Monday, June 26, 2017

Marcy’s Great Chimney: A New Climb Up Mt. Marcy’s Trap Dike

Marcy's Great ChimneyMt. Colden’s Trap Dike is a well-known feature among hikers, climbers and geologists. It is not, however, the only trap dike in the High Peaks. Take notice and you’ll find smaller dikes crisscrossing most of the slides and treeless summits. Most of these are interesting and perhaps photogenic, but irrelevant to climbing.

One of the best-kept backcountry secrets is a large vertical trap dike capped with a diagonal car-sized capstone on Mt. Marcy. It lies in a northeastern facing cliff deep in Panther Gorge and looks like a pencil-thin shadow from the summit of Mt. Haystack. This is Marcy’s Great Chimney.

St. Lawrence University Professor of Geology, Jeff Chiarenzelli, describes the dike as follows, “The dike is composed of basalt, a black, fine-grained rock that often erupts on the surface or is found in feeder dikes to volcanic rocks. Similar basaltic dikes are found throughout the Adirondack region and are approximately 640 million years old.  Produced in the Earth’s mantle they intruded into cracks and fractures as the eastern seaboard was rifted apart to form the Iapetus Ocean.  The Iapetus Ocean formed during the cycle of continental breakup prior to the opening of the Atlantic.” The basalt in the dike is lighter from weathering. Basalt also differentiates Marcy’s dike from Colden’s whose primary trap rock is gabbro which has larger crystals.

The basalt eroded and formed several vertical to slightly overhanging sections in a deeply inset six-foot wide chimney — the chimney is what originally drew my attention. Unlike Mt. Colden’s Trap Dike which is generally considered a fourth class climb, Mt. Marcy’s dike is a fifth class rock climb rated 5.8 on the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) of rating. It is worth the effort of visiting, though the nearly 9-mile approach – including a difficult bushwhack through several talus fields  – will likely deter all but the most adventurous souls.


I noticed the chimney several years ago when camping in the gorge with friend Anthony Seidita. We didn’t venture near enough to realize it was a trap dike at that point. I didn’t have the skills to climb it, but the dark cleft inspired me. When local climber and friend Adam Crofoot mentioned scaling it as a first ascent, my curiosity jumped to anticipation. He’d noticed years earlier. It was prime real estate for exploration and, in my opinion, one of the most unusual jewels of the gorge.

We tried to climb the beast several times and were turned back by inclement conditions each time. Two attempts during the winter of 2014-2015 were thwarted by thin dry ice.  Adam spent two hours trying to break through the crux during the first attempt before we had to retreat and tromp back out of the gorge through knee-deep snow with nothing to show except a few photographs. Marcy wasn’t ready to give it up.

A subsequent trip with Adam and another adventurer, Jaryn DeShane, found the chimney running with water on June 3, 2017 — an aesthetic cascade, but an unappealing climb that might have required a snorkel. It is not a primary drainage area, but recent rains were still seeping from the summit ridge. We settled on adding a different route up a hand-crack as a consolation prize — Slacker Cracker. It is located 100 feet downhill from the chimney. For all things, there is a season and not every outing ends as anticipated, but ascending the chimney had evolved into a battle.

Climbing Marcy’s Great Chimney

Tenacity often pays off in the discipline of climbing so I planned another trip and asked Jaryn to join me. Several days of hot dry weather preceded our trip. Such conditions bode well for climbing the high elevation rock climbing routes of the High Peaks. I prayed for a safe successful climb.

Jaryn DeShane Approaches Marcy's Great ChimneyWe began our trip early in the evening of June 14 and bivouacked under a moonlit canopy after a five-hour trek from the Garden Trailhead in Keene Valley. The usual late spring serenade of birdsong lulled me awake at 5 am. I contemplated what might happen in the coming hours — not a good habit since it drains energy and blurs one’s focus. Jaryn’s light-hearted quips and amiable personality kept the mood light during the ensuing  bushwhack. We reached the Huge Scoop, the last of the large northern cliffs, at 8:30 am.

