2016 Rock Season Recap

This is a post that sat in the Drafts pile for over a year.

Several places to review for 2016; sadly many of them are not-yet ready for disclosure. Expect changes in the next couple years to reveal what amounts to several years of activity.

Crane Mountain

This one won’t go down in the record books, at least not for Crane Mountain or me. It wasn’t a bad year, as things go, with a sprinkling of decent new routes, a lot of cleanup, and it seems, Crane’s continuing evolution into climbers’ consciousness as a bona fide Adirondack destination. But many projects remain uncompleted, and the nagging suspicion that 2017 will not provide ample opportunity to remedy that situation personally lends the past year’s efforts an air of unfulfilled frustration.

There are many things to be thankful for, and a few noteworthy, if not newsworthy, tasks accomplished.

Prominent among the good memories are the many new faces I met here on the mountain this year. As already noted, Crane seems to be getting more climber traffic each year, and increasingly, these climbers are strangers to me. This was not the case in the “old days”, when I introduced most comers to the mountain. I have a bevy of friends I’ve made here through those introductions, but now I find myself making new ones while passing through. These are not only friends of friends or indirect acquaintances; they are people who’ve heard about the mountain through the Guidebook or websites like Mountainproject.

A climber on the footwork-intensive route Action Steps

A climber on the footwork-intensive route Action Steps

The Upper Walls of the South Corner Cliffs have become a regular hangout for many climbers. If there is a place that ever seems crowded on Crane, it is here, where the Jammer Wall may see a dozen or more climbers on a Saturday or Sunday. While there is still room to work around a crowd like that, I’ve seen it even busier, and know that it does get a bit tight when the numbers push up to twenty.

Fortunately, there is room to expand, and as word gets out and things clean up more, no doubt any overflow will head toward the nearby options. The Amendment Wall is the closest, most obvious, and already most popular alternative. Since it sports some wonderful, long pitches, and is adjacent to the Jammer Wall, it acts more as an extension of it than a separate crag. Its original route, Second Amendment, shares the 150′ slab with an equally-good, slightly easier First Amendment, and its rightmost route, On the Fence, offers one of the best easy beginner’s route, or first-lead routes, of any in the Adirondacks.

Speaking of which, the prominent task accomplished in 2016 was a thorough cleaning of the Amendment Wall. Unbeknownst to many, three routes lay between the main slab and On the Fence, but all except one were done as ground-up, on-sight sends. Between them, I Don’t Want No Scrub was put up with just enough cleaning to make it tolerable (the FAer for this route moved away before he could finish the job, or maybe to avoid it; thus the route’s name!). This created a filthy, wide section of cliff where no one would go. That has largely been rectified, and now those three routes, including Solo, Gracias and Never Alone have seen some traffic. Indeed, the intense cleaning of nearby Solar Grace lends it a less-desperate air and invites more visitation. Also, a new variation to the start of Solo, Gracias allows a softer protection rating; albeit at a much higher difficulty (5.10a).

Another spillover option to crowds in that vicinity is the uppermost outcrop, the Ape X, or Animal Charm, Wall. While this crag is harder to reach (access involves either a class 3 scramble or climbing a route on the Jammer Wall first), and its venues are harder, anyone capable of climbing 5.8 will find plenty to do up there. While many of the routes could use a thorough scrubbing, all of them are manageable as is. And as is, they are an impressive bunch. One of the most overhanging 5.7s on Crane, Crack of Dawn’s third pitch, will get the adrenaline going. Crazy Lace, Gray-Harrison, and The Gash provide compelling 5.8 moves. Ape X  and Ambulance Chaser hand over some engrossing 5.9+ activity, while Animal Charm serves the 5.10 course. Chesty Puller, The Slash, and The Clash dish up 5.11 action, while SMASH! and STaT top off the banquet at 5.12 each.

