white mountains

Wild River Wilderness: Where Beauty is Pain

Wild River Wilderness: Where Beauty is Pain

21 miles is easy. Easy when you are hiking on perfectly compacted, rock-free, root-free trails of Yosemite, Glacier, or Olympic national parks. When it comes to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 21 miles is a grueling marathon, an improbable, if not impossible ordeal even for seasoned hikers.

I took a bit of a hiatus from backpacking last summer so hiking the Wild River wilderness was my first backpacking trip since Glacier National Park two years ago.

The Wild River Wilderness is located at the northeast corner of the White Mountain National Forest, on the border between Maine and New Hampshire. It is very remote and rugged with but a few trails segmenting the wooded landscape. There are not a lot of campsites in the entire Wild River Basin, and only one on the Carter Range - Imp Campsite. 

Opening up the 2015 outdoor climbing season at Rumney

If you were in the atlantic northeast this weekend and you didn't get outside, you missed out big time. It was a perfect weekend to go outside and explore. Larisa and I took the opportunity to miss the crowds and enjoy this beautiful 85-degree weather in the White Mountains. It was a blast. 

Saturday, despite Larisa's initial hesitation about climbing outside (having mostly indoor experience), we headed up to Rumney to get a few climbs in and kick off the season. 

As second year climbers, this season is going to be an exciting time where many new opportunities are within our comfort zone. Last year we've visited Rumney a couple of times, but having little experience with lead climbing and climbing outside, the nerves were on the edge, and climbing outside seemed scary and complex. 

Last year, I've came to the crag without any route guides or information, climbing purely based on the look of the route - didn't work out well. This time around, I've came prepared with a few pages from the Ward Smith's Rumney guide - thanks to my friend Sharon who so kindly provided them to me. I've been trying to purchase the entire book myself, but as most people know, it's been out of print and is very hard to come by. The pages from the book were extremely instrumental in guiding us to the routes that we knew we could climb, and providing useful description about the condition of the routes.

Since this visit was our first real foray into outdoor climbing after getting quite a bit of indoor practice this winter - we decided to not push our nerves and go with 7's and 8's which we felt comfortable with. 


The Parking Lot Wall happens to provide a few nice routes at that level, and it's only a 5 minute hike away from the car. The first route we both took on, was Shealyn's Way (5.7) - a juggy, fairly flat route that provides a lot of opportunities for resting and definitely doesn't push you. It's a good starting point to warm up to climbing outside. 

The next route we took on was slightly harder, but still a 5.7 - Rise and Shine. A little steeper, a little more exposed, the route actually require a little bit of strategic foot placement. 


A lot of these routes at the Parking Lot Wall are marked as popular, so coming here in May and enjoying them crowd-free was a real pleasure. 

After leading Rise and Shine, we clipped the adjacent Egg McMeadows (5.10a) and top roped it - and gladly so, because neither one of us felt comfortable leading it at that point. Hopefully by summers' end. 

Next we've taken on Glory Jean's (5.7) - a somewhat easy, but awkward route that requires a traverse. Clipping while traversing is something to get used to since the rope is a lot harder to pull than on more vertical routes. I was ok with the route, Larisa wasn't a huge fan. Not every route's for everyone. 


The last ascent of the day was the best climb - Chloe's Breakfast Special (5.8). The route does cross a few wet sections in the beginning, especially this early in the season, but after you get past the wet section - the 11 bolt span (longest at the Parking Lot Wall) is truly breathtaking. 

After a fun day at the crag, we crashed at Campton Campground only a few miles from Rumney. Since school season isn't over, the campground was practically empty, proving ample opportunity to sit by the fire and listen to the crickets. And opening the s'more season, of course. 


Sunday was a terrific day for a hike, but we had to be back home by the afternoon so we decided to do a somewhat short, but scenic Welch-Dickey loop (4.5 miles). The two short peaks just a few miles east of Campton offer sweeping views of the Sandwich Wilderness to the south. A lot of open granite slabs making this hike very reminiscent of some of the places in California.