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If you’re used to climbing in the American West, where the rock is clean, dry, and abundant, you might at first look askance at climbing in northern New England. Crags here are often damp and covered with lichen, moss, and grungy arboreal debris. “Weeping cracks” leak water for days after a rain. In May and June, swarms of black flies can reduce even the most stoic person to frantic desperation. As climbing season progresses, it’s too cold, then too wet, then too buggy, then suddenly too hot, and finally — for a brief period in autumn — perfect!

Your climbing career is incomplete until you’ve desperately tried to mantle onto steep, holdless granite slabs covered with slippery pine needles fifteen feet above your last protection, or thrashed and stumbled for hours bushwhacking through swamps and underbrush searching for some rumored tiny boulder or outcrop.

But don’t despair, because — seriously! — there is a spectacular abundance of tremendous and rewarding climbing available to the Dartmouth-area rock enthusiast. There is something for everyone — from the delicate low-angle friction climbing of Whitehorse Ledge, where upper body strength is superfluous, to the ferocious overhanging sport-routes of Sundown and Rumney; from perfect cracks cleaving the superb Cathedral granite, to miles of overhanging quartzite buckets in the Gunks; from tiny, intimate rocks in the woods, like Rose Ledges and nearby glacial boulders, to the alpine immensity of Cannon Cliff.

In time, you can even begin to perceive a kind of magic in the wild, quirky weather, and a subtle beauty in the mossy forest. The extreme seasonal changes become almost exhilarating: the earthy fragrances of early spring, the caresses of cool air rising off lingering patches of snow, the delight and amazement at the emergence of warm, dry rock again for the first time in months, giving way to the green jungle of summer, to the miraculous, blazing pyrotechnics of October color, and to the austere clarity and quiet of November woods.

These descriptions are intended primarily to help orient the newcomer to the different climbing areas of this region and to suggest a few of the classic routes. If you are in need of climbing partners or instruction, join the Mountaineering Club. Trips are always heading out, even for the absolute beginner. Call OPO at (603) 646-2429 to find out weekly meeting times.

No brief overview can describe all aspects of every area in sufficient detail to fully forewarn even a competent climber of potential ambiguities of route description and descent options, etc. It is highly recommended that the reader use this chapter in conjunction with one of the detailed climbing guidebooks. If a guidebook to an area is available, it is so noted in the text.

Last Updated: 12/20/22