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A Night Climb for Two Knights T 
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Celestial Path T 
Gamma Ray T 
Hugo's Horror Revisited T 
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Ursa Major T 

A Night Climb for Two Knights 

YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b PG13

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 9 pitches, 1000', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b PG13 [details]
FA: RH & JP, July or Aug. 1966
New Route: Yes
Page Views: 355
Submitted By: Robert Hall on Sep 23, 2015

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BETA PHOTO: 1966 Piton, on P8 of "A Night Climb", ju...


HISTORY: 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’s headquarters (and library) at 5 Joy St. Here you read, volume by volume (no cumulative index) old Appalachia Magazines where, if you had submitted it to him, and if Ken Henderson had deemed it a worthy route he might have published it in the “Rock Climbing” section.

It is summer 1966 (July or Aug). At a pull-out on Rt 302, about ½ mile south of where Rt 302 is squeezed between the rock walls of Elephant Head and the railroad cut , two young climbers [“Knights” let’s say, after all, they both also played chess! ] gaze up at the face of Mt Willard and said: “Why Not?...from older AMC climbers, the leader knows there is a route up there, so the cliff had been climbed…...Looks like 3 or 4 pitches…..2 or 3 to the big bushy tree ledge, then one more to the top and on to the trail back down to the car.” At 4:00 in the afternoon they start out.

1966 Approach: Not realizing a 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 to the base of a slab.

The Modern Approach to the climb is to walk the RR tracks (UP-track from Hattie's Garden or DOWN-track from parking near Elephant Head) (technically walking the tracks is illegal) to the main gully (Start of "Std" and "Hugos", and "Cinema Gully" in the winter), hike up and right passing the starts of "Time-Space Continuum" and "Across the Universe", continue to the next slab (the "Star Trek" slab), descend to the "toe" of that slab; continue around to the right and then back left and up to a small, nearly flat area about 20 ft below, and slightly right, of a triple trunked birch tree [photo] growing on a ledge near the right margin of the slab. This is about 75-100 ft right of the "toe" and 50-75 feet higher than the "toe". There is an ugly, heavily-lichened slab to the right.

Recommended: It is also possible to reach the "toe" directly from the RR tracks, look for a small cairn about 150 RR-ties "up-notch" of the "Cinema" gully, then follow cairns and some flagging tape on a zig-zag path to near the toe, then right and up on steep ground, finally cutting back left and up to a small flat area suitable for roping up.

See the climb "Star Trek" for a route photo showing this route.

History, Con't: A really long rope was 150ft [and then only in twisted-lay Goldline ], otherwise probably 40 meters (about 137 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.

P1 (As per the FA)- From the nearly flat area on the ground (20ft right and 20ft below the triple-trunked birch) scramble 15-20 ft up very steep ground and move right 15-20 ft to gain the base of a double trunked tree. [ An intermediate step left past a tree might warrant a belay!] Climb an easy ramp back left to the corner with small trees. [photo looking down]. 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

>Move the belay 20-25 ft to the left, look for the "S T" engraved in the rock.

Below are described much cleaner variations/ alternative(s) to the original pitch 1. They are located on the clean, white slab just up and left of the flat area at the end of the approach path. P1 -Var 1 is highly recommended as an alternate to the first pitch of Star Trek. Walk left 15-20 ft from the flat area at the end of the approach path. Climb up an easy crack 15 ft to a ledge with a triple-trunked birch tree.

P1 - Var #1, Yellow on "Slab Photo" - From the triple-trunked birch tree climb straight up 8 ft to a 8-inch overlap (gear). Continue up and left on featured slab, then up just slightly left of the bolt. Continue up, past another bolt, to the left-ish end of the crack/groove (3rd bolt) with tiny vegetation, to a flattish area below 2 black bolts on a steeper slab above. Move right easily to the right edge of the slab (to a stunted birch tree), then up to the tree ledge. 130 ft 5.6.

P1 - Var #2, Green on "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 ( black bolt). Either climb 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 to the stunted birch, then up to the tree ledge. 130 ft, 5.6/5.7.

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. 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.

