Type: Trad, 200 ft, 3 pitches
FA: John Turner
Page Views: 22,163 total · 152/month
Shared By: lee hansche on Mar 29, 2007
Admins: Jay Knower, M Sprague, lee hansche, Jeffrey LeCours, Jonathan Steitzer, Robert Hall

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Upper Refuse is an awesome, moderate route with great climbing, great protection, and great exposure for the grade--a true Cathedral classic. One of very few, real moderates on the cliff, this is a perfect first trad climb.

It can be accessed by hiking around from the top along the big ledge. If you are a beginner, you might want to rope up for the last part of the scramble due to the danger of a BIG fall if you slip. Most people climb Upper Refuse after coming up Fun House (5.7) or another moderate route, though as the name implies there is a Lower Refuse which is not nearly as popular.

Pitch 1: (5.3) Start up the ramp on really easy climbing, and keep an eye out for a few good slots for cam placements. Belay at a good stance at a few pins (back em up with gear) at the top of the ramp section.

Pitch 2: (5.5) Choose your own adventure. Go right up a groveling "V" chimney (not hard but not too fun, in my opinion), or from the belay go up and left following cracks to a layback and a few slabby moves (much more fun). These two choices meet up in a gully formation which you follow to another choice. Breaking right up a crack directly to a pine tree ledge is preferred by most; however, you can avoid a little difficulty by continuing up the gully, then stepping right on to the ledge. Belay from a pine tree on a very comfortable ledge.

Pitch 3: (5.5) Two choices again: follow cracks and face climbing straight up above the ledge (this is the usual finish and the one I like better), or if exposure isn't your thing, stick to the corner on the left following a wide, layback crack. Both of these lead to the same ledge at the top where you can go up a short slab to belay from trees. The pins were removed from the top of the climb last season and I think it stayed that way.

The climb can be done in one long rope stretch with a 60m rope. Rope drag can be rough so plan for that in advance. This is one of the most crowded climbs on the cliff, so on a busy day, plan on making a day of it and meeting lots of new friends.


Upper Refuse is found on the far right end of the big ledge splitting the left side of the cliff just right of the nice open book of The Book of Solemnity (5.10a). Look for the obvious weakness in the cliff: an easy looking ramp to the summit with a few obstacles. Take care on the approach as the last part of the scramble is a little technical and a fall would be fatal. When in doubt, rope up.


Standard rack

It is a little bit of a rope-strecher but you can run all three pitches together with very little rope drag, Belay up your second with maybe 4 feet of rope left at the top of the crack, then have them short rope you the rest of the way up to the path. Jun 16, 2007
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
it is fun to run this in to one pitch (or better yet, black lung 5.8 to upper ref).... but care must be taken to avoid rope drag....
i would only recomend it to folks who are very comfortable on the route so you can run out sections that many would protect.... Jun 17, 2007

You can avoid rope drag if you extend the heck out of the lowest placements, take the right variation to the tree ledge and finish up with the left wide layback crack variation at the top, true I probably didn't protect as frequently as a would have if I wasn't comfortable at the grade. Jun 18, 2007
ditto on the other 3 comments.. there's really no need to do this in 3 pitches.

I prefer to link 1 & 2 and belay at a nice shady tree (instead of belaying in the hot sun at the double pins)

