Thursday, May 20, 2010

Adirondack Birding Festivals and Events Kick Off in June

June is birding month in the Adirondacks of Northern New York and avid ornithologists can enjoy the pristine wilderness habitats of several species of birds during one of the many birding events and festivals this spring.

At Great Camp Sagamore, two adventure programs featuring Boreal Birds of the Adirondacks will take place May 25-28 and June 10-13. Space is extremely limited – only 15 people are accepted per program and reservations are required. See and hear the boreal birds (gray jay, white- throated sparrow, black-backed and Northern three-toed woodpeckers, boreal chickadee, etc.) that make their home in and breed in the Adirondacks. Lectures, slide shows and bird-call lessons will prepare you for field trips to two New York State “Important Birding Areas.” $439 per person for this three-night, four-day program. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two New Adirondack Bicycling Initiatives

Two unrelated efforts this spring show that bicycling may be getting a little more attention here in the Adirondacks.

For starters, you can take part in a local survey, looking for input for a future Web site dedicated to promoting bicycling in the Adirondacks. The survey is reachable here.

The survey is part of a program called Bike the Byways, which is sponsored by the Adirondack North Country Association, a community development group in Saranac Lake. The idea, says organizer Tim Holmes, is to figure out what bike resources already exist in the park.

The group is most interested in road rides, he said, especially to promote the 14 federally-designated “Scenic Byways” located in the park.

Because of the lack of roads in the park and the sheer splendor of most of them, apparently most roads in the park are in fact scenic byways. So cyclists could just unfold a map and take their pick. Nevertheless, visitors might appreciate a site offering more specific descriptions.

For more information, check out the new blog, http://bikethebyways.wordpress.com/

Meanwhile, work continues on the Upper Hudson Rail Trail, a proposed 29-mile route that would go from North Creek to Tahawus on a right-of-way currently owned by NL Industries. A year after the idea was first made public, organizer Curt Austin, a photographer from Chestertown, has planned his first official organizing meeting.

Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail Inc. will meet at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12 at the North Creek Ski Bowl lodge.

“There are a lot of details to work out,” he said. But the meeting may include some more fun activities, such as a drive out to some of the route’s more scenic spots and possibly a bike ride in the afternoon.

The group is seeking to buy the railroad from NL, remove the track and lay down a bike trail through some of the Central Adirondack’s most remote woods.

“We don’t have that many formal members yet, but we’re going to try to make it entertaining and worthwhile for new people,” he said.

Check out the Upper Hudson’s Facebook page here.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Paddle on Osgood Pond

My husband and I are alone. My daughter is worried as she goes off to a play date that we will be lonely. We are soon in the middle of a pond, completely alone. There are no young voices yelling to see a cobweb, bug, rock, or floating stick. There are never long moments of silence. The dynamic children bring to any activity can fill the air and allow one to see things differently. The enthusiasm for the simplest of things is refreshing.

That said, they also have the ability to vacuum the positive energy right out of a given situation with life altering decisions like they no longer like bread while dramatically claiming starvation at the same time they wave a sandwich overhead. Another way is when they have to go to the bathroom only after being life-jacketed and paddling in the middle of a lake no matter how many times they are asked beforehand to take care of business. It happens and we survive but during all the drama I am not always tuned into the hermit thrush’s call.

One easy place to relax is a leisure paddle on Osgood Pond though be warned if fishing is on your agenda that the pond is still under advisory for mercury. The Department of Environmental Conservation publishes a fish advisory regarding the consumption of fish caught in the Adirondacks.

There are three different advisories: The statewide advisory, advisories for children less than 15 years old and for women that are pregnant or might become pregnant and specific advisories for the Adirondack Park. For children and those expecting mothers please heed the warning and do not consume any fish from the list of lakes and ponds under advisory for mercury. According to a 2005 PBS report one in six children born each year are exposed to mercury which, when exposed in high doses, may cause learning disabilities, short-term memory loss and impaired motor skills. So if the warnings apply to you please practice “catch and release” or just enjoy the quiet.

An easy entry to Osgood Pond is the Osgood Pond Waterway Access on White Pines Rd. on Route 86. This pond does not allow personal watercrafts which only adds to our quest for quiet. We put in the canoe and hit an easy pace that is unmatched with children. We glide through the shallow weedy water startling a mother merganser. She attempts to lure us away from the shore. We are happy to oblige.

