The Best Climbing Walls at Rumney

Rumney is a world class sport climbing destination on the outskirts of the White Mountain National Forest and it’s also my favorite place to climb in New England. I’ve been climbing in the northeast for years and consider Rumney to be a gem for its breadth of routes, quality rock and bolting, and accessibility.

With 38 cliffs, over 1,000 routes, and grades ranging from 5.3 to 5.15a – plus bouldering and ice climbing – you are guaranteed to find something to suit your skill level and mettle on these fine-grained schisty walls. I go as many weekends (and weekdays) as I can, and yet I’ve only managed to put a small dent in my seemingly endless to-do list.

When arrive at the quintessential New England town of Rumney, shack up at the American Alpine Club’s Rattlesnake Campground for camping and easy crag access or stay at the Barn Door Hostel for a more communal setting. For food, check out the bomber pizza at The Common Cafe & Tavern, The Last Chair (bar fare) or the Rumney Village Store (sandwiches). There is also a Hannaford’s Supermarket just off the highway.

There is so much climbing that you could easily spend lifetimes trying it all. I’ve narrowed the voluminous list to my choices for best walls so you can do more crushing and less guidebook perusing on your next trip.

New Hampshire

1. The Parking Lot Wall

TOP CHOICE FOR BEGINNERS
Great for beginners
Many options for first lead climbs
The most accessible wall
Often crowded on the weekends
Long lines as groups will set up top rope parties

This wall is filled with beginner to intermediate sport routes and it’s also where I spent most of my first ever day at Rumney (which included getting shutdown by a very wet Rubicon (5.10b)).

Appropriately named, the crag is right behind Rumney’s main parking lot. Keep in mind that both crag and lot get jam-packed on weekends when the weather’s good. There are plenty of worthwhile beginner-friendly climbs on less than vertical walls such as Glory Jean’s (5.6), Cafe au Lait (5.6), and Shealyn’s Way (5.7). There are harder, steeper routes on the adjacent wall to the right side of the cliff, which includes Espresso (5.10d) and 100% Columbian (5.11c). The routes range from short (25’) to longer (75’).

A ton of potential first lead climbs: 5.6s, 5.7s, 5.8s and 5.9s. It's more than just proximity to the parking that makes this so popular.

Alex Teixeira, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Owner of Mooney Mountain Guides

1. The Parking Lot Wall - Good to Know

Skill level

Beginner to intermediate

Climbing style

Larger holds, face climbing, crimpy

Steepness of wall

Less-than-vertical angles on the easier routes, steeper on the harder routes

Number of routes

24

Sun

The wall sees sun in the morning, shade in the afternoon

Rain

The center of the wall dries more quickly than the other sections after rain

Best climbs

Glory Jean’s (5.6), Chloe’s Breakfast Special (5.8), Espresso (5.10d), 100% Columbian (5.11c)

Approach time

A few minutes

Coordinates

43°48'09.9"N 71°49'49.0"W

Getting there

If you park at the Main Parking Lot, the trail is located directly behind the information booth. It is one or two minutes from car to cliff.

New Hampshire

2. The Buffalo Corral

TOP CHOICE FOR NEWER LEADER
Great for beginners
Unlikely to be crowded
Easy to get to from the Final Frontier parking lot
Get plenty of easier leads in during a half-day or full-day
Limited selection of routes
Short climbs, not very varied style of climbing

The Buffalo Corral is a beginner leader’s paradise. One of the newest areas, it’s still under the radar, after coming into acquisition in 2016 through the “Final Frontier” land purchase. While these territories are less popular than the older and more well-known crags, the quality of climbing here ensures this won’t be the case much longer.

The walls sits higher up on the forested slopes of Rattlesnake Mountain, and offer excellent views of the White Mountain National Forest valley below. There are two walls at the Corral: the Slab Wall provides clean slabs with edges, cracks, and small roofs, while the Small Wall is shorter, steeper, and harder (mostly 5.10 and up). If you’re in a mixed-level group, the nearby Buffalo Pit offers harder climbs in the 5.10 – 5.12 range.

For years this place was under the radar and was kind of a guide's little secret. Excellent beginner climbing here.