black lung to upper refuse is a good linkup, if you're fairly solid at 5.8 Jul 18, 2007
David Aguasca!
New York
David Aguasca!   New York
pshh. The chimney grovel is tons of fun. Apr 18, 2009
Victor Grau Serrat
Boulder, CO
Victor Grau Serrat   Boulder, CO
The pins at the top of Pitch 3 are still there. They were there when I climbed this route last year, and they are still in the same spot when I climbed the route yesterday. If anything, they may not be obvious to see: they are on a horizontal crack on a flat stretch of the rock as you finish the climb. They are on the ground, and if you don't see them, you literally step over them. May 31, 2010
Newmarket, NH
nhclimber   Newmarket, NH
If you want to do it in one pitch and comfy at the grade, clip the pin (at anchor) and clip the tree, no more gear necessary . Easily done in one pitch. Jun 16, 2010
I linked the first two pitches together and couldn't prevent the rope drag. It's better to link the second and third pitch (money pitch) instead. There are variations on the second and third pitches - stay straight up the crack all the way (rather than left) - higher quality climbing and great exposure. Aug 22, 2012
Ian Dibbs
Ian Dibbs  
Linking 1st and second pitch (to the tree belay) works however, expect annoying rope drag. I suspect doing the route in one long pitch would have extreme rope drag. The final pitch from tree up is only 50 feet. Enjoyable moderate route much easier than Fun House below it. After finishing Fun House you have to walk right 75 feet(climbers right) on the small trail and then over some sloped exposed rock to get to the base of Upper Refuse which should require a rope, since a slip or fall would be fatal. Aug 28, 2012
Northeast Alpine Start
Conway, New Hampshire
Northeast Alpine Start   Conway, New Hampshire
Regarding the exposed scramble move reaching the base of the climb; 5 feet left of the exposed slab is a 5.0 crack that is MUCH safer to solo than the slabby exposed move. You could easily stick the ledge if you somehow fell here. I didn’t know about this safer approach until years after first climbing Upper Refuse... You’ll notice all guided parties short rope this way with clients and use trees as friction belays for clients. Jun 7, 2013
Ryan Nelling
Ryan Nelling  
Pitches 2 & 3 can be linked quite easily if you don't feel like stopping to build an anchor at the end of pitch 2. Or, if it's raining and you want to GTF off this thing! Aug 9, 2013
Peter Lewis
Bridgton, ME
Peter Lewis   Bridgton, ME
I just want to emphasize the prudence of the variation approach that AlpineStart78 mentioned. When you get cliffed-out on the left-to-right approach along the tree covered ledge, you will find yourself just a few feet past a nice big tree, and just above you on the left-hand wall is a series of nice edges and a flake to grab that leads to an obvious little tree about 10 feet up. A quick short-pitch here (just walk behind the little tree for pro) will put you right below Upper Refuse safely. Please do this! No one has ever taken the "BIG" fall soloing up the nasty slab out to the right (the way we all used to go in the old days when there were stout roots to grab), but if anyone ever does slip making that move, they will die. Yes, it's just that clear cut. Also, don't be turned off by the potential for "groveling" in the short chimney on the second pitch; it's actually a very interesting little problem that, if done well (and with a 180-degree half-pirouette), yields elegance and a surprising no-hands rest right in the middle of the difficulties. Having guided this way a gazillion times, I always looked forward to all the teaching possibilities to be found in less than 20 feet of climbing. The left-hand version, by contrast, is a fairly banal, one-move wonder. Oct 20, 2014
Northeast Alpine Start
Conway, New Hampshire
Northeast Alpine Start   Conway, New Hampshire
More people should stay left on the ramp. The climbing about 15 feet to the left of the regular 1st belay is really nice. Where it steepens up a bit the holds get really positive. It's also easier to manage rope drag if combining P1 & P2 (and maybe P3). Having climbed this route over 100 times now I am starting to get to know it ;)

Recently climbed it car to car in under 30 minutes (still using belays)

nealpinestart.com/2015/07/3… Sep 6, 2015
Chris W
Somerville, MA
Chris W   Somerville, MA
Today I saw, while rappelling from Toe Crack, a tree from Upper Refuse area fall. According to people closer to the scene of the climb it was the tree at the top of Lower Refuse. Jun 18, 2016
Andrew Hewitt
Andrew Hewitt   Somerville
There are two pins at the top of P3 now. Not sure if they were the old ones or someone put new ones in (I didn't inspect them). I just went up and belayed from trees anyway Jul 24, 2017
One of the easiest routes I’ve done in quite some time but I couldn’t get the smile off my face. I don’t care what grade your climbing save some time for upper refuse. The tourists gawking at you and asking if there is someone below you is just a bonus. Sep 8, 2018