BETA PHOTO: The normal (5.7) route is the green line... follow...
Whitney Gilman climbs the prominent ridge on the left side of Cannon. Interesting climbing, great belay ledges and incredible exposure make this climb a classic one. Edging up the well defined arete is an experience unique to New Hampshire climbing. There is no 5.7 more exposed than the WG.
The approach is long. Expect about one hour of hiking. Walk down along the bike trail until you reach a well marked trail heading into the woods. Follow this trail uphill and through the interminable talus field to the base of the climb.
The climb starts after a short scramble up and left from the base of the ridge.
Pitch 1: Climb a right facing corner until it is possible to move upwards on flakes and a wide crack. This is traditionally rated 5.4, but feels a bit harder, especially at the bottom.
Pitch 2: Continue up near the right corner. A step down and right (5.7) is required to gain the prominent crack. Belay on the most convenient belay ledge.
Pitch 3: Climb the obvious hand crack in the steep wall. This crack is rated 5.8. There is an easier variation to the left, but there may have been rockfall on this part of the pitch. Continue up the defined ridge. The exposure here is intense, as the malicious Black Dike looms to the right. Pass the famous pipe that was pounded into the crack on the second ascent, (What were they thinking?) and belay on an exposed, slanting perch. 5.7.
Pitch 4: Move up a steep wall, and then trend left on a slab to a comfortable belay ledge. 5.6.
Pitch 5: Many variations are possible on the last pitch. Staying right on the corner presents a better 5.8/9 alternative to the 5.7 groove to the left. Top out at a picturesque overlook.
Descent: Walk straight up into the woods on a well worn trail. The trail heads left and downhill. After a considerable amount of walking, you will reach the bike path. The trail does not go back to the base, so do not leave gear there.
Standard light rock rack to 3". There are many fixed pins en route, so bring a number of slings. One rope is fine. If it is necessary to rap, one rope will get you down since there are so many ledges. You will need to leave gear, as there are no fixed anchors. Also, a helmet is mandatory.
If you have fantasies of serious alpinism, then a winter ascent of the Whitney Gilman Ridge is the ticket. As an aspiring alpinist, I did the route in January, 1979, in very dry but cold conditions. Then, just a few weeks ago, when I foolishly scheduled an ice climbing trip to New England for early January, I did it again, this time with fairly warm conditions (mid-thirties), but with verglas here and there to keep things interesting. The terrain on the route reminded me of crux sections of some of the great alpine routes in the Alps and Canadian Rockies -- great position and when the cracks have snow and ice in them, you'll need to draw on a whole range of tricks to get through the steep sections.
By Floridaputz From: Oakland Park, Florida May 14, 2007
I think you want to be first in line on this one. The climb is loose for the most part but punctuated by awesome climbing in exposed sections. The flake below the metal pole is spectacular. The cruxes are all solid and fun. The views of Canon Mt are exceptional. Perfect climb for the weekend warrior (like me) A quick walk off makes this a fun affair.
By lee hansche Administrator From: goffstown, nh Jul 12, 2007
Quick walk off... are we thinking of the same route... i guess these things are relative, but the walk off is the reason i only climb at cannon once in a while... im a wimp when it comes to hiking...
I avoided this climb for years, primarily because of its reputation as a crowded moderate with high rockfall potential. Big mistake. With an early start on a Monday, we were all alone on this fun route. The exposure makes the moderate grade very satisfying and the scenery is fabulous. The recommended light rack to 3" is right on -- I read somewhere that a #4 Camelot was useful, but it ended up just being dead weight for me.
Highly recommend doing the 5.8 crack/corner on the 3rd? pitch. Eats two #1 camalots and puts you a great ledge on the overhanging right face a little earlier. A nice face pitch links into the pipe pitch from here. Staying right higher up 5.8+ also yields some nicer rock. Took 3 tries to finally get a good day to do this one and will always remember it. A truly great route with a feeling hard to get east of the rockies.
In 1998, the 5.8+/5.9 finish through the v-groove off the featureless slab had a loaf of bread size loose block that had to be maneuvered around at the crux. It probably upped the grade a bit, but it was an exciting finish to this great line. Of course my party advised me to lead that alternate finish because it was easy!
