A Day on Coney

Ra and I spent the Fourth of July wandering off-trail on Coney Mountain. Robin and I discovered this little mountain’s incredible scenery a couple years ago, and I’ve since brought some climbing buddies to explore its technical potential. We’ve been up the mountain this year already, hiking to the top with one of our daughters on a cloud-shrouded, damp day. This day’s foray was in some ways a make-up for our weather-blocked plans of that day, and also another stab at finding decent rock climbing there.

Robin making her way up pitch one of our Independence Day Route.

Robin making her way up pitch one of our Independence Day Route.

What we found reinforces our overall perception of Coney for rock climbing: don’t expect a lot. From a distance, the mountain’s flanks do look appealing. They turn out to be heavily vegetated, dirty, and low-angled. All this negativity however, is undeserved. Come with an attitude of adventure, the right equipment, and expectations more in tune with the character of the place, and Coney offers a delightful day out.

Being a holiday, the trailhead parking lot was filled, with a dozen cars overspilled on the side of Route 30. We added ours to the roadside and began by hiking up the trail, which spirals up and around Coney for about a mile before reaching the top. We broke off after less than ten minutes, bushwhacking up a moderate slope. I’d done a similar off-trail excursion during our earlier visit, and seen a steep-looking cliff off to my left, so we headed that way, hoping to find it.

Ra suits up at the base of the slab.

Ra suits up at the base of the slab.

The current heat wave made it a sweaty endeavor as the angle and brush density increased, but within fifteen minutes, we’d sighted our destination. This looked better than the slab I’d found with my climbing partners a couple years ago: steeper, larger, and taller. It was however, plenty dirty. I could see, about 50m to our right, a line of pines that looked like the ones I’d slithered up in the wetness several weeks earlier, so I’m pretty sure this was the slab I’d seen then.

I led out, clipping the rope to a high tree branch in order to keep it off the shingles of loose rock lying near the start of our route. Down low, the slab was carpeted in moss and lichen; I opted to clamber up a dirty groove rather than ply the unprotectable low end of it. Moving up and trending rightward, I crossed a screen of brush to a left-facing corner, plugged in a cam, and followed the corner upward. At almost any point, I could’ve escaped to one side or the other, but being dry, the lichen-encrusted rock was secure enough to stay on it, and following left-facing corners and flakes, I had ample opportunity to place gear.

Robin finishes our climb at the wooden cross that lies a short way below the summit.

Robin finishes our climb at the wooden cross that lies a short way below the summit.

I had to run the rope to its end, reaching a good-size spruce at nearly 60m. Robin came up without much difficulty, even with a light pack. She led the last 20m, ending up at the large wooden cross that stands within view of Route 30 to the north.

At the top of our route, with a view to the north toward Tupper Lake.

At the top of our route, with a view to the north toward Tupper Lake.

What Coney truly offers is a magnificent view for a very minor investment of effort, and Robin and I took plenty of time to enjoy the transaction. There are plenty of easy summits in the Adirondacks, but I’ve not seen one with a matching panorama. I had to descend to grab my pack and other gear left below, while Ra walked to the summit.

Mini Panorama links to a larger image.

Mini Panorama links to a larger image.

Once I got back down to the bottom, I decided to climb up a different way. The slab to the left of our line appeared a bit more open and clean, and I found it easy enough to solo with my almost-empty pack on, but I did keep the klettershues on my feet. I would estimate both lines clock in around 5.2 or 5.3; a little harder than earlier climbs I’d done here.

These two routes join the two that Tom, Mike P., and I did a couple years ago. None of them warrant a trip to Coney for its climbing quality; rather, these offer an alternative route to the top for those capable of either soloing unkempt slabs or carrying in a light rope and rack in order to have a bit of adventure on an otherwise subdued little mountain. Come expecting a small quantity of adventure and you will have a great day.

Cropped View of the High Peaks from the summit

Cropped View of the High Peaks from the summit

 

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