That last route, STaT, is one of the major accomplishments of 2016. Kirby Girard took over this, a project Tom and I spent many fruitless hours flailing on (or more accurately, off) before surrendering it to the GP. Kirby spent as much time and more than we did before finally pulling off a clean send late in the season. Think your footwork is good? This route is the ultimate test. Rated at 5.12a, it awaits a second ascent.

Kirby cleaned up another little chore while in that vicinity, leading the rightward finish variation of Animal Farm on the Jammer Wall below. As far as I know, this 5.10c nibblet is the only new thing completed on that Wall in 2016. Not particularly surprising, as it is the most developed, most completely filled-in crag among the Upper Walls. Bring a couple micro-cams and save a .3 C4 for the crux – and be prepared for a tricky placement.

Selfie looking straight down On the Fence

Selfie looking straight down On the Fence

As with 2015, I spent a lot of time at the Waterfall Wall. While it is remote for climbers coming to the mountain via publicly accessible approaches, I can access it directly from home easier than any other crag on Crane; thus my predilection for going there. While none of the routes there compels climbers to make the pilgrimage, there are several that will at least nudge them in that direction. Another cleaning task, a major tidying of the large sloping ledge above the Right-Steep Side, opened up the short face beneath it for more routes. This face has a mix of natural (trad) protection possibilities and fixed gear on its newest lines, Wreck Me Baby and Seam Stress. Both are 5.10, somewhere in the a/b range; and both utilize anchors at/near the sloping ledge. There is more cliff above that, so like their neighbor, De-Hedral(5.8), second pitches may be possible, though they will surely be much more difficult.

Steve O works his way up De-Hedral. There are now two 5.10 routes immediately left of this one.

Steve O works his way up De-Hedral. There are now two 5.10 routes immediately left of this one.

The left side of the Waterfall Wall wasn’t entirely ignored either. I spent a short while working out a decent path up the entire slab, starting from about 120′ left of the cascade, weaving up scruffy, easy slabs to a ledge, climbing up a dirty vertical crack in the next slab, and finally linking the broken, mossy corner on the left side of the highest ledge with the finish of the original Scout About. The resulting Scrounge About provides an amusing way to run up the left side of that slab system. As its name suggests, expect that homey Crane touch of generous filth all along the way, a reminder of the way things once were.

About as difficult to reach from my house as it is from Crane Mountain’s trailhead, the Slanting Cracks Wall was also a frequent place to find me in 2016. I’ve had my hands full there, sussing out an old TR line to lead, and was nearly ready to go with both it and a parallel option, when circumstances intervened to halt my progress. Still, a couple things got done. I managed to clean up and send a short, easy line, #4 Crack, which at 35′ and 5.5 won’t arouse any passion for traipsing there. But Tom and I returned to Mike Emelianoff’s excellent Fifi Fingers, and decided to put a line up to its right. The resulting Canine’s Little Helper, ranks as Tom’s only new route lead on Crane this year, and at 5.10b, probably its best “moderate” new route of 2016. With plans to replace the rusting fixed gear on Fifi Fingers, and assuming I manage those neighboring projects in 2017, the Slanting Cracks Wall will become a worthwhile crag despite its distance from the road.

A smattering of other completed deeds round out Crane’s list for 2016. These lie sprinkled in several places across the mountain.

Mike Prince was up to his usual master-vision, seeing and unearthing as his one new route on Crane for 2016 a pleasant 5.2 on the outcrop closest to the cars, the Lower Measles Wall. Indeed, Trench Foot is now the closest route to the car on the Southeast side of the mountain. Consider it for young beginners or a first-lead route.

Returning to the Beaverview Wall in the autumn, I took a look at some old TR lines done with climbing partners near and dear to my heart, although they are now distant or departed. Rick Beardsley lent his name to an outcrop on the Beaverview’s right side, and with his passing, I thought it appropriate to review the routes there and see what could or should be done with them. Both Beardsley Buttress and Afternoon Tea are deserving of a good revival, so I began cleaning them up, and managed to send the easier of the two, Afternoon Tea, before the weather closed in. This remains 5.6, has decent pro with a couple easy-ish runouts, and once it and its neighbor get a good scrubbing, will be good arguments for going to this crag.

