Standing at over 900 feet at the highest point, Cannon has one of the tallest cliff faces in the North East. Home to many classics see why the Whitney Gilman ridge is one of the top routes when it comes to climbing Cannon Cliff!
As you drive down the highway it becomes instantly obvious why you are climbing Cannon Cliff! Located in the Franconia Notch region of the White Mountains, Cannon Cliff is the largest feature you will see when entering into the notch. The White Mountains of New Hampshire are famous for their extreme & erratic weather. As we drove in the temperature was around 37 at the road with visible snow fall at the top of the Cliff.
When it comes to climbing Cannon Cliff, come prepared! You are dipping your toes into the realms of alpinism when climbing here. The approach to the base of Cannon Cliff is a rather daunting one. From the road be prepared to hike in about a mile or so. Your journey will start with a short trek of dense woods which opens up into this long and difficult scramble through talus, scree and boulders about size of the Subaru we drove in with. The Whitney Gilman Ridge is the most distinct feature on Cannon Cliff.This knife like arete juts out from the rest of the cliff.
*CAUTION – Make sure to be extremely careful hiking through this talus field! The rocks here are very loose and it is not uncommon for a mini-fridge sized boulders to start rolling down, it is best to have your climbing party walk 20-30 feet apart & not be directly behind one other.*
When you reach the base of the Whitney Gilman ridge, you notice the infamous Black Dyke right next to it. This incredible feature houses some of the best multi-pitched ice & mixed climbing routes in all of the North East! Being mid-October it is typical to start seeing ice developing inside of it.
Shown above in full view, the Whitney Gilman Ridge consist of 600 ft of beautiful arete climbing broken up into 5 pitches considered a 5.7 by the majority of climbers there are several known variations to the route that can give you difficulties up to 5.9.
With Matt Bacalakis belaying from a sizable start ledge, Matt Ritter kicked off the first pitch up a easily distinguishable crack placing pro.
As mentioned earlier, climbing Cannon Cliff in mid-October can be rather aplinistic. When we started climbing it was roughly around 28-30 with the wind at a steady 15-20 mph at the base. Be prepared for these cold conditions, A good layering system is going to be crucial for this type of endeavor as it will be extremely cold and can be an assault on you physically.
*Important tip – have a good pair of gloves in which you are comfortable climbing in! I was personally not prepared for this and had never climbed with gloves on previously (queue feeling of a cat with mittens on). As we climbed higher the wind started gusting upwards to 50 mph and made it virtually impossible to do anything without having them on.
You will find a fair amount of sizable ledges along the ridge. These ledges make for excellent belay stations giving you chance to take in some spectacular sights as you are climbing Cannon Cliff. It also gives you some great photo opportunities to capture your climbing partners in action with the valley background.
Here is a quick clip of us at the top of pitch #3:
It is hard to understand the perspective until you actually experience it first hand. As you are climbing Cannon cliff you see various items such as tractor trailers, trees, and large boulders become insignificantly smaller as you climb higher. The very cliff face that you could see in its entirety from the roadside becomes so incredibly large that you can only see sections of it is as you climb!
Regardless of the cold, fear or adrenaline, when you reach the top you can not help but have a giant smile on across your face.
Whether you are looking out toward the rest of Cannon Cliff
having a seat to relax and take a look down at the Black Dyke below your feet
maybe check out the “Old Man’s dog” that greets you along the way,
or perhaps just take in views of the valley and White mountains around you. There is plenty of amazing reasons why climbing Cannon Cliff should be on your bucket list, the Whitney Gilman Ridge is just simply the start!
We would like to give a quick shout out:
Justin & Serena from the Notch Hostel for their hospitality in having us at their lovely & climber friendly hostel just down the street from Cannon Cliff!
Matt Ritter from Walkabout Mountain Guides for leading us up this incredible route and preparing us for climbing Cannon Cliff in the crazy cold conditions!
To learn more about climbing Cannon Cliff check out – Mountain Project
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