Poke-O-Moonshine

September 3, 2008 / Bloody Mary, 5.9+, 2p, trad.

Poke-O is a large cliff north of Keene, in the Poke-O-Moonshine state park. Locals rave about it, but it's our first time there and we are a bit disappointed. The cliff does not look nearly as impressive as people make it sound. Sure it's wide, and a bit higher than other formations in the area, but the more featured areas are vegetated, while the cleaner portions are too steep and featureless for the average free climber. It's also an incredibly noisy place: the cliff forms one side of a narrow corridor which reverberates the noise from the steep section of interstate highway directly below. Heavy truck traffic makes it almost impossible to hear one-another while climbing.

It's brutally humid and hot. The cliff is still in the sun when we arrive, so we wait a while for the sun to turn behind the face (around noon). We hike along the base of the cliff, checking out climbs. Not too many look like they are ever done, or very good. Short features connected by brushy areas.

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Poke-O is a large cliff located in the Poke-O-Moonshine state park.
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Section of the cliff near "Bloody Mary" and "Fastest Gun", probably two of the best trad lines at Poke-O.
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Eric on the short, vegetated first pitch of "Bloody Mary".
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Following pitch 1.
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Pitch 2 is good and very sustained but never desperate.

We settle on a 5.9+ dihedral: Bloody Mary. As usual in this area, the route is listed as a 4- to 6-pitch climb, but the first pitch is just 50' of unpleasantness to the base of the real climbing, and the upper pitch is covered in lichen and obviously rarely - if ever - done. It doesn't help that there is a good rap anchor at the top of pitch 2, and nothing else higher up. So we resign ourselves to climbing only the first two pitches.

The climb didn't inspire us much from below (looked mossy), but pitch 2 is very good, and quite sustained. The pro is good all the way. It's really hot and the humidity is off the charts. We must have lost a gallon of water each, even though the route is entirely in the shade. We do more exploring afterwards, but have no real desire to do any more climbing; it's simply too muggy.

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At the bolted belay atop pitch 2.
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Lucie following pitch 2.
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Almost there.
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Views from top of pitch 2.
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Back at the car.

We were hoping to come back at least one more time to climb "Fastest Gun" and a few single-pitch routes, but time flew by and we had to leave for Vermont before we had an opportunity to climb here again.