Mountain Project Logo

Routes in 3. Big Wall

Benedictus/Masterpiece T 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Dreamin' T,S,TR 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b
Ghost (Clean Aid), The T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b C2+ R
Ghost, The T 5.12+ 7c 28 IX 27 E6 6b
Ghostrider T 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b R
Hierophant Tower T 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a R
Labyrinth Wall Direct T 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Magical Mystery Tour .(The Girdle /Traverse of Cannon Cliff) T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
One Drop of Water. V T 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a A3
VMC Direct Direct T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Type: Trad, Alpine, 800 ft, 9 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Steve Arsenault and Sam Streibert (Jeff Burns and Hans Larsen FFA)
Page Views: 27,156 total, 219/month
Shared By: andrew kulmatiski on Sep 17, 2007
Admins: Jay Knower, M Sprague, lee hansche, Jeffrey.LeCours, Robert Hall

You & This Route


68 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do

Your Star Rating:


     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:


-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick
    -none-

Description

Not just my favorite climb in the East, but one of my favorites anywhere. Beautiful, sustained, well-protected, exposed climbing. CLASSIC.

The route is located in the big wall section (middle-left) of the cliff. The route starts under the right end of the 200' wide roof feature half way up the cliff.

P1. Up slabby corner to top of buttress. 100' 5.7. Hope you are warmed up by this point because the climbing is hard from here on out.

P2. Work right up right-leaning dihedral to awkward mantle back to the left and up ramp. Turn back right again and get into the business - undercling an overlap to a right facing corner continue up to a bolt belay. 120' 5.10+

P3. Hard moves off the belay into the next corner, follow through and overlap (takes orange Metolius). The book calls this 5.10+ and the alternative undercling to the right a 5.10, though I find the direct route easier. 130', 5.10+

P4. Climb rotten rock to a bolt, move left to a rt-facing and the face w/ a bolt. Face climb to a corner (very difficult when wet) to bolt belay. 120' 5.9 (mentally hard).

P5. Hard friction off the anchor (5.11), or right then up (5.10R). Continue past face traversing left to shallow dihedral and slabs w/a small overlap. 5.11

P6. Climb through blocky headwall, moving right then up a shallow lt-facing corner to slabs. Continue w/poor protection to the cow's mouth.

P7. Hard, wild undercling out the right side of the roof (there are great holds above the lip - have faith). 5.10+
P8and9) easy slabs to summit.

Location

In the big wall section in the middle of the cliff. Starts about 50' left of a huge roof that is about 80' off the ground on the right edge of the big wall section.

Protection

I don't recall needing a #3, but it would be good to bring at least one. Small to medium nut placements abound. Wires and an orange metolius are critical for the third pitch.
ndchu
  5.10+ PG13
ndchu  
  5.10+ PG13
A bit more beta on the pitches 5, 6, and 7.

From the top of pitch 4, you will see looming above you a large, tan, vertical strip of rotten rock. To the right of this is an angled stem chimney, to the right of this is a cave, which is the Cow's Mouth. This is what you are aiming for.

On pitch 6, poorly protected moves go up a corner system to the right, with a single pin that flexes ominously (but surprisingly caught my friend's lead fall when his piece blew). Getting up this column took a potentially not horrible .2/.3 offset cam, before a not-too-hard move (9+) past the overlap.

From here, it gets messy. The tottering pillar is partly collapsed now. I wound up going straight up, which led me to clipping an anchor below and just left of the tan rotten rock strip, which might be part of One Drop of Water. I suggest going right earlier, perhaps immediately after getting over the overlap. I wound up getting up to the rotten strip, traversing right around large blocks that if they fell it would have been on top of me (R/X). Some fixed tricams and algae-covered traversing brought me over to an anchor on the left side of the Cow's mouth (pins and a bolt), which once you started was too short and not all that engaging. There was a new shiny pair of bolts/rings right above and slightly left of the Cow's mouth, making double rope rappels from right before the slabs a breeze.

