Alpha Guide: Climbing Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Steeped in history, Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge is a must-do 1,000-foot route offering exposed slab climbing at a moderate grade.

A route almost as old as technical climbing in the Northeast, Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge was explored by early climbing luminaries Robert Underhill and Kenneth Henderson back in the 1920s. Today, Standard Route is a must-do for old and new climbers alike—offering over a 1,000 feet of moderate, often runout slab climbing with enough spice to keep veteran climbers on their toes and remind rookies just how full on 5.5 can feel, making it a classic moderate slab climbing route in North Conway, New England’s trad climbing mecca.

Quick Facts

Distance: 9 pitches
Time to Complete: Half day for most.
Difficulty: ★★★ (5.5, Grade II)
Scenery:★★★★


Season: Late-Spring to Early-Fall
Fees/Permits: None
Contact: https://www.nps.gov/acad/

Download file: Whitehorse.gpx

Turn-By-Turn

Most climbers approach Whitehorse Ledge from the climbers’ parking lot in a maintenance area just below the White Mountain Hotel. To get there from North Conway, take Route 16 toward the Eastern Slope Inn, turn left onto River Road at the traffic lights just past the inn, and then after about a mile, make another left onto West Side Road. After about another mile, look for a large sign for Hales Location on the right and turn in. Follow that road until the first intersection and turn right. This road will pass a couple of large homes, some of the golf course, and then start bending up toward the hotel. As the road bends uphill to the left, the maintenance area and climbers’ lot are straight ahead.

The climbers’ lot holds about 10 cars, so get there early on busy weekends if you want a spot. Beware that cars parked in the hotel’s regular lot may be towed. Also, there are no facilities in the climbers’ lot, so consider stopping in North Conway beforehand.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Traditional Approach

The approach to Whitehorse Ledge is quick and straightforward. Simply leave the climbers’ lot and walk up the road toward the hotel parking lot. Once you reach the parking lot, look for a well-defined trail leaving from the lot’s right corner. Follow this path for about 5 to 7 minutes to the base of the cliff. As it nears the cliff, the path is a little rocky, so watch your step.

Once you’re at the base of the cliff, picking out Standard Route from the expanse of granite slab before you may seem overwhelming. An easy way to identify Standard Route is to look for the prominent arch rising up the middle of the slab. Trace the arch to the ground—Standard Route’s first pitch starts almost directly below it.

Launch pad with climbers heading up. | Credit: Tim Peck
Launch pad with climbers heading up. | Credit: Tim Peck

Lift Off

Standard Route’s first pitch leaves the ground and heads up and slightly right about 100 feet toward a broad bench that climbers call the Launch Pad. Barely fifth class, some parties just scramble up this pitch then transition to roped climbing on the Launch Pad. However you decide to head up, you’ll eventually want to get situated toward the right side of the Launch Pad for the easiest access to the pitches that follow. There are options for anchors near your feet if you look carefully.

Heading up Pitch 2. | Credit: Tim Peck
Heading up Pitch 2. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Toilet Bowl

Standard Route’s next pitch (5.1R, 110 ft) heads up and slightly right to one of the more humorous features on Whitehorse—the Toilet Bowl. It’s a big hole in the slab with a two-bolt anchor at the top. The pitch is somewhat run-out, although you will pass several flakes that have some options for gear along the way.

Pitch 3. | Credit: Tim Peck
Pitch 3. | Credit: Tim Peck

Crystal Pocket

With your crew converged on the Toilet Bowl, leave the anchor and head up the next pitch. One of the longer pitches on the route (150 feet, 5.2R), it angles slightly left leaving the anchor heading toward two bolts. From the higher bolt, delicately pad a bit more up and left toward a flake at mid-pitch (place some gear here), then blast up the slab toward the Crystal Pocket anchor, a two-tiered ledge covered in crystals with a two-bolt anchor.

On the arch. | Credit: Tim Peck
On the arch. | Credit: Tim Peck

Getting to the Arch

From the Crystal Pocket, your next destination is a thread anchor in Standard Route’s main arch about 100 feet up. To get there, first climb a steeper swell (crux, 5.3), then follow a series of pockets out and right as you angle up to the arch. If you have tricams on your rack, they’ll definitely find homes in these cool-looking pockets.

Once you’re at the thread, either build an anchor or proceed a few feet up and around the corner to a vertical crack that eats mid-sized cams. Neither of these anchors is particularly comfortable, but from the latter anchor, your second will have a better view of the pitch ahead and won’t be hassled at the rap station by a party rappelling off Sliding Board or Wave Length.

Climbing just below Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing just below Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck

Lunch Ledge

Perhaps the most enjoyable section of the climb, the next pitch (5.4, 130 ft) first follows the large arch as it arcs up and right. At a weakness, the pitch then ascends a small break in the slab up featured, vertical terrain to a two-bolt anchor atop Lunch Ledge. This section of hero climbing has great hands and feet and is quite moderate—so long as you climb the easier, left side of the intersecting arch.

Due to its size and location (more than halfway up the climb), Lunch Ledge is the perfect spot to pause, have a snack, and rehydrate. Many parties rappel from here—working down to the ground in five double-rope rappels. If you’re at all wavering about going higher, this is one of the last good spots to rappel from.

Pro Tip: Since rappelling on Whitehorse requires two 60m ropes, plan on climbing as a party of three or carrying a long tag line so that you can get down if you decide to rap.

Underneath the crux. | Credit: Tim Peck
Underneath the crux. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Business

The pitch above Lunch Ledge is the 5.5 crux of Standard Route. Start on the right end of Lunch Ledge and climb up about 20 feet. From here, climbers traverse right to a left-leaning ramp that takes you to the top of the pitch. Start by making a sharp right and padding delicately across a smooth slab protected by a bolt. Next, step slightly down onto a small ledge, clip another bolt, and continue padding right past the infamous “Brown Spot” and toward the ramp. Once on the ramp, continue up for about 40 feet to a right-facing corner. Climb through the corner and then continue up and left for a few additional moves. Build an anchor below the final overlap.

Besides presenting the route’s physical crux, this twisty-turny pitch also presents a rope management challenge. To minimize rope drag, consider placing long slings on your pieces. Another alternative is to do the more direct 5.7 variation.

Climbing on the upper slabs. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing on the upper slabs. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Finishing Pitches

From the anchor above the Brown Spot, there are three more pitches to the top of Standard Route. The first pitch (5.2R, 80 ft) follows the overlap left, reaching a featured dike that you’ll ascend briefly to a ledge. Build an anchor here.

The last two pitches (both 5.2R, 150 ft) follow the dike to the top of Whitehorse. These two pitches are split in the middle by another large overlap, which is easily passed on its left end near a small pine tree. Just above the pine tree, look for a small ledge where you can build an anchor.

The final pitch stays in the dike, passing one old bolt before reaching the top of the cliff. Build an anchor on a solid tree and bring the rest of your crew up.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Variations

The Original Route: If the opening pitches above the Toilet Bowl are crowded, an excellent alternative is to start up the pitch and climb to about the half-way point. Once there, move left toward a long ledge leading over to the base of the route’s namesake arch and a two-bolt anchor. From this anchor, climbers ascend the arch for two pitches (both 5.3) rejoining the normal route at the thread anchor atop the Crystal Pocket pitch. Best avoided in wet conditions, this variation is the original Standard Route and a must-do for aficionados of Northeast climbing history.

The 5.7 Variation: A spicier alternative to the Brown Spot pitch is to take a straighter, more direct route to the anchor. Technically the fourth pitch of Slabs Direct (5.7 PG, 120 ft), this pitch starts the same way as the normal route. It climbs up and right for about 20 feet toward a left-leaning corner then deviates from the normal route—climb the corner then step right onto a slab protected by a bolt. Continue moving up and right toward a ramp. Follow the ramp left to a corner, ascend the corner (pin) and build a belay just below the final overlap, at the same spot where the Brown Spot pitch normally ends. Use long slings to minimize rope drag.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Atop Whitehorse

With the technical climbing behind you and ample places to sit comfortably, the top of Whitehorse Ledge provides a picturesque setting for rehydrating, switching from climbing to approach shoes, packing your rope and rack, and getting ready for the descent. Before leaving, be sure to soak up the fantastic views, with North Conway in the foreground and the White Mountains spilling out north.

