Rainbow Slabs Rock Climbing
BETA PHOTO: Rainbow Slabs with Key Climbs Marked, as Viewed fr...
Spring 2016 NOTICE - The logging around the old access trail seems to have finished for now. (They seem to be concentrating elsewhere) .
A "skidder" path has been cut in a zig-zag route that intercepts and cuts across the old approach path. The access description ("Getting There") below was updated Apr 19, 2016.
If you've driven up the Kancamagus from the Conway area, chances are you have seen Rainbow Slabs. The 200 - 250 feet of southeast-facing, water-streaked granite offers a selection of moderate (5.4 to 5.8+) friction climbing, some of which is reasonably protected, while some routes are seriously run-out.
While all climbs will have some run-out sections, and the climber is always responsible for making make his/her own decisions, the run-out section of the following climbs is usually two or three grades less than crux section, and the crux(es) have reasonable protection, either with gear or bolt(s) [Climbs listed generally in increasing order of difficulty]:
Dead Easy (5.1-5.2, gear)
Livin' Easy (5.4- 5.5, gear, 3 bolts)
Face Dances (5.6-5.6+, 2 bolts)
Tsunami (5.6, gear)
Perfect Wave (5.7, gear & 2 bolts)
Lucky Charms (5.7, gear) & Direct Variation (5.7+, 2 bolts )
Coloring Book (5.7, gear)
Road to Lhasa (5.7, gear)
Friday's Friend (5.7, gear: small & med nuts, 2 bolts )
Cruise Control (5.7+, 3 bolts, some gear )
B-Day Brushings (5.7+, gear, 1 bolt)
First Wave (5.8, with small & med. nuts for gear, 1 bolt)
More run out, or with run out sections only slightly less difficult than their cruxes, include:
Pillars of Dickulese (nominally given 5.6, but perhaps harder?)
Take a Giant Step (the 5.8+ crux(es) are well protected, but not the approach moves which are about 5.6-5.7)
GETTING THERE: The description in the Handren guide is a bit confusing, and it MAY, in fact, be the ancient route to the far south ("Left End") of the slab.
The usual approach is described well in Webster's Guide: If the river is high, (or cold!) walk (or bike) up the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail from Albany Covered Bridge parking. [This approach is now a "superhighway" due to logging.] At 0.8 mi. the logging road passes a open staging area. Stay left; at 0.9 mi the logging rd crosses a stream on a bridge and then bears left again. (Ignore the right-hand branch that goes uphill) The logging rd continues slightly downhill(the old ski trail branches left about 0.1-0.2 mi from the bridge, then rejoins the logging road just before the climber's path.)
At about 0.4-0.5 mi. from the bridge (1.3 - 1.4 from car) the logging road passes a large, flat boulder on the right [now "sporting" a cairn] and, shortly thereafter the old ski trail comes back in and immediately branches left at the "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign;[photo] Apr 19, 2016 Update: here the old path diverges to the right(cairn on a tree stump, green tape). SEE MAP/PHOTO
Follow the path up a (usually) dry stream bed. The path bears to the left after about 100 yds.
Continue on the path, passing through one area where the path has now been cleared through "slash", step over a large downed tree (with a cairn) and continue on about another 50 yards to a "skidder path" (rough logging road)
Turn right up the logging road (cairn, green tape). Follow for about 100 feet, turn left (at a cairn, also a tree branch down across skidder road) and regain the path.
In about 200 yards cross over a dry stream bed (old cairn) and continue to a second skidder/logging road. You should be able to see the cliff from here. Continue straight ahead on the logging road, in the direction of the cliff, following cairns on tree stumps. [photos]
After about 100 yards, look for an opening in the slash on the left (green & old orange flags, one cut tree ) to regain the path.
The above sounds complicated, but is easy to follow and should take no more than 10 minutes from the main logging road to this point.
Cross the (usually flowing) stream, and continue on the path which ends at the cliff, just left of Perfect Wave.
An alternate approach is to continue on the main logging road/superhighway about 400 feet further to a black, ugly, skidder road on the right. [As map shows you can cut off a few feet by diagonalling into the woods before the skidder road at a small cairn.] Take the skidder road upwards. Ignore any side roads to the right. After about 5 min. you'll come to the only major branch to the left. (Those familiar with the old path might notice that to the right is the "dry stream" and the cairn that marked where the old path crossed it.) You have now joined the old path, but because you've come up at a different angle from the old path, you'll be taking the skidder road to your left, towards the cliff. [photos] Follow the directions above, starting with "...following cairns on tree stumps".
