7/5/13 - New Hampshire climber Jay Conway has completed what's likely the hardest free pitch on Cathedral Ledge, the historic and well-traveled crag just outside North Conway. Difficulties be Damned (5.14a) ascends the very steep Mordor Wall area of Cathedral, starting at the belay for the second pitch of Highway 61.
Conway, a high school teacher and father, spent several years working on the pitch, falling repeatedly on the crux sequence. (At his Facebook page, Conway thanked 29 different belayers!) In the end, as he wrote at NEClimbs.com, "a small tweak of beta had me send on my first try using this sequence. Almost two years of bad beta!"
At NEClimbs, Conway described Difficulties be Damned this way: "This route is basically a direct start to the Soft Iron aid route. Same start as the second pitch of Highway 61, then up the corner using some crazy beta, 13b-ish to here. Get a small shake, then launch into a long series of hard moves, joining the Soft Iron route. Gain the hanging crack, and enjoy some awesome 12a climbing to join the finish of Highway 61." Conway placed four new bolts and preplaced a variety of trad gear to protect the pitch.
In 2008, Conway completed the first ascent of Cecile (5.13d/14a), a two-pitch line with sporty run-outs, also in the Mordor Wall area.
Date of ascent: June 2013
Sources: NEclimbs.com, Jason Conway, Freddie Wilkinson, Mountain Project