Longstack Precipice

Article by Tim Wolsonovich
Forward by Pete Sancianco

Our South Boston Gym Manager, Tim Wolsonovich brings so much experience to his community having worked as a certified AMGA guide for many years. We all agree he puts all other “Trad Daddies,” to shame with how good he makes it look, but the community appreciates his many insights to their next trip whenever they ask. His passion for sharing knowledge and stoking the fires of adventure in everyone around him makes it a pleasure to have him leading our South Boston community; sometimes up a few pitches on his days off. Please enjoy this article he wrote that shares his experiences at this local climbing crag, just over the border of New Hampshire.

The first time I heard someone describe the scene at a crag as “a show” I was at 5.8 crag with a medium sized group of friends and we shared the cliff with a medium sized group of strangers. A local used the phrase to describe the situation and even though I was a gumby back then, I could tell a “show” wasn’t a good thing.  In the ten or more years that have followed, I have learned that for a setting to be called a show, or sometimes a gong-show, all you really need is a crowd; to have more climbers than a stretch of cliff can comfortably support. Add to that, a crowd made up of sport climbers who haven’t embraced Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics or behave in an unsafe way and you have a gong-show.

We like to avoid, “The Show.” It’s never fun waiting in line while someone projects your warm-up, or listen to climbers shout bad beta for what they think is Armed and Dangerous but is actually Clusterphobia. But in 2020, while climbing during a pandemic, it is more important than usual to avoid crowds, even outside. To that end, I’d like to offer an alternative to the best known crags in the region which is far smaller and less well known (and never hosts, “The Show”). Let me tell you about Longstack Precipice near Alton Bay, NH.

A view of Big Wall from a pitch on Indigenous Wall from a Mountain Project community image

There are several factors that keep the crowds away at Longstack.
  • It is less easy to find. I won’t say it’s hard to find, but there isn’t a large, paved parking lot just off the street, let alone two like at Rumney. The description on Mountain Project is a little outdated, but it will at least get you in the right part of the state.
  • On the MP page, there are some older approach descriptions. Don’t worry about the gun range. That can be completely avoided by parking at the Knight’s Pond pull out.
  • This is a mixed crag, not a sport crag. You can climb several routes on completely bolted protection, but if you want to tackle moderate classics like Coyote Rain or The Arete, you’re going to need a trad rack.
  • The size of the crag. This isn’t Rattlesnake Mountain with 14 different sub-crags each with its own personality and features. It’s a half mile of cliff band, broken by ledges and horizontal cracks.
  • Because of the size and obscurity, no guidebook has been published and none of the routes are shared in guidebooks about the region generally.

A view from the top of one of the many pitches

Even though Longstack may have fewer classic lines, this is a legitimate climbing crag and worth at least one or two visits every season. I have used it as a training ground in the early season when there is still ice further north. The rock face gets sun throughout the day and is quick to dry after it rains. The approach is short and well marked from the Knight’s Pond parking lot, and the pond is a great way to cool off after a summer climbing session. It is also a fantastic area to educate new leaders on gear placement since several of the moderate routes are easily protected with a few bolts sprinkled in.

Finally, while its location can be enigmatic on the microcosm, it is located further south in New Hampshire and is a slightly shorter drive than Rumney. I’m not certain who is acting as steward for the area, but there are occasional new lines bolted, and a new set of rappel anchors appeared at the top of Coyote Rain this year. The hardware was skillfully placed and located intelligently and indicates that someone is taking care of the area. If you’re looking for a quality crag with long single pitch, or sometimes 2 pitch routes, look up Longstack Precipice. While you’re in town, always be respectful of the locals, and practice Leave No Trace ethics.

A message from the Access Fund

Climbing during the Pandemic

As stay at home orders are lifted and parks open back up, you may be considering heading back to your local crag so before you do, please take a look at the recommendations from the Access Fund, an organization that focuses on maintaining access to the areas we love by providing support for local climbing organizations and resources for climbers to properly transition from climbing in the gym to the crag.