Almanack Contributor Phil Brown

Phil Brown

Since 1999, Phil Brown has been Editor of the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Adirondack Ice Climbing: Laying Siege to the Tower

phil brown crystal ice towerIf you’ve done any rock climbing at Chapel Pond Gully Cliff, you’ve probably passed a steep granite wall on your way to the routes. It’s wet, dark, and manky, nothing you’d want to get on in summer.

In winter, however, the wall is transformed into the beautiful Crystal Ice Tower, one of the oldest and most popular ice-climbing routes in the region.

The tower is just one pitch, about eighty feet long, but it’s possible to keep climbing for three more pitches all the way to the top of Chapel Pond Gully Cliff. The route above Crystal Ice Tower — a mixture of snow and ice — is known as White Line Fever. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Historian Testifies In Forest Preserve Snowmobile Trail Lawsuit

Protect the Adirondacks offered its first witness Wednesday in a civil trial that could clarify the meaning of Article 14, the section of the state constitution that declares that the Forest Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.”

Historian Philip Terrie spent several hours on the stand, establishing his credentials and testifying about the meaning of timber circa 1894, the year Article 14 (then Article 7) was approved.

Article 14 mandates that timber on the Preserve shall not be “sold, removed or destroyed.”

Protect the Adirondacks contends that the state’s construction of “community connector” snowmobile trails violates this provision and will destroy tens of thousands of trees. The nonprofit group is suing the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Boreas Ponds: A Rare Addition To Forest Preserve

Boreas Ponds photo by Carl Heilman IISome might wonder: What’s the big deal about Boreas Ponds? Yes, it boasts a fantastic view of the High Peaks, but you can paddle the waterway in less than an hour. And then what?

Unlike Lake Lila, Boreas Ponds has no sandy beaches where you can loll in the sun or go for a swim. Nor is there a nearby peak to climb for a lookout (though you could bushwhack to the top of Boreas Mountain).

Nevertheless, Boreas Ponds is a big deal. It’s one of our last chances to add a sizable water body to the Forest Preserve and declare it motor-free.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Climbing: The Lure of Thin Ice at Poke-O-Moonshine

Jeff Lowe is one of the greatest American mountaineers of his generation. A native of Utah, he has climbed all over the world and put up hundreds of first ascents — on rock, ice, and alpine peaks. So when asked for his favorite climb in North America, he had many to choose from. Such as Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park, Bridal Veil Falls in Colorado, or the Keeler Needle in the High Sierra.

He chose Gorillas in the Mist, an ice climb on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain right here in the Adirondack Park.

Since Lowe did Gorillas in the Mist in 1996 with Ed Palen, the owner of Adirondack Rock and River in Keene, the route has attained near-mythic status. It has been repeated only once, just a few days after the first ascent. That was twenty-one years ago.  “Everyone wants to do it. Anyone with the skill set, of course they want to do it. It’s famous,” said Matt Horner, a Keene resident who is one of the Adirondacks’ strongest ice climbers. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sneak Preview Of Adirondack Explorer’s Next Issue

The February meeting of the Adirondack Park Agency’s board was a busy one. The staff spent two days discussing the Boreas Ponds Tract, diving deep into the ecology of the place. The board, however, took no action on the classification of the 20,758-acre parcel, which has stirred up so much debate on the Almanack. That decision could come this spring.

The board also discussed the controversial Lake Flower Resort in Saranac Lake. Many people have argued that the hotel would be too big and too close to Lake Flower, but the APA board voted to approve the project.

Both stories are covered in-depth in the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer, which is now at the printer’s.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Judge Seeks More Info In Rail-Trail Lawsuit

A state judge says he needs more information before deciding whether the state should be blocked from removing thirty-four miles of railroad track between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

In a February 7 order, acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Main Jr. requested more information on the ownership of the rail corridor and on the state’s plans to comply with historic-preservation law.

Until the judge issues a ruling, the state is barred from removing the tracks. The state hopes to begin the work this year.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Friends Rally For Keene Climber Injured In Fall

Matt HornerMatt Horner, a talented ice climber featured in the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer, took a bad fall while climbing above Chapel Pond last week, suffering serious injuries.

Horner, who lives in Keene, was climbing a route called Rhiannon when he fell about fifty feet and hit the cliff, breaking most of the bones in his face and suffering a concussion and a brain hemorrhage, among other injuries.

The news spread quickly among climbers on Facebook. When Horner posted photos of his swollen and bruised face from a hospital in Vermont, he received comments from more than three hundred well-wishers.

“I am blown away by all the love and help! Thank thank thank you!” he wrote in another post a few days later. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Judge Orders Trial In Forest Preserve Snowmobile Trail Case

A State Supreme Court justice has ruled that Protect the Adirondacks’ lawsuit against the state over the legality of “community-connector” snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve should go to trial.

