If people in Berlin are looking for economic opportunities they should look to the west. Mount Forist, if it were an hour south, would be covered with rock climbing routes. Instead it has less than 10. Ed Webster’s guidebook to climbing in the White Mountains describes Mount Forist as covered in ash from the mill, leaving climbers’ hands black at the end of a route. But Paul Cormier, local new route developer, said any soot had long since washed off. What is left is clean, moderate slabs of granite.
North Conway has a long history of climbing on Cathedral and Whitehorse, the two granite cliffs just outside of town. People make a living as guides and working in outdoor shops. Embracing the outdoors has been good for Conway; it could be good for Berlin too.
The thing Conway lacks is beginner terrain. There are easy climbs, but because they were climbed early in climbing’s history they are not well protected. Climbs can be made safe or dangerous, but early climbers often felt it was necessary to prove how bold they were, putting little protection into easier climbs. This created easy climbs that require experienced climbers to ascend them.
Berlin is different. So few established routes means there is room for more. And the ethic has changed since 30 years ago. It is no longer frowned upon to make easy climbs safe. New route developers could put in the well protected moderate routes that appeal to the majority of rock climbers. North Conway lacks that terrain; Berlin has that opportunity.
Climbing isn’t big business, but every weekend dozens to hundreds of people flock to climbing areas in other parts of the state. They eat at restaurants, shop at stores and stay in hotels. They bring dollars to municipalities near climbing areas. Why not Berlin?
My wife and I had a great day on Mount Forist today. We didn’t see anyone else, we got a great view of the city, and the climbing was wonderful. She wants to go back to put in more routes. Anything we develop will be protected with moderate leaders in mind. This is the sort of energy the city should embrace, something it should harness, as part of the assortment of new economic drivers that will carry the city into the twenty-first century.