Zealand Notch Itself: Whitewall Mountain Rock Climbing
|GPS:||44.181, -71.485 Google Map · Climbing Area Map|
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|Shared By:||bradley white on Dec 27, 2009|
|Admins:||Jay Knower, M Sprague, lee hansche, Jeffrey.LeCours, Robert Hall, Jonathan Steitzer|
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DescriptionZealand Notch used to be called New Zealand Notch because of it's similarity to the great forest of New Zealand.
From 1884 to 1905 a logging baron named J.E. Henry put an end to the existence of this forest. There is a cliff on Whitewall Mountain facing west in this notch. I saw a blasted drill hole on a stone beneath the highest rock wall in the south central section. It appears the cliff on the central to southern half was blasted out by dynamite to be made into terraced slopes to catch and stop rock slides. Rockslides could have derailed his trains and track below. The trail to Whitewall Mt. is the timber baron's railroad bed and the highest point of it is 2,500+ft.
There were a couple of great fires that burned 20,000 acres about 105 years ago after J.E. Henry had moved onto the east branch of the Pemigewasset River region to cut timber.
The fires were so hot that when it was safe to inspect the devastation to the notch's environment, forest scientist reported there was nothing left accept whitened rocks. Rocks that were exposed because all of the forest loam had burned away above them. Soon afterward there were 13 rocks slides reported. These open exposed rocks from the fires are still evident today especially on the south western spur and the lowest ground level of the notch. Thick white birch trees that had died on the stump, many have regrown hardy branches at they're bases, They thrive with their dead tree trunks still standing at the cliffside. Eerie, they went on living after those devastating consequences of fires from J.E . Henry oblivion. His and others like him, had cut and left the slashed off tree tops in the forest, after the fires happened folks of the N.H. and Boston region got together to petition and pass through N.H. legislator 'the Weeks Act', to protect the forest permanently from these dangerously to combustion logging procedures. Whitewall is not unique to the White Mountains having open rock slab faces from fires.
Whitewall Mt. mostly a terraced cliff is about 500ft. high. Topographically it top's out about 400 ft. below it's 3400ft. summit. The northern side central slab and walls have low angle ice with short vertical head walls. Climbs are probably three pitches long with options right or left to finish it. Either way there could be a mixed climbing finish to them. I speculate all the climbs are WI3-4. There is ice at the large chimney cave left facing corner on the southern central side. Ice flows are on the lower slab walls furthest south on this mountain is good access to the large chimney. All of these ice routes have not been done.
The rock slide between the northern rock buttresses supposedly frequently avalanches. Avalanches look likely to happen from above the tops of the ice flows also because in the summer it is mostly open steep slopes of Labrador Rhododendron, small trees and talus sand fields. These trees and talus won't secure the snow that piles up because this mountain is the first big obstacle a storm must pass over before getting to the Presidential Range. Therefore the snow and ice climbs may be similar to Huntington's Ravine on Mt. Washington. Where the trees are thickest on these slopes, is a good indicator of the least avalanche zoned areas.
Rock climbing potential is high on Whitewall and dangerous until tested and all the time the validity of the rock must be analyzed about it's safety. The granite composite rock is definitely weathered and old on the north side, exposed to the worst environment that exist at about 3000ft. The north and northern central cliff appear undisturbed by J.E. Henry's timber annihilation ambition.
Conway granite is on the northern side and then becomes included with white fine granite at the cliff's base and the entire northern central side. Then the rock becomes conway granite again at the cliff high head wall wall until the further south passed the chimney giant left facing corner fine Granite returns, only to go back to Conway granite at the superb crack section, finally reached south again fine granite above a open book left facing corner with likely sharp rock edges for face climbing after this corner or there is a finish directly up left . This is a two pitch section. It is difficult to know where blasted rock stops and preexisting undisturbed rock starts. I have an educated guess now the blasting happened where there is a tree fill giant pocket in the cliff.
