April, 2017

Royal Robbins And The First Ascent Of Half Dome

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the early life of Royal Robbins, the legendary American rock climber who died last month. At the time of his death, I had been reading To Be Brave, the first volume of his autobiography. It ends when Robbins is still a teenager. His second volume, Fail Falling, covers the years 1950 through 1957, when Robbins emerges from a somewhat troubled adolescence to become one of the most celebrated climbers in the country. Robbins started climbing seriously and perfecting his art with fellow climbers from the Sierra Club in southern California. Most were older >>More

April, 2017

Paddling (And Spelling) An Adirondack River

With the arrival of spring, the Adirondack Explorer is shifting its recreational focus from skiing and snowshoeing to paddling and hiking. The May/June issue, which we are finishing this week, includes my account of a canoe trip on the Grass River that Carol MacKinnon Fox and I did last year. Or were we on the Grasse River? Both spellings are in common use. National Geographic’s “Trails Illustrated” map for the region uses the Grass spelling. The Adirondack Park Agency, however, spells it Grasse in the State Land Master Plan. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names decreed in 1905 that the >>More

April, 2017

Adirondack Ski Season Draws To A Close

On Sunday I spent the day skiing in the backcountry. On Monday I hiked up Baker Mountain looking for wildflowers. Yep, it’s mud season. Although I had two good ski days last weekend, my season is at an end. I skied the Whiteface Memorial Highway on Saturday and several trails in the High Peaks on Sunday. I found plenty of snow at higher elevations, and die-hard skiers know that it’s likely to remain for a while. I’d probably get out a few more times myself if my schedule allowed it. Overall, it was a pretty good winter. We had two >>More

April, 2017

The Early Life Of Legendary Climber Royal Robbins

Royal Robbins, one of the country’s legendary rock climbers, died last month at age 82. He made his reputation climbing big walls in Yosemite and influenced the sport’s history with his promotion of climbing ethics. It so happens that I was reading To Be Brave, the first volume of Robbins’s autobiography, when he passed away at his home in Modesto, California. Published in 2009, To Be Brave covers his early childhood into his teenage years. Robbins grew up in southern California without a father and started down the path of juvenile delinquency. When he was 12, he and two friends >>More

March, 2017

Adirondack Spring Skiing On Bloomingdale Bog Trail

We lost much our snow base around Saranac Lake in recent weeks. For my lunch-hour ski on Thursday, I was rattling my brain for a smooth trail or frozen pond, someplace where you can ski without a lot of snow. I settled on the Bloomingdale Bog Trail, which starts a few miles north of the village. Because it follows an old railroad bed, the trail is wide and flat. In winter, the bog trail is used by snowmobilers, so the base that was left was well packed. Yet the top few inches had been softened by the warm sun, creating >>More

March, 2017

Adirondack Pond Skiing After A Bitter Cold Night

When I got up Thursday morning, my weather app claimed it was 18 degrees below zero in Saranac Lake. Though skeptical, I’ll concede that it was damn cold when I stepped outside. I had to drive to Malone to look over court documents filed in the lawsuit over the state’s plan to split the state-owned Adirondack Rail Corridor into a rail segment and a trail segment. As I approached Paul Smiths, I passed Church Pond—a beautiful sheet of white beneath a brilliant blue sky. I promised myself I’d stop on the way back and go for a ski. After a >>More

March, 2017

Dog-Poop Problem At Lake Placid’s Henry’s Woods

Henry’s Woods on the outskirts of Lake Placid is a popular destination for hikers even in winter. I stopped there Tuesday afternoon for a lunch-hour ski trip, figuring the trails would be well packed and slick. Indeed, since the big snowstorm last week, the trails have seen a lot of use from skiers, snowshoers, and bare-booters. Oh, and dogs. As is my wont, I skied the Loop Trail counterclockwise, with a detour on the Plateau Trail. In all, the trip is roughly three miles. The conditions were pretty good. The trail was packed, with room to snowplow, but it was >>More

February, 2017

Skiing Mt. Marcy In Five Minutes

  I had hoped to ski Mount Marcy last week, but work and travel got in the way. I expect we’ll have other chances before the winter ends. Meantime, I put together a five-minute video of a Marcy ski trip from a few years ago. It contains snippets shot with a helmet cam while descending the summit cone and various sections of trail: just below treeline, the Marcy Plateau, the ridge below the plateau, the Corkscrew, the chute above Indian Falls, the ski trail below Indian Falls (where I fell), and the hiking trail along Phelps Brook. If you’re curious >>More

February, 2017

Dreaming Of Skiing Mount Marcy Again

Last week we enjoyed the best backcountry-ski conditions we’ve had in a while. I am using the editorial we; I didn’t enjoy them because I was sick all week. By Saturday, I was feeling good enough to venture out to Dewey Mountain for a few hours, where my girlfriend Carol and I explored the ungroomed trails near the summit. Unfortunately, the temperature that day soared well above freezing, and so the fluffy powder that fell last week had consolidated into mashed potatoes. Still, I was glad to be skiing at all. The next day we skied on a snowmobile trail in Wilmington on >>More

January, 2017

A Frustrating Winter For Backcountry Skiers

It’s been another frustrating winter for backcountry skiers. We haven’t had a big storm. Just as the snow starts to build up, we’re hit with a rainy thaw. That was the case again this week. Following an icy rain, we got a few inches of heavy, wet snow in Saranac Lake. This afternoon I skied the trails at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center to check out the conditions. The groomed trails on the lower slopes were in fine shape, as expected, but I was more interested in the ungroomed trails at the top, which are one indication of backcountry conditions. Again, no >>More

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