Whether it’s the cooler sending temps, brilliant foliage, cases of pumpkin-flavored beer now at our disposal, or, for a select few, the nearing of ice climbing season, the corners of most climbers’ mouths turn up in a child-like grin when the conversation turns to fall.
New England holds all of these delights and more, so whether you’re currently living the van-life dream or just looking for some new rocks to scale over Columbus Day weekend, you should try pulling on some New England granite and schist this autumn.
Here’s why …
1: You’ll have the best temps and conditions of the year
The humidity of summer has finally broken, but winter’s finger-numbing frostiness and boulder-covering blizzards are still a month or two away. Spring, when it exists, is often too snowy, rainy, or summer-like for more than a week of prime sending. However, the crisp, cool days of fall are perfect for sticky rock without forcing you to belay in your ice-climbing parka and snow pants. The cool mornings and evenings are perfect for bouldering, while sunny afternoons make sport climbing and multi-pitch trad comfortable.
2: The high-quality variety
New England has a lot to offer … no matter what style of climbing you enjoy.
New Hampshire alone holds more variety in style and rock type to keep you climbing for a lifetime. You can visit one of the most renowned areas, Rumney, and find world-class schist sport climbing, some trad lines, and even some boulders in the mix. If you’re after classic traditional routes, consider the beloved Cannon, White Horse and Cathedral Ledge areas. And if you’re after the boulders, you’ll find yourself delighted by the high quality, and vast potential of at Pawtuckaway State Park. And to avoid the crowds on busier weekends, plenty of other lesser-known cliffs for sport and trad climbing are at your disposal in the North Conway area. I’d recommend purchasing the North Conway Rock Climbs guidebook.
Just over the border in Maine, one can enjoy more single and multi-pitch trad and sport routes in Evan’s Notch (also included in the North Conway guide), single-pitch, overhung, juggy sport climbing at Shagg Crag, and, a little further away, seaside cliffs in Acadia National Park.
Boulderers can find cooler temps and short approaches early in the season at Smuggler’s Notch in northern Vermont and warm-for-New-England sunny nooks till mid-November outside of Providence at Lincoln Woods. Visit Farley in Western Massachusetts for quiet but quality trad, mixed, sport, and top rope-able routes and classic boulder problems including Speed of Life (V10).
3: The foliage
There’s a reason fall is prime-time tourist season in New England, but don’t let that scare you away. Looking out across the fiery maples and golden beeches after topping out on Cathedral or while belaying on Cannon will make your time outside that much more gratifying.
Crunching through leaves makes approaches more enjoyable too, and there’s always time at the end of the day to make a quick leaf pile for some childhood fun before sipping your pumpkin ale while the sunset intensifies the hillsides.
4: Local fairs
Every weekend from late August to mid-October one small town or another has a fair with delicious fall treats, local art, giant pumpkins, farm animal exhibits (yes, you can pet the cows!), rides, music, and more.
One of the most famous is the Fryeburg Fair in Western Maine, but if you’d like to avoid potentially wasting climbing time waiting in lines to park and enter the fairgrounds, I’d recommend trying out some of the smaller fairs, such as the annual Sandwich Fair, for dinner, oxen pulls, pig racing, and music post-climbing.
Sure, Starbucks and Dunkin have bright orange pumpkin lattes, but you should ditch the imitation syrup and scary food dyes in favor of some genuine pumpkin goodness. Most local coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants and farm stands will have everything pumpkin from breads and muffins to whoopie pies to soups to whole pumpkins.
Try some local, homemade pumpkin cream cheese on your morning bagel or a just-out-of-the-fryer pumpkin donut before you crunch through the fallen leaves to work your project. I guarantee you it will be better than anything you can buy in the grocery store.
6: Apple cider donuts (and everything else apple too).
You can sample homemade apple cider after watching demonstrators press it in front of you at a local fair, eat warm cinnamon sugar covered cider donuts, go apple picking on your rest days, eat freshly baked apple crisp as a sending treat, sip hot apple cider to warm you from the inside out between burns, enjoy apple tarts and bread and muffins from local bakeries, and/or snack on apple slices with local smoked cheddar cheese from the farm stand down the road.
You may be in the area for the climbing, but why not complement the experience with some local fall treats?
7: I’ll be in the area till mid-October, so let me know if you need a catch or recommendations for finding the creamiest homemade pumpkin ice cream. 😉
Really, it’s the best (climbing) season in New England, so if you’re going to visit, you should do it in the fall.
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