House Solos Two New Hampshire Classics

Posted on: February 12, 2010

Steve House free soloing Remission (IV WI5+ 5.7, 3 pitches) Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire. On Wednesday, House climbed Repentence (III WI5, 3 pitches) and Remission back-to-back and ropeless with Jim Surette filming video from above. [Photo] Jim Surette /

Steve House made back-to-back ropeless ascents of two Cathedral Ledge ice testpieces—Repentence and Remission—on Wednesday.

An Ice Climber's Guide by Rick Wilcox describes Repentence (III WI5, 3 pitches) as "the classic hard ice line in the East" and Remission (IV WI5+ 5.7, 3 pitches) as "the most difficult route at Cathedral Ledge."

House's take on free soloing the pair? "Way inspiring."

Both routes climb chimney systems and involve thin ice with a few awkward mixed or rock moves. House had climbed Remission the day before, Repentence earlier in the week.


Remission has a reputation for being more difficult than Repentence—but not for House. At the base of his first solo, Repentence, photographer and videographer Jim Surette mentioned that there was a handcrack on the left side of the chimney's crux chockstone. House had always climbed to the right before, but when he soloed up to the chockstone, "he actually ended up on-sighting the crux of the day," Surette said. "Steve took off his gloves for the final rock moves over the chockstone. Ironically enough, this meant that the good hand jam, with gloves on, was actually kind of a rattly fist jam." House pulled through and finished the climb.

He descended, filed his picks and sipped some tea before starting up Remission. "I was thinking that the chockstone had been really scary and knew that Remission would feel easy after that," House recalled. "And I was right."

The solo ascent of Remission may be the climb's first. Wilcox called the back-to-back solos an incredible, dangerous accomplishment that he classified as "the real deal."

But House saw the climbs less as an objective and more as an introspection. "I wanted to climb them without a rope to experience these incredibly classic lines as purely as possible," he said. "But more importantly to me, I wanted to experience the internal dialogue that occurs for me when I decide upon, and then execute, a solo climb. If you want to find out what's important to you, decide to do a hard solo and see what you think about and dream about in the hours before you go."

Sources: Steve House, Jim Surette, Rick Wilcox,

House on Repentence. Higher on the climb he degloved to hand jam but instead found a cruxy "rattly fist jam," said Jim Surette, who was filming the solos. [Photo] Jim Surette /

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Simply a great bold climb. Integrity and determination are what Steve is all about and this climb is another example of why he's the best we've got.

2010-02-18 09:51:46

The weird weird world of the internet forum...

Interesting that such a stir would start with the knee-jerk reaction of one disgruntled (Fairbanks?) climber with a computer and an internet connection...

Interesting also, chewtoy, that your post beginning with "The ultimate solo is the one you don't tell anyone about," ended with something about your own aborted trip in the Range.

Your motivation in posting here was to seek recognition for the aforementioned notable and respected Southcentral Alaska climbers?


I wonder how those of the above who are still alive would feel about having their names and personal climbing exploits associated with baseless internet spray between armchair climbers named "maxburlseeker" and "polishbob" and "coondog," over a brief article about Steve House?

Nice tip of the hat.

What qualifies anyone who has weighed in thus far to negate or dismiss these climbs?

2010-02-17 14:36:57

You can always count on that Schooner dude to put the hurt on...but you're talkin' about NEW Hamster, not OLD hamster. Them boyz is tight (definitely seeing a united front here)! These boys are taking The Shire to the world. But where is Frodo?

2010-02-17 13:30:52

I guess it must be newsworthy, since it causing all this exciting controversy. The response to chewtoy's second post was a point well made, but those folks soloing at their local crags and around the world ARE doing just that, soloing in many locations. Some of them posted on this Newswire (wink).