Our next stop was at a stream to refill our Nalgene bottles. The dry weather had all but dried up what was a flowing stream two weeks prior. We had to climb uphill to find a small trickle that seeped from the mountain. This was a good omen for climbing the chimney; it would likely be dry. Another 20 minutes of threading our way through the forest and navigating moss-covered talus led to a grassy- glade below the Overhang Slide, a slide with two distinct roof systems. Our quarry was several hundred feet uphill.

We reached the trap dike/chimney at 9:15. The area is a dramatic arena to even visit. A vertical cliff harbors the feature — the Chimney Wall sits on the left while a 45 degree gully rises north into the forest. Various other crags sit to the south and east while Mt. Haystack looms across the glacial valley. Click here for the labeled cliffs of the gorge or here for an aerial photograph with rough access paths courtesy of the author and Adirondack Rock.

The sun illuminated the chimney. It was bone dry — perfect! What little moss or algae that grew on the basalt would be easy to avoid. Conditions were finally ideal, but that didn’t mean we had the ability climb it. It also didn’t minimize the objective dangers such as loose rock, my foremost concern. If I committed weight to a hold without evaluating correctly, I could pull a boulder loose on myself or Jaryn. The chimney would direct all rock-fall out its bottom, so we found a protective ledge where Jaryn could safely belay.

It was time to get down to business so I organized the gear on my harness — everything from a 5-inch cam to 1/8-inch chocks. I had enough gear to climb a much harder route, but I’d rather be conservative in such a remote venue. I took a few deep breaths and climbed up the grassy slope to the bottom of the chimney. The trap rock was broken and some of the pieces were loose as expected. I knew I’d find a good gear placement in the wall after 15 feet.

MudRat in Marcy's Great Chimney (aka Empty Tomb)I arrived at a slab of trap rock with spots of lichen and a huge crack on its left. The piece overhung slightly as I expected from watching water cascade over it two weeks earlier. A variety of solid hand-holds boosted my confidence as I stemmed upward, one foot on the left wall of the chimney and the other on the right. I pulled up and found a good foothold. Repeating the process several times set me atop the block where placed a cam to protect myself before resting to take in the scenery. I was positioned roughly 20 feet into the cliff. Rugged anorthositic wall framed a sliver of Haystack’s sun-lit slope. I felt strangely secure. The southerly wind created an updraft in the chimney which kept the blackflies at bay, but blew the chalk into my face when I reached in the bag.

The crux where Adam reached in 2014 was roughly 1/3 of the way up and about 10 feet above my stance. I spotted a couple chocks and a spectre ice piton in the wall — the anchor from which I’d lowered him. Maybe this would become a historical artifact in a few decades if we didn’t remove it! He’d spent nearly two hours in this area grappling with the crux. Memories of watching him climb up then back down precariously thin ice on the vertical wall came to mind.

The next large block also overhung slightly, but flakes in the adjacent anorthosite were excellent for face climbing. Thus I was able to ascend above a small roof to another rest in a squeeze chimney. It gave me a chance to take a few photos though dislodging myself was a chore. I couldn’t have fallen out had I tried. I wriggled up to a more comfortable stance inch by precious inch. There were more challenges above, but nothing looked as difficult as what I’d just climbed.

The next section looked like it was plugged with jagged unattached boulders, but I soon realized that this was a trick of perspective. They were firmly locked in place. A small terrace gave me a chance to study the surrounding walls which looked as appealing as continuing up the chimney. A plumb crack ran up the left-hand side. Other cracks and features adorned the right. Each was a potential new route variation. However, I wanted to ascend the pure line of the dike.

Looking Down Marcy's Great ChimneyClimbing higher also brought the diagonal chock-stone into perspective. It was 12-15 feet long, split across the bottom and tightly lodged in the chimney.  It looked like an open door to a tomb. I’d been curious about the stone for years — what would it look like and how would I get around it? Another short climb placed me at the base of the monolith where I found two choices that led up to the forest: ascend the left corner up piled basalt or climb up a vertical crack in the right corner. I chose the right.

It was an exhilarating exit that necessitated using the edge of the chock-stone to apply pressure with my left foot.  Twenty feet higher I topped out, built an anchor from a spruce and gave a hoot as a three-year dream materialized. As I previously stated, for all things, there is a season. The route was 165 feet long.

