In case you missed last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting, here are a few highlights.
The APA is collecting public comments on the Hinckley Day Use Area unit management plan proposed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Specifically, the APA will look at how this plan meshes with the Adirondack State Park Master Plan. DEC is proposing a revamp of the area, including new multi-use trails, additional camping opportunities and a pavilion at Price’s Point. Click here for more info, including how to comment.
By the metric of public use the High Peaks Wilderness Area, and nearby Giant, Hurricane and Sentinel Range Wilderness areas, are major successes. The crowds hiking in the High Peaks are at an all-time high. The current dismal state of many of the hiking trails does not seem to be a major deterrent to the throngs of people eager to hike one of the High Peaks.
For many people hiking a mountain like a High Peak is no sure thing and is, and should be, a challenge. There are plenty of highly used and popular smaller mountains throughout the Adirondacks that provide stunning views, but the allure of hiking a High Peak is immense.
New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) has announced they are seeking two trail crew supervisors and eight trail crew laborers to work in the backcountry of the High Peaks Wilderness as part of the DEC High Peaks Trail Crews. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 5 Forest Rangers piloted a preventative Search and Rescue initiative during the President’s Day holiday weekend in the High Peaks Wilderness.
Staff from Adirondack Mountain Club and volunteers from Keene-Keene Valley Backcountry Rescue partnered in the effort to directly interact with hikers entering the backcountry. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) have announced plans for managing use associated with the popular Cascade Mountain Trail this Columbus Day holiday weekend.
The trailhead parking lots and the shoulders of State Route 73 in the vicinity of the Cascade Mountain and Pitchoff Mountain Trailhead will be closed to public parking beginning in the late afternoon on Thursday, October 4, through Columbus Day. Hikers will be directed to the Cross Country Parking Lot at ORDA’s Olympic Sports Complex beginning Friday morning and throughout the holiday weekend. Only designated shuttles from the Sports Complex will be allowed to enter the Cascade Mountain Trailhead area.
On September 16th I hiked Cascade Mountain and wrote about the experience. On that day over 500 people hiked Cascade. I returned the next weekend (on Saturday September 23rd), with a friend and survey sheets and clipboards to ask hikers a series of questions. The interviews took about two minutes and many people graciously answered questions. At busy points, we were both talking with groups as others walked by us. This was a rough survey, undertaken as much to learn about what is necessary for conducting this kind of survey as it was for getting some basic data from the hikers on Cascade Mountain. » Continue Reading.
I hiked Cascade Mountain from the Route 73 trailhead on Saturday September 16th. I went to see the crowds, the condition of the trail, and the general scene of what is believed to be the most popular High Peaks hiking trail. In 2015, over 33,000 people signed in at the trailhead register. In 2016, over 42,000 people are believed to have hiked the summit. Near the top there is now an electronic counter.
My whole trip took about five hours in the middle of the day. Many passed me by on the hike up and many others were hiking down the mountain during my ascent. I stayed on the summit about 90 minutes, which was gloriously sunny with the lightest of breezes. On the summit I counted people twice, with each count topping 100. » Continue Reading.
The growing number of hikers in the High Peaks in recent years has heightened concern for the fragile alpine vegetation found on many of the summits.
If the number continues to increase, summit stewards charged with educating hikers may find themselves overwhelmed, said Julia Goren, the Adirondack Mountain Club’s education director.
“I don’t think we’ve lost ground yet,” said Goren, who heads the summit-steward program. “But I do think it’s not hyperbolic that we’re kind of at a tipping point where there’s not much more we can take before there’s going to be some kind of loss. One summit steward can’t talk to six hundred people in a day and make sure that people are respecting every patch of alpine vegetation.” » Continue Reading.
The Ausable River Association (AsRA) has launched an expanded porta-john program throughout the Ausable River watershed to address the persistent problem of human waste disposal. Each year, over a million people visit the Ausable River watershed according to AsRA; seventy-six percent of these visitors participate in outdoor recreational activities. These large numbers pose a challenge in terms of the proper disposal of human waste. In short, the watershed has a poop problem.
The High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program has reported a 64% increase in visitation to the high summits of the Adirondacks over the past six years. This increase has coincided with a shift towards a larger percentage of day hikers versus overnight users. In many cases these visitors are not prepared to, or informed how to, properly dispose of their waste. As a result, summit stewards, forest rangers, and other backcountry professionals have reported an increased incidence of feces and toiletry products being improperly deposited on, or directly adjacent to trails. » Continue Reading.