I don’t want to get philosophical on the joys of parenting. It is a pleasure and a joy. Still, there is a part of me that wistfully listens to the wanderings of my childfree friends. So for today I enjoy a few hours of quiet while my children are invited elsewhere. Today the only constant stream of chatter is that going on is inside my head.

It is a unique situation for us to be surrounded by still. Even the wind is taking a reprieve. Later we will describe the snapping turtles, calm water and gentle call of the hermit thrush to the kids. It will be some time before my daughter understands the difference between being lonely and being alone.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

APA Seeks Comments on Jessup River, Hurricane and Jay Mtns.

The Adirondack Park Agency is accepting public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) compliance for the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area and Jay Mountain Wilderness unit management plans (UMP) and also for the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment. The final draft plans and the proposed final UMP amendment have been completed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and was subject to a series of public meetings and public input during the planning process.

The Adirondack Park Agency will now consider compliance of each of these plans with the State Land Master Plan prior to final adoption by DEC. The Agency will accept public comments on the UMP proposals for the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area and the Jay Mountain Wilderness until 12:00 PM on June 2, 2010; public comments on the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment are due by 12:00 PM on June 16, 2010.

Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area
The Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area (HMPA) is located in the northeast portion of the Adirondack Park in the towns of Elizabethtown, Jay, Keene and Lewis in Essex County. The unit is comprised of one Forest Preserve parcel covering approximately 13,784 acres in area and has approximately 34.3 miles of boundary line.

The area is bounded on the North by the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area, on the south by the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area, and on the east and west by private lands. Other nearby Forest Preserve units include the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area, The High Peaks Wilderness Area, the Taylor Pond Wild Forest and the Wilmington Wild Forest.

The namesake of the unit, Hurricane Mountain, is the highest and most conspicuous peak in the unit. The summit of Hurricane Mountain offers stunning 360 degree views and is a popular destination.

Jay Mountain Wilderness Area
The Jay Mountain Wilderness Area (JMWA) is located in the northeast portion of the Adirondack Park within the Towns of Jay and Lewis in Essex County. The area contains remote, rugged mountains affording spectacular views and is similar in character to the neighboring Hurricane Mountain.

The area is bounded on the north and west by private lands, on the east by the Taylor Pond Wild Forest Planning Area, and on the south by the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area. Other nearby Forest Preserve units include the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area and the Wilmington Wild Forest.

Jessup River Wild Forest
The Jessup River Wild Forest lies in the south-central Adirondack Park. It sits entirely within Hamilton County in the Towns of Arietta, Wells, Indian Lake, Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. The DEC estimates the size of the planning area at 47,350 acres. The area includes Snowy Mountain, the highest peak in the southern Adirondacks – elevation 3,899 feet, more than 24 ponds and lakes – the largest being Fawn Lake and approximately 73 miles of named watercourses including parts of the Cedar, Indian, Jessup, Miami and Sacandaga rivers.

All the UMPs are available for viewing or downloading from the Adirondack Park Agency website.

Written comments should be sent to:

Richard Weber, Supervisor Regional Planning
Planning Division, Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977

Or e-mail: apa_slmp@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Depending on the level of public comment received, the Adirondack Park Agency Board may consider Jay Mountain Wilderness Area and the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area at the June or July 2010 Agency meeting. The Jessup River Wild Forest may be considered at the July 8 and 9 Agency meeting.

Any written comments received after the comment deadline will be provided to board members on meeting day but will not be part of the official record.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Canoe Racing: ‘Round the Mountain is This Weekend

The Adirondack’s summer flatwater racing season begins this weekend with the ‘Round the Mountain Canoe Race, a fun and scenic 10.5 mile course that goes around Mount Dewey, May 15th.

The race begins at Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac Lake. There, kayaks and canoes of all types will depart in a staggered format. You’ll see avid races with tight-fitting shirts and sleek, tippy racing canoes, guideboats, kayakers of all stripes, and canoes ranging from 1 to 8 people.

After the race begins at 11 a.m., competitors head through Lower Saranac Lake, down the Saranac River to a short but slippery portage. From there, the race traverses the left side of Oseetah Lake to the finish line — only a few miles from the start.

