New Ice Area

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Oh yeah.

February is exploratory month: I try to use every weekend for scouting out new areas for possible white gold. It isn’t easy drumming up partners to endure the usual long approaches with questionable outcomes, but today both Ben and Mike were game. Mike and I had discussed a bunch of places, but when he suggested one that has long been on my list of “must-checks”, it was settled. Ben, relatively new to the ice game, was game to come along.

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Today, we hit the jackpot. Perhaps the most incredible boon is that the ice is within 20 minutes of the road. For the Southern Adirondacks, that’s almost unheard of close. But there’s also plenty of ice, a lot of it lying between grade 2 and 4- difficulty. This is an area on par with Chapel Pond Canyon for the number of parties who could climb here.

Downsides? Like most Southern Adirondack ice, it faces south. By this time of year, it is starting to get burned out; with the series of thaws we’ve had, many of these lines had fallen at least once. We could tell by the giant ice chunks lingering at their bases that many of the flows here had been much larger a month ago. And most of the climbs are short. We did seven routes (depending on what you count as a route), ranging between 60 and 120′ long, most in the 60 to 80′ range.

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A Corner on Every Starbucks, WI 3

We saw ice as soon as we hit the mountainside, but opted to walk to the far left end of the available ice before picking a climb. Very nearly the last good gasp of ice also looked the most welcoming, so we jumped on it. A large right-facing rock corner held a meter-wide ribbon of ice that appeared fat enough to hang on better than its sunburned neighbors, a few of which large parts were crashing off from while we climbed.

This first line was not well-bonded, but a few key cracks in the corner to my left allowed bomber gear in all but one tricky spot. The screws I placed there would probably not have held much more than body weight – if that. Still, it was an enjoyable route, and no doubt fatter in better conditions. It’s also steep enough to be largely free of snow cover, which is a good thing.

Before we left that area, we also climbed the easy staircase of ice that diverges left from our first line. This is just visible in the photo.

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Mike starting out on the FA of Fuzzy Kittens, WI 2. His line ran up
just right of the tree and continued diagonally up the fat ice.

Moving on, we came to a fat flow running down a slab left of another right-facing corner system, this one on lower-angled rock, forming a sort of gully. Mike opted to take the sharp end for this one, and was soon whooping it up as he met ice fat enough to sink 19cm screws easily. A short while later, and he belayed both of us up the 120′ pitch. Looking to the right, I think one could climb the gully at WI 1 or maybe 2-, but the fat ice Mike took was much more enjoyable, even with a raspberry briar or two at the topout.

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Curtain Call, WI 4-75′ 

Close to this route, I spied a tiered set up thinly-iced steps leading to a vertical curtain, and decided that would be worth a shot. Of course, it turned out to be much scarier up close than it had when we were comfortably distant from it, but we all managed to get up without a fall. It was easier than it looked, though still challenging.

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Ben on his first ice lead – and first ice FA

A bit farther right, a short, fat flow beckoned. Ben had never led ice before, but was well aware of the cardinal rule (Thou shalt not fall!), and knowing his prowess on rock, both Mike and I judged this flow a good starter. He had already shown himself capable with the ice screws, so we geared him up let him at it. I’d expected him to take the easiest path up, but Ben decided to run straight up the steepest drapery on this otherwise mild flow. It didn’t hurt, of course, that his 6’9″ reach allowed him to place a screw above the tallest step before making the move. Oh to be tall…

While he led that direct line, I soloed up the easiest bit to his right. Not sure whether this counts as an independent FA or an FAVariation, but it’s probably a rare event to have the easier line climbed after the direct one.

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Last Light, WI 3+, 90′

We were by now running low on daylight. While Mike cleaned Ben’s lead, I walked farther right to look over other possibilities. Like a kid in a candy shop, I had a hard time choosing. Fat flows, skinny threads, steep, easy…it seemed the farther I went the better things got. I’d already walked quite a ways from Ben and Mike, and finally decided I had to stop wandering and grab something. A fat, easy flow lay to my left, another flow, this one with a steep tier at its top, beckoned just a tiny bit farther right. I chose the latter.

It turned out to have some skinny ice to start, a large ledge below a first vertical step, and finally a couple great stances just below and beside that upper vertical bulge. The sun set as I topped out. Mike had soloed up the lower third, so he tied in and soon stood with me, snapping sunset shots with his iPhone. Ben came up almost as rapidly. After a few more photos, we rappelled to our packs, gathered our gear, switched headlamps on, and made the 20 minute trek back to Mike’s car.

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