Slabtastic weekend in New Hampshire

The long Thanksgiving weekend has been for the second year in a row dedicated to New Hampshire climbing. Last year, we had a mini-epic at Whitehorse Ledge. This time around, we were going to get our revenge as well as climb our most committing climb yet; Lakeview at Cannon Cliff.

Day 1 – Arrival at Franconia Notch

Day 2 – Whitehorse Ledge

Day 3 – Cannon Cliff

Lakeview pitch by pitch impressions

Lakeview Beta

Day 1 – Arrival at Franconia Notch

We arrived at our campsite at about noon and immediately setup the tent fearing rain. The weather was on the cloudy side, so we preferred to play it safe and have everything setup in case the rain set in.

We had planned on doing some cragging to get a feel for Franconia Notch ratings, but with the weather what it was, we played it safe and just pretended to be tourists.

View of the notch

Riding the tramway up Cannon Mountain

It turned out to be a bit cloudy up there

Day 2 – Cannon Cliff … uh, no .. .Whitehorse Ledge – Standard Route

The night was a cold one. We got out of bed at about 8am and drove to Cannon Cliff to see if climbing the beast was in the cards for the day.

View of Cannon Cliff that morning ... those clouds aren't very reassuring

I’d read about the many weather related epics on Cannon. Best leave this climb for another day. Off to Whitehorse Ledge instead.

Last time around, we had needed about 8 hours to complete Standard Route and get back down (yes, yes. I know. We sucked). This time around, had it not been for the Lunch Ledge line up, we would have taken under half that. With experience of the route, and just better skills at the belays, we were both sitting on Lunch Ledge within 90 minutes. Because of the long lineup of groups waiting to do Standard, I opted for the direct 5.7 variation. William had some trouble, but all in all, a good choice.

The Launch Pad

At the P2 belay just below the arch. No pro between the Launch Pad and here.

Looking down from the P3 belay.

Looking down from Lunch Ledge

It was chilly once the sun set behind the cliff

Summit. This time, we had time to admire the view.

Day 3 – Cannon Cliff – Lakeview

This was the big day for us. Lakeview was my hidden goal for this year. I was building up to it by practicing slab and multi-pitch as much as I could.

Getting ready in the parking lot just before the climb

We got a late start because the temps were very cold. On the way up, we met another group who were heading up to Lakeview as well (hi Tim and Daizha :)). I let them know that I’d let them go first (Tim had already done the route) which ended up helping us finish the climb before dark (i.e.:  This way, I had no route finding to do on a route notorious for hard route finding). The approach was interesting to say the least 🙂

In the scree field below the cliff

View of the notch from the scree field

We finally got started at about 12:30 PM. We knew that this would give us 6 hours before dark.

Here we are working P1 (thanks to Tim for the picture)

Franconia Notch traffic seen from P2 belay - It's much calmer up here

Me at the top of P2

Looking down at P2

For the next few pitches, there aren’t any cool pictures. The route continues to traverse and we were moving pretty fast (by our standards). The last pitch was interesting and definitely picture worthy.

Waiting our turn below the last pitch

William pulling the À Cheval Flake

William in the Weissner corner

Me in the corner

One thing worth mentioning: Darkness was closing in fast when we hit the last pitch. I therefore asked Tim and Daizha if they’d mind us top-roping off their lead. They didn’t mind at all and it turned out to be much appreciated as when I topped out, it was pretty much dark. Again, I’ve heard of horror stories about asshole climbers, but I’ve yet to meet any. Tim and Daizha were a class act as are most of the people we meet out there (that may be related to the type of spots I climb at).

The flake was difficult. Tim and Daizha both got through by mounting it. William did it by hanging on the flake, moving right a bit, then pulling over. I got through it with the heel hook variation (something I possibly wouldn’t have done had I been on lead).

The descent was done in the dark but with our super hi-tech-space-age head lamps, there were no problems at all.

Descent in the dark

Lakeview – Pitch by pitch impressions

P1 : Interesting pitch. I’ve seen worse. I chose to move right next to the layback crack early on.

P2 : Great pitch with a great juggy crack. It’s not a difficult pitch but getting over to the second bulge can be a bit tricky (was a bit wet for us). This is the only place on the climb where I got a #4 in, but it wasn’t really necessary.

P3 : Great pitch as well. Run out, but on some slabby stuff, so if you’re good at friction (keep your butt high and your heels low), it won’t be a problem.

P4-5-6 : Not much to say here. Traversing over not very exciting terrain, but it needs to be done to get to the last 2 great pitches.

P6 : Slab climbing is finished. From here on, we go vertical, but not worries; there is a LOT of gear.

P7 : The move over the À Cheval Flake is classic! Unfortunately, I didn’t lead it, but it’s a great corner pitch with great stemming.

Descent: The descent is a bit long, but easy. Follow the water canal built to irrigate water away from the old man. This brings you to a very obvious trail all the way back to the parking lot. For those who want to do another climb, at a certain point on the descent, the trail forks back off towards the cliff instead of continuing North.

Overall, a great climb. The loose rock issues mentioned by everyone when they talk of Cannon if very real. I saw a half-man size boulder tumble down to the left of us. I also got clocked on the head by a small rock. Wear your helmets!

Anchor and gear beta

I’ve read other TR’s mentioning belays where there were pins or bolts. I didn’t see anything except for the pin at the beginning of the 5th pitch (to protect the crux). All our anchors were on gear. As far as what to bring, as always, I brought pretty much everything. I used up to a #4 C4 and down to a 00 TCU. The gear is plentiful all over the route, so don’t worry too much about it.