Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ice Climbing: A Keene Valley Classic

The Keene Valley area is home to dozens of well-known ice climbs. But there are few moderates more classic than Roaring Brook Falls.

There’s certainly no finer way to show off for non-climbers. Roaring Brook, a 300-foot waterfall split into an upper and lower falls, is visible in both directions on Route 73, just east of Keene Valley. There’s a parking lot at the base and a pull-off right on the highway, so anyone who sees those dark spots on the ice can pull over and shiver at the thought of someone actually ascending such a route.

Last weekend I finally had the chance to climb this famous line. And, for the first time, I lead an ice route — meaning I was the first to go up, placing screws into the ice at regular intervals to protect me in case of a fall.

Two weeks ago, Roaring Brook was a brown Niagara, teeming with runoff from the late January thaw. But last Sunday it was in fine condition — fat, blue and begging for an ascent.

We were not the only ones to hear the call. The route was a veritable highway of climbers all day long, with their helmets, ropes, ice tools, stiff boots and crampons.

Best of all, the route was so well frozen over that the usual “window” at the top of the falls was sealed. In leaner times, climbers have to gingerly ascend past this open window, nearly 300 feet up, as gushing water splashes only a few feet away. In fact, Don Mellor’s climbing book Blue Lines warns, “A fall into this would be FATAL.”

The route is rated WI3+, which means it wasn’t quite vertical. Still, the first pitch was a bit dicey, with a series of overhanging bulges that made me glad my partner, Steve Goldstein of Latham, was leading. I volunteered to take the lead for the second pitch, a short climb to a flat, snowy spot below the final 170-foot second tier of the falls.

You can never quite forget that you’re climbing a live waterfall. At the base, there was a clear ice tube, about a half-inch thick, that sealed off a section of running water. It flowed silently below the ice until I chipped a hole and the sound of water had a place to escape. Soon after I started the climb, I ascended past a giant black maw where the ice met the bare rock. Part of the waterfall was visible here too, and the icicles that formed looked like the mouth of a giant beast.

When our team of three arrived at the base of the last pitch, Steve aske me:
“You want to keep leading?”

“Why not,” I said. I had been practicing placing screws and have led rock for years in the summer, but never ice before. With its forgivingly gentle terrain — but a steep gulley in the middle to offer a little challenge — the top of Roaring Brook seemed like a good place to start. I was feeling confident and strong, so I loaded up on ice screws and grabbed my axes.

The ice was perfect — thick, solid and soft enough to get a pick in easily. Near the top, the ice turned to snow, and I had to be more careful that my tools were solid. Again, the sound of flowing water was audible through the ice.

When I reached the top — with just enough rope left to anchor myself to nearby trees — I was sorry to see it end.

Interested in climbing ice for yourself? Several guide services offer climbing classes. While you may not be able to start on Roaring Brook your first time out, it wouldn’t take long to develop the skill. Try:

Adirondack Mountain Guides

Adirondack Rock and River

Alpine Adventures

Cloudspitter Mountain Guides


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nancie Battaglia’s Winter Sports Photography Show

Lake Placid photographer Nancie Battaglia currently has a show of winter sports shots at 7444 Gallery in Saranac Lake. The exhibition is called “In Motion” and coincides with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which Battaglia is covering for Sports Illustrated and other publications.

Battaglia has attended ten Olympics and has been shooting winter sports in Lake Placid since 1980. She regularly phones her observations from Vancouver to NCPR. You can hear her latest report here.

The show will be at 7444 Gallery at 28 Depot Street in Saranac Lake until March 6. Call for an appointment (518) 282-4743.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Tour the Luge

The Olympic Winter Games are well underway and we are breaking the no television during the school week rule under the guise of educational purposes. I do not personally know anyone participating in the winter games, past or present. I can certainly claim six degrees of separation as can anyone else living in the Tri-Lakes area of the Adirondack Park. Those athletes, like all Olympians, are consumed with their sport. Every walking hour is spent traveling, training, and pursuing perfection.

I have tried to educate my son on how lucky he is to live near a town that hosted the 1932 and 1980 games. He shrugs his shoulders and asks when he can skate on the Olympic Oval or nonchalantly tells our extended family he (yawn) tried a ski jumping clinic at the Whiteface Olympic Jumping Complex. It is hard to describe to a child the privilege of being in an area where athletes are constantly training so that they can represent their country in a quest for the gold. For mine it is an everyday occurrence.