2010-02-17 13:14:44

I think I may be able to add a little insight into this debate. After reading this post, I was reminded of a similar solo and debate that followed from 1979. Just as the deep south is now experiencing a bizarre cold winter, the south also did in 1979 and this was a time for deep south ice climbers to shine. I dug a bit through my archives of newspaper clippings and magazine articles that I have faithfully stored away under my bed. Here is a copy of the article from the Birmingham Post, December 14, 1979:

Local Hero and Daredevil Guido Franco Goes Ropeless on Noccalula Falls

For many of us here in Noccalula, the recent cold and bitter winter temperatures have kept us indoors nursing sore joints and catching up on back issues of Reader's Digests. But for a few courageous men and women this cold has brought them out from the coal mines and onto the precipitous flanks of some of the areas frozen waterfalls. Yes, these hearty people are ice climbers; they strap-on spikes to their feet ,called crampons, and wield sharp ice picks to climb up frozen waterfalls.

Last Tuesday, local mystic, preacher and car salesman, Guido Franco, reportedly climbed Noccalula Falls without a rope and completely by himself with no protection to keep him from plunging to his death. Several reporters, 3 local TV Channels and local radio were there to witness this "soul-searching" event. Shortly after the stupendous ascent, Guido was able to talk about the climb.

"Yes, I have just climbed Noccalula Falls by myself and without anyone else there to protect me from a fall. It has formed quite nicely this year and is much thinner than when it last formed 17 years ago. Waterfall climbing here in the deep south is a different kind of climbing, harder, much harder and more frightening than other places. Many do not know how terrifyingly treacherous ice climbing is here in the deep south. I can only imagine it is maybe close to the level of New England ice. For me, going without a rope on such a climb is a deeply spiritual event, I wish to probe deeply into my heart to see what it says to me when I am clinging to my ice picks 100 feet from the frozen ground below. Maybe it should tell me to soil my briefs. But today, my heart told me things that only one can find out if they go without a rope, solo and completely alone on a frozen waterfall. I do this for myself only and for what my spirit craves. After returning from my successful solo of Tajanga Geri I needd something to have completely for myself. Noccalula Falls is unlike anywhere else in the world for is very desperate and perhaps moreso than any waterfall in the deep Midwest."

Many of us may not understand what brings a person to brave a frozen waterfall by himself, completely alone and without anyone to save him but one local spectator can offer some advice:

" You see, I am a doctor, a podiatrist actually. And I also climb, but nowhere near the level of Guido. I am a doctor also. And I understand Guido. Perhaps he will talk to me after he comes down. I am a doctor, well, a podiatrist actually."

Gripping insight into the deadly world of extreme waterfall ice soloing in the country's most hardcore ice climbing area The DEEP SOUTH.

2010-02-17 13:09:13

Nice work Steve!

Can't wait to see Jimmy's video!

2010-02-16 20:08:57

I think anyone dissing Steve House and Alpinist for this story hasn't a clue. There are some serious hardmen who are North Conway locals that climb and guide at Cathedral Ledge all year long. These are folks who have accomplished hard objectives in the high mountains of the world. They all are saying the same thing, they are impressed with this and it is truly a significant solo link-up. Remission hasn't been soloed for a reason.

PolishBob, since you've taken it there, this is more significant than soloing some slabby route in the French Alps. But, the commitment level on both is no different. Make a single mistake and you are just as dead.

Unlike Ueli, I guess Steve must have forgotten to alert the helicopter crew he'd be on the routes in NH that day. ;) I salute Steve for his accomplishment along with his many others. Frankly, I heard about it and was thinking, C'mon! Where's the photos? I think there are a lot of northeastern climbers who are pretty psyched to see Jimmy's video.

2010-02-16 19:56:41

Steve - Congratulations! Great achievement.

And for those who claim that there is plenty of joe blow soloing routes in Valdisease or or some other local crags then ask them if they ever soloed somewhere else. Let them come out to other climbing areas and show their skills. Great climber will be able to climb routes in many different regions with same accomplishments. Routes in NH are maybe not harder then ones in Cody, Alaska or Quray but they are definitely different. Steve soloing these routes showed (again) that he is all-around climber then can climb hard everywhere not just in his local crag!

Great job Steve!

