Cedar River’s Sugarloaf Mountain

August 23rd, 2014

In preparation for this year’s Southern Adirondack Rockclimbers’ Festival, we’ve been making sporadic visits to the town of Indian Lake, scoping out the nearby climbing areas – of which there are many. Much of the surrounding land in this region was acquired by the State from Finch-Pruyn in the past year or so; as such, there are dozens of crags previously off-limits to climbers that are now open and accessible. Sugarloaf is the premiere example of these.

Garth leading up the crux of pitch one.

Garth leading up the crux of pitch one.

It’s a long drive, but a relatively short twenty minute approach to the base of this mountain’s 450′ slabs. There are over a dozen routes here, most of them established either surreptitiously or under the mistaken belief that the cliff was public property, way back when (a few of them from the 1970s). We set our sights on a modified version of these oldies, an incredible route put up on lead solo by Tad Welch, and updated by him with the enthusiastic assistance of Jim Lawyer and Dave Buzzelli as the land entered public domain.

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Southeast Flank Ice

March 12th, 2014
The main routes along the Southeast Flank of Crane Mountain

The main routes along the Southeast Flank of Crane Mountain

I’ve consolidated, updated, and collated some ice data for Crane’s SE flank. Picture links to a larger image. This is not comprehensive.

1. Providence WI 3 M2 270′: probably the best ice climb on Crane. Ascends a narrow thread of ice in a giant left-facing rock corner. Bring a run of cams from C3s to #2 C4, and a few ice screws. Needs prolonged freezing temps to form. First pitch is 170′. Rappel to the base via three raps with a single rope, rappelling on the outside of the face at the top of the first pitch (there is no intermediate rap position inside the corner).

2. West Coast Connection (M4) and Fifi’s Frozen Fingers WI 3+ 80′: WCW runs up a thinly-glazed chimney system. Bring a #4 C4, just in case. FFF climbs the fat ice flow on the steep face. There is a pitch below these routes, consisting of short steep ice and large ledges.

3. Waterfall Wall WI 2 (with top pitches from WI 4 to M3) 800′: the other contender for best climb on Crane. 4 pitches of grade 2 ice, one nontechnical pitch, and options at the top wall between WI 3, 4-, or M3.

4. Tier Drops WI 4 M1 (with harder options) 125′: this short route ascends a boulder pile to reach a large ledge with a row of 20′ curtains above it. The left side is harder than the rightmost pillar.

5. By Golly Gully WI 2- 500′: This route is more an alpine adventure than ice climb, however there are options to either side along the way that bump up the challenge considerably. And it tops out beside a nice, flat viewpoint. This gully is a potential avalanche chute.

6. Northeast Cascade WI 2- 110′: While the right side is trivially easy, the left side sports strenuous corner or face climbing.


Ice Season: November and December 2013

January 17th, 2014

Jekyll & Hyde couldn’t be happier with this season’s weather. We’ve had extended bouts of wickedly-cold weather, bounded by bursts of springtime warmth, which usually involved lots of rain. Which always meant severe deterioration of the ice. We have not been stymied however. It has been a decent season so far. Read the rest of this entry »

Crane Mtn’s Latest Hotspot

August 5th, 2013

Bruce relaxes on the upper ledge

Bruce came up last week to sample the newest “classic” line on Crane, a multipitch run up the South Corner Cliff. I’ve eyed the cracks on the higher walls of this area for decades. Slowly, those lines have seen traffic: way back when (2010?), Tom & I made a late-season onsight of Solar Grace, a route offering good 5.6 climbing with poor protection: the crack we chose turns out to be shallow and flaring for much of the way. I took a few better stabs a year later, adding Solo, GraciasNever Alone, and with Peter Whitmore leading, On the Fence. to that same patch of rock. Last year, Tom & I worked a face lower and to the right, putting up Riprovando, a nice 5.10b; and in the waning days of 2012, I cleaned up the natural crack line to its left and posted Provando, at 5.7- a kinder, gentler way up the same wall.

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Listen to Your Elders!

March 22nd, 2013

And we did just that. The snows of Monday kept us from making it to Lake Placid, so we headed to Burlington’s famous Outdoor Gear Exchange to see Fred Beckey’s presentation.

We arrived early enough to give two of my climbing buddies a chance to look around what may be the greatest climbing/skiing/outdoor gear store east of the Mississippi, Outdoor Gear Exchange.

As we walked in, our eyes fixed toward the climbing department, Robin nudged me and pointed to the bench we stood beside. There sat the man himself, reading books near the store entrance.

Posing with Fred Beckey at Outdoor Gear Exchange

We introduced ourselves, chatted a bit – then returned him to his peace and quiet, but not before posing with him on the bench.

Sloggin’ and Scopin’

March 19th, 2013

With winter hanging “claws-teeth-and spines” full on, I surrendered to the obvious and pulled the ice gear out of storage. I was reluctant – downright resistant – to going back to any of the established stuff here at home (Crane), on Starbuck or Black, but Mike Prince cajoled me into a trip up Route 28 for a look-see of Ledge Mountain. Adirondack Rock mentions the cliffs there, but doesn’t give the area high ratings. However, it is pretty close to the road, and with no mention of ice rats scouring the place, there was a chance it might have something new to play on. We did eventually find some, but the real story lies in the what we didn’t do – couldn’t do, because we didn’t bring rock shoes…

Ice cliff on Ledge Mountain

The ice wall, about 1 hr east of Rt. 28.

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Who is Fred Beckey?