Climbing near Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing near Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck

Getting Down

From the top of the climb, start walking climbers’ right toward the saddle between Whitehorse and Cathedral, following a well-trod path ducking in and out of the woods and occasionally onto some low-angle slabs. Shortly after the trail departs from the slabs for a final time, it forks. Head right (going left will bring you to Cathedral), and follow the initially steep, but eventually mellow, trail for 15 to 20 minutes to the base of the slabs.


Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit

  • Tricams are a particularly useful piece of protection on Standard Route, as they slide into pockets that don’t accommodate nuts or cams.
  • A 60-meter rope is the perfect length for Standard Route and you won’t go wrong with a Sterling Nano IX 9.0 mm, but like we said above, if you plan on repelling, you’ll need two.
  • Big enough to carry your climbing kit, layers, food, and water, the Black Diamond Speed 22 is the ideal-sized climbing pack for a trip up Whitehorse.
  • There isn’t much protection from the sun on Whitehorse’s exposed slabs—a sun shirt offers simple, safe protection.
  • A sticky-soled pair of approach shoes are invaluable at Whitehorse—many will scramble up to the Launch Pad (or even the first few pitches) in them while everyone appreciates them on the at-times-steep and scrambly descent.
  • Feel like climbing more? Check out the North Conway Rock Guide for all the information needed to tackle other routes at Whitehorse, along with the area’s other crags.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • Slab climbing on wet rock is terrifying. If the rock is wet, it’s raining, or rain is in the forecast, consider a different objective.
  • The routes on the Slabs on Whitehorse (Sea of Holes, Sliding Board, Standard Route, Beginner’s Route, and Cormier-Magness) are extremely popular. Plan on an early start or climbing during the week to avoid crowds and traffic jams.
  • There aren’t a lot of placements on several pitches of Standard Route. A normal rack for the route might be 9 cams (0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2 with doubles of 0.5, 0.75, and 1), a size run of nuts (5-13), a few small tri-cams, and 8 alpine draws.
  • Sending Standard Route is an achievement worth celebrating. Flatbread Company in North Conway is only a few minutes from the cliff and offers the tastiest pizza around.
  • Realized you were missing a key piece of gear on the route? Want to cruise for a deal on a new puffy? Just want to check out the latest and greatest in outdoor gear? Stop into our North Conway store before you head home!
  • If you’re not sure you’re up for leading the route but really want to climb it, the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School will be happy to guide you up it.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Current Conditions

Have you recently climbed Standard Route on Whitehorse? What did you think? Post your experience in the comments for others!


Bikes and Brews: Bear Brook and Concord Craft Brewing

Bear Brook State Park, located in south-central New Hampshire, is a mountain biker’s dream. With trails that offer options for every type of rider, Bear Brook is an easy trip for many in-state and Massachusetts-based mountain bikers, while its campground makes it perfect for those visiting from farther afield. Better yet: Combining a ride here with some post-ride refreshment from Concord Craft Brewing makes for a fantastic day out.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Biking

Originating through the Recreational Designation Area Program—a New Deal project to build public parks near urban areas—Bear Brook is located about 30 minutes from both Concord and Manchester, New Hampshire. The park sports an extensive and diverse trail system, with roughly 10,000 acres and more than 40 miles of trails. It is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire, and there’s no better way to explore it than on a mountain bike.

There are a handful of parking options, but the biker/hiker parking lot or Hayes Field on Podunk Road—both off of NH-28—both provide a central jumping-off point for exploration. Generally, parking in the hiker/biker lot means beginning your ride with a climb, while parking at Hayes Field means ending your ride with one.

There’s a $4 per person fee to enter the park, which you can pay in advance on their website or in person at the “toll booth” on Podunk Road or the ranger station at the entrance to the biker/hiker parking lot. Even if you prepay, it’s a good idea to stop and get a free map—the park is vast, the trail signage could be better, and navigating is tricky at times.

Evidence of a pre-park time is apparent throughout most rides, as the park’s large trail system passes stone walls, long-forgotten foundations, and old cemeteries.

Bear Brook’s trails offer something for everyone, with everything from fast and flowy trails to techy rock gardens to playful side hits. There is also climbing—lots and lots of climbing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Fast and Flowy: Ending almost in the hiker/biker lot, Big Bear is the crown jewel of Bear Brook’s trail system. It delivers huge smiles as you whip down the smooth trail and hurtle through banked turns—there are even a couple of optional jumps for those looking to clock some air time. Designed for descending, downhillers have the right of way on Big Bear. Across from the hiker/biker lot (after a short climb) is another great option for those with the need for speed: Hemlock offers a swift, bench-cut descent before giving way to fast, fun, rolling terrain.

Tech: One of the awesome things about riding at Bear Brook is that after the steep climbs and robust rock gardens, the best techy trails usually reward bikers with enjoyable, easier riding. Two great options are in close proximity to Hayes Field. Carr Ridge offers rock-strewn, punchy climbs and loose descents that give way to well-manicured and grin-inducing turns. Similarly, Bear Hill delivers climbing, intermittent rock gardens, a skinny elevated log ride (don’t worry, there’s a B-line), and a few fun things to pop off of, all mixed in with pleasurable, easy-rolling singletrack.

Climbing: When thinking about Bear Brook climbing, one trail immediately springs to mind: Alp d’Huez. Named after the iconic Tour de France climb, Alp d’Huez is less centrally located than other classics (it’s close to the toll booth), but offers a nice switchbacking ascent sure to have you breaking a sweat and trying to catch your breath. The Little Bear Trail—which starts near the hiker/biker lot and is the standard way to get to the top of the Big Bear Trail—provides a similar experience but is a little bit shorter and less steep.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Brews

One of the best ways to end a great day of riding at Bear Brook is with a craft beer—and Concord Craft Brewing in downtown Concord, New Hampshire, is the perfect place to kick back with friends, whether on the patio or in their cozy taproom. Just be warned, the brewery only serves cold beer and munchies (think pretzels, peanuts, and chips). Luckily, there are also a bunch of great places to grab a bite within walking distance.

Double IPA: IPAs rule the day at Concord Craft Brewing, and although you may not have claimed a KOM or QOM on your ride, you can still sit down with the Gov’nah. An imperial/double IPA, at 8.6% ABV, the Gov’nah is Concord Craft Brewing’s strongest offering. Fair warning—the more miles you’ve logged, the more powerful this brew seemingly becomes.

New England IPA: If 8.6% ABV feels ambitious, you can seek a safe space—a Safe Space IPA, that is. A classic hazy New England-style IPA checking in at 6% ABV, Safe Space is the ideal treatment for those tired legs, but not so dangerous to affect your odds of riding again tomorrow.

Session IPA: If you’re planning to spend as much time on the patio as you did on the trails—or feel like you deserve a beer for each trip you took down Big Bear—consider a Finding NEIPA, a delicious low-alcohol (4.2%) brew that won’t leave you feeling like you went over the handlebars the next morning.

Sour Slushie: For non-beer lovers and those super-hot days, you can’t go wrong with a Sour Slushie. A delightful treat that will have you yearning for your youth, but happy to be over 21, Concord Craft mixes its Berliner Weisse Kettle Sour in a slushie machine for a truly unique treat.

If you’re staying at the campground or heading south to get home, there’s still a great way to sample some of the brewery’s choice beverages. Concord Craft beers abound at grocery and convenience stores near Bear Brook. Be an après-hero and grab a four-pack (or two) for your crew for some post-ride refreshment.