There are plenty of unstable rocks everywhere on the cliff side. Small boulders are distributed about on the tree slopes, some directly beneath a likely blasted rock wall. Bloody hikers have reported talus moving onto the Ethan Pond trail (railroad bed) below the cliff during the summer months. These rocks are mainly from the north side and nearest to the longest ice flow sections. Freeze, thaw exfoliation happens almost the entire year because the cliff can be freezing cold on summer nights. This popular hiking trail is below a actively exfoliating mountain and is part of the Appalachian Trail.
Most of it's rock climbing is very similar to being on Cannon cliff. It's longest talus field rock slide is on the north side and is very loose. The south side rock slide is firmer because the rocks are much bigger. Both are good for descent. Rappelling the cliff is dangerous because of the many loose stones at top but the northern central section is clear enough for rappelling before the summit. Unless your planning on going to the western spur, I highly recommend rappelling. I have not set up a rappel location. All of the climbs will top out either into the gnarly pine forest on the southern side or the wide open sandy spaces of the northern central and north side. This is definitely a sensitive to weather and erosion area mountain that has had recent cliff rock slides. Ecologically this mountain's is still recovering from the fires and is near enough to be a member of the Presidential Range hostile environments. It has above tree sensitive alpine plant areas. The W.M.N.F. hasn't curtailed any where from hikng ascents yet. I contacted them about rock climbing and it's okay.
Most of the entire cliff is unexplored. Climbs are all over the mountain to be done, all year round on white fine and pink granite conglomerates
The trees are thick beneath the highest southern buttresses most carefulness walk off. Confounded loose blocks or short tree climbing down ledges encountered. Confrontations to deal with along any journey upward and down here. Whitewall is the last incredible climbing area of approximately 1/2-1/4 mile wide.
Below the southern face is terraced by fifty to eighty feet of steep blacked walls, that can be gotten to from the southern talus field. This can be an awful approach but inwards or up some on the southern talus field is a boulder path far left that is narrow and goes direct to these black walls. Also cliff side north can be walked from here. Pro is little to none visible from the cliff side. Clean rock and there is a line up that looks moderate. Right of these blackened slabs is a horrible area of steep open dirt slope traverses on uncertainty footing, perpetual short wet walls and some fifty+ ft. drop offs below these slopes. Not cool.
The giant overhang (King Henry?) with it's several possibilities to climbing on or around it, sticks out like a lighthouse and overlooks this entire area . The rock is excellent with a Yosemite likeness too it sometimes. In my opinion the best way to this white granite upper wall is by rock climbing up diagonally until directly below it by the Red Queen route approach.
All of the rock is extremely good rock to climb on generally. It will always be dangerous for so many reasons, the simplest dangers there are the usual loose stones a bushwhacker climber encounters on any first descent. A greater riskiness is having to deal with boulders, blocks, and stones in the talus fields on all levels of the mountain's climbing slopes. What's real and what's been altered by dynamite and fires is also here to ponder. The Yosemite like granite is likely blasted rock because it doesn't have old rock appearance and feel. on This mountain rock where it looks really old, it is and has very slippery black lichen on it. It has almost all year freeze, thaw conditions. The talus fields on the climbs are becoming safer after more ascents moving loose rocks. Bad weather can be seen coming towards the mountain from a distance but the mountain's unique environment is also capable of creating it's own weather suddenly.
Lastly a variety of routes possibly at 100+ft of rock bulging steeply most north and Best access I can think of involves getting onto the Black knight and rappel into this section. Big draw back here is above it is old loose rock that is orange/brown rotten and has had recent rock slides. The southern side of this alcove area is a gully devoid of any direct sunlight that likely has a one pitch ice route on it's northeastern inside. Sounds cold.
Whitewall Mountain, I'd respect it, it is very close to the wilderness designated area. I travel as light as possible to it because there is about a ten mile walking experience besides 500ft or more of route finding while climbing. TCU's work well here. Depending on what you intend to climb determines the rack. The crack section is all hand cracks to finger cracks. A double rack of two and three range cams would be helpful only in this section.