NOTE: From the "flat" area at the end of the vegetated crack it is also possible to move left along a crack to some trees (old rap anchor) and then climb back right to the tree ledge. (Purple dashed) The terrain here is less solid than on the right.

Once on the tree ledge,walk left along the base of the black band for 30-35 ft; look for the “S T” semi-engraved on the rock.

P2 – The 1966 route followed what would become P2 of Star Trek 16 years later: Two choices to reach the bolt (presumably placed by the Star Trek Voyagers) on the traverse: Choice 1: Start 5-6 ft to the right of the "engraved" "ST". [photo]. Up 20-25 ft in a very shallow right-facing corner, [5.5-5.6] protect (Yellow Alien, or equiv. nut) then traverse horizontally left passing an old 1/4" bolt [and its "replacement", a 3/8"].
Choice 2: Climb up 5-6 ft left of the "ST" on less secure rock, but easier climbing [5.4] , directly to the bolt. From the bolt, continue traversing left 12-15 ft and then climb up through the "nose" [photo]. About 5-6 ft to the right of the top of the "nose" there is a good belay on top of a large flake (Med. cams at your feet, or sit down) Alternately, one can belay at the 3/8" + 1/4" anchor directly above the "nose". [NOTE: All written descriptions imply that the Star Trek variant "Celestial Path" leaves from this belay and moves right and up [photo] to the 2nd, higher bush/tree ledge located right of the 1st tree ledge where P3 of "A Night Climb.." ended.]

P3 - The 1966 route followed what would become P3 of Star Trek: From the top-of-the-flake belay, move left, clip a new 3/8" bolt ["backed up" by the original 1/4" !] then up, first a bit left, then trending up and right on excellent rock with reasonable protection behind rounded flakes. Belay at left, at a 2-bolt anchor. Today you'd end this pitch at the dbl bolt anchor on the left, but in 1966 we moved right to the bush ledge* with small (2015) birch trees, located 25-30 ft to the right of the double bolt anchor of Star Trek. (* Which probably contained a tree, or at least a sturdy bush or two in 1966. In the nearly crackless slab the 1966 duo longed for the safety of a tree-belays!) 100-120 ft 5.5

History (con't) Ed Webster's description of the 1973 route "6000 Salad Bowls" 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 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.

P4 – [Today one would probably use the double bolt anchor on Star Trek, so we will describe the pitch that way. The 1966 pitch started from the trees in the bushy ledge.] Move right from the ST anchor to gain the bushy ledge and birch trees. Climb up the obvious large flake/crack [photo] and at its top start moving right on a rising diagonal. [A “fixed” wire nut is located just beyond the top of the flake/crack. When found in 2015 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 a rising diagonal and climb up a brown-rock groove [last pro: a #1 (red) Camalot at the base of this brown-rock groove.] When the groove ends, step right and straight up clean white rock [photo] to the “mid-slab” tree ledge above. The last 50-60 ft is totally unprotected: 5.3-5.4 R/X 160 ft 5.4 R/X (130-140 ft from the small birch trees)

History, con't: By now two things are clear to the “1966 dynamic duo” : 1) The trees on “bushy ledge” above are 80 ft oaks and maples, the duo has dramatically underestimated the height of the cliff 2) it’s getting dark…….

History, Con't: There were no Cams, not even nuts! Protection was afforded only with pitons, [although Sam Streibert had picked up the idea of machine nuts on loops of cord while climbing in England and used them as early as 1963 on the FA of Cathedral's 3 Birches] and the pitons were soft iron at that, and of VERY limited sizes. (Chouinard's chromoly, “Lost Arrow” blade pitons were then just trickling in to the East coast; his angle pitons for ¾” to 1” and 1 ½” cracks, had not yet arrived. If the crack was much bigger than ½” to ¾” then there was nothing for the leader to use for protection. Wooden wedges were used for aid climbing.)

Rescue???!!..."911"...forget 'em, nonexistent! Get into trouble, you get yourself out.

Sticky rubber was 20+ years in the future; “EB’s” more than a decade away. Even Vibram soled “Robbin’s 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!