USA Luge Marketing Director Gordy Sheer is no stranger to the Olympics. He and luge partner Chris Thorpe won a silver medal in the Nagano Olympics in 1998. This was the first medal ever won by a US luge competitor.

Sheer says, “We try to host Luge Challenges throughout the season. It’s essentially luge on ski hills. We use a recreational sled that isn’t fiberglass and steel. It doesn’t weigh as much as the regular sled. Basically it is an opportunity to experience the sport in a family-friendly environment. We also keep our eyes open for any kids that show potential.”

According to Sheer another opportunity to achieve this particular Olympic experience is through the Slider Search. These events are conducted on city streets in the summer months with sleds on wheels. The USA Luge Official web site has an up-to-date schedule of events.

The USA Luge team, headquartered in Lake Placid, gives free tours of their facility every weekday at 2:00 p.m. This week the Olympic luge team and most of the staff are in Vancouver supporting their athletes so tours will resume the week of the 22nd.

Considering it is the official headquarters for the US Luge, it is an unassuming structure, more warehouse than office building. It’s a casual tour where athletes may be fine-tuning their sleds or watching videos of individual practice starts.

The tour starts with a 20-minute introduction video that can jump-start anyone’s luge education. The movie is just as fast and furious as the sport. The indoor facility, the only one in the US and one of seven in the world, is quite impressive. Athletes use three refrigerated ramps to improve their start techniques with the latest technology, shaving milliseconds off their time. There is even an opportunity to try out a practice sled (not to slide on) and find out how to steer using your legs to squeeze on the curved part of the runners (kufen), to direct the pod, the custom-formed fiberglass shell.

For those that have tried luge and want to continue sliding the Adirondack Luge Club may be the place for you. The club season starts in January and continues through March. Membership and track fees do apply. Practices take place on the Olympic Sports Complex Slide Track, one of only two refrigerated full-length tracks in the United States. The other one is located in Park City, Utah.

The Luge Rocket Ride is only available Christmas Day for anyone wishing for an opportunity to slide on the official training track without having to join the club. The sled is slightly different than the competitors’ sleds. It contains a shield that covers three-quarters of the slider’s body. Yes, it looks like a small space ship for the 1/4-mile ride. All participants must be 13 years or older.

We will watch the luge team from the comfort of our home. The women’s singles medal round is today, February 16 at 4:00 p.m. EST. The men’s doubles medal round is February 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST. After all, we can build a luge track outside the house. Why not? Last year we had a bobsled run.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Commentary: Dubious Anti-APA Series Makes Waves

Two investigative reports purporting to reveal dubious practices by the Adirondack Park Agency and environmental groups have been called into question themselves. The pieces, which ran on January 9 and 10, were written by Post-Star features’ editor Will Doolittle. Doolittle has written numerous columns expressing hostility to the APA and green groups. Why a journalist who was openly and vehemently hostile to the APA and green groups was assigned to do a purportedly objective investigation into the APA and green groups is something the paper never felt the need to explain. And my skepticism appears to have been validated.

(Note: Part one of the series is available online here. Part two is here) » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Almanack Welcomes A (Fairly) Young Contrarian

Please join me in welcoming Brian Farenell to Adirondack Almanack. Regular readers may recognize Brian as the insightful commentator at Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian, where he regularly offers insights and ideas about national and local issues. His commentary on local media has been a breath of fresh air in the sometimes polluted mass media environment and we hope his regular monthly contributions here will help clear the Adirondack air as well.

A nearly-lifelong resident of Glens Falls, Brian has been involved in writing and journalism since his high school days. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Clarkson University, he spent two years in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. Although his traditional focuses have been international affairs (he’s been published in Foreign Policy magazine) and media criticism, he has more recently gained a deepened appreciation for the Adirondack region through a new-found love of hiking. When he is not writing or hiking, Brian can usually be found biking or kicking around a soccer ball.

Brian will kick off his contributions to the Almanack today at noon with a piece on the recent controversy over the Glens Falls Post Star‘s coverage of the Adirondack Park Agency.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Phil Brown: My Big Cat Sighting

I saw it on Route 28 just west of McKeever. It was definitely feline. You could tell by the way it crouched next to the guardrail, looking like it wanted to spring across the road. And it was big.

“A cougar!” I shouted.

