Posts Tagged ‘Climbing’

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Dr. Brad VanDiver’s Cliffside Brush with Death

longspeak2005wikiResearching Dr. Bradford VanDiver’s life and telling his full story isn’t possible in this brief format, but if you read last week’s account, you’re at least privy to the amazing and varied highlights. There remains one stunning and frightening event that he failed to mention during published interviews about various achievements and key moments in his past.

While plumbing for details that might have occurred prior to his professional career, I encountered reference to VanDiver’s participation with the National Speleological Society in exploring several new caves in the Howe’s Cavern area of Schoharie County in 1948. Some of the underground sites there involved drops of more than 100 feet, for which the spelunkers’ group called upon Brad VanDiver and his close friend, Ernest Ackerly, to handle the rigging of ropes, ladders, and other safety equipment. They also joined in the exploration of new passages. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Wiessner Left His Mark On Cliffs All Over Northeast

The legendary Fritz Wiessner put up a dozen or so rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks in the 1930s and 1940s. That doesn’t make him the most prolific climber in the Adirondack Park, but he was one of the earliest.

In truth, Wiessner is better known for his exploits elsewhere. Perhaps his greatest contribution to rock climbing was his “discovery” in 1935 of the Gunks outside New Paltz, now one of the most popular climbing destinations in the country. In 1937, he famously led Bill House and Lawrence Coveney on the first technical ascent of the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming – an extraordinarily bold feat for its time.

Wiessner also did notable first ascents on cliffs in New Hampshire and Connecticut, among other places. In 1935, he put up a route called Vector at Connecticut’s Ragged Mountain that may have then been the hardest in the country. It’s now rated 5.8 in the Yosemite Decimal System. 

Last weekend, while visiting New Haven, I had the chance to check out another early route in Connecticut established by the master: Wiessner’s Rib in Sleeping Giant State Park.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

2016 Adirondack Peregrine Falcon Monitoring Summary

peregrine falconDEC staff and volunteers monitored 26 peregrine falcon nesting sites located throughout the Adirondack Mountains and along Lake Champlain during the 2016 breeding season.

Of the 26 monitored eyrie (nesting) sites, 17 were confirmed to be occupied by territorial pairs – all of these were confirmed to be active eyries. At two of the 26 sites, Cascade Lakes and Eagle Mountain, only a single territorial bird was ever seen. Of the 17 confirmed active eyries, 14 were successful, producing 27 chicks for a total of 1.59 young/breeding pair and 1.93 young/successful pair. This represents an average level of production for this region, however 2016 was much more successful than the 2015 breeding season. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Dr. Bradford VanDiver: Adirondack Renaissance Man

bvdiver1976Bradford B. VanDiver, president of the ADK Laurentian Chapter four decades ago, had a deep impact on my life, which is not surprising because he was a lifetime teacher. But the truth is, I never met him — at least not in person. His passion for many pursuits was first revealed to me through the pages of one of several books he authored. What I discovered was a native New Yorker and eventual North Country transplant who was truly a Renaissance Man.

At a young age, innate curiosity across many fields of science drove my quest to know more about animals, plants, rocks, and “bugs” that were routinely encountered on all sorts of outdoor expeditions. When VanDiver’s book, Rocks and Routes of the North Country, New York (1976) was released in 1976, I immediately obtained an autographed copy, which still resides on my desk to this very day. He presented a wealth of knowledge supported by scientific terms, but written for the layman as a practical guide to discovery. The book accompanied me on hundreds of hours of exploration across the Adirondacks, and in part led me to write my own first book.

But VanDiver was much more than a professional rock hound — professional as in a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Washington. He also taught at universities in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and for a year in Munich, Germany, during a sabbatical from Potsdam State, where he spent 24 years as professor of geology. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Coterie of Climbers Conquer Panther Gorge

panther gorgeFour and a half hours after our 4:30 am departure from the Garden trailhead in Keene Valley, my two climbing partners and I dropped our packs and looked around. We were surrounded by cliffs: free-standing pillars, tiered walls, slabby slides, and vertical stone faces, some more than three hundred feet high. There were caves, hidden talus fields, and giant fins of rock. Vertical cracks abounded.

I gaped in wonderment at one of the most remote and beautiful rock-climbing destinations in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Perfect Day For Climbing Thanksgiving

Monday was beautiful and sunny, with leaves at peak color. It also was Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, dozens of cars lined the shoulders of Route 73 near the trailheads for Giant Mountain.

Cars also were parked along the highway near Chapel Pond Slab, one of the region’s most popular rock-climbing venues. When Philip Brittan and I arrived at the base of the slab, we saw a party halfway up Regular Route, the most climbed route on the slab. As we put on our climbing shoes and harnesses and tied into the rope, three other parties showed up, all intent on climbing Regular Route.

Fortunately, we were climbing Thanksgiving. Given the holiday, this seemed especially appropriate. Thanksgiving is one of two major routes on Chapel Pond Slab established by the Alpine Club of Canada. The other is Victoria. It, too, is named after a Canadian holiday: Victoria Day.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

American Alpine Club Chronicles Climbing Accidents

2016-accidents-croppedFor those who climb, Accidents in North American Climbing, issued annually by the American Alpine Club, should be required reading—not because climbers are morbid, but because they can learn from others’ mistakes, too many of which are fatal.

The 2016 edition, which was published recently, describes dozens of rock-climbing and mountaineering accidents from the previous year. Most occurred out west or in Alaska. The only incident in the Adirondacks involved a climber who fell on Wallface, a large and remote cliff in the High Peaks Wilderness.

