Type: Trad, 400 ft, 3 pitches
FA: John Turner
Page Views: 40,468 total · 265/month
Shared By: m-earle on Oct 31, 2006
Admins: J Beta, M Sprague, lee hansche, Jeffrey LeCours, Jonathan Steitzer, Robert Hall

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A Cathedral Ledge classic, this route ascends the central buttress known as The Prow. Follow the Recompense/Prow trail from the road, up to a ledge at the foot of the prow.

P1- 5.7- 180'- Climb the obvious crack system heading slightly left to a good ledge with a two bolt anchor.

P2- 5.9- 100' - Step left off the ledge and up to a birch tree. continue up the somewhat awkward chimney (crux) and set up an anchor below the final sweeping dihedral.

P3- 5.9- 100'- Climb the curving dihedral, and up to a big ledge. It is possible to walk off from here, but there are some fun finger cracks off the ledge that will take you to the tourist overlook.


A set of nuts (bomber nut placements on the last pitch) and cams. Bring long runners and cordelette for anchors. The route is fairly popular, so a helmet is advised.


Ian McEleney
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Ian McEleney   Mammoth Lakes, CA
Great route, and a great description. Wearing a helmet is a good idea here (especially on the weekend). A cam fell out of the sky while i was roping up for this. The last pitch can be toproped pretty easily. Dec 19, 2006
The flake that made the "high-traverse" is now gone... Sadly, I ripped it off a few weeks ago. As I committed to it, it grumbled, I stepped back left and with two-fingers, ripped it off the cliff. It was one of the most magnificent "trundles" I have ever whittnessed. It was a good thing that we were doing the route in the pooring rain, because it crossed the approach trail 4 times and nearly made it to the flats below the talus slope. We followed the craters and downed trees until we found it. We humped it back up and laid it to rest, on display, on the side of the trail. If you are familiar with the flake and keep your eyes open, you will see it.
I assure you I didn't pull "too hard" or place gear behind it. I've climbed that section nearly 40 times and have always been aware of its fragility.
It might still be climbable, but its going to be in the 5.12 range...
Tim Aug 15, 2007
Kevin Fox
Kevin Fox   parker
for what it's worth the 3rd pitch felt harder than 5.9. I don't know if it was the humidty and the grease factor of my hands literally sliding out of the crack. Sep 7, 2010
  5.10a PG13
  5.10a PG13
damn that offwidth is hard! Sep 21, 2010
Boulder, CO
talkinrocks   Boulder, CO
Joe Lee Wrote:

"On the approach trail, make a right at the base of the cliff. And then continue left up the stone steps. After the first wood staircase, turn left onto a flat granite area with a slab above it. This is the start. The second pitch is actually pretty good. The third pitch is badass. "

This is good beta for the traveling climber without a guidebook. Right on the money.
I agree, the second pitch is pretty good, very nice actually, not too hard if you've suffered through some wide pitches. There is bomber gear so that helps. We did it after a rain and it was a bit wet in places, but overall excellent climb, all three pitches are quality. Oct 26, 2010
twellman   Cambridge
There was what looked to be a dried up pool of blood at the belay before the 3rd, dihedral pitch when I climbed this Wed 6/22/11. Anyone know what happened? Did Dracula drop his Nalgene while gettin ready for the dihedral?

