Rainbow Slabs Rock Climbing
BETA PHOTO: Rainbow Slabs with Key Climbs Marked, as Viewed fr...
SUMMER 2015 NOTICE - There is now active logging in the area where the approach path leaves the "logging road". A "skidder" path has been cut in a zig-zag route that intercepts and cuts across the old approach path several times. There also may be active tree cutting and logging, although this doesn't seem to occur on weekends. If you have never been to Rainbow it will be difficult, if not impossible, to follow the old path. By using the skidder roads it is possible to get to Rainbow without too much difficulty. The description below was updated Aug. 23, 2015 with these directions.
If you've driven up the Kancamagus from the Conway area, chances are you have seen Rainbow Slabs. The 200 - 250 feet of southeast-facing, water-streaked granite offers a selection of moderate (5.4 to 5.8+) friction climbing, some of which is reasonably protected, while some routes are seriously run-out.
While all climbs will have some run-out sections, and the climber is always responsible for making make his/her own decisions, the run-out section of the following climbs is usually two or three grades less than crux section, and the crux(es) have reasonable protection, either with gear or bolt(s) [generally in increasing order of difficulty]:
Dead Easy (5.1-5.2, gear)
Livin' Easy (5.4- 5.5, gear, 1 bolt)
Face Dances (5.6-5.6+, 2 bolts)
Tsunami (5.6, gear)
Perfect Wave (5.7, gear & 2 bolts)
Lucky Charms (5.7, gear) & Direct Variation (5.7+, 2 bolts )
Coloring Book (5.7, gear)
Road to Lhasa (5.7, gear)
Friday's Friend (5.7, gear: small & med nuts, 1 bolt )
Cruise Control (5.7+, 3 bolts, some gear )
B-Day Brushings (5.7+, gear, 1 bolt)
First Wave (5.8, with small & med. nuts for gear, 1 bolt)
More run out, or with run out sections only slightly less difficult than their cruxes, include:
Pillars of Dickulese (nominally given 5.6, but perhaps harder?)
Take a Giant Step (the 5.8+ crux(es) are well protected, but not the approach moves which are about 5.6-5.7)
GETTING THERE: The description in the Handren guide is a bit confusing, and it MAY, in fact, be the ancient route to the far south ("Left End") of the slab.
The usual approach is described well in Webster's Guide: If the river is high, (or cold!) walk (or bike) up the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail from Albany Covered Bridge parking. [This approach is now a "superhighway" due to logging.] At 0.7 mi. the logging road passes a open staging area. Stay left; at 0.9 mi the logging rd crosses a stream on a bridge and then bears left again. The logging rd continues (the old ski trail branches left about 0.1-0.2 mi from the bridge, then rejoins the logging road just before the climber's path.)
At about 0.4-0.5 mi. from the bridge the logging road passes a large, flat boulder on the right and, shortly thereafter the old ski trail comes back in and immediately branches left at the "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign;[photo] Aug 23, 2015 Update: here the old path diverges (cairn). SEE MAP/PHOTO If you have never taken the old path, it is probably best to continue on the logging road/superhighway about 400 feet further to a black, ugly, skidder road on the right. [As map shows you can cut off a few feet by diagonalling into the woods before the skidder road at a small cairn.] Take the skidder road upwards. Ignore any side roads to the right. After about 5 min. you'll come to the only major branch to the left. (Those familiar with the old path might notice that to the right is the "dry stream" and the cairn that marked where the old path crossed it.) Take the skidder road to the left. [photos]
The left-hand skidder road bends upwards to the right. Pass a small cairn on a stump, and then look for a break in the piled up slash on the left. [photo] (slash= pile of broken tree branches) At the break-in-the-slash there is a 5" diameter tree that was cut off about 2 feet from the ground. Go through the opening in the slash, step right and go over a rotten stump & log [photo] and you are on the old path about 100-150 ft from the stream crossing ( cairns) where WATER is available except in the driest of summers. From here the path climbs steeply for 3-4 minutes, generally up-and-right, reaching the slab at the junction of the Mid-Section and the Perfect Wave slabs. The whole approach should take no more than 12-15 minutes from the Ski Trail, 40-45 min. from Albany Covered Bridge. To get to mid-section climbs like Face Dances and True Colors take a short path on your left which crosses high and then descends to the "toe" of the cliff. [More detailed descriptions to each of the separate "Areas" are given in that area's section.]