2010-02-15 22:26:14

Bottom Line: super impressive and bold, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the Washington Valley crew and came to realize what an awesome climbing community exists there, (pushing the proverbial envelope as well), I climbed repentence 5-6 yrs ago and found it to be difficult with a rope, but as Doug Madera so eloquently put it, "you just scratch your way up there and it works out", I still thought it was hard but keep in mind Doug is an incredible climber himself, along with Jimmy, and Freddie and most of the Washington Valley crew there. Also very humble. I think the important thing is that Steve is out pushing the limits in all aspects, technical mountaineering, local crag, etc. and deserves recognition for that, especially on some hard New England classic ice. As for the comment 'if joe blow not sponsored climber goes and solos a three pitcher....' maybe its media worthy but that same person proabably didn't also win the piolet d'Or either in 2006 for the 'alpine coup' of the rupal face with Vince. I solo'd finger fanger on bigger bagger on pikes peak and dont really care who knows about it, I didn't do it for recognition (im a doctor not a pro climber), I was bored had the day off and wanted to climb. I'm sure Steve didn't care if anyone wrote about it either he was probably just inspired, had the day off and wanted to climb. Not to mention helping out a filmmaker, can't wait to see the footage Jimmy. Steve, btw, still remember the rescue help for a climber on Denali with Twight, Backes, Athens, and Reichert before you guys did the czech direct push. thanks man. jay

2010-02-15 06:08:29

I think what it boils down is type of reporting. First of all- if you decide to go public, be prepared for the public to voice their opinion- some in favor, some critical. Second- I think these ascents received more space then a recent solo by Steck. Regardless how hard the ratings are in NE (which are similar to the one in the Canadian Rockies- NE guys flame on here), soloing a huge alpine face in two hours beats 2 three pitch routes any time imo.

2010-02-15 04:43:02

these climbs may sound pedestrian to those outside of NE, and perhaps they are to some out there, but the point is that having them solo'ed back to back will give notice to the local climbing community that it is always good to expand our understanding of what is possible. Perhaps this may not have same the same effect on the community as Lowe's ice climbing tour through upstate NY (solo'ed Positive Thinking, Gorillas in the Mist, etc.) did at the time, but it will provide encouragement to some of us to finally "tie-up" and try leading these things! I know Rains would be impressed with the solos.

2010-02-14 23:00:14
bayard russell

Remission has been in really good condition for about two weeks, while Repentence has had a line at its base, this route has sat there largely unclimbed - even with a rope. Its funky, and I hate to see the WI grade applied to it, and Repentence, it just doesn't fit. Both of these routes are anything but fat blue tubes of steep water ice.

Steve soloing these two routes is news worthy, especially to an eastern audience - probably more so than the interest shown for a couple of routes I put up this year that also got some attention on this website.

Thinking about it makes my aplms sweat and I respect Steve for doing it. What impresses me is that after feeling insecure getting around the chockstone on Repentence, a few hundred feet of the ground, he kept going and soloed Remission. From talking to Steve the following day, the whole thing was harder than he thought it was going to be - it seemed to leave an impression on him not to mention all of us who know these routes well.

Great job!

2010-02-14 22:45:22

The ultimate solo is the one you don’t tell anyone about. -MS When ever someone raises any sort of non-mainstream statement, the word hater comes out. How could ya hate Steve? Weird math.

Being Valentines day, reread the opening post. The point was folks in Valdez Alaska have been soloing 800 foot grade 5’s for almost 30 years. Just tipping my hat to the likes of Embick, Tobin, Teale, Wieland, Garvey, Phay and others. Sorry for being undersocialized.

Oh and if ya care just got blown out of the Range. Does trying to climb count as climbing or at least get me college credits for the reading we did?



