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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:08 pm 
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UW Climber
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Joined: Wed Jun 21, 2006 2:09 pm
Posts: 37
Location: Bar Harbor, ME
I finally got to climb my first east coast classic :D! All last week I was at the Gordon Research Conference for Gametogenesis and Embryogenesis at the Waterville Valley Resort in NH. My boss (climbing veteran of 30 somewhat years and having climbed all over the world) was itching at the close proximity of Cannon Mountain, and at the last second suggested I bring my climbing gear...just in case. Monday night the forecast looked promising, so we headed out at 6:00AM Tuesday for a pseudo-alpine start. Once reaching Franconia we stopped to buy 4 liters of water (the day promised to be hot and I can't sweat) and a bagel sandwich breakfast before heading out to the mountain.

Early morning at the Waterville Valley Resort.
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"And now for something completely different"
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On the way, my boss tells about how the last time he had been climbing at Cannon Mountain was 25 years ago, when he and his climbing partner had to do an unplanned bivy on Moby Grape in October :shock: . Relying on a guide book from the 1970s, we pulled into the Boise Rock parking lot, and then crossed I-93 with all our gear. After a little searching, we found a little foot bridge mentioned in the guide book, and started following the trail. By the time we found a climber's trail we were all the way towards the north end of the cliff face. We then diagonally ascended the boulder field and topped out towards the base of Moby Grape. We figured we wouldn't have time to do that climb, where I had to be back by 4:00PM to present a poster, so we continued on along the base of the cliff to the Whitney Gilman ridge. I then filled up a water bottle with water from the falls for wetting my T-shirt, while Bob, my boss, prepared all the gear. To save time, we figured Bob would lead all of the pitches and I would carry up all the gear, leaving my backpack and some pro behind to be picked up on the way down.

Early morning view from the base of the Whitney Gilman Ridge.
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Looking up at the first pitch.
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When we started climbing, there was already a pair of climbers on an alternate start to the climb, so we stuck with the original 5.4 first pitch. Bob made quick work of the pitch, and managed to send only few rocks whizzing by his poor belayer down below, and then I followed with the pack. We were first to the belay ledge and offered to let the other pair climb through, however they were kind enough to let us stay in front, and so Bob continued up the second pitch, and I followed in quick order.

Hanging out on the giant belay ledge at the start of the "Pipe pitch".
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Bob clearly in his element.
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Bob then scrambled up the third pitch, exclaiming about the amazing view on the way. Once it was my turn to climb, I knew this was supposed to be the toughest pitch, but little did I know the psychological challenge I was about to encounter. The crux on the pipe pitch is a big move off of a flaring hand jam, but still a completely 5.7 effort. However, the move is hanging over a 300' drop down to the boulder field below. The combination of exposure and hanging onto a damp flaring hand-jam were fun enough, however I was also wearing a frame pack that didn't allow me to look upwards. Therefore, I had to keep pulling up on the hand jam and blindly feel around for the next hand hold. When I finally felt what resembled another hold, I held on tight and carefully worked my way up and over the lip, while trying to make sure the pack didn't catch on anything and knock me off. By the time I got to the third belay ledge I was a bit sketched out, from the combination of the completely new experience of exposed climbing and climbing with a frame pack.

Starting up the exposed third pitch
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Nearing the top of the third pitch
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After catching my breath from the adventurous third pitch, Bob climbed the fourth pitch and I followed with no problems. I guess the problem with exposure happens only on your first encounter with it, and after that one can dial in again and focus on the climbing.

Enjoying the valley views form the belay ledge for the fourth pitch
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After flawlessly powering up the climb, the fifth and last pitch finally showed that Bob was human. After leading out and having to rely on crappy pro placements (such as a cam on loose blocks) he got in a bomber nut placement, but then got stuck at the crux. He paced back and forth along the steeply inclined ledge for a good five minutes or so trying to find the best way to get to the next pin. Finally, he committed to a series of pumpy unprotected moves before finally being able to clip the pin at arm's length. I followed and found an easier solution to the crux that involved stemming up to a solid hold, and then pulling up past the pin.

