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Northern New Hampshire trip report

Original Post
Fan Zhang · · Silver Spring, MD · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,152

Thanks to everyone who responded to my other thread with advice for a first time visitor climbing in northern New Hampshire. My wife and I had a great time last week and got on some moderate classics. We focused on multi-pitch trad. The weather and crowding issue were better than we expected. Below are more details and a few photos.
TL;DR: We climbed a lot, hiked a lot, had fun, and didn't die.

Day 1, Saturday

Drove to NH, arrived in North Conway just before dark. Checked out the super short approach hikes for Cormier-Magness at Whitehorse and Thin Air at Cathedral Ledges.

Day 2, Sunday

Climbed the Cormier-Magness Route at Whitehorse Ledge in the morning. The 5.6 run-outs were mellow, and route-finding was straightforward using MP beta. We didn't see anyone else nearby until lunch at the top. After hiking back to the parking lot below the hotel, we put away the double ropes, grabbed a single rope, and drove over to Cathedral Ledges. The base of Thin Air Face was crowded as expected, but we got on Thin Air without much of a wait and climbed behind one other party who had started on Toe Crack. Finished up on Pine Tree Eliminate, which was a lot of fun. A dog barked incessantly at the base the whole time, which detracted from the atmosphere. Overall, we enjoyed the slabs at Whitehorse a little more because of the quieter ambience, but Thin Air to PTE at Cathedral offered more engaging climbing. The weather was incredible - mid 60s, partly cloudy, low humidity.

The Cormier-Magness Route (The Cajun Washboard Pitch. Yes, I crossed the ropes. My bad.)

The Platinum Slab Pitch

The view of North Conway from the top of Whitehorse Ledge

The obligatory photo of the traverse pitch on Thin Air

Day 3, Monday

Hiked up to Mt Madison from Appalachia. Took a break at Madison Spring Hut and descended via the Air Line Trail, cut over on Chemin Des Dames, and finished on Short Line. Mossy Falls was gorgeous and peaceful. We originally planned to tag Adams as well, but the clouds had moved in and we were tired, so we skipped it. It rained from Monday late afternoon through all day Tuesday.

Below tree line on the hike to Mt Madison, on the Valley Way Trail

Coming down Madison, with Adams in the upper left

Near Mossy Falls

Day 4, Tuesday

Rest day. Rained all day. Drove around and checked out the approach trails for Endeavor at White's Ledge and Whitney Gilman at Cannon Cliff. Route finding on the initial parts of both approach hikes was straightforward, but we turned around at the talus field on each hike. Had a great lunch Lincoln at Black Mountain Burger: the Smitty Burger (1/2 lb patty between 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, w/bacon) washed down with a Vanilla Porter from Great North Aleworks.

The Smitty Burger at Black Mountain Burger

Day 5, Wednesday

Foggy/cloudy and warm, no rain. We climbed the Whitney Gilman Ridge at Cannon, opting for the traditional approach from the north. The hike up the talus field was a slog. We arrived the base of the route 15-30 min ahead of another party from NY. After linking P1&2, we never shared a belay with them. (Maybe they didn't want to be on our tails because of the risk of rock fall, or maybe they were just polite folks and didn't want to crowd us.) The 5.8 hand crack variation was a lot of fun. Rock quality was pretty good on the east face by alpine standards, but the sections that traversed around right of the ridge to the north featured quite a bit of suspect rock. Overall, the amount of loose stuff seemed normal given the nature of the route. (All that talus below came from somewhere!) Great ledges at every single belay. Amazing view of the valley floor on the first half of the climb, but the clouds crept lower as we got higher, and by the last two pitches we were completely surrounded in a whiteout. It was cool to climb in a complete whiteout with exposure but not having to worry much about the weather going south on us. After topping out, and refueling on bagels and a few bites of a cold steak out of a zip lock bag (previous night's leftovers), we hiked down, drove to Lincoln, and packed for the Pemi Loop hike for the next two days.

Looking up the talus field on the approach to Whitney Gilman

Looking south along the valley

The clouds moving in

Day 6-7, Thursday-Friday

Partly cloudy on Thursday. Sunny on Friday. Warm to hot temperatures both days. We hiked the Pemigewasset ("Pemi") Loop with an overnight stay at Galehead Hut. Great views and lots of hikers on the Franconia Ridge Trail. The morning fog added to the scenery. To the west, Cannon Cliff and the distinct WG ridgeline occasionally peaked through the clouds. The talus field below Cannon looked almost vertical from this distance! Great views on Lincoln and Lafeyette. Getting up and down Garfield was exhausting, but we arrived at Galehead Hut just in time for dinner. On Friday morning, the hike up to South Twin wasn't too bad with fresh legs. Nice views from Guyot, West Bond, Bond, and Bondcliff. Down the Bondcliff Trail. On the homestretch along the Lincoln Woods Trail, we staggered forward like zombies along the abandoned railroad.