P5 - Look for a single pine tree about 80-100 ft up, that is your goal for this pitch. Climb 25 ft up a dike-like groove located about 20 ft left of a sandy, slabby gully. When the groove ends, climb a short white face to an obvious left-facing flake. Up the flake and step right to the single pine tree. A very pretty pitch, even if it is easy. 80-90 ft 5.3 [ It is believed that Celestial Path climbs the sandy, slabby gully and continues up the broken “nose / buttress” of rock above. ]

P6 – A rising diagonal up left on slab takes you from the lonely pine tree to the bottom of the “Big Tree Ledge” 80-90 ft 5.3-5.4 R [could be combined with P5]

"P7" - Scramble (up and leftwards seems easiest, watch for lose rocks) up the steep slope and pick up the faint climber's path near the base. Class 2-3. [I added this 3/2/17 when I noticed there was no "p7" R Hall]

History, Con't: Now it is 100% clear that the duo will be benighted. They discuss an unplanned bivi on the tree ledge, and decide to push on. A full moon [well, at least full enough to see by] rises as they walk underneath the imposing upper wall, passing what would become, decades later, climbs such as “Salespitch” and “Challenger”.

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 what is visible”. Eventually they arrive at what appears to be “the end” of the tree ledge and see for the first time rock that seems reasonably climbable.

P8 – [Var] 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, “1/2”, angle piton [photo] [all they had in 1966] 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 bolts above the double bolt anchor.), Moving a little higher, off to the right he spies….. deliverance!... a low angle slab and the top trees.
P8 (Continued) About 5-10 ft 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” micro-Camalot, but alas there was nothing in 1966) to a stance below a 10 ft piece of steeper slab. [photo] Climb the slab (crux: 5.7+? to 5.8+? "PG/R" today, "R/X" in 1966) and step right to much easier climbing. Continue up and right to bushes and trees. 120-140 ft 5.7? to 5.8? R

Var P8 – From the belay at the base of the grassy ledges, move out right and then up into 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 one of the best trad-protected pitches on the cliff!
NOTE: Research by Jon Sykes for his new guidebook The NOTCHES revealed that this pitch was probably FA'ed 4July85 by Butch and Jeanne Kinnon. They called their route The Christening 5.5X. Jon speculates that they then finished on P9 of "Night Climb", but the route description given has their climb's last 2 pitches moving left too much for "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".
Their "P2" and "P3" would be consistent with using the P8 belay tree of "Night Climb", then ascending left-ish on a now-heavily-lichen&moss covered "black" slab to trees, then P3 up a low-angle slab which "hides" in the trees right of the top of "Ground Control" to hit the woods near the climber's path. When I was rapping around to re-discover "Night Climb's" P8 & P9 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" !

P9 – Climb the 4-5 ft wide streak of lichen-free, light grey rock to the trees. 80 ft 5.5 R/X

Descent: Bushwhack uphill and slightly right[Alt] to the climber’s path from Hitchcock Gully, thence onto the summit of Mt Willard and the hiking trail. Descend the trail to Rt 302, walk back to the car, arriving about 12 am in the morning.
Alternately, bushwhack uphill and slightly right, THEN cut back left and up to the area slightly above, and to the right, of where Ground Control ends. Continue to the summit and the hiking trail.


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


Standard Rack plus, be sure to bring a #1 Red Camalot for P4 and selection of TCU's, e.g. a "red" micro Camalot TCU for P8.

