Sloggin’ and Scopin’

With winter hanging “claws-teeth-and spines” full on, I surrendered to the obvious and pulled the ice gear out of storage. I was reluctant – downright resistant – to going back to any of the established stuff here at home (Crane), on Starbuck or Black, but Mike Prince cajoled me into a trip up Route 28 for a look-see of Ledge Mountain. Adirondack Rock mentions the cliffs there, but doesn’t give the area high ratings. However, it is pretty close to the road, and with no mention of ice rats scouring the place, there was a chance it might have something new to play on. We did eventually find some, but the real story lies in the what we didn’t do – couldn’t do, because we didn’t bring rock shoes…

Ice cliff on Ledge Mountain

The ice wall, about 1 hr east of Rt. 28.

We parked at the Sawyer Mtn. trailhead, walked across Route 28 into the woods, and after crossing a snowmobile trail, began descending gently toward what the guidebook described as an awful conifer swamp. Before dropping into the dark depths there, however, we cut off a bit north, holding our elevation and eventually swinging onto the ridge without much trouble.

Boulder on Ledge Mtn.

Mike and Mammut pose with one of the boulders we passed.

Within 30 minutes, we were standing under the main cliffs of Ledge Mtn. There is some real potential here. The climbing possibilities build up as you go upslope, from boulders scattered along the hillside, to short ledges, to small faces that trend taller as you approach the uppermost tiers, which are over 100′ tall. It was impressive. The rock was pretty clean, and facing the sun, so they were dry enough to climb – if we had brought our rock shoes. A few possible mixed lines lured us toward them, but we had precious little in our rack: a few QDs, one long runner, some Tri-Cams and chocks. The only plausible ascents with that gear were scruffy gullies, of which there were a few, but rather than invest the time in that, we chose to continue onward. We had seen in the distance one more promontory, a conifer-topped knob, and wanted to see what vertiginous acreage might lie there.

The cliffs petered out, transformed into steep sidehills with the occasional ravine cutting into the slope. We traipsed along with our focus on reaching the knob, when one of the ravines proved to have an upper hollow where a hidden wall of ice lay. It wasn’t tall, but then we only had 2 ice screws. It was fat enough to gear up for, so we did just that.

 ledgemtnice02

It turned out to be a nice, 45′ tall grade 3 route, although frightfully hollow at the base and pretty much bare rock at the top. In between, plenty of fat ice, enough for my one 19cm screw even; though I doubt it would have held a fall.

Our climbing hunger sated, we packed up and moved on. It wasn’t much farther and we came to the knob. Capped by spruce or balsams, there were specks of open rock among the green, but those trees were growing willy-nilly almost everywhere, including the near-vertical sides of the knob. We noticed a very steep cliff at the base of the knob, but chose to walk around its north side to check for higher, drier possibilities.

We had to ascend quite a bit as we continued east, but never did find any cliffs there. Eventually, we decided to cut south, check out that side, and begin heading back. We climbed to the top of the ridge and began descending the opposite slope, when to our surprize, the side of the mountain fell away suddenly. We stood on the verge of a 100+’ tall cliff, with a 140′ rope. And a dog. We headed east some more, realizing by now that it would mean more terrain to cover on the way out. At least down there, far below, we saw open terrain, an ice-covered beaver vly. Just a bit farther east was Rock Pond. I figured we were 2 1/2 miles into the trip by now, and would have to cover that much or more to get back to the car.

Two weary bushwhackers finally dragged themselves out of the woods 2 hours later, accompanied by one perennially-peppy dog. It was a long hike, a short ice climb, and a great fun day to explore.

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