I tossed names around in my mind as Jaryn began to climb. I lean toward naming routes with a Christian theme, but also wanted to note the uniqueness of the feature. Marcy’s Great Chimney (aka Empty Tomb) seemed appropriate.

What had taken me almost two hours to climb while placing 14 pieces of gear took him about 30 minutes to follow. He recorded his climb using a selfie-pack equipped with a go-pro camera (click for video). I made a few quips about the setup, but it worked well in the end. We sat atop the new route and enjoyed the satisfaction that comes executing a plan without mishap.

The dike didn’t look impressive from the top down, but it was a stiff diverse climb that employed an arsenal of techniques — stemming, lay-backing, face-climbing, hand and finger jamming etc. I even used a knee bar to rest. As for the views — they were spectacular from our cliff-top perch. We could scan the entire western flank of Haystack and the largest of Marcy’s northern climbing walls, the Huge Scoop and Agharta Wall.

All Ryled Up

The day was young. It was only noon. Jaryn wanted to lead a route in Panther Gorge so I suggested that we rappel back into the dike so he could lead the aforementioned crack on the left-hand wall. He rappelled first and set up an anchor on the terrace below the chock-stone. I would belay him from there.

Jaryn DeShane leads All Ryled Up in Panther GorgeOnce on belay, Jaryn stepped confidently into the crack and began to climb. It was an appealing hand-crack to its top. He placed cams every body length until reaching two obviously loose blocks at the top. He then stepped left and face-climbed up to the trees. I followed and measured the route at 40 feet long — a nice exit variation. He named his first Panther Gorge lead All Ryled Up which we rated at 5.7 YDS.

We had climbed on a single 70 meter rope which means we could rappel half that length. Double ropes would have made it easy to rappel from trees at the top of the chimney to its base, but not a single rope. Thus we bushwhacked 50 feet south to the corner of the Chimney Wall (the cliff has a southern and northeastern face) where I hoped to find a shorter drop. Nearly an hour later, I realized that there was no easy way off of the corner. I eventually located a stout tree above a large grassy terrace 100 feet below and set up the rappel. We descended past a small free-standing pillar and down an overhanging wall. Two rappels later at 2:30 pm we were back at our packs.

We discussed climbing another route, but there was a weather change in the forecast and the clouds were coalescing to the south. Instead, we bushwhacked back to camp and cooked a hearty meal.  We felt the first drops of rain at 8 pm and endured a steady rain until noon the following day. We exited in a blowing fog at 3:30 pm. The weekend was cut short, but this mattered not. We’d accomplished our mission, explored new terrain and created memories that would last a lifetime. Marcy’s Great Chimney is a 4-star climb, perhaps you will be the next to climb it!

A succinct route description may be found on Adirondack Rock’s new route page. Panther Gorge resources may be found at .

Panther Gorge-Marcy's Great Chimney-All Ryled Up
Video of Our Ascent

Full Photo Set:

