The Fine Art of Going Sideways
After a hectic season of guiding and ice festivals, I was craving a good day in the mountains. Matt McCormack and I had failed at two-thirds distance on the girdle traverse of Cannon cliff last winter, and we periodically checked in to refine our plan for the next attempt. Conditions needed to be right: enough snow built onto the myriad low angle slabs to make them crampon-able. It couldn’t be too cold or too dark either.
We met at 5 a.m. Matt had cleverly beat out the path up the Lakeview approach trail the week before, and soon we were cramponing up at the base of the cliff. About half of the route is “New England 3rd Class”: bushy neve, snow pillows, and low-angle water ice similar to terrain found on Mount Willard or Webster. To link these easy ledges, there’s about 6 – 8 technical mixed pitches, and 6 – 8 technical rappels.
What’s remarkable about this objective is how much good climbing there is on it. Pitches like NSW Crack, the Fruit Cup Connector, and the Great Flake are some of the best mixed pitches on the cliff. And then, of course, you must finish by making a complete ascent of the Dike.
I’ll upload more images and a topo soon. A few images follow from this classic White Mountain adventure…
- Freddie Wilkinson
Here’s Matt seconding up our first technical pitch of the day. Matt is a dedicated Cannon climber (despite living almost in Burlington), and had only the week before completed the Minotaur, with Bayard Russell.We carried a single 70 meter Sterling Nano, and it was the perfect tool for the job!
This is one of my favorite parts on the whole route, the Fruit Cup Connector. On this pitch, you leave the comfort of the Moby Grape ledges and begin traversing across the center section of the cliff. Suddenly, all of Franconia Notch teeters beneath your crampons as you climb a quality yet run-out fractured slab to reach a ledge system that leads to the Lab Wall rappel.
Matt climbing the 5th pitch of Sam’s Swan Song, 5.6-ish but kind of serious with crampons on your feet and ice falling on your head.