If the Swift river is low, you can save quite a bit of walking by wading across. Historically, the usual place was 0.6 miles West of Lower Falls at a gravel pull out. [Also used for Crack-in-the-Woods.] Once across the river and back on the Nam--- Ski Trail, one must WALK BACK DOWN (i.e. downstream direction) ABOUT 0.3-0.4 MILES TO REACH THE NORMAL APPROACH PATH AS DESCRIBED ABOVE. This includes going over an old bridge; the climber's path is where the old Nam-- ski trail hits the new logging road. (Going into the woods too early is the problem people normally have.)
Another possible river crossing place is 0.2 mi. west of Lower Falls. Park (wheels off the road) in the EASTBOUND DIRECTION between a "CURVE"-sign and a "PEDESTRIAN /35MPH" sign. Cross the road, find a small sandy beach, and wade across the river. Your "target" is an orange, triangular rock on the other side. [photo] Exit the river on the downstream side of a large downed tree. The Nam--Trail is a few feet into the woods. Walk UPSTREAM on the NAM--Trail for 150 feet to a relatively "new" wooden bridge, thence 2 min to the "9KM/ 5.6Mi" sign, where the Nam-- trail meets the new logging road; here climber's path turns off. If the river is low enough to cross here, it takes me less than 20-25min. of hiking (plus 5 min or so to change out of wading shoes) to reach the cliff. You could also park at Lower Falls (fee or annual WMNF pass) and walk the 0.1-0.2 mi. up the Kanc. to reach this crossing.
Climbing Season For the WM: Kancamagus (Eastern) area.
Weather station 6.8 miles from here
42 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',1],['3 Stars',15],['2 Stars',14],['1 Star',8],['Bomb',4]
Classic Climbing Routes in Rainbow Slabs
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Rainbow Slabs
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Rainbow Slabs:
Featured Route For Rainbow Slabs
Dead Easy 5.1 2 6 II 7 MD 2a New Hampshire
: WM: Kancamagus (Eastern)
: ... : 3. The Mid Section
Four Stars !? No joke. I've climbed it 10 or 20 times now (From "launch Ledge", soloing to the trees to set up solo-top-ropes) and it continues to impress with the quality and timelessness. If P2 of this climb isn't the best "first Trad Lead" in the state (if not the Northeast), then I don't know what climb could be. According to Webster's guidebook, this is one of six (6 !) First Ascents made by Paul Ross and Tana Cathcart on Aug 7th 1973, the first exploration of Rainbow! Check out the hi...[more] Browse More Classics in New Hampshire
By Russ Keane
Jul 3, 2014
Holy moley, this is IMPOSSIBLE to find. We walked all over the place, in circles, all day, and never found it. How can that be? It was frustrating.
By john strand
From: southern colo
Jul 4, 2014
Did you start at Albany covered Bridge or cross the river ??
By Russ Keane
Jul 15, 2014
The river was too high to cross, so we parked at the Albany Bridge. I have the new Handren guide, and felt pretty comfortable that I followed all the directions: Find the intersection with the logging road, walk up a stream, etc). It was just so hard to see anything through the trees. We were very very close, I am sure. In fact we ended up finding one portion of the long crag up there, but I am not sure where it was.
Truly an elusive cliff.
By Robert Hall
From: North Conway, NH
Oct 1, 2014
The description above works, although the logging road has now been pushed through to where the path leaves the ski trail, but the km/mi sign is still there as of late Sept 2014 and the path to the cliff is still intact.
With the new road, consider biking in. Even with a climbing pack, my old knees and less-than-optimal-conditioning for biking it was 15 minutes in from Albany Bridge, and 9 minutes out, to the cairn at the start of the path. (i.e. the photo of 2 climbers by the new cairn.)
By Travis Dustin
From: Hollis, NH
Sep 8, 2015
Went out there this past weekend and found the hike in to be not that difficult. We found it with no issues. The river was low and we crossed at the sandy beach and went right into the woods and got to the bridge on the ski trail.