Additional Trips to Panther Gorge

  1. Grand Central Slide (w/Mark Lowell)
  2. Grand Central Slide Descent, up the Margin Slide & Skylight Bushwhack (w/Greg Kadlecik)
  3. Marcy to Haystack Bushwhack with Great Range Traverse-Great DeRanged Traverse(w/Greg Kadlecik)
  4. Marcy East Face Circumnavigation (w/Ranger Scott van Laer)-2013 Aug 24
  5. Marcy (East Face) Ranger on the Rock-East Face Slab (w/Anthony Seidita)-2013 Sep 6
  6. Haystack Slides and Haycrack Route-Day 3 of 4 days in the gorge (w/Anthony Seidita)-2014 May 1
  7. Haystack (V Wall) All Things Holy (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Jul 12
  8. Marcy (Agharta Wall) & Haystack (Free-Standing Pillar) Wreck of the Lichen Fitzgerald & For Whom the Lichen Tolls (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Aug 16
  9. Marcy (Agharta Wall) CrazyDog’s Halo & Watery Grave (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Sep 27
  10. A Snowy Panther Gorge Bushwhack (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Dec
  11. Marcy: A New Ice Route – Pi Day (w/Adam Crofoot & Anthony Seidita)-2015 Mar 14
  12. Haystack: 3 New Routes in a New Area (the Ramp Wall) (w/Allison Rooney and Adam Crofoot)-2015 May 30
  13. Marcy (Panther Den) Cat on a Wet Tin Roof (w/Bill Schneider)-2015 Jun 14
  14. Rumours of War: Opening a New Area—the Huge Scoop (w/Hunter Lombardi)-2015 Jul 11
  15. Marcy (Feline Wall) Kitten’s Got Claws (w/Justin Thalheimer)-2015 Aug 1
  16. Not Every Trip to the Gorge is Perfect –No Route, but a Good Day (w/Bill Schneider)-2015 Aug 16
  17. Marcy (Huge Scoop) The Pride (w/Bill Schneider and Adam Crofoot)-2015 Aug 30
  18. Marcy (Feline Wall) Promised Land (w/Dan Plumley)-2015 Sept 19
  19. Tour de Gorge (w/Adam Crofoot & Allison Rooney)-2015 Nov 21
  20. Marcy (Panther Den) Ice Route: By Tooth and Claw (WI4) (w/Bill Schneider & Devin Farkas)-2016 Jan 30
  21. Haystack Ice Climbs-Orson’s Tower (WI3+) and Fly By (WI3) (w/Nolan Huther)-2016 March 5
  22. Marcy (Agharta & Panther Den Walls)-Pioneer Anomaly & Belshazzar’s Fate (w/Adam Crofoot & Alan Wechsler)-2016 May 28
  23. Marcy (Huge Scoop)-Predatory Instincts (w/Bill Schneider & Nolan Huther)-2016 June 4
  24. Marcy (Feline Wall)-Galaxy of Tears (w/Dustin Ulrich)-2016 June 17
  25. Marcy (Panther Den)-One for the Boys (w/Bill Schneider, Adam Crofoot & Allison Rooney) 2016 June 25
  26. Marcy (Agharta Wall)-Tail of Redemption (w/Bill Schneider & John Pikus) 2016 July 30
  27. Marcy (Panther Den Wall)-Climb After Slime & You Moss Be Kidding Me! (w/Alan Wechsler) 2016 August 6
  28. Marcy (East Face)-Revelations (w/Nolan Huther & Loren Swears) 2016 August 27
  29. Haystack (V Wall)-Psalm 23 & Windjammer (w/John Pikus & Jaryn DeShane) 2016 September 17.
  30. Haystack (North End)-Kitty Cake (WI2) & 2nd ascent of By Tooth and Claw (Marcy) (w/Doug Ferguson & Walker Wolf Bockley) 2017 January 14.
  31. Marcy (Feline Wall)-Chimaera (WI3-) (w/Matt Dobbs & Jace Mullen) 2017 February 18.
  32. Haystack (North End)-Ride the Lightning (WI5-) & Skip the Lightning (WI3-) (w/Alan Wechsler) 2017 March 10.
  33. Marcy (Chimney Wall)-Slacker Cracker (5.9) (w/Adam Crofoot & Jaryn DeShane) 2017 June 3.

Photos: Top, the chimney/dike as viewed from below; Second,  Jaryn looks at the Chimney Wall from the glade below the Overhang Slide; Third, MudRat leading the chimney; Fourth, looking down the chimney from partway up; Fifth, Jaryn leads “All Ryled Up”; Bottom, route mosaic.


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Kevin MacKenzie is an Adirondack writer and photographer, licensed to guide in NY state and is associate registrar at St. Lawrence University. He lives in the Lake Placid area with his wife, Deb (also a freelance photographer). His articles and photographs have been featured such magazines and journals as Climbing, Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies, Adirondac, Adirondack LifePeeks, and Adirondack Outdoors. Many of Kevin and Deb's photographs are featured on the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center's website.

Kevin is an avid slide climber, rock/ice climber, winter forty-sixer, board member of the Adirondack Climbers Coalition and member of Climbing for Christ. His passion for climbing slides and pioneering new backcountry technical ice and rock routes takes him to some of the most remote areas in the High Peaks. His website and Summitpost forum page contain trip reports, photos and video from many of his explorations.

39 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Not a secret any longer.