By the time my passenger looked, the cat had retreated to the other side of the guardrail and was ambling away from the road.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says wild cougars (also known as mountain lions, panthers, and pumas) have not lived in the Adirondacks since the nineteenth century. The agency concedes that cougars are spotted on occasion, but it insists that they are released pets. Last week, DEC denounced as a hoax a rumor that a cougar had been struck and killed by a vehicle in Black Brook. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 15, 2010

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Online

On Friday, February 12th the Winter Olympic Games started in Vancouver, Canada. The day after, in Lake Placid, the Olympic Torch was lit to commemorate the 1980 Olympics that took place there 30 years ago. At the Vancouver Games, there are several athletes representing Lake Placid and the Adirondack region, including Bill Demong, Andrew Weibrecht, Peter Frenette, and more. Luckily, for the casual fan, there are many ways to keep in touch with what is happening with your favorite athletes.

One of the latest crazes in technology is the 140-character phenomenon known as Twitter. Many celebrities and businesses, in addition to everyday folks, use the web service to update what is happening in their lives. Now Olympic athletes use the Twitter service as well to keep us in the loop during the Games- for a list of the athletes who are “Tweeting”, check out this list.

Olympic fans can also follow the action at the Olympics at the following sites: Team USA News; NBC Olympic site; Vancouver 2010 site; and Google Maps. Team USA news is a site that allows fans to receive updates on the team, as well as donate and promote the Olympics through social media sites. Both NBC Olympics and the Vancouver 201o site offer news, photos, and videos from the Games. Google maps, which is known more for finding street addresses all over the globe, take it one step further for the Olympics by providing a glimpse of the Olympic venues.

Enjoy the Games and Go Team USA!!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Two New Land Deals:Finch Re-aquires TNC Lands, OSI Aquires Land at Pok-O-Moonshine

Two new land deals were announced this week closing to the public 1,700 acres returned to Finch Pruyn, and protecting 1,400 acres in an Open Space Institute (OSI) conservation easement deal.

In a deal announced late last week, Finch Paper re-acquired from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) a 1,700-acre tract in Indian Lake, Hamilton County that was part of the 161,000 acres TNC purchased in 2007. Finch retained the right to re-acquire the parcel as a condition of the 2007 agreement. The land will not be open to the public.

In a second deal, also announced late last week, the OSI acquired through donation a conservation easement on 1,400 largely wooded acres in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Park from the Johanson family. The parcel includes lands along the shoreline of Butternut Pond and on Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wilmington Historical Society Events For 2010

Wilmington Historical Society has announced it’s meeting dates and programs for the remainder of 2010. Regular meetings are held at 7 pm at the Wilmington Community Center. Open discussion on local historical topics are held from 7 pm-8pm prior to the regular business meeting. Refreshments are served and the public is invited to attend. For further information, contact Karen Peters or Merri Peck at 518-420-8370. Here is the full calendar of open discussion events:

Wednesday, March 3— “Airplanes & Helicopters in Wilmington”

Wednesday, April 7— “The AuSable River & the Owaissa Club”

Wednesday, May 5— “Wilmington Memorials”

Wednesday, June 2— “Races Up Whiteface Mountain”

Wednesday, July 7— “Wilmington & Area Fur Farming”

Wednesday, August 4— “Wilmington Notch”

Wednesday, September 1— “Wilmington Taxes!”

Wednesday, October 6— “Disasters in Wilmington”

Wednesday, November 3— “All Kinds of Snow & Ice in Wilmington”

Note: There is NO Meeting in December.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cooperative Extension Offers Veggie, Herb Seed Starter Kits

Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warren County is offering affordable vegetable and herb seed starter kits for the 2010 garden season beginning Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Each kit includes five different seed packs, growing directions, and garden row markers. The vegetable kits also include the Cooperative Extension’s “2010 Booklet on Vegetable Varieties.” The herb kits include information on starting a container herb garden. Each seed kit is only $5 (only $9 if you buy both).

Each VEGETABLE seed kit includes: Five different vegetable seed packs, full growing directions for each seed type, garden row markers and the newest The vegetable seed kit includes ‘tendergreen’ beans, cucumber, lettuce, squash and tomato seed packs.

The HERB seed kits include five different herb seed packs, growing directions, garden row markers and other information about starting a container HERB garden. The herb seed kit includes sweet basil, dill, green scallion onion, parsley and nastursium (nastursium produces beautiful edible salad flowers!).

