Ragged Mountain Rerun

View of Ragged Mountain from the west.

View of Ragged Mountain from the west.

Last Spring, Tom, Robin, and I took a walk south of Route 73 to look at some open rock I’d spied with the help of now-ubiquitous Web-based satellite mapping systems; these particular ones on Ragged Mountain. There are several such labeled lumps of stone in the Adirondacks; this specific one lies along the Short-Swing Trail as it curls around a large swamp and the side of the ridge where I’d seen the crag from my virtual perch in LEO. That day, our exploration detoured onto Bear Mountain, a lovely summit to be sure, but a total derailment of my original objective. We did spot cliffs up along Ragged’s western ridge, but from a distance, too far to judge their potential climbing value. We were by then too tired to go up and look. With the near-total lack of snow, and fluctuating mercury this winter, I laid plans to remedy that lack during Presidents’ Week.

We’d already gone through several warm/thaw episodes; I set out the day after one of them. On the trail lay a crust of ice under an inch of snow, in spots crunchy-secure, others slick as a greased pig. Micro-spikes made the going possible, an accoutrement I would recommend on any outing this winter.

Map, courtesy TOPO! software, of Ragged Mountain approach and traverse

Map, courtesy TOPO! software, of Ragged Mountain approach and traverse

It’s a mile-plus walk to the shady, damp hollow lying at the western base of Ragged’s ridgeline, but not particularly difficult; the ups and downs are limited and mellow. I knew where to turn based on a junction with a trail leading to private property, the Pyramid Life Center; very shortly after passing by that turn, the trail dips onto the edge of a marsh. Cutting east up the steep slope here, I began a slanting ascent of Ragged, staying low enough to reach the base of cliffs seen months ago.

I passed near a boulder large enough for the crashpad crowd to utilize, and from the looks of it, interesting enough to do so. A few more lay scattered below and east of me, though I could not discern whether they would be sufficient additions to bouldering possibilities here. My real aim lay above them, farther up the steep talus slope.

Typical view of the cliffs along Ragged Mountain's SSW flank

Typical view of the cliffs along Ragged Mountain’s SSW flank

I made steady progress, though in summer I suspect this would be an ankle-thrashing route; the previous day’s rain coupled with the ensuing freeze locked the abundant blocks into place, and microspikes made the icy spots easy. Soon, I passed beneath the first ice flow I’d spied, a squat 2 meter affair with nothing above it warranting investigation. The rock was moderate slab, rendered impossible by frequent swatches of verglas and ice-encrusted moss. Above, overhangs hid higher ground. I suspected that perhaps I was too low; that perhaps the cliffs we’d spied ten months earlier lay above me. But other indications pointed to possible cliffs ahead and below me as well, so I struck off eastward along the base of the ragged, ambiguous cliff above me. Nothing in this vicinity begged a return, but farther along looked promising.

This area has few cracks, but is very steep, 70 - 100' tall, and might have some hard sport route potential.

This area has few cracks, but is very steep, 70 – 100′ tall, and might have some hard sport route potential.

I can’t say I found a hidden gem – I can’t even say I found something worth returning to – the cliffs I finally did find were tall enough, steep enough, and possibly useful for climbing, but the local rock yields little for traditional protection. Like most other cliffs in the Lake George/Champlain region, the cliffs have few dependable cracks, and a fair amount of choss and dirt. Potential for some hard sport climbs exists, particularly at one spot on the eastern side of the largest promontory I passed under. But in the entire traverse of the cliff base, I saw only one route I thought might offer feasible trad gear at the start, and for that one I could not see if the gear held out past a low overhang.

The only crack-protected start I found in reasonably solid rock. Unsure what lies higher up.

The only crack-protected start I found in reasonably solid rock. Unsure what lies higher up.

I did not manage a side trip down to the lower possible cliffs. Between it and me lay a mossy slab steep enough to be dangerous, especially in the slick conditions that day. A fat blob of white marked the end of the slab, so there may be a climbable ice flow below. Of that medium, I saw a few short tendrils hanging on the cliff above me, but the weather had either exacted a heavy toll on them or they were never adequate to begin with.

Looking down a chute that may ice up, though in these conditions there is nothing.

Looking down a chute that may ice up, though in these conditions there is nothing.

My walk took me all the way across the base of the cliff. From the far end, I scrambled up to the summit ridge and worked my way back west, weaving back and forth as I did so to look off both sides. The north slope is steep, but holds nothing for a climber. From the top, I saw a lot of cliff, all of it draped in abundant crud and choss. Perhaps there’s a classic climbing route here, but its disguise defeated discovery. Still, there are hints of promise: attractive buttresses, ribs, and faces, with here and there a large overhang intervening. This outing only assured me that climbing here will be a challenge, both to discover and then to uncover. On-sight climbing may be impossible, short of the easiest lines.

Looking west from Ragged Mountain's summit ridge, toward Pyramid Lake

Looking west from Ragged Mountain’s summit ridge, toward Pyramid Lake

What Ragged Mountain does offer is a very pleasant hike to excellent views: of Pharaoh Mountain to the south, Pyramid Lake to the west, and here and there glimpses of far-off Gore and Crane Mountains. A spot or two allows northerly glimpses of the High Peaks, though for the most part that direction is obscured by trees.

Looking south from Ragged Mountain's summit ridge toward the north flank of Pharaoh Mountain

Looking south from Ragged Mountain’s summit ridge toward the north flank of Pharaoh Mountain

The ridge itself is easy to traverse, the woods on it open and inviting. Accessing the ridge is moderate to steep, weaving up ledges and ramps on the western end of Ragged, a bit north of where I’d ascended, prior to wrapping around to the mountain’s south flank This is the path I took on my descent, and it proved much easier than the traverse across the talus along the southern flank.

There are abundant small outcrops on the mountain which may perhaps offer some bouldering opportunities to go along with the boulder I saw, and maybe some more of those hidden in the woods along the base of Ragged’s southern face.

 

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