slabs Direct 5.7 variation. I quickly discovered why I never take this variation. The bolt protecting the move is one of the nastiest old 1/4 inches I’ve ever seen. The climbing itself doesn’t feel any more secure than the 5.7 variation. I stopped a little higher on the next ramp to belay to keep the rope drag down, and while I thought replacing the bolt might be a good community service I think it’s probably better to just stick to the direct finish. It’s MUCH nicer in every possible way.
It was only 12:30 so we ate some lunch and made our way down the hiking trail. Oliver was interested in going over some of the various anchor strategies we used on this climb so we drove over to The North End of Cathedral Ledge. There we spent a half hour or so going over some new and old techniques of constructing anchors. To wrap up our day we took a quick spin on Child’s Play, the fun 5.6 crack climb, then headed back to the shop.
Oliver’s got a couple more days planned with me this Fall before his Yosemite trip and is getting a few training days in at the tres-new Salt Pump Climbing Co. gym that recently opened in Scarborough, ME. If you are Downeast you should definitely check this amazing climbing gym out!
I was fortunate to spend the July 4th holiday with yet another awesome couple. While Hardy has dragged Kat along on some long fly fishing trips this birthday present was all about Kat and reconnecting to her passion through a private rock climbing course. Given the expected crowds on a beautiful Saturday, July 4th, I decided to reverse the flow a bit and we started the day by rappelling down Barber Wall and climbing Upper Refuse first thing in the morning.
After topping out to a very crowded vista we enjoyed a bit of lunch over on Airation Buttress. For the afternoon we headed over to Whitehorse Ledge. It was the first time I’ve seen the rockfall from this past Spring near the Dike Route, quite impressive!
Kat wanted to work on some gear placement skills so we set up shop on Beezlebub Corner. We did a couple of laps on that, one where Kat did a “mock” lead”.
Kat was also looking for a burn before wrapping up the day so I dropped a top-rope on the 5.10a test piece, Seventh Seal. With a tight belay and a few rests both made it up the route, a great ending to a full day!
The connection these two share was quite apparent through-out the day. Between “atta-boy’s” and “go get it’s” they had just the right amount of loving encouragement without living inside a Hallmark card. It was a real pleasure to climb with them both and if I’m right about Hardy, and I think I am, I’ll be seeing them both this upcoming winter for a spot of ice climbing. and maybe a Mount Washington climb!
Today also concluded another Wilderness Navigation Course. Emily & Al joined me for the day while we covered the in’s & out’s of survival navigation, map skills, compasses, and bushwhacking. A bushwhack up Hurricane Mountain and some compass work out on Black Cap… It was a good day to tramp about in the woods!
When you think of Cathedral Ledge moderate rock climbs what comes to mind?
You’re probably thinking of Fun House, Upper Refuse, Toe Crack, and Thin Air. Mountain Project agrees as they are the “only” classics sub 5.8. They are great routes, with long and rich history, and sometimes long lines. There are some less traveled moderates that, for a solid 5.7 leader, can provide some of the best situations & climbing anywhere on the cliff… and they never have a line!
Today Tom and I took a tour of them…
Pitch 2 of Diagonal (160 feet of the best 5.4 in New England)
“Easy, but wildly exposed”- the new Handren Guidebook. I’ll challenge anyone to show me a pitch of 5.4 climbing in New England with this kind of exposure. The 160 foot dike provides good holds while the expanse of the Mordor Wall dropping off below makes it important to keep reminding yourself this is only 5.4. While it may be worthy of an “R” rating a slip any where along the pitch should result in a clean, though spectacular, fall. There are 2 pins that can lessen the run out toward the top of the pitch but they can be hard to spot. Tom didn’t see either of them and sent it anyways.
Why don’t people do it more often? Well two reasons really. For one getting to the 1st anchor is a bit of a PITA. The easiest way is to climb the first pitch of Standard Route then cross over the chimney and scramble up right to the big beautiful block with the bolted anchor. It’s only 5.6, but the step down to Toe Crack is a bit weird for both the leader and the second.
More importantly I think it is because both old and new guidebooks call it 5.9+ R with Poison Ivy. That’s Pitch 3! We are not doing Pitch 3. We are now rapping down the Mordor Wall. A clean 120 foot rappel brings you to the Free Finale anchor (hanging station, just under an overlap), then a 160 foot rappel that ends free-hanging brings you to the ground.
After wrapping our ropes up we headed up hill to the base of another spicy but do-able moderate…
No Man’s Land (5.6R, 160 feet of face climbing goodness)
Yes, this is another “R” rated route. As Mountain Project says you should be very comfortable on 5.6 before attempting this route. That said it isn’t “that” bad. And I’m kinda-a-wuss. If on-sighting it just be sure you are solid at the grade and it is an awesome route. If you don’t want gear spoilers skip the italics:
Scramble up to the first ledge, move right so that the small tree behind you is technically your first “piece”, no need to clip it. Step right off the ledge to get on the dike. Climb 20 feet up on good holds. A green Alien or equivalent will give a marginal placement in a crack to the right. Might as well extend that draw, as this will be the biggest bend in the route. Deep breath then up and left and you’ll come to an awesome natural thread. This is the first real good gear, and to paraphrase the poster on Mountain Project “gives you that I won’t hit the ground feeling”. It’s at least 45 feet up, so it’s kind of equivalent to soloing the first pitch of Thin Air, if you know what I mean. A great horizontal comes up, BD #2, then it gets a bit necky again. A couple more small Aliens/cams can help, but there will be better gear closer to the top.
Since this ends at the Still in Saigon anchor we grabbed the second pitch of the Saigons, rapped, then hammered out the 1st pitch. Both are awesome pitches of 5.8, but this post is about sub 5.8, so moving on to the next great classic sub 5.8 route I’ll turn your attention to…
Pitch 1 of Recompense (150 feet of 5.7 cracks, corners, great holds, and another clean rap)
This route is known as an ultra classic three pitch 5.9, but the long first pitch is a worthwhile climb in its own right. A couple of the 5.7 moves feel a bit exposed but the gear is quite solid through-out, with just the management of rope drag being an issue for some. The “perfect small ledge” that the pitch ends on is one of the nicest spots to take in the view on the cliff IMO, and you finish with another steep rappel back to your packs.
When compared to places like the Gunks & Precipice we don’t seem to have a lot of moderate classic climbing on Cathedral. But a second look will more than double the amount of quality moderate climbing that can be enjoyed here. Once 5.8 & 5.9 are comfortable Cathedral really opens up, and there are some classics that haven’t been recognized as classics yet (Raising The Roof/The Liger). And fun link-ups, like Toe Crack into Thin Air, Black Lung into Final Gesture… great combos if you are really comfortable at the grade.
Any other more obscure but quality moderates (under 5.9) you enjoy on Cathedral? Don’t worry, I doubt they will get too crowded.
Yesterday I enjoyed another day on the rocks with an AMC Camp Group. This group in particular loved the teamwork involved with belaying and back-up belays. From carrying ropes to the cliff to helping each other with belays and support this was a really great group to work with. And the weather! We are really having a great climbing season this year, knock on wood!