Proceeds from the sale of the Seed Starter Kits will be used by the Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H (Youth Development Program) and the Master Gardener Volunteer (Consumer Horticulture Education Program) to help support the many 4-H youth programs in Warren County and the Master Gardener Volunteer programs that provide science-based gardening information to people in our community.

The seed kits are available begining February 16 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Warrensburg, at 377 Schroon River Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885. The office is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Tel.: 518-623-3291.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nut Trees: Hazelnuts in the Adirondacks

Several years ago, I received three little hazelnut trees from the Arbor Day Foundation. I don’t recall actually ordering them, but there they were in the mail one day. I planted them and waited to see the results. A couple years later, three more hazelnuts showed up in my mailbox. Those, too, went into the ground. Over the years they’ve moved about the yard (not under their own steam), finally coming to rest along the southwestern boundary. Every summer and fall I look at the four remaining shrubs and ask “where are the nuts?” No answer has been forthcoming.

So recently I went on-line to see if I could find out any further information about hazelnuts. Where are they native? What do the flowers look like? How do they pollinate and produce nuts? The Arbor Day Foundation was a good source of info, and it should be, considering it has been in the hazelnut business for several years, trying to produce a hybrid hazelnut that will thrive throughout the United States, whereas the native species were historically only found in the northeastern US and southeastern Canada, and into the prairies. » Continue Reading.


Friday, February 12, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, February 12, 2010

Trove of Historic LG Photos Donated to Bolton Museum

At the time of her death at the age of 92 in April, 2008, Helen Thatcher Thomson was the steward of thousands of paper and glass negatives of photographs taken by her grandfather Jule Thatcher and her father Fred Thatcher.

From the 1870s to the 1960s, the Thatchers photographed Lake George, documenting events great and small and capturing the changing social, economic and natural landscape. It was natural, therefore, that local historians feared the collections would be dispersed, scattered among hundreds of antique dealers across the country. But thanks to the generosity of Helen Thomson’s children, Fred Thomson and Dr. Patricia Smith, the entire archive will be donated to the Bolton Historical Museum.

“The family has agreed in principle to donate the material to the Bolton Historical Museum,” said Michael Stafford, the attorney representing Thomson and Smith. “We’re now in the process of drafting the necessary papers.”

Fred Thomson said, “We’re very pleased that the collection will be preserved for the benefit of the community. We look forward to working with the Bolton Historical Society to ensure that my family’s legacy will serve to enrich the public’s appreciation of our region.”

Mike Stafford noted, “I spent many hours with Helen Thomson at her kitchen table, and the legacy of the Thatchers and the future of the collection was very much on her mind in her last years. She would be delighted with this first step to ensure the collection’s preservation.”

According to Stafford, the collection also includes cameras used by the Thatchers and well-maintained logs of assignments that can be used to identify almost every photo.

“We’re grateful to the Thomson family for their public spirit and their generosity,” said Ed Scheiber, the president of the Bolton Historical Society. “The preservation of this collection in one place will be a lasting tribute to the Thatchers, Mrs. Thomson, her children and grandchildren.”

According to Scheiber, the museum’s objective is to arrange for the photos to be scanned and catalogued.

Revolving displays will feature large prints of some of the images, the cameras and biographical information about the Thatchers.

At some points, prints may be made and sold and reproduction rights licensed to help fund the preservation of the collection, said Scheiber.

The historical society also hopes to work with a publisher to produce a book of the Thatchers’ photographs, said Scheiber.

“It would be a valuable contribution to the collective knowledge of Lake George’s history and help re-introduce the work of two of our greatest photographers to a wider public,” said Scheiber.

“This collection will be an incredible asset for the Bolton Historical Museum,” said Bill Gates, a historian of Lake George and a member of the museum’s Board of Directors.

Considered as a whole, the work of the two photographers constitutes a unique archive of Lake George history.

Jule Thatcher’s best known photos are of Green Island, of the Sagamore, of wealthy cottagers like John Boulton Simpson and E. Burgess Warren, their houses, their families and their yachts.

Fred Thatcher, whose studio was turned into the Sky Harbor restaurant at the corner of Beach Road and Canada Street, was a pioneering post card photographer, creating thousands of images of the lake, of boats and regattas and of visiting celebrities to be sold to tourists who came to Lake George in the wake of the wealthy cottagers.