2010-02-14 08:53:07

Congratulations to Steve on a fine, bold achievement! The kind of negativity being spewed about his accomplishment, however, is regretable, to say the least. I've known Steve for many years, and I doubt there is a more authentic, committed climber anywhere to be found. He is alpinism personified. Furthermore, there's not a boastful bone in his body. As he says in "Beyond the Mountain," action is his message, and that's most certainly what he's shown in soloing these two routes. Unfortunately, I haven't done either of these climbs—I'd love to—but when guys like Doug Nidever (whom I also know very well)confirm that Steve's achievemet is the real deal, you can take it to the bank. By my lights, the kind of pettiness and foolish dismissiveness that some evinced on this blog about Steve's accomplishment are not only unwarranted, but an embarrassement to those who posted them, and to the broader climbing community. For my part, I join Doug and Freddie W. and the others of their caliber in congratulating Steve on a heck of a pair of climbs!

Chris Kulp

2010-02-14 05:09:25

First.... congratulations to Steve for such an impressive accomplishment. Second ....thanks to Jimmy for taking these pics and can't wait for the movie to come. For those of you who didn't see his flicks , they' re really well put together. Third .....thanks to Freddie for setting the record straight. It's obvious that the "haters " are talking from a "non participating" stance( but they also lack minimum common sense. These climbs are within walking distance from a town that has been packed with climbing talent since the beginings of american alpinism and yet the solo link up had to wait for Steve's arrival in 2010....knock knock

2010-02-14 01:55:22

This is my 0.02 for what is worth. Steve is the kind of guy who is very shy in talking in public about his accomplishments (does he really need to????). To my own surprise, he added a comment on a public forum to share more about his inner experience about soloing these two routes than the accomplishment itself. I see that some of you are either yawning or criticizing him for capitalizing on something other people have done before.

I don't know anything about these routes and I am sure I can't climb them, but I am happy to read about someone else's experience, whether it is Steve's or John Doe's experience.

Steve has rarely, if ever, been accompanied by a photographer or a filmmaker on any of his climbs (aside from Marko). What he has done and what he continues to do speaks for itself, he doesn't need any self promoted publicity. I would love to see more of what he does but I do understand that it would take away from the personal and intimate experience he is searching when he sets out. If you have read his book, the story that comes out of it is one of a personal struggle with life and himself rather than bragging about stuff that none of us will ever be able to accomplish.

I think this is what Steve was trying to tell us all.


2010-02-14 01:41:08


don't listen to all the haters. Great sends on some classic lines.

2010-02-14 01:26:42

Agree 100% with Jim. If you're thinking THAT free solo is a yawner you're probably the same type climber that would dismiss ascents in the Canadian Rockies as being "easy" because they are rated 5.9 A2. Perception is everything. If you've never ever come close to doing anything like that then you probably can't grasp whether or not it's impressive. It doesn't impressive YOU couse your only point of refrence are words like 5.15b or WI7+ and you're not using real life experience to guage the accomplishment. I.E. How did YOU feel when you free soloed Remission and/or Repentence?

2010-02-14 01:00:31
Joe Crotty


Awesome accomplishment. Don't bother with the haters, just keep on keeping! I pray the summer and years to come bring you much good living and divine protection.

2010-02-14 00:59:52
Freddie Wilkinson

Whoops! Least anyone get the wrong idea from my or Steve's post, Jim's actually VERY employed at the moment.... Sorry Jimmy...

2010-02-14 00:47:45
Freddie Wilkinson

My opinion here: If you're not impressed by what Steve did because the grade makes it sound casual, if you've never even heard of remission or repentance... you probably don't know what you're really talking about.

A buddy of mine who might be a little more qualified than you to comment wrote me and said this: "I've soloed French Reality, Nemesis, Polar Circus with the Pencil and dozens of 5s; I've done both Remission and Repentence dozens of times and I never had the balls to solo either one..."

One more thing: Jim Surette is more than just an unemployed filmmaker; he's an original rad dog himself !!! If you've never heard of him and don't take his word about it, again... you probably don't know what you are talking about.


