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7. The Slabs
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Unsorted Routes:

Standard Route 

YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a R

Type:  Trad, 9 pitches, 1100'
Original:  YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a R [details]
FA: Lower Route:Robert Underhill, Herbert Towle, John Holden, Spring 1928 FFA "brown spot/boilerplate" by Leland Pollock July 1932
Page Views: 35,747
Submitted By: Guy H. on Jan 18, 2007

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Mike leading in some spooky fog that cleared about...


Updated and History added by R Hall Sept 2017, with permission of the original submitter.

This route may rival the 3rd Flatiron as the best easy multi pitch climb in the states. Although the climbing is relatively easy, there are huge runouts (30-50ft) and few features.

The description below is the way the route is usually done today. The "Alternate" is actually the route of first ascent.

P1 (5.0R 100ft) Scramble up to the Launch Pad.

P2 (5.1R 110ft) Angle up and right past a few flakes and belay at the Toilet Bowl. (This was once filled with dirt and vegetation.)

P3 (5.2R 150ft) Head straight up past two bolts and a flake mid pitch. Belay on a ledge with large crystals.

P4 (5.3R 100ft) Head straight up passing a few cool pockets. (tricams) Belay in the underlapping crack at a thread anchor.

P5 (5.4 130ft) Follow the arching crack, pull the through at an intersecting arch (~60ft) and belay on a ledge. (Lunch Ledge)

P6 (5.5 PG-13 120ft) Head straight right and down a bit, past 2 bolts. ("brown Spot" and "boilerplate", crux), head up left on the arching ramp, [ for a Variation, see Alt P6"] pull through at a crack system and belay on gear.

Variation P6 (5.7 PG 120ft, P4 of Slabs Direct) A better pitch heads up and left, then steps back right past a bolt (crux) and up, to end at the same location as P6. (A full description of this pitch is given in Slabs Direct.)

P7 (5.2R 80ft) Head up and left and belay on a ledge.

P8 (5.2R 120ft) Continue up on a dike passing an overlap, and belay on a ledge.

P9 (5.2R 150ft) More runout in the dike, passing one bolt, to the top.

"Alternate" Pitches: Alt P3, 4 and 5 is actually the original route.

"Alt" P3 - From the Toilet Bowl, head up and left to the base of the arch. 140 ft 5.3 R NOTE: I believe the base of the arch can be reached in one 70 meter-long (maybe even 60m??), rope-stretching-maybe-simul-climbing-for-a-bit pitch directly from the Launch Pad with nearly zero protection.

"Alt" P4 - Follow the arch up (either layback or climb the face just right) to an awkward gear belay at a small "step". 140-150 ft 5.4 Try to avoid the tempation the run P4 and P5 together.

"Alt" P5 - Continue up the arch to the Thread anchor (end of P4 above.) 100 ft 5.3-5.4

>>> Follow the arch and up to Lunch Ledge as per P5 on the "usual" route.

The following pitches may be the original route, or may be variations.

"Alt/variation" P6 - Once on the ramp above the brown spot/boilerplate, follow the ramp only about 1/2 way (30-40 ft, not as far as the 5.5 corner) and make a difficult mantel at an ancient bolt; then up an easy dike to the trees. 5.6R +/- 130+/- ft

Alt P7 - Go up a shallow corner, over an "almost overlap" on a steep bit of slab (5.5 +/-) and then climb up on a left diagonal to the far left end of a large overlap, turn its left side and belay in a tree.160 +/-ft 5.5, 5.3R

Alt P8 (& P9) - Step left and join the same final dike as regular P8&9 to the top. Most people simul-climb after clipping the bolt. 250 +/-ft (80meters) 5.2R

Descent: Head to your right across the flat top of the slab, and find a wandering path that quickly (2-3 min.) intercepts the official hiking trail (yellow blazes). Take this down in the direction of Cathedral Ledge (north), passing the hiker's turn off to Cathedral Ledge. Once "down" take a right back towards the base. It is possible to rap the route with two ropes, if it starts to rain.

History: In the spring of 1928 Underhill, Towle and Holden climbed to the top of the arch [the Std Route followed the arch until the "quartz pocket" variation became standard sometime in the 1990's.]. There they were met with a thunderstorm which forced their retreat down the slabs with one rope (probably 100 or 120 ft long, perhaps as short as 60ft, as was custom for the day) for the three of them. This they succeeded in doing, although at one point Holden had to "tackle" Underhill who was "slip-sliding-away".

