Type: Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft, 9 pitches, Grade III
FA: RH & JP, July or Aug. 1966
Page Views: 659 total · 13/month
Shared By: Robert Hall on Sep 23, 2015
Admins: Jay Knower, M Sprague, lee hansche, Jeffrey LeCours, Jonathan Steitzer, Robert Hall

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Revised 2019, History has been moved to its own section. 3-stars with Variations to P1 and Using P4 of Star Trek and Star Trek's "Lost In Space" variation. 

The original line for P1 is described first; then two much cleaner variations to the original pitch 1.  The P1 -Var 1 is also highly recommended as an alternate to the first pitch of Star Trek.
Original 1966, P1   (Blue on the photo of the “Knights Slab”. ) From the flattish area scramble directly up very steep dirt 15-20 ft and step right on steep dirt to gain a double trunked tree.  Climb an easy ramp back left to the corner with small trees.  Climb the easy "layback" flake and corner above, [photo] step left onto the main slab near the stunted birch, then up to the tree ledge. 130 ft 5.4

Variations #1 and 2 - START: from the flattish area at the end of the approach step left 10-15 ft to a tree directly below the triple-trunked birch tree. (One of the main branches broke off in the winter of 2017-18 so it's now more a "double trunked" bitch tree.)
P1 - Var #1, The Yellow line on the "Slab Photo" - Climb up an easy, but vegetated, crack 15 ft to the ledge with a triple-trunked birch tree [photo] From the triple-trunked birch tree climb up and left-ish 8 ft to a 8-inch overlap (gear). Continue up and left on featured slab, passing 3 bolts to a flattish area below 2 black bolts on a steeper slab above.  To keep the grade about 5.6, make one move up and clip only the first of the 2 bolts, then move right easily to the right edge of the slab (to a stunted birch tree), then up to the tree ledge. (Alt#1, Alt #2)  130 ft 5.6.
 Alt #1 (Black dashed line) From the flattish area, climb up and past the first black bolt, then move right to the edge of the slab and up to the tree ledge. About 5.7 on the left of the bolt, 5.8 on the right.
 Alt #2 (Red dashed line) Continue up past the 2nd black bolt 5.8+? / 5.9? then follow easier rock to the tree ledge.
There is a possible alternate belay at the rap anchor above the 2nd black bolt. From this anchor a single 60m makes the ground.

P1 - Var #2, Green on the "Slab Photo" - From triple-trunked birch tree, step right and continue up along the right margin of the flake (gear in flake), up to a left-rising crack/groove with tiny vegetation growing in it. Move up left along this to a black bolt.  Either continue up along the crack/groove (5.6/5.7) for several moves, then straight up to the afore-mention flattish area, [or climb the clean slab directly up past the bolt. (5.7-5.7+] to the same flat area] As with Var#1 move right, then up to the tree ledge. 130 ft, 5.6/5.7.
Once on the tree ledge, move the belay left along the base of the black band for 30-35 ft. Look for the "S T" engraved on the rock. (photo)
P2 "The Black Band"  16 years later the climb Star Trek would follow the 1966 route through the black band. Climb up 5-6 ft left of the S T on easy (5.4 +/-) but less secure rock directly to a bolt.  From the bolt, continue traversing left (20-25 ft), staying low, to where the overhang above you ends at downward-facing flakes. [photo]. Continue up to a double bolt rap/belay anchor on the right. 80 ft 5.5 PG-13/R
NOTE 1: It is believed the bolt was placed on the FA of Star Trek. The FA team of “Night Climb” belayed on the flattish flake a few feet below the modern double bolt anchor/rap station.
Note 2 All written descriptions imply that the Star Trek variant "Celestial Path" leaves from this belay and moves right and up.