If the river is low, you can save quite a bit of walking by wading across. Historically, the usual place was 0.6 miles West of Lower Falls at a gravel pull out. [Also used for Crack-in-the-Woods.] Once across the river and back on the Nam--- Ski Trail, one must WALK BACK DOWN (i.e. downstream direction) ABOUT 0.3-0.4 MILES TO REACH THE NORMAL APPROACH AS DESCRIBED ABOVE. This includes going over an old bridge; the climber's path is where the old Nam-- ski trail hits the new logging road. (Going into the woods too early is the problem people normally have.)
Another possible river crossing place is 0.2 mi. west of Lower Falls. Park (wheels off the road) in the EASTBOUND DIRECTION between a "CURVE"-sign and a "PEDESTRIAN /35MPH" sign. Cross the road, find a small sandy beach, and wade across the river. Your "target" is an orange, triangular rock on the other side. [photo] Exit the river on the downstream side of a large downed tree. The Nam--Trail is a few feet into the woods. Walk UPSTREAM on the NAM--Trail for 150 feet to a relatively "new" wooden bridge, thence 2 min to the "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign, where the Nam-- trail meets the new logging road; here climber's path turns off. If the river is low enough to cross here, it takes me less than 20-25min. of hiking (plus 5 min or so to change out of wading shoes) to reach the cliff. You could also park at Lower Falls (fee or annual WMNF pass) and walk the 0.1-0.2 mi. up the Kanc. to reach this crossing.
Climbing Season For the WM: Kancamagus (Eastern) area.
Weather station 6.8 miles from here
41 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',1],['3 Stars',15],['2 Stars',13],['1 Star',8],['Bomb',4]
Classic Climbing Routes in Rainbow Slabs
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Rainbow Slabs
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Rainbow Slabs:
Featured Route For Rainbow Slabs
Cruise Control 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b NH
: WM: Kancamagus (Eastern)
: ... : 4. The Perfect Wave Slab
Just the most wonderful, clean, white rock with excellent protection....although it was not always this way. The first time I climbed it the original drilled-on-the-lead 1/4" bolts were the pro! Soon these were replaced with 3/8". I gave this an additional star over the "consensus 3-star" Perfect Wave because there's nearly twice as long a section of climbing-at-the- grade. Approach - Same as for Tsunami. [From where the climber's path reaches the slab, walk right along the base about 35-40 ...[more] Browse More Classics in NH
By Russ Keane
Jul 3, 2014
Holy moley, this is IMPOSSIBLE to find. We walked all over the place, in circles, all day, and never found it. How can that be? It was frustrating.
By john strand
From: southern colo
Jul 4, 2014
Did you start at Albany covered Bridge or cross the river ??
By Russ Keane
Jul 15, 2014
The river was too high to cross, so we parked at the Albany Bridge. I have the new Handren guide, and felt pretty comfortable that I followed all the directions: Find the intersection with the logging road, walk up a stream, etc). It was just so hard to see anything through the trees. We were very very close, I am sure. In fact we ended up finding one portion of the long crag up there, but I am not sure where it was.
Truly an elusive cliff.
By Robert Hall
Oct 1, 2014
The description above works, although the logging road has now been pushed through to where the path leaves the ski trail, but the km/mi sign is still there as of late Sept 2014 and the path to the cliff is still intact.
With the new road, consider biking in. Even with a climbing pack, my old knees and less-than-optimal-conditioning for biking it was 15 minutes in from Albany Bridge, and 9 minutes out, to the cairn at the start of the path. (i.e. the photo of 2 climbers by the new cairn.)
By Travis Dustin
From: Hollis, NH
Sep 8, 2015
Went out there this past weekend and found the hike in to be not that difficult. We found it with no issues. The river was low and we crossed at the sandy beach and went right into the woods and got to the bridge on the ski trail.