In Oct 1929, feeling thwarted, the "dynamic duo" of Underhill and Henderson (most probably the strongest rope team in the western hemisphere at the time) hiked to the top and negotiated their way down to the trees above the "brown spot / boilerplate". Here they dropped a rope and left it in place.

The rope was used to "assist" (as in "A-0") all ascents until Leland Pollock (one of the stronger rock climbers in the northeast) lead the moves free in 1932. [ps Vibram rubber was invented in 1937, and didn't come to the US until after World War II.]

The brown spot/boiler plate was lead without bolts for more than 50 years until well into the 1980's or 90's. (I don't know the exact time the bolts were added.) Prior to the bolts being added, a piton far behind you, and actually lower than the climber, was the only "protection". The potential for a 20+ft fall, followed by a 20ft pendulum was very real.


Light SR, including some small tricams

Photos of Standard Route Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Rainbow and foliage!
Rainbow and foliage!
Rock Climbing Photo: Simul climbing the slabs with the wife...
Simul climbing the slabs with the wife...
Rock Climbing Photo: Following the crux
Following the crux
Rock Climbing Photo: Me in the toilet bowl. Photo by Loran Smith
Me in the toilet bowl. Photo by Loran Smith
Rock Climbing Photo: Overview of Standard Route done with the 'Quartz P...
BETA PHOTO: Overview of Standard Route done with the 'Quartz P...
Rock Climbing Photo: Dave Trumper starting the crux traverse photo take...
Dave Trumper starting the crux traverse photo take...
Rock Climbing Photo: be prepared to run it out on easy slab
be prepared to run it out on easy slab
Rock Climbing Photo: View of the right side sitting on lunch ledge
View of the right side sitting on lunch ledge
Rock Climbing Photo: dave at the top of the arch (looking up from the t...
dave at the top of the arch (looking up from the t...
Rock Climbing Photo: One of the weird holes in which tricams really do ...
One of the weird holes in which tricams really do ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Beautiful view!
Beautiful view!
Rock Climbing Photo: Me on lunch rock with the real beauty behind me!
Me on lunch rock with the real beauty behind me!
Rock Climbing Photo: Panorama from lunch rocks! Beauty!
Panorama from lunch rocks! Beauty!
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbing direct from the launch pad to the base of...
BETA PHOTO: Climbing direct from the launch pad to the base of...
Rock Climbing Photo: We chose to belay just after the traverse from gea...
We chose to belay just after the traverse from gea...
Rock Climbing Photo: looking up from the lunch ledge
looking up from the lunch ledge
Rock Climbing Photo: ben on the crux pitch
ben on the crux pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on the crux pitch (5.7 Direct).
Climbers on the crux pitch (5.7 Direct).
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the arch on Standard Route from "...
BETA PHOTO: Looking down the arch on Standard Route from "...
Rock Climbing Photo: Dave Trumper leading up from the Quartz Pocket on ...
Dave Trumper leading up from the Quartz Pocket on ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Endless slab as seen from the Launch Pad
Endless slab as seen from the Launch Pad
Rock Climbing Photo: My wife having fun on STD Route
My wife having fun on STD Route
Rock Climbing Photo: Midway on Pitch 2
Midway on Pitch 2
Rock Climbing Photo: Hanging at the belay
Hanging at the belay

Show All 28 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Standard Route Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Nov 13, 2016
By Guy H.
From: Fort Collins CO
Jan 19, 2007

Here is another description of the climb:

[ NOTE: When I tried this link in 2017 "no page was found". R Hall NH Admin. ]
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 12, 2008

Fun route! The most memorable part was getting munched by black flies, though. Those buggers are nasty!
By Adam Wilcox
From: Candia, NH
May 3, 2009

The single bolt on the last pitch is missing its nut and hanger.
By Larry S
From: Easton, Pennsylvania
Jul 7, 2010

A great intro to easy slabs. We did the whole arch rather than the quartz pocket variation, ample pro in the arch, but it can be a little mossy in spots. Experienced horrific rope drag on the crux pitch above the lunch ledge even with long runners, route seems to wander back and forth alot here. Doubles would be helpful for just that pitch. The 3 pitches following dikes to the top are like stairs.