P3 - The 1966 route goes up what would become P3 of Star Trek:  Climb up about 15ft, to the bolt  ("backed up" by an old ¼-inch !) and over it (big step back left)  then move up and left to gain a sort of "rounded dike like" section of excellent rock with reasonable protection behind rounded flakes. Belay at a 2-bolt rap/belay anchor on the left. 100 ft 5.5 – 5.6 (The old ¼ inch bolts at the anchor are now completely replaced.)
Today P3 ends at the dbl bolt anchor on the left, but in 1966 we moved right to the bushy ledge with small birch trees, located 25-30 ft to the right of the double bolt anchor of Star Trek.  In the nearly crackless slab the 1966 duo longed for the safety of tree-belays!

P4 - Move right from the anchor, clip a (black) bolt to protect the moves to the bushy island. Gaining the bush-island at the approx. level of the bolt is easiest. At the top of the bushes, climb up the obvious large flake/crack [photo] and at its top start moving right on a rising diagonal.  A fixed wire nut was found in 2015 where there is one small "step up".  [There was a VERY rotten web-sling looped through the wire, most probably from some 1980's "back off". The sling turned to dust in the hand!]  Continue moving right on very easy rock (brushed), then climb straight up on clean rock ( 2 bolts, 20-25 ft apart) just to the right of a line of black moss.  [photo] Brushed footholds lead to the mid-slab tree ledge above; belay at a single bolt anchor (small trees as back up) below a dike-like groove and obvious left-facing flake. The entire P4 was totally unprotected on the FA: 180 - 200 ft 5.4-5.5 PG  (130-135 ft from the bush island, which had a belay tree in 1966.)

NOTE The route photo in guidebook The Notches (pg 28) incorrectly shows A Night Climb taking the line of Star Trek’s P4 and its Lost In Space (5.7+ R) variation to reach the mid-slab tree ledge, then scrambling down the ledge to the base of the dike-like groove at the start of P5. The "Knights" only WISH they had gone this much more ascetic route in 1966.  

P5   Climb up a dike-like groove. When the groove ends, climb a short white face to an obvious left-facing flake. Up the flake and to a double bolt rap/belay anchor on the left (The FA belayed at the pine tree on the right). A very pretty pitch, even if it is easy. 80-90 ft 5.3 -5.4
NOTE  End your climb here if you are not planning on doing one of the upper-tier routes.  A rap using a single 60m rope will reach the large oak tree at the climber’s-right end of the mid-slab tree ledge. The whole route can then be rapped with a single 60m (knots on the end please ! some raps are "close"). At the "S T Ledge", walk back east to where you came up and make a short rap off Oak tree to the dbl bolt anchor above the 2 black bolts, then to the ground.

P6   Move slightly up and left to a nearly horizontal blueberry & bush ledge. Traverse left on this until you can move up into the Big Tree Ledge. 80-90 ft 5.3-5.4  Oak tree rap anchor.    [Easily combined with P5 if you are planning on going to the Upper Tier.]
 "P7" I added this as a “pitch” because most climbers will not bother to unrope and coil the rope. From the large tree (8mm rap sling, 2019) Scramble horizontally, then leftwards and up (watch for lose rocks) for 150 +/- ft and pick up the faint climber's path near the base.
Continue to the right for 200 +/- ft.
  The most open path seems to now start at the base, then divert a bit to the right staying 30-40 ft right (downhill) of the path along the base, gradually regaining the base around the start of Sailspitch.  Just before the path drops down to the area of the winter ice routes on the East Face, belay at a good tree just below a corner with steep grass. (photo) The 1991 route Ground Control starts here and follows A Night Climb for its first 30 ft or so.  