According to the Thatcher family, Jule Thatcher was born in Ticonderoga in 1856. He took his first photographs at the age of 11 (at about the same time Mathew Brady was photographing Abraham Lincoln) and at one point worked for Seneca Ray Stoddard. He worked in a store in Lake George that made tintypes and in 1874, he opened a studio in Bolton Landing. That studio was in the Kneeshaw hotel on Main Street. A few years later he opened a studio on the Sagamore Road, near the Green Island Bridge. He died in 1934.

Fred Thatcher, born in 1881, married a Bolton native, Maud Abells, and settled in Lake George.

“He was a very special man,” Helen Thomson recalled in 2002.”He was not only a photographer, he was a builder, a businessman, and so involved in the community. He served as mayor, assessor, justice of the peace, village trustee and treasurer of the fire department.”

Mrs Thomson continued, “He took pictures of so many people: from Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, from famous wrestlers to Madame Sembrich and her students, from Governors and every other notable who visited Lake George to every child in the village.”

And, Mrs Thomson said, he knew everyone, including Alfred Steiglitz and Georgia O’keeffe. “O’Keefe was very statuesque. Steiglitz was always dressed in black. My father developed film for him. Harry Thaw , he had his portrait made. Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. had a house on West Street. When Alma Gluck was expecting her child, she’d come and rock his baby son to get used to holding a child.”

Thatcher’s first studio was on the corner of Canada Street and McGillis Avenue, the second became Sky Harbor restaurant. Thatcher alao owned a stretch of lakefront property, which he leased to a flying service, later operated by Harry Rogers and George McGowan, Sr. Fred Thatcher died in 1969 at the age of 88.

“The Thatcher photographs are treasures,” said Henry Caldwell, a member of the Bolton Museum’s Board of Directors. Bolton “Lake George has captivated many photographers: Seneca Ray Stoddard, Jesse Wooley, Alfred Steiglitz, Francis Bayle; all of them among the most gifted photographers of their times. The Thatchers belong in that company.”

Photo: Theodore Roosevelt at the Fort William Henry Hotel, Lake George. By Fred Thatcher. (Date unknown)

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


Friday, February 12, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Winter Carnival Concerts, Irish Session

Another wonderful week of the Saranac Winter Carnival. There is music every night. Tonight, Jeff Bujak is a rarity in this area – he bills himself as “Intelligent Dance Music” – from his videos that sounds accurate.

My favorite new live band from Vermont is Jatoba, click on this link to hear one of their cool tunes called “Blizzard”. They are opening for Hot Day at the Zoo. Oh, I also adore Lucid and they are the special guests of Raisinhead on Saturday. Check out their tune “Po Man’s” by clicking on their myspace link.

Thursday, February 11th:

In Saranac Lake, Jeff Bujak, the intelligent dance music specialist, is at The Waterhole starting at 9 pm.

Friday, February 12th:

In Saranac Lake, Jatoba opens anywhere from 8 to 9:30 pm (depends on which website you check in with) for Hot Day At The Zoo at The Waterhole. If you click on this link you’ll see a cute video of Hot Day doing “I Saw Her Standing There”.

In Ausable Forks, “Jesus Loves Tractors” and Sven Curth. He gets going around 9 pm at 20 Main.

Saturday, February 13th:

In Saranac Lake the Band Concert follows the parade in the Harrietstown Hall. This is a fun event where the bands that you just saw a glimpse of as they passed by now get to strut their stuff on stage. Fantastic energy in the Town Hall for those ready to be inside for awhile.

In Saranac Lake after the parade, Los Blancos is playing at The Waterhole starting at 3 pm. “I Miss Your Water” is a hot song.

Late night Saranac Lake, Raisinhead with special guest Lucid is getting it on at The Waterhole starting around 8:30 pm.

Sunday, February 14th:

In Saranac Lake, Tim Herron will be at The Waterhole at 3 pm. This man’s lyrics are so bloody honest it’s a little hard to take – in a good way.

Also in Saranac Lake, Irish Music at Pendragon from 5 – 7 pm. The musicians are: Michael Cooney on uilleann pipes, Sue Grimm on flute s and whistles, Kyle Murray on bodhran, Jeff Couture on fiddle, Barry Kilbourne on concertina and Shamim Allen on rhythm guiatr.

Wednesday, February 17th:

In North Creek, The Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip will be at barVino. Show starts at 7 pm.

Photo: Jatoba



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Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.