The upper part of the route. Taken from the cottag...
Cathedral Ledge is the epicenter of Trad climbing in New Hampshire. Because of its easy access and routes of all grades and styles, Cathedral has been deservedly popular for decades. Its proximity to North Conway assures that Cathedral has its own scene and it is not uncommon to be sharing the cliff with old timers who put up routes back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Though new route potential exists, the classic lines receive most of the attention. Routes like Thin Air (5.6), Recompense (5.9), and The Prow (5.11) may see many ascents each weekend. Cathedral has something for everyone as the cliff offers long multi pitch routes, face climbs, splitter cracks, and even a few quality sport routes. From short practice climbs at the North End to the soaring Yosemite-style aid routes of the Central Wall, everyone can be happy at Cathedral Ledge.
Guidebooks for Cathedral abound, but Jerry Handren's 2012 guidebook is probably the most useful. Ed Webster's Rock Climbs of the White Mountains provides excellent history for the area.
For gear and/or beta spray, head to either IME or EMS in North Conway. Both outfits offer guide services and climbing gear. The Frontside Grind has great coffee.
The seasons at Cathedral Ledge mirror those of all the areas in New England. Fall is the best. Summer can be good, as the cliff gets shade in the afternoon. Spring often brings seeping rock, so there is a 50/50 chance that your route will be dry. Winter offers amazing ice climbs.
Find North Conway on the map of New Hampshire. Cathedral Ledge and its sister cliff, Whitehorse Ledge, can be seen from town. Follow roads to the base of the cliff. This sounds vague, but finding the cliff is really easy...of the two tall cliffs you see, Cathedral is the right one.
Many visitors are surprised to learn that the road along the base of the cliff winds its way up to the top. The existence of this road transforms what seems like a daunting cliff to convenient crag. Both The Airation Buttress and The Barber Wall can also be accessed by a short stroll down trails from the top. Some routes are accessed from rappel off the top of the cliff. Top rope sessions at the top of the cliff are also common on routes such as Camber/Reverse Camber, The Faux Pas Arete, and Peanut Gallery Flake.
After you have topped out on a full-length route, it is possible to hitch a quick ride down from one of the many tourists who have been ogling at you from the tourist overlook. If you do catch a ride, be prepared to answer many, many questions about the strange and mysterious sport of rock climbing.
The road closes in the winter, leaving ice climbers with the unenviable task of having to walk down.
Many popular aid routes on the cliff are completely clean (The Prow, Mines of Moria) and do not require hammering at all.
Many of the "nailing" routes (Frenchman's Fury, among others), have gone free. Before you pound a pin on a route, do some research to see if the route has gone free. If it has, then do not hammer pins or place bashies. The rock is a precious resource, and a few errant whacks with a hammer could ruin a free route for eternity.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Cathedral Ledge:
Get ready for some finger-lockin' fun!! The Slot climbs the thin crack with the distinctive pod about 2/3 up and joins the last 10 feet of They Died Laughing. Although it is a little stout in the grade, it is, nonetheless, a good test of finger fortitude! ...[more]Browse More Classics in NH
this is simply the best trad crag in the country. I know I'm out on a limb here , but name a better cliff with perfect rock an easy approach and several hundred routes ??? I know it's a bit out of fashion now but---- these are simply some of the best trad routes around. So steep slabs and painfull finger cracks are not in vogue- this is what Cathedral excells at and good luck with the ratings !!!
Just made my first visit to Cathedral. Some things you might want to note. 1 If you top out on any route, the descent is a walk off like being at Lover's Leap. There is a good trail that skirts the edge of the cliff. If facing out, the trail runs left. Don't walk down the road like us which takes longer. 2 Try your best to avoid this place on the weekends. Seems like everyone from Montreal to Boston is in town. This is the most crowded crag town I have ever seen. 3 The Handren guide book is out of print. If you can't find it, the Webster guide is useful. 4 If you only plan on doing one long route, rack up at the car so you don't have to head back to the base to pick up your stuff.