Early-season rock climbing

Potter Mountain cliff in a photo taken last September. Photo by Phil Brown.
Potter Mountain cliff in a photo taken last September. Photo by Phil Brown.

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 Mount cliff
Baker Mount cliff

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 Placid resident who has written several rock-climbing books.

Generally, you want to avoid cliffs with runoff from hills above or with vegetation that holds moisture that then drips water onto the rock.

Mellor’s other recommendations for early-season climbing in the Keene-Keene Valley region include the Beer Walls, Spider Web, Hurricane Crag, and Pitchoff Chimney Cliff.

Will Roth, a guide at EMS in Lake Placid, tells me he’s already climbed at Potter Mountain near Silver Lake, Deadwater in North Hudson, and the Spider Web, and conditions were great in all three places.

Coincidentally, the Adirondack Explorer has a story on Potter Mountain in its May/June issue, which we just sent to the printer’s. The cliffs on Potter and adjacent Silver Lake Mountain were open to climbers only in the past few years as a result of the state’s land deal with International Paper. The photo above was taken on my trip there last September.

Mellor says you also can find dry cliffs in the southern Adirondacks.

Climbers should be aware that a number of climbing routes on Poke-o-Moonshine and Moss Cliff and in the Chapel Pond area are closed during the nesting season of peregrine falcons. For more information on these closures, click here.




About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Phil says

    Here is Jim Lawyer’s list of early-season climbing cliffs. (Jim is the co-author of Adirondack Rock.)

    “Sections of these cliffs come to mind as being first to dry: Deadwater, Beer Walls, Spider’s Web, Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, Poke-O Slab, Poke-O Main Face (very limited, also partially closed for peregrines soon), Sunshine Face at Spanky’s Area, Hurricane Cliff, Bear Den, Noonmark (a slog, though), Ark Wall, Shelving (watch for closed road), cliffs along the Black Arches path at Crane, Eagle Falls (if you can cross the river), Potter Mountain at Silver Lake, and Potash.”

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