Have you visited Bear Brook or Concord Craft Brewing? If so, we want to hear about your favorite trails and what ales you in the comments below!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

10 Ways To Ease the Stress on Busy Trails

In recent months, more and more people have been turning to the outdoors for fun. While it’s great to see so many people hiking and trail running, it’s also stretching resources and threatening delicate landscapes across the Northeast, especially at popular destinations like the White Mountains and Adirondacks. Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize your impact on these well-loved places. Here are 10 great ways to ease the stress on busy trails.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Choose Less-Popular Objectives

The summits of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-footers and the Adirondacks’ 46 High Peaks will always draw a crowd. However, lesser-known summits like those on the 52 With a View deliver spectacular scenery, often without the crowds and elevation gain. If you just have to bag a 4,000-footer, try tagging one that most people avoid or one that doesn’t count toward the NH48.

2. Pick Less-Popular Routes 

Trails like Franconia Ridge and the Crawford Path are always popular destinations, but there are plenty of excellent trails that the masses overlook—many of which take you to the same coveted summit. Get off the beaten path and take the trail less-traveled to popular summits, or open your mind to a new type of adventure with a trip like Guy’s Slide.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Travel Farther  

There’s a reason some mountains are busier than others—it often has to due to their proximity to people and ease of summiting. Selecting destinations that are off the beaten path—whether it’s a parking lot or summit—is a great way to find some peace and quiet in the mountains.

4. Plan for Flexibility 

It’s tough to tell how busy the trails are from your home—after all, you’re a hiker, not a mind reader—so always have a Plan B in place. The great thing about places like the White Mountains is the abundance of trails and peaks close together, which allows you to consider multiple trips from the same general area so you can quickly pivot in the event of an unexpectedly busy trail.

5. Pass Responsibly 

The current climate is a delicate balance between the long-term health of the trails and the health of their users. Staying six feet apart isn’t easy on busy, narrow trails, but stepping off of them disrupts ecosystems and can lead to widening and erosion—especially in above-treeline alpine zones. Keep your eyes peeled for other users, both ahead of and behind you, and try to step aside when the trail widens, or onto rocks or more durable surfaces. If you need to step aside, simply step off and wait rather than hiking outside the boundary of the trail and potentially widening it.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

6. Let The Trails Dry 

Normally, a rainy-day hike is one of the greta joys of the late summer, but with more people getting out, it might be best for the trails to dry out and full recover before being pounded by boots. Wait a day or two after it rains to avoid creating deep footprints, ruts, or doing other damage to water-compromised trails. Look for more durable trails—either paved or rocky—for your wet-weather adventures.

7. Practice Responsible Behaviors 

With so many hikers and trail runners in the mountains, it’s more important than ever to practice responsible behaviors in the mountains—both to reduce your impact and to serve as a role model for newer hikers. Understand and follow seven principles of Leave No Trace:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors
Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

8. Clean Up After Others

There are a lot of new hikers hitting the trails these days and they’re not all familiar with practices like Leave No Trace. While we can’t all become rangers, we can help minimize the impact of other hikers by picking up some of the trash that’s becoming an increasingly common sight on the trail. Pack a ziplock bag and collect wrappers, gel packets, and bottle caps that you come across. Picking up someone else’s trash with your hands sound gross? Try tucking a few rubber gloves in the hip pocket of your pack.

9. Bathroom Basics 

Hikers in the Whites have long benefited from the presence of the AMC’s huts for everything from refilling water bottles to a quick snack. The huts are also a convenient place to go to the bathroom. While they are closed, it’s always better to pack a wag bag and carry your waste out—the less we leave behind the better, especially as more and more people start digging cathodes. If that’s not an option, carry a toilet kit (trowel, TP, used TP bag, and hand sanitizer), make sure to “go” at least 200 feet from the trail and 200 feet from a water source, dig a hole at least six inches deep to go in, and cover the hole when you’re done.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

10. Give Back 

Many outdoor organizations are under-staffed and under-funded—leaving them stretched thin. From gifting your time by volunteering to work on a trail crew to making a monetary donation, every little bit helps. Additionally, while you’re out on the trails, be conscious of the little things you can do to help out, like removing downed branches that are blocking the path, keeping drainage ditches free of debris, and sticking to the main trail instead of the numerous side paths that have developed over the last several months.

With so many people discovering (or rediscovering) the outdoors, it’s an extremely exciting time for activities like hiking and trail running. By taking a few simple steps, we can help preserve these important spaces for the future.


New England Training Ground: A History of Rock Climbing at Crow Hill

From Intertwine to Tarzan to Cro-Magnon, Crow Hill features plenty of memorable, high-quality rock climbing routes. Nestled in Leominster State Forest, climbers have been visiting Crow Hill for over a century. And with first ascensionists like Sam Streibert, Steve Arsenault, Henry Barber, Ed Webster, and Tim Kemple, visiting climbers really shouldn’t be surprised that the area’s classics are super sandbagged.

Henry Barber in the film Uncommon Ground.
Henry Barber in the film Uncommon Ground.

The Beginnings

New England rock climbing as we know it today began in the 1920s when influential climbers like Robert Underhill brought the rope-handling techniques learned in the Alps back to the region. Crow Hill, as well as other Boston-area crags, provided Underhill—along with climbers like Lincoln O’Brien, Kenneth Henderson (Henderson Ridge), and O’Brien’s sister and Underhill’s future wife Mirriam—with a vital training ground to hone skills before tackling the region’s most challenging climbs: notable ascents include the first ascent of Cannon, the Eaglet, and the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle.

The bible of Northeast climbing history, Yankee Rock & Ice, describes Underhill as “calm, unhurried, and graceful on rock, one who consistently substituted finesse for strength.” Today’s Crow Hill climbers should take heed, even the crag’s more modern routes are usually overcome with technique rather than strong fingers.

Crow Hill’s close proximity to Boston made it an ideal training ground for early AMCers, like Underhill and O’Brien, and also made it a convenient location for educating troops. With Fort Devens just down the road, from World War II through the start of the 1970s, Crow Hill’s 100-foot cliffs were a place where the Army took soldiers to instruct them in the use of climbing gear and rock climbing techniques.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Renaissance

Crow Hill experienced a renaissance in the late 1960s when climbers like Steve Arsenault started frequenting the area, attempting to aid the crag’s numerous cracks. Among Arsenault’s prizes were the first ascents of Jane (1966) and the now-super-classic route Cro-Magnon (1967).

With the free climbing revolution in the early 1970s, many climbers had their eyes on the first free ascents of Arsenault’s aid routes. Among them was standout Boston-area, AMC climber, “Hot” Henry Barber. A year before bursting onto the national stage with his onsight solo of Yosemite’s Steck-Salathé Route, Barber had already made waves in New England, ushering Massachusetts’ first 5.11 with first free ascent of Jane at Crow Hill. According to Boston Rocks, the leading area guide book, Jane “may have been one of the hardest pitches in the U.S.” when it was freed in 1972. While Barber’s route Jane remains a testpiece today, his lasting legacy at Crow Hill is his ethic and style.

Barber’s cutting-edge climb came just a year after Connecticut climbing legend Sam Siebert and Dennis Merritt’s note-worthy contribution to Crow Hill—the first free ascent of Cro-Magnon (5.10). On another small New England crag, Ragged Mountain, Siebert and Merritt had the rare chance to upstage Barber, when their ascent of Aid Crack was re-graded from 5.9 to 5.10 making it, not Barber’s Subline, the first 5.10 in Connecticut.

Not merely adding cutting edge climbs, Barber, Streibert, Merritt, and Bob Anderson—a regular partner of both Barber (FFA of Airitation on Cathedral together) and Streibert (FFA of Cannon’s VMC together) that Yankee Rock & Ice called the most underrated rock climber of the 1970s— went on to add numerous routes to Crow Hill, including Intertwine, Topaz, and The Recidivist.

