With three trips to Nameless Knob, two with several unsuspecting
victims friends, we now have enough ice routes to offer up this miniguide.
Situated between the East Branch of the Sacandaga River (to its west) and Eleventh Mountain (to its east), this small mountain provides a brief glimpse of open rock to climbers as they weave recklessly along Route 8, peering at the slopes around them on their way to better-known climbing destinations. There doesn’t appear to be much, and in fact there isn’t a lot: the cliffs on this mountain tend to be broken, chossy, and short. However, its conifer-crowned ridges do offer some decent ice climbing potential on their steep south and west-facing flanks. The same characters that make the rock undesirable for summertime ascents allow meltwater to run down the slopes and freeze in protected chimneys, cracks, and alcoves, providing decent ice when other nearby areas are sunbaked and unbonded.
A topo map shows the mountain’s west side dropping steeply into the river; I explored there early in February 2012, walking up past Square Falls before cutting northeast upslope to the summit plateau. I didn’t see any viable ice climbs: the ground was completely covered in ice, but never steep enough or long enough to call it technical. Once on the summit, I turned east to reach one of those ridges, and began descending southward along its base. Here, I soon found passable ice. I walked the ravine all the way down that day, taking several side trips along branching gullies to find more possibilities. A couple days later, friends joined in on the exploration, and within the span of a week, eight lines were led, and a handful more were top-roped.
While none of the routes ranks as Adirondack classics, several are good, aesthetic lines. A competent party could do all of them in a day, with plenty of time to enjoy the vista at the summit and ponder the possibilities visible across the river. Approach time ranges from fifteen minutes for the closest flows to forty-five for those near the summit. The bulk of routes are clustered near the top of the mountain, with the remainder scattered along drainages to the south.
Nameless Knob lies just north off NYS Route 8, east of the Fox Lair camping area and west of the town of Baker’s Mills. If you are coming from the west, “you can’t get here from there” – unless you know your way around the Adirondacks very, very well. If you are unfamiliar with the desolate, rough roads of the Adirondack backcountry, you may want to stick with those “better-known” venues. If you are familiar with the Fox Lair Campsites along the river, the easternmost (technically, northernmost) parking lot is the starting point for most of the ice climbs.
For those coming from the south, north or east:
Take the NYS Northway (I-87 north of Albany) to exit 25, Chestertown. Head south on Route 8, passing through several towns (Chestertown, Loon Lake, Riparius, Wevertown, Johnsburg, and Baker’s Mills), driving about 20 miles (estimate). Pass the Siamese Ponds trailhead, descending gently for a mile or so, passing the Kibby Pond trailhead as well. At the base of the hill, a large parking area on the right is the place to park for most of the ice climbs here.
At the eastern end of the parking lot, a tote road heads north, soon dwindling to a foot trail, which crosses a brook before coming to and running alongside the Sacandaga River. Follow this trail for about fifteen minutes, until you can see ice flows to your right, about 200′ away. These are the Riverside Flows. From these, you can walk up the ravine to higher areas.
Nameless Left WI3+ 55′
The left fork of the main ice flow begins steeply, then becomes nearly flat before passing through another steep step.
FA: Thomas Lane & Jay Harrison 2/15/2012
Nameless Right WI2+ 55′
The fattest part of the flow is enjoyable and consistent at its grade.
FA: Jay Harrison 2/10/2012
Follow the gully leading upward from the base of the Riverside Area ice to a wide bench, where a small ravine branches off to the northwest, and another ravine lies hidden on the other side of a small ridge to the east. The Highside Area is straight up past this as one continues toward the summit plateau.
The largest concentration of climbs is here. Higher up, there may be more, easier lines during good seasons.
Triple Play WI 3 to 4- 30′
Below the main Highside flows is a short flow with 3 options leading to the level bench where the majority of climbs are. The left side (WI 4-) was climbed by Lukasz Czyz and Valerie Bachinsky 2/15/2012; the central line (WI 3+) was climbed by Tom Lane and me on the same day. The right option has yet to be climbed, but appears to be about the same difficulty as the center one.
Above the previous routes is a level area below a sheer cliff with the most attractive flow done to date.
Fox Lair M3 WI3 60′
Start at the head-height overhang with a crack leading up from its right corner and a chossy chimney rising up from its left.
Climb through the overhang, step left into the chimney, go up and around a corner to reach a narrow band of ice leading to the top.
FA: Jay Harrison & Valerie Bachinsky 2/15/2012
Square Falls M5 TR 65′
Start at a 6′ tall, tiny left-facing corner. This route may be easier in a good year, if the face ices up.
Climb corner, make a hard move up and right, then several more tricky moves to reach a narrow band of ice leading to the top of the cliff.
Quaerite… WI3+ 65′
This is the largest flow on this face, and the highest quality route on Nameless Knob so far.
Climb up left of center to the final steep curtain.
The right side, Tarnation WI 4 TR, is an excellent climb as well. To date, it has not been led.
FA: Jay Harrison, Mike Prince, & Garth Briscoe 2/14/2012
John Doe WI 3 35′
40′ right of Quaerite is an ice-stuffed chimney.
FA: Jay Harrison & Thomas Lane 2/15/2012
Ribbon Candy M4 WI4 TR 30′
Climb the outside corner 25′ right of John Doe to thin ice over rock.
HIDDEN RAVINE AREA
This ravine is to the east of the main access line; it can be reached by walking over the small ridge that hides it (the conifer-capped top of the ridge is obvious; its ice flows are farther downslope), then down to the climbs. Note that this ravine leads close to the last route listed; if one starts climbing on this, a walk west and an easy rappel (or trickier downclimb) will reach it.
There is more potential here, but this area faces south, so it receives the most solar radiation; at the time of our first exploration, the only line in good enough shape to tackle was Invenietis.
Invenietis WI4 60′
This narrow band of ice runs up an open book, with an overhanging face to its left and an offwidth crack to its right. Begin on the ice slab below.
FA: Jay Harrison, Garth Briscoe, & Mike Prince 2/14/2012
HIDDEN HOLLOW AREA
Currently, there is only one route here. There is room for perhaps one more to its left.
Reach this area by either descending the Hidden Ravine about two hundred yards below Invenietis, then climbing over the ridge eastward, or from Route 8 by parking at the Kibby Pond trailhead and walking northwest along the slope, passing a cluster of short rock buttresses along the way. From this parking area, the approach should take about twenty minutes.
Incognito WI3 55′
Climb the fattest portion of the flow. To the left, a harder, but stepped line is possible.
FA: Jay Harrison, Mike Prince, & Garth Briscoe 2/14/2012