The Mountaineer and Adirondack Rock and River are set to host the 23rd Annual Adirondack International Mountaineering Festival (Mountainfest) on January 18th through January 21th, 2019.
Mountainfest is an annual celebration of ice climbing and mountaineering featuring guest athletes with tales of climbing adventures, instructional clinics taught by visiting climbers and local guides, demo gear, raffles, happy hour, and yoga. » Continue Reading.
Gothics North Face is like an old friend — engaging, fun, familiar, and even a bit moody. I look forward to visiting it annually, usually during mid-winter. Early-season climbing conditions involving thin ice and expanses of bare anorthosite generally set up in December or January, so a trip during November is a novelty.
I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the Thanksgiving weekend than by involving another old friend in my visit, Adirondack Forest Ranger Scott van Laer. Together we’ve explored several of the Adirondacks’ most dramatic backcountry slides: Marcy’s East Face, Saddleback’s Chicken Coop Slide, and Big Slide Mountain. While he’s certainly in it for the adventure, he also views each trip through the lens of a rescue professional. The more he knows about the approach and exit, features of the slide, types of available climbing protection, etc., the easier he can assess it if a rescue is needed. » Continue Reading.
If you’ve done any rock climbing at Chapel Pond Gully Cliff, you’ve probably passed a steep granite wall on your way to the routes. It’s wet, dark, and manky, nothing you’d want to get on in summer.
In winter, however, the wall is transformed into the beautiful Crystal Ice Tower, one of the oldest and most popular ice-climbing routes in the region.
The tower is just one pitch, about eighty feet long, but it’s possible to keep climbing for three more pitches all the way to the top of Chapel Pond Gully Cliff. The route above Crystal Ice Tower — a mixture of snow and ice — is known as White Line Fever. » Continue Reading.
Jeff Lowe is one of the greatest American mountaineers of his generation. A native of Utah, he has climbed all over the world and put up hundreds of first ascents — on rock, ice, and alpine peaks. So when asked for his favorite climb in North America, he had many to choose from. Such as Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park, Bridal Veil Falls in Colorado, or the Keeler Needle in the High Sierra.
He chose Gorillas in the Mist, an ice climb on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain right here in the Adirondack Park.
Since Lowe did Gorillas in the Mist in 1996 with Ed Palen, the owner of Adirondack Rock and River in Keene, the route has attained near-mythic status. It has been repeated only once, just a few days after the first ascent. That was twenty-one years ago. “Everyone wants to do it. Anyone with the skill set, of course they want to do it. It’s famous,” said Matt Horner, a Keene resident who is one of the Adirondacks’ strongest ice climbers. » Continue Reading.
Matt Horner, a talented ice climber featured in the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer, took a bad fall while climbing above Chapel Pond last week, suffering serious injuries.
Horner, who lives in Keene, was climbing a route called Rhiannon when he fell about fifty feet and hit the cliff, breaking most of the bones in his face and suffering a concussion and a brain hemorrhage, among other injuries.
The news spread quickly among climbers on Facebook. When Horner posted photos of his swollen and bruised face from a hospital in Vermont, he received comments from more than three hundred well-wishers.
“I am blown away by all the love and help! Thank thank thank you!” he wrote in another post a few days later. » Continue Reading.
Don Mellor’s second edition of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide, published this month,describes almost 600 ice-climbing routes — a testament to the popularity of an erstwhile fringe sport.
The growth in ice climbing is mirrored by the growth in the heft of previous guidebooks.
In 1976, Tom Rosecrans published a slim guidebook called Adirondack Rock and Ice Climbs. Though rock and ice received equal billing in the title, only nine of the 124 pages were devoted to ice climbing. Only a few ice routes were named and described.
In the 1980s, Mellor came out with a bulkier guidebook, Climbing in the Adirondacks, with a substantial section on ice climbing. The 1995 edition described more than 140 routes.
Mellor published the initial edition of Blue Lines in 2006, the region’s first guidebook devoted exclusively to ice climbing. It described about 350 routes.
