New Southern Adk Crag

Tom Lane, loyal member of the Cadre of Crazy Route Finders, began telling me about a cliff he spied near his home in Day. He said it looked promising, and rose above the treetops, so it had to be tall enough to have something worth checking out. Looking at my handy map program, I could see that the cliffs were on state land, but that public access would be a tad long, involving a mile of trail, a mile and a half or so of bushwhacking, and a fair amount of elevation gain to boot. After acquiring permission to walk across a much closer parcel of private property, we decided to give it a look anyway.
This year’s snowpack required snowshoes for the initial quarter mile, but reaching the start of south-facing slopes, we chose to doff them and hop from clearing to clearing instead. Soon, we were walking easily on open ground – how good that felt! – and before long, we saw the steepened end of the ridge that was our destination. Here and there, a boulder dotted the gentle slope below it. Some of these would be worth playing on, but bouldering was not our main concern today. To our right, we could see outcrops; it definitely looked promising, but rather than leap in that direction, we chose to head west to make a thorough inspection of possibilities.

Tom inspects one of the westside outcrops. 

Sure enough, we soon found worthwhile climbing. As the ridge curled northward, several buttresses poked out, likely composed of harder rock than had once filled the intervening gullies. The outcrops all have possible lines, discontinuous crack systems and occasional rails that might yield both holds and pro. There is some choss to be dealt with, but in general the rock appears clean enough to make minimal prep work. None of them are tall, I estimated fifty feet at most, but there is enough to establish half a dozen decent lines.
Things appeared to taper off the farther north we walked, so after a quarter mile or so, we turned back to check the more likely side of the ridge. Rounding the south bend once again, we passed our initial approach, and walking past a wide section of easy slope, dropped into a hollow below a tall, impressive cliff; the crag Tom had first glimpsed. About a hundred feet wide and perhaps as tall, the middle of this cliff is barred by a large roof system. A network of seams runs through the obstacle, but unless there are a plethora of unseen holds up there, this is high-end climbing.

Tom stands at the base of the main wall. The roof is barely visible above him.

We chose to continue on for awhile, and found ourselves heading upward along a ramp. Soon we were on a gently-sloping bench on the east side of the ridge. As we walked north, the snowpack gradually accumulated, but signs of ice and rock ahead spurred us on regardless. We postholed through increasingly deep snow, slogging our way up toward some short ice flows on a cliff that is perhaps twenty-five feet tall. Three or four steep white curtains still clung to the rock, and between them a few corners looked interesting to climb, but they are too short to provide a real “destination” feel to this higher cliff band.

An easier stretch of postholing; earlier Tom was sinking over his knees.

The crystal-studded face of the smaller boulder. It’s about 15′ high.

We began plodding south, higher than we had come up, in order to look at some boulders. These are worth checking out. There are two main ones: a twelve to fifteen foot high one with a handcrack on the south side and a dihedral and crystal-studded face opposite is the smaller one. The other, probably thirty feet tall at its peak, has a lot of possibility, the most obvious being a chimney/offwidth on its northern side. As we passed over the ridge, we noted another cliff, possibly forty feet tall, to the south.

Hey Maw, Look what I found! 

We inadvertently walked too far west before dropping back down the ridge, but in little time we were back at our packs, sitting on warm rocks and enjoying the sunshine. Tom’s boots were filled with snow, so he chose to rest there while I scouted farther right below.

A nice, fifty foot dihedral lower along the ridge.

Traversing across and down the slope, I rounded a bend of scruffy cliff about forty feet tall, passed a wider, cleaner, but shorter cliff not far past that, then came to an attractive, fifty-foot high silvery-gray cliff with an appealing handcrack starting in a dihedral. This crag appeared to be the end of the line, but rounding another bend, I could see yet another outcrop farther below me, so there may be more yet to find here.
I turned back, intent on getting a climb or two in before calling it a day. Tom’s socks were drying in the breeze still, so we racked up and chose a line as close to the main wall as we dared attempt. It’s a steep, scruffy corner just right of the Big-Boy stuff, and it wasn’t at all certain to go.


Tom starts up our first route. 

Tom took the sharp end, working easily up the initial blocky groove to a right-facing corner where the going gets steep. It also got dirty. Employing a nut tool to extract mud from a crack, he sought protection for few stiff moves, stemmed up the initial bulge, slung a sapling along the way, then inched up farther, heading for a widening notch on the left. It was stiff going, I could tell, so when Tom suddenly lurched, a hold flying away from his hand and hurtling down to my left, I thought he might take a fall on that slung bush. But he clung to his other hold and managed the move without further incident, scrambling into the protection of that notch. The last twenty feet of low-angle face needed some cleaning before he could finish the route, so for awhile, dirt, sod, and the occasional rock crashed into the talus below, before he could signal off-belay.


The main wall: humanly possible?

I cleaned the gear, estimating about 5.8 for the crucial moves. This on outer edge of the really hard stuff! I imagine that face six feet to the left goes at a minimum of 5.10c; and the real midsection, well, if possible, only world-class climbers need apply.
At the top, we walked left about fifty feet to an oak tree situated close to the cliff edge and clearly on the other side of the roof area. Our rappel line made it down to the base with about ten feet to spare on either side, indicating the slightly taller midsection is over 100’ tall.
We took turns top-roping our rappel line, which, if one takes the easiest start, is 5.9+ or so, and would be worthwhile route as well.
It was getting late by the time we recovered our rope, and we were tired. Twenty minutes traipsing out of the woods in wet boots, searching for our snowshoes, then slogging out to the car was enough exercise remaining to make us both look forward to a hot shower and warm bed.

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