Cannon Mountain (New Hampshire)
Cannon Cliff, the southeast face of Cannon Mountain
|Elevation||4080+ feet (1244+ m)|
|Prominence||740 ft (226 m)|
|Listing||White Mountain 4000-footers|
|Location||Grafton County, New Hampshire, U.S.|
|Topo map||USGS Franconia|
|Easiest route||Kinsman Ridge Trail|
Cannon Mountain (formerly Profile Mountain) is a 4,080-foot (1,240 m) peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Known for both its technical rock and ice climbing (particularly on Cannon Cliff, pictured) and its skiing (the state-owned Cannon Mountain Ski Area), the mountain was home to the Old Man of the Mountain until the formation collapsed on May 3, 2003. It is the parent mountain of three mountains, with heights of 3,693, 3,700, and 3,769 feet (1,125, 1,127 and 1,148 m), collectively known as "The Cannon Balls." The mountain is a type of geological formation known as an exfoliating granite dome which is layered like an onion. Cannon Mountain is located within Franconia Notch State Park.
Cannon's ski area is one of the oldest in North America. Trails had been cut on the mountain prior to 1933, but the mountain gained widespread recognition that year when the Taft Slalom was cut as the first racing trail in North America. The mountain gained lift service with the construction of the first aerial tramway in North America, in 1938. A new tram was erected in 1980 with a vertical ascent of 2,022 feet (616.3 m) and a capacity of 140 people (two seventy-person cabins), roughly three times larger than the original lift. The old tram base and summit-stations remain intact, and one of the old cabins serves as the entranceway to the New England Ski Museum, opened in 1982 at the mountain's base area. The museum houses what it calls "the most extensive collection of historical ski equipment, clothing, film, photographs, literature, and artwork in the East" and is one of four museums in the U.S. to be recognized by the United States Ski Association as a Regional Museum.
In 1972, the US Board on Geographic Names officially changed the name from Profile Mountain, which it had been called officially since 1917, to Cannon Mountain. The two names both are derived from natural rock formations featured on the mountain; the former being the famous "Old Man of the Mountain" and the latter being a series of boulders which, when viewed from the foot of the mountain, resemble an antique cannon. Before being called Profile Mountain, the mountain was also called Frank Mountain.
On April 2, 1973, the second strongest surface wind gust ever recorded in the United States of America was measured by University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers on the summit. Although wind velocity maxima were measured at 199.5 mph (321 km/h), this reading represents the physical limit of the recording instrument, and thus the true value may have been quite higher. Only the record value measured on nearby Mount Washington in 1934 exceeds this value in terms of American wind extrema.
Recreation and tourism
Cannon Mountain and the surrounding base area are used year-round for a variety of recreational purposes, including sports such as hiking, climbing and skiing, as well as being a popular tourist destination.
There are a number of trails that criss-cross Cannon Mountain and the surrounding region (a map is available), but only one trail, the Kinsman Ridge Trail, can be taken uninterrupted from the trailhead to the summit. This trail begins in the aerial tramway parking lot and ascends the north face of the mountain, which is shared by the ski area. Two other features of the mountain which attract hikers are the Appalachian Trail and the Appalachian Mountain Club-maintained Lonesome Lake Hut. The base of the cliff face can be approached via an ambiguous path up the right side of the talus field.
Cannon Cliff (pictured above) is the largest vertical rock face in the Northeast at roughly 1,000 feet (300 m) in height and more than 1 mile (1.6 km) long. As written in a SummitPost description of climbing possibilities on Cannon, "Some of the aid lines are long and difficult enough to require a bivy, making Cannon the only Big Wall in the northeast." Cannon is popular in the summer months with free- and aid-climbers alike, and in the winter it attracts ice climbers and mixed climbers (climbers who ascend routes with some pitches of ice and some pitches of rock). (V)Ice Fest, an annual ice climbing festival, is held in the Franconia Notch region and features climbing on Cannon Cliff.
There is a log book climbers are asked to sign into and out of. If an unusual amount of time passes before a climber signs out, a search party is formed. Several guide books exist for Cannon and Franconia Notch, most notably 'Secrets of the Notch' by Jon Sykes which covers both rock and ice routes.
