Return to Pitchoff Right

The funky winter seesaw made a mess of Southern Adirondack Ice this season, so after a grand day of rock climbing at the Jammer Wall – the second day I’ve been doing just that, there, this February – I put the tools away and looked forward to sunshine and warm stone.

On this first day of ice climbing, Max tries out some dry-tooling and ice overhang climbing

Max tackles his first ice climb.

Just in time for a last-gasp roaring reentry to winter as March arrived. Certainly befitting its legendary modus operandi, the mercury would plummet once more before surrendering (if indeed it truly has) to the warming influence of spring. With the whispers of that cold snap just beginning, I found myself heading once more for the old haunt of Pitchoff Right. I’d avoided the KV/LP ice the entire season previous to this trip, having had a schedule that either aligned too closely to the many thaws or frigid days we experienced this season to bother with the ride and risk of the trip. But Steve was up for another short stay, itching to get on ice. With nothing in the southern reaches of the Park in good shape, and since another friend was heading up there, he picked me up and raced northward.

Arriving first, to an empty flow – imagine that, Pitchoff Right, empty! – we set up the longest flow of ice, lying between the two overhangs. Evidence of extensive thawing, runoff channels, and general withering of the ice accumulation was obvious, yet there was plenty left to play on. We each ran two laps on this line, varying our route to make it a bit harder as we did so.

Steve’s friend Pete arrived, with Max, a first-timer, in tow. We were satisfied with the laps on our rope, so grabbed another from Pete and handed our ends to them. We set up on the good flow just right of the rightmost overhang and took two runs on that while Pete introduced Max to the pain and pleasures of the sport to our left.

Steve solves the right edge of the overhang, stemming the ice arch

Steve solves the right edge of the overhang, stemming the ice arch

We had time to redirect the new rope to allow climbing through some overhanging tortoise-shells and the extreme right edge of the rock overhang itself, before Max and Pete finished their runs on the original line. With that, Pete shifted the rope to a position just left of us, draping down the right half of the overhang, so we could tackle a bit of dry-tooling and ice overhang climbing.

This is a little more ridiculous! Peeking out from the larger bit of overhang

This is a little more ridiculous! Peeking out from the larger bit of overhang

All of us took a swing at that opportunity, including Max. That proved plenty enough to exhaust the newbie, me, and to satisfy the energetic Pete and Steve. The weather, which had been windy but mild when we arrived, was turning decidedly uncongenial. The wind was still whipping, but the temperature had lowered gradually throughout the day. It was time to go home.

Throw the acolyte into the fire! Or the rock and ice, in this case. Max gets his first taste of dry-tooling and serious ice overhang climbing

Throw the acolyte into the fire! Or the rock and ice, in this case. Max gets his first taste of dry-tooling and serious ice overhang climbing

With its higher mountains, greater drainage, and colder weather, this region supports and sustains more ice longer than we flatlanders can ever hope to have. It’s a harsh reality that, while the Southern Adirondacks offers a good alternative to the crowded venues of the KV/LP region in a good year, a bad season such as this one mandates a trip up here.

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