Mike Hazard joins the new-router club on Crane Mountain as of 2016, by being the person who finally scrubbed off the enticing crack in that boulder we all pass on our way along the East Path. His send of Mammut Oasis is not long (around 20′ tall), but it is stout: the move off the ground is hard 5.9, the next move at least as hard, with a high chance of a bad groundfall should the gear or belayer not be in top form. Conservatively rated at 5.9+, any takers of this short route may prefer a crashpad to a rope.

I’d promised myself to get back to the Mad Cows Wall, do some much-needed cleaning, and add a route or three. Things conspired to make these goals a lot harder than I’d expected, but suffice to say the eponymous route, Mad Cows, is now much cleaner than it was, and there are two new, though still horrendously filthy, routes here. Trad Cows shares the same start as its similarly-labelled ilk, but provides a direct trad path to the top of the crag, while Stamp Day for Superman is one of those nagging lines that just seemed to need sending before the weather prevented it. Both clock in at or near 5.8. Bring a wire brush and an ell-tool if you plan to climb anything on this wall: manicured it is not.

With that list of completed projects goes a long list of things yet undone here at the home front. This is in part a reflection of the caliber of projects now being attempted on Crane. While few are cutting-edge in today’s terms, many are extremely difficult, if not for the general climbing population, certainly for the sorry souls working them. Also, the available open rock, especially where easier (sub-5.10) routes are possible, is getting farther and farther from the East Path. Perhaps most unfortunate, several of the prolific FAers of the past have moved on or away, or are dealing with injuries, career obligations, or (!!) parenting and so have not been able to work on or add projects to Crane’s list. Finally, other objectives shouldered their way onto the to-do list in 2016; more on these after a brief rendition of the tasks yet to complete on Crane:

  • Finish cleaning Afternoon Tea
  • Clean and Lead Beardsley Buttress
  • Clean up the mess around the Drumthwacket area, including all pitches of the 2015 routes
  • Resistant Strain fixed and led
  • Jay S’s adopted project, Jungle Rot
  • Lockjaw led
  • Kirby G’s ultimate eyebrow overhang project at the UMW
  • The offwidth crack at the UMW
  • Tom L’s UMW project
  • Todd P’s Chicken Soup for the Sole
  • Recuperation Boulevard Direct still unsent
  • Cleaning up Outpatient and Intensive Care
  • Second pitch of Lane Change
  • Todd P’s Pillar project
  • Peter W’s project at the Right End Buttress of the BAW
  • Lukasz C’s Slanting Cracks Wall project
  • General cleanup of the Trad Cows Wall
  • Two projects of mine at the Slanting Cracks Wall

That’s a long list. Many of these things should have been completed in 2016, but weather and work conspired to make the usual prime-time for sending season, September and October, unproductive. But what perhaps really tipped the scales away from a bushel of sends on Crane this year was our propensity to be elsewhere, which segues neatly into discussion of a few of those “elsewhere” locales.

Moxham Mountain

Scoping out the summit dome from the lower slab

Scoping out the summit dome from the lower slab

We were definitely in the “Squirrel!” mode – easily distracted – this year; at least I was. With the low snow winter came visions, then actual preseason exploration to places I’ve glimpsed via the marvels of satellite and Internet technology, namely Bing Maps. With its “Bird’s Eye View”, the old version of Bing Maps often provides a clue to what any visible patch of open rock may actually look like from ground level. This tool has been extensively used to ferret out a bushel of Adirondack cliffs in the past few years, and continues to do so. While the latest incarnation of the BEV stinks, the aerial view still allows an armchair exploration for that next awesome climbers’ crag. We spent a lot of time in February, March, and April hiking to and looking at many places we’d seen previously on a computer screen.

