A 70m rope is helpful on this cliff. Otherwise, double ropes are often needed for raps; and some raps still need doubles.

Spring 2018 NOTICE - All of the culvert pipes (about 7) on the last 0.4 mile of the logging road from Covered Bridge to the start of the climber's path have been removed and the resulting ditches left open.  As a result, "biking in" much beyond the "steel bridge" ( 0.9 miles from the Covered Bridge) has become more difficult. After the 2nd log footbridge, take the old ski trail as it branches off left.  

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) [Climbs listed generally in increasing order of difficulty]:
Dead Easy (5.1-5.2, gear)
Livin' Easy (5.4- 5.5, gear, 3 bolts)
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, 2 bolts )
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

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"  logging road.]  At 0.8 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. (Ignore the right-hand branch that goes uphill) The logging rd continues slightly downhill. As of  2018, much beyond here is difficult to bike since there are open ditches across the road (the larger ones resemble World War 2 tank traps !) where once there was flat road; if you're on a bike it is best to take the old ski trail that branches left after the 2nd log footbridge. The ski trail rejoins the logging road in about 0.2 mi. near the "large flat boulder" described below.

At about 0.4-0.5 mi. from the bridge (1.3 - 1.4 mi. from car) the logging road passes a large, flat boulder on the right and, shortly thereafter the old ski trail comes back in and soon branches left at the "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign;[photo] A few feet beyond, look for a cairn on the right marking the climber's path. SEE MAP/PHOTO
Follow the path up a (usually) dry stream bed. The path bears to the left after about 100 yds.
Continue on the path, passing through one area where the path has now been cleared through "slash", step over a large downed tree (with a single rock cairn) and continue on about another 50 yards to a "skidder path" (rough logging road)
Turn right up the skidder path (cairns). Follow for about 100 feet, turn left (at a cairn, also a tree branch down across skidder road) and regain the path.
In about 200 yards cross over a dry stream bed (old cairn, and [2018] trees across) and continue to a second skidder/logging road. You should be able to see the cliff from here. Continue straight ahead on the logging road, in the direction of the cliff, following cairns on tree stumps. [photos] As of 2018 this section is getting overgrown, although efforts try to keep it clear.
After about 100 yards, look for an opening in the slash on the left to regain the path.
The above sounds complicated, but is easy to follow and should take no more than 5-10 minutes from the main logging road to this point.
Cross the (usually flowing) stream, and continue on the path, up and right, which ends at the cliff, just left of Perfect Wave.

If the Swift river is low, you can save more than a mile of walking (each way) 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 DOWNSTREAM ABOUT 0.3-0.4 MILES TO REACH THE NORMAL APPROACH PATH 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.)

What seems to be a better river crossing 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, hop over the guardrail (usually there's a small cairn on one of the posts) and find a small sandy beach. 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 [photo], thence 2 min to the "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign, where the Nam-- trail meets the new logging road; here the 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.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Rainbow Slabs

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Russ Keane
Asheville, NC
Russ Keane   Asheville, NC
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. Jul 3, 2014
john strand
southern colo
john strand   southern colo
Did you start at Albany covered Bridge or cross the river ?? Jul 4, 2014
Russ Keane
Asheville, NC
Russ Keane   Asheville, NC
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.

Editor's NOTE: Walking in from Albany Bridge and using the Handren guide he says : "800 yds from Lower Falls Parking" Technically this is correct, but you can't see the parking, or the falls, from the Nam Ski Trail (which is a logging road today) and 800 yds ( about 1/2 mile) is hard to judge. Why Handren didn't just say " follow ski trail about 1 1/2 miles to the "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign; [photo] I don't know. R Hall 2018, NH Admin. ] Jul 15, 2014
Travis Dustin
Hollis, NH
Travis Dustin   Hollis, NH
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. Sep 8, 2015
Robert Hall
North Conway, NH
Robert Hall   North Conway, NH  
I have hiked into Rainbow many,many times and (except for a year or so the climber's path was really clogged with logging debris) have always taken the climber's path that branches from the logging road near the small "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign. This was the path as described in Webster's 3rd ed in the "high water approach from Albany Cover Bridge" . Webster & Handren use the crossing 0.6-0.7 miles west of Lower Falls Parking, but Webster simple states (or words to the effect) "walk back down stream to the 9KM/ 5.6Misign.

After the Handren guide came out, I said "WHAT?" The only thing I could think of was that he was describing the ancient route into the slabs that goes to the furthest left area. In this approach you are "aiming" for the cliff as viewed sideways; with the trees leafed-out if you miss it by only a couple of dozen yards you might not even find it. In the approach via the climber's path you head for the cliff "face on", even if you get off the path (doubtful, it's really well defined) you will probably "bump into" the cliff.

If you do chose to use the crossing 0.6 Mi west of Lower Falls be aware of the following:
1) Once you get onto the Nanamocomuck ski trail, the climber's path is about 600 yards (not 350 yds) downstream of the crossing.
2) About 50-60 yds before the "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign you'll cross an old wooden bridge. ( you may cross one or two before this one)
3) The ski trail hits the new logging road right at the Mile & km sign; walk a few feet (about 30-40 ft) back upstream on the logging road and look for the cairn on the right.
Note- there's been logging activity upstream of the climber's path, and I'm not 100% sure that the ski trail doesn't intersect the logging road before the climber's path, but as of Aug 2018 the 9KM/ 5.6Mi sign is still there, and the path is well-cairned and well worn. Aug 18, 2018