March 15th, 2013

If you have any sense of climbing history, you recognize the name. For those who don’t know, Fred is the most productive ascentionist in North America. With hundreds of first ascents on mountains all over North America, I don’t think anyone even comes close.

He’s also the consummate climbing bum, the paragon of the species, if you will. He started climbing back in the days when it wasn’t just considered weird or insane, it just plain wasn’t considered. He lived in a car, in a tent, crashed on couches across America, did whatever it took to pursue his passion without distractions. He climbed through the eras when climbing came into social observation, first as abherrent behavior, then as fringe element, and finally as fad. He didn’t climb with sponsors supplying his every need, didn’t climb any way or any thing to satisfy the Facebook crowd.

He’s also 90 years old. And still climbing.

You have a chance to meet this guy. He will be chatting with climbers and signing book/s this Sunday at the Mountaineer in Keene Valley. He will be speaking at the Northwoods School in Lake Placid. And he will be speaking at Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington VT on the 21st.

Our paths have crossed a couple times. Fred is personable, gentle, and fascinating. You may not see thrilling videos of narrow escapes and wild climbing moves, but you will be caught up by the passion of our sport exemplified in Fred’s experiences. If you can make one of these events, don’t miss it.


Rockin’ at Little Falls

March 11th, 2013

Way too much snow still on Crane. Ra and I escaped to the southlands for a chance to touch real rock. Little Falls is slightly closer than the Gunks, so that was the place to go.


We met Bruce Monroe there, already tuggin’ a line on Jeff Loves Eileen. This would be Bruce’s first climbing since the onset of a hip injury way back in September. He did fine, experienced no real problems, and even tied into the sharp end and led the route!

We saw a few other familiar faces there as well: Justin, the man who organized the Southern Adirondack Festival back in 2011, and Mitch, who seems to get around a lot, at least where climbing is concerned. We also met a couple new folks, Kevin and JP, who had come along from Mexico with Mitch, and were sampling a bit of NY-style climbing.

With rain and continuous 40-degree temps in the forecast, I’m putting the ice tools away. Soon, the wire brushes will come out of storage and I’ll be poking around Crane’s cliffs, looking for that next great project…

Farewell Tour to the Waterfall Wall

March 9th, 2013

Nothing is writ in stone yet, but with the extended forecast calling for mid-40 temps and my work schedule, today’s morning jaunt to the Waterfall Wall may well be the last of this season.


I’ve been cussing this late snow-dump since it came, swamping paths and curtailing exploration as the season winds down. It has, however, provided a protective blanket that is preserving low-angle ice. The Waterfall Wall has decent ice…below a lot of snow. It’s more of a mountaineering route than ice route right now. I had to head to the Tempest variation in order to justify two tools, and there I found thoroughly sun-baked, rotten ice. I had to chop through 6 or 7 cm of ice to reach trustworthy material.


I did not bother going beyond the first pitch; it was totally swathed in snow. Both the uppermost pitch and Fifi’s are visible from the ridge, but I expect both are highly sun-baked. I wouldn’t recommend leading either one.

Hard telling how much longer it will last. I’m guessing it will be good through this weekend, but be out before the next.

I’ve been extremely lax about posting updates in the past two weeks. A lot went down, including a trip to Hoffman Notch with Jason Brechko, more FAs on Starbuck with the usual motley crew, and one more FA on Black Mountain with Todd Paris. I hope to post some “backlogs” on these.


Starstruck on Starbuck

February 19th, 2013

No pics to speak of, sorry. But we kept the flame burning today, as five hardy souls marched in to Starbuck Mountain to climb ice. We split into 3 groups and each took one of the threesome of easy slab routes that sit up in the broad gully that separates Starbuck Left from Starbuck Central. These were all “gimmies,” admittedly; and none were outstanding.

I had the opportunity to hike to the top of the ridge. There are tendrils of ice here and there, but nothing notable enough to warrant the steep terrain to reach it. The view is nice, with open vistas to the southwest, west, and northwest. In better ice conditions – perhaps a low-snow, early January day – it might be nice to climb a line below, then link up to some of the better bits and pieces to finish with the vista from the ridgetop for an “alpine” climb.

Returning to my friends, they had shared TRs and were packing up to move along. We all headed toward Starbuck Left to see what was left to snag. Tom grabbed a chance to climb the short, steep ice route left of Ben’s first ice lead. I wandered over to the main slabs, which were a couple hundred meters farther along. These slabs form the right side of the main climbing of Starbuck Left. They had been fully covered with ice on our first-ever visit, but were now mostly open, wet rock. We’ll have to get to these early next season.

However, there was one line that looked feasible yet. A ribbon of ice clung to the slab, sheltered somewhat by the left-facing corner system it hugged as it curled upward to a final fat headwall, where the thick ice ran up just right of a gigantic hanging block at the top of the cliff. I set up to rope-solo this line, and had made it past the headwall when Todd and Tom arrived and offered a real belay. Good thing, too: the exit moves were tricky. But there is now a 160′ WI 3+ here. I just gotta name it!

Finally, we rappelled part way down the cliff to climber’s right of the new route, and TR’d a slab with a longer vertical headwall. That was a hoot. We each chose different paths to reach the headwall, because the slab at the start directly below was ice-free. Todd took the sensible approach, up a brushy iced corner/crack to reach the real ice. Tom wandered way right and climbed a short vertical ice wall. I dry-tooled my way up to the ice, using a crack beneath an overlap.

My goal for the day was mapping the currently-done routes on Starbuck. I did not succeed at doing this. But we did have fun, and put up a couple great routes having it.