Cannon Rock Climbs
Todays climbing experience on Cannon was fantastic. Jerry and I arrived early and made plans to climb a few classic cracks along the base of the cliff. We could not have asked for better weather we climbed all day with blue skies, no wind, just wearing a t shirt. The rock was completely dry on all the routes we climbed and we viewed parties on Direct direct, Vertigo.
Enjoy it this week if you can!!!
View of the WG Ridge -The Big Wall section – Moby Grape area.
The crack climbing session started here with the roll 1.5 inch tape
Jerry cruising the steep 5.9 corner on Union Jack
Over the weekend there was plenty of active rock fall coming out of the Black Dike area. This was a new area of rubble between the Benedictus and Moby Grape rock climbs.
Large fractured blocks littered the base area here.
Slow and easy getting done!!!
Duet a Cannon Classic for sure – Yosemite style rock climbing in NH.
Awesome day – thanks Jerry.
The Man in the Mountain, or what remained of him, hung above me as I scraped my way up the climb. His absence reminded me of what many had said about the cliff: Cannon was an exfoliating onion periodically shedding its layers. I heard loose rocks in the near distance tumbling down, adding to the boulder field that stretched halfway to the bike path with rocks that previously comprised the cliff.
After pulling up to the ledge, completing the pitch, I rested my head against the rock and decided then and there that I was done. My climbing career was over. I quit.
Todd leading Pitch 1 Down east 2004
Unfortunately for me, I was only 150’ up a 1000’ climb. The physical retreat would not be so easy. There was no fixed anchor to use for a rappel. Ironically enough, the safest way off the cliff was up. My two partners stood below waiting for me to secure the rope and belay them up. I fiddled with some gear placements and clipped a fixed piton that I hoped was ok.
I quit several times more after that; I forget how many. The technical element of the climb was not the issue, for I had climbed “harder routes” with more challenging moves. The insecurity of grabbing a wobbling hold often rattled me, but today, the fear was especially strong. Though the fear dominated that day, I felt great satisfaction during sections of the climb when I had no choice but to push the fear aside and move from a secure position or off a ledge.
Todd on Pitch 2 – note the large rack of gear by his side!
We stood at the end of the final pitch and read the guidebook’s description: “Step left, face climb to a corner, then mantle to the top.” We had completed a mantle – pushing down with the palm of one’s hand like one would do when getting out of a pool – and looked up to see that we still had another few hundred feet of climbing above us. I cursed the author and wondered if this day would ever end.
Later, when we were safely hiking down, my friends teased me; in fact, they continue to tease me to this day. “When are we going back?” For years the question created uneasiness in my stomach, but it also reminded me of the physical and mental challenges I faced that day. Even though I wanted to retreat to the safety of the ground, I ventured upward until I reached the top. A few days later, we climbed at Crawford Notch on a route with the same technical grade; this time I took the crux pitch. Less affected by the difficulty of the moves and the sparseness of gear placements, I focused on the climbing, enjoyed the exposure, and savored the time with my friends.
Renowned climber and author John Long once wrote: An honest failure never haunts you because the body knows no shame. But if you let your mind defeat you, if you bail off because the “vibes” are weird and you let fear run away with itself, you have not truly failed, rather defaulted, and it will nag you like a tune till your dying day – or at least until you return and set things straight.
The passage struck a chord with me the moment I read it, and it has stayed with me to this day. It could be applied to so many climbing adventures, so many facets of life, in fact, but not “Down East.” This route was the exception: I would never want to climb it again. Then a few years back, I reflected upon my experience. I thought about the route and that day. I even wondered if I could lead the crux pitch. Though we did not “bail off,” and certainly not from a lack of wanting, I still hear that tune and want to “set things straight.”
In order to successfully climb the route, I will need more mileage on the rock so that I can regain the necessary strength and endurance. But unlike in previous years when the idea of climbing “Down East” scared me, I now look forward to the opportunity and the challenge…and to giving dear friends more fodder for laughter.
Sykes, Jon. Secrets of the Notch: A Guide to Rock and Ice Climbing on Cannon Cliff and the Crags of Franconia Notch. Huntington Graphics. 2001.
Long, John. Rock Jocks, Wall Rats, and Hang Dogs: Rock Climbing on the Edge of Reality. Fireside, 1994.
Todd Goodman MMG Guide
Friday was a rainy day, a very rainy day. Someone informed me that we received an inch of the stuff between 4pm and 5pm! I believe it because as I was in my kitchen cooking dinner on a camp stove in candlelight due to a power outage, I was amazed and appalled by the thunderous impact it had on the roof. “This is supposed to be Winter! What Gives?” Worried about the condition of The Black Dike on Cannon for the next day’s climb, I packed some extra rock gear in case we opted to make a Winter ascent of the Whitney Gilman Ridge instead.
Paul and I arrived at the base of the route before anybody else had. We heard the sound of moving water. In fact the rain had washed out good sized sections of ice. We decided to give it a shot and found it to be safe enough, though it was very drippy and candled. We moved fast on the route to prevent from getting too wet. All in all it was a fun day, but I was praying for colder temps to lock it up for more enjoyable climbing.
Saturday night dipped below freezing up in the hills and I new the previously flowing Black Dike would be in stellar condition. Based on the fact that the ice in the area has been rather lean, Paul and I chose to make another ascent of this magnificent route. True to our predictions, the climb was in awesome shape on that chilly Sunday morning. The snow that had been washed away was replaced but a fresh dusting. We weren’t the first ones there this time so we layered up and waited in the sun.
Thanks Paul for another great weekend together! Have fun in Ouray!