Photos of A Night Climb for Two Knights Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: "A Night Climb..." is the Red Line, usin...
BETA PHOTO: "A Night Climb..." is the Red Line, usin...
Rock Climbing Photo: Route Photo for the Slab just left of "A Nigh...
BETA PHOTO: Route Photo for the Slab just left of "A Nigh...
Rock Climbing Photo: Top Part of "A Night Climb" with the (pr...
Top Part of "A Night Climb" with the (pr...
Rock Climbing Photo: P9
Rock Climbing Photo: second half of P8
BETA PHOTO: second half of P8
Rock Climbing Photo: Triple Trunked Birch tree on right margin of the s...
BETA PHOTO: Triple Trunked Birch tree on right margin of the s...
Rock Climbing Photo: Flake and "singleton pine" on P5
BETA PHOTO: Flake and "singleton pine" on P5
Rock Climbing Photo: The large, dark left-facing corner system that &qu...
BETA PHOTO: The large, dark left-facing corner system that &qu...
Rock Climbing Photo: P1 Variation 2 - Triple Trunked Birch and right si...
BETA PHOTO: P1 Variation 2 - Triple Trunked Birch and right si...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking Up at P3
BETA PHOTO: Looking Up at P3
Rock Climbing Photo: Moving from Star Trek's 2blt anchor (end of P3) to...
BETA PHOTO: Moving from Star Trek's 2blt anchor (end of P3) to...
Rock Climbing Photo: ?Celestial Path? - Looking Up and Right from the e...
BETA PHOTO: ?Celestial Path? - Looking Up and Right from the e...
Rock Climbing Photo: P2 - Climber is about to begin the traverse throug...
BETA PHOTO: P2 - Climber is about to begin the traverse throug...
Rock Climbing Photo: This is the top part of the slab if you climb to t...
BETA PHOTO: This is the top part of the slab if you climb to t...
Rock Climbing Photo: 1980's (?1970's?) wire "Stopper" with di...
BETA PHOTO: 1980's (?1970's?) wire "Stopper" with di...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up at the middle of P1 of the 1966 route, ...
BETA PHOTO: Looking up at the middle of P1 of the 1966 route, ...
Rock Climbing Photo: P4 Easy crack/flake above bush/tree ledge
BETA PHOTO: P4 Easy crack/flake above bush/tree ledge
Rock Climbing Photo: P1 Near the left-rising crack
BETA PHOTO: P1 Near the left-rising crack
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the first 20-25 ft of the P1 of the 1...
BETA PHOTO: Looking down the first 20-25 ft of the P1 of the 1...
Rock Climbing Photo: P4 - climbing the clean white slab near the end of...
BETA PHOTO: P4 - climbing the clean white slab near the end of...
Rock Climbing Photo: JS at the "nose", end of P2 of "A N...
BETA PHOTO: JS at the "nose", end of P2 of "A N...
Rock Climbing Photo: P5 - RW on the Start of P5. Flake and "singlt...
BETA PHOTO: P5 - RW on the Start of P5. Flake and "singlt...
Rock Climbing Photo: P8 - Start of P8 of "A Night Climb", and...
BETA PHOTO: P8 - Start of P8 of "A Night Climb", and...
Rock Climbing Photo: Alternate P8
BETA PHOTO: Alternate P8

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Comments on A Night Climb for Two Knights Add Comment
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By Robert Hall
From: North Conway, NH
Mar 2, 2017

There are better routes to do on Willard (eg: "Time Space", Across the Universe, but I have to admit that with the slab Variation(s) for P1, and with the replaced bolts on belays and P2, & 3 protection bolts (and on P4 if you continue as mentioned below) this is a very nice way to reach the Big Tree Ledge. Above that, to maintain the grade on good rock take either the Variation P8 or finish on Ground Control. The original P8 is probably presents unacceptable risk, even with the small red Blk Diamond TCU 20 ft below. Fall would be well over 60 ft with rope out, traverse rope, etc. Worse if the pivot-point-piton from 1966 pulls.

While the original P4 5.4 R/X traverse pitch is nice, even nicer is to continue on Star Trek for P4 and then do the Gamma Ray (5.5-5.6) variation [ or the Lost In Space (5.7+ R) variation] to the mid-cliff tree ledge; then walk right, down that ledge to pick up "Night Climb" at it's P5. In Jon Sykes' new guidebook (The NOTCHES, that's how he draws the route line, although the text is the line of FA.

As to "why no climbed", well as I said there are better routes, but also the 50-60 ft of "black band" on P2 has a bad reputation. It actually isn't bad by mountaineering standards, but can be freaky. You have to be able to distinguish the difference between what looks to be the easiest line and what's the safest line.

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