July, 2017

Climbing Crane With The King Of The Mountain

Jay Harrison lives at the base of Crane Mountain, but he probably spends more time on the mountain’s many cliffs than in his house. The guidebook Adirondack Rock devotes no less than seventy-three pages to the rock-climbing routes on Crane. This is thanks to Harrison, who has participated in about 350 first ascents in the Adirondacks—more than anyone else. Most of his routes are at Crane. He clearly is the king of the mountain. In 2013, veteran climber Don Mellor wrote a profile of Harrison for the Explorer. It’s well worth reading, both for Don’s writing and for understanding who >>More


July, 2017

Climbers Encounter Bear Near Chapel Pond

Rock-climbing guide Will Roth was rappelling down a cliff near Chapel Pond with two clients this week when they saw a bear below—climbing toward them. The climbers yelled and clapped their hands, but the bear kept coming, its claws scratching the rock like fingernails on chalkboard. When the bear got within fifteen feet, Roth tossed a small rock and struck its shoulder. The bear seemed unfazed but nevertheless wandered away. “It walked off the side of the slab into the trees and then reappeared. It was standing at the top of the slab, staring back down at us,” Roth said. >>More


July, 2017

Bouldering On Baker: A Non-Routine Workout Routine

Baker Mountain on the edge of the village of Saranac Lake is one of the most popular peaks in the Adirondacks. Like many other local residents, I’ve hiked it countless times and thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. Will Roth recently made the hike to Baker’s summit more interesting for rock climbers: he has established a bouldering circuit of six “problems” (miniature climbing routes), all located just off the trail. It’s just one more example of why Saranac Lake is a cool place to live. Will says the challenge is to complete the circuit while hiking to >>More


July, 2017

The Thrill Of Climbing At Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks in West Virginia is billed as the only peak in the eastern United States that can’t be summited by a mere hike. You need (or should have) ropes, helmets, and other rock-climbing gear. If you ever have the chance to see Seneca Rocks close up, you’ll see why. Seneca actually has two peaks, North and South, with a U-shaped col between known as Gunsight Notch. Over the eons, the peaks have shed layers of rock, leaving only narrow ridges leading to the summits. In places, the ridge leading to South Peak is only a foot or two wide. >>More


June, 2017

Fritz Wiessner’s Old Climbing Routes Still Hard

The legendary Fritz Wiessner established more than a dozen rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks, according to the authors of Adirondack Rock. I’ve written about a few of the better ones, including Empress on Chapel Pond Slab, Wiessner Route on Upper Washbowl Cliff, and Old Route on Rooster Comb Mountain. One reason I’m drawn to Wiessner routes is their historical interest. Arguably, Wiessner was the strongest rock climber in the United States during the 1930s. Indeed, the authors of Yankee Rock and Ice suggest that the German immigrant “was so far ahead of what others were willing to try that he >>More


May, 2017

John Case’s Historic Climbing Route In Adirondacks

Bob’s Knob Standard is not the best rock-climbing route on Chapel Pond Slab, but for the novice it’s a superb introduction to multi-pitch climbing. As one of the oldest routes in the Adirondacks, it also lays claim to some interesting history. I climbed Bob’s Knob Standard last weekend with my girlfriend Carol. We had done it twice last year, but because she is new to climbing, she wanted to do it again for practice. Once again, she loved it. Though considered easy, it posed a few challenges and always kept our interest. The scenery as we climbed got better and >>More


May, 2017

Lots Of Adventure In ‘Explorer’ Outings Guide

Have you ever taken in the vista from Iroquois Peak? Paddled up the Opalescent? Skied across frozen ponds near Fish Creek? Followed Don Mellor on an ice climb above Chapel Pond? You can read about all those adventures and more in the forthcoming Adirondack Explorer’s Annual Outings Guide, an anthology of recreational stories from past issues of the magazine. The regular Explorer comes out every two months, but in between the May/June and July/August issues, we publish the outings guide. Each guide describes a variety of recreational outings—hikes, paddles, ski tours, rock climbs, raft trips. Subscribers who collect the guides >>More


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


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