Lost…in the Sun
It was overcast and sprinkling Sunday morning but the sun decided to shine on us as Doug, Mickey Spades, and I pulled into the Willey’s Slide parking lot. We had come here with the intention of climbing Lost in the Sun, a seven pitch route located on Mount Webster in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. Having run into crowded belays and routes on Whitehorse’s Standard Route two weeks before, we were looking for something with multiple pitches, a modest grade, and a little less congestion. While we never found Lost in the Sun
we found everything else, and discovered a world-class bushwhack.
Part of the appeal of the Lost in the Sun is that according to its description it requires a thirty to forty minute approach up the side of Mount Webster. As has been my climbing experience, long walks discourage a large number of climbers; long walks uphill discourage almost all climbers. We hoped the approach would bring us some solitude and a little extra challenge and adventure. Our enthusiasm for the approach, however, quickly faded as we began to follow intermittent orange tape up a long drainage (the guide said to “follow ribbons through open woods”). I would not describe what we ascended as open woods, although it never occurred to me that we might be heading in the wrong direction.
The drainage was often choked with debris, forcing us to either find ways to circumnavigate the blockage or go through it. After thirty minutes of hacking our way through thick bushes, jumping over boulders, and carefully crossing downed trees, I began to wonder exactly how many people climbed here per year. We had arrived expecting to find a faint climber’s path but what we had discovered was a full-on bushwhack marked occasionally by faint orange tape and a rare cairn. Reading descriptions of the route online, someone described it as a “great route to bring a date.” As we fought our way through thick underbrush, we all joked that he should change it to “last date.”
As we continued to fight our way uphill, we found ourselves questioning our directions and wondering if we had gone the wrong way. However, whenever doubt set in we were spurred forward by a faint piece of ribbon tied to branch ahead of us. Eventually we found ourselves at the base of a clean looking slab. Normally before a climb I feel the butterflies in my stomach as my mind and body deal with the doubt, fear, and adrenaline that climbing brings, but all I felt as I ventured onto this slab was relief. I was relieved to be done with the approach; relieved we had finally found the climb.
The route’s description promised all bolted belays, so I was discouraged as I neared the end of the rope and saw no belay in sight. My prior relief quickly turned to anxiety as I ran out of rope and searched for a place to build a belay. After a few panicked moments I found a satisfactory belay and brought Doug up to me, where we discussed the possibility that we had ventured onto the wrong route. Despite our belief that we were on the incorrect climb, we decided to continue climbing.
The second pitch provided some interesting slab climbing with bolt-protected cruxes and a two bolt belay that got us thinking once again we may be on the right route after all. However, the theme of the day prevailed as we climbed two more easy pitches finding the occasional bolt but never another bolted anchor. At the end of pitch four, we all agreed that we were on the wrong route.
Having had our fill of adventure for the day, we rappelled back to the route’s base and began our long journey back to the car. On the descent we chose to avoid the “trail” we followed up and stick to descending the drainage the entire way, only joining the orange taped “trail” at the very bottom of the climb. At the car we saw two other climbers and asked them what they had climbed. Naturally, the answer was Lost in the Sun. After getting some beta from them, we learned that we had ascended the wrong trail and ended up on a slab a little higher up and climber’s left of Lost in the Sun. The climbers had no idea what we had done, and upon searching the internet and guidebooks I have no idea either. Regardless, we had a fun day of climbing, a good adventure, and had the entire crag to ourselves.