Way Radical

Posted on: June 1, 2007

Many of the great route names in New Hampshire contain tales of outlandish ordeals or humorous escapades or (best of all) both, that the first ascensionists have just as inexplicably survived. But few can rival Tom Callaghan's story of the first ascent of Way Radical (5.9+ R) on Band M Ledge with John Mallery and Mike Cody on July 16, 1981.

Just ten feet from finishing this continuously overhanging, diagonaling crack line, Tom realized that his last piece of protection, a Friend thirty feet below him, had inverted and the cams had snagged the rope. He tried to down climb to the Friend—forming a giant loop of slack as he did so—but he was too pumped, so he fought his way back up to his high point. Then Tom began to scream. His partners couldn't see his struggles or hear his cries for help. With no more gear to fit the crack, he was looking at a sixty-foot free fall into sheer space.

At last, Tom realized he had one final option: untie. He dropped his rope and free soloed the virgin moves to the cliff top, 300 feet off the deck. By now severely dehydrated (it was very hot), he tried to descend to his belayer, only to get lost in the surrounding forest—easy to do in New Hampshire. Meanwhile John, enjoying a stoner's holiday, still had Tom securely on belay.

Unable to locate the cliff base, Tom was becoming delirious. He stumbled downhill through the dense woods until he chanced on a house whose owners were in the midst of a rollicking afternoon cocktail party.

"Here, want one?" said one of the revelers, thrusting an ice-cold beer into Tom's hands. "You look kinda thirsty."

Several beers later, Tom staggered back uphill, where he informed John, hundreds of feet above, that he was off belay. Recollections differ on whether John's response resulted in the route's name, Way Radical.

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