I wrote about the Wallface accident on the Almanack soon after it happened. The climber, a 23-year-old man from Carmel, NY, plummeted 60 to 80 feet after his protection failed to hold on a popular route known as the Diagonal. State forest rangers and volunteer climbers carried out a complicated rescue and managed to get the victim to a hospital that night. He was knocked unconscious in the fall and suffered a deep head gash, but he was able to leave the hospital early the next day.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rock Climbers Discover Boreas Ponds Tract

Kittens and RainbowsThe newly acquired Boreas Ponds Tract has been touted as a destination for backpackers, paddlers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and snowmobilers. As it turns out, some of the earliest users of the land have been rock climbers.

Within a few months of the state’s purchase of the tract in April, rock climbers established nine technical climbing routes on the southwest face of Ragged Mountain, a small peak that lies less than a mile from County Route 84.

The Adirondack Rock website awards Ragged four out of five stars for the overall quality of the climbing. Most of the routes are hard, with ratings from 5.10 to 5.13 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which ranges from 5.0 (easy) to 5.15 (nearly impossible).

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

When Adirondack Climbers Come To The Rescue

The Trap Dike on Mount ColdenForest Ranger Rob Mecus got the call at 3:15 in the afternoon. A climber had fallen on Wallface. Rob had been at his Adirondack post for only a couple of years, but he knew what all longtime local climbers know — that Wallface was the worst-case scenario. It’s the biggest cliff in the state. It’s five miles from the road. There’s no nice trail to the top for a staging area. It’s blocky and loose. Three of the first four Adirondack climbing fatalities happened on this huge, remote piece of rock.

The cell-phone call from Summit Rock in Indian Pass reported that the fallen climber appeared to be hanging from a rope, unconscious. Yet despite the distance and the complexity of the rescue operation, that same climber would be wheeled into the emergency room at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake at 8:10 that same evening. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Lows Ridge Bike, Hike, Swim and Climb

Lows-upper-dam-1Carol says I come up with my best trip ideas at the breakfast table. Since this was the last day of her Adirondack vacation, I felt the pressure to suggest something special. She likes to swim, I like to rock climb, and we both like to bike and hike. If I could combine all four of those activities, I might win her affection for all eternity.

It’d be worth a shot, anyway. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rock Climber Badly Hurt In Fall From Pitchoff Cliff

Pitchoff Chimney CliffA rock climber was flown to a Vermont hospital after suffering severe injuries in a 60-foot fall from a cliff on Pitchoff Mountain on Monday afternoon. State Police identified the victim as Kyle R. Ciarletta, 22, of Eagleville, PA.

Ciarletta fell after climbing a difficult route known as Roaches on the Wall, said David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Winchell attributed the accident to miscommunication between Ciarletta and his belayer, a 23-year-old woman from Norristown, PA.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Frozen Feat: Ice Climbing With Sabrina Hague

ice climberMore than thirty years ago, Don Mellor was in a plane flying over the High Peaks region, taking photos for his rock-climbing guidebook, when he spotted a large streambed in Chapel Pond Canyon. He returned the next winter with Steve Wisenand, one of his students at Northwood School in Lake Placid.

The streambed was now a huge mass of ice, about eighty-five feet high. With Mellor leading, they climbed the frozen flow with ice axes and strap-on crampons, then the only kind available.

They named the route Positive Reinforcement, an allusion to the behavioral theory of the psychologist B.F. Skinner, whose utopian novel Mellor had assigned to his English students. The name also is a tip of the helmet to Positive Thinking, a classic ice route on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain.

Positive Reinforcement was the first ice-climbing route in Chapel Pond Canyon. Since that winter day in 1982, climbers have established nearly twenty additional routes in the canyon, yet Positive Reinforcement remains one of the best and most popular. Though it’s considered only moderate in difficulty, many variations are possible, some harder than others. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 15, 2016

2015 Peregrine Falcon Nest Monitoring Results

Peregrine Falcon Nest Monitoring ResultsThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued their annual report on peregrine falcon nest monitoring in the Eastern Adirondacks and Lake  Champlain region.

DEC wildlife staff and volunteers monitored 26 peregrine falcon nesting during the 2015 breeding season, according to  the report.

They confirmed 16 of the 26 sites were occupied by territorial pairs of falcons and all but one of those pairs actively undertook nesting. Of the 15 confirmed active nesting pairs, nine successfully produced a total of 18 chicks. This equates to 1.2 young/breeding pair and 2 young/successful pair – an average level of production for this region. 2015 was slightly more productive then the last few breeding seasons. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Don Mellor On Climate Change And Ice Climbing

Dan-Plumley-ice-climbing2I have been asked whether the freeze-thaw cycles ushered in by climate change will improve conditions for ice climbing. The theory is that meltwater from a thaw will refreeze, rejuvenating ice routes that had been poked full of holes by axes.

First, the Republican disclaimer “I’m not a scientist, but …”

Look at the Catskills: shorter, warmer winter means shorter ice season. No question. Yet freeze-thaw does produce ice, as long as the bedrock is cold. Note that a viciously cold night here in autumn does very little. Yet that same night in March makes for some good new routes, like those Ian Osteyee fast-freeze routes at Poke-O. The drips hits cold rock and freezes, same as in the formation of black ice on roads. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mountainfest: Climbing, Mountaineering Event Marks 20 Yrs

Mountenfest 2016The Adirondack International Mountaineering Festival, known as Mountainfest, is an annual celebration of ice climbing and mountaineering featuring guest athletes, instructional clinics taught by visiting climbers and local guides, demo gear, and a chance to gather with the climbing community for an Adirondack winter weekend.

Mountainfest 2016 will take place January 16-18 in Keene Valley and will include Patagonia athlete Barry Blanchard and DMM pro team member Nick Bullock. Barry and Nick’s slide shows on Saturday and Sunday evenings are expected to be entertaining and also offer a chance to win raffle gear and free giveaways. » Continue Reading.