When we travel I tell folks we live in UPSTATE NY – not NYC. Explain we live on a dirt road 7 miles from the general store – which burned down 10 years ago and has not been re-built.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Above is a picture son Adam took recently from the summit of Crane Mt. (In Johnsburg, where we were married June 1971) looking west. See the house just to the left of the center of the photograph with the green roof? Not ours… you can’t see ours. Ours, although two story and 36’x50’, is buried under the cluster of orange trees an inch or two to the right.
House 85 ft set back from the dirt road – but you can’t see that either. Buried under the trees.
Main body of water is Garnet Lake; 70% of which is NYS “Forever Wild.” Water to the upper left is not a river; Lixard Pond is surrounded by wild lands. 50 miles of “forever wilds” borders our 27 acre “backyard.”
Editor’s note: Thanks to Glenn for sharing this. Let’s see if we can turn this into a series! Share what you love about your part of the Adirondacks. What makes it special? Send your “The Place I Live” commentary to Melissa Hart: email@example.com.
But in case you missed it, we had two stories published online last week on Adirondack Park Agency happenings. One included a look at what the state Department of Environmental Conservation is hoping to do to its largest campground, Fish Creek Pond. The DEC’s proposal is out for public comment, this time looking for feedback on how the proposal meshes (or does not) with the Adirondack Park Agency’s rules and regulations. Here’s the story.
We also had a look at the APA and DEC’s presentation on managing visitors to the Adirondack Park and monitoring wildlands. It was interesting to hear from staff that the scientific method has been missing, at least in a consistent way, from state management of the forest preserve. While there’s no formal public comment period for these guidelines released last week, the APA and DEC still want to hear your thoughts. Click here to read more and to learn how to comment.
Crane Mountain is part of the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest and is considered a jewel of the southern Adirondacks. It is the highest peak in the region, offering expansive views and a spectacular open ridgeline.
The 1.75-mile Crane Mountain Trail begins at the parking lot at the end of Ski Hi Road. It travels nearly due north up a very steep section of the mountain and includes two ladders, one of which is 30 feet against a steep rock wall. » Continue Reading.
The story goes that, in the summer of 1970, a Town of Johnsburg highway crew was straightening a Garnet Lake Road near Crane Mountain. While removing some of the ancient corduroy logs that once carried the road across a swampy section, they discovered what appeared to be an old cannon.
Vincent Schaefer had the cannon dated at the Watervliet Arsenal and it was determined that it was a swivel gun of the type probably used by Benedict Arnold’s troops during the battle of Valcour Island. » Continue Reading.
In geological lore Crane Mountain is a monolith, “one rock.” From our Mateskared cabin porch in Bakers Mills Crane is “the view.” Up close and personal, Crane harbors a pond. The summit once had a staffed fire tower, but aircraft surveillance and then satellite monitoring made it obsolete.
Until I saw Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California, I found it difficult to grasp Crane as one rock, partly because forests and blueberry plants cover much of Crane. When I sit up there and look across the pond to low cliffs on the far shore, wonder if this diverse scene can be set on one rock? But is not all Earth one rock — its bump-and-grind lithosphere, at least? We are all campers and sojourners on one rock? » Continue Reading.
My father and mother, Howard and Alice Zahniser, named our cabin Mateskared not long after they bought the place in August 1946 from Harold and Pansy Allen. It sits at the end of a road off Route 8 in Bakers Mills, Warren County.
The late New York State conservationist Paul Schaefer partly owned the land to the west of our place. Paul served as middleman on the deal because our family lived in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. We were a two-day drive from the Adirondack State Park in those days. I was not yet one year old. » Continue Reading.
The trails were busy this weekend with perfect hiking conditions. Crane Mountain is a popular hike to views of the Southern Adirondacks. The trailhead is located on Ski Hi Road in Thurman. You can take the route via the pond or the shorter route directly to the summit. You will notice quite a few paths to great views along the way.
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.
Mention Adirondack ice climbing and most people think of Keene Vally or Cascade Pass, Pitchoff or Pok-O-Moonshine. But there is a plethora of ice tucked away in the park’s southern reaches, “must-dos” for any climbers willing and able to manage the approach. The Waterfall Wall on Crane Mountain is one of these classic lines.
Crane’s Waterfall Wall lies well east of the State trailhead. Fortunately, a well-worn climber’s path leads from the trailhead parking lot in this direction, making the start easier than it used to be. The path winds through the Boulderwoods, a summertime bouldering area, then continues eastward along the base of Crane for awhile. If you cannot reach the parking lot – often the case in winter – just walk down the trailhead road about 150′ then cut into the woods, toward the mountain, when you see the first state boundary sign. You will run across an old ATV trail, turn right on this to skirt private property. When you see power lines, cut across straight toward the mountainside until you come to the climber’s path, then take it to the right.
The path parallels the mountain for awhile, then cuts uphill, heading for a rock crag called the Measles Walls. Cut off here, continuing eastward and staying low until the mountain swings away from your heading.