I know that people like me read the comments saying only do the first 4 pitches and say "ah, but where's the adventure in that!" To you, I say enjoy the adventure. I will only do the first 4 pitches now and save the feeling of impending doom for a more worthwhile section of rock. Maybe I'd do the hard friction move again. Oct 22, 2017
FY
Boston, MA
 
FY   Boston, MA
 
Question regarding the pitch leading out of the cow's mouth - is the standard to go via the left or right side of the cave (looking at the cave)? Yesterday we linked from the lower anchor from below the overlap (not stopping at the cave to belay) and up the left side (looking at the cave) and it was a fantastic pitch! Oct 13, 2016
Hey ESS,
We did the first four pitches yesterday, all have bolts with rings at the top. The bolts atop the first pitch are a bit iffy and the bolts above the third are solid but offset vertically by about a foot so only one would be weighted on rappel. My recommendation would be to bring two ropes and double rope rap from the top of p4 and p2. I can't speak to the higher pitches. Hope this helps. Sep 27, 2016
ESS
Medford
ESS   Medford
Can someone please comment on the belays at the top of each pitch (bolts / gear) is it possible to retreat / rap down the route (without leaving gear) Jul 7, 2016
Lucas
Asheville, NC
  5.11
Lucas   Asheville, NC
  5.11
I don't remember there being a pin to protect the crux moves on p6.....I was up there a year ago. I remember placing a pretty good finger size piece above the bulge/crux and then pulling left over the bulge. After the crux is prob only 5.8/5.9 up to the cows mouth....but with scarce gear and crappy rock.
5.10+ 5.8R sounds about right Sep 28, 2015
James Otey
NH
  5.10+
James Otey   NH
  5.10+
Pitch 6 is down to one pin that is rusted out to the point where it's flexing. There is marginal protection before pulling the 10+ slab section in the form of a green alien. I didn't expect it to be load bearing, which my belayer confirmed after it pulled out upon moving past. About 30 ft into the pitch I slung a chockstone with dyneema (full width nylon was too wide) and ran it to the anchors from there. This was the spiciest pitch for me, and also had the worst rock quality. Making it the most memorable! Definitely seemed like 5.10+ R in it's current condition. Sep 27, 2015
Lucas
Asheville, NC
  5.11
Lucas   Asheville, NC
  5.11
It climbs out the undercling/roof crack on the right, no bolts. That's the way that we went anyway.....short and stout. Sep 2, 2015
paulmadry
  5.10+ PG13
paulmadry  
  5.10+ PG13
Cow's mouth. Facing cliff you take the arching crack on left, correct? Straight up from bolt.
Looked easy, felt very tough.
The MP description says right, is it typo? Aug 31, 2015
Lucas
Asheville, NC
  5.11
Lucas   Asheville, NC
  5.11
If you haven't seen this gigapan image of Cannon Cliff yet....it's very cool. Crazy how far you can zoom in on the routes.
Credit:Jim Surette

gigapan.com/gigapans/148041 Aug 25, 2015
Adam Pecan
Moab, UT
 
Adam Pecan   Moab, UT
 
Nice climb. Roof crack through the cows mouth was a fun variation. Raps were super clean and I'm guessing more enjoyable than the slog down through the trees.

Note. Despite being nice and shiny, both belay bolts on the top of p2 are loose/ move when pulled on by hand (especially the right bolt) Tightened them as much as I could with my shitty nut tool wrench, but the right one is still pretty loose. Just a heads up. Aug 19, 2015
Kristian Starheim
Trondheim, Norway
 
Kristian Starheim   Trondheim, Norway
 
The pitch before the cow's mouth. Jul 29, 2015
john strand
southern colo
 
john strand   southern colo
 
I don't doubt that things have changed up there. I always found that the route got a bit less defined the higher you go. I would bet that many people do maybe the first 3-4 pitches ?

