Rainbow Slabs Rock Climbing
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A 70m rope is helpful on this cliff. Otherwise, double ropes are often needed for raps; and some raps still need doubles.
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, most 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 to anchor)
Livin' Easy (5.4- 5.5, gear, 3 bolts to anchor or top-out)
Face Dances (5.6-5.6+, 3 bolts to anchor)
V-2 (5.6, 4 bolts to anchor, tri-cam placements possible)
Tsunami (5.6, gear to threaded flake anchor)
Perfect Wave (5.7, gear & 2 bolts to anchor)
Lucky Charms (5.7, gear) & Direct Variation (5.7+, 3 bolts to anchor, or P2 to top out)
Coloring Book (5.7, gear to 2 bolt anchor on P1) [ Variation: 5.8, 2 bolts to same bolt anchor]
Road to Lhasa (5.7, gear to anchor or P2 to top out)
Friday's Friend (5.7, gear: small & med nuts, 3 bolts )
Cruise Control (5.7+, 3 bolts, some gear, to tree anchor )
B-Day Brushings (5.7+, gear, 2 bolts to anchor, or P2 top out to tree)
First Wave (5.8, with small & med. nuts for gear, 2 bolts, right to Perfect Wave anchor, or up left-ish to tree anchor)
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)
L'Anniversaire 5.8 X (original 1985 1/4" anchors (which were placed in the water-flow) have been replaced (down and right, out of water flow) and the climb maye be TR'd with 70M rope from the "Launch Ledge". The 1/4" hangerless bolt ("stud") mentioned in Handren was replaced with a 3/8", but this is believed to be on a slightly different climb to the right of L'Anniversaire.
Basically two ways: 1) the dry approach from Albany covered bridge , and 2) the wet approach crossing the river which saves about a mile of walking each way. Both are described below.
The description in the Handren and Webster guidebooks is a bit confusing, and it MAY, in fact, be the ancient route to the far south ("Left End") of the slab. Almost everyone who tries to follow it winds up bushwhacking and sometimes never finds the cliff. Better to follow the description and map below. There are also two photos of the overall approach.
Approach Path, branches off of logging road.
The usual approach: From the Rt 16 / Rt 112 (Kancamangus Highway) traffic light take Rt 112 west about 6 miles. Park at Boulder Loop Trail parking. (fee or annual WMNF pass ) which is across the Albany Covered Bridge. Take the logging road upstream. At about 0.8 miles the logging road crosses an always-running stream on a large wooden bridge, climbs a short incline and bears left. Soon the logging road crosses over two tiny streams on “ small bridges", and shortly thereafter the old ski trail branches left, best to stay on the logging road. On the logging road you will cross two big ditches where culverts have been removed.
At about 0.1-0.2 mile beyond the last big ditch the the ski trail comes back in and soon branches left again into the woods. There used to be a “9km/5 mi “ sign at this branch but it seems gone or overgrown now.) Stay on the logging road, and a few (50 +/-) feet beyond, look for a large (9-12 inches high) cairn on the right marking the climber's path. SEE MAP/PHOTO (If you reach a large, open area at the end of the good logging road you have gone about 0.3-0.4 mile beyond the climber's path; best to return and find it.)
The path is easy to follow. From the cairn the path starts up a (usually) dry stream bed and immediately jogs right then back left to avoid a blowdown (2020). About 75-100 yds from the cairn the path bears slightly to the left. About another 5-8 minutes you will cross a stream (almost always with some water in it) and the path then starts to climb steeply. Divert left around a large fallen (2020) tree, then immediately back right to regain the path. If leaves cover the main pathway, look for cairns.
About half way up the steep section there is a flat area where a less-traveled side path branches left and provides a cut-off to the "toe" area and the climbs on the Mid-Section (and further left) of the crag. The main path continues slightly right, finishes in a rocky gully, and ends just left of route Perfect Wave. If you wanted to go to the left side of the crag and missed the cut off, there is a good path that leads up and left, then down to the "toe" area.
LOST ? ! ? - If you've left the logging road and are not on a good, easy-to-follow path it's probably because you didn't find the cairn. It's there ! Look at the photo-map and go back and find it. Thrashing through the woods, especially bushwhacking the last steep section, is really no fun and totally unnecessary!
Approach via "new" river crossing- If the Swift river is low, you can save more than a mile of walking (each way) by wading across. I think the best crossing place is about 0.1 - 0.2 mi. west of Lower Falls.
NOTE- This is a slightly DIFFERENT crossing place than that which is described in the 2nd edition of North Conway Rock Climbs, and seems to be above 0.1-0.2 mi. downstream of the N.C.R.C’s crossing point.
Park (wheels off the pavement) in the EASTBOUND DIRECTION between a "CURVE"-sign and a "PEDESTRIAN /35MPH" sign. The bank of the road to your right is old, dark grey rip-rap stone. Cross the road, hop over the guardrail (usually there's a small cairn on one of the posts) and find a tiny sandy beach. Check the "gauging rock": its top should be completely dry.
A possible river crossing spot (not the crossing described in Webster or Handren) located 0.2 Mi west of Lower Falls. Ideally, you want the "gauge" rock DRY. Hiking poles or sticks highly recommended.
Wade across the river. Your "target" is an orange, triangular rock on the other side [photo]. Exit the river downstream of the triangular rock, at a large downed tree. The Nam--Ski Trail is a few feet up and left through the woods. Walk UPSTREAM on the NAM--Trail for 150 feet to a relatively "new" wooden bridge [see photo], then a 1-2 minute walk to the logging road. In about 75-100 ft the climber's path turns off to the right from the logging road. 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.
Old River Crossing - Older Guidebooks describe a crossing 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 from the ski trail is the problem people normally have. From what I can gather, almost everyone who "gets lost" trying to get to Rainbow does so because they take this "upper" river crossing and then go into the woods too early. If you take this "old" crossing GO ALL THE WAY TO THE LOGGING ROAD to pick up the CLIMBER'S PATH.
Classic Climbing Routes at Rainbow Slabs
Days w Precip