The newly acquired Boreas Ponds Tract has been touted as a destination for backpackers, paddlers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and snowmobilers. As it turns out, some of the earliest users of the land have been rock climbers.
Within a few months of the state’s purchase of the tract in April, rock climbers established nine technical climbing routes on the southwest face of Ragged Mountain, a small peak that lies less than a mile from County Route 84.
The Adirondack Rock website awards Ragged four out of five stars for the overall quality of the climbing. Most of the routes are hard, with ratings from 5.10 to 5.13 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which ranges from 5.0 (easy) to 5.15 (nearly impossible).
In late July, Sabrina Hague and I visited Ragged to climb two moderate routes, Kittens, Rainbows, and Lollipops and Palm-O-Granite. Both are rated 5.8.
Although both are good, Kittens, Rainbows, and Lollipops, which climbs a crack in a corner and then goes over a small roof, is the superior route. Adirondack Rock gives it five stars and a heap of praise: “simply awesome; one of the best single pitches of its grade in the park.”
Sabrina led the route twice, flawlessly—the first time to set up a fixed rope that R.L. Stolz, the co-owner of Alpine Adventures in Keene, later ascended to take photos; the second time so that R.L. could take photos of her climbing.
“You’ve climbed this climb more than anyone else alive. Do you realize that?” R.L. remarked after her second ascent.
The route is a hundred feet long and ends at anchor bolts, from which we rappelled back to the ground.
Palm-O-Granite is a much different climb. The 5.8 first pitch, just forty feet long, ascends steep slab to another fixed anchor. Though I have climbed a lot of slab, I found this difficult. At one point, I had to rest on the rope to give my calves a break. The second pitch is a whole lot easier (5.3). You go up low-angle slab to a wall, then traverse left using a large handrail crack as security. Adirondack Rock gives Palm-O-Granite three stars.
A short bushwhack from the main cliff is an easy two-pitch climb called Stairway to Lichen (three stars, rated 5.3). Because we were running out of time, we had to skip this one.
On the drive home, Sabrina remarked that if Kittens, Rainbows, and Lollipops were at the Beer Walls, a popular climbing area near Keene Valley, “it would be one of the top climbs.” She compared it to Rockaholic, a celebrated crack climb at the Beer Walls. “It’s aesthetically better than Rockaholic—and more fun,” she said.
Adirondack Rock also awards five stars to two of the harder routes: Invasive Species (5.10) and Runnin’ Ragged (5.11). Two others get four stars.
Ragged Mountain is on the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract, which the state purchased from the Nature Conservancy. The tract had previously been owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.
R.L doubts that Ragged will become a major destination for climbers, in part because it’s off the beaten track, in part because the routes are so difficult. Indeed, if a potential route on a giant overhanging roof ever gets climbed (it’s a work in progress), it could be one of the hardest routes in the Adirondacks.
“The problem with the area is it’s a one-trick pony,” R.L. said. “There are a few routes for mortals. The rest are for climbing gods.”
DIRECTIONS: From Northway Exit 29, drive west on County Route 84 (also known as the Boreas Road or Blue Ridge Road) for 7.1 miles and turn right onto the dirt Gulf Brook Road. Go 0.8 miles to a small clearing on the right, about 100 feet past a gravel pit on the left. Follow an old trail 300 feet to a patch of prickly plants. On the other side of this clearing, the old trail turns left, but you should bear right, following a new path. The path reaches the cliff 0.25 miles from Gulf Brook Road, heading generally southeast. When you reach the cliff, turn right and follow its base to reach the climbs. Adirondack Atlas has a basic map here.
Photos by R.L. Stolz/Vertical Perspectives Photography. Top: Sabrina Hague on Kittens, Rainbows, and Lollipops. Bottom: Sabrina Hague on Palm-O-Granite.