Summit Ridge of Mt Flume, Thursday morning

Franconia Ridge Trail

Franconia Ridge Trail

Cannon Cliff peaking through the clouds. The talus field looks almost as steep as the cliff!

Sunrise over Guyot and Bond, Friday morning, taken near Galehead Hut

The view south of Bondcliff on the way down from Bond

Bondcliff, with the skyline of the Franconia Ridge in the distance


Day 8, Saturday

Sunny and hot. Drove to White's Ledge and got on Endeavor just ahead of a father with two boys. Met another party of two as they were rappelling. The splitter hand crack pitch was amazing with face holds everywhere. At least one rap anchor was on a dead tree. We climbed on a single 60m rope and opted for the top out (some bush-wacking and steep/loose ground) and walk off. Endeavor reminded me even more of Squamish than the slabs at Whitehorse Ledge. The only downside was climbing this south-facing route on a hot sunny day. Otherwise, it was a great morning. Around this time, my wife lets me know the sun hoody I've been wearing is smelling pretty ripe by this point on the trip. We stopped for some ice cream at Trails End Ice Cream. My wife suggests there's no shame in getting a "kiddie" cone (advertised as "1 scoop"), which is what she got. Instead, I ordered a "small" (advertised as "2 scoops"). Each of their "scoops" actually consists of 3 normal-sized scoops. So my lunch was 6 scoops of ice cream.  

Realizing there were still a few hours of daylight, we drove to Rumney in the late afternoon and headed straight for the Main Cliff. Folks were enjoying themselves everywhere, trying hard on 5.8's and 5.13's right next to each other. It was a much more social but equally enjoyable vibe compared to the multi-pitch crags we visited on this trip. I warmed up on what I thought was Metamorphosis. Wow, that was a very stout 5.8+. Did Herb Conn bolt this line? No, turns out I went left where I should've gone right and ended up on Clusterphobia. Now that I had properly warmed up (gotten flash pumped), there was enough daylight for only one more climb nearby. I settled on Millenium Falcon and was glad I did. Such a great variety of movement. The sucker chalk on the low crux made it feel even harder than Clusterphobia, but the trad climber in me breathed a sigh of relief upon reaching the horizontal hand jams.

Above the hand crack pitch on Endeavor at White's Ledge

Clusterphobia at Rumney

Millenium Falcon at Rumney

Yep, still ripe...

Day 9, Sunday

Loaded up on coffee at Mad River in Campton and drove home!
Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

Awsome!!  really cool. you do know that there is great swimming in the saco river and profile lake etc. helps with that ripe smell ;)

Fan Zhang · · Silver Spring, MD · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,152
Nick Goldsmith wrote: Awsome!!  really cool. you do know that there is great swimming in the saco river and profile lake etc. helps with that ripe smell ;)

Ha! Thanks for the tip Nick! We saw several trail runners soaking in the river (East Branch of the Pemi) under the suspension bridge at the Lincoln Woods Trailhead. Looked like a relaxing way to unwind (or clean up) after a long day. Of course, also saw plenty of folks taking a dip in Baker River as we pulled into Rumney in the late afternoon. 

losbill · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 130

Wow! Great trip report! Thank you for sharing. You guys packed an enormous amount of great North Country hiking and climbing in just a few days. Well done!

JohnnyG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 10

sweet trip!

Patrick Corry · · PA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 75

Great trip report! You packed a lot of activity into your trip.  Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking about doing the 2 day Pemi loop before the Galehead hut closes for the season.  Evidently you went clockwise... any particular reason, or having done so, do you recommend it over ccw?  Was it busy on weekdays? Thanks, Pat

Fan Zhang · · Silver Spring, MD · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,152
Patrick Corry wrote: Great trip report! You packed a lot of activity into your trip.  Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking about doing the 2 day Pemi loop before the Galehead hut closes for the season.  Evidently you went clockwise... any particular reason, or having done so, do you recommend it over ccw?  Was it busy on weekdays? Thanks, Pat

Thanks, Patrick! We did the Pemi loop clockwise because it got the hardest section (for us) -- Lafeyette to Garfield to Galehead -- out of the way on the first day. The second day, with less elevation gain and fewer miles, felt much easier with rested legs. Doing it in a clockwise direction also puts the sun behind your back when you go north on Franconia Ridge, which makes for better views and doesn't feel as hot. I definitely recommend going clockwise and would go in that direction again. But if you prefer to take it easy on the first day, counterclockwise could make sense. Our first day on the Pemi Loop was a Thursday and Franconia Ridge was jam packed. Probably 3-4 dozen people on the summit of Lafeyette around noon. The eastern half on the second day, Friday, was much less crowded. At most a couple people on each summit. Between now and the end of the season, I suspect crowds might get bigger as fall foliage peaks, but locals should be able to give you a better sense of that than me.  Hope you have a great time on the Pemi Loop!

Patrick Corry · · PA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 75

Thanks for your reply.  Hoping to squeeze this in this Fall before the hut closes.  Good logic to get the higher mileage out of the way on day1.  

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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