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Greens Cliff is a beautiful, semi-backwoods wide granite cliff with outlying walls, located just south west of Sawyer Pond, in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest, east of the Kancamagus Pass. This impressive cliff can be seen easily from the Kancamagus Highway, but received few visits in the past due to stories of an arduous approach and few known routes. This is changing though, as high quality routes have been recently put up and old classics rediscovered. A way in from the north has been recently figured out, making it much faster and no longer requiring mountain bikes. This new way in has also made it much more practical to get to the Northeastern crags, which offer quality, mostly long one pitch mixed protection routes, with an approach of only an hour.
For the new routers, Greens offers the potential for outstanding lines up to 300 feet long. The rock appears to be mostly very high quality with sweeping aesthetic features including long cracks, corners, roofs, moderate and fierce slabs, flake systems, steep overhanging jamb cracks, granite pockets and maybe even a potential for a few overhanging sport climbs. For those looking to do established lines, there is now a collection of high quality routes from 5.7 to 5.13.
The Main Wall is a sweeping band about 1/4 mile long and up to approximately 250 ft tall, of quality granite. It is similar to the best found in N Conway, but without the slick polished feel. It faces south east, so gets morning sun and has great views of Mt. Tremont and Owl's Cliff www.mountainproject.com/v/new_hampshire/owls_cliff/106752126 to the north east and to the south and south east, Mts. Tripyramid and Chocorua.
To the left, past two slabs with no known routes but potential, is the area known as The West Wing, a large, tall shoulder of rock. The Wing's right side is The Alcove, a section of overhanging yellow rock tucked into the steep hillside, surrounded by tall hemlocks. The Alcove is a little raw, with some sections of rotten rock and in need of further cleaning and some anchor upgrades, but it also has some of the steepest lines, including the old aid line jam crack '357', recently freed at the mid 13 grade. Around to the right of the Main Wall are the Northeastern Crags, a collection of partially developed walls with an especially scenic overlook of the Sawyer Pond basin. Here you will find mostly one pitch cracks, from fingers to offwidth/chimney and the really fun technical 12a/b arete Bigfoot Was Here It is a little far to go hauling crashpads, but if you are into backwoods bouldering, there are quality boulders up to 30 ft tall scattered in the forest below the crags, especially below the Main Wall and the West Wing.
Around to the left, more facing south south west is the large, good quality Meadow Brook Slab. It is on the same formation but fairly distant and has a different approach. Chuck Woodman and others have put up routes here up to 3 pitches. (we need more info)
A Little History
There are references in Charles E. Beals' book 'Passaconaway in the White Mountains' to Greens being a popular destination for hunting or picnicking in the late 1800s, but I haven't found any mention of climbing at Greens until the 1928 AMC expedition lead by Lincoln O’Brien. They made at least one visit to the cliff, making it up 100 feet, “but were unable to find a route to the top of this magnificent cliff. No other route could be found; the smooth, massive slabs seemed impregnable” I’m not sure where they tried, but Justin Preisendorfer found old pins while climbing Fireside Crack. It seems the trail cut in by the Passaconaway Mountain Club that the AMC folks used was not long maintained, which probably put a damper on further attempts.
It wasn't until almost 50 years later that Jimmie Dunn and Michael Macklin most likely made the first full ascent, by way of the classic Stewart's Crack, in 1975. In 1993 John Strand and Gerry Lortie climbed the very difficult slab, Black Flies Consume Jim Dunn as a first pitch to a possible 3 pitch wild looking line, ground up and hand drilling free on the lead. Michael Hartrich and Matt Peer climbed the thin Ginsu Flake, without the bolts and got down by soloing off right to a brushy corner. In 1994 Ward Smith and Paula King explored in from the Sawyer pond. They didn't quite make it in to the Main Cliff, stopping instead after much thrashing about at one of the walls of the Eastern Crags, to put up perhaps the first route at Green's using the top down approach, Premarital Blisters, a great looking 5.11c thin face and crack line.
Later, Steve Dupuis, Aaron Rashaw, Jamal Lee-Elkin, Tim Martel and Justin Preisendorfer and others traveled out, making more regular visits, battled bears and, usually ground up, aided or freed a number of dramatic routes that just beg to be climbed when you see them, like the big second pitch flake system of Green Party and the 200 foot finger and hand crack Greenpeace, and '357'. It then lay mostly quiet for a while.
In early spring 2010, after observing and wondering about Green's for many years while climbing at Owls, I finally skied and snowshoed over to check it out and was hooked by the beauty of the cliff and the new route potential. The year saw a flurry of activity. With the help of Dima Shirokov, Amy Colburn, David Powers, Matt Elliott, Randy Garcia and others, Greenpeace and Green Party both got freed, 8 new pitches were established and a bunch of new projects started.
2013 saw increased visits, with some notable ascents being the freeing of 357 by Conor Cliffe and Tom Draper and the bold ground up onsite first ascent of a line through the dramatic second and third pitch terrain above Black Flies... (still un-named) by Bayard Russell, Ray Rice and Cliffe. Also of note, after years of biking and hiking in the long way, a much shorter hike in from the north was found that avoided any horrible thrash, making Greens now barely an outback area, especially the Northeastern Crags, which can be reached in well under an hour by foot. As a result, climbing at the Northeastern Crags became much more feasible (Greens Light, as John Strand calls it) and seven quality new routes went in over there.
There is now a good collection of established routes available with lots of potential for more. If it was a bit closer to the road this area would likely be one of the main climbing destinations of New Hampshire. Luckily it isn't, so you can get away from the crowds and find top quality virgin lines to explore. Top that with a great bivy spot on a ledge under a huge protective roof, a very picturesque location , adventurous friends sharing a rope or a bottle of wine around the fire afterwards and you should get the picture of Greens. (We’ll forget being eaten alive because you came out in the wrong time of Spring and forgot your bug suit, ha ha)
Greens is somewhat in the middle of the White Mountains, not close to any particular paved road, so people have approached it from just about every direction of the compass, with varying results. Since approaches from the northwest were usually stymied by a band of horrendously thick spruce, for a while most came in from the Kancamagus or Bear Notch Rd, making use of mountainbikes along the forest roads to get within striking distance on foot. In case you are not in a hurry and want to try that way the directions are saved here www.mountainproject.com/v/107007381#a_108590236 Recently a good quick way in off of Sawyer Pond Tr. has been found that avoids the spruce band and doesn't require bikes. (It is also pretty scenic) If the Sawyer Pond Rd. gate is open, it is the way to go. If closed, than you are back to a multi-hour bike/ski and hike.
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I'm Still Here 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b NH : Greens Cliff : The Main Wall
Fun varied climbing on 2 pitches, with a great view. The first pitch starts about 25 feet right of a large yellowish brown , right facing corner with a roof. Step off the bent birch tree on to an easy slab and mantle up onto an angling rail to clip the first bolt (spot or stick clip) Continue up and left past 2 more bolts to a thin crux on a headwall (foot sequence) that gets you to the bottom right side of the "mattress" flake. Plug a cam under it and layback up the right side until you can plu...[more] Browse More Classics in NH
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