Alex Teixeira, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Owner of Mooney Mountain Guides

2. The Buffalo Corral - Good to Know

Skill level

Beginner to intermediate

Climbing style

Low angle slab, steeper face climbing with crimps

Steepness of wall

Less-than-vertical on Slab Wall, steeper on Small Wall

Number of routes

11

Sun

South-facing, it receives sun after noon

Rain

Not one of the faster-drying walls. When leaves are on the trees drying longer to dry

Best climbs

Ghost Pine (5.6), Bison Burger (5.7), Bleached Bones (5.7), Night Songs (5.10b/c)

Approach time

A few minutes from the Final Frontier parking lot

Coordinates

43°48'10.8"N 71°50'55.7"W

Getting there

Access is easy from the Final Frontier parking lot, which is about a mile past the other parking areas, on the right side of the road. From here, take the trail to the right (if looking at the parking lot), it runs parallel to Buffalo Road. Do not take the trail to the left that goes up a steep hill.

New Hampshire

3. Waimea

TOP CHOICE FOR THE CRUSHERS
Some of the hardest climbs in the country
Excellent opportunity to watch strong climbers, and possibly even see a pro
Many of the routes stay dry in the rain
One of the farthest walls from the Main Parking Lot
Not a lot of warm up options (even the lower grades are pumpy)

Waimea is THE destination crag at Rumney and a draw for climbers from around the world. It features numerous classic 5.12s and 5.14s, while also showcasing Jaws II (not the movie), the only 5.15 in America east of the Rockies. I like to pass through here to admire the grit and grace of stronger climbers, while imagining myself climbing these menacing walls someday.

The grey schist melds with vertical black and white streaks, like a row of teeth, and is cinched together with a rusted ochre belt. The walls rise from the base as if they were waves about to crash down, polka dotted with chalk-marks. Looking at the wall is enough to make your palms sweaty.

For the strong, this cliff has one of the highest collections of hard routes at Rumney. Walking under climbs such as Livin’ Astro (5.14c) makes every climber look up in awe. It's just begging to be climbed.

Alex Teixeira, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Owner of Mooney Mountain Guides

3. Waimea - Good to Know

Skill level

For the strong and the brave

Climbing style

Powerful, highly technical and beta intensive

Steepness of wall

Steep and overhanging

Number of routes

58

Sun

Faces south and slightly west and gets plenty of sun in the afternoon

Rain

Depends on the routes; It can be seepy, but due to the wind it can dry off faster than other areas

Best climbs

Waimea (5.10d), Flying Hawaiian (5.11b), Technosurfing (5.12b), Butt Bongo Fiesta (5.13a), China Beach (5.14b)

Approach time

30 minutes

Coordinates

43°48'13.9"N 71°50'27.3"W

Getting there

Expect about 30 minutes of walking. From the main parking lot follow the trail that runs parallel to the road and take the steep staircase up to the hillside trail. Follow this up and to the left, behind the 5.8 crag. Hike uphill past Bonsai to come out on the right side of Waimea.

New Hampshire

4. Bonsai

TOP CHOICE FOR 5.10-5.12 CLIMBER
Many classic 5.10s and 5.12s
Stays cooler in the summer
Enjoyable movements, fun, flowy climbs
Can be quite pumpy and endurance-based (many routes are overhanging jug hauls)
Limited selection of grades (mainly in 5.10-5.12)

My personal favorite, Bonsai brims with classic 5.10s and 5.12s that offer steep climbing with big holds (my jam!). There is a lot of history here, the pumpy corner, Peer Pressure (5.10d), was Rumney’s first sport route, and Kundalini (5.12d), was the area’s first 5.13 (though it was later downgraded). The rock looks magnificent with its flakes and ledges of greys, oranges, and greens. If you’re keen on jumping into 5.12, Social Outcast, with its unmistakable arete, is a popular first route for the grade, with fun moves, big holds, and clean falls. For the crushers, Bonsai is a good warm up for harder routes at nearby Waimea.

One of my personal favorites. Location of the first rappel-bolted route at Rumney, Peer Pressure.

Alex Teixeira, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Owner of Mooney Mountain Guides

4. Bonsai - Good to Know

Skill level

Intermediate to advanced

Climbing style

Big holds and bouldery

Steepness of wall

Steep and overhanging

Number of routes

22

Sun

From mid-day onwards

Rain

Faces southwest and exposed to wind. Can be cooler on the left, drier on the right

Best climbs

Masterpiece (5.10a), Centerpiece (5.10d), Peer Pressure (5.10d), Social Outcast (5.12a)

Approach time

20-30 minutes

Coordinates

43°48'10.4"N 71°50'21.3"W

Getting there

From the main parking lots follow the trail that runs parallel to the road and take the steep staircase up to the hillside trail. Follow this up and to the left, behind the 5.8 crag. Hike uphill to get to Bonsai.