The race is the first of a half-dozen regional races, culminating in the famous three-day 90-miler in September. You’ll recognize the serious competitors by their odd-looking racing boats, and their various time-saving techniques (such as taping energy food to the side of the boat, or attaching a tube to a water bottle to make for instant access to a drink).

Those who don’t expect to win might want to take a breather now and again to enjoy the fantastic views, along with the sheer thrill of being part of a racing pack.

When I joined a team of four last year, rain was threatening and the wind was blowing hard. On Oseetah Lake, we made the mistake of following a lost kayaker into the middle of the maelstrom. It was only by divine providence and a well-slapped paddle from the experienced racer in the bow that kept us from being knocked over in the huge waves.

Eventually, we turned around and made it safely to the other side, passing several other dumped boats whose former occupants were not so lucky.

For those who have never canoe-raced before, it’s a great way to try out the sport — and you can rent a local, lightweight boat if you don’t have one. The race begins at 11 a.m., and entry is $25.

For more information on the race, click here.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Phil Brown: The Moose River Plains Conspiracy

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is catching flak over its plan to close the roads in the Moose River Plains, and according to some conspiracy theorists, this is exactly what it wants.

The thinking goes like this: DEC must have known it would spark an outcry, so it must be hoping that the controversy will garner more money to keep the roads open.

However plausible this may be, it appears to be at odds with the other conspiracy theory to emerge since DEC announced its proposal last week. This one holds that DEC is using the state’s fiscal crisis as an excuse to shut the roads not just this year, but permanently—in deference to the wishes of environmental groups.

Both theories were raised in the public discussion that followed my posts last week (here and here) on the Adirondack Explorer website and on our publication’s Facebook page.

Of course, DEC says it’s closing the roads to save money—a necessity required this year by state budget cuts—but many people seem unwilling to take this explanation at face value.

That state officials always harbor ulterior motives seems to be embedded in the ideology among certain Adirondackers. Usually, they claim that DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency are in cahoots with environmental groups such as the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and act against local interests.

I won’t dispute that officials sometimes do have hidden motives, but the idea that DEC and the APA merely do the bidding of the greenies is manifestly false.

For one thing, the Adirondack Council, ADK, and other environmental groups have taken DEC and APA to court on numerous occasions when they disagreed with the decisions of officialdom.

For another thing, both DEC and the APA have shown a willingness to bend the rules to give local residents what they want.

Take Lows Lake. DEC went to the mat to keep Lows Lake open for floatplanes even though the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan had for years called for banning planes from the lake.

Take snowmobile trails. The State Land Master Plan says snowmobile trails must have the character of a footpath. Yet the DEC and APA approved guidelines that allow some snowmobile trails to be up to twelve feet wide, with most of the rocks removed to create a smooth surface.

Take fire towers. The State Land Master Plan calls for removing the towers from Hurricane and St. Regis mountains, but the APA board recently directed its staff to find a way to allow them to remain.

In short, DEC and the APA do not always take the side of the environmentalists. And they do try to appease local interests.

As a journalist, I’ve learned that you sometimes have to take what officials say with a grain of salt. So it can be a good thing when the public questions the motives of its government. But when people accuse the state of engaging in dark conspiracies whenever things don’t go their way, they poison the political atmosphere.

What is the evidence that DEC wants to permanently close all the roads in the Moose River Plains? Those who are making this claim should set forth their case. We’d all like to see it.

Photo by Phil Brown: the main road in the Moose River Plains.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Rogers Rangers Challenge Triathlon Set For June 13th

The Rogers Rangers Challenge has been resurrected by its original co-founder, Dr. Dave Bannon and Rogers Island Visitors Center. The original Challenge began in 1991 and ended in 2001. The run, paddle, bike triathlon starts at the Hogtown trailhead on Buck Mountain in the Town of Fort Ann at 8:00 am on Sunday June 13th. Registration for the Challenge is due by May 23rd. This race is dedicated to the memory of Major Robert Rogers and his Independent Company of Rangers who lived on Rogers Island at Fort Edward during the French and Indian War.