P8  Climb the grass and corner to a 1966 piton driven ½ way in. (Green, #0.75 Camalot can be placed 2 ft below the pin) Above the piton move right and down on a series of steps leading right, and past a 10-inch curved left-facing flake ( TCU, e.g. Red #1 TC-3 Camalot) to a stance at a bolt on an 8-10 ft-high steeper slab. [photo]. Climb the short slab (crux: 5.7+? ) A 2nd bolt 15 +/- ft above,  then another 50 +/- ft slightly up and right, passing pine trees, to a tree belay at the base of a 10ft wide streak of clean, grey-colored rock. 130 - 150 ft  5.7+?  [see also Variation P8] 

P9  Climb the 4-5 ft wide streak of lichen-free, light grey rock to the trees. 80 ft  5.5 - 5.6 ( 2 bolts)

Variation P8
  First pitch of The Christening  FA 4July85 by Butch and Jeanne Kinnon (See the end of the HISTORY section for more info.) From the belay move out right and then a semi-ticky move back left to gain a right-rising gully [photo]. Climb this to the top, make a step up left, then directly up and arrive at the easier climbing just to the right of the 5.7+/5.8 move of the original P8. Continue as with P8 up right, to a tree belay and then P9 to the top. Taking this variation reduces the grade of P8 to about 5.5-5.6 PG / PG-13
While the rock looks ugly, it is actually better than it looks.
Descent: Bushwhack uphill and slightly right to the climbers path from Hitchcock Gully, thence onto the summit of Mt Willard and the hiking trail.
Descent from the end of P6 (base of Big Tree Ledge)
Descend with a single 60m rope:
1) From the large tree with 8mm sling (2019) to the anchor at the top of P5
2) From the anchor top of P5 rap down to rapeller's left directly to the large oak tree. (If you can't tension-rap to the tree, just rap straight down and walk up to the tree.)
3) From a double bolt anchor 15-20 ft climber's left (skier's right) of the large oak tree, to P4 of Star Trek. This creates a TR on "Lost In Space" 4) From P4 to P3
5) From P3 to P2
6) From the P2 belay/rap anchor to the tree ledge at the "ST".  May be some lose rock.  Climbers down first should walk to skier's left on the ledge to get out of the "line of fire". Half-way down this rap, flip the rope to rappeller's right over a "hump" to make it easier to land near the "ST".
>>It is possible to rap directly to the base near the start of Star Trek, but it is bushy, dirty, and has much lose rock.
 Better to Walk to skier's left 25-30 ft, to therap anchor on a small oak tree (end of P1).
7) Rap only about 40-50 ft to a dbl bolt rap station (A single 70 m will only get you the 3-trunked birch)
8) Rap to the ground, below the 3-trunked birch tree of "A Night Climb"

Location and Approach

Starts on the far right side of the slab known today as the starting slab for Star Trek.

The Modern Approach - Recommended route:  Hike up from Hattie's Garden parking to the RR tracks. Look for a small cairn about 150 RR-ties "up-notch" of the "Cinema" gully, then follow cairns steeply up, keeping generally to the right side of the wide gully, to a horizontal dirt ledge just right of the "toe" of the slab that is Pitch1 of Star Trek. Move right 25-30 ft and then follow a zig-zag path up on steep ground, finally cutting back left and up to a small flattish area suitable for roping up. There should be a triple-trunked bitch tree [photo] on the slab to your left, about 20 ft up. If you find yourself directly below a very mossy slab you are too far right. The correct route of approach touches the very bottom left of this slab at a small overlap.

Alternately, it is possible to approach from Cinema Gully by hiking up and right passing the starts of "Time-Space Continuum" and "Across the Universe [ATU]", continue 30-40 ft up along the base of the steep side of the ATU slab and then cut horizontally right to the next slab (the "Star Trek" slab), descend to the "toe" of that slab; continue around to the right and intercept the recommended approach where it moves right along the 25-30ft dirt ledge.


Standard Rack -  Plus, be sure to bring a #1 Red Camalot for P4 and a Red, #1 TC-3 Camalot for P8.  Nuts actually work bettwer than cams in some of the flakes of P2, and P3.