Edit - Two and a half years later, I realize went off-route above the lunch ledge and did Slabs Direct - 5.7. This explains my rope drag problem.
By Barrett Stetson
Oct 4, 2010

Very fun, did the Quartz pocket and Direct variations. The biggest problem on the Direct variation is keeping the rope out of the crack after climbing up past the pin (or bolt? don't remember). It was a struggle getting it out and trying to add a redirect to keep it going back in again. I read somewhere that someone had better luck slotting a nut there just to keep it out, but that's also the nicest handhold too. Still some rope drag too, even doing the Direct variation.

The single bolt was there on the dike near the top, we ended up needing to belay at it. Although the dike is like climbing mini stairs, it was a little sketchy because there was runoff water right down the middle making it a tad slippery (there was heavy rain 2 days prior) and there is no protection for a long run out up there (maybe 100 ft?).
By lee hansche
From: goffstown, nh
Jul 1, 2011

i had soooooo much fun with my dad last week simulclimbing standard route... we were just trying to keep moving, not shooting for time but we did it in 19 minutes which i thought was pretty cool considering that the first time we did it years ago it was probably like 5 hrs :)
By Mike Robinson
From: Worcester, MA
Jul 11, 2011

I'd vote this over The 3rd Flatiron. This route has better climbing for more pitches. The backdrop during New England Autumn is more impressive but you do get a stronger sense of exposure from The 3rd.
By Steve Moulding
From: New York
Jun 10, 2012

My first ever multi-pitch lead back in June 1988.
No cams back then. I recall tricams being helpful down low (little pockets where nothing else fit) and I remember the top-out pitches being completely run out. Wouldn't like to do it in the rain.
Great situation, great route!
By Robert Hall
From: North Conway, NH
May 13, 2014
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13

I think the Std. Route is significantly harder than the 3rd maybe 2 or 3 grades: 5.5-5.6 vs 5.3-5.4 The moves at the crux are pretty daunting for a 5.5 leader, especially if not familiar with friction. A closer approximation, difficulty and commitment-wise, would be Red Rocks' Cat in the Hat.
The rock on Whitehorse is a lot more polished (especially the at the crux 'brown-spot & boilerplate'), and gets even more so with a little rain. [I've seen 5.10 leaders turned back by the first 30 feet of normally 5.0 when it was "wet-lichen-slab".
By Ryan Entwistle
From: Vallejo, CA
Aug 19, 2014

I was leading and managed to just barely link-tegether pitches 4 & 5 with a pair of 70m Twin/Double ropes used in Twin technique/configuration (2 people following), but will work the same with a 70m single. While it is "possible" I wouldn't overly recommend it to others unless you are climbing well below your ability level and maybe only if you have done the route before, as you can only clip a few pieces over the entire 230ish feet of climbing and it requires slings on those few pieces including a huge (8ft) one on what is normally the thread-belay anchor at the top of Pitch 4 so the rope can almost run in a straight line. I figured the worst that would happen is I would have to set a gear anchor a bit before the bolts at the tree area instead, but after I slung the tree I removed the previous piece that was keeping the rope from running straight and was able to make it to the regular bolts.

This does allow you to skip the non-ledge sloping belay at the top of Pitch 4, but again, use your own judgement and tie in at the ends without wasting rope.
By Molly Zhu
Oct 19, 2015

Watch the weather...It's very important.

We climbed this route last Saturday while weather forecast was "cloudy". We were about to climb pitch 6 when a dark cloud passed by and it rained/snowed for like 5-10 min. Then all friction was gone. This R rated route immediately became a horror movie...
By ChrisN
From: Morro Bay, CA
Nov 4, 2015

The 5.7 variation of the crux pitch is the way to go if you're comfortable on 5.7 slab. Be careful with rope drag on the pitch though, if you want to make it to the tree belay with a single rope you'll likely have to run it out a bit (ie only clip the fixed protection) or downclimb to unclip from gear. I found the crux moves (between the piton and the bolt) to be quite slippery as well. Watch your feet. The rock seems to be quite polished up there when compared to the rest of Whitehorse. My foot unexpectedly blew off while grabbing a draw to clip the bolt, pitching me off and down onto the ramp below.
By Sam Fox
From: Burlington, VT
Nov 13, 2016

My buddy Dylan and I simu-climb different lines on whitehorse in approach shoes whenever we're in the North Conway area. The .7 variation is so much easier and less sketchy than the 'brown spot' variation. Just my .2

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