2010-02-14 00:26:01

We climbed Remission a day or two after the solo and all I can say in HO MAN ! As Kevin Mahoney recently stated it is currently in a condition that most climbers won't like, or climb. LET ALONE SOLO. Bad to the bone Steve

Doug Nidever

2010-02-13 18:33:36

Hey all, Thanks for caring enough about climbing to post on this. I want to add a couple of observations from my perspective as a climber who works for a living and does not consider himself a "pro", but rather a guy out trying hard to climb as much as possible and make a living any way he can.

I had decided to solo try to solo these routes (if conditions/feelings were right) before I knew that Remission had not had a solo ascent. It just seemed like an obvious and beautiful route to solo, but it is a bit harder than the grade, especially the 5.7 part, makes it sound. That's New England for you, it has been my experience that the ice and mixed grades are generally harder than they are out west. I know a number of people who have expressed a similar opinion. I soloed a route called the Talisman near Ouray a couple years ago and that's graded WI 6, M6. Remission was harder than the Talisman in the conditions I climbed those two routes. To back up that point I would say that there is a reason that all those great climbers who have visited New England over the years, and more to the point, all the phenomenal climbers who live in New England, have not soloed Remission.

I believe it's important to point out that I was going to try the solo regardless of whether or not Jim filmed. I knew he was looking for work and went out with him one day to shoot some pictures, the second time in my life I've had a photographer over my head. That afternoon I decided to try to solo these two climbs. I called Jim and told him I was going to go try, and if he wanted to film, as long as he was careful around me, I didn't care. Jim's a great guy and I thought it would be a cool opportunity for him, and work is tough as a freelancer. I have absolutely no financial interest in the footage. Jim owns all the rights to what he shot and it's totally up to him what he'll do with it.

Lastly, it's worth noting that editors decide what's newsworthy, not me. People in New Hampshire sure were stoked about my ascents. Anyone who has climbed these routes would surely rate them as among the top-ten ice routes in North America in my opinion. I'm sure it was a slow week for climbing news, I'll be the first to admit that this ain't no Rupal Face. I'm trying to get out climbing and have fun. I hope a bunch of you are out doing the same. Steve

2010-02-13 12:23:54


2010-02-13 04:46:47

I just wonder if Alpinist is running out of material to write about? Routes like this were soloed for a couple of decades now- just check some of the ascents of Guy in the past. As I really admire Steve for his endeavors in big ranges (I am in the process of reading his book) this is more like self promoting spray. Gee- if you start writing about every solo of WI5 or 5.7 we are going to run out of bandwidth very quickly.

2010-02-12 23:34:54

What I find questionable is the

"But more importantly to me, I wanted to experience the internal dialogue that occurs for me when I decide upon, and then execute, a solo climb. If you want to find out what's important to you, decide to do a hard solo and see what you think about and dream about in the hours before you go."

It is cool if you roll that way and all. But why bring a prof photographer to take pictures of you doing it? For the Media. I think what is most telling is the title. Not "Remission and Repentance soloed." But "House Solos some climbs you have never heard of"

2010-02-12 19:34:11

i agree that if the soloing wasnt steve house it wouldnt make the news. larcelle and kammerlander have been soloing stuff way beyond that for years with little fanfare.

but what i reckon does make it news-worthy is that, being steve house, its all part of a perspective that eventually leads to amazing stuff in places like pakistan.

sure, you and i can suck it in and solo a WI5 - but do we make it part of a plan to solo something at +7000m, non-stop with minimal gear?

2010-02-12 08:06:05

Yeah the man is sponsored and is a professional climber. That doesn't take away from the excitement and mention through media of a great achievement. Your comment sounds a bit like a dismissal regarding a noteworthy achievement. I think Steve mentioned the most significant element which is why this kind of thing is of such value to him. The real deal here is that in two sentences he brought to light the focus of climbing for all of us. What is important and of value to each of us. That is what makes this cool and we shouldn't banter because the guy has access to share cool things. Coondog

2010-02-12 07:27:45

so if joe blow not sponsored climber goes and solo's a three pitcher at your locale crag is that media worthy?

Just wondering, cause if that's true I know a lot of folks in Valdisease Alaska who should quit plowing snow and go pro.

2010-02-12 06:09:43
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