Whitehorse Ledge – Cathedral’s Slabby Sister

Whitehorse is the other major North Conway cliff; less than a mile from Cathedral Ledge, and from a distance they look like identical twins.Get closer though and it’s clear that Whitehorse has a much slabbier countenance, especially on its right hand side. It’s really slabby! With an angle of perhaps 30 degrees in places it manages to pack in almost 1,000ft of climbing into a relatively modest height.We picked Slabs Direct, a 4-pitch, 500ft 5.7 direct line through the classic “Standard Route”. For some reason the guidebook decides to ignore the 250ft approach pitch in its reckoning, dismissing it as a “scramble” – in my climbing lexicon, a scramble usually has some holds!We took the option to start at “The Launch Pad”, a ledge about 100ft up, which okay, you can just walk up to (but you wouldn’t want to slip). Another 150ft of “pitch zero” takes you on a mostly sideway journey to a double bolt belay in the middle of a gently tilted sea of granite. It’s only padding, the friction is good, and objectively it’s easy climbing, but coming at it cold and not yet tuned-in to slab-mode, it’s unnerving to say the least. Here’s Helen tip-toeing up to the start of the route proper – you can just about make her out at the end of a great long loop of otherwise unattached rope.Here’s where things go from unnerving to downright harrowing – about 10ft above the belay is a solitary peg in a flake (which you can and should back up) above which you then make slightly sketchy moves up a faint groove for about 20ft before the angle eases and you eventually get the next bit of gear in about 50ft above the peg, then it’s another 50ft to a bolted stance. That’s an R rating in anyone’s book! Things ease off after that, with a 120ft 5.5 pitch 2 with a single bolt after 20ft (here’s Helen following the pitch with Echo Lake and the rather swish-looking White Mountain Hotel in the background)and P3 is another 100ft of easy slab followed by a fun quartz staircase to Lunch Ledge. By now you are 600ft up and by my reckoning you’ve clipped about 4 bits of gear plus 2 bolted belays. Pitch 4 above Lunch Ledge is a different kettle of fish altogether – another 5.7 pitch up enjoyable zigzagging cracks and corners but with a much more reasonable amount of gear. This brings you to the end of difficulties (great view)and a handy rap station, from which 5 double rope raps get you back to terra firma.It’s a slab-tastic climb (especially in hindsight) but would probably have been even more enjoyable if we’d taken the time to fully get our “slab-heads” on beforehand. I was just starting to feel more tuned-in by the time it was all over. Anyway, our next stop will be somewhere with HOLDS and GEAR!

2 responses to “Whitehorse Ledge – Cathedral’s Slabby Sister

  1. Hi Dom, 
    Been reading your posts fron that side of the pond. Brought back memories of  a trip I had there in the late seventies. One route that stuck in my memory was sliding board on whitehorse. Pre sticky shoes was a different prospect!
    Enjoy your trip.
    Pete 
    Sent from Samsung tablet

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