A 7-½ mile run starts at the Hogtown trailhead over Buck Mountain and ends at the Fort Ann Beach on Lake George. The 3-mile canoe/kayak goes from the beach to Dome Island on the lake and back to the beach where the bike trek starts. The bike portion of the race winds through beautiful Washington County and ends at Rogers Island Visitors Center on Rogers Island in Fort Edward.

This event can be done as a team or individually. Although it is not required entrants are encouraged to dress in period clothing. Eileen Hannay, manager of Rogers Island Visitors Center, explains: “The event is quite unique. Racers will find French & Indian War and Native American reenactors along the route as they experience some of the challenges the terrain offered Rogers Rangers more than 250 years ago.”

Mark Wright, one of the original co-founders and an Army Major will be coming from Maine to participate in the challenging event. Dr. Bannon explains: “The most difficult part of this triathlon is the run down Buck Mountain towards Fort Ann Beach. The going is steep and rough with many obstacles.”

Registration forms can be found at www.rogersisland.org. For more information call Rogers Island Visitors Center at 518-747-3693.

The Rogers Rangers Challenge is sponsored by: Adirondack Trust Company, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Glens Falls National Bank and The Anvil Inn Restaurant. Proceeds for this event benefit Rogers Island Visitors Center.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Budget Crises Closes DEC Roads, Reduces Staff

Funding reductions to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall will limit the agency’s ability to maintain roads in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, delay construction of recreational facilities on easement lands, and prevent the hiring of Assistant Forest Rangers this season according to media materials distributed late last week.

“Due to the inability to maintain or patrol roads and nearby recreational facilities, a number of roads will remain temporarily closed to public motor vehicle access,” the DEC announced. “These roads have already been closed for mud season, as they are each year. While gates on these roads will remain closed and locked to prevent access by motor vehicles, the roads and surrounding lands will be open for authorized recreational use by the public.”

Each of the roads that will temporarily remain closed has parking available near the gate. The public is asked not to block the gates or the roads, as DEC may need to access the roads for routine maintenance and emergencies. Road maintenance tasks generally include gravel placement to maintain road surfaces, road grading, culvert replacement and removal of road hazards such as leaning or downed trees. Maintenance of campsites along and near these roads also requires a significant effort by DEC staff, including the removal of trash.

The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access:

* Moose River Plains Road System (all roads) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, the Towns of Inlet, Arietta, Lake Pleasant and Indian Lake, Hamilton County;

* Lily Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Horicon, Warren County;

* Jabe Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Hague, Warren County;

* Gay Pond Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;

* Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;

* Dacy Clearing Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.

The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to general public motor vehicle access, but may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits:

* Scofield Flats Road, in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County; and

* Pikes Beach Access Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County.

As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road will be closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open to people with disabilities holding CP3 permits.

In addition, ongoing parking lot, road, trail, and public facility projects in the following areas will be suspended pending funding becoming available:

* Black Brook Easement Lands in the Town of Black Brook, Clinton County;

* Kushaqua Easement Lands in the Towns of Brighton and Franklin, Franklin County; and

* Altamont Easement Lands in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County.

The Department says it will provide “reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities upon request for access to programs on state lands where roads are closed.” For instance, people with disabilities holding a DEC Motorized Access Permit for Persons with Disabilities (CP3 permit) will be allowed to access recreational programs by motor vehicles on two of the roads that will otherwise be closed to the public. Those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Warrensburg/ Lake George area should contact Tad Norton in the Department’s Warrensburg Office at (518) 623-1209, and those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Northville/Raquette Lake area should contact Rick Fenton in the Department’s Northville office at (518) 863-4545.

Questions regarding the temporary road closures, should be directed to the regional DEC Division of Lands and Forests at (518) 897-1276 or the Region 5 DEC Office.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

ADK to Offer Advanced ‘Leave No Trace’ Training

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will soon be conducting the highest-level training under the auspices of the Leave No Trace program. Leave No Trace is an international program designed to teach hikers, campers, paddlers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts how to minimize their impacts on wild places. Leave No Trace is based on voluntary ethical guidelines, expressed as seven principles. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in Boulder, Colorado, is a nonprofit education organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors by all people, worldwide.