  2. Tyler Socash says:

    What an in-depth account on how to destroy the mystery of wildness through the hubris of man! Was this article the right thing to promote?

    • I like to think of it as an account of what the backcountry can offer and that there are still unexplored places in the area…and in a society that is continually plugged in. I write these accounts to share with those who appreciate it and those who can’t visit for one reason or another. If you knew me, those I explore/climb with or what we stand for, you’d know hubris isn’t part of the equation.

  3. Carol Fox says:

    Interesting read! Thanks for sharing.

  4. M.P. Heller says:

    Nice one Kevin!

    Such a great area. Many routes to pioneer.

    You are going to be the one who finds Steven Thomas I think.

  5. Summit says:

    Super disappointing to see another piece by Kevin MacKenzie encouraging others to trample off-trail on alpine summits. Our rarest plants grow away from trails, in protected cracks and crevices. They are protected by their remoteness and inaccessibility, but not when people publish stories about off-trail travel. Please help protect alpine vegetation by traveling on durable surfaces, such as the trail.

  6. Christine says:


    I just cannot believe that you repeatedly need to lead hikers not only to destroy Adirondack Alpine vegetation but encourage climbers to go places where they will get hurt and may need to be rescued from at a great cost.

    Furthermore in this above post alone you are walking all over much of Dr. Ketch life work and showing contempt for the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program.

    Or is it that for a little glory self-impose ignorance is bliss…

    Christine Bourjade

    • Christine,
      You may want to read “Responsible Slide Climbing”, a piece I wrote in response to the increase in slide climbing since TS Irene. Though slightly out of context,the principles are similar to the ethics we employ in the Gorge.

      Rescues: If you check the rescue activity, you’ll find very few climbers or scramblers needing rescue–most are hikers. In my research I’ve found 9 specific dates involving 17 people that ended up in Panther Gorge. One was with Verplanck Colvin’s team in 1875 and the rest revolved around hikers/skiers, inclement conditions and Marcy’s summit.

      Also, these cliffs are low on Marcy and not near the summit. Annual ice-fall scours the vegetation from what we’re interested in climbing and creates the glades below them.

      • Christine Bourjade says:


        You take beautiful pictures but I know you do not want to read between the lines of your own articles and are still in denial of the consequences of your actions. For some reason you crave attention and report everyone of your trips in excruciating detail, I stopped reading them long ago as they are interchangeable but just seeing them on the web I want to cry and your friends find that funny.

        Christine Bourjade

        • Taras says:

          It’s clear you don’t approve of what Kevin does despite the complete lack of evidence to support your claims. By persisting to cast unfounded aspersions, you embarrass yourself.

          – Climbers understand the risks, and elevated grade, of climbing routes in a remote area (Panther Gorge is not the Gunks). Kevin is hardly luring unsuspecting climbers into a rescue situation.

          – Hikers, not climbers, are the subjects of the overwhelmingly majority of rescues. Hikers, not climbers, represent the majority of boots treading on alpine vegetation.

          – It’s a first ascent, it’s expected to be detailed. Describing it here is unlikely to open the flood gates and inundate Panther Gorge with climbers. At best, hikers on Haystack will gaze across the Gorge and wonder at the challenge of climbing Marcy’s rugged eastern face.

          – Dr. Ketchledge fostered the restoration of alpine vegetation on summits, where the conditions permitted their establishment … not on bare, vertical, rock faces hundreds of feet below Marcy’s summit.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Just curious if you care to share your specific examples of the direct negative impacts on the Adirondacks from Kevin’s reports in your accusations here:

      “you repeatedly need to lead hikers not only to destroy Adirondack Alpine vegetation but encourage climbers to go places where they will get hurt and may need to be rescued from at a great cost.”

      “you do not want to read between the lines of your own articles and are still in denial of the consequences of your actions.”

  7. Justin Farrell says:

    Kevin, thanks for sharing another one of your trip reports with us. I always enjoy reading them & viewing your photos. You are an admired Adirondack adventurer, and you always tell a great story. Please don’t let a few negative comments on the Almasnark get you down. Thanks again.