New Hampshire

5. Main Cliff (Iron Man Wall)

TOP CHOICE FOR GROUPS OF MIXED LEVEL CLIMBERS
A wide range of difficulties from 5.6 to 13d
Easily accessible from either the Main Lot or the Small Lot
Fantastic views from the top
Climbable in the winter
Receives plenty of morning sun
From April-July expect peregrine falcon closures for the top portions of the wall (though this doesn’t affect your ability to climb single pitch). The walls to the left, Armed and Dangerous and Venus walls, are not affected.

Perhaps Rumney’s best all-around cliff, the Main Cliff offers height, aesthetics and a wide range of grades that are sure to please. When driving to Rumney, this is the hunk of rock you see hovering above the treeline, offering a first glimpse of what’s to come. The rock is a chalky grey and brown with an angular orange band. As the tallest wall around, you’ll find several airy two-pitch routes and loads of classics in the 5.10-5.13 range. No matter what route you climb, you’ll be able to savor the great views of the Baker River Valley once you reach the anchors.

There's plenty to do here across a range of grades. At the lower range the routes tend to be steeper, bigger holds, and a good place for beginners to get used to more exposure and longer climbs.

Alex Teixeira, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Owner of Mooney Mountain Guides

5. Main Cliff (Iron Man Wall) - Good to Know

Skill Level:

Intermediate to advanced

Climbing Style:

Generally long and pumpy, but there are different rock types that greater technique like stemming, laybacks, and smearing

Steepness of wall:

Increasingly steep, with overhang sections

Number of Routes:

35

Sun:

Due to height (above the trees) and shape, the wall catches sun early and tends to dry quickly. There is shade in the afternoon

Rain:

The center tends to stay drier, while the sides can be more seepy

Best Climbs:

Underdog (5.10a), Millenium Falcon (5.10c), Know Ethics (5.11a), Peanut Man (5.12a)

Coordinates:

43°48'09.0"N 71°50'09.4"W

Getting there

From the second, smaller parking lot, walk uphill into the woods. Follow the sign to Main Cliff. The large wall you’ll arrive at is Main Cliff Center (Iron Man Wall).

New Hampshire

6. Orange Crush

TOP CHOICE FOR A GREAT PHOTO
Stunning views, great for photos
Cooler on hot days
Plenty of highly-rated routes to keep you occupied for days and days and days
Not many easy climbs
Access to left side is a bit sketchy
Likely to be wet early in spring season
The right side can get hot in the summer

Large and steep, Orange Crush is the most recognizable cliff in Rumney because of the picturesque overhanging prow that is the Predator line (5.13b). As seen in the magazines! The left side of the cliff is almost horizontal, while the right offers lower angle but longer routes. The wall itself lines up like the bindings of giant books on a bookshelf, jutting out at different lengths. As you might expect, the cliff features plenty of harder climbs, including stellar 5.11s and three classic 5.13s. Orange Crush is a great choice for hotter days as it sits higher on the mountain exposing it to cooling winds and shade.

Orange Crush is my favorite, with its high concentration of 5.11-5.12s — and the picture-perfect 5.13 Predator. The cliff overhangs a steep hillside where ladders and hand lines are a common sight. The climbing, though, is stellar and accessible.

Alex Teixeira, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Owner of Mooney Mountain Guides

6. Orange Crush - Good to Know

Skill level

Intermediate to advanced

Climbing style

Roof climbing, technical vertical faces

Steepness of wall

Near horizontal roofs, more vertical on the right

Number of routes

32

Sun

South facing so it gets sun in the morning to around noon

Rain

The left side is likely to dry off more quickly than the right

Best climbs

Tropicana (5.11a, 2 pitches), Black Mamba (5.11b), The Crusher (5.11d), Flying Monkeys (5.12c), Predator (5.13b)

Approach time

10 minutes

Coordinates

43°48'10.6"N 71°50'06.5"W

Getting there

Start from the smaller parking lot and follow the steep uphill trail, which starts from behind the restroom. You will see a sign guiding you to the right. Take the trail, turning uphill, to the New Wave Wall (more of a white color), where you will see Orange Crush up on the left.