Some time ago I came across a book titled Fifty Favorite Climbs: The Ultimate North American Tick List. The author, Mark Kroese, asked fifty celebrated climbers to reveal their favorite climbs on the continent.
Most leaned toward big or exotic routes. Conrad Anker, for example, picked an alpine rock climb on Baffin Island near the Arctic Circle. Alex Lowe chose the Grand Traverse, his eight-hour dash over seven summits in Wyoming’s Tetons.
But I was especially interested in the choice of Jeff Lowe, one of the greatest mountaineers of his generation. Lowe (no relation to Alex) has climbed all over the world and put up hundreds of first ascents. His favorite climb in North America? A four-pitch ice route on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain that overlooks the Northway. It’s called Gorillas in the Mist.
More 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.
An ice climber fell about a hundred feet and broke his leg while scaling a well-known route on the north side of Pitchoff Mountain over the weekend.
The climber, a 40-year-old man from Stamford, CT, was on the second pitch of Screw and Climaxe when he slipped on thin ice, plummeting below his belayer and coming to rest only 15 feet or so above the ground.
Eight forest rangers, three volunteer rescuers, and a medic carried out a complicated rescue operation in the dark that took roughly four hours, from the time of the initial call to the time the victim was placed in an ambulance.
Forest Ranger Scott van Laer was driving back to Ray Brook from another incident — a climber had fainted in the Trap Dike on Mount Colden — when he got a call at about 4:30 on Saturday afternoon. He heard screaming in the background.
“We knew it was serious, it wasn’t a sprained ankle,” van Laer said. “We knew we had to get there as soon as possible.”
I 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.
Wilmington is gaining a reputation as a mountain-bike mecca, but what’s less well known is that many of the biking trails in town make great ski trails.
Mike Lynch, a writer/photographer with the Adirondack Explorer, and I learned this firsthand when we skied a trail called Poor Man’s Downhill with Keith McKeever this week.
Keith happens to be the spokesman for the Adirondack Park Agency, but he also is active in the Barkeater Trail Alliance (BETA), a group of mountain bikers that has been creating and maintaining bike trails in Wilmington, Lake Placid, and Saranac Lake. As noted in an earlier article on Adirondack Almanack this week, BETA recently merged with the Adirondack Ski Touring Council. » Continue Reading.
Later in the season, I climbed four classic routes with Dan Plumley: Roaring Brook Falls, the Cascade (between Cascade Lakes), Multiplication Gully in Wilmington Notch, and Chapel Pond Slab. On each climb, Dan led and thus assumed the lion’s share of the risk. » Continue Reading.
Giant Mountain offers a diversity of ascent options, but I’ll admit to playing favorites. Ascending the Ridge (Zander Scott) Trail and climbing the expansive East Face sets the stage for a day with breathtaking views on approach and a challenging slide climb as the main event. The steep dominant ledges that traverse much of the face set this apart from many other slides.
I’ve scaled the great scar several times over the years so finding new ways to breach the crux becomes part of the fun as I plan each outing. For crying out loud, the beast is over ¼ mile wide and 1,200 high so the choices are as diverse as one’s imagination and comfort level.
Giant’s proximity to Route 73 also makes it a good option when seeking a late start as my partner, NP, and I had planned. My trips often begin at 5 am. Here I can begin hours later and still return before dark. We parked near Chapel Pond and ascended the Ridge Trail under a bright morning sun. Conditions were perfect with temperatures hovering around 10 degrees at elevation. There were stunning vistas from the southwest ridge. » Continue Reading.
In 1971, the year before the State Land Master Plan was adopted, Trudy Healy published the second edition of A Climber’s Guide to the Adirondacks. It was a slim, staple-bound booklet that described about seventy rock-climbing routes.
Last year, Jeremy Haas and Jim Lawyer published the second edition of Adirondack Rock, a two-volume affair with descriptions of more than three thousand routes. In addition, other authors are working on guidebooks for bouldering and slide climbing in the Adirondack Park.
Haas points to these books as evidence of the growth in popularity of technical climbing and mountaineering since the early 1970s. He and other climbers are hoping the Adirondack Park Agency recognizes this growth when it considers amendments to the State Land Master Plan.
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