It is 1966. North Conway has no climbing shop; EMS would arrive 5 years later (at the store now used by IME) and IME would not appear for another decade. Guidebooks???..non-existent. Joe and Karen Cote"s first guidebook to Whitehorse and Cathedral would appear three years later in 1969 and list just six (6) routes* on Whitehorse, and nine (9) routes on Cathedral. Humphrey”s Ledge had one (1) listed in the 2nd edition!
   *There were actually five (5) more routes but Joe missed these.
 If you wanted info on rock routes you drove into Boston to the AMC headquarters (and library) at 5 Joy St.  Here you read, volume by volume (no cumulative index) old Appalachia Magazines where, if the route had been submitted, Ken Henderson might have published it in the Rock Climbing section.

A really long rope was 150ft [and then only in twisted-lay Goldline ], otherwise probably 40 meters (about 131 ft). The newest innovation was to tie 1-inch tubular webbing around your waist as a swami belt and tie the rope to that, thus saving the 10 ft of rope that the leader would normally use as a tie-in, using a bowline-on-a-coil.
There were no Cams, not even nuts! Protection was afforded only with pitons, [ Although while climbing in England, Sam Streibert had picked up the idea of machine nuts on loops of cord and used them as early as 1963 on the FA of Cathedral's 3 Birches.]  Pitons were soft iron (pretty much non-reusable in granite)  and of VERY limited sizes. Chouinard's Lost Arrow blade pitons were then just trickling in to the East coast; his angle pitons had not yet arrived. If the crack was much bigger than ½ to ¾ inches then there was nothing for the leader to use for protection, although some climbers used wooden wedges.
  Rescue???!!..."911"...forget 'em, nonexistent!   Get into trouble, you get yourself out !

Sticky rubber was 20+ years in the future; EBs more than a decade away. Even Vibram soled Robbins Boots were still a few years in the future. Climbers climbed in mountain boots, or maybe the soft kletter-shoe. Vibram, pretty much the same as the original formula from 1937, was as sticky as it got!

1966  It is summer of 1966 (July or Aug). At a pull-out on Rt 302, two young climbers [Knights, let us say, after all, they both also played chess! ] gaze up at the face of Mt Willard and say: Why Not?...from older AMC climbers, the leader knows there is a route up there but knows no-one who had climbed it. To the young Knights the cliff looks like 3 or 4 pitches…2 or 3 to the big bushy ledge, then one more to the top and on to the trail back down to the car.  (He was not even the first to dramatically underestimate the height of the cliff!) At 4:00 in the afternoon they start out.

1966 Approach: Not realizing the railroad track offered a quicker approach, the two scrambled down, crossed the trickling Saco river and bushwhacked up the steep slope, crossed the RR tracks and continued up steep ground to the base of a slab.
The first pitch led up a corner and was easily dispatched. (Actually done in 2 pitches, with shorter rope…oh yes, they had only one. In those days it was NOT a common practice for a party of just 2 to carry a second rope, but remember climbs on such large cliffs as Cannon and Whitehorse were frequently done in parties of three.

Next the black band was climbed. No bolt was placed, in fact no protection at all after the first few feet. Thus, once the leader reached the belay ledge he could easily flip the rope along the overhang as the second moved along the traverse.
The next pitch was the key. Again, the bolt came later and protection in the shallow cracks was less than optimal (it is much better today with nuts and cams). Both Knights were happy to find a tree belay in the bushy ledge on the right.
NOTE Ed Webster's description of the 1973 route "6000 Salad Bowls" (long believed to be the second full-length route on Willard)  indicates that route climbed through this general area and that the FA party found "several old pitons on the slabs".  Did the "knights" leave any pins this low on the route?  I forget, but soft iron pins were notorious in that even if you did remove them they might be nearly useless to use again, so they often stayed in.

The long, rising traverse of P4 (per the modern description) really sealed the fate of the Knights….it was now up-and-out; they were now above the highest portion of the black band, and there was no possibility of rapping down.  Fortunately, the next two pitches went easily. The duo belayed off the pine tree on the right at the end of the flake pitch, and the slabs to the Big Tree Ledge were dry-ish.
By now, two things are clear to the 1966 dynamic duo: 1) The "bushes" on the bushy ledge are 80 ft beech trees. The duo has dramatically underestimated the height of the cliff, and 2) its getting dark. It is 100% clear that the duo will be benighted.  They discuss an unplanned bivi on the Big Tree Ledge, and decide to push on.