Ed Webster was another area legend who made his mark at Crow during this period. He scored the first free ascent of Thin Line (5.8), a classic finger crack, in 1973. That same year, he aided his way up Lizard’s Head (A2; now 5.11 free) and Hesitation (A3), logging the first ascents of each.

Tim Kemple in the film Uncommon Ground.
Tim Kemple in the film Uncommon Ground.

A Return to Prominence 

Although climbers in the 1970s picked many of Crow’s plumb lines, they didn’t get them all. A few decades later, two local climbers—Tim Kemple and Peter Vintoniv—put Crow Hill back on the map, setting a new standard for the crag and springboarding their climbing careers in the process. In fact, the duo’s ascent of Absolute, a 5.13 R/X route to the left of Jane inspired Barber to comment, “A guy I really respect is Tim Kemple. Because he’s taken bouldering and applied that control and everyday knowledge and ability of crimping on really small holds and he’s able to run it out very very difficult of 5.12, 5.13 sections with minimal protection…that’s a real progression of the sport.”

Barber obviously knows what he’s talking about; according to Kemple, the route’s name comes from the “absolute commitment involved” in climbing. Footage of his ascent, featured in the Northeast climbing film Uncommon Ground, is burned into the memories of New England climbers of a certain generation. For Kemple and Vintoniv, Absolute was one of a trilogy of hard climbs they sent at Crow Hill in the year 2000. They also ticked the first free ascents of Doesn’t Matter, 5.13a (which previously went at 5.10 A2), and Dune, 5.12-5.13R/X.

To Bolt, or Not to Bolt 

If Dune strikes a chord with New England climbers, it’s because the route sparked controversy a few years ago when a few bolts appeared on the route. Bolting has always been a tenuous question, especially at crags with rich histories like Crow Hill. Although the battle over bolts reached its height in the 1980s and 1990s, in 2015 it was thrust to the forefront of New England climbing when someone bolted one of Crow Hill’s proudest routes, Dune.

The history of Dune made the situation even more complex. The route was first sent after John Mallory added some bolts—but they were chopped quickly thereafter. In 1999, Mark Richey and Barry Rugo climbed Dune on pre-placed gear, and a year later Kemple and Vintonic sent it from the ground up.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Visiting Crow Hill Today

Every climber in the region should test themselves on the gneiss at this classic crag. Although the climbing season at Crow runs from late March through December, late summer and fall days after a dry spell are best. The area offers something for everybody, too—with beginner-friendly areas at both ends of the crag (End Crags on the left end and Practice Face on the right end) and plenty of fixed anchors across the cliff-top to set up top-ropes and sample classics before committing to a lead. Sending here will earn the respect of even the crustiest trad climber and leave you with the confidence to tackle harder routes and bigger objectives.

 

Have a favorite route at Crow Hill? Tell us which one in the comments!


10 Tips to Get Ready for a Big Bike Ride

While the experiences of cruising the Kancamagus Highway on your road bike and getting down and dirty covering all 35 miles of machine-made singletrack at Green Woodlands on your mountain bike are vastly different, preparing for long rides is remarkably similar. Whether you’re going the distance on a road bike or planning to go big on a mountain bike, here are some secrets for a successful big bike ride.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Log Miles 

The success and enjoyment of your ride depends on what is done in the weeks and months leading up to it. Everyone has different training needs, but in general, the more time you put in the saddle, the better the big day is going to feel. Don’t wait until the last minute to train; Ideally, the week prior to the ride is reserved for gentle sessions that leave you feeling fresh and ready for your big ride.

2. Reconnoiter the Ride

Before hitting the road or trail, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Studying the route to get a clear understanding of the terrain (hilly, rolling, flat), infrastructure (are there places to get food or refill water?), and key intersections (trail or road) is a good way to ease stress and set yourself up for success. Nothing beats tires on the ground—try riding a smaller section (or sections) of your planned ride to get a feel for what you’re up against. Riding a few sections in advance also reduces the likelihood of you getting lost on your big ride, which is likely to be very important as fatigue sets in.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Small-Sized Segments 

Whether tackling massive mileage, vast vertical, or just pushing a personal best, a big bike ride can seem daunting. A smart strategy is to break the ride into smaller, more easily-accomplished segments. Plan ahead and have rewards waiting—riding the first 50 miles of a century is less unnerving when there’s a piece of pizza (or two) waiting.

4. Get in Tune with Your Bike 

An underperforming, malfunctioning, or broken-down bike will suck the enjoyment from your ride and may even end it early. Before heading out, make sure your bike is in top mechanical condition. Here are a few things to confirm before the big day:

  • All bolts are tight
  • Brake pads aren’t worn
  • Shifting is smooth—there is no skipping
  • Wheels are true and there no loose spokes
  • Tires have tread and aren’t damaged—for example, there are no glass shards in tread or excessive wear in the sidewalls
  • Tire pressure is set correctly

And if you ride a mountain bike, you’ll also want to make sure:

  • Your suspension is set up correctly
  • The dropper post (if you have one) is functioning properly
  • There is sealant in tubeless tires (if you have them)

If you don’t feel confident tuning your bike, bring it to a professional. Just make sure to leave them plenty of time to go through it.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

5. What Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong 

No matter how well you train or prepare, something inevitably will go wrong. Luckily, unforeseen events don’t have to mean an end to your ride. Pack a small repair kit and practice making common fixes such as changing a flat tire. A good basic repair kit includes:

  • A multitool
  • Two tubes
  • Tire levers
  • Tire repair tool and plugs
  • A pump or CO2 inflator and cartridges
  • Chain breaker and master link
  • A spare derailleur hanger (for mountain bikes)
  • A couple of zip ties
  • Duct tape

6. Other Essential Items 

In addition to mechanical problems, it’s important to prepare for other eventualities. A fully charged cell phone can help you summon a ride in the event of a blowout (either your bike or you), and a $20 bill or a credit/debit card is a blessing if you need to procure a much-needed snack. Lastly, carrying an ID or wearing an identification band is essential in the event of an accident.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Correct Clothes

Like any outdoor activity, you’ll want to have the proper layers on hand for your long ride. While the exact layers will depend on when and where you’re riding—and the amount of space you have available to carry them—one item stands apart from the rest: padded bike shorts. Padded bike shorts cushion your sit bones and protect your most delicate parts, ultimately making cycling more enjoyable. The longer your ride, the more valuable a good pair of bike shorts becomes.

8. Food and Drink

A long ride is no time to count calories or worry about your diet. A good rule of thumb is to eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty. A big ride is also no time to mess around with new foods. Use your training miles to figure out what works for you—some riders prefer gels and bars while others prefer real food like wraps or PB&J sandwiches cut into small squares.

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9. Move Around 

Even the most seasoned cyclists cramp up and get stiff when stuck in one position for too long. During your ride, move your hands around the bars, shift back and forth on the saddle, and stand up from time to time to keep from placing too much strain on one body part.

10. Power of Positive Thinking 

The fact is most long bike rides fall into the second category of fun—that is, the experience is blissful in hindsight, but feels a lot like suffering in the moment. It’s okay to feel tired and it’s normal to get sore, but don’t let those physical ailments turn into negative thoughts. Think in positives—for example, at the 50-mile mark of a century, you don’t have half the ride left to finish, rather, you’ve already completed half the ride.

The old saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” often holds true. Since a big bike ride is challenging enough, don’t make it harder by failing to show up properly prepared. If you have any more tips for riders looking to tackle a big ride this year or any favorite long rides that others should check out, let us know in the comments!


A Beginners Guide to Hiking in the White Mountains

At almost 800,000 acres in size, containing approximately 1,200 miles of hiking trails, and topping out at 6,288 feet—higher than anywhere else in the Northeast—the White Mountain National Forest offers nearly limitless possibilities for human-powered exploration. Hiking options in the White Mountains expand with the inclusion of adjacent state parks like Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch (which includes the nation’s oldest continuously maintained hiking trail—the Crawford Path).