  8. Allison Rooney says:

    If I had to come up with a statistic for the overall impact from those hiking Marcy aspiring to be 46-ers vs. the impact from those of us who have been climbing back in Panther Gorge, the figure would be so insanely disproportionate that the percentage for climbers impact might as well be zero.

    Things you will not find in the Gorge:

    trash, unburied toilet paper, unburied human excrement, human caused erosion, graffiti or other defacement, etc.

    I guarantee you will find all of those items along any trail to Marcy, not to mention the rest of the ’46’.

    Seriously, ‘Summit’ & Christine, ya’ll might want to consider your words more carefully before committing them to eternity on the internet.

    Kevin, as always a wonderful, entertaining and inspiring trip report. Can’t want to give it a second ascent!

    • Christine Bourjade says:

      I am not asking you or anybody else to abstain but to refrain for posting in details how to…

      • Allison Rooney says:

        Christine, if you’re complaining about Kevin’s article because its something you don’t find interesting, maybe it’s time you give up the internet. There are millions of posts and stories online that not everyone will agree with or enjoy.

        Sorry sweetheart, the world does not revolve around you. And your dissatisfaction is not likely to stop Kevin, myself or others from climbing in PG or other remote places.

        • Christine says:

          Allow me to slightly edit your post: I am not your sweetheart, the world does not revolve around me, though it may around you… and how about reading again what I said as I am not accusing you and others of being guilty of what you are defending yourself!

          So long.

    • Paul says:

      Trying to get those numbers up for the gorge folks? Look this is clearly a tag to sell books just look at the links. That’s cool. Just say what it is.

      • John Warren says:

        Paul, knock off the trolling. This has nothing to do with selling books. There is no book.

        • Paul says:

          John, One of the link he provides is to a site where you can buy Adirondack Rock’s signed copy books?

          • Jim Lawyer says:

            Oh man, you figured it out. All of Kevin’s years of climbing in the Gorge — along with his seventeen co-conspirators — are doing so to help Jeremy and I sell books. Hopefully, everyone that reads Kevin’s trip reports buys a book…or two…or three. ‘Cause that’s how it works.

            PS: None of Kevin’s routes are in any book.

          • Mac MacKenzie says:

            This has nothing to do with Kevin, he gives ref. To a lot of different Adirondack websites including the weather. He mentions things that might be of interest to explorers/climbers. Kevin is all about the Adirondacks!

  9. Pete Biesemeyer says:

    TMI. Everyone should do their own thing, but why shout it from the rooftops? And who cares what kind of water bottles and where they were filled? Jim Goodwin made many back country first ascents, often alone, and always in impeccable style. One could hike with him all day and not hear a self-congratulatory word. Ed Stanley was another. One would do well to emulate their ethic.

  10. Justin Farrell says:

    So who’s up for some keg stands atop the Marcy Trap Dike lol? ?

  11. Adam Crofoot says:

    C’mon Kevin, don’t you know that all adventures need to revolve around the magic number 46 to be valid and acceptable? What are you thinking?!? You should be out doing yet another lap on one of those low-impact herd paths. Just kidding, keep doing what you’re doing. You write the only Adirondack trip reports I can read through without losing interest.

    On a serious note: no routes I’ve done in Panther Gorge top out in or around alpine vegetation, all end well below treeline. Do any of the naysayers above have different information from their extensive experience there? Actually when I look at who is doling out the down-spray I feel pretty good about my decision to not support the ADK or the 46ers.

    “Expensive rescues?” Look up the statistics on how many backcountry rock climbing incidents the D.E.C. responds to every year versus the number rescues for aspiring 46ers. You want fewer rescues? Me too, I’ll give you a clue where to start. Also, given his position as a rescue volunteer for the D.E.C. and his intimate knowledge of the place, if there is a climbing rescue in Panther Gorge Kevin will likely be one of the first ones on scene.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      I was going to post something similar Adam. Especially about the PG routes all ending well below treeline, but I figured that it was pointless because people like Christine already have all the answers.

      I don’t support the 46ers either. They are one of the biggest contributors to the problems of degradation we have witnessed over the last 10 to 20 years. Until they adopt a policy of true stewardship and stop being an edifice of self promotion my position won’t change. It’s a t-shirt club and nothing else.