New Hampshire

7. Jimmy Cliff

TOP CHOICE FOR AFTER IT RAINS
Dries quickly after the rain
Excellent place to practice multi-pitch skills on low-angle slab
Features one of the best 5.8s (Junco) and 5.10s (Lonesome Dove) at Rumney
Good for beginners and new lead climbers
Longer approach and may be a little tricky to find
Won’t wow you with its breadth of options

This is where I did my first ever multi-pitch (shout out to Pine Tree Crack!). Sitting at higher altitude exposed to breezes and sun, Jimmy Cliff is a good climbing option after it rains. Those willing to make the hike up Rattlesnake Mountain will be greeted with a variety of beginner friendly lead climbs in the 5.7 – 5.10 range. The shorter, easier routes tend to start with 5.5 – 5.7 moves before softening up. Also communication between climber and belayer is easy, which makes these sound options for first leads.

There are two walls (left and right) as well as a long slab area further left and around the corner from the alcove. This offers a great introduction to multi-pitch trad and sport climbing on a seriously low-angle pitch (many people solo up this). You’ll be rewarded at the top with fantastic views of the surrounding valley.

Another area with a lot of beginner friendly routes. Often the crux is close to ground, it's well bolted, and it's easy to communicate with the belayer. Great views from high up on the mountain as well.

Alex Teixeira, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Owner of Mooney Mountain Guides

7. Jimmy Cliff - Good to Know

Skill level

Beginner to intermediate

Climbing style

Slab, delicate face climbing

Steepness of wall

Very low-angle slab to vertical

Number of routes

28

Sun

Alcove gets sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon, the right gets full sun

Rain

Dries quickly

Best climbs

Clip a Dee Doo Dah (5.3, 2 pitch), Junco (5.8+), Lonesome Dove (5.10a)

Approach time

30+ minutes

Coordinates

43°48'15.0"N 71°50'25.3"W

New Hampshire

8. The Hinterlands

TOP CHOICE FOR EXPOSURE
High exposure, especially for 5.10 climbs. Won’t find others like this at Rumney
Not as popular as other crags due to the approach
Unique climbing unlike other areas
Loose rock at the tops of some routes can lead to rock falls and dangerous belays. Be sure to stand to the side when belaying Jolt and Dolt and wear a helmet!
Sharp and gritty rock may do a number on your digits
Can stay wet for a large part of spring

Big exposure awaits you at the Hinterlands, a moody and brooding area where a roc might roost or a giant could feel at home. Access requires a big hike up Rattlesnake Mountain. You’ll know you’re there when you see the menacing shark fin awaiting you; crane your neck back and take in the 80’ beast. This intimidating razor contains two of the most unique climbs at Rumney, Jolt (5.10a) and Dolt (5.10a), on either side of the flake. Routes range from 5.6 to 5.12c, with a mix of climbing styles. Many people will come just for Giant Man (5.12b/c), a steep route not for the faint of heart.

Hard to beat this spot: near the summit, spectacular views.

Alex Teixeira, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Owner of Mooney Mountain Guides

8. The Hinterlands - Good to Know

Skill level

Intermediate

Climbing style

Pumpy, slabs, technical faces, a few cracks

Steepness of wall

Steep

Number of routes

28

Sun

The southeast facing sections receive sun in the morning, the southwest facing walls receive sun in the afternoon

Rain

Likely to be wet in spring, seepy after rain

Best climbs

Jolt (5.10a), Dolt (5.10a), Giant Man (5.12b/c)

Approach time

30+ minutes

Coordinates

43°48'19.7"N 71°50'37.4"W

Getting there

From the Small Parking area hike to the Blackjack Boulders (take the trail that runs parallel to the road, go up the steep staircase up to the hillside trail. Follow this up and to the left, behind the 5.8 crag, and you will arrive at Blackjack Boulders. From here, take the Northwest Crags Trail west to where the trail curves up the hill, past Very Nice Crack Area, and then bear right of the Prudential. Stay low to traverse the trail which brings you out to the right of Jolt, about five minutes.

An alternative approach is to start from the Buffalo Pit parking lot. Follow the trail on the east end of the lot that runs parallel to Buffalo Road. Continue for about one minute where you will find a marked sign and the trail forks left. Follow it up to the Northwest Territories, going uphill. Take this for about 10-15 minutes. Once you are at the Northwest Territories, follow the directions as above.

About the author

Aaron Gerry

Aaron Gerry

Avid climber, adventurer and traveler

Aaron is a climber and freelance writer. He writes about, you guessed it, climbing, travel (17 countries and counting), and has been featured in publications such as Rock and Ice, goEast, and The Project Magazine. He’s keen on trad and bouldering, and sport as well. You can read more of his work at aarongerry.com

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