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New Hampshire's Best Secret Cragging

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EDGE · · Between Nederland and Boulder, · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 1,370

In the good old Granite State of New Hampshire, there is a lot of, well, granite. While areas like Cathedral and Whitehorse, Cannon, and Rumney (schist, but not enough to warrant a new state nickname) get all the attention, there are a ton of smaller crags scattered throughout the state that warrant notice.

One of the newest developed areas in the state has been receiving some well-deserved attention, despite a long and sporadic history. The crags of the “New Durham Area,” located in the heart of the Lakes Region, offer excellent cragging on walls from 30-170’ tall. A myriad of climbing styles can be found at the various cliffs of Devils Den, Mt Molly, Rines Hill, Rand Mtn, and Pleasant Valley, including routes from 5.3-5.13a.

Meaghan Smith on the Outback Wall, Devils Den

The region’s premier crag is Longstack Precipice in Alton, which contains 65 mostly new routes from 5.5 – 5.11+ on granite that climbs curiously like the Gunks. With steep slabs, a plethora of horizontals, and unique features untypical of the mother stone, there is something for almost everyone.

Edge walking into Longstack Precipice, "30 years after..."

The majority of climbs are trad, with occasional bolts to fill in the blank sections; a handful of the routes are fully sport bolted, but in general are a bit more run-out than the routes at Rumney and not as steep in general.

The top of Longstack offers exceptional views of Lake Winnepesaukee, Knights Pond, and the Belnap Range.

I first climbed at Longstack in the late 70’s, skipping out of classes to pioneer a dozen or so of the more obvious lines. Even then we ran across the odd ring angle pin indicating previous explorations, but the lines were all covered with a thick coat of lichen. The crag sat largely unexplored for the next three decades, mainly due to sketchy ownership and access, but in 2011 a group of local climbers who called themselves the “Chinos” for their workmanlike approach to scouting out and developing new cliffs and routes received the blessing of the landowner to use the rock for recreation, the only caveat was to be responsible stewards and not cut down any of the large trees below that he used for logging.

"Still Gettin' Booty" 5.10a

Almost all of LongstackÂ’s routes can be climbed as a single pitch with a 60M rope, although many are equipped with intermediate belays and fixed anchors to facilitate rapping off or toproping with a single line. The approach involves a 20 minute walk along logging roads marked with cairns before picking its way up the final slope to the cliff and base trail solidified and maintained by the Chinos.

Jim Dickson on the mega-classic roof of "Coyote Rain" 5.6

The wall is divided into three main sections, each with its own unique character. The left hand wall is known as the “Indigenous Wall” for the early explorations of local climbers and the glut of Native American inspired names; routes here range from 100-170’ tall in the 5.5-5.11 range. Somewhat reminiscent of the lower, left end of Cathedral Ledge, it contains steep slabs and great face climbing mostly with trad gear and the occasional bolt. Classics include “Spirit Guide” 5.5, “A Toltec Dream” 5.7, “Islands” 5.7, “Hanta Yo” 5.8+, “Earth and Sky” 5.9, the ultra-classic “Strychnine” 5.9, and “Still Getting’ Booty” 5.10a.

Sarah Arsenault follows the FA of the Direct Finish to "Raven Song" 5.7

The central, or “Big wall” section, is generally steeper and taller at a full 170’. Littered with roofs, horizontals, and short corner systems, the adventure factor is high. Big Wall classics include “Layback Route” 5.7, “The Arete” 5.8+, “ Riptide” 5.9+, “Locals Only” 5.10a, and “Wet Lichen Dreams” 5.10+.

Jon Garlough on his route "The Arete" 5.8+

The far right end is known as the “Wonderland Wall” and contains fully bolted routes and some of the cliff’s most classic lines up to 90’ tall. Must do routes include what may be the best pitch of 5.6 in NH, “Coyote Rain”, as well as “Trifecta” 5.9, “Winter Classic” 5.10a sport, and “Gentle Violence” 5.11+

Jon Garlough on "Gentle Violence" 5.11+

Getting There: From route 28 in Alton take Rines Road on the right (east). Drive down Rines Road for 1.1 miles until the road comes to a fork and turns to dirt. Stay left at the fork and follow the dirt road for roughly a mile. You will pass two gates on the left. After the second gate (sand pit) there will be a pull off on the left and another small sand pit with a shooting range just beyond it. Park here or any of the other pull offs. Walk behind the shooting range and follow the logging road and cairns to a climberÂ’s trail which will lead you to the base of the cliff. There are many ways to approach the cliff depending on where you park. The approach is approx. 20-30 minutes.

