Ragged Mountain

Rock climbers scale cliffs on Ragged Mountain after state’s purchase of Boreas Pond Tract.

By Phil Brown

Sabrina Hague grapples with Kittens, Rainbows, and Lollipops at Ragged Mountain.

The newly acquired Boreas Ponds Tract has been touted as a destination for backpackers, paddlers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and snowmobilers. As it turns out, some of the earliest users of the land have been rock climbers.

Within a few months of the state’s purchase of the tract in April, rock climbers established nine technical climbing routes on the southwest face of Ragged Mountain, a small peak that lies less than a mile from County Route 84.

The Adirondack Rock website awards Ragged four out of five stars for the overall quality of the climbing. Most of the routes are hard, with ratings from 5.10 to 5.13 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which ranges from 5.0 (easy) to 5.15 (nearly impossible).

In late July, Sabrina Hague and I visited Ragged to climb two moderate routes, Kittens, Rainbows, and Lollipops and Palm-O-Granite. Both are rated 5.8.

Although both are good, Kittens, Rainbows, and Lollipops, which climbs a crack in a corner and then goes over a small roof, is the superior route. Adirondack Rock gives it five stars and a heap of praise: “simply awesome; one of the best single pitches of its grade in the park.”

Sabrina led the route twice, flawlessly—the first time to set up a fixed rope that R.L. Stolz, the co-owner of Alpine Adventures in Keene, later ascended to take photos; the second time so that R.L. could take photos of her climbing.

“You’ve climbed this climb more than anyone else alive. Do you realize that?” R.L. joked after her second ascent. (Actually, the original climbers have done it more.)

Sabrina carefully works her way up Palm-o-Granite

The route is a hundred feet long and ends at a fixed anchor, from which we rappelled back to the ground.

Palm-O-Granite is a much different climb. The 5.8 first pitch, just forty feet long, ascends steep slab to another fixed anchor. Though I have climbed a lot of slab, I found this difficult. The second pitch is a whole lot easier (5.3). You go up low-angle slab to a wall, then traverse left using a large handrail crack as security. Adirondack Rock gives Palm-O-Granite three stars.

A short bushwhack from the main cliff is an easy two-pitch climb called Stairway to Lichen (rated 5.3). Because we were running out of time, we had to skip this one.

On the drive home, Sabrina remarked that if Kittens, Rainbows, and Lollipops were at the Beer Walls, a popular climbing area near Keene Valley, “it would be one of the top climbs.” She compared it to Rockaholic, a celebrated crack climb at the Beer Walls. “It’s aesthetically better than Rockaholic—and more fun,” she said.

Adirondack Rock also awards five stars to two of the harder routes: Invasive Species (5.10) and Runnin’ Ragged (5.11). Two others get four stars.

Map by nancybernsteinillustration.com

R.L. is skeptical that Ragged will become a major destination for climbers, in part because it’s off the beaten track, in part because the routes are difficult. Indeed, if a potential route on an overhanging roof ever gets climbed (it’s a work in progress), it could be one of the hardest routes in the Adirondacks.

“The problem with the area is it’s a one-trick pony,” he said. “There are a few routes for mortals. The rest are for climbing gods.”

Directions: From Northway (1-87) Exit 29, drive west on Country 84 (also known as Blue Ridge Road or Boreas Road) for 7.1 miles to Gulf Brook Road on the right. Drive up the road 0.8 miles to an unmarked trail on the right. Look for the path just after you pass the second of two gravel pits on the left side of the road. The path heads southeast, crossing old skidder roads, and is sometimes hard to follow. It should become more defined with use.

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The Adirondack Explorer is a nonprofit magazine covering the Adirondack Park's environment, recreation and communities.

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