Atop the Eaglet Spire in Franconia Notch
After my trip to Rangeley I headed back south to the Whites to do some climbing in Franconia Notch with Chris. This trip was supposed to be a bit of prep for our trip to the Tetons later this summer and we were planning to do Moby Grape (5.8) which is an 8-9 pitch route on Cannon Mountain. The weather had other plans though.
Wednesday, the Fourth, I met Chris at the parking lot for Cannon at noon. While I waited for him to arrive I spied Cannon with my binoculars, everything looked ok, but not totally dry. The big problem was that it was very hot, humid, and there definitely was some convection going on in the sky. I recommended we not climb anything on Cannon and it didn’t take much convincing for Chris to agree. Luckily I had borrowed a Secrets of the Notch guidebook from Eli and we headed over to Echo Crag which is just an exit or two north of Cannon. …
Echo Crag is an awesome little spot if it looks like the weather isn’t going to support a day at Cannon. The approach is short, only 10-20 minutes on easy ground and all the routes are single pitch and most have great bolted anchors to rap off of. We headed to the Square Inch Wall, which as the name implies, has routes about every 5 feet. We played around here for a while on some 6’s, 7’s, 8’s and one 9+, which were all fun. I also lead a 10a which had a very difficult crux but every other move on it was much easier. Around this time we heard a few rumbles of thunder and decided to head back to the cars. We got back to the cars as the rain started to become a bit more steady and the thunder more closely spaced.
Luckily we had already setup our tents at the campground so we just headed back there to make some dinner. The rain was pretty heavy as well as the lightning/thunder so we were glad we didn’t hike all the way up to Cannon only to epic in the storm. Being the Fourth of July we decided to cook up some hotdogs which turned out well despite only having my Dragonfly stove. As we finished up dinner we hear another storm start to roll in. Chris decided to turn in for the evening and I stayed up to make some sandwiches for the next day. I had to make these in my car though because the new storm was dumping lots of rain and wind as well as lighting the sky with lightning.
I finished making my PB&Js and was thinking of making a dash for my tent. I cracked the door of my car for a second and the deluge of water coming in made me change my mind. I waited out the worst of the storm for about 20 minutes. When it finally tapered off to just a heavy rain I then ran to my tent. In the light of my headlamp I could see a couple rivers of water running through our tentsite. The hard sand/gravel base of the site didn’t soak up much of the water and most of it ran off. After getting into my tent I noticed that portions of the floor of my tent felt like a water bed because the rain went between the ground tarp and the tent floor. I quickly inflated my air mattress and got on top to lessen the pressure I put on the floor so as not to cause the water to seep in. Luckily I stayed pretty dry even with the amount of splatter under my rain fly that happened.
Thursday we headed to Cannon again and could see that we wouldn’t be doing Moby Grape that day. To be more accurate we couldn’t see, the cloud ceiling was only a few hundred feet above the highway. We decided to have a little adventure and headed to the Eaglet, which is the tallest free standing spire on the East Coast. Now before you think of a Utah desert looking feature know that it is only about 110 ft high. The approach was a little hard to find near the top, primarily because we couldn’t see the spire until we were right under it. Luckily our nearly 1 hour approach wasn’t in vain because the rock felt dry enough to climb. I rack up and headed up.
The first pitch is 40-50 feet of good climbing on interesting moves and acceptable gear. At the top of that I hit a bit of wet slab going into a tree filled ledge. I set an anchor and brought up Chris who didn’t have trouble with it. The second pitch starts up the right of two chimneys. These moves were a little difficult to protect but the moves are all solid if you take your time and find the awkward movement required. Topping out on the chimney brought me to the best part of the two pitch route.
From the chimney you get dumped onto a good sized ledge with a rap station made of slings around a large block. Moving up and left of this you get the dose of exposure you were looking for on this climb. Unfortunately we were still inside the cloud so the exposure was more of a nothingness, which was kind of neat in itself since I didn’t really know how far down it was. I moved up passed a fixed cam and pin to a spot where I traversed left a bit and a bolt. From here I went up to another ledge about 10 feet below the summit. To reach the summit I kept winding left and sort of half corkscrewed up to the top which thankfully had a nice set of rap bolts. The top is about the size of a large couch but not flat.
Chris and I decided to use the newer rap rings which are for making two raps back down the route we climbed. Had we been more adventurous or had two ropes we could have done the partially free hanging rappel off the south face of the Eaglet–next time. We headed down since most of the other climbs in this area were either too difficult or wet for us to try. On our way back down to the car the clouds lifted some and the Eagley then came fully into view. Too bad we didn’t wait an hour or two before starting our climb. We headed back to Echo Crag to finish up the day on a couple climbs. One of them Arete is a spectacular 5.8 which should not be missed.
Friday brought us back to Cannon, this time the sun was out and the rock looked like it was drying. Unfortunately the upper pitches, near the Finger of Fate, on Moby were still wet. Disappointedly we trudged up and decided to do some smaller climbs. We did Reppy’s Crack (5.8), Slow and Easy (5.8), and Duet (5.7). I gave Raven Crack (5.9) a hard look but chickened out. I should have went for it since the pitch was short and it had lots of gear.
We headed to Rumney late Friday to camp at D’Acres and climb with Jesse, Adrienne, and Matt on Saturday. It was amazingly humid and it wasn’t a good sending day. 5.10a’s felt hard and I didn’t bother getting on my projects. Despite this I was able to flash Apocalypse Later (5.11c) which amazed me. It is a great climb with lots of variation.