Guide book: Local hardman and new route activist Jon Garlough has just self published the "Chinos Guide - Climbing in the New Durham Area". Copies can be found for $20 at IME in North Conway and at Indoor Ascent gym in Dover; he is currently working on an on-line version.

Mountain Project has a complete list of routes for the entire New Durham area along with additional photos and route comments at…

Brendan Blanchard · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 590

Thanks for the info, I've seen some of the routes popping up on here and it's spiked my interest for sure.

Is it secret enough that the black flies and skeeters haven't heard of it?

jim.dangle · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 3,841

Can you camp around there?


EDGE · · Between Nederland and Boulder, · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 1,370
Brendan Blanchard wrote:Thanks for the info, I've seen some of the routes popping up on here and it's spiked my interest for sure. Is it secret enough that the black flies and skeeters haven't heard of it?
I am heading out there in 10 minutes, I'll report back tomorrow about the bugs. In general the cliff sits up pretty high and is south facing, so it dries out fast and usually has a breeze once you get underway that keeps the bugs to a minimum compared to other NH crags. There are a few routes with yellowjacket issues, but they are updated in the individual route comments section. Also Strychnine has a voluntary climbing ban for some aggressive ravens who are currently protecting their young.
matthewWallace · · Sandwich, NH · Joined Nov 2008 · Points: 8,179

Hey EDGE where is the guidebook for the area available now? Has it branched out from IME and the dover gym or are those the only places still?

jim.dangle · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 3,841
EDGE wrote:Jim, not sure about the camping, so I wouldn't want to say that low impact stealth camping without a fire would probably be OK. OK?
Point taken.

Looking forward to getting out there. With this area and with all the work Mark is doing at Green's and Owl's, there is so much new high quality stuff to climb. It's going to be a fun summer.

Jeffrey.LeCours · · New Hampshire · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 1,185
jim.dangle wrote: there is so much new high quality stuff to climb.
... just wait :)
EDGE · · Between Nederland and Boulder, · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 1,370

Bug report for Tues, May 7: The black flies were out and biting along the base trail, but nothing compared to Pawtuckaway standards (in fact I have been to Alaska twice and even that was not up to P-tuck standards). They don't bother me much, but annoyed my partner; a little bug spray would have solved this minor problem but we didn't bring any.

Even though the air was dead down in the valley, as soon as we climbed up 30-40 feet there was a nice breeze and the bugs were gone. Since many of the climbs have intermediate belay stances, you can always take advantage of those to get your partner out of the bug zone and continue on happily from there.

I did find one tick on me, but we were scrubbing a particularly hairy new pitch full of lichen, shrubbery, and ideal tick habitat...

Matthew, as far as I know IME & the Dover gym are the only retailers currently selling the guide. Hopefully Jon Garlough will chime in and let you know how else you can pick one up. The guide is very thorough, well written, and everyone who climbs in the area should seek it out to help defray the cost of publication. He'll probably use the cash to buy more bolts anyway, coming soon to whatever new crag he has sussed out.

From this afternoon:

Joshua Corbett on "The Big Finish" variation to Wayback Machine, 5.8+

Climber pulling the roof on Coyote Rain, 5.6
Joe Denaro · · Lowell, MA · Joined Nov 2008 · Points: 20

If anyone needs a trad partner for New Durham on Friday 5/10 please let me know.

Eric G. · · Saratoga Springs, NY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 70
EDGE wrote: The black flies were out and biting along the base trail . . .They don't bother me much, but annoyed my partner; a little bug spray would have solved this minor problem
Wearing a shirt also helps.
joshua corbett · · Wolfeboro NH · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 3,015

Well put Loran............oh and the bugs were bad on the left end but when we moved to the right end they were gone. Next time I will climb with more layers on insted of just shorts.

