The wet and snowy weather up north this past week forced me to reconsider some previously conceived plans. As well as disrupting a Presidential Traverse attempt, the wintry weather also nixed my plan of climbing Lost in the Sun and A Bit Short in Crawford Notch this week. While optimistic about the rock conditions on the drive to the crag that morning, a quick view from the road shattered any ideas of climbing. The slabs were noticeably wet from the road, and I was not anxious to ascend the approach gully to discover what I knew from the car: climbing was not happening there that day.
Doug suggested heading to Whitehorse Ledge, but I was neither enthused about driving to Conway nor excited about climbing on Whitehorse. After a little discussion, we decided to head to the Rainbow Slabs. Doug and I had ever been to the Rainbow Slabs and we decided that in our best case scenario we would get some climbing in, and in the worst case we could at least suss out the approach, which we had heard could be difficult.
Both guidebooks – the Webster and the Handren – give two approaches to the slabs. The first, and shorter, of the two approaches suggests wading across the Swift River then heading uphill following orange blazes. After standing on the river banks for a few minutes, Doug and I saw no clear path across; at best, we would be wading in up to our knees. The prior day’s hiking in wet shoes did not make the prospect of cold, wet feet enticing so we chose option two, which is to drive down the Kancamagus highway to the Covered Bridge parking lot.
From the Covered Bridge parking lot we followed the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail to the orange blazes uphill. The path is easy to follow and the orange blazes are supplemented with some small cairns. Keep your eyes open and the trail is easy to follow. The Webster guide suggests that this approach adds forty-five minutes, but I would estimate it adds only about thirty minutes on the way in and twenty minutes on the way out. It is an easy and pleasant walk that parallels the Swift River and seems to be a much safer option than fording the river. This way also allows you to park in a fairly busy lot as opposed to the side of the road. It is probably safer for both your car and whatever is inside it.
Upon reaching the slabs, they were (not surprisingly) pretty wet. We were able to manage a few pitches and I am anxious to return. The climbing is typical New Hampshire granite slab climbing, and the rock quality is excellent. The location itself is also spectacular, offering great views from a unique vantage point. Furthermore, it does not seem like many people make the trek to the slabs, and I imagine you will have the crag to yourself most days. A return to Rainbow Slabs is certainly on my list of things to do. If the weather cooperates with climbing perhaps I will make it back before the end of fall.