A spectacular white scar snakes 900 vertical feet down into the rugged defile of Hunters Pass on the west side of Dix Mountain. The Buttress Slide, triggered in 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene, adds to the multitude of slides already decorating the High Peaks. This diverse backcountry challenge begins just below the crest of Dix’s southwest buttress and wishbones into dual tracks about halfway down to the pass. The debris reaches with a few hundred feet of the marked trail.
I dare say it is one of the Adirondack’s most adventurous and difficult slides, one that bridges the gap between scrambling and fifth class climbing. If you’re comfortable with rock climbing, enjoy bushwhacking and are drawn to remote locations, perhaps this slide is for you. » Continue Reading.
The other day I hiked to the summit of Noonmark Mountain, celebrated for its knockout views of the High Peaks. I enjoyed the views, but my real reason for hiking Noonmark was to check out some old rock-climbing routes first ascended by Fritz Wiessner and friends in the 1930s and 1940s.
In his heyday, Wiessner was one of the best climbers in the country. He discovered the Shawangunks and put up routes all over the country, including the Adirondacks. The July-August issue of the Adirondack Explorer contains an article about a climb of the Wiessner Route on Upper Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass. » Continue Reading.
Last weekend I got a last minute performing gig at the Indianapolis 500 (which, goodness gracious, is the largest event I have ever seen in my life) and an unexpected financial windfall. That allowed me to indulge myself a little bit and make a purchase to which I have been looking forward for some time. I went to my local outdoor equipment store and picked out rope, belay devices, webbing, locking carabineers and – joy of joys – some new climbing shoes.
I haven’t rock climbed in more than a decade – nothing technical anyhow – and I haven’t done any serious pitches in two decades, but this summer is going to be my chance to change that before age robs me of such abilities as remain in my body. The best part is that I’m going to do it on my own land, a circumstance that still has me pinching myself. » Continue Reading.
Rock climbers will have a few more routes to climb this weekend, according to Joe Racette, a biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation who monitors the nesting of peregrine falcons on cliffs.
Racette said the Upper Washbowl cliffs near Chapel Pond are now open to climbers. DEC closes Upper Washbowl and Lower Washbowl each spring at the start of the falcons’ breeding season. DEC has ascertained that that this year the falcons are nesting on Lower Washbowl. » Continue Reading.
Over the past two decades, the state has purchased conservation easements on some 750,000 acres in the Adirondack Park. These timberlands are protected from development, and many of them are open to the public for recreation.
In theory, at least. In reality, most visitors to the Adirondacks seldom, if ever, set foot on easement lands. Partly, that’s because they don’t know where they can go or what they can do. The cliffs on Silver Lake Mountain are an exception.
The state purchased easements on the cliffs as part of a massive deal with International Paper in 2004 that preserved some 260,000 acres. Now owned by Lyme Timber, the cliffs were opened to the public—i.e., rock climbers—in 2009. » Continue Reading.
What to put on the cover? That’s always a big question at magazines. At the Adirondack Explorer, our designer, Susan Bibeau, usually mocks up two or three versions of the cover and then lets the rest of us choose. Sometimes it’s hard to decide, but not this time.
The cover of our May/June issue shows Daniel Burdick holding his son, Charlie, on top of the Pinnacle near Santa Clara. It was Charlie’s first climb. Charlie’s grandpa, Neal Burdick, wrote about the hike.
The Pinnacle is on the northern edge of the Adirondack Park, a bit remote for most folks, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood it’s a great little hike. And judging from Neal’s story, it’s an ideal trail for introducing young children to the joys of hiking. » Continue Reading.
Though we have spent most of our time getting out on the various Adirondack trails, my family needs to start working a different muscle group. Our legs are strong, but our arms are in need of a different workout. Though there is still plenty of snow around the Adirondacks, there are other activities that we are able to enjoy. One is getting into rock climbing shape at an indoor climbing wall.
The Crux, in Willsboro, offers the novice and expert a great place to burn off some steam while getting into climbing shape. Under the auspiciousness of Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center, The Crux is open from mid-October through mid-May. According to the Outdoor Education Center Director Brian DeGroat The Crux’s availability is tailored to accommodate everyone wanting to maintain or improve their skills without climbing outdoors. » Continue Reading.
Some people just see clouds. Others see all sorts of things—funny little poodles, wrinkly faces, continents. And once the shapes define themselves in the minds of the beholders, they become real and clear. “What do you mean, you can’t see it?” the visionary might ask. “It’s as plain as the nose on my face.”
Such was my impression when I first looked up at the wooded slopes of Crane Mountain. My host, Jay Harrison, was pointing up. “Those are the Summit Cliffs. Way over there is Beaverview Wall. Down and to the right, that’s the Slanting Cracks Wall.”
To me, it looked like a steep woodlot, punctuated by a scattering of small, rocky areas. To Jay, it was the next Adirondack rock-climbing mecca. » Continue Reading.
Fred Beckey. If you’re a climber you know the name. At least you should. But how to convey his legendary status to the non-climbing world?
“He’s Cal Ripken or Gordie Howe, one of these guys with amazing longevity. If there were a climbing Hall of Fame with ten people getting in on the first ballot, he’d be one of them,” says Don Mellor, a well-known climber himself and an English teacher at Northwood School in Lake Placid.
Beckey will soon be making two appearances in the region. On Sunday, he’ll be signing copies of Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite North American Climbs from 3-5 p.m. at the Mountaineer in Keene Valley. On Monday, he will give a slide show at Northwood School, starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for that event are $10 at the door.
