Upper Washbowl Cliff and Spider's Web

September 2008 / Hesitation (5.8, 4p) and Partition (5.8) & several pitches at Spider's Web, trad.

Spider's Web and the Upper Washbowl are two of several crags located in the Chapel Pond Pass area, along highway 73, between Lake Placid and Keene. Upper Washbowl sits high directly above Chapel Pond and features a couple of wortwhile multi-pitch routes. Spider's Web is a smaller cliff not far to the NW which features an amazing concentration (unequaled in the Northeast) of difficult, steep, single-pitch crack routes.

Upper Washbowl Cliff :

The Upper Washbowl Cliff offers a couple of good multi-pitch moderates: "Hesitation" and "Partition", as well as harder routes.

We leave in no hurry; we are worried that the rock may still be wet from the last two days of rain. We drive to Chapel Pond to take a look at the cliff. We don't feel too motivated, but after noticing other climbers on the cliff, we decide to go for it. It's almost noon. We make the short (20 minutes) but steep hike to the wall. Finding no one on "Hesitation" (5.8, 4p), we decide to start with that. It's supposed to be a Dacks classic. Even with today's lower temperature, we sweat profusely on the approach. The humidity level has not dropped at all.

We take our time to get ready and dry a bit. I'm having a high gravity day, and find myself hesitate (ha!) a lot on the wide crack. Eric gets impatient and we end up having a typical wife and husband moment... To make things worse, another party arrives at the base. Eric tells me to shut up and climb already. I finally get myself together. The pitch is not that hard, at least until some wicked moves a few feet below the roofs, at a dirty section of flared crack. Despite my whining, I make it fine and belay Eric up.

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The Uper Washbowl Cliff offers a couple of good multi-pitch moderates: "Hesitation" and "Partition".
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Lucie starting the first pitch of "Hesitation" (5.8).
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Turning the small roof is the crux.
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Views from the belay atop pitch 1.
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Eric leading the traverse pitch (5.7 PG).

The next pitch is runout (5.7PG, 5.5R) and I gladly leave it to Eric to speed things up and put some distance between us and the other climbing party. It's a horizontal traverse from the belay (some pro) to the end of the roofs. One tricky move up the overhang (tiny pro, not that good), then a solo up 5.5 face to a good ledge and anchor.

I take back the lead. The third pitch is mostly easy, not the cleanest, and brings you to the base of an obvious dihedral.

The last pitch is what you came for: a clean corner, with a section of chimney, a good crack, and good edges on the right face.

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Pitch 3 (5.5) is easy but a bit dirty.
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Pitch 4 (5.6) is the best pitch on the route.
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A steep and clean corner.
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Views from the top of the Washbowl.
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"Partition" is the clean, dark dihedral in the center of the photo.

I top out and bring Eric up. We unrope and change into approach shoes. We start the walk off but decide to look for the "Partition" rappel (reputedly hard to find)… and find it. So we rap off that pitch (the striking black dihedral that is obvious from the road) onto the large sloping ledge below. The pitch looks pretty striking. Now that we're here, we gotta climb it (approaching this from below is done via the first pitch of the Wiesner route, an uninteresting 5.5 ramp).

I re-rack and start climbing. Challenging climbing all along. Starts with a cruxy bulge with thin hand cracks. Then a long stretch of straightforward yet sustained dihedral with thin hand crack again (pro is mostly green and red Camalots, not hand size). This leads to a small roof and the infamous squeeze above it. I have trouble here. Getting up the squeeze is really awkward, and the pro is difficult to place, in small cracks at the back of the slot. I take a short fall, then hang a few times, between attempts at placing higher pro (needed because of the small ledge/ramp below and the committing moves above). I finally manage to get a green Alien placed behind a flake, high in the pod. Once committed, I pull the moves just fine (severely steep face moves off good holds to the lower angle crack above). I would call this 5.9, and the squeeze moves are hard too.

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Lucie leading the classic corner of "Partition" (5.8).
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Below the squeeze.
     

Eric leaves the pack at the anchor on the ledge and follows. We then rap back to the ledge, pick up the pack and the anchor, and continue to the rap tree at the edge. We make the second rap to the ground, after trying to plug the pinch crack below with a twig… there's another flared pinch to the right we cannot do anything about. We'll see. I rap down, pulling the knot past the edge. Unfortunately, I leave the rope running to the right of the flared pinch, instead of the natural place between the two pinches. As soon as Eric starts pulling, the ropes immediately slips into the pinch, and jams. The guidebook warns about this, and they're right. Eric can pull the knot back up, but not down. The pull rope is on top of the other and the tension of the pull gets them both pinched into the flare. He tries to flick it a few times but it's hopeless. We have a good bit of rope on the ground (the rap is about 120'), so Eric ties into one of them and starts leading up. Somewhat dirty but not all that bad 5.7/5.8 climbing or so. About 2/3 of the way up, and almost out of rope, he decides to try and flick the ropes out again. Much closer now, he gets them out first try, then pulls them down and threads one of them through an existing sling around a tree 6' to his right. He raps off this and removes his pro. We walk back to the base of Hesitation, pack up quickly, and leave.

Spider's Web :

For steep, hard crack climbing, head to Spider's Web. This small cliff is very close to the Upper Washbowl Cliff and has the best single-pitch crack climbs in the Dacks, and perhaps the highest concentration of such routes in the Northeast. The climbs here dry very quickly as the cliff faces South and is exposed to the wind.

We visited Spider's Web twice. On the first visit, we climbed "Slim Pickins", a beautiful, thin 5.9+ corner. Great climbing, quite technical, and not pumpy at all. It helps to be tall in order to get the best pro: many placements are almost out of reach far above good stances. If you're tall, you can just slip a cam in on your toes then go for it. Shorter people may have to place while pulling some harder moves. Next to "Slim Pickins" is another great climb: "Esthesia", a steep 5.10a crack with a wide crux. Loved this one too. Pure crack climbing and good pro all the way.

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Spider's Web boasts some of the best pure crack climbing in the Dacks.
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Eric on the classic dihedral of "Slim Pickins" (5.9+).
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On "Esthesia" (5.10a), another great crack immediately left of "Slim Pickins".
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Climber on the classic "Drop, Fly or Die" (11a).
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Eric leading "TR", a steep and pumpy 10a.

On our second visit, the rock was a bit wet in spots. We started with "TR" (10a). Not the best warm up… steep and unrelenting. We then climbed "On The Loose" (10a). A bit easier than "TR", but steeper (overhangs 5 ft in 90ft). Good hand jams all the way. We finished with "Dacker Cracker", a short but spicy 10c at the left edge of the cliff. We did not feel strong enough to attempt "Drop, Fly or Die" (11a), but it should not be missed if you're up to it!

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Never seen such a colourful lizard before.
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Eric leading "On the Loose" (10a).
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Higher on "On The Loose".
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You bet it's overhanging!
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Packing up at the base of "Dacker Cracker".