From there, cut uphill along any of several gullies, keeping a constant distance from the mountainside. You will eventually reach a ridgetop overlooking a small, steep-sided ravine blocking the way ahead. To your left, the ridge rises to join the flank of Crane Mountain, to your left, it runs down to private lands. Drop into the ravine and climb up the opposite side to reach another ridge. This one parallels Crane’s northeast flank; you’ve turned the corner of the mountain.
Follow this ridge, staying in sight of Crane, as it runs along level at first, then begins descending. At times, you will have to choose between walking down a boulder-strewn streambed close to Crane, or going farther east to avoid the worst difficulties; just keep the flank of Crane in sight.
After dropping several hundred feet, the ridge levels off. The stream exits the boulders and winds around the flat area before entering another bouldery copse. The Waterfall is directly left of this point.
Pitch One is a wide swathe of ice slab 115′ tall. It rates WI2 to 3+, depending on which line you choose to climb. At the base, the ice on the left is thin, the center is adequate, and just right of center is the fattest section. Right of this, thin ice (or bare rock) leads to the Tempest variation, the hardest option for this pitch, as it climbs through a short, vertical headwall. Farther right, there is often a strip of ice that flows along the right side of the headwall block; this is narrow but very easy, perhaps WI1.
The top-out is a roomy, wooded ledge. Most parties belay from a tree near the cliff edge so they can see their partner’s progress. Convenient trees provide TR anchors for the Tempest variation, but a 70m rope is required. A 60m rope can be used for rappel-descent off a small oak tree to climber’s left of the ice slab. If this is used, be careful of a rock crevice, often disguised by snow, at the bottom next to the slab.
Pitch Two‘s climbing begins a few steps upslope. A mound of ice with minimal WI2 climbing leads to a long, low-angled run of about 140’ up to a good ledge with a belay tree below a short headwall. Alternatives range from climbing the steep slab right of the ice mound (often too thin for screws), drytooling a right-facing rock corner farther right, or choss-stabbing up a large right-facing corner to the left of the mound. The traditional way is by far the best. Descent options range from a circuitous walk-up to the Pitch Three escape, or a 30m rappel off the belay tree that will barely reach easy ground (70m rope recommended).
Pitch Three is a the short flow directly behind the belay. On the left, it is a WI1, stepped corner, but one can also climb directly up the headwall for a harder start. Be aware the the corner takes screws, the headwall is usually too thin.
Pitch Four is non-technical. Coil the rope and walk up the streambed about 70′, then cross to its left side and walk uphill and left, toward the obvious flow high above. Climb a wooded ramp to reach the beginning of pitch five’s technical ice. Do NOT stay in the streambed; this leads to a remote section of the mountain. To descend: walk off clmber’s left, descending a wooded ramp until near the bouldery streambed, then curl back to the base of the Waterfall.
Pitch Five is thin WI2. While not difficult, timid leaders will struggle here. The ice is thin and may be hard to find if the slab is covered in snow. Generally, begin near the slab’s low point, climb up and left to reach a narrow band of ice in a right-facing corner. At its top, move right below a bulge, then follow another right-facing corner up, keeping tools tight in the corner or even on the face above. Step up left on top of the corner and continue up easy slab to trees below the steep last pitch. Alternatives are: weave along a narrow, technical ledge leftward then up to circumvent the pitch, or dry-tool a low-angle open book to the right. Descent from the top of pitch five can be by rappel off the lowest oak trees (WI 1 to reach these), or a long walk-off climber’s left.
Pitch Six’s most obvious line is WI4-, and runs about 100′ from the belay trees at the bottom to the huge pine at the top. There’s no mistaking the crux here: the main ice sheet flows down a steep wall and drops a curtain in front of an overhang about 50′ up. One can climb up to the left, utilizing handy trees to pull a WI3 (thin ice) lead to reach the top, or pass up the sharp end altogether and walk left to get around and top-rope the beef. There is an obvious mixed option to the right of the main flow, which has been TR’d and is estimated MI4 or 5. Other possibilities, yet to be tried, lie farther right.
In case of emergency, cell phone reception is surprisingly good for this area, but don’t depend on it. The usual rules for escaping unfamiliar woodland do not apply here: following drainages will take you far away from help. If you carry (and know how to use) a compass, follow a bearing due south to hit Sky High Road.
Illustrations: Above, the author leads up pitch one (Kevin Heckeler photo); middle photos, Patrick Gernert climbs the second and third pitches respectively; below, Jason Brechko leads the highest, hardest pitch of the route, WI 4-. (Courtesy Jay Harrison).
Jay Harrison of Thurman guides rock and ice climbing excursions in the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Shawangunks, and records his antics on his own blog and website.