The proximity of the White Mountains to many of the Northeast’s biggest cities makes them an attractive option for the region’s hikers, but one barrier remains for some who want to explore this dreamy destination: where to start?

On top of Mount Eisenhower in the Presidential Range. | Credit: Tim Peck
On top of Mount Eisenhower in the Presidential Range. | Credit: Tim Peck

Start Small to Go Big 

Epic hikes like the Presidential Traverse, Pemi Loop, and Franconia Ridge are at the top of seemingly every hiker’s White Mountain bucket list, but they aren’t the best trips for hiking novices. Start small, build fitness, get familiar with the weather and terrain of the Whites, and start figuring out what gear works for you.

Some great 1-3 hour hikes for getting your feet wet include:

For a little more of a challenge, consider these moderate hikes:

  • Middle and North Sugarloaf
  • Welch-Dickey
  • Mount Willard
  • Hedgehog Mountain
  • Mount Pemigewasset

Ready to start ticking off 4,000 footers? Here are a few of the easier ones:

  • Mount Hale via Hale Brook
  • Mount Tecumseh via Tecumseh Trail
  • Mount Waumbek via Starr King Trail
  • Mount Pierce via the Crawford Path
  • Cannon Mountain via High Cannon
Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Carry Essential Items 

The “10 essentials” serve as a basic guideline of what you should carry in the event of an emergency or an unexpected night outside. The concept originated in climbing classes taught by the Mountaineers—an outdoor recreation organization founded in the Pacific Northwest—in the 1930s. However, it wasn’t until 1974 that the 10 essentials actually made it to print, when the long-standing tome of American climbing, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills included the list in its third edition.

In the near-century since their development, the 10 essentials have evolved to encompass modern technology but still fulfill their original intention. The 10 essentials are:

  • Navigation: Study your route before you leave home, then bring a map and compass, GPS, or a smartphone with a navigation app like Gaia.
  • Headlamp: Hikers are encouraged to carry a headlamp with extra batteries, but we live by the maxim that the best place to keep extra batteries for your headlamp is in another headlamp—after all, a powerful headlamp like the Black Diamond Spot only weighs three ounces.
  • Sun protection: Sunglasses for your eyes and sun-protective clothes and sunscreen for everything else.
  • First aid: Check out the goEast article How to Restock Your First-Aid Kit for ideas on what to carry.
  • Repair kit: A small knife or multi-tool and some duct tape for making trailside repairs like fixing a broken zipper or tapping the sole of a shoe back on.
  • Fire: Waterproof matches and a firestarter.
  • Shelter: A lightweight bivy to hunker down in the event of an unexpected overnight or while awaiting rescue.
  • Extra food: Our article Staying Fueled Up on Long Hikes outlines some basic nutritional principles for powering your adventure—as a rule of thumb, bring more than you need.
  • Extra water: Water is heavy, but tablets or a lightweight mini-filter offer safe, easy ways to stay hydrated in an emergency.
  • Extra layers: Everyone has different needs—some people run warm, some cold—but bring more layers than you think you need. Get an idea of what your hiking kit should look like in our article Top to Bottom: Gear to Hike the NH 48.
Crossing the Alpine Garden below Mount Washington. | Credit: Tim Peck
Crossing the Alpine Garden below Mount Washington. | Credit: Tim Peck

Mountain Weather 

The weather in town is often a lot different from what you’ll find in the mountains. Strong, chilly winds are commonplace on hikes above treeline, as are intense sun and even the odd out-of-season snow. Rather than trusting the weather app on your phone, check out the higher summits forecast from the Mount Washington Observatory for a clear idea of what’s happening weather-wise in the Whites.

Trail Conditions 

Weather isn’t the only difference between town and the mountains. For example, snow can linger in the woods for weeks after it has melted from sidewalks and backyards. Another thing to keep in mind before hitting the trail is water crossings, as spring snowmelt and heavy rains can turn small streams into raging rivers. The website NewEnglandTrailConditions.com is a handy resource for learning what conditions to expect on your hike.

Lake of the Clouds hut, below Mount Washington. | Credit: Tim Peck
Lake of the Clouds hut, below Mount Washington. | Credit: Tim Peck

Find Some Friends

Joining a more experienced partner or two for your first few outings is a sure way to get all the benefits of the Whites without any of the stress. An experienced friend can provide critical beta—like directions to the trailhead or which way to turn at the unsigned trail junction—while also offering feedback on questions you have about appropriate gear and your fitness level.

Stay Safe

A good reason to hike within your abilities, carry the 10 essentials, and know what you’re getting yourself into is that the State of New Hampshire has recently started charging people for rescues if they’ve demonstrated negligent behavior. To insure yourself against a bill for a rescue, and to support NH Fish and Game search and rescue efforts, consider purchasing a Hike Safe Card for $25 a person or $35 for a family. Don’t think you’ll need a rescue? The NH Fish and Game on average participate in 190 search and rescue missions per year.

Have any tips for new hikers? If so, leave them in the comments below.


Are the Green Woodlands New England’s New Mountain Bike Hot Spot?

More and more mountain bike trails are springing up around New England every season. In most cases, these trail systems start with a few miles and grow slowly over the years; Rarely does a full-blown trail system spring up overnight. One place breaking the mold and blowing up the mileage is Green Woodlands in Dorchester, New Hampshire, which has opened up 70 miles of mountain bike trails—35 miles of which are machine built—in just a few years.

Green Woodlands’ mountain bike trails come thanks to the Green Woodlands Foundation, a private (multi-generational family) operating foundation that has 23,000 acres of land in the New Hampshire towns of Lyme, Dorchester, Orford, and Wentworth. The foundation’s focus is wildlife management, environmental research and education, historical preservation, and activities that get people outside, such as cross-country skiing and mountain biking.

The area has one of the easiest trail systems to navigate in the Northeast. In addition to having printed maps and brochures in most parking lots and maps at prominent trail junctions, there’s also a digital map on the Trailforks app and a free, downloadable geo-referenced PDF that is compatible with apps like Avenza. Be sure to arrive prepared—Green Woodlands’s goal was to create a backcountry “wilderness” mountain bike experience, which is what you get (to say cell-phone service is spotty is an understatement). There’s also no end-of-day trail sweep, so ride with a buddy.

The only charge for riding Green Woodlands is a smile, which isn’t hard to produce after a day riding their trails. It’s worth noting that the new nature of the trails and the fact that they’re machine built makes them particularly sensitive—avoid riding them in the rain and when they’re muddy to ensure they remain rideable and open. If the weather is questionable, check their Facebook page for conditions and updates. The mountain bike season at Green Woodlands runs from June 1st to November 5th.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Smooth and Clean 

What differentiates the Green Woodlands trails from the rake-and-ride trails that dominate other New England destinations is that they are primarily machine built. This means that the trails are smoother with fewer rocks, roots, and natural obstacles in them. It also makes these trails accessible to a wider range of riders—beginners will love the relative lack of obstacles and that the most challenging sections almost always have b-line or are easily rolled. Alternatively, more seasoned riders will find plenty of berms on trails such as Cellar Hole, tables on trails like Moose Tracks, and side hits including those on Brook Trail to play on.

While the trails themselves are very beginner-friendly, most will want to make sure they’re feeling pretty fit when visiting Green Woodlands, as there’s a significant lack of flat and rolling terrain; long climbs are rewarded with long descents and vice versa. However, thanks to an abundance of parking lots on North Dorchester Road, shuttling is a straightforward (and popular) activity, provided you have two cars.

Upper Norris. | Credit: TIm Peck
Upper Norris. | Credit: TIm Peck

The Must-Rides 

All the trails at Green Woodlands are worth exploring, but the Norris Trail should be on every Northeast mountain biker’s must-ride list. Accessed by a long, gradual climb up the Quimby Bike Trail—or a more direct grind up the double track of the Six Mile Trail—the Norris Trail is worth the effort. Delivering three-ish miles of pure downhill bliss, the Norris Trails descends approximately 1,000 feet, making it one of the longest continuous descents you’ll find in New England.

