Cedar River’s Sugarloaf Mountain

In preparation for this year’s Southern Adirondack Rockclimbers’ Festival, we’ve been making sporadic visits to the town of Indian Lake, scoping out the nearby climbing areas – of which there are many. Much of the surrounding land in this region was acquired by the State from Finch-Pruyn in the past year or so; as such, there are dozens of crags previously off-limits to climbers that are now open and accessible. Sugarloaf is the premiere example of these.

Garth leading up the crux of pitch one.

Garth leading up the crux of pitch one.

It’s a long drive, but a relatively short twenty minute approach to the base of this mountain’s 450′ slabs. There are over a dozen routes here, most of them established either surreptitiously or under the mistaken belief that the cliff was public property, way back when (a few of them from the 1970s). We set our sights on a modified version of these oldies, an incredible route put up on lead solo by Tad Welch, and updated by him with the enthusiastic assistance of Jim Lawyer and Dave Buzzelli as the land entered public domain.

We stumbled on Sole Fusion this Spring, on our first inspection of Sugarloaf. After thrashing ourselves soundly on the hardest friction route I’ve ever attempted (fortunately it’s a TR), we wandered along the base of the cliff until we came upon a clean slab with a good-looking, decently-spaced column of fixed protection leading upward. Unable to resist, we’d climbed up 100′ of the line before running out of time. On this return visit, we were equipped with a route topo, description, and enough manpower – we hoped – to manage the entire route, including three pitches rated 5.10b or harder.

Tom leads up the starting pitch of Sole Fusion

Tom leads up the starting pitch of Sole Fusion

Tom was psyched to lead up our first pitch – which in our case is about two-thirds the length of Sole Fusion’s actual first pitch. Two of our group were here for top-roping, so we paused at 100′ to set a couple ropes before three of us continued the route.

Garth took part two, the first real meat of the route. At 5.10a, that upper section tested his frictional talents to the utmost, resulting in one toe-shorn shoe and loss of fingerprint on a finger or two. After a few attempts, Garth worked out the technique, and despite a toe showing through one shoe, climbed up to the official first pitch belay.

Tom was psyched to try the next pitch. Unfortunately, his footwear choice – a comfy pair of 25-year-old klettershue a size and a half too big for him – proved insufficient for the job. After a valiant effort, the reins returned to Garth. A few more of his shoe-eroding attempts yielded success. We were on our way.

Tom heads up pitch two.

Tom heads up pitch two.

That recipe would be repeated another pitch or so, until the angle eased enough to allow me an easy opportunity. With a 5.7 pitch ahead, I was happy to take the lead. Garth took the next, final pitch, a good 5.8, and we all reached the top. The view had opened up gradually en route, and it kept the best for last: as we topped out, the reservoir above the Cedar River’s Wakely Dam came into view. Gorgeous.

Garth nearing the top of the penultimate pitch of Sole Fusion

Garth nearing the top of the penultimate pitch of Sole Fusion

Sole Fusion is (IMHO) the best slab route in the Adirondacks. There are a few long runs on easy 5.8 terrain, and the cruxes aren’t always hang-dog comfy. Still, the fixed gear is well-placed and – unusual for Adirondack slabs – frequent enough to fend off the death tremors common to this genre. No fifty-foot runouts, no sketchy half-inserted brassies.You can pull this entire route with quickdraws and a small collection of cams. It will be one of the premiere lines for this year’s SAdkRF.

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