“Leave No Trace’s mission is very similar to the mission of the Adirondack Mountain Club,” said Ryan Doyle, ADK’s outdoor leadership coordinator. “In fact, the late Almy Coggeshall, who was ADK president in 1980 and 1981, helped introduce the ‘pack in, pack out’ philosophy in the Adirondacks in the 1960s. These shared mission elements formed the foundation for the new partnership between ADK and Leave No Trace.”

ADK is now one of only seven organizations nationwide authorized to provide the Leave No Trace Master Educator course. This summer, ADK is offering a series of five-day training sessions designed for individuals who are actively teaching others backcountry skills or providing recreation information to the public. In other words, ADK will be teaching the Leave No Trace teachers.

The Master Educator course will be offered June 16-20, July 5-9, Aug. 18-22 and Sept. 6-10. Through classroom discussions, lectures and a four-day backpacking or canoe trip, this course will cover the seven Leave No Trace principles and wildland ethics. Participants will also be taught techniques for disseminating these low-impact skills to backcountry users.

As of January 2010, there were more than 3,500 Leave No Trace Masters worldwide, representing nine countries and all 50 U.S. states. This training is recognized throughout the world by the outdoor industry and land management agencies. Graduates include U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service rangers, outdoor retail executives, school teachers, youth group and outing club leaders, outfitters and guides. Graduates of the Master Educator course are qualified to train others in Leave No Trace skills and can offer Leave No Trace Trainer courses and Awareness Workshops (one-day or shorter).

ADK will also offer the two-day Leave No Trace Trainer course, which provides introductory training in Leave No Trace skills and ethics, on May 22-23 and Oct. 23-24. Details of both courses are available at www.adk.org/programs/Leave_No_Trace.aspx.

In fall 2008, the Leave No Trace Center sought proposals from organizations interested in providing the highest level of Leave No Trace training. ADK was selected because of its large membership base and the sizeable untapped audience in New York state and the Northeast. Last year, Ben Lawhon, Leave No Trace education director, and Dave Winter, Leave No Trace outreach manager, came from Boulder to ADK’s Heart Lake Program Center to train staff as Master Educator instructors. Six ADK staff members participated in the training and are now prepared to lead the Master Educator course.

“It is our intent to inject Leave No Trace information into everything ADK does, from education and field programs to our trails information and lodging facilities,” Doyle said.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.

Leave No Trace Principles

1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3) Dispose of Waste Properly
4) Leave What You Find
5) Minimize Campfire Impacts
6) Respect Wildlife
7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit www.lnt.org for specifics about the principles and for more information about the organization.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Lake George Scenery is a Draw, Even in Winter

Nobody comes to Lake George in winter. That’s the conventional wisdom, apparently confirmed by the experience of resorts like The Sagamore, which now closes its doors in November.

But according to a study released by the Warren County Tourism Department in April, people are interested in visiting Lake George and Bolton Landing in the off-season; they even recommend it as a destination to others.

Of the 577 people who completed a Warren County Tourism Department on-line survey, more than a third visited the Lake George region between December and March, said Kate Johnson, Warren County’s director of tourism.

“Almost 90% of the people who visited us at that time of the year rated their experience as either ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent,’” said Johnson. “I’m still gratified by how many people are pleased with their visits to Lake George and will recommend it to others.”

Johnson said 100% of the people surveyed would recommend Lake George to their friends and family.

“It doesn’t matter what the season, people like Lake George,” said Johnson

And they like the same things about Lake George in season and out, Johnson said.

46% of the winter visitors said Lake George’s scenic beauty was a major draw and 22% engaged in outdoor activities.

Summer visitors expressed similar preferences, although an even higher percentage said they came to Lake George for its range of outdoor activities, from golfing and horseback riding to boating and swimming, said Johnson,

According to the survey, the majority of winter visitors stayed two to three nights in Warren County. More than 86% visited Lake George during their stay and roughly 40% visited Bolton Landing. Only 25% visited North Creek, the site of Gore Mountain and assumed by many to be Warren County’s single winter destination.

“This report gives us the kind of feedback we need,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who serves on Warren County’s Tourism Committee. “By promoting our natural resources year-round, we’re doing the right thing.”

Conover added, “The report also reminds us that it’s our lake’s scenic beauty that draws visitors. We have to maintain our tourism infrastructure, such as our beaches and parks.”