It’s not merely the length of the Norris Trail that makes it a must ride, it’s the quality. The trail begins with a sneaky (and uncharacteristic for Green Woodlands) steep, rocky chute before giving way to smooth, swoopy machine-built berms, boostable tables, and the odd side hit that will quickly have you forgetting about the searing in your lungs and wondering if it’s normal to smile so big.

Brook-trail

Beyond the Favorites 

Ledges was the first mountain bike-specific trail built at Green Woodlands—before biking, the area was known for its extensive network of XC ski trails. Different in character from many of the network’s other trails, Ledges starts with a climb up smooth singletrack which leads to some uncharacteristically techy granite ledges (hence the name) and eventually leading to a swoopy, machine-made descent.

Riders looking for a tamer trail will want to seek out the Brook Trail. Ebbing and flowing between short climbs and gradual descents, the wide, smooth singletrack culminates in a series of grin-inducing berms. Notable for the numerous giant stone cairns guarding the sides of the trail, the Brook Trail is great for beginners looking to gain confidence as well as seasoned riders wanting a fun, fast, trail that requires some pedaling.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Fine Print

At the moment, Green Woodlands is only open to residents of New Hampshire and Vermont, but the trails were built to draw visitors to this off-the-beaten-path part of the state. While you wait for Green Woodlands to expand their opening, spend some time riding hills to ensure maximum mileage when you visit and follow their Facebook account for updates.

Have you visited Green Woodlands? If so, let us know if you have any tips for first-time riders in the comments below. And, if you just visited Green Woodlands for the first time, let us know what you think!


Stop Doing These 10 Things While Mountain Biking

With everything from gyms to movie theatres closed in the wake of COVID-19, many people have turned to the outdoors for both fitness and entertainment. The renewed interest in the outdoors has led to a renaissance in numerous sports, one of which is mountain biking. Whether you’re new to the sport or just getting back into it after a long hiatus, make it look like you’ve been riding all along by avoiding these ten mountain biking mistakes.

1. Skipping Maintenance 

Neglecting your bike is no joke. Avoid going from shredder to schmuck by cleaning your bike when it’s dirty (here’s how), lubing your chain regularly, and checking the air pressure in your tires before every ride. If you’re riding tubeless tires, refresh the sealant every few months. For bikes with suspension, wipe down stanchions and check the pressure of the shocks frequently.

2. Not Knowing How to Make Easy Fixes 

Walking your bike out of the woods because you don’t know how (or weren’t prepared) to make an easy fix is no laughing matter. Know how to make simple repairs, such as fixing a flat, and carry the tools needed to make them: a multi-tool with a chain breaker, a master link, a few zip ties, a pump (or CO2 inflator and cartridges), and a spare tube (or tubeless repair kit). Another trick is to practice making repairs in a consequence-free environment so that you’ll know what to do if mishap strikes on the trail.

Credit: TIm Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Not Wearing a Helmet

Always hit the trail wearing a helmet, as even the most experienced riders have unexpectedly crashed their bikes. Helmets protect your most valuable asset—your brain—and have gotten progressively more comfortable and lightweight over the years. Think they look dorky? Better to look like a numbskull than have a cracked skull.

4. Leaving Trash Behind

These days, it seems like every trail junction has a small collection of water bottle caps, energy gel tops, and bar wrappers—not to mention valve covers and cam nuts. Pick up your trash and take it with you. Better yet, clean up rogue litter and leave the trail in better condition than you found it.

5. Riding Muddy Trails 

Riding your favorite trail while it’s wet and muddy is one of the most foolish things you can do. It leaves ruts, creates erosion, and widens the trail. The damage you’re doing makes mountain bikers look bad to landowners and managers, and threatens the future access.

6. Strava-ing 

In the hands of the right person, Strava is a wonderful tool for tracking rides, logging miles, and gauging improvement. In the wrong hands, it turns even the best-intentioned bikers into monsters. KOMs and QOMs are nice achievements, and medaling on a segment boosts confidence, but if you really want to race…enter a real one.

Credit: TIm Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Acting Like a Jerk

There’s nothing funny about a lack of trail etiquette. If you’re a slower rider, move over and let faster riders pass you. If you’re a faster rider, give slower riders a chance to let you pass and resist tailgating. If you need to make a repair, stay clear of the trail when doing it. In general, act friendly to other riders and trail users—ride in control, smile, and say hello.

8. Being Elitist 

27.5-inch or 29-inch tire? Aluminum or carbon? Fully rigid or full-suspension? Flat pedals or clipless? The fact is that the trails are filled with many different types of bikes and riders. So long as everyone is acting appropriately and having a good time, the sport is healthy. Thinking you’re better than everybody else on the trail ensures you’re the butt of the joke.

9. Making Excuses

It’s too hot. It’s too cold. The trail is too far away. Stop making excuses and start riding your bike! The trick to an awesome riding season is to get out in all conditions, on all types of trails, with lots of different riders, and to simply spend as much time on your bike as you can. Here are some great rides around Boston’s south shore and a favorite spot to stop for a ride and a pint (or two) in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region to get you going.

10. Thinking About Mountain Biking (Instead of Actually Riding)

The world is filled with distractions: Danny MacAskill videos on YouTube, your riding buddy’s latest GoPro shreddit, magazines like Bike and Freehub, glossy manufacturer catalogs, and Pinkbike to name a few. While those are all great for getting psyched, they also dupe you into wasting time that would be better spent actually riding your bike.

Do you have a tip for new riders or see something you’d love more experienced riders to stop doing? If so, we want to hear it! Leave it in the comments below.

Credit: TIm Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Alpha Guide: Hiking Mount Moosilauke

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

The treeless summit of New Hampshire’s tenth tallest mountain and westernmost 4,000-footer is a stunning and worth prize for peakbaggers.

Taking its name from the Abenaki language, Mount Moosilauke translates to “bald place.” No doubt named after its stunning, treeless, wind-swept summit cone, Moosilauke is a day hiker’s delight, offering a wide variety of trails that will challenge all types of hikers. No matter what direction you summit from, the reward is a stunning 360-degree view—so long as the weather is good.

 

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Turn-By-Turn

Most of the day hikes on Mount Moosilauke leave from four trailheads: the Carriage Road Trailhead, the Ravine Lodge Trailhead, the Glencliff Trailhead, and Beaver Brook Trailhead.

The Carriage Road and Ravine Lodge trailheads are both located off NH Route 118, while the Beaver Brook Trailhead is on NH Route 112. All three are within 15-20 minutes of both Lincoln and Woodstock, New Hampshire.

Getting to the Glencliff Trailhead is a bit more complicated. First, get to NH Route 25 (which runs north-south west of Moosilauke), then turn onto Sanatorium Road. The trailhead is about a mile up the road on the right. A field and a White Mountain National Forest sign are two indicators that you’ve found the right parking lot.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Gorge Brook Trail

Distance: 7.4 miles, 2,450 feet, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half-day
Difficulty:★★
Scenery:★★★★★


Season: Late-spring through early-fall.
Fees/Permits: None
Contact: https://outdoors.dartmouth.edu/services/ravine_lodge/directions.html

The shortest and most popular way to Moosilauke’s summit, the Gorge Brook Trail begins near Dartmouth College’s Ravine Lodge on Ravine Lodge Road. After crossing a brook on a hikers’ bridge, the trail turns left, then at a well-marked junction, starts climbing alongside Gorge Brook, crisscrossing the brook on a few occasions.