Notable rock climbing routes:
- Whitney-Gilman Ridge: 5.7, 5 pitches. This prominent arête in the center of the face is possibly Cannon's signature climb. The 3rd pitch (the 'Pipe Pitch') features outstanding exposure over the Black Dike. Protection is a mix of trad and fixed bolts and pitons. First ascent was by Bradley Gilman and Hassler Whitney on August 3, 1929.
- Moby Grape: 5.8, 9 pitches. Ascends the tallest section of the cliff. Starts with Reppy's Crack; superb climbing all the way up. First ascent was by Joe Cote and Roger Martin on July 1972.
Notable ice climbing routes:
- The Black Dike: 4+/5-, 500 ft (150 m) tall; 3 pitches. A popular mixed ice climb. First ascent was by John Bouchard on December 18, 1971 (solo).
- Omega: 5+, 3 pitches. Mixed climbing. Hardest ice climb in the region. First ascent by John Bouchard and Rainsford Rouner in 1976.
Approach and descent
The approach trail to Cannon cliff can be found by walking along the bike path on the western (southbound) side of I-93. A climber parking is available at a trailhead parking lot just south of Profile Lake. The sign-in box is located at this trailhead. The approach to Cannon is notable for its length and difficulty. After about 1 mile (1.6 km) of hiking up narrow, climber-maintained trails through the woods, climbers must cross a long section of talus. Many climbers choose to top out rather than rappelling and having to descend across the talus field.
Unofficial descent trails can be found on both the north and south ends of the cliff (above Whitney-Gilman and Lakeside, respectively). These trails descend steeply and return climbers to the trailhead.
The Cannon Mountain Ski Area is state-owned and offers nine lifts servicing 165 acres (67 ha) of skiing (158 with snowmaking). In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps cut six ski trails, many of which were later incorporated into the Cannon Mountain Ski Area and, until 1984, the Mittersill Ski Area. The Mittersill Ski Area and Taft CCC Ski Trail were incorporated into the Cannon Mountain Ski Area in 2009.
Cannon has a number of non-sport-related features which make it a popular tourist attraction. The aerial tramway operates year round, and in the summer is the only way up the mountain other than hiking. Though the lift terminates at the summit of the ski area, which is not the peak of the mountain itself, two hiking trails (the Cannon Mountain Short Trail and the Rim Trail) provide a way to the summit. The tramway opens for the summer season in mid-May and closes in mid-October, and is open daily from 9am to 5pm. There, an observation tower provides a panoramic view of the White Mountains Region. A restaurant and gift shop are available at the summit tramway station. Another attraction until the spring of 2003 was the Old Man of the Mountain; the Old Man of the Mountain Historic Site remains an attraction. Also notable is Profile Lake, a lake popular with both fly fisherman and anglers. Lastly, the New England Ski Museum attracts skiers to the area in the off-season, as well.
- Four-thousand footers
- White Mountains Region
- List of mountains of New Hampshire
- Betty and Barney Hill abduction
- "Cannon Mountain. New Hampshire". Peakbagger.com. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "Cannon Mountain". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "Tourist to Ride Aerial Tram to Mountain Top" Popular Mechanics, September 1937
- http://www.mountwashington.org/education/The_Great_Windstorm.pdf "The Great Windstorm of 2 April 1973 on Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire", Weatherwise, vol. 27, no. 4, August 1974
- "Franconia Notch State Park, Hiking Information". Franconia Notch State Park. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "Cannon Mountain". SummitPost.org. http://www.summitpost.org/page/151501. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "(V)ICE Fest 2011". Viceaxe.com. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- Sykes, Jon (May 2001). Secrets of the Notch: A Guide to Rock & Ice Climbing on Cannon Cliff and the Crags of Franconia Notch. Burlington, VT: Huntington Graphics. ISBN 1-886064-13-X.
- "Mittersill Ski Area". New England Lost Ski Areas Project. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- Layden, Tim. Bode-audacious. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "EPA Federal Register of Cannon/Mittersill Land Exchange; White Mountain National Forest, Grafton County, NH". Federal Register Environmental Documents. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "Cannon Mountain Ski Area". NH Department of Resources and Economic Development. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "Franconia Notch State Park". New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "Hiking Cannon Mountain". Appalachian Mountain Club. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
- "Mt Cannon". Hike The Whites. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "The Time Machine Archive". Snow Journal. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
- "New England's Alpine CCC Ski Trails – Cannon Mountain". NewEnglandSkiHistory.com. Retrieved 2011-05-09.