      The “off trail people” I know, and there are many, are among the most responsible and respectful people when it comes to protecting the resource. The idea that by advertising their adventures they are enticing others to follow their example is over the top rhetoric. Most high peaks users these days have a hard time route finding on a 6 foot wide marked trail with a GPS.

  12. JOHNNYK says:

    Thank you Kevin for sharing the adventure! I continue to look to you as a responsible and environmentally conscious advocate both for the safety of hikers/climbers/adk enthusiasts/rangers and the natural resources that we all enjoy! The Daks have so much to offer and exploring those wayward areas are a natural progression for those that have moved past being a ‘hiking enthusiast’. Your trip reports AND your responses to questions on similar topics certainly continue to help me be better educated about proper stewardship as well as my own personal safety and those that join me when we go exploring both on trail and off. Thanks!

  13. NoTrace says:

    Yeah, Kevin – Stay ON the trail, dammit!

  14. Thank you– Allison, Adam, Carol, Jim, John, Johnny, Justin, Mac, M.P. Heller, NoTrace, Taras (I think I covered everybody). I’m glad you appreciated the post and found it interesting/informative—that was my motive for writing it. I also appreciate that you understand the reasons why I (or we) climb & explore, my motives for sharing some of these outings over the years and my personal/environmental ethics.

  15. Charlie S says:

    Tyler Socash says: “What an in-depth account on how to destroy the mystery of wildness through the hubris of man! Was this article the right thing to promote?”

    Summit says: “Super disappointing to see another piece by Kevin MacKenzie encouraging others to trample off-trail on alpine summits.”

    Christine says: “I just cannot believe that you repeatedly need to lead hikers not only to destroy Adirondack Alpine vegetation but encourage climbers to go places where they will get hurt and may need to be rescued from at a great cost.”

    > As I was reading this post my youthful spirit was thinking, “O’ how I wish.” I would never be able to pull this off at this stage in the game Kevin but if I could I surely would. The leisure class, which most of the trails are filling up with these years of late, what you describe above….it’s not for them!

    As for the commenter’s above! There’s having a concern for what remains of our wild places and there’s excess in our passions. I understand both. Of the hordes that come to the Adirondacks to say ‘I did it’ very few are going to try to pull off what you describe in the above post it’s not for them. There’s no fear of virginity being lost here contrary to what the above posters suggest.

    You say, “We began our trip early in the evening of June 14 and bivouacked under a moonlit canopy after a five-hour trek from the Garden Trailhead in Keene Valley. The usual late spring serenade of birdsong lulled me awake at 5 am.”

    Adventure is evidently in you Kevin which should surely keep your youthful spirit alive. I may not be able to pull something like this off but I understand and I’m here to say thanks for sharing and boy ‘how I wish.’

    • Paul says:

      What a nice comment. I agree. I quipped that this is revealing a secret, but I agree very few people will be doing this. The other comments about alpine vegetation, stick to the trail, etc. they are just not valid here,

      • Neil Luckhurst says:

        Places such as Panther Gorge were no longer a “secret” long before Kevin came along. (and there are many such secrets in the Adirondacks once a person gets off the most direct and energy efficient “trade routes” to the 46 High Peaks). Paper maps and a discerning and curious mind took care of many of those secrets long ago. And now Bing, Google Maps, Flash Earth and other on-line, high resolution aerial imagery software websites reveal even more detail.

        One of the difference between the naysayers and Kevin is that he goes there. His combination of bushwhacking, incredible fitness level, backpacking and rock climbing is a most unique and very special inspiration. Thank you Kevin.

  16. just an 'olGoat says:

    Fantastic read and stunning achievement Kevin. An outstanding example of determination and a clear reflection of the early adventures who first treked into the unknown regions of the Daks. Few will ever know the experience of climbing rock that has never been climbed. The RatBoy knows it well.

    I’ve had the priviledge of climbing with Kevin twice – two of the more exciting experiences I’ve had. On our last climb, we treked in to the upper ledges across from Chapel Pond. The sign at the trail head said, “Lower Cliffs Closed; Upper cliffs OPEN.” Carrying gear I struggled to keep up with Kevin – he kept looking back – smiling. Once at the rock we wanted to climb, Kevin kept looking up and about – a pair of Falcons were most unhappy with us being there. After some more study, Kevin said, “We can’t climb; we’ll go back and climb the slab..”

