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Cathedral Ledge Ice Climbing – Goofers Direct and North Pillars

March 12, 2017

Late start today! In a somewhat impulsive decision Brent (www.brentdoscher.com) and I decided to climb “something”… we weren’t quite sure what. Conditions were ideal with temperatures in the 10-15F range with mild wind coming from the west, ice reports were looking promising. I geared up and hit the road by 1PM. Lucky for us, time “sprung forward” for daylight savings time today. This meant we’d get some extra daylight to climb later into the evening. I arrived in North Conway by 3PM to pick up Brent. We sat in the car and discussed our options for a bit. While flipping through the guide book we tossed around the idea of heading back into Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington. Ultimately we decided against it since we were starting so late in the day. We settled on heading to Cathedral Ledge instead which has various offerings! This 500 foot cliff face was formed during the ice age glacial retreat. Cathedral Ledge is a hot spot among the climbing community for both Rock and Ice. It’s also a fantastic place to go for a short, rewarding hike. The large granite cliff face is a landmark in Conway NH and visible from many points.

Cathedral Ledge – Goofers Direct (AKA Goofers Delight)


Looking up “Goofers Direct”

We geared up at the car and started our hike down the icy, unplowed road. We had our sights set on probably one of the worst named climbs in New Hampshire. “Goofers Direct” a classic New England ice climb that ascends the central cleft wall of Cathedral Ledges cliff face. This climb is a WI3 Grade II and it’s about 200 feet tall. I’ve climbed WI3 before, but this climb seemed much more demanding as it is one continuous pitch to the top. No breaks until we reach the top! It also seemed a bit steeper than WI3 to me in today’s somewhat thin condition.

Brent racking up at the base of the climb.

This would be one of Brent’s longest leads, and one of my longest climbs as a follower. Brent racked up with plenty of short screws as the ice looked thin from below. He began his ascent of the lower section with caution. The ice was brittle from the recent cold temperatures and large chunks flew off as he swung his tools.

Brent ascending the lower section. “Thin Air” face in the background.

Up he goes!

This single pitch climb is deceptively long.  The crux is about 3/4 of the way up which is fully vertical and features a large bulge that we needed to navigate over. Brent made quick work of the crux and moved out of my sight. Shortly later he yelled down that he was safe and tied into the anchor.

Ready to go!

Now it was my turn, due to the long nature of this climb we’d need 2 ropes at the top to rappel back down with. Brent climbed with a single rope, this meant that I needed to tow an additional 70m rope below me as I climbed. This was a first for me but I was happy to have the opportunity to practice this technique. I flaked out my rope next to me, and tied it into my harness. After the normal set of vocal signals I began my ascent.

Goofers Direct Video

Here’s some helmet cam video from my climb.

I worked my way up the icy cliff face focusing on my technique. Making my sticks count, trying to stay relaxed, reduce my grip on the tools, all to prevent getting pumped and fatigued. I felt strong today! I stopped occasionally to shake out my hands to keep them warm.  Once at the top we joined the ropes together and rappelled back down.

At the top! Mt. Cranmore in the distance.

The North Pillars

We were closing in on 6:00pm by the time we rappelled down off of Goofers. However, we both still had some climbing left in our tanks so we decided to hike over to the North Pillars to set up a quick top rope for some laps.  The hike was quick, but dark was setting in. We put our headlamps on and continued to climb.

Brent leading the North Pillars.

Here’s a timelapse video from the North Pillars as the sun went down.

Another great day in the mountains!

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