The Black Dike, Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire.

The Black Dike. The name elicits fear and nervous apprehension simply because of its classic status. Supposedly this route changed ice climbing forever when John Bouchard soloed it in December of 1971. Did I mention that it’s rated WI4/5, M5? Oh yea, and he was climbing with an ice axe in one hand and and ice pick in the other! Modern tools surely bring the grade down a bit, but it’s still the most obvious, classic line I’ve ever seen from a freeway.

Cannon Cliff from I-93. The route follows the corner on the left side.


The strange thing about this route is the intensity of the wind. Blowing through Franconia Notch, it seems to get caught in the gully and blows upwards ferociously. I’ve heard stories that chunks of ice released by tools actually blow above the climber, only to then fall down on them from above! Tom and I both suffered immensely from the screaming barfies while on route, but never would have known it when back at the car–sitting in t-shirts in the sun.

At the crux on pitch 2.


Above the crux traverse


Tom following pitch 2.

It’s a classic climb. Go do it and don’t get nervous, it’s only three pitches…and it’s been soloed!

One Response to “The Black Dike”

  1. Bradley White

    Excellent photos, espececially the entire cliff side is clear, thanks, Brad

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