Last Wednesday was the day that my wife Amy and I finally closed on our Adirondack house in Keene. The morning of the closing I awoke to a cloudy, fogged-in day and an overwhelming need to get my head right and reconnect to this place I have so come to love. I decided to hike up Big Crow, a substantial promontory that rises from one of the ridges of the Hurricane Mountain complex, directly behind our new house. Big Crow has a lot of open rock and a rise of several hundred feet facing the Keene Valley, promising a huge view of the High Peaks beyond. As I began my ascent visibility was a few dozen yards at best. This circumstance is my favorite for an Adirondack climb: I knew the clouds would break as the morning progressed, to spectacular effect. I determined to take in the theater from the summit no matter if it took all morning. » Continue Reading.
Hikers and others traveling to Lake Placid from the south should be aware that traffic on Route 73 in Cascade Pass will be limited to one lane for most of May due to roadwork. The highway may be closed to all traffic during one weekend.
Most of the parking area for one of the most popular summits in the High Peaks—Cascade Mountain—will be closed. Parking also will be banned at the western trailhead for Pitchoff Mountain, another popular destination, and Stagecoach Rock. The latter two parking areas are located near the Cascade trailhead, but on the other side of the road. » Continue Reading.
Drivers heading along Route 73 from Keene into Lake Placid can’t miss the activity on the icy cliffs above the Cascade Lakes. Climbers scurry like ants, from dawn to dusk, up and along the major flows that wind down either side of the main cliff. Chances are anyone learning to climb the transient mineral we call ice will end up here before too long in their studies.
This is the most popular ice climbing venue in the Adirondacks. Parking is plentiful, the approach is short, and there is access to the top of most routes for top-roping.
All that convenience makes it a crowded place: come very early or late in the afternoon for the best chance to climb. Roadside conditions are typically inhospitable. High wind sweeps through the pass, making it a bone-chilling place to attempt any chores in the parking lot. Come completely prepared to head directly up the hillside before opening the car door. There are three main parking areas for the central area of the pass. The western parking lot services the Buster and Sisters flows, the center one is for those intrepid souls venturing onto the main Pitchoff Cliff or Pitchoff Left, the easternmost one services climbers heading for Pitchoff Quarry or Pitchoff Right. The most impressive flow is the Sisters formation. Sister Left rises 130’ from its base, with a lot of 3+ and some grade 4 ice to reach the top. Sister Right is shorter, but presents a greater challenge, from 4 to 5 or even hard mixed climbing depending on the line chosen. While the full length of Sister Left must be climbed from the bottom up, the entire face can be top-roped, using a ledge lying about thirty feet upslope. Getting to the top still requires leading something, Buster being the easiest option.
Buster is a perennial favorite for beginners. The main flow is difficult to walk around for top-rope set-up, but by skirting the right edge, only minimal grade 2 ice is encountered, so it makes a good first lead as well. The front face ranges from grade 2 to 4-, and there is a fixed rappel anchor at the top. Above the anchor, another easy pitch provides a good introduction to multipitch climbing as well.
Buster is often crowded, but there are several nearby alternatives. In recent years, a steep flow directly to Buster’s left has formed reliably, providing 3+ to M4 mixed climbing, depending on its condition. To the right, two more flows (Boozer and Bruiser), both with good walk-around access to their tops and fixed anchors, provide enough room for at least four ropes.
Farther to the right, a large flow called Pitchoff Left begins as a vertical curtain of grade 4 ice, then settles down to easy climbing for the remainder of its length. There is no easy top-rope or lead option for this line, all comers will have to tackle it directly on lead. The good news: it has the fattest, most massive ice of any grade 4 flow in this area. Pitchoff Cliff divides the previous flows from those to the right. There are routes on the main cliff for stout-hearted ice aficionados; most mere mortals just gawk at them and move on.
Pitchoff Right is a heavy draw; it is rare to have this area to oneself. Fortunately, there is plenty of room and variety to go around. There is room for up to nine ropes along this wall, on routes ranging from twenty five to seventy feet tall. Top-roping is easy to establish, via a grade 1 walk-around to climber’s right. Difficulty ranges from the upper end of 2 to hard 4, with plenty of acrobatic mixed climbing potential as well. Be cautious about the pillars that form on the overhangs: while people climb them with reckless abandon, they do occasionally fall down.
The rightmost destination in the area, Pitchoff Quarry, is tucked back just far enough to be nearly invisible from the road. Accessed from the parking lot below Pitchoff Right, climbers walk east along the road for 200 feet, then duck into the alders and meander to the cliff. In good conditions, the quarry has a wide band of very steep ice, ranging between grade 4 and 5. Top-rope set-up is possible via access to climber’s right. The main flow dominates the center of the quarry, with enough room for a couple ropes, and flows to either side provide room for at least four more.
Jay Harrison guides both rock and ice for Eastern Mountain Sports, and occasionally writes about his personal adventures on his own blog.
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