Our biggest find needed no fancy, high-tech assistance to see, however. Anyone driving toward North Creek can see the cliffs of Moxham Mountain. Anyone with knowledge of Adirondack climbing history will recognize it, as well; as Moxham Mountain’s far eastern slab, the Moxham Dome, has played a key role in the central region’s climbing history. Unfortunately, that giant slab lies on private property. Its access has always been questionable, and nowadays it seems off-limits. But a new trail provides access to the summit cliffs, which – unlike the lower dome – are on State land. This development prompted earlier hiking visits by Mike P and Tom L, both of whom came back with stories of vast quantities of rock to explore. 2016 was the year we did just that.

The gang near the start of the trail

The gang near the start of the trail

One or more of the gang would make five “expeditions” to Moxham’s summit, and before the season ended, several top-rope routes and five lead routes were established. The first expedition saw six of us braving the black flies to have a first look. We top-roped several routes on both the summit dome and the lower ridge leading up to it. The second expedition accomplished a couple lead routes on the Lower Ridge. The third expedition was a solo affair during which I cleaned a summit line. The fourth would see Mike P. and I leading that route, and optimistically spending the night before retreating due to lack of water. The fifth was a desperate attempt at completing projects several of us had there, and culminated in two more lead routes and one new TR.

Jay H on the First Ascent of Serenity Prayer, on Moxham Mountain

Jay H on the First Ascent of Serenity Prayer, on Moxham Mountain. Photo by Mike Prince

The best of the bunch is the route on the summit dome, Serenity Prayer. Running up the center of a very steep slab, this route has a heady mix of moderate run-out, trad gear, and a few fixed pieces. The view along the way is impeccable, and while the rock isn’t scrubbed to perfection, it is appropriately clean enough to climb without taking entirely away from its high-mountain feel.

Mike H begins his first Moxham FA.

Mike H begins his first Moxham FA.

The Lower Ridge allowed us the most progress for leading routes. As the cliff is only about 125′ tall, about half the height of the summit dome, cleaning a line well enough to lead in a day was (just barely) possible. Here, Mike Prince and I would put up a pleasant 5.5, Mox Me. Mike H. would finish cleaning and lead Moxham Yam Jam, he and I would return to put up Upper Hudson Railroad, and Tom L. would lead an exciting 5.5 on the edge of the main slab, Children at Play. While the approach is long, the new trail is excellent, and these climbs are well worth visiting.

Moose Mountain

Our first look at the cliffs on the eastern ridge of Moose Mtn. Photo by Mike Prince

Our first look at the cliffs on the eastern ridge of Moose Mtn. Photo by Mike Prince

Late winter 2016 was a great time to scout for new rock, or at least usually it was. Tom and I headed out several times, only to find nothing worth returning to or oddly-inclement weather. But among our searches, we did pass by a view of cliffs on the side of Moose Mountain. Now, that appellation belongs to a score of rocky lumps in the Adirondack Park alone, so to be specific, this is the Moose Mountain near the town of Wells, lying in a wedge of land between Route 30 and Pumpkin Hollow Road. A road with a name like that begs to be driven, so after an unsuccessful hike in search of cliffs nearby, Tom and I drove up to have  a look, and spied definite cliffs on the flank of this mountain.

Another section of cliff on Moose Mtn

Another section of cliff on Moose Mtn

Mike P. and I returned in early spring to give them a close inspection. While we didn’t see a spectacular new five-star destination, we did see enough cliff to whet our appetites for return trips.

Close-Up of the Cliff we spent several days working on.

Close-Up of the Cliff we spent several days working on.

We would do just that, several times over what would be a hot, humid summer, striving to find, clean, and establish new routes. Our tally for the entire season: 2 1/2 completed lead lines, none of which is completely cleaned yet. Several projects await a send, hopefully in the 2017 season. More to come…

It should be noted that we are not the first to explore this Moose Mountain for climbing potential. It turns out that Scott M., Doc L., and others have scrambled up there, and in fact put up some excellent routes on the western end of the ridge. I’ve not seen written descriptions of those routes, but I’ve climbed a couple, and each was excellent.

Mike P negotiates one of the creek crossings on our way home from Moose Mountain.

