This Labor Day weekend, my wife and I were looking for a nice moderate climb away from the crowds at Rumney, Cathedral, and Whitehorse. We decided on Endeavor, a classic 5.7+ route at White’s Ledge in Bartlett. I had first heard of the route more than ten years ago and wanted to climb it but never made it out there.
While the beginning of the trail seemed a little perplexing, we followed our instinct and realized quickly we were on the right track. The short hike and approach through the boulder field warmed us up this cool morning, and before we knew it, we were at the base. No other parties had arrived yet.
The first look at White’s Ledge after exiting the boulder field.
The first few pitches went smoothly as we encountered some technical sections and beautiful exposure. Taking our time, we chose not to link any of the pitches, though it would have been possible. The fourth pitch (5.6) was a little “spicy,” and challenging to find gear in some places, but the half of the crack that continued on to the next pitch was superb: solid jams, good gear, and footholds outside the crack in case your feet hurt too much from being in climbing shoes all day. We enjoyed the view from the top and set up our rappel.
At the rappel station at the top. You can see the Saco River in background.
About ten feet from the rappel station – close enough to see your partner and communicate clearly but far enough to be truly on your own – I stepped on a large rock that shifted slightly and came loose. I stuck my foot out to try and stop it. Before I realized what was truly happening, I saw that the rock rested on my right foot. I held it in place and yelled rock to the party below me. A small stone fell toward the woman at the anchor, which was right below me. I told her there was a huge rock still loose as I carefully bent down and steadied the rock with my hand before picking it up with my right hand. Though I was aware at the time that I had wisely backed up my rappel with an auto block, a practice I employ regularly when rappelling without a fireman’s backup, in retrospect, I am even more thankful for taking the extra two minutes to do so.
Gripping the rock tightly to my chest, I told her we were still not entirely safe. She informed me that there was at least another party below her at the base. I eventually managed to finagle the rock in my backpack (my wife’s suggestion) and rappelled down with the extra weight.
I hope the photo gives a sense of the rock’s size.
We made it down safely, warning everyone we encountered about the precarious section right below the rappel and made our way back to the car and then home. Despite the scare at the end, I would highly recommend Endeavor, a nice, long classic route with moderate climbing with a fairly short approach and less crowded than the popular crags.
I expect the views are even more spectacular once the leaves change.