Looking up the fifth and final pitch
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Enjoying a little exposure on the belay ledge
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Some wildflowers hanging on at the start of the fifth pitch
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Once at the top, we sat down and enjoyed some Power Bars and posed for summit photos before heading down. I got to pose by the cliff, but Bob informed me not to step backwards because he still needed me to finish my thesis. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my sneakers at the base of the climb, and so I had to hike down off the mountain in my climbing shoes (natural consequences I guess).

Bob packing away the gear
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Me posing by the cliff
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After hiking down the climber's trail for a ways, we both started figuring we should have come out onto the boulder field by now. I had begun to over-heat, so while I cooled down, Bob went on ahead to figure things out. After about a minute after he had left, I looked over to the side of the trail and realized that we were just 20' from the boulder field. After waiting for Bob to return, we trekked out onto the boulder field, only to appreciate that we were already most of the way back down the mountain, and would have to climb back up the boulder field to get our stuff. After berating ourselves for not having just brought all of our stuff up with us, we ventured out onto the boulder field and into the hot midday sun.

Heading out across the boulder field
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About half-way back to the base of the Whitney Gilman ridge, Bob had the insight that it was pretty doofy for both of us to carry all the gear back up to the ridge and then back down to the car, so he gave me the rope he was carrying, and I carried the gear and the rope back down to the car, while he headed on up to the base of the climb unencumbered. Rather than trying to find the trail (especially considering I was now hiking with about 50 pounds of gear wearing rock climbing shoes), I just made a beeline for the car. After taking a few breaks to cool back down while descending the boulder field, I was back below tree line, and made quick order of plowing towards the woods. I'd like to think that years of bushwhacking experience is what allowed me to emerge from the woods directly opposite of the Boise Rock parking area. After nervously making my way across I-93, I snapped a few last photos and chatted with a Quebecois couple who were parked nearby before resting in the car waiting for Bob. Just a half hour later Bob finally emerged, having decided to try and take the trail down before realizing that bushwhacking would be much faster.

Looking back at the Whitney Gilman while cooling off in the shade of a boulder
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Bushwhacking through the woods
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One last parting shot of Cannon Mountain from the Boise Rock parking lot
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After quite happily putting my sneakers back on (I'll never take sneakers for granted again), we drove back to Waterville Valley and made it back just in time to change and present my poster. Between people inquiring about my poster, I feasted on egg rolls which was all the food they had available for the poster session. All in all, we had a wonderful time on my first true rock climbing experience (other than the fact that I shirked leads for the sake of time).


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:10 pm 
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The Pub Czar
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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:38 am
Posts: 698
Location: too far from a pint.
ARGH NO PHOTOS OF FRANCONIA RIDGE? HOW COULD YOU???

i mean...
looks like you had a good time!

_________________
good judgment comes from experience;
experience comes from bad judgment.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 3:21 pm 
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UW Climber

Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 3:15 am
Posts: 129
Whitney Gilman Ridge 5.7 is quite the adventure route! I had already done several harder lines at Cannon Mt so when I encountered the "pipe" pitch and then the crux higher up, I was a little surprised how this line was not merely a stroll. I too walked back and forth below that crux, looking at the pin. That exfoliatating granite mountain is described somewhere as "layers of an onion" and that intriguing granite outcropping at the top of the face, referred to as The Old Man fell down not too long ago; glad I could see his profile before nature took him away. New Hampshire license plates feature The Old Man in profile and now, every such plate is a memorial :)

You walked off in climbing shoes? Tough.

Next time get on Sam's Swan Song and then Reppy's Crack to Moby Grape. Each is worth the 6 hour drive from where you're at. To think if I could drive 6 hours from Seattle and be at such magnificent alpine routes (never mind the exfoliation) up to 8 pitches in length with a trivial approach......


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