By Jay Knower Administrator From: Plymouth, NH Jul 16, 2008
It's easy to get off route on the WG. When people get off route, they are almost always too far left. So, if you are comfortable on 5.8ish terrain, I'd say that you should always choose the right option if confronted with a routefinding choice.
If you go way left, you'll end up in a vertical scree field; however, too far right will take you around the corner onto the Across the Great Divide face (A4). It's unlikely that, while free climbing, you would find yourself on A4 territory.
So, on the WG, be like John McCain, and keep heading right.
My partner Dana and I were fortunate enough to do this on a beautiful September day two weeks ago; we were the only ones on the route. I had last done it in the summer of 1975, and it was my partner's second alpine rock route. Good protection, easy route finding, short cruxes, and there really isn't much loose rock, considering the cliff you're climbing on. Quite a day.
I did this route two summers back (2006) with Jim Shimberg. This was my first multi-pitch experience. I found this route to be very enjoyable and although I wasn't leading when removing the placements they seemed very safe, he rock wasn't overly lose but I suspect that over the summer it cleans up with more traffic. The 5.8 crack was awesome and at the top Jim Shimberg decided that instead of going around to the left that he would go straight over the top, this translated into 5.9 moves, and me taking a fall at 590 feet, that was a shocker, but this variant was fun and protected but a small nut, so if you are feeling zealous I would suggest this variant. when you reach the top do not forget to enjoy the view.
By lee hansche Administrator From: goffstown, nh May 2, 2009
Found some pretty good footage of the route on you tube:
Did the ridge May 24, 09. I placed some of the pins especially third pitch about 15+yrs. ago. The pins are beginning to look like body weight only protection. Also these pins are likely to brake off during attempted replacement. Houston, we have a problem. Aren't much options left up there. Climbers should climb for climbing sake and experienced parties are a must now in my opinion. The rock shouldn't handle be nailed at the top. I wouldn't expand any rock up there. Besides that we were a party of three that had a wonderful day.
The 5.8 hand crack on the third pitch is a must-do. Very nice. Superfun summer or winter.
By E thatcher From: Plymouth/ North Conway (NH) Sep 10, 2009
I think the route is worth doing, but must say I was disappointed. I was expecting a classic climb and long multi pitch experience akin to my experiences on Moby. We did the climb in 2 and a short pitch, took us about 2 hours and 40 minutes from car to top, and I thought there was maybe 60 ft total of fun exposed climbing. True there were good ledges, and yes it was on Cannon which was cool. But it just didn't live up to the hype for me.
It may not be the sickest clean route in the world, but it is a fantastic piece of history. And when compared to other ridge climbs it's classic. I don't climb it every year, but I look forward every time. It's also very similar to the rest of cannon moderates, as in shorter pitches broken up by gravely ledges. It reminds of climbing in the winds or other things out west, semi-technical climbing interspersed with technical climbing to get to the top of a feature.
If you have double 60m ropes, you can do this climb in 3 long, high quality pitches in a relatively short amount of time. For a more sustained line (if you are solid on 5.8) you can start at the left-hand corner-crack start and climb all the way to the second large ledge at the base of the 5.8 handcrack pitch. From there, pitch 2 climbs the hand crack on the right, then goes up super steep, exposed blocks around to the right, then straight up through the pipe pitch to belay on a nice ledge on the left side of the arete. Then, traverse left to the nice ledge below the beautiful fin, up the fin, than straight up the arete to the top in one long third pitch, taking the 5.8/5.9 variation. These last two pitches are exposed and have some potentially loose rock, but have very exciting climbing, and are direct; with caution they can be safely negotiated. The last pitch right hand variation, in my opinion is not a lot harder than the 5.7 standard finish, with comparable protection. Doubles up to #2 Camalot is all that I placed.
I just wanted to add a little bit of info that comes from the Sykes guidebook. For the first pitch, which as Jay mentions feels harder than 5.4, it is 5.6 directly up the corner with the 5.6 move being in the first few feet before you reach the horizontal cracks - it can be a little unnerving as this part is sometimes damp and needs wider gear. To keep it at 5.4 or 5.5, hand traverse in from the right.