Photo: Lake George Mirror

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Paddling: It’s Prime Time For Flat Water

If you ever wanted to plan a multi-day paddling trip on some of the Adirondack’s best water routes, the next few weeks are a prime time. Only fall-foliage season beats early spring for sheer perfection.

You’ve got long, sunny days. Even the most popular lakes around, such as Long and Lower Saranac lakes, are mostly free of power boats. And the bugs won’t come out in earnest for another two to three weeks.

After multiple canoe trips this time of year, I’ve found the only thing I miss are the leaves, which had not yet budded during an early-May trip to Long Lake. Having done a trip a few weeks later, where we had leaves but also black flies, I think I’d take the bare trees. However, know that even if it’s the heart of black-fly season, if temperatures are cool enough the bugs will not be a problem. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Phil Brown on Climbing: To Bolt Or Not To Bolt

Last weekend, Josh Wilson led my friend Mike Virtanen and me up a historical rock-climbing route on Rooster Comb in Keene Valley. Fritz Wiessner, one of the best climbers and mountaineers of his era, pioneered the route in 1949 with Jim Goodwin, his frequent partner on Adirondack outings.

The Old Route, as it’s called, is rated 5.4 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which is easy by today’s standards, but Weissner availed himself of a variety of interesting features as he meandered up the cliff: a ramp, a narrow chimney, corners, ledges, and wide cracks.

Wiessner was involved in the first ascent of at least eighteen rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks. The hardest, on Noonmark Mountain, is rated 5.8. That’s considered moderately tough, but it doesn’t come close in difficulty to many routes put up since Wiessner’s heyday. Josh, for instance, has climbed 5.11 routes. III Fire, the hardest climb in the Adirondacks, is rated 5.14a—which once would have been thought impossible.

So are modern climbers that much better than Wiessner?

Not really. Changes in footwear have enabled climbers to ascend ever-harder routes. In the old days, climbers wore boots or sneakers. Today, they climb in lightweight shoes that resemble ballet slippers with sticky rubber soles. These shoes allow climbers to get a purchase on steep slabs and tiny nodules of rock.

Protective gear—“pro,” in the sport’s lingo—also has greatly improved. In Wiessner’s day, climbers hammered metal pitons into cracks to hold their rope in the event of a fall. Nowadays, climbers carry lightweight nuts and cams that can be wedged into almost any crack. The new technology makes climbing difficult routes safer.

On Rooster Comb, we saw three or four old pitons on the Old Route. We wondered if they had been pounded in by Wiessner himself. Although no longer needed, the pitons are artifacts of a bygone era and should be left in place.

Pitons may be relics of the past, but steel bolts are not. Like pitons or other pro, fixed bolts are used to hold the rope in a fall. They are usually found on blank faces where it’s impossible to place pro or at the top of a cliff or pitch where climbers clip in the rope to rappel.

Since they alter the natural environment, bolts are controversial. Don Mellor notes in his book American Rock that attitudes toward bolts vary among climbing communities in different parts of the country. Climbers can get quite worked up over the issue. Mellor once told me, after we climbed Wallface, of a guy who used to carry a hammer to destroy any bolt he encountered.

In the Adirondacks, climbers frown on the overuse of bolts. Dominic Eisinger writes in the guidebook Adirondack Rock: “For existing routes, no additional protection or fixed anchors should be added without the consent of the first-ascent party. Fixed anchors have been installed by the climbing community where necessary for safety and preservation of fragile terrain and trees” (since they obviate the need to wrap slings around trees during a rappel).

But the guideline is not always followed. Tom Rosecrans, a longtime climber, complains that routes he pioneered on Rogers Rock years ago have since been bolted.

Some might ask whether it’s ever appropriate to fix bolts to a cliff in the forever-wild Forest Preserve. It’s a legitimate question: state regulations forbid defacing “any tree, flower, shrub, fern, fungi or other plant like organisms, moss or other plant, rock, soil, fossil or mineral or object of archaeological or paleontological interest found or growing on State land.”

Nonetheless, bolts do happen. Of course, many forms of outdoor recreation—whether hiking, snowmobiling, or camping—leave an impact on the wilderness. The question is whether that impact is acceptable.

