Conservation Team Restoring Popular Cathedral Ledge Approach

The Access Fund–Jeep Conservation Teams have broken ground on a massive, three-month effort to stabilize the approach trail and staging areas at the popular Thin Air Face at Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley.

Conservation Team crew working at Cathedral Ledge, ancestral lands of Wabanaki Confederacy, Abenaki/Abénaquis, and Pequawket. | © Cait Bourgault

With a high concentration of excellent, moderate routes and stunning views, Thin Air Face is a beloved spot for New England trad climbers and local guiding companies. However, the wooden structures installed 15 years ago to shore up the approach trail to this popular area have begun to deteriorate. Without intervention by professional trail crews, these timber failures would have led to severe damage at numerous points along the trail.

“Several sections of trail were hanging on by a thread, supported by timber structures that were rotting out,” says Access Fund Northeast Regional Director Mike Morin. “The crews on the ground are doing great work, replacing timbers and armoring the slope with stone structures to prevent large-scale erosion and severe damage.”

The Conservation Team East crew arrived at Cathedral Ledge on July 13 to provide their expertise to this large-scale stabilization effort. Over the course of the three-month project, they will be working side by side with Appalachian Mountain Club trail crews, the White Mountain Trail Collective, NorthWoods Stewardship Center crews, and the Access Fund–Jeep Conservation Team National crew.

The crews are focused on removing the rotting timbers and replacing them with native-stone structures, as well as hardening the trail from top to bottom to reduce erosion along the entire slope.

© Cait Bourgault

Crews are harvesting large granite blocks from a nearby talus slope, splitting them into manageable sizes for building and hoisting them into the air using a cable highline system to safely move the blocks across the worksite to their final destinations. The highline system allows crews to efficiently and safely move building material that would otherwise be impossible to move due to its mass and the steep, uneven slopes of the work site.

“The quality of the trail work that Access Fund and the White Mountain Trail Collective have done this year is absolutely crucial to the conservation of this place, which is so integral to our community,” says local climber and International Mountain Equipment employee, Brady Callahan. “A cliff called Cathedral deserves nothing less than the beautiful granite stairs that will now guide climbers to its base for another century to come.”

Access Fund and visiting crews are taking extensive safety precautions to ensure a safe working environment during COVID-19. If you see the crews at work during a visit to Cathedral Ledge, please give them a socially distant high-five and keep your distance from the work site.

This project is made possible with support from the White Mountain Trail Collective and the National Forest Foundation, both of which provided grant funding for a regional trail stewardship effort. Similar work is slated at the Echo Roof area of Whitehorse Ledge next year, as part of this regional effort.

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