Cathedral Ledge, July 2003

Following last night's rain, the face we planned for has turned into green slime. We decide to try RecomBeast instead -- a trade route I've done only once, twenty years before. Matt has climbed it more recently, but he is having an off day and will let me hog the leads. Weather teases: sunny, too hot, looks changeable.

The first pitch of RecomBeast is easy, not quite. For a ropelength it gradually steepens, with off-route variations sprouting every ten feet. Choose the right way, you reach an excellent ledge.

The second pitch wants commitment. Place gear in the corner, cling out left on the vertical wall. Step carefully on a small foothold in its own stream of water, reach high for the flake, layback to a more secure stance. Here's the Beast Flake itself now, a hands-to-fists romp. Building an anchor and finding comfort at its top takes some fiddling.

Another exposed traverse leads the third pitch into a bottomless wet chimney. Just then it starts raining, and we suddenly hear thunder. Effin A, time to hurry. But I'm not hastening, I'm grunting and complaining so much that Matt calls over do I want him to take. No, Iwannafreethis, need to keep scuffling up.

Rain stops, while thunder talks. The big Recompense corner leans out over our heads. Nervous about lightning, we rack quickly. The fingerlocks are damp, but seem more positive than I remember, and my shoes smear much better. So then why am I getting more tired? I puff at each stance, and shake out after sections that were not so fatiguing before. Near the top I pry open my left hand between moves.

From the final tree ledge, the horizon widens and exposure fades away. I can see the storm moving off to our east. The sun comes out and gets hot again while Matt follows the corner. We climb Little Feat to the tourists. Crawling over the crest I feel weary, as if I'd carried a heavy pack all the way; but it was only a #4 Friend.

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After twenty years the rock seemed the same. If anything, the route was cleaner than before, with old fixed gear now gone, and chalk washed away by the rain. Still no bolt anchors beyond the first pitch, to the credit of North Conway ethics.

Something else struck me as different. We had a fine view all day of the Thin Air face, where many parties climbed on half a dozen routes. Most of the climbers, most of the leaders, were women. That's a view you wouldn't have seen twenty years ago, and one sign of things changed for the better.

Larry Hamilton, 2003