Eisinger says Adirondack climbers strive to minimize their impact in all respects, not just in their bolting practices. “Scrubbing lichen from holds, cleaning dirt from cracks for protection, breaking the occasional branch to squeeze by a tree, or removing a dangerous loose block are all accepted practices,” Eisinger writes. “Scrubbing an 8-foot wide swath and cutting trees are not only illegal but aren’t accepted by the climbing community.”

In truth, no one but climbers will see a bolt on a cliff. And most climbers don’t mind a well-placed bolt. So the aesthetic impact is negligible.

Bolts are to modern climbers what pitons were to early climbers: an occasional necessity. And what climber would not take delight in seeing a piton put in by the great Fritz Wiessner? It’s a reminder that the sport hasn’t changed that much.

Photo by Phil Brown: Josh Wilson on the Old Route on Rooster Comb.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

6th Annual Great Adirondack Trail Run Announced

The sixth annual Great Adirondack Trail Run will take place on June 19th, 2010 in Keene Valley, NY. Billed as a charity event supporting the Au Sable and Bouquet River Associations, the event includes two runs: an 11.5 mile strenuous run (2900′ of vertical gain and 3100′ of loss) up the back side of Hopkins Mountain and down to Keene Valley, and a 3.5 mile fun run from Baxter Mountain Tavern on Route 9N to Keene Valley.

According to the event’s organizers, registration is limited and runners will be staggered “out of respect for the public trail portion of the run.” The 3.5 mile fun run is entirely on private land. Neither run will include aid stations, and runners are responsible for staying on course and carrying what they need to complete the runs.

The 11.5 mile run will begin at 9 AM, with runners starting one at a time in a staggered format (one per minute). The 3.5 mile fun run will begin at 10 AM from the Baxter Mountain Tavern on Rte 9N between Keene and Elizabethtown, also with a staggered start. A shuttle will be available from the parking/finish area at Riverside in Keene Valley to the trailhead for both runs. There will be a celebration of Spring with music, food, beer and more starting at 11 AM, with awards at 2 PM.

Rules: This is a wilderness trail run. There will be no support–participants are on their own from start to finish, and will need their own water, food and all other supplies. Any volunteers stationed on the course will be there to make sure runners take the right trail–they will not have water, food, moleskin, etc. Anyone caught littering will be immediately disqualified.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mountain Biking Returns to Whiteface

Although the alpine ski season has come to an end, skiers and boarders will be replaced by mountain bikers when the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park, operated by High Peaks Cyclery, team up again to bring mountain biking to Wilmington’s Olympic mountain this summer and fall.

Season passes are available through the end of April and you can purchase yours for just $199, a $100 savings off the regular price. All season passes and daily lift tickets offer lift-serviced mountain biking via the Cloudsplitter gondola and the High Peaks Cyclery shuttle bus. From there, riders can access 27 hand-built downhill and cross country mountain bike trails, for all levels and abilities, which twist and run between the ski trails that go through streams and woods and meander next to waterfalls. Riders will also find single-track trails between some of the ski trails used for the 1980 Winter Games.

Biking on Whiteface begins with a Bonus Weekend, Friday through Sunday, June 18-20, from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. each day. Beginning Friday, June 25, and continuing through Labor Day, the bike park will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. From Labor Day to Columbus Day, biking will be available Friday through Sunday, from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

During weekends this year, at 11:30 a.m., there will be a free guided tour of the upper mountain, while at 3:30 p.m. each day, everyone is invited to participate in the traditional end of the day group ride. Adult daily tickets are $35, while children, 12 and under, can ride for just $24.

Bike rentals are available, as are protective gear including helmets, chest protectors and padding, everything that you need to have a safe experience.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fishing Season Gets into Full Swing May 1

The New York State Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding anglers that fishing season in New York gets into full swing on May 1, the opening day for Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel and Tiger Muskellunge. Also, the catch-and-release bass season is now underway on most state water bodies.

Of the warm-water species, walleye are the traditional primary target this time of year; walleye fishing opportunities exist in more than 100 water bodies throughout the state. Over the last five years and in almost all regions of the state, DEC has stocked 60 waters with walleye fry or fingerlings. Through these and other DEC management actions, new walleye populations are being established and others are being maintained or restored. » Continue Reading.