Submitted by: Magdalen Normandeau
Date: August 16, 2002
Route(s): Three Birches & Upper Refuse
Place: Cathedral Ledge, NH
I've been here less than a week and already I've been out playing on
the "local" rock! Yay!
Today I went climbing at Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire, near the
town of North Conway. Before leaving the Bay Area I had contacted a local
climber to inquire about crags, conditions etc, and he kindly invited me to join
them for an outing once I got here.
I had to get up fairly early (but Chris and Chris have given me lots
of practice at that this season!) to meet Jeff and Glen at the Park &
Ride off exit 5 of I95 at 7:00. I was only 10 minutes late, which isn't bad for
someone who doesn't yet know her way around all that well. We grabbed gear,
climbed into Glen's jeep and headed for the next state over where they "Live
Free or Die" (scary...). It was a nice drive through lots of wooded areas,
going by several ponds and marshes, and a few cemeteries.
The approach to the climbs once you've parked off the side of the road
is very short and comfortably done in Tevas so no lugging boots or shoes this
time. The climb that my local companions had in mind was already quite busy,
with a party waiting and one just getting going, so we switched over to the
unoccupied Three Birches route to be followed by Upper Refuse above it.
Three Birches is a two pitch 5.8 that starts along an arch (sort of
like a mirror image of Jelly Roll Arch at Donner) then follows some cracks
up. Glen lead the first pitch, resting now and then to collect his thoughts,
then Jeff followed dragging a rope behind him for me. The rock is granite but
very different from Yosemite granite and even more so from Joshua Tree
granite. It's fairly worn, smooth, and has some lichen and moss on it. This is a bit
disconcerting for someone who has gotten used to trusting her feet on
Tuolumne slabs (Chris W, of course you wouldn't notice as you don't trust your
feet anyway!). I struggled a bit at the start of the first pitch, of
course, as there was a big piece of rock over my head which is never a good thing
(kind of like on Commitment in the valley). Bleh. Once past that though, it was
Jeff lead the second pitch of Three Birches and all of Upper Refuse
which is a few pitches of 5.5 and lower, a classic of the area. Some finger
cracks but mostly hand cracks.
Interesting how different regions have different habits. For instance,
Jeff and Glen didn't put quickdraws on the pro they placed, they clipped the
rope directly to it. A side effect of this is that they have one 'biner for
every piece of gear and they carry the gear on their harness rather than on
a gear sling with draws on their harness. I think I'll keep using draws
though, even if the gear sling does get annoying sometimes.
At the base of Upper Refuse we had a special treat. A threesome was
having lunch before starting up and it included the grand old man of climbing
in this area. Very nice gentleman. Sixty-seven years old now and still at it.
This would be a much better story if I could remember his name of course...
At the top of the climb, fame and glory awaited! There's a tourist
look-out and I was captured on home-video as I appeared over the edge. Various
people asked interested question, though two little boys wanted me to jump off the
edge while tied in, use the rope like a bungee cord... "Come here, little
boy. Why don't I let you try it first?..."
The walk-off was down a road. Very odd. And in daylight! Very, very
odd. It was only 2 something in the afternoon. We headed back to Maine after this,
with a stop at a local climbing store (good gear stores in North Conway).
This will take some getting used to, not climbing until dark! Glen's leftover
energy buzz from the climb earned him a speeding ticket, unfortunately, but it
doesn't seem to have ruined anyone's day.
It was fun to get out to sample the local rock. Good views of the
adjacent valley with lots of deciduous trees and an inviting looking lake (it's
been very hot and humid here of late. I'm told that swimming in standard
CHAOS swimwear would not be acceptable here though). Very nice of Glen and
Jeff to take along a stranger and a third person at that.