In a decision signed January 25, Justice Gerald Connolly denied motions to decide the case without a trial, saying there are factual disputes that must be sorted out through a trial.

Protect the Adirondacks contends that the community-connector trails – which are nine feet wide (or 12 feet on curves) and often graded – violate Article 14, the clause in the state constitution mandating that the Forest Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.”

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Media To Host Boreas Ponds Forum in Schroon Lake Thursday

Three media outlets will host a forum on the future of the Boreas Ponds Tract at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Schroon Lake Central School auditorium.

The Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine, Sun Community News, and Adirondack Daily Enterprise invited a number of stakeholders to take part in the forum, including environmental activists and local-government representatives.

The Adirondack Park Agency has yet to decide how to classify the 20,758-acre parcel under the Park’s State Land Management Plan. The state Department of Environmental will later write a management plan for the property, but the types of recreation allowed and the degree of motorized access will be partially predetermined by the classification. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lawyers Argue In Court Over Adirondack Rail-Trail Proposal

Railroad crossing over Bog River. Photo by Phil BrownAfter months of delay, lawyers for the state and the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society squared off in court Monday over the future of a 34-mile stretch of tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.

At the end of the 45-minute hearing in Malone, acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Main Jr. reserved decision on whether to block the state from tearing up the tracks and converting the corridor into a multi-use recreational trail.

The judge also asked the state to provide more information on the ownership of the railroad corridor.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Map of Adirondack Remoteness and Boreas Ponds

Several years ago the Adirondack Park Agency mapped all the “Remote Areas” in the Park—those lying at least three miles from a road and at least two miles from any lake where motorboats are allowed. Less than 3 percent of the Park meets those criteria.

A caption states that the map “indicates the truly remote areas of the Adirondack Park are relatively small and therefore a precious resource.” They are the dark areas shown on the accompanying map.

Given the region’s network of roads, there aren’t many opportunities left to create new Remote Areas in the Park.

Boreas Ponds is one of them.

Recently, I dug up a copy of the map and traced a circle with the Boreas Ponds dam at its center and a radius of three miles based on the map’s scale. The results, though not surprising, are worth noting, given the controversy over the pending land-use classification of the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract:

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Wilderness Management of Boreas Ponds Favored by Commenters

The APA recently reported that it received more than 11,000 comments on the classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates has reviewed the comments (more than 16,000 pages worth) and found that more than 37 percent support classifying the entire tract as motor-free Wilderness.

Altogether, 84 percent of the comments support either AWA’s or BeWildNY’s plan, according to AWA, whereas only 15 percent support a Wild Forest classification that could allow motorized access all the way to Boreas Ponds.

BeWildNY, a coalition of eight environmental organizations, and Protect the Adirondacks all support opening Gulf Brook Road to within a mile of Boreas Ponds. Adirondack Wilderness Advocates and Adirondack Wild propose classifying nearly all of the Boreas Pond Tract as Wilderness. » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Don Mellor Publishes New Ice-Climbing Guidebook

Don Mellor’s second edition of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide, published this month, describes almost 600 ice-climbing routes — a testament to the popularity of an erstwhile fringe sport.

The growth in ice climbing is mirrored by the growth in the heft of previous guidebooks.

In 1976, Tom Rosecrans published a slim guidebook called Adirondack Rock and Ice Climbs. Though rock and ice received equal billing in the title, only nine of the 124 pages were devoted to ice climbing. Only a few ice routes were named and described.

In the 1980s, Mellor came out with a bulkier guidebook, Climbing in the Adirondacks, with a substantial section on ice climbing. The 1995 edition described more than 140 routes.

Mellor published the initial edition of Blue Lines in 2006, the region’s first guidebook devoted exclusively to ice climbing. It described about 350 routes.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Boreas Ponds Dam Drives Debate

boreas ponds damThe Adirondack Park Agency held public hearings on Boreas Ponds at eight different locations around the state in November and December. Hundreds of people spoke, offering a potpourri of opinions. But one constant was a sea of green T-shirts bearing the slogan “I Want Wilderness.”

BeWildNY, a coalition of eight environmental groups, created the T-shirts to push the idea that Boreas Ponds should be classified as motor-free Wilderness. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Book Review: A History of American Mountaineering

Maurice Isserman’s Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering is a scholarly work that covers the exploits of mountaineers in the United States and Canada from colonial days to 1963, the year that an American team reached the top of Everest.

Everest is a world away from the northeastern United States, the starting point of Isserman’s book. In 1642, Darby Field, a resident of what is now New Hampshire, climbed White Hill, known by local Indians as Agiocochook and by moderns as Mount Washington, the highest mountain in New England.

Others in the Massachusetts Bay Colony thought Field daft for climbing a mountain. It just wasn’t something people did. Isserman writes: “Following his death in 1649, it was remarked that his was a life of ‘merriness marred by insanity.’”

» Continue Reading.


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