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Adirondack Explorer

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


October, 2011

Climber dies in Trap Dike

A student at Binghamton University died Friday morning in a fall in the Trap Dike, a classic mountaineering route on Mount Colden. Matthew Potel, 22, of Croton-on-Hudson was climbing the Trap Dike with seven other members of the school’s outdoors club. Although details are sketchy, sources say he fell on the dike’s second waterfall, the crux section of the climb. Forest rangers, with the help of local rock climbers, recovered the body. State Police Investigator Steve Ansari said the coroner ruled that Potel died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Potel’s was the third climbing death in the Adirondacks in four years. >>More


April, 2011

Most Poke-O climbing routes to reopen

Every spring, the state Department of Environmental Conservation closes routes on popular rock-climbing cliffs where peregrine falcons are known to nest. Once it’s determined exactly where the falcons are nesting, some routes are reopened. Recently, DEC biologist Joe Racette said it has been confirmed that falcons are nesting on the Nose on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain. As a result, fifty-four climbing routes in the vicinity will remain closed. But more than two hundred other routes on Poke-O will be open to climbers starting tomorrow (Thursday, April 28). Racette said all routes on Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch and the Upper and Lower >>More


September, 2010

Adirondack cliff jumping

Bluff Island is a well-known landmark on Lower Saranac Lake. It’s easily reached by a short paddle from the Route 3 bridge west of the village of Saranac Lake. Head north through First Pond and enter a channel. As you emerge from the channel, you’ll see Bluff Island straight ahead, less than a mile from the highway. The south side of the island features a seventy-foot cliff that rises straight up from the water. Occasionally, rock climbers scale the precipice. The guidebook Adirondack Rock says of Bluff: “it’s one-star climbing in a five-star location.” Bluff Island is probably better known >>More


August, 2010

Rock climber killed in fall

A rock climber from Lake Placid fell to his death yesterday evening at the Upper Washbowl  Cliff in the Giant Mountain Wilderness. Dennis Murphy, who was thirty-five, slipped while walking along the top of the cliff after ascending Hesitation, a classic route on the popular climbing cliff. Murphy and his partner, Dustin Ulrich, planned to rappel from an anchor at the top of another climbing route called Partition, according to State Police Lt. Scott Heggelke. The trooper said Ulrich was setting up the rappel when Murphy lost his footing and fell more than two hundred feet onto the rocks below. >>More


July, 2010

The school of hard rocks

Although you can’t learn rock climbing from a book, you’ll find a lot of rock-climbing manuals at EMS in Lake Placid, the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, and other outdoors stores. These books are no substitute for experience, but they do reinforce lessons you’re likely to hear from professional guides and veteran climbers. I own several such books. One of my favorites was written by Lake Placid’s own Don Mellor: A Trailside Guide: Rock Climbing, published by W.W. Norton & Co. Recently, I finished a classic of the genre, Basic Rockcraft by Royal Robbins, from way back in 1971. Royal Robbins >>More


July, 2010

Following in the footholds of Fritz

Rock climbers risk their lives in pursuit of their passion. So they’re a tough bunch. Just listen to this snippet of dialogue between Jecinda Hughes and Josh Wilson. “You’re getting to the midway point of your rope, honey,” Jecinda yells to Josh. “Thanks, babe,” Josh replies. “That’s OK—I’ve got only about ten feet to go.” Jecinda is belaying her boyfriend as he ascends the chimney on the Old Route at Hurricane Crag between Keene and Elizabethtown. Most climbers come to the crag for Quadrophenia, one of the Adirondacks’ most popular moderate routes (rated 5.7 on the Yosemite scale), or one >>More


May, 2010

Falcons nesting on rock-climbing cliffs

State biologists have confirmed that peregrine falcons are nesting on two popular rock-climbing cliffs, Upper Washbowl and Poke-o-Moonshine. The discovery of the nest on Upper Washbowl means that cliff will remain closed to climbers, but the routes on Lower Washbowl are now open. Upper Washbowl boasts twenty-one routes, including some of the best moderate multipitch routes in Chapel Pond Pass, according to the guidebook Adirondack Rock. Falcons also are nesting on the Main Face of Poke-O, probably in the vicinity of the Nose, according to Joe Racette, a biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The department won’t open >>More


April, 2010

Upper Washbowl closed

Last week, I posted a list of rock-climbing routes that are closed to protect the postential nesting sites of peregrine falcons. This morning, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it is adding the Upper Washbowl routes to the list. The following is an e-mail sent out by Joe Racette, a DEC wildlife biologist: We have observed peregrine falcons engaged in nesting behavior at the Upper Washbowl cliff at Chapel Pond, and effective immediately are closing all climbing routes on Upper Washbowl Cliffs.  Climbing routes on Lower Washbowl cliff will remain closed until peregrine falcon nesting on Upper Washbowl >>More


March, 2010

Falcons feast on ill bats

A year ago, scientists learned that a large bat hibernaculum exists somewhere near Chapel Pond. They inferred as much when dying bats were discovered flying around Route 73 last March, long before bats usually emerge from hibernation. Peregrine falcons that nest near Chapel Pond also discovered the bats. They returned from their winter habitat early this year, in mid-February, and a state biologist thinks they did so to feed on the sick bats. The bats suffer from white-nose syndrome, which has devastated bat populations through the Northeast. “We observed the falcons foraging on bats both last year and this year,” >>More