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VMC Direct Direct 

YDS: 5.10+ French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 20 British: E3 5b

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 9 pitches, 800', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.10+ French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 20 British: E3 5b [details]
FA: Steve Arsenault and Sam Streibert (Jeff Burns and Hans Larsen FFA)
Season: summer/fall
Page Views: 26,982
Submitted By: andrew kulmatiski on Sep 18, 2007

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (62)
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BETA PHOTO: VMC Direct Direct from the ground.


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.


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.


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.

Photos of VMC Direct Direct Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on the Big Wall of Cannon Cliff - view fr...
Climbers on the Big Wall of Cannon Cliff - view fr...
Rock Climbing Photo: VMC pitch 4
VMC pitch 4
Rock Climbing Photo: VMC DD
Rock Climbing Photo: P.Ross on The VMC Direct 1971
P.Ross on The VMC Direct 1971
Rock Climbing Photo: top of p5
top of p5
Rock Climbing Photo: VMC pitch 4
VMC pitch 4
Rock Climbing Photo: yann gauthier on pitch 3
yann gauthier on pitch 3
Rock Climbing Photo: p2 crux
p2 crux
Rock Climbing Photo: p2 crux
p2 crux
Rock Climbing Photo: End of 3rd pitch. Photo by Converse Fields.
End of 3rd pitch. Photo by Converse Fields.
Rock Climbing Photo: Third pitch dihedral after all the funkiness. Phot...
Third pitch dihedral after all the funkiness. Phot...

Comments on VMC Direct Direct Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 13, 2016
By paulmadry
Aug 17, 2009
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b 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
By Joe Vitti
Aug 19, 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.
By J. Nickel
Sep 14, 2009

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.
By christopher adams
Feb 26, 2010
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

Pitch 5 is hard.
By paulmadry
Jul 9, 2010
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b 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.
By Sean Kurnas
May 10, 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)
By Rich Brereton
From: Pownal, ME
Sep 29, 2012
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b

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.
By john strand
From: southern colo
Sep 30, 2012

Rich-- your ready for Lab Wall direct finish.....
By RBeers
Aug 4, 2013
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b

A classic NH sandbag
By Will Stat
Oct 20, 2013
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

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!
By stephen arsenault
Oct 24, 2013


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.
From: Keswick Cumbria.UK
Nov 16, 2013

Good lad Steve .. Pleased your still at it ..
By Will Stat
Dec 19, 2013
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b

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!
By patrick donahue
From: Gunnison, Colorado
Mar 6, 2014

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.
By Glenn Cilley
From: Laconia, NH
Mar 8, 2014

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!
By stephen arsenault
Nov 23, 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.
By Kristian Starheim
From: Trondheim, Norway
Dec 6, 2014

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.
By Peter Lewis
From: Bridgton, Maine
Jan 14, 2015

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!
By Kristian Starheim
From: Trondheim, Norway
Mar 22, 2015

Thanks for that, Peter! I guess I'll just have to practise on other Cannon-routes just to get that granite-flake feeling :-)
By scott rourke
Jun 21, 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.
By Kristian Starheim
From: Trondheim, Norway
Jul 27, 2015

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.
By john strand
From: southern colo
Jul 27, 2015

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 ?
By Kristian Starheim
From: Trondheim, Norway
Jul 29, 2015

The pitch before the cow's mouth.
By Adam Pecan
From: Moab, UT
Aug 19, 2015

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.
By Lucas
From: Asheville, NC
Aug 25, 2015
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c

If you haven't seen this gigapan image of Cannon Cliff's very cool. Crazy how far you can zoom in on the routes.
Credit:Jim Surette
By paulmadry
Aug 31, 2015
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b 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?
By Lucas
From: Asheville, NC
Sep 2, 2015
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c

It climbs out the undercling/roof crack on the right, no bolts. That's the way that we went anyway.....short and stout.
By James Otey
From: NH
Sep 27, 2015
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b

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.
By Lucas
From: Asheville, NC
Sep 28, 2015
rating: 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c

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
From: Medford
Jul 7, 2016

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)
By Mike O'Mara
Sep 27, 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.
From: Boston, MA
Oct 13, 2016

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!

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