I have been unable to find out any mountaineering history on this mountain. I don't know why. No vintage pitons found yet. In the 1930's it must have still been a waste land. There is a faint trail to a cache box on the true summit to place your name in it. W.M.N.F. is collecting data on how many people are ascending the mountain. If you're interested, add yourselves to this cache summit box listing.
Keep it cool with loose rocks, hikers are often below and try to leave no trace. If you do climb on Whitewall, it'll be difficult to go unnoticed with the A.M.C. Hut nearby and hikers below. They often stop to watch us climb. It's a little nerve racking, most hikers don't realize they are in danger from any rock fall from climbers above them, so trundling here is a bad idea.
N.H. has a pay for rescue service so don't get lost, and don't get hurt so much you'll require a rescue. There is no cell phone service here and it'll be expensive. The forest is very thick and rocky, so becoming lost and getting injured could become lost and dead.
South of Mt. Whitewall off of the Ethan Pond Trail is a west facing rock slab with a head wall spur on Mt. Willey. It also is granite 300+ft of elevation. It doesn't have that busted up fractured appearance to it, that Mt. Whitewall has. There is a leanto shelter near the pond. This spur also has no rock climbing history that I can find.
There have been 7 ice flows (some not long) done on the spur above the Ethan Pond area. These winter ascents are posted at neice.com and a couple were listed as two pitch+ climbs. There is a decent photo of the iced slab and it's steep top off section but I had some difficulty finding it. I don't do well at navigating this site. All are at the (WI4) grade and IV commitment for wilderness? The climbers utilized rock and ice climbing gear. Get there via Willey House Station Rd. to the Ethan Pond trail to the leanto shelter (3 miles). From there follow ribbon on trees as you head up towards the western facing cliff. Ribbon has a way of disappearing over the years.
This whole area of the notch to Ethan pond is the out back. It's best to keep it cool here, so the rangers don't believe we're fools because of a rescue in winter. Once that happens they may find a reason to stop these outback ledges from being climbed all year round.
On the Zeacliff Trail right and down at the center below Whitewall cliff and one eight of a mile down steeply is a excellent designated campground. Room for many tents and is next to a river. Very good summer base camp. Not necessary in winter.
Getting ThereTake 302 to Twin Mt. Zealand Notch road. Drive road till it ends. Walk 2.5 miles on Zealand trail to Ethan pond trail junction. Walk 1.3 miles to talus field of Mt. Whitewall to approach the cliff's base (takes me about 20 minutes a mile). Scramble up the talus field to climb the northern central slabs to the upper walls or to reach the head wall starts to the northern buttress. Road is closed in winter. There is a large parking area east of Zealand Notch Road in winter to park at on 302. Add almost a couple of miles onto reaching the A.M.C. Zealand Falls hut via this way (about 6.4 miles). Hut was open all year and in winter self serving. No food and no blankets. There was a wood stove and kitchen. I believe it is still operational during the winter with a care taker provider overseer. From the hut 1+ miles to Whitewall Mt.'s cliff in winter or summer. Distance probably hasn't been a major deterrent from it having had winter and summer ascents. Not knowing it exist is likely why there have not been any climbs done. Physically I can't do winter ascents anymore or I would have gone last winter. There are lots of google images from hikers of the Notch. I have not seen any decent winter photos. One photo does show the central cliff area either in late fall or march/April time period with the many ice formations on it.
In the summer/fall there's the Sugarloaf Campground off of Zealand Notch road and also the Zealand Falls A.M.C Hut is 1+ mile from the cliff. Ethan pond and the Mt. Willey's western slab spur above the pond are best approached by Willey House Station Rd. from Crawford Notch to Ethan Pond trail. It is a three mile hike to the pond and there is a leanto shelter near to there.
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