Off the map, and then some

Monday, March 9, 2009

I've never actually traveled off the map before. I've been to some way-out-there places in the Northeast in search of climbs, but Goback Mountain takes the cake thus far. On my AAA map of New Hampshire Goback is located somewhere under the AAA logo in the upper right corner!

Josh and Ian have been establishing new lines at Goback for the past couple of years. After the first ascent of the heralded Valhalla by Jon Sykes, Goback has had a mythical aura around it. Damn near impossible to find, and even harder to find in climbable conditions, not many people travel back a second time. I would probably be in the same boat if 1) I did not have to find my own way and 2) cared if Valhalla was "in". Sure, THAT would be cool, but it was the other climbs that Ian and Josh have done at Goback that we were seeking. As a bonus, I was eager to shoot some backcountry photos.

So, the trip begins... Below Josh packs his sled for the 2.5 hour ski in, and the cliffs at Goback as seen from a half hour's worth of approach. From two hours out it looks promising for Valhalla and Fluffy, Josh's super scary, super hard route left of Valhalla.

An hour and a half later we see that the bottoms are melted out on both routes.

Valhalla climbs up the steep, near vertical and featureless wall just behind the birch tree in the photo below. Fluffy goes up the smear on the left. The center line has not come down yet, at least when anyone has seen it. Jihad ascends the corner on the right, another of Josh and Ian's killer new routes.

After gawking, we moved on to some climbing. Above, Jim, who was eager to do the second ascent of Foxhole Prayer, is finishing off a new second pitch to that incredible line. Foxhole Prayer starts deep in the recesses of a chimney, almost entirely devoid of light. Overhanging much of the way, with ice dripping off both sides of the chimney, this route is one of the most unique in the Northeast, and totally worth the trip. To get to my vantage point I climbed a steep WI5 pillar several hundred feet to the left. This climb, Crystal Gate, would be the jewel of any crag further south, but at Goback it's an access route, allowing me to rappel into the Foxhole Prayer chimney for an incredible perspective.

With such a long approach, there's not a lot of daylight for climbing. We skied out in the dark, back at the cars a little after 7PM. I was home by 10:30PM. So, for 300+ miles of driving and 5 hours of approach, Goback is TOTALLY worth it!