They march up through the high-angle bushes, trees, and occasional lose rock to the base of the upper wall. Moving to the right along it, they dismiss most of what they see as having “too much unknown” above the rock that is visible.  A full moon (well, at least full enough to see by) rises as they walk underneath the imposing upper wall, passing what would become, years or decades later, climbs such as Serpentine, 6000 Salad Bowls, Challenger, and Salespitch.  Eventually they arrive at what appears to be the end of the Big Tree Ledge and see for the first time rock that seems to present a reasonable, and visible, route to the top.

By moonlight the leader climbs up over grassy steps [photo] and up the shallow corner/open book of what, 25 years later, would become the first 25-30 feet of Ground Control.  He reaches high and hammers in a soft-iron, ½ inch, angle piton [photo] into a hole in the crack above, climbs up and over, and gazes up at the polished face above. (This would become the very continuous 5.7+ / 5.8- P2 of Ground Control, and today sports three widely spaced bolts above its P1 double bolt anchor.), Moving a little higher, off to the right he spies... deliverance!... a low angle slab and, finally, the top.

But first he traverses right to a friction move. There is nothing between him and his belayer but that half-driven, half-inch piton…not even tied-off but with a 'biner through the eye. The move is going to be harder than any friction move he has done, harder than the famous brown-spot / boilerplate on Whitehorse Std, (then rated 5.4 without any bolt; today considered hard 5.5 maybe 5.6 ) harder than the friction moves on Wedge .  Forty feet of rope out, one half driven pin. Belayer is, fortunately, tied into a great tree. The leader tells the other Knight it is OK to cut the rope if he falls and is hanging unconscious off the around-the-waist-body-belay.
The move is made, and a not-quite anti-climatic last pitch reaches the trees at the top. The Knights thrash through the dark forest (no moonlight penetrates here !, …and no climber’s path exists in 1966, even if they could find and follow it ) until they stumble onto the opening of the summit and the hiking trail. They reach the car at midnight.

Totally exhausted, the Knights drive around to the then-unregulated Barns Field "overflow" area of Dolly Copp and pitch their tent. Next morning, amazingly, climbers emerge from the tent next door and the leader of the duo meets the most energetic and charismic climber he will ever know, and with whom he’s now been friends for more than 50 years, the unquenchable Jorge Urioste. But that’s another story!

A bit embarrassed by the whole episode, the leader does not report the climb to Henderson and Appalachia.

HISTORY Con't 1985 – 2017  Research by Jon Sykes for his new guidebook The NOTCHES revealed that the listed variation for P8 pitch was the first pitch of the 3-pitch The Christening.  FA 4July85 by Butch and Jeanne Kinnon.  They graded their route 5.5X for the climbing on P2. Jon speculates that they finished on P9 of A Night Climb, but the route description given has their climb's last 2 pitches moving much too far left to be P9 of A Night Climb, which moves right at the top of P8 and then goes straight up on P9. "Night" also finishes in a "nowhere land", while the Kinnons reported reaching a "climber's path". (Your submitter climbed the first pitch of the Kinnon's route a couple of years before Jon's guidebook came out and originally listed it as an variation to P8 without credit to the Kinnons.  This has been corrected.)

Their "P2" and "P3" route description is consistent with using a belay tree slightly below and left of that used by A Night Climb, and then ascending left-ish on what is now a heavily lichen and moss covered black slab to trees, then their P3 goes up a low-angle slab which "hides" in the trees to the right of the top pitch of Ground Control, to hit the woods near the climber's path.  In 2016-17, when I was rapping the cliff to re-discover P8 and P9 of A Night Climb I noticed what looked like brushed footholds on the aforementioned black slab but thought they were more recent than 1985...but now I think that timing is about correct. If so, I'd say more than 5.5 (!) and definitely X !