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,639
Brendan Blanchard wrote:Thanks for the info, I've seen some of the routes popping up on here and it's spiked my interest for sure. Is it secret enough that the black flies and skeeters haven't heard of it?
Lets make an effort to get out there.
Dan Felix · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 35

I was out there yesterday with a few other people and nearly had the cliff to ourselves- really surprised me. I am thoroughly impressed at the work that has gone into developing the cliff! We were there from about 10:30 until after 4 and other than the one couple that was there when we got there, there was one other group that came in. The bugs were not too bad (definitely check for ticks though!) but there was a steady breeze to help keep them at bay.

My heartfelt thanks to the guys (and gals?) that put forth the effort to turn this place into what it is. We will be back for sure!

tommyguns · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 315

Yea the climbing was spectacular this weekend. I was there on Sunday too, bugs were no problem. I was a little annoyed when a group from mass (I now live in Mass too) came over and sarcastically asked if it was “ok” to climb the route I was already on. No sweat I had another rope so I let them climb it. Maybe I misread the situation but nice job on the lead climb anyway! Lots of routes to choose from so no reason to crowd in my opinion.

Point is I hope that as Longstack sees more traffic that it still keeps the feel of a relaxed and positive crag in which it was developed.

Just Jesse · · Methuen, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 5

Was out at longstack this weekend, and have to say that it's a pretty sweet spot. I always feel weird checking out a new crag when there are a bunch of locals there... like you walked into someone else's BBQ or something. Not this place though. Saw nothing but extremely friendly and super chill faces all day. Good people for sure. Thanks.

M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,906

You shouldn't feel weird going to a new crag if you aren't acting like a dink. The locals who put the routes up are probably happy to see other climbers using the area. They might feel a little "Oh shit, we better finish our projects before somebody else jumps on them", but that's ok, and it does make it harder to new route since you can't leave up fixed ropes or trundle as freely. Later, when the place gets popular and over run, with toilet paper and piles of shit, fixed draws, noise and parking problems, then they will be saying "What the hell were we thinking publicizing it? We created a monster!"

It is a fine line. As an area developer, personally I love it if a handful of people visit each weekend; a little company and the routes get climbed, but not have the full on mob scene that ends up driving me away. I can only handle Rumney in measured doses nowadays even though I love the place and most of the people are nice as individuals. (It does seem like I am noticing more and more complete idiots though with zero courtesy or common sense. I think their brains have dribbled into their cell phones)

MaxSuffering · · KVNY · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 5

A little thread drift following up on MSpragues point: I've always been amazed at how many people can fit into a given section of cliff and still have fun if everyone is being cool and playing nicely. I've also been equally amazed at how quickly one douchebag can ruin things for everybody.

M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,906

Speaking of local Lakes Area climbing, you also have Durrell Mountain in Gillmanton with its handfull of crags. There is some great steep schist sport climbing there. I just don't know about access legitamacy. Some have said it is private and climbers unwelcome, others that it is fine as long as you go in the right way. I personally have never had a problem and I know locals who go there regularly. We might just have to wait for Todd Swain's guide to come out to see what he says, or better yet have a local run down to the town hall and have a look at the area plat maps and see who owns what.

Fat and Happy 12b/c

Mark Lynch · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 5

Climbed at Longstack New Durham on Sunday with Mahcire (thanks for a great day!). We got there early afternoon and climbed until dark. Spent most of our time on moderates up to 5.9 and found the routes true to grade and found quality climbing.
Briefly met Justin, James and Loran - some of the crew who put all the routes up. Thank you all for the effort and sharing this gem.
Just want to say thanks. These folks have clearly invested so much time, effort and $ with all the pins, bolts and anchors complete with rap rings. They were friendly and happy to see new faces and share their efforts. Plan on buying the guidebook to help defer your expenses. Encourage others to do the same. At least check out the place very much worth it.
Well done and thank you. Really fun climbing and look forward to the next visit and exploring the rest of this area and the others.

Mark Lynch · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 5

Also wanted to post this safety note.

While climbing the route The Way Back Machine I found a small block that ought to be trundled. And a busy Sunday afternoon is certainly not the day for that.

At the top of the short right facing corner there is a small horizontal pocket that invites a perfect placement of .5 cam but when tested I pulled the right side of the pocket out. The block is at least the size of a big football. Yikes. I tucked it back in so it would not fall out easily, warned my partner about it, and moved on.

But so others do not do the same it ought to be trundled. Not sure it will come out without a small bar or not since I did not want to test it further but it certainly came half way out with a moderate test tug on that cam.

I would do it sometime this week but not able to get up there!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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