After about 1.5 miles, the trail diverges from the brook near a memorial for Ross McKenny, the Dartmouth Outing Club’s Woodcraft Advisor, and builder of the Ravine Lodge. From here, the trail begins to climb gradually up Moosilauke’s flank through beautiful forest, eventually passing a series of overlooks—one toward the Sandwich Range and then others with fantastic views of Lincoln, Franconia Ridge, and the Kancamagus Highway. Nearer the summit, the trail steeply ascends a series of switchbacks, eventually reaching an open area with excellent views. From here, the trail briefly drops back below tree line before beelining up the summit cone. A short-but-steep, open, and often windy hike across the alpine zone gets you up to the 360-degree views on Moosilauke’s rocky summit. Once you arrive, plop yourself behind one of the many windbreaks, grab a snack, enjoy the views, and relish the 3.7 miles and 2,400 feet of elevation gain that you’ve achieved.

To return to the base, either retrace your steps or, on nicer days, make a fantastic loop by descending via the Carriage Road to the Snapper Trail and back to Ravine Lodge Road. If you do the loop, tag Moosilauke’s South Peak on the way. It’s one of the best sub-peaks in the Whites!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Beaver Brook Trail

Distance: 7.6 miles, 3,100 feet, one way, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Full-day
Difficulty:★★★★
Scenery:★★★★★


Season: Late-spring through early-fall.
Fees/Permits: White Mountain National Forest Recreation Pass ($5/day or $30/annual)
Contact: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whitemountain/recarea/?recid=74571

The Beaver Brook Trail is the steepest and most challenging trail to Moosilauke’s summit, and is also part of the iconic Appalachian Trail. Ascending 2,700 feet from Beaver Brook Trailhead to Mossilauke’s summit, the trail gains 3,100 cumulative feet in elevation—accounting for the trail’s various ups and downs—over just 3.8 miles.

Leaving the Beaver Brook Trailhead, the trail starts gently, weaving over roots and boulders, and crossing a few bridges before gaining the Beaver Brook Cascades. From here, the trail hugs the Beaver Brook Cascades for the next mile and delivers some of the steepest hiking in the Whites—hiking that is made even more challenging because it is often wet and slippery thanks to mist from the nearby falls. Many of the steepest sections feature wooden steps and iron rungs to aid in the ascent.

After about 1.5 miles on the Beaver Brook Trail, it intersects with a short spur trail leading to the Beaver Brook Shelter which marks the end of the steepest climbing. After another half-mile of hiking, the trail meets with the Asquam Ridge Trail; Bear right and continue on the Beaver Brook Trail for another 1.5 miles, passing under the summit of 4,529-foot Mount Blue (a non-counting New Hampshire 4,000-footer). From here, the trail converges with the Benton Trail for the final half-mile push across the alpine zone and past large cairns to the summit.

An ascent of Mount Moosilauke via the Beaver Brook Trail is most commonly an out-and-back affair. Use caution on the return trip, though—descending steep terrain on tired legs can be a recipe for disaster.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Carriage Road

Distance: 10.2, 3,100 feet, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half-day
Difficulty:★★★
Scenery:★★★★★


Season: Late-spring through early-fall.
Fees/Permits: None
Contact: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whitemountain/recarea/?recid=74571

Constructed in the 1800s, the Carriage Road was built as a means to get visitors to a hotel (the Prospect House, later known as the Tip Top House) that once stood on top of Mount Moosilauke. The Carriage Road is the longest and gentlest of the popular hiking routes to the mountain’s summit—it’s approximately 5 miles long and climbs 3,000 feet.

Hikers begin their journey on the Carriage Road at a small gravel lot on Breezy Point Road that’s notable for the numerous hotels that have stood there, including the Merrill Mountain Home, the Breezy Point House, and the Moosilauke Inn. Although none of the buildings remain today, curious hikers can find remnants of these old buildings with a little searching.

An ascent of the Carriage Road begins benignly. Over the first 1.25 miles, the trail slowly weaves through a low-elevation forest passing pines and birches and gradually picking up elevation then passing over the Baker River before intersecting with the Snapper Trail. Continuing on the Carriage Road, hikers will begin to notice the birches give way to smaller pines with occasional views to their right and at their back. Not long after meeting the Snapper Trail, the trail starts to steepen as it climbs 1.25 miles to its junction with the Glencliff Trail and a short (0.1 mile) spur trail leading to the 4,523-foot South Peak.

From here, it’s just under a mile to the summit with each step bringing you further into the alpine zone, and exposed to the elements, as the krumholz gives way to bare rock before ending at Moosilauke’s bright orange summit sign. Along the way, there are plenty of views, especially west toward Vermont’s Green Mountains—try to pick out Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield on the western horizon. It’s common for Carriage Road hikers to return the way the came, enjoying the width and gentle grade of the trail on the descent.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Glencliff Trail

Distance: 7.8 miles, 3,300 feet, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half-day
Difficulty:★★★
Scenery:★★★★★


Season: Late-spring through early-fall.
Fees/Permits: None
Contact: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whitemountain/recarea/?recid=74571

Just 4 miles long and gaining roughly 3,300 feet in elevation to Moosilauke’s summit, the Glencliff Trail is a fantastic way to explore the southwest side of Moosilauke. Beginning at a trailhead on Sanatorium Road, the trail is quite moderate for the first mile—starting through grassy fields before gradually ascending through forested terrain of yellow birches and hemlocks.

Thereafter, the trail begins to climb more steeply, while also becoming more rocky and rugged, as it approaches the ridge just below Moosilauke’s South Peak. Atop the ridge (around the 3-mile mark), the trail passes a short spur trail for South Peak—be sure to check it out if you have time—and then joins the Carriage Road almost immediately. From the junction with the Carriage Road, it is another mile up to the summit.

Ascending Moosilauke via the Glencliff Trail is typically done as an out-and-back. Because Glencliff is part of the Appalachian Trail, hikers may well spot some thru-hikers as they head north toward Maine’s Mt. Katahdin or southbound toward Georgia’s Springer Mountain.


Moose from South Peak. | Credit: Tim Peck
Moose from South Peak. | Credit: Tim Peck

Trails Less Traveled

If you’re looking for a bit more solitude on your hike up Moosilauke, consider one of these less-traveled trails.

Asquam Ridge Trail: Those looking for a longer hike from the Ravine Lodge Trailhead should check out the Asquam Ridge Trail. Running 5.8 miles to Moosilauke’s summit, the trail makes a gradual ascent up the northeastern side of the mountain. One highlight of the trail is that just before it connects with the Beaver Brook Trail (at mile 3.9), it passes near the summit of Mount Jim, which at 4,172 feet tall is one of the several non-counting 4,000-footers that surround Mount Moosilauke. Look for a short spur trail to check out Jim’s summit.

Benton Trail: Thanks to the out-of-the-way location of the Benton Trailhead—and some rerouting in the wake of Hurricane Irene—the Benton Tail sees much less traffic compared to Moosilauke’s more popular routes, despite being one of the easiest ways to the mountain’s summit. The 3.6-mile trail follows the route of an old bridle path, accounting for its modest terrain and moderate footing. Hikers on the Benton Trail are also afforded fantastic views of the Kinsmans and Little Tunnel Brook Ravine, before connecting with the Beaver Brook Trail/Appalachian Trail. From here, the trail continues for a half-mile through the alpine zone, guided by impressive cairns, to Moosilauke’s rocky summit.

Snapper Trail: The 1.1-mile long Snapper Trail is a popular connector for hikers looking to make a loop hike out of the Gorge Brook Trail and the Carriage Road. The most popular of these loops is to ascend Moosilauke via the Gorge Brook Trail and descend via Carriage Road, breaking off on to the Snapper Trail and reconnecting with the Gorge Brook Trail a little more than a half-mile before the Ravine Lodge.

Looking for another great way to explore Mount Moosilauke? Skinning up the Carriage Road to Moosilauke’s summit and descending on skis is a classic New Hampshire ski tour. Check it out after the next big winter storm.


Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit 

  • Whether it’s spare layers or fuel for your Moosilauke adventure, carry it in comfort (and style) with an Osprey Talon/Tempest daypack.
  • Sitting alone on the edge of the Whites and exposed to the full force of the elements, Mount Moosilauke’s summit is notoriously windy. The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody (men’s/women’s) offers lightweight and packable protection.
  • Similarly, a puffy coat is often welcome on Moosilauke’s summit even during the dog days of summer. The Outdoor Research Ascendant (men’s/women’s) uses a breathable insulation that is perfect for days when you’re trying to stay warm on your scramble back down to treeline.
  • Here are 10 great reasons to use trekking poles—and Black Diamond’s Trail Trekking Poles (men’s/women’s) offer the perfect blend of performance and durability.
  • Stoke will only power you so far up the mountain. When it starts to wane, refuel with a Honey Stinger Cracker N’ Nut Butter Snack Bar (the peanut butter and milk chocolate ones are our favorite).

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • The Last Chair in Plymouth is a great place to stop for a pizza and pint if you’ve been hiking the Glencliff Trail, Carriage Road, or Gorge Brook. Beaver Brook Trail hikers can grab a burger and beer at J.L. Sullivans in Thornton.
  • You don’t need to be a Dartmouth student to take advantage of the school’s Ravine Lodge—it’s open to everyone and offers easy access to the Gorge Brook Trail.
  • Spend a night on the mountain at the Beaver Brook Shelter, located right off the Beaver Brook Trail. The shelter sleeps eight, and features one of the better privies in the Whites.
  • With so many trails criss-crossing Moosilauke’s flanks, make sure you stay on course with map like this waterproof map of the White Mountains.
  • Hunt for history and hike to the site of a 1942 plane crash below the Asquam Ridge Trail.

The Best Northeast-Related Outdoor Books and Movies to Keep You Occupied and Stoked

The stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and closing of climbing gyms in the early days of the pandemic gave us plenty of time to refine our basement workouts and reacquaint ourselves with our hang boards. It also provided plenty of time to dig into our bookshelves, video libraries, and deep-dive YouTube in search of outdoor inspiration. While there’s no shortage of great books and films documenting outdoor adventure, here are some of our favorites with a focus on the Northeast.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods is an interesting and humorous journey along the AT in which Bryson, recently returned from England and living in Hanover, New Hampshire, details his time on the trail and digs into its history. The Eastern Mountain Sports store in West Lebanon even shows up on a few pages when Bryson outfits himself for the trail. Don’t like books? You’re in luck—it’s now a movie too, starring Robert Redford.

The Last of His Kind, The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America’s Boldest Mountaineer, David Roberts

Written by former Amherst professor and one-time Harvard mountaineering club President David Roberts, The Last of His Kind details the life of Cambridge, Massachusetts, native and founding director of the Boston Museum of Science Bradford Washburn. An extraordinary individual, the book follows Washburn from his early exploits in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range to the Alps to his numerous first ascents in Alaska. Despite being most active from the 1930s to 1950s, Washburn’s tales, photos, and maps are still inspiring adventurers today.

Where You’ll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova, Ty Gagne

Partially piecing together what happened to hiker/climber Kate Matrosova on her fatal Presidential Traverse attempt and partially telling the story of the search and rescue effort that tried to save her life in horrific winter conditions, Where You’ll Find Me is an excellent and thoughtful book that takes readers into the minds of both hikers and SAR-personal (all without judgment) and through terrain familiar to most White Mountain hikers. Former EMS Climbing School Manager, Charlie Townsend, even makes an appearance on a few pages of Where You’ll Find Me.

Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship, Tom Ryan

If you’re in need of a more uplifting read after Where You’ll Find Me, look no further than Following Atticus—an inspiring tale of an out-of-shape Newburyport, Massachusetts, journalist and a miniature schnauzer’s attempt to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot mountains twice in a single winter as a tribute to a friend who died of cancer. Recognizable peaks, familiar struggles, White Mountains adventure, and the bond between a man and his dog make this a must-read.

Yankee Rock and Ice: A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States, Laura and Guy Waterman

Written by famed New England climbers and conservationists Laura and Guy Waterman, this book chronicles climbing in the Northeast from scrambles in the early 1800s to the ushering in of 5.13 in the 1980s. More than just detailing ascents, Yankee Rock and Ice details the personalities, ethics, and styles that make the Northeast a unique climbing destination. Don’t miss this one if you’re at all into the history of the routes you’re climbing.

The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Manual—From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue, Marc Chauvin and Rob Coppolillo

What better time to improve your rope management skills? Co-authored by Marc Chauvin, a fixture in the Northeast guiding community, The Mountain Guide Manual contains innumerable tips, tricks, and skills that will make you a more efficient climber. Filled with step-by-step instructions and pictures, it allows you to work on skills at home or at out-of-the-way crags during busy times. Attentive readers will also notice several New Hampshire destinations in the pics, including rock climbing at Cathedral’s Thin Air Face and North End and ice climbing at Frankenstein and Willey’s Slide.

Uncommon Ground; A Northeastern Climbing Documentary, Rob Frost

A cult classic among northeast climbers, Uncommon Ground gives viewers an in-depth look at the crags, climbs, and characters that define the Northeast. Along the way, viewers join notables like Jim Surrette and Mark Synott on a tour of Cathedral Ledge classics, watch Dave Graham’s first ascent of Speed of Life at Farley, and join Jeff Butterfield for a wild climb on Acadia’s coast. That’s just the beginning of other notable northeastern climbers that appear—stay tuned for Henry Barber, Tim Kemple, Peter Kamitses, and Joe Kinder on routes ranging from the backcountry of the Adirondacks to Rumney bolt ups.

Epoch: Climbing, Skiing, and Discovering the History Behind the Highest Peaks in the Northeast, Meathead Films

No all-East Coast movie list is complete without a contribution from the Vermont-based Meathead Films, better known in recent years for webisodes like Working for the Weekend and Promised Land. Unlike many ski movies, Epoch is more focused on telling a story than simply showing powder porn, following seven skiers as they set out to hike and ski five of the Northeast’s most recognizable peaks—Mount Greylock, Mount Washington, Mount Marcy, Mount Mansfield, and Katahdin—while digging into the history of these state highpoints.

The Fifty, Episode 23—Mount Washington: The Eastern King of Backcountry Skiing, Cody Townsend

Like many of us, you were probably hoping to get up to Mount Washington for some backcountry skiing this spring. While those plans likely got scrapped, you can at least dream about ripping classic lines in Huntington and Tuckerman Ravine just like Townsend and friends do in Episode 23. At just over 15 minutes long, there’s no reason to miss this episode of The Fifty.

Dosage II & Dosage V, Big Up Productions

It should come as no surprise that New York City-based Big Up Productions’ early movies feature a fair amount of East Coast-centric content. Two favorite segments come from Dosage II and Dosage V. Dosage II treats viewers to a tour of the classic hard climbs on Rumney’s Waimea—courtesy of Dave Graham, Joe Kinder, and Luke Parody. Dosage V drops the rope and takes us to some of the Northeast’s toughest boulder problems and more secretive spots with Paul Robinson and a host of local hardmen.

Québec ICE trip 2008: Team Petzl in Festiglace, Petzl

An oldie but goodie, this video spotlights a group of Canadians on the way to Festiglace—an ice climbing festival in Québec—the team pauses along the way to visit all-time ice destinations such as New Hampshire’s Frankenstein Cliff and Cathedral Ledge and Vermont’s Lake Willoughby. The best part about Québec ICE trip 2008 is that it’s free to watch on YouTube.

If you make it through this list, a few other honorable mentions are Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everestby Boston-born climber/mountaineer Ed Webster. Also featuring Webster is the movie Luxury Liner: The First Ascent of Supercrack (free to watch on Vimeo), which details the first ascent of the desert splitter Supercrack, an especially impressive feat in the pre-cam days. Lastly, if you haven’t yet watched Valley Uprising, now is the time! Be sure to note the way New England legend Henry Barber took the Valley by storm in the 1970s.

Did we miss a must-read book or must-see movie about the Northeast? If so, let us know in the comments below!