The original stomping grounds of New England climbing hardmen the likes of Henry Barber, the North Conway area has a rich history and a lot to offer in the way of traditional climbing. As the most famous cliff, Cathedral Ledge in itself boasts an impressive variety of granite cracks and faces up to 4-5 pitches in length with an old-school traditional feel. Nearby Whitehorse Ledge also provides high-quality multi-pitch climbing of a similar character, with a unique section of pure slab climbing on its east aspect. Humphrey’s Ledge, and a handful of worthwhile crags along the eastern side of the Kancamagus highway, round out the impressive offering in this local climbing epicenter.
The North Conway area was a hotbed of climbing in the early days, when Henry, Jimmy Dunn, Ed Webster, and other talented and bold climbers were busy establishing some of the hardest climbs in the country at the time. Nowadays, it’s a great place to learn traditional climbing on high-quality granite with a wide range of grades in a classic New England setting. When the foliage is in top shape in early October, there aren’t many better places in the country to be plugging gear.
Jerry Handren’s relatively recent guidebook is super comprehensive and slightly more honest with grades than previous books (we all know Nutcracker is 5.10).
- Standard Route (Whitehorse) 5.5R
- Thin Air 5.6
- Recompense / The Beast Flake 5.9
- Diedre 5.9+
- The Book of Solemnity 5.10a
- Atlantis 5.10c
- The Prow 5.11+
Other than the winter months, climbing here is quite enjoyable for most of the year. When it’s too cold to rock climb, there is high-quality ice climbing in the area as well that’s worth a visit.
Cheap campgrounds are not easy to find in this area as it’s a popular weekend getaway, but it is legal to camp at least 0.25 miles from the road in the White Mountain National Forest. There are a few campgrounds south of North Conway (Saco River), as well as several bed and breakfast and AirBnB options in this area.
It is fairly easy to find a restaurant or gas station in town with free water to fill up. If you eat breakfast at Bagel’s plus (which is highly recommended), they’re always happy to provide water too.
Flat Bread Pizza and the Moat Mountain Brewery are two of the area classics, but can get crowded on weekend evenings. For breakfast, Bagel’s Plus is awesome for quick bagel sandwiches and coffee, while the Local Grocer provides some excellent vegan and organic options. For some great craft beer to take back to the campfire, check out Vista Bev off Hurricane Mountain Rd.
The campgrounds and bed and breakfasts around here will all have showers, and the Saco river offers a more rustic alternative.
Mt Washington is the tallest peak in the northeast US and is only about 30 minutes north of the climbing.
The area also offers some incredible road cycling (see the Kancamagus highway for a good challenge) and mountain biking (Red Tail trail and other areas).
By Tyler Wellman