P6 is the one going in to the Cow's mouth ? steepish headwall/slab then a corner ? Jul 27, 2015
Kristian Starheim
Trondheim, Norway
 
Kristian Starheim   Trondheim, Norway
 
How is the beta for start of P6? Straight up from the belay, or traverse out right and then up? I've seen both been described, but both options are pretty hairy. Jul 27, 2015
In 1984, the second pitch was my 1st successful 5.10 lead, and one of the first I ever attempted. Upon arriving at the occupied belay and realizing I'd forgotten my figure-8, Dave Rose kindly showed me how to waist belay. I was so incredibly stoked! All the bouldering I had been doing in Smuggler's Notch with my college buddies at Johnson State had paid off. In the middle of the undercling section I was amazed that my feet were sticking to the smears. I'll never forget it. Jun 21, 2015
Kristian Starheim
Trondheim, Norway
 
Kristian Starheim   Trondheim, Norway
 
Thanks for that, Peter! I guess I'll just have to practise on other Cannon-routes just to get that granite-flake feeling :-) Mar 22, 2015
Peter Lewis
Bridgton, Maine
Peter Lewis   Bridgton, Maine
Hi Kristian. There is a fair bit of laybacking and stemming, but none of it is super-technical or strenuous or weird (although it is a little of all three). The technical crux for most people is the undercling/smear on P.2., and the best training for that would be to whittle your fingertips way down (the undercling is really skinny). Smearing, as is true for so many NH routes, is key in several places: and the best way to train for that is probably high-angle-smeary bouldering. There are some tough face moves up high, too (P.5) The route is just plain fun and I don't think it requires any specific training. Just be strong, flexible, and have great technique and endurance. Yeah, that ought to do it...LOL. Get on it! It's top 10 in NE for sure! Jan 14, 2015
Kristian Starheim
Trondheim, Norway
 
Kristian Starheim   Trondheim, Norway
 
What techniques are important to train when training for VMC-direct? From the pics it looks like there is a lot of laid-back and smearing. Dec 6, 2014
Many climbers do not realize this, but on the 1st ascent of this route and the older VMC direct, the "Cow's Mouth pitch, did NOT go straight up thru the jam crack roof, (pitch 7), but instead, went horizontally right thru an awkward horizontal chimney, with huge exposure.

Your back is up against a horizontal roof, and you chimney right about 15 feet. There is protection in front of you, as you go right, (used to be baby angles, but now would be aliens). This is about 5.7, but feels harder). After chimney, step left and go straight up.

I've climbed this route many times and this pitch, done this way, is quite different than anything else I've done except the "Ear" pitch on the Salathe Wall. Nov 23, 2014
Glenn Cilley
Laconia, NH
Glenn Cilley   Laconia, NH
No camping in Franconia Notch State Park except at Lafayette Campground. But I don't think anyone will bother you on the wall, have fun! Mar 8, 2014
patrick donahue
Bend, OR
patrick donahue   Bend, OR
I'm wondering, are you allowed to bivy on the big wall, because I know you are not allowed at cathedral. I am wondering this just so I can get used to bivying on walls for some up coming plans to go to Yosemite. Mar 6, 2014
Will Stat
  5.10d
Will Stat  
  5.10d
Agreed, Steve. Perhaps my wording was unclear (now revised). I thought the second pitch felt like 11- and the third was a fairly straightforward 10 crux into an endurance section where the dihedral gets steeper, making it feel like 10+. Its nice there are some fixed pieces up near the top of the corner where you start to feel gassed. The right variation on p3, supposedly easier at 10-, looked harder, although it has a couple convenient shiny bolts.

Numbers aside, its a great route. I wouldn't recommend it for the inexperienced, though.

Another note - Steve, I had the pleasure of meeting you at the barber wall in late October and its great to see you're still cranking! I forgot you put up VMC DD or I would've asked to hear your account of the FA! Dec 19, 2013
USBRIT Ross
Keswick Cumbria.UK
USBRIT Ross   Keswick Cumbria.UK
Good lad Steve .. Pleased your still at it .. Nov 16, 2013
Will,

Glad you liked the route. I've done the route many times, and just repeated it a few weeks ago.

If you have real fat fingers, like me, I think the second pitch could be in the 5.11 class, but the 3rd pitch is definitely still 10+.

At 67, I generally don't get up 5.11 clean, and still manage the steller 3rd pitch O.K. Just my 2 cents opinion.

Bringing 2 ropes is a good idea if you intend to rap. Oct 24, 2013
Will Stat
  5.10d
Will Stat  
  5.10d
I strongly recommend bringing double ropes if you have them. It made the wandering second pitch effortless (at least in terms of rope drag) and allows you to get down in two raps from the top of P4.