Please join me in welcoming rock and ice climber Jay Harrison of Thurman newest (25th!) contributor here at the Adirondack Almanack. Jay has more than 15 years experience as a climbing guide and currently guides for Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing Schools. He’s also one of the primary forces behind the Southern Adirondack Rock Climbers’ Fest, held this past fall on the east side of Lake George.
Jay writes short pieces about his climbing experiences on his own blog and longer articles for his website. Although he’s climbed his way around the Adirondacks (and has spent a lot of time down in the Gunks), Jay says one of his favorite local spots is Crane Mountain in Johnsburg, Warren County. He makes no excuses for his obsession with Crane. “For climbers, it rocks,” he told me, “even in winter.” Jay will begin his tenure here at the Almanack today with a description of Crane’s “Waterfall Wall” ice climb. He will be contributing here at the Almanack every other week on rock and ice climbing news, issues, and culture.
When I was wet behind the ears, in an Adirondack sort of way, Paul Schaefer took me to the sturdy cabin at the edge of the wilderness that he had built sometime in the early 1960s in the Town of Johnsburg. Paul had located his cabin, named Beaver House, on high ground with a distant view of Crane Mountain, but in the shadow of Eleventh or Cataract Mountain which lay in silhouette immediately to our west. It was November and somewhere below Eleventh Mountain in the gathering gloom of a wilderness afternoon lay a hunting camp populated with men who Paul had recruited into the Cataract Hunting Club years earlier. In fact, the original club members, including fathers and grandfathers of the current generation, dated to around 1931 when Paul hired a teamster to take them in by horse and wagon. In 1987 they were still going in that way courtesy of local teamster Earl Allen. By 1987, the knees of the 78 year-old conservationist and hunter Paul Schaefer no longer supported his tall frame on the several mile tramp over rough terrain to reach the Cataract Club’s camp on Diamond Brook. So Paul did the next best thing. He sat in Beaver House before a roaring fire talking about the history of the region, its people, conservation history, hunting experiences, and the Siamese Wilderness he knew so well.
A light rain was falling outside, but the light was fading much faster. I was really getting comfortable in the warmth of that room, listening to Paul, when out of the blue he said: “now, Dave, reach into the pocket of my jacket and take out the piece of paper.” I gave him the paper. “I need you to hike into the wilderness and hand over this camping permit to the boys in camp. If the ranger shows up and they don’t have this permit, they could be in a lot of trouble. So, you’d do me and them a big favor by hiking in there.” My heart jumped. I had never been into hunt camp before. “How do I reach their camp, Paul?” Paul gestured with his big right hand, his head cocked, emphasizing. “Go down the trail here to the junction, and then follow the wagon trail west, keeping the mountain always on your left. A mile in, you’ll reach the height of land. Stop right there. A tall red spruce stands ahead on a rise. Don’t go past it. Bear left, keep the mountain on that side and follow the stream down another mile. You can’t miss it. And tell the boys I may try to go in there tomorrow, but I’m not promising.” He gave me a rain slicker and a flashlight, and a hearty “You’ll be back in no time.” With the camping permit in my pocket, my heart pounding, but my voice full of confidence, I headed out the cabin door. The rain was falling steadily, and afternoon light had all but faded as I tried to determine if I had reached the height of land. I had gone up and down. Height of land seemed a frustrating matter of impression in these big woods. Trying to keep the mountain in sight I veered left and trusted to luck. I suddenly realized my jeans were soaked through. Trudging on, the trees were noticeably larger, including red spruce. How could horses drag a wagon full of gear all the way back here, I remember asking myself. But I was on a mission for Paul. Stumbling on and on down the rough wagon trail, crossing innumerable small streams, I finally smelled wood smoke. Excited, I went uphill into some balsam and spruce, following my nose. In the gloom below, the long tent appeared. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I had made it. I heard muffled laughter. Then my mouth dropped. In the glow of my flashlight, a huge antlered deer hung from a pole. I found the tent entrance, pulled the tent flaps open and walked in. I remember the hissing of those kerosene lamps. All conversation ceased, as ten hunters looked up at me from the chow they were eating on a long table. “Gosh, Dave,” someone said, “you look kind of wet. What can we do you for”? “Guys, Paul sent me in with your camping permit.” At that, I reached into my jeans and out came the paper, dripping wet. Nobody said a word. Bill broke the silence. “Give this to me straight. Paul sent you in here tonight to give us that?” I nodded. The tent erupted in roars of laughter. Dave got up and gave me something warm to drink and a place by the stove. The good natured kidding went on for a while. I felt a whole lot better about life and a bit dryer, and with new found confidence headed back to the cabin. I did leave that permit. The cabin lights were like a port in a storm as Paul welcomed me back with that enormous handshake, and a plate of food. “Take a seat and tell me how the boys are doing.” As I ate, I knew that I had passed some test that mattered to Paul, the first of many to come.
Photos: Cataract Club members Dave Conde, Bill Townsend and Doug Miller (l-r) at Beaver House before heading into camp; Beaver House, the cabin Paul Schaefer built near the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.
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