Type: Trad, 200 ft, 3 pitches
FA: Joe Cote and Eric Radack Oct .17th, 1971
Page Views: 7,837 total · 54/month
Shared By: lee hansche on Mar 24, 2007
Admins: Jay Knower, M Sprague, lee hansche, Jeffrey LeCours, Jonathan Steitzer, Robert Hall

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86 Opinions

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This climb is one of those that the first time you look at it it makes you feel like you must climb it. It speaks to you and draws you in. That is both good and bad: good because it is a stellar route, bad because it can draw you in when you are not ready. There have been a few injuries on this climb over the past few years due to people getting pumped, stuffing in less than optimal gear, and then falling from the powerful pumpy layback crux.

It's a great climb, so by all means climb it, but be sure to take the time to make every piece count. There is good gear all the way. but it can be tough to see, since the crack is at your knees much of the time.

Pitch 1: (5.6) Climb the right leaning crack off of the ledge to a small belay stance to the right of the crack. It's a hand and fist size for the most part. Build an anchor in the crack.

Pitch 2: (5.9) Continue along the crack using face holds when they present themselves. It is possible in a few spots to step down and right to get a good view of your placement, and the climbing to come. The crux comes as a tough, burly, layback as the crack steepens. Take the time to protect well. After that you get to a stance below a final crack. The original line went right around easy climbing to the ledge, but if you want another 5.9 crux then fire the crack straight up to the ledge. Belay in a crack on the ledge.

Pitch 3: (5.6) Head up the cracks past a pin to more easy climbing and in to the woods at the top. Belay from trees. Hike off, or hitch a ride...


A very obvious, 100+ foot long, right-leaning crack, Retaliation is situated right above the lower, left wall, so Bombardment (5.8) or Fun House (5.7) are logical starts to approach this climb.


Regular rack.
Ian McEleney
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Ian McEleney   Mammoth Lakes, CA
There are plenty of great nut placements before the crux on pitch two, though you have to lean over to see them. Practice cam conservation for the crux. Aug 14, 2007
john strand
southern colo
john strand   southern colo
Must just be me, I never thought that Retaliation was very good ! Jun 1, 2008
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
I'm interested to know what your complaint would be? Jun 1, 2008
Zirolli   Boston
As one who was possibly lured in to this climb a little soon, I can say that it was one of my favorite experiences at Cathedral. Concise and secure gear placements are the key. Feb 17, 2009
A fantastic route. For a gear placing machine like myself, it is interesting to get a good look at those placements. The opening 5.6 pitch is not my favortie and takes away a bit. The crux pitch definitely has a special quality. May 5, 2009
E thatcher
Plymouth/ North Conway (NH)
E thatcher   Plymouth/ North Conway (NH)
I thought the 5.6 pitch was good for the grade, kind of fun in fact. Lee mentions that it is nice linking this with Bombardment and Funhouse. I found Three Birches to Retaliation to be a fun and consistent link up. The last pitch of Three birches has a right leaning lie backish crack as well, and it ends directly beneath Retaliation, so the routes seem to flow together for a solid 4-6 pitches, depending on how you break it up, of consistent climbing. May 24, 2009
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
a good piont, 3 Birches is about the same grade as this i just like the other 2 routes better :) better yet i think Funhouse Left linked to the second pitch of 3 Birches would be a cool one, im just not nuts about P1 of 3B... May 25, 2009
Jay Knower
Campton, NH
Jay Knower   Campton, NH  
This is a great route, one of the best on the cliff, in my opinion. I agree with Lee that the gear is tricky to place, but it's good once you get it. I think it is important to be very solid at Cathedral 5.9 before leading Retaliation. Jun 28, 2010
E thatcher
Plymouth/ North Conway (NH)
E thatcher   Plymouth/ North Conway (NH)
Jay, sure you know this, but for those looking to lead this and anxious about the gear, the key is to look for rails to crimp on above the crack. If you miss those, which is conceivable if your head is down looking at the crack the whole time, then placing gear would in deed be desperate, with them it is not to bad.
I love climbing this route and looking down on the people waiting for 2 hours to do black lung or upper refuse. It's the same feeling one gets flying by everyone in the carpool lane. Jun 28, 2010
Peter Lewis
Bridgton, ME
Peter Lewis   Bridgton, ME
The first and second pitches can easily be combined with a 200-foot rope. Don't make this your first 5.9 on Cathedral---it's strenuous and a bit awkward. It's just about the only 5.9 that I've fallen off of in the last 30 years. Fall on it every time. It's not that hard; it's just that I can't do it. Sep 27, 2010
Mike Robinson
Grand Junction, CO
Mike Robinson   Grand Junction, CO
Do this route! great finish to anything near Bombardment...PS really easy to do in 1.25 pitches with 60m or 1 pitch with 70m, with some mindful rope managment. Sep 17, 2011
Michael Z.  
Eric is right about placing gear I found the stances to be quite secure, and led the whole route in one pitch placing good gear sparsely and getting into a nice rhythm. Also had an audience of people in line for Black Lung that made it just that much better! Sep 18, 2011
Hey guys, the other day I had to bail off of a ledge when weather moved in, and had to leave a hex, a cam, and some anchor material to rap off the route. If anyone happens to come across it, could they let me know, I would love to get that gear back. Ill pay for shipping and send back some money for a six pack. Jul 4, 2015
Russ Keane
Asheville, NC
Russ Keane   Asheville, NC
A very cool, interesting, and difficult climb. Maybe not as tricky as Recompense final pitch, but quite a pumpy challenge. It's similar to Black Lung for obvious reasons (angle, tilt, pump). The movements and features are dramatic, and unconventional. At times it's the most frustrating thing- All that sidways laybacking with shitty feet, trying to balance on a toe beneath you, but leaning way to the right for the next hand. No good stances. The belay ledge at the top of the steep cavity is one of the coolest on Cathedral (that I've seen).

Bring a #4 for the bottom unless you like ground-fall runouts. Oct 19, 2015
frank dahlmeyer
north conway nh
frank dahlmeyer   north conway nh
Always found that if you stay right of the crack on p2 instead of laying it back to the left the climbing isnt much(if at all )harder but it is much easier to place pro . Oct 17, 2016
Jay Morse
Hooksett, New Hampshire
Jay Morse   Hooksett, New Hampshire
I'll just echo that I think this is the toughest 5.9 lead out of the classics at Cathedral. It is definitely G-rated and definitely no tougher than 5.9, but if you are not comfortable in the grade it will probably feel PG-13 and harder to you. Chicken Delight, Birds Nest, They Died Laughing, and even Recompense + Beast Flake are all easier and safer leads to break into the grade in my opinion. I'm very glad I didn't get on this one too soon.

I linked pitch 1 and pitch 2, and would recommend it, but you might consider bringing some doubles - .75, #1, and #2 cams would be good choices.

If you're comfortable in the grade, there is nothing to fear - it's an awesome climb. Nov 22, 2016
nd chu
nd chu  
There are rappel rings on a tree at the top of this route, and it's possible to get to the ground with double ropes (unsure about getting down with a single 60 or 70). May 14, 2017
I've rapped off with a single 70, but it involved untying the stopper nuts and rapping off the ends of the rope to make it that final foot or so down to the ground. May 27, 2017
I have to agree with the previous comments. This is a really cool route but the tricky moves and tricky gear make this significantly harder than the other 5.9 classics (Recompense, Chicken Delight, Bird's Nest, They Died Laughing). Jul 25, 2017