Adirondacks, NY

August 30 - September 13, 2008

The Adirondacks, home of some of the oldest exposed rock on earth, are our first stop on the East coast. We spend two weeks climbing here and visit several cliffs.

Pitchoff Chimney Cliff is our first stop. It offers limited but good roadside multi-pitch climbing (3 pitches). "Pete's Farewell" is the most popular line on the wall, but "The El" (5.8) with its 60-feet horizontal traverse should not be missed.

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Arriving in Lake Placid to climb in the Adirondacks, our first stop in the Northeast.
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Dowtown Lake Placid.
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Spending a couple of nights at a pull-out near Pitchoff Cliff.
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Lucie leading Pete's Farewell, one of two good moderates at Pitchoff.
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Pitch 3 is the best pitch of the route.

For harder crack climbing, head to Spider's Web. You'll find steep single-pitch splitter cracks on perfect rock.

As expected, we have a lot of trouble finding a spot to park the bus. There is a free DEC campground near Chapel's Pound (and very close to Spider's Web), but it's mostly for tents. The biggest vehicle you could fit in there would be a small campervan (e.g. VW bus). After a fair amount of time spent looking around for free camping options, we end up parking at a roadside pullout at Cascades Pass, near Pitchoff Chimney, for a couple of nights. We then move the bus to a completely empty trailhead parking area by the small airstrip near Keene Valley, convenient to Spider's Web and Upper Washbowl Cliffs, as well as the very well stocked local climbing shop: The Mountaineer.

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Spider's Web is your best bet for steep crack climbing on perfect rock.
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Eric starting "On The Loose" (10a).
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Keene Valley's very well stocked climbing shop: "The Mountaineer".
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A good spot for the bus - or so we thought - on city land, near the small airsrtip.
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Barkeater Cliff is another pleasant crag with nice moderates. Lucie on "Fun City" (5.7).

From there, we visit "Barkeater Cliff", a small and shady crag with nice moderates, such as "Fun City" (5.7), "Mr Clean" (5.9) and the sandbagged "Eat Yourself a Pie" (5.8+). We also make a one-day trip to the much larger and more famous Poke-O-Moonshine cliff. It is so hot and humid that day that we call it a day after climbing "Bloody Mary" (5.9+).

After we drive back to the bus that evening, we have a bit of a confrontation with some locals. A couple emerges from the trail (restricted to pedestrians) behind the bus on an ATV (!), and starts looking at the bus and our license plates with a bit too much interest. They come back three times, before Eric goes out to ask them what they're up to. They claim to have been concerned about us being stuck, or about break-ins in the neighbourhood, but it's clear that they just want us to leave. Eric talks with them at some length and tries to appease them. They leave, claiming all is fine. As soon as Eric is back in the bus, someone knocks at the door… it's a direct neighbour (his house is right next to the parking area). He's actually here to express his sympathy, and curious about what the other two wanted. He claims they grow some greenery (ahem...) in the woods and are paranoid about people nosing around. An hour later, a State Trooper shows up…he says he's responding to a phone complaint. He doesn't seem to personally care that we're there, but has no choice but to ask us to leave. He lets us finish the night, but expects us out by the end of tomorrow. We're both on edge, then spend the evening listening to NPR coverage of the Republican convention, which doesn't help improve our state of mind… so many lies. Hard to sleep very well after all this.

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The slightly run-out and sandbagged "Eat Yourself a Pie" (5.8+).
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We climb at Poke-O-Moonshine only once. Very noisy place just above an interstate highway...
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It is so hot and humid that we call it a day after climbing Bloody Mary (5.9+, 2p).
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Interesting house in Keene Valley.
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Good food always seems to bring our spirits up.

Being kicked out of this place is the beginning of a trend in the Northeast. We're missing the West already! The next morning, we drive the bus back to the pullout near Pitchoff Chimney, then spend most of the day looking for another option. Eric goes to the Mountaineer in Keene and chats with one of the employees. It turns out he's noticed us since our first night at Cascades Pass. We discuss options for the bus for quite some time and come up with a few. We spend the rest of the day making a loop through Upper Jay, Whiteface ski area, and the Fairgounds in Lake placid to check them out. The ACC hut in Upper Jay looks cozy, but the access road is too steep for the bus. We check out the parking lots at the ski area, and at least one of them looks doable. We then stop at the gigantic fairgrounds in Lake Placid and spot a good place way in the back, away from the buildings and any activity. We decide to try our luck and ask. We find the grounds manager and Bingo! He agrees to let us hide back there for as long as we like, if we keep a low profile! Back at the bus, we find Pitchoff Chimney wall in the shade… it's 4 PM, we have enough time to climb "The El", an interesting 5.8 route that traverses horizontally for nearly a full pitch, before shooting straight up a splitter crack for the next. We park the bus at the fairgrounds that evening.

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Lucie leading the long traverse on "The El".
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The lack of public land drives us to the strangest places. Camping at the fairgrounds in Lake Placid.
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We even have a good view of the 1932 Olympic Flame (or was it from the 1980 games? Cannot remember).
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Lucie on the first pitch of "Hesitation", Upper Washbowl Cliff.
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View from the top of the Washbowl.

It's sunny and hot again the next day. We drive to near the Whiteface Ski Area, hoping to climb one of the only North-facing routes that looks good on paper: "Route of Oppressive Power" (10b, 3p). We make the short, steep hike up to the rock… only to be instantly disgusted by the looks of the route. Sure, the squeeze and hand crack above look OK, but the short first pitch meanders through trees to avoid moss and water, only to land you on a slimy ledge at the base of the only real pitch. It's obvious that noone goes beyond p2, as there are bushes in the crack (and no anchor at the top). It looks even worse than most of what we've seen in NZ! The rope does not leave the pack.

After a couple of rainy days, we go climb at Upper Washbowl Cliff. We climb the two moderate routes recommended in the "Selected Climbs in the Northeast": "Hesitation" (5.8, 4p) and "Partition" (5.9).

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Another great pitch at Washbowl: "Partition" (5.9).
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Views of the olympic ski jumps from our improvised campsite at the Lake Placid fairgrounds.
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The trailhead for Moss Cliff.
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The tyrolean traverse makes it a unusual destination.
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The climbing is not too bad either, tough certainly not stellar. Lucie following pitch 2 of "Hard Times".

Moss Cliff is the last cliff we visit before leaving for Vermont to pick up my Mom who is flying from France for a short visit. We climb "Hard Times" (5.9+, 4p). The climbing is not bad, but the tyrolean traverse across the river is the highlight of the trip.

Guidebook: "Selected Climbs in The Northeast" by Peter Lewis ans Dave Horowitz has a good selection of the best routes in the area (and, frankly, most of the worthwhile ones). For an extended visit, buy the latest and greatest: "Adirondack Rock" by Jim Lawyer and Jeremy Haas. "The Mountaineer", the climbing store in Keene Valley should have it.