I feel compelled to add that this route is amazing... it could give any yosemite climb of the same grade a run for its money. Honestly though, pitch 2 would most likely check in around 11b at many other areas. The straight up variation on the 3rd pitch felt pretty cruiser, I wouldn't recommend going right.

If it's within your abilities it shouldn't be missed! Oct 20, 2013
RBeers
  5.10+
RBeers  
  5.10+
A classic NH sandbag Aug 4, 2013
john strand
southern colo
 
john strand   southern colo
 
Rich-- your ready for Lab Wall direct finish..... Sep 30, 2012
Rich Brereton
Pownal, ME
  5.10+
Rich Brereton   Pownal, ME
  5.10+
Best route in the East.
Would have been happier with two green aliens or the like for the second pitch instead of just the one.
Also, going right then up at the start of P5 looked very unlikely. Going straight up was very hard and reachy but only for a couple of moves until you reach a nice horizontal break. Sep 29, 2012
Thanks for all of your comments, they provided some crucial info for my and my friend's ascent. Joe Vitti's description is a pretty accurate account of our experience on this climb. The first 4 pitches were beautiful, great climbing, and went way too fast. The following 5 pitches (or 6? who knows) were slow going, with loose rock, wet sections, and difficult routefinding. The two or three pitches we did after the cow's mouth were runout on sketchy rock, with no real landmarks.

If I were to do it again I would almost certainly rap off the 4th pitch... maybe even climb them again.

(Disclaimer - I haven't lead this route yet, only followed) May 10, 2012
paulmadry
  5.10+ PG13
paulmadry  
  5.10+ PG13
Thanks for the beta. It helped. I did VMC DD July 2010. The pitch 6th of VMC is still Quite scary although climbing is easier. You can stretch pitch 5 through overlap and then move left to a new bolted belay. Then do the rest of old pitch 6th together with pitch 7th. Cows mouth was the crux for me. It is probably easier for people with smaller hands-you can place them fully into the crack. I highly recommend taping just for that move. Move right after Cows mouth to find a rap station. You can rap the route without the last 5.6 crappy pitches full of black flies. Jul 9, 2010
christopher adams  
  5.10d
Pitch 5 is hard. Feb 26, 2010
We did the first four pitches yesterday with the straight up variation on the third pitch. The route is fantastic. Beautiful thin crack and corner climbing.
We had 2 ropes for rappelling, but it looked to me like a single 70M rope would get you down.
Bring RP's and wires and many finger sized cams. I don't think that we placed anything bigger than a green Camalot on the route. Sep 14, 2009
On P6 we climbed right from belay under roof and up a short left facing corner, two not great pins here and nothing else I could find. Next traverse left a bit and clip another pin just over lip and over into shallow right facing corner. This section is hard and daring. Next move up and right heading towards the right side of a massive tottering pillar which seems like it should fall off any moment now. Gear is challenging through this section and we tried to stay off the pillar as much as possible. From even with the pillar go up and right to the belay in left side of cow's mouth.

Note that the climbing after the 5.11 slab moves on P5 is engaging with not the best gear. 5 and 6 are heady pitches.

Also, we did two full rope length pitches directly above the cow's mouth and they were challenging with long runouts, route finding, wet slippery mossy sections, grass hummock clawing....oh and lots black flies. Not the "easy slabs" we were expecting.

Keep right through the krumholtz along the top of cliff and look for the big square "heli pad", a good trail passes along the south/east corner of it which leads down around to the base.

This is a hard route and is not the place for the average 5.10 leader. Aug 19, 2009
paulmadry
  5.10+ PG13
paulmadry  
  5.10+ PG13
P6. Climb through blocky headwall, moving right then up a shallow lt-facing corner to slabs. Continue w/poor protection to the cow's mouth.

The description from Rock Climbing New England (S. Green) Pitch 6: A long, scary lead with dubious protection and tricky crux. Surmount a steep headwall (5.10) and climb a left-facing corner to easier slabs above to belay in the Cow’s Mouth.

Can you give me beta on the "scary lead with dubious protection" Any recent Beta???

Thanks a lot
Paul Aug 17, 2009