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

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


November, 2016

John Turner’s Classic Climbs At Poke-o-Moonshine

Tuesday started out beautiful. Mild temperatures. Not a cloud in the sky. After voting, Will Roth and I drove from Saranac Lake to Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain to climb one of the cliff’s mega-classic routes, Gamesmanship. There was just one other party at the cliff: two guys were roping up for Gamesmanship as we arrived at the base. Two parties, with more than 300 routes to choose from, and both opted for Gamesmanship. That says plenty about this 575-foot route. The guidebook Adirondack Rock awards it five stars, its highest rating for the overall quality of the climbing. The route is also >>More


May, 2013

Upper Washbowl reopened to climbers

Rock climbers will have a few more routes to climb this weekend, according to Joe Racette, a biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation who monitors the nesting of peregrine falcons on cliffs. Racette said the Upper Washbowl cliffs near Chapel Pond are now open to climbers. DEC closes Upper Washbowl and Lower Washbowl each spring at the start of the falcons’ breeding season. DEC has ascertained that that this year the falcons are nesting on Lower Washbowl. Upper Washbowl has twenty-one climbing routes, including one established by Fritz Weissner, one of the top climbers of his era, in >>More


April, 2013

Early-season rock climbing

On my lunch hour, I took a short hike to check out the rock-climbing cliffs on Baker Mountain on the outskirts of Saranac Lake. A few weeks ago, a huge wall of ice hung nearby, with its tongue extending along the base of one of the routes. Today the ice was gone, and the cliffs were dry. I expect I’ll be climbing there soon, but Don Mellor beat me to the punch. Baker, it turns out, is on Mellor’s list of cliffs suitable for early-season climbing. “You’re looking for southern exposure with no drips from above,” says Mellor, a Lake >>More


April, 2013

Rock-climbing routes closed to protect falcons

A sure sign of spring is when the state Department of Environmental Conservation closes rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks to protect the nesting sites of peregrine falcons. Each spring, DEC bans climbing on routes on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs, and Moss Cliff. Once biologists ascertain where falcons are nesting, some routes are reopened. Sometime in summer, after the falcons fledge, all routes are reopened. Following is a notice sent out today by Joe Racette, a DEC wildlife ecologist:   Effective today, April 1, 2013, the following Adirondack rock climbing routes are closed to protect Peregrine falcon nest >>More


March, 2013

Fred Beckey delights crowd in Lake Placid

Fred Beckey, a living legend in the climbing world, gave an interesting and often humorous slide show at Northwood School in Lake Placid last night. At one point, he showed a photo of Fishhook Arete, a narrow, curving ridge on Mount Russell in California. At 14,086 feet, Russell is one of the highest mountains in the Sierra Nevada, so you wouldn’t expect an eight-pitch rock climb that ends on its summit to be a walk in the park. Indeed, the climb itself takes five to seven hours. With the approach and the descent, the trek can take fifteen to twenty-one >>More


October, 2012

The Wiessner Route on Upper Washbowl

We took advantage of fall sunshine yesterday to climb the historic Wiessner Route on Upper Washbowl Cliff with Matt Wiech, a guide with the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. Fritz Wiessner, a top climber in his day, put up the route in 1938. Like most of his routes, this one is regarded as moderate in difficulty, but it’s great fun, with interesting problems, thrilling exposure, and spectacular views of Chapel Pond Pass and the Great Range. The crux (hardest part) comes at the very beginning when climbers have to squeeze past and then surmount a rectangular block. This pitch is >>More


September, 2012

Climbing in solitude at the end of summer

Fun City at Barkeater Cliffs in the Adirondacks.

When is summer over? When the calendar says? When the temperature drops to the low thirties overnight (as it has in Saranac Lake recently)? Or when you go to Barkeater Cliffs on a sunny weekend and find no one there? The Barkeaters are popular climbing cliffs in Keene. They’re reached by a half-hour hike from the Rock and River lodge, up the Jackrabbit Ski Trail and a herd path. The two previous times I visited, I saw plenty of climbers. When I returned this past Sunday, a week after Labor Day, I was alone. It was kind of eerie, as >>More


October, 2011

Climbing the ‘new’ Trap Dike

On Sunday I climbed the Trap Dike for the first time since Tropical Storm Irene triggered a landslide above and inside the dike. The slide swept away nearly all of the trees inside the canyon and created a new exit, a slab of clean white rock that can be followed to the top of Mount Colden. Before Irene, the guidebook Adirondack Rock awarded the Trap Dike five stars, its highest rating for the overall quality of the climb. Since Irene, the climb is even better. The Trap Dike must be approached with caution: it’s considered a third- or fourth-class climb >>More


Page 1 of 3123