About a decade ago, I was riding a speedboat across Lake George — heading north to the Narrows — when I looked over to the eastern shore. There, right above the land formerly known as the Knapp Estate, was a series of large cliffs below Shelving Rock Mountain.
“I wonder if there’s climbing there?” I thought.
Turns out there is. It took a few years, but several local climbers have recently put up a variety of routes on the cliffs. According to Jim Lawyer and Jeremy Haas, authors of Adirondack Rock, there are six different cliff areas known together as Shelving Rock.
Today, there are a few dozen routes there, ranging from moderate sport lines (bolts are placed in the rock for protection) to stiff “trad” routes that require the placing of protective gear in cracks.
Shelving Rock is one of a number of areas outside the Keene Valley area — traditionally the place for climbing in the Adirondacks — that are seeing some new routes being developed in the past few years. Some of these places may never be “on the radar.” For instance, the Adirondack Rock web site describes one new spot, Silver Lake and Potter mountains, as a place of long, wet approaches, thick undergrowth and perhaps the worst insects of the Adirondacks. “Durable clothing is essential,” the authors caution.
Shelving Rock, on the other hand, is so user-friendly that it was the site of this year’s Southern Adirondack Rock Climbers Fest last month, an event that attracted dozens of people.
Shelving Rock is reached by taking Buttermilk Falls Road north from Route 149 in Queensbury. This long, rambling road turns to dirt — now rutted from the last several big rainstorms — and goes past the turnoff to Sleeping Beauty before running downhill, almost to the lake. Nearly at the bottom, there’s a large parking lot, across from a herd path that follows woods and cairns to the base of the cliff. It helps to go with someone who’s been there, but you can get route information here.
This is definitely a place to wear a helmet. When my partner was climbing, a foothold broke off on a moderate 5.7 route. Later that day, high winds sent a tree and a cabinet-size rock trundling from unseen heights all the way to the ground, not far from where some friends were climbing.
Generally, the half-dozen one-pitch routes I climbed were fun, clean and challenging. There’s a great sense of solitude here (except when music from wedding bands at the Sagamore Hotel waft across the water), and sterling views of the lake. I definitely plan to come back.
Alan Wechsler, who lives in New York’s Capital Region, has been writing about and photographing the Adirondacks for two decades.
Pictured: Steve Goldstein and Theresa Connolly. Photos by Alan Wechsler