    That’s a small part of who Kevin MacKenzie is. The trailhead sign said, the upper cliffs were open; but the falcons were more important to Kevin that our trek in and climb. We hiked back down and climbed the Slab.

    So for those who don’t know Kevin, yet feel the need to be critical, (Can’t remember their names???? Whoever?), focus more attention on where the real damage is being done. I find the amount of human waste on summits deplorable. All that ecoli ends up in every stream decending the slopes.

    I’ve been climbing the Dacks since the 70’s; 46’r 2567. I’ve seen a lot of good happening on the trails, and a lot of disrespect too. I love off trail exploring and climbing, and coming across any sign of humanity other than a scuffed up log or broken branch is extremely rare. I have found that back country off trailers are fanatical about leaving no trace.

  17. Dave says:

    Climbed this chimmney back in the mid 70’s. The area was pristine and almost pure in my mind. Also climbed a lot in the Big Scoop area.

    • Jim Lawyer says:


      As an Adirondack climbing historian, I’m extremely interested to know more about your backcountry rock climbing in the 1970s. The only backcountry climbing known during the 1970s occurred at Wallface (1970, 1972, 1974-75, and 1978-79), Big Slide (1970), Gothics (1973), and a smattering at Azure (1970).

      The majority of the known climbing during this period occurred at roadside cliffs around Chapel Pond, Cascade Pass, Wilmington Notch, and Poke-O Moonshine. A few routes were done outside the High Peaks, notably at Bald Mountain (near Old Forge) and Roger’s Rock (Lake George), Sugarloaf (Cedar River Road), and Silver Lake (north of Whiteface). Over the decade (1970-79), only 194 routes were recorded.

      Regarding Panther Gorge, the earliest known climbing was in 1965, then nothing until 2003. Thirty-eight years is a huge gap, and there are many people (Kevin included) that would be extremely interested to know more, if you are willing to share. I would be most grateful if you would consider sharing your exploits. Email me at


      PS: The only Daves known to have climbed during the 70s are David Lovejoy, David Loeks, Dave Hoffman, Dave Hough, Dave Cilley, David Martin, and Dave Szot. Are you one of these men?

    • I echo Jim’s sentiments. Accurately documenting the climbing history of the Gorge is quite important to me. I’d love to hear more and hope you consider emailing Jim with details.


  18. Anthony says:

    The article is a vivid personal account of a climbing and exploration goal that took years to finally achieve. Much to be appreciated here, congratulations on a jewel of a first ascent. Perseverance, focus and commitment are admirable qualities. Thank you Kevin for taking the time and effort to share these most awesome climbs and adventures with such explicit details.

    I’m glad you didn’t mention the complimentary Frappuccino machine and the usb charging station at the top of the route to keep away the curious, adventure seeking, alpine vegetation stomping crowds and masses. lol

  19. brianCall says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article! Little known fact, but a generation ago Phelp’s grandson (from Keene Valley) tried to start a hotel in the rocks in the side of the dike, but his hatred for those of Irish descent made it difficult to find the workers for the project. Now all that’s left of this project is a door sized hole in the Dike. Can you find it?

  20. Brent_e says:

    Some of these negative comments are unbelievable. Nearly everyone has used similar info as Kevin has posted to do just about any outdoor pursuit (ever read any guidebook?). Unless you’re a pioneer someone has been there before you, and very likely shared that info for you to benefit from. How could you be mad at someone safely recreating outside and sharing the experience and excitement? Someone that also willing to hike a long way into the backcountry to put up routes and share the info which allows others to access and enjoy the resource. Guys like Kevin make it easier for people to get out there and experience these places.

    Unreal, folks. I’m sure you’re all nice people, but get out of your comfort zone now and then and realize that there are others out there that love the wilderness, but maybe in a different way to you. Because you don’t understand doesn’t mean it’s crazy. Educate yourself before you berate people for trampling the alpine or creating more rescue situations.

    Kevin, keep it up. You’re rad.

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