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Areas in Cathedral Ledge

Airation Buttress 18 / 4 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 20
Barber Wall 29 / 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 29
Beast Alcove and Refuse Area, The 15 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 16
Cathedral Cave, The 0 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 6
Central Wall, The 12 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 12
Cote Boulder, The 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0
Diedre Area, The 7 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 7
End of Days Crag 0 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3
Lower Left Wall / Ventilator Slabs 18 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 19
Mordor Wall, The 15 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 5 / 0 / 0 / 16
North End, The 23 / 2 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 24
Nostril Block 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Prow Area, The 9 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 11
Thin Air Face 17 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 17
Tourist Overlook 7 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 7
V Buttress, The 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3

Description

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.

A webcam trained on the cliff can be found at www.neclimbs.com, as can notes about conditions, routes, etc.

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.

Getting There

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.

Winter Climbing

For a description of Cathedral's ice routes, see Cathedral Ledge Ice Climbs.

Aid Climbers:

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.

194 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Cathedral Ledge

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 441
Thin Air
Trad 4 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 191
Toe Crack
Trad 2 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 89
Turner's Flake
Trad
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 217
Bombardment
Trad 2 pitches
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 250
Pine Tree Eliminate
Trad
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 252
Recompense
Trad 3 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 282
They Died Laughing
Trad
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 158
The Beast Flake
Trad
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 190
Bird's Nest
Trad
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 165
The Book of Solemnity
Trad 2 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 137
Nutcracker
Trad
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 145
Diedre
Trad 5 pitches
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 119
The Slot
Trad
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 130
Airation
Trad 2 pitches
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
 62
The Prow
Trad 6 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Thin Air Thin Air Face
 441
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad 4 pitches
Toe Crack Thin Air Face
 191
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 2 pitches
Turner's Flake Thin Air Face
 89
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
Bombardment Lower Left Wall / Ven…
 217
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 2 pitches
Pine Tree Eliminate Airation Buttress
 250
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
Recompense Prow Area
 252
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 3 pitches
They Died Laughing N End
 282
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad
The Beast Flake Prow Area
 158
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad
Bird's Nest N End
 190
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad
The Book of Solemnity Barber Wall
 165
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 2 pitches
Nutcracker Barber Wall
 137
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad
Diedre Diedre Area
 145
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 5 pitches
The Slot N End
 119
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad
Airation Airation Buttress
 130
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Trad 2 pitches
The Prow Prow Area
 62
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a Trad 6 pitches
More Classic Climbs in Cathedral Ledge »

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Ladd    
Bryan Gilmore
FLG, AZ
Bryan Gilmore   FLG, AZ
One of the single best cliffs in the entire USA, IMHO. May 31, 2008
john strand
southern colo
john strand   southern colo
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 !!!

john Jun 17, 2008
- - -  
Perfect rock, easy approach and hundreds of routes? Sounds like the Gunks! Apr 12, 2009
Russ Keane
Asheville, NC
Russ Keane   Asheville, NC
I don't know about perfect rock ..... Kind of polished, slimy, and awkwardly inconsistent ...... What about Lumpy Ridge? I think Cathedral is really really nice, but the best trad crag in the country? No way. Oct 21, 2015
john strand
southern colo
john strand   southern colo
IMO Lumpy isn't even close to Cathedral. Cathedral has tons more varied routes both in difficulty and style

Not to much slime or polish on 95% of the climbs Oct 21, 2015
Will Ryan
New England
Will Ryan   New England
What is the best guidebook for Cathedral ledge? Jun 5, 2017
Rich Brereton
Pownal, ME
Rich Brereton   Pownal, ME
Best guidebook is North Conway Rock Climbs by Jerry Handren (2012) Aug 21, 2017
What commitment grade would most routes on Cathedral be? Sep 6, 2017
Cron
Barrington, NH
Cron   Barrington, NH
I and II. Perhaps with the exception of aid climbs on the Mordor Wall. Sep 25, 2017
Will Ryan
New England
Will Ryan   New England
Whats the best rack to get for Cathedral? Oct 16, 2017
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
Most climbs are pretty safe with a single set of cams from small fingers to fists and a set of nuts... do bring extendable draws and of course read descriptions to see if doubles are recommended on a particular route. Oct 16, 2017
What is the date that the road to top of Cathedral Ledge closes or the winter? Thank you! Dec 3, 2017
Alec Woolley
Allenstown
Alec Woolley   Allenstown
This year it closed on 11/16. There is no specific date when the gate closes but typically it's mid to late November. Earlier if weather conditions are bad. Dec 3, 2017

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