Beckey, who grew up in Seattle, started climbing when he was thirteen, and seventy-seven years later he’s still at. That’s right, he is ninety years old and climbs cliffs.
I have driven past Moxham Mountain in Minerva many times and admired its cliffs from afar. Back in the seventies and eighties, rock climbers put up more than a dozen routes on these steep slabs, but because the approach crosses private land, Moxham was omitted from the most recent climbing guidebook.
That must be frustrating for climbers, especially since most of Moxham Mountain lies within the public Forest Preserve. But even though you can’t scale the cliffs, you can enjoy the view from the summit, thanks to a new trail that ascends Moxham on state land from the other side of the mountain.
The Student Conservation Association built the 2.7-mile trail in July under the auspices of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Starting on a dirt road on the north side of the mountain, the trail goes over a hill, descends to a beaver meadow, and goes up a narrow ridge to Moxham’s 2,361-foot summit.
When I did the hike in August, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of views during the climb, but I was happy to be proven wrong. » Continue Reading.
Fritz Wiessner, a top climber in his day, put up the route in 1938. Like most of his routes, this one is regarded as moderate in difficulty, but it’s great fun, with interesting problems, thrilling exposure, and spectacular views of Chapel Pond Pass and the Great Range.
The crux (hardest part) comes at the very beginning when climbers have to squeeze past and then surmount a rectangular block. This pitch is rated 5.6 on the Yosemite Decimal System scale, which is pretty easy by today’s standards, but the pitch would have been a lot harder in Wiessner’s era, when climbers wore mountaineering boots instead of sticky-soled slippers. In fact, one of Wiessner’s partners, M. Beckett Howorth, avoided the block altogether, according to the guidebook Adirondack Rock. » Continue Reading.
A wall of rock 1,200 feet high and a quarter-mile wide tends to stand out. Indeed, the North Face of Gothics is one of the most conspicuous landmarks of the High Peaks, drawing the eye whether you’re in downtown Lake Placid or on top of Mount Marcy.
Yes, the North Face is big, and if you want to climb it, plan on a big day. The same goes for the other two rock walls on Gothics: the South Face and the Rainbow Slide. All three offer rock climbers spectacular routes in a wilderness setting to one of the Adirondacks’ most beautiful summits. » Continue Reading.
Paddlers and hikers are excited about the impending acquisition of the former Finch, Pruyn lands for the Forest Preserve, and understandably so. Over the next five years, a number of natural treasures will become public, such as OK Slip Falls, the Essex Chain of Lakes, Boreas Ponds, and stretches of the Hudson and Opalescent rivers.
But rock climbers also have something to be excited about: Sugarloaf Mountain.
Rising above Cedar River Road west of Indian Lake, Sugarloaf sports a massive cliff that, I’m told, offers some of the best slab climbing in the Adirondacks. Judging from the aerial photo at the end of this article, which I took a few years ago, I’m guessing the cliff is at least a half-mile long. » Continue Reading.
I’m a Johnny-climb-lately. After moving to the Adirondacks, I spent most of my outdoors time hiking, backcountry skiing, or paddling. I had no interest in rock climbing—until I finally tried it a few years back.
I quickly discovered there’s a lot to learn apart from the techniques of actual climbing: rope management, gear placement, belaying, anchor building, rappelling, and how to open a beer bottle with a carabiner.
And the language. Like most sports, rock climbing has its own lingo. A bumbling climber is a “gumby”; a perfect climbing route is “splitter”; a route over “choss” (loose, friable rock) is “mungy”; and “deadpoint” is the apex of a “dyno,” or jump move.
All this can be bewildering to a newbie (or “n00b”) who encounters such terms for the first time in articles, books, and conversation. Thankfully, Mountaineers Books has published a guide for the perplexed: The Climbing Dictionary(softcover, $14.95) by Matt Samet, a veteran climber and writer.
The book defines more than 650 terms from rock climbing, bouldering, and mountaineering. Many of the definitions are illustrated by drawings by Mike Tea, an artist who works for Black Diamond, a manufacturer of cams, nuts, and other climbing gear.
In most cases, Samet does more than just define a word; he illustrates usage with humorous quotes and provides word histories that are like small windows onto the history of climbing itself. Did you know that before climbers wore helmets they sometimes protected their heads by stuffing mittens and newspapers under wool hats?
Many of the words are merely useful, such as the names for gear (ice screw, etrier, deadman anchor), but others exemplify the wry, irreverent outlook on life that seems indispensible to people who risk their necks for fun. For example, someone who “craters,” or hits the ground after a long fall, is likely to become “talus food.”
Samet captures this spirit in his definitions and exemplary quotations. Here’s his entry for blog-worthy: “Any rock you’ve ever climbed, videoed, and shot photos of … and uploaded to the Internet. In alpinism, any diversion, no matter how insignificant, from an existing climb is usually blog-worthy.”
Sometimes, though, the author strains too hard at humor, especially in his quotations. He illustrates the use of headlamp with the following: “Dave-o and Sha-Nay-Nay had to open a bivy a half-mile from the car because they spaced their headlamps; then wolves ate their faces off in the night.”
Never mind that the non-imbecilic have no need for a definition of headlamp; the quotation fails to illuminate meaning and it fails to amuse.
That’s OK … we all have our gumby moments. If you love climbing, you should enjoy this book.
If you’re rock climbing, you use a rope and wear a helmet (though not everyone does). If you’re hiking, you don’t.
That seems simple enough, but the distinction between a rock climb and a hike isn’t so straightforward. Sadly, this was demonstrated when a hiker died in a fall in the Trap Dike last week. » Continue Reading.
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