Matt Ritter – Mooney Mountain Guides
Alfonzo says it – get out there and see the conditions first hand. It would have been easier to stay at home today as rain, sleet, warm temps were expected. Matt and I decided late last night to go have a look. We found wintry conditions and some very fine ice and mixed climbing. See the photos of Matt on one of Cannons testpiece routes called Meanstreak. To add Matt chose a nice variation on the top. A route called Pilaf a seldom climbed 5.9 pitch.
Excellent day on the cliff with Matt Ritter.
“I have been addicted to winter climbing on Cannon Cliff for a few seasons now. The wallpaper on my laptop and desktop has gone back and forth between a photo from Freddie Wilkinson’s blog highlighting the winter routes Mean Streak, Omega, and Prozac, to more recently, a photo that Bayard Russell posted on his blog after establishing Daedalus with Elliot Gaddy and Minatour with Matt McCormick. Bayard’s photograph shows the full length winter routes gracing the central section of Cannon; The Quartet Ice Hose, Daedalus, Minotaur, Mahoney-Gaddy, Icarus, and The Ghost. These are all inspiring routes put up by inspiring climbers. The “Desktop Wallpaper Technique” is a scientifically proven method to keep the psyche high. It is something you see each day maybe multiple times a day. It is a reminder as you go sport climbing or crack climbing. It keeps one motivated through painful training sessions, and for me, more than anything else it gives me incentive to not give up. Weather I am on that specific climb or another, it helps me to get my mind into a certain zone of calm intensity somewhere between The Incredible Hulk and the Dali Lama. When I am scared and pumped on a mixed climb or a crack climb, sometimes the most nauseating thought is the possibility that I will fall and have to do it all over again. But if I have been looking at that photo for a year or two, I try hard, and sometimes it all comes together. It came together for me the other day. Art and I went out to look at Mean Streak, a tough mixed route first climbed by Will Mayo and Andy Tuthill in 2007. I have been looking at other people’s photos of the route and had wondered about an alternate 2nd pitch which I knew was a crack climb known as Pilaf. So after spending 2 hours piecing together the sustained first pitch I saw Pilaf up there encrusted in a bit of snow. Amidst the Scottish whiteout conditions, I couldn’t resist. We found a splitter crack in a steep smooth wall that would be at home in the middle of any classic Cannon rock climb. Above this we climbed two moderate pitches to the top. This kind of climbing requires a high level of mental and physical toughness. A hard mixed pitch can take one, two, or three hours to lead while the belayer, hopefully in a position where they aren’t being attacked by falling ice or rock, shivers to stay “warm.” If you aren’t totally psyched, it just isn’t going to happen, but for some folks it’s easy to be psyched for these sufferfests because, Holy Cow is the climbing fun!’ Matt Ritter MMG Guide
Matt – thank you for this awesome day on Cannon. Nice job leading those excellent pitches.
It was time to get out and see for myself. Alex and I went up into Franconia Notch to have a look at Cannon and Lafayette. There was only a dusting of snow to be found and conditions on the Cannon face are very dry. The Black Dike looked doable from the road as we could see a thin vein of ice from top to bottom.
Conditions were good on the first and third pitches – the second pitch had very little ice and it was unbonded and very brittle. What made it go was good rock protection in the cracks. Care needs to be taken as there is quite a bit of loose unbonded rock on the route due to the lack on snow and ice.
Dike looking ready to go from this talus spot.
Awesome ice conditions on the first pitch.
Alex topping out on the runnel pitch.
The rock traverse into the ice – loaded 3 pieces of fixed gear plus a hanging rope.
Photos from afar were taken by Peter Doucette who was climbing Fafnir. Thanks to Peter for sending my way.
All said Alex and I had a great first day on the ice. The season has begun.
Whitney Gilman Ridge NH.
Looking down the steep 5.8 variation.
MMG Guide Stephen on Cannon.
Wild exposure on the top pitch of the route.
Thank you Dan for a really great adventure .
This day on Cannon was different. I was being guided with Ken by MMG Guide Matt Ritter. You see Matt is getting prepped for his Rock Instructor Exam and he is looking for mileage on a variety of routes. Ken and I teamed up for a two to one ratio on a Cannon Classic – The Whitney Gilman Ridge.
In this role I was able to take a few different photos from below. What a great day, the team, the weather and no crowds. As you can see Cannon is a great place to be during the fall climbing season.
Suns out guns out.
Pitch One the Whitney Gilman.
Ken enjoying Cannon the alpine playground.
The crux pitch.
Cannon one of my favorite climbing areas for sure.
Thanks to Ken and Matt for a great day.
One of the best parts of my job is that guiding folks up iconic routes such as Cannon’s Moby Grape is like a granite time machine. It takes me straight back to my own first forays up New Hampshire’s most imposing hunk of stone, now more than 20 years and many hundreds of pitches in the past. Through the eyes of our guests, I get to experience the thrill of these early ascents all over again, which is a real gift. It’s all a new and grand adventure to them, and I’m fortunate enough to be a part of it. How cool is that? This past weekend, I shared ropes with father / daughter team Steve and Bridget. It was a stellar trip up the Grape, and brought me right back to my roots as a New England climber.
Here they are, psyched to be over the infamous Finger of Fate pitch. By this point in the route (4 pitches up) we’d left the parties below us well behind and enjoyed a nice break and some lunch on this spacious ledge. It was hot, but a pleasant breeze made it very enjoyable.
Bridget cruising the classic dihedral of the Kurt’s Corner finish. This aesthetic left facing corner adds another clean 5.7 pitch with thrilling position to an already fine route.
Thanks for letting me be a part of the adventure, Steve and Bridget. I had a blast. Hope to see you both on the rock again soon!
Derek Doucet, MMG