An absolutely wonderful, and very well-protected climb. Jun 24, 2011
M Sprague
New England
M Sprague   New England  
Yes, there was an accident. A guy fell and broke his leg..compound fracture. There is a little about it at NEClimbs.com. Jun 24, 2011
S. Neoh  
Just wondering - is the dead stump still there just b4 the start of P3? I imagine not. We rapped off this bugger to escape an impending storm back in the early 90's. That was exciting and obviously memorable. Jun 24, 2011
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
it was still there last year... it makes a good seat when used just right and helps with rope management :) i would not rap from it however :) Jun 24, 2011
Peter Lewis
Bridgton, ME
Peter Lewis   Bridgton, ME
I've lived and climbed in N. Conway for over 30 years and visitors always ask "What's the best 5.9 on Cathedral?" Yup, it's Recompense. (And here's a hint, the hardest move isn't on the 5.9 pitch!). Funny comment, below, John, you just don't want to admit that you were wearing flannel pajamas when you did it (LOL) May 21, 2012
john strand
southern colo
john strand   southern colo
i, like paul Ross am rumored to have never done the last pitch May 21, 2012
Kevin D.
Redwood City, CA
Kevin D.   Redwood City, CA
Is there a runout section with bad fall potential on this route? I'm wondering because of the accident in 2011; I couldn't find any details on what exactly happened. Nov 20, 2012
There is no runout. However, Recompense has had it's fair share of accidents-- a pro or go scenario for some where the leader pumps out and pitches off onto the sloping belay ledge. Stop and place gear, you'll be fine. Nov 20, 2012
I've never actually climbed all of recompense proper - opting for the Beast flake variation ever time. My partner and I had a bit of an epic actually finding the route the first time we went to Cathedral; with no prior knowledge of the base of the cliff and only old Webster's bible, we climbed a variety of other routes before finally finding this classic. Mar 10, 2013
Peter Lewis
Bridgton, ME
Peter Lewis   Bridgton, ME
John S., you're wrong, I specifically remember not doing the last pitch with you back in 1985....

And regarding the slightly dangerous reputation the last pitch has, no, there is no runout at all. You could place a bomber piece every foot on this pitch. The danger comes from the fact that (as stated earlier) you are climbing quite a steep layback right off a slopey stance, and if you get pumped out at the crux (about 15 feet up), decide to "go for it", and blow the moves up to the next rest (about 10 feet of climbing), you can slap the slab hard. Take your time, place a high and great piece, step down a little, shake out, and then just blast through. The holds are great. This is the way I always do it, and I can usually get through that crux sequence without any problems, sometimes after as little as a half an hour of fiddling around. :-) Sep 4, 2014
Derek Jf
Derek Jf   Northeast
Route description edit - P1 150' dont stop at the two pitons and pin with ring to build anchor, continue up left 20 more ft to a couch-like ledge with two bolted anchors. P2 150'. P3 90'. Aug 31, 2015
Russ Keane
Asheville, NC
Russ Keane   Asheville, NC
This climb is ultra classic. I was completely spent at the end. The final pitch seems to have about three separate cruxes. It was very sustained, but thankfully enough rests to keep it at 5.9.

A complete joy, definitely the best route I have been on in New England. The Beast Flake is "wicked cool" ... Oct 12, 2015
Jay Morse
Hooksett, New Hampshire
Jay Morse   Hooksett, New Hampshire
Beast Flake is obviously amazing, but the true second pitch is amazing as well. I recommend doing Beast Flake, rapping from the anchors on top down to the base of the pitch 2 chimney, building a gear anchor, and enjoying that whole corner/chimney. The whole low traverse business just seemed weird, a little bit sketchy for both leader and follower, and unnecessary with a beautiful 40' of climbing and a flat belay ledge just below it.

Note, there is a white birch tree near the base of the chimney with a bunch of webbing on it. I don't know if people use it as an anchor, rap off it, or what - but it is covered in birch polypore fungus, a good sign that it is dead and actively decomposing. I would definitely avoid using it. Nov 19, 2016
Will Ryan
New England
Will Ryan   New England
I have a question, I have a set of Black Diamond Camelots from size 4-.3 and size 2-.5 and doubled up. I also have 2 stopper sets (Black Diamond 4-13) is this enough gear or should I get a few more cams/stoppers? Apr 8, 2017
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
Will. That sounds like more than enough gear. I normally use a single rack but you will likely find use for a couple of your doubles. Enjoy! Apr 17, 2017
Owen Silitch
New Hampshire
Owen Silitch   New Hampshire
Just did Recompense for the first time today and it was epic! We did have one minor kerfuffle and in order to try and help others avoid this I have one piece of advice: do not try and link the 3rd pitch into the finger cracks at the top of the final belay ledge. My partner had done this route before and recommended that I climb all the way to the tourist look out in one pitch. First of all the rope drag was horrendous and leading up the final finger crack (I did the left one) was horrible as a result. When I got to the top, things did not get any better as there were about twenty or thirty people at the top with their kids shouting, yelling and pointing at me and I could not communicate with my partner at all which was very problematic. Long story short...just climb the third pitch and belay at the big ledge below the two finger cracks. At that point you can either walk off to the left or get another 50-ish feet of quality climbing in which I highly recommend. Jul 31, 2017