Mike P negotiates one of the creek crossings on our way home from Moose Mountain.

It should also be noted that getting to these cliffs is a bit tricky — Tom thinks there is a space-time warp in the vicinity making it nearly impossible — and that approach involves following a state land boundary, crossing two streams, and negotiating a lengthy uphill slope to reach the cliff. Although Mike and I found it within 40 minutes on our first trip there, expect an hour on your first visit.

Coney Mountain

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

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

Robin and I would take a day to revisit a favorite easy hike of ours, Coney Mountain. We headed there for Independence Day, and decided to look for feasible rock instead of following the trail. What we found won’t make history, but it can serve as an enjoyable technical alternative to walking up to the summit. There is already plenty of coverage for that trip here.

Starbuck Mountain

It wasn’t that long ago when we first visited Starbuck Mountain. Now it is a regular on both rock and ice itineraries. For both, it excels as a good place to lead or TR a bunch of lines. This cliff allows a lot of climbing in a very compact location. The rock begs a line every few feet or so, and most routes can be climbed in several variations. Approach is a mild fifteen minute hike through the woods, on what is now a well-trod path, to reach the most (actually, only) significant rock climbing spot, Starbuck Right.

When we first began working on rock routes, Tom uncovered a few particularly fiendish possibilities, which thwarted our efforts at successful completion. This was the year that the best of these was finally led successfully.

Tom begins leading up his long-time project, Illegal Aliens

Tom begins leading up his long-time project, Illegal Aliens

The most prolonged challenge was a series of discontinues seams running up the face between Starstruck and O’Ryan’s Belt. We worked this line furiously as the first wave of development began to cool down. While we figured out the moves on TR, the protection possibilities were the big problem. We could find gear, but it was tricky, and never completely comforting. The pieces we found were generally good, but placing them properly was either strenuous or technical (or both). Tom returned to this project this fall, and after several trips, finally mastered Illegal Aliens on lead. It is at least 5.10c. I’ve not heard of a second ascent yet, so consider that the minimum grade.

Interestingly, while working that line, we discovered another possibility right next door, a line paralleling it literally six feet away. Any other place it would seem squeezed in, but this wall allows such tight-knit route setting. Unfortunately the line’s crux move had no natural protection options, and a few blank spaces along the way, so it had to await additional fixed gear before a decent lead. Tom was able to put this one to rest even before Illegal Aliens simply because it is easier. While it has a fiendish 5.10b move near the start (especially for short people), and a few moves right after that are engaging, the climbing settles down somewhat after the first twenty feet. Black Holes Matter is not quite as stellar a climb as its new neighbor, but still well worth doing – and the pro is a little easier to figure out.

One final to-do item got checked off in 2016. Ben Brooke had a project tucked between Gemini and Quantum Entanglement. He had even attempted to send it, taking an impressive whipper at the crux. Ben has moved on to greener pastures, living now not far from Hollywood, California. While helping Tom with his projects, I had the opportunity to work this line, do a little more cleaning, and eventually was able to send it on lead. Thus, Ben to the Stars joins the established climbing routes here. This little crag now boasts almost twenty routes, all within about 200′ of each other!

Middle Sister

Late in 2015, Mike P. and I (along with Mammut, of course!) spent a half day high above the Hudson River near Warrensburg on a little-trammeled peak, the middle of three summits known as the Three Sisters. As it sports no name on USGS topos, we’ve dubbed it Middle Sister. Our limited visit included a single pitch up a crack system leading to a large ledge, where impending dusk necessitated our retreat. I returned to this route and added a pitch (or two) to get it to the top, so now Boundary Boys is a full length climb, with several 5.6 and 7 moves and a fair amount of wide crack climbing to contend with. The cliff has limited potential for more routes on its tallest portion, but there may be a lot of shorter, sport-style routes to develop there. The approach is not easy; from publicly-accessible points, it takes an hour, but the view from high up the cliff, looking down on the Hudson River, west toward Stony Creek, and north toward Crane Mountain, is fantastic.

 

 

 

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