Trip Report
Whitehorse and Cathedral Ledges - 1979
Sunday January 17, 2010 1:41pm
Trip Report - September 21, 1979
New Hampshire Rock Climbing

Ed Hartouni, Mike, Richie, and Bill...

Perhaps the first climbing trip/photos that I have were taken on this trip from New York to New Hampshire to climb at Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges. I'm not sure I recall all the details. They lived in New York City, while I had moved to Tarrytown, up the Hudson River north of the city that year. However we arranged to meet, we had a 360+ mile drive up to North Conway.

I'm guessing we drove up as early as possible on Friday 9/21. We were in my 1961 split window VW bus, California license plate, gold on brown, ZOT580. Here we are at a pit stop along the way

That's Mike, Richie and Bill, left-to-right.

[these negatives are Kodak Kodacolor II which are not in the greatest of shape... there are a lot of artifacts, fading, etc... the camera was a Kodak Signet 35 Camera, with a Kodak Ektar Lens, 44mm f3.5 which Debbie's sister gave to us]

We setup camp somewhere outside of North Conway, but i don't recall where, it seems to have been a real campground as we have a picnic table...

I'm pretty sure that Mike and Bill slept in the tent, Richie in the yellow tube tent and I slept in the bus.

While both Mike and I had climbed and camped as kids, I'm not sure that either Bill or Richie ever had... perhaps there was some skepticism that food could be cooked on a Bluet stove?

Getting organized for the climb... Mike is wearing classic trousers, revealing his patches as he leans into the van to sort gear

We motor out to the crag, it is a bit different today I know...
Richie finds some friends tied up waiting for their owners to return.

There is nothing quite so wonderful as walking through the woods in the northeast in autumn.

Since Richie and Bill have had only limited climbing experience (probably a few times in the 'Gunks) we pick Beginner's Route 5.4 on Whitehorse Ledge. The Ross and Ellms 1978 guide warns:

"This route is easy but only if one is used to friction climbing on Whitehorse. Beginner climbers should be cautious of attempting to lead the climb as the runouts between protection are long."

It is shown as a 10 pitch climb. Mike belays Bill up the first pitch. I probably lead Richie on the second rope.

And further up the slab Mike and Bill at some belay

The views are typical of the Mt. Washington Valley... verdant.

At the top (?) getting the kit together... state-of-the-art rack for 1979!

The next day we set off for Cathedral Ledge. We choose Refuse 5.5 a five pitch climb.

"One of the most popular routes on the cliff. A good introduction to Cathedral for intermediate climbers."

Here is Mike leading the first pitch:

And the next pitch is described thus "Climb the large fir tree at the back of the ledge to the long large tree covered ledge. Note: the off width, slightly overhanging crack in the corner on the right of the tree can be climbed at 5.8. It is usually dirty and poorly protected." We opted for the tree, here Mike leads through:

note the tied off limb. You can also see the "usually dirty" off width crack! I hear the tree has departed and the route goes someplace else now.

Looking across the valley...

somewhere over there Bierstadt painted these cliffs before there were all the trees...

Moat Mountain, Intervale, New Hampshire, ca. 1862 Albert Bierstadt

Here is a picture of me leading, not so sure how far the top is from here...

...fashionable orange-and-black rugby shirt... maybe they'll come back into style?!

My guess is that we touristed around a bit, checking out the climbs for "the next time"

and what climbs we might do... here I'm pointing out something to Mike and Bill, apparently Richie took this shot (damn hard to see if things were in focus in that tiny view finder).

I've been back several times to these cliffs to climb over the decades but I don't think that Bill or Richie or Mike had been. I have climbed with Mike in the White Mountains, but that was mostly in the winter, and on ice. Mike and I have climbed many other places together over 30+ years, just not N.Conway.

We left on Sunday for the long drive back and were at work on Monday... all of us graduate students at Columbia U.

Sorry for being a bit late on the TR, it sure doesn't seem like 30 years ago.

  Trip Report Views: 3,724
Ed Hartouni
About the Author
Ed Hartouni is a trad climber from Livermore, CA.

The recollection of the first time the author climbed at Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges, North Conway New Hampshire, September 1979.

Cross posted on the Forum:

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Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Jan 17, 2010 - 12:34pm PT
Nice job pullin out the old pics. Your a west coaster now right? I've been jumpin on the wide lately, email me if you need a partner.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
  Jan 17, 2010 - 01:19pm PT
Love the rack of giant hexes for a Whitehorse slab climb! I guess ya had to make do with what ya got.

The shots remind me that back in the day, most of us learned from a relatively long apprenticeship on climbs that were easy but often quite sparsely protected. Now, many beginners can already climb 5.11 or more indoors and aren't likely to enjoy plodding up 5.3's for a year or two; they're gonna start on 5.7's, but they'll also be looking to be plugging gear every eight feet.

I wonder if, in the long term, the results are any different.

Trad climber
East Coast
  Jan 17, 2010 - 01:49pm PT
Pretty cool. What kind of rock shoes did you have back then? That tree on the 2nd pitch fell down a while ago, I think.

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Jan 18, 2010 - 03:28pm PT

Yes, I did like this trip report. Especially the quizzical looks in the cooking photo, and the trail in the woods.

I made a few trips to Cathedral/Whitehorse back when camping was allowed right under Cathedral. No photos but good recollection of outings on Recompense and Intimidation with Denny Merritt, and my first multi-pitch was Standard Route on Whitehorse.

The later (1972) Cote guide is more blunt about Beginner's Route:

"This route is inappropriately named. Due to the very poor protection on this route, beginners should not attempt it unless they are willing to suffer the consequences of a very long fall."

And just now I am amazed to find the FA of Standard Route reported as being done in 1932 - Leland W. Pollock and friends.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jan 18, 2010 - 04:09pm PT
Hi, Ed! Thanks for posting - reading this made my day. I have to say, though, for Beginner's Route whether you have any rack or not matters little. It was my first lead on Whitehorse many (not as many as you) years ago, and I had a full rack, "state of the art for the time", and no place to put any gear, and was scared to quite non-metaphorical tears. Ah, you're bringing it all back! :-)

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Jan 19, 2010 - 10:21pm PT
Great "blast from the past" TR Ed! Thanks!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Oct 31, 2011 - 01:06pm PT
Nostalgic bump.

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
  Oct 31, 2011 - 01:25pm PT
That picture on Upper Refuse is about 80 feet from the top. People often belay from the small tree ledge just above you, and then it is a short pitch to the top.

I have been debating going to NH next summer for a visit. I really want to go, but my husband is getting weary of travelling. NH isn't traveling for me. It is a second home.
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