On pitch 2, the guidebook indicates that the right exposed crack is 5.6 and the left is 5.7 though the left looks FAR more doable and obvious with chalk and a pin - to me it is the most strenuous part of the entire route (even having done the 5.8 3rd pitch) - but I've never done the right crack so it is hard to compare.
These aren't major variations or changes, but I found knowing these spots were a bit harder than I initially figured they would be very helpful.
This Classic is kind of a pile. Yes, it is exposed on the 3rd and 5th pitches and the 5.8 variations are more challenging, but the rock is mostly a choss pile interspersed with some fun clean rock. The pins are plentiful to clip if you dare. Super sharp fins and/or edges could be rope cutters very easily in a fall and they exist everywhere on the route. A good tick off the list, but overall I was not super impressed.
Oh, the approach trail is not at all obvious (as many guidebooks say) if you are there after the leaves have fallen, totally obscured and easy to miss (like we did). But there is a rock cairn at the approach trail if you are not blind (like we are).
My partner and I were the first party up WG on Saturday (7/30/11), we were in the clouds for much of the climb.
For any 5.8/9 or higher leaders out there, heed the recommendations of a light rack. I decided to take doubles of nearly everything and regret it. While I didn't link pitches together, I often only used 4-5 pieces per pitch. Most of the climbing is much easier stuff between the harder sections. I felt very comfortable running out 30 feet or more in some spots since the terrain was easy in many places. For the crux pitches, especially the pipe pitch variation I placed more, but there are so many pro options that a double rack probably isn't necessary. Belays are pretty spacious for the most part.
Bottom line, a single rack of cams, set of nuts, and pink thru blue tricams is what I'd bring on my next ascent. Leaders where 5.7/8 is your limit, you might feel more comfortable with more gear.
I climbed this route with my friend Bruce yesterday for the first time in four years, it was a wonderful day in the notch. We had wanted to do it in semi-winter conditions, but the weather gave us a beautiful day. It was cloudy but in the mid 40's for the entire route and the route was completely dry and the decent was not terrible.
We did the 5.8 hand crack variation which I suggest to everyone. The atmosphere was cool and we got to witness a lot of ice falling in the Black Dike. This route is a classic for sure!
This route needs to be trundled again (everywhere). The ledge above the v-groove is full of terrifying loose blocks. To avoid this step right immediately at the top of the v-groove (careful of loose holds) and up to the off width belay, or take the 5.8 variation.
By Robert Hall Sep 24, 2013 rating: 5.75a15V+MVS 4b PG13
I climbed this route for the first time in about 35 years this past Monday. A Monday and we left the car at 9am and were 3rd on the route. Took the "front crack" start- and I thought I was getting old and weak until I read Marc Chauvin's description, he felt it was 5.7 ( as I did, 'crux' low, before easy protection). Much has changed in 35+ yrs. The "V" groove on P3 is more way more awkward; the 5"-6" off-width on P4 used to be only 2" wide and an easy jam, especially with boots. On the last pitch, after the traverse left, the inside corner started "on a pile of rubble"; the rubble is now gone and as a result to initial moves up the corner are now much harder, 5.7 vs. 5.4 or so. Plus, the 5.7 move(s) are on less-then-the-most-secure flakes. BTW-I didn't notice too many "terrifying" lose blocks on the ledge above the "V" groove and we actually belayed here. In general, I felt the route was pretty much fairly clean for a "mountain" route.
Just to clear up a little history: the pipe that is now in situ on the famous "Pipe Pitch" is not the pipe pounded in by the FA party. Pipes have come and gone over the years, and the original pipe is probably in the corner of a garage somewhere. So, don't think you're girth-hitching a historical artifact when you wrap the pipe (and you will wrap the pipe, if the current incarnation is sticking out far enough), but it is in the same place and the whole situation is just plain amazing. Oh, and there is a knee-sized crack in a block just before the pipe pitch; and yes, your knee may well fit in it, and you may feel a certain temptation to do that. But please, for the sake of the poor slobs who will have to come up later that evening lugging a grease gun and a crow bar, DON'T DO IT!