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Tuesday, July 13, 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.

Jecinda Hughes belays Josh Wilson as he begins the ascent of the chimney on Hurricane Crag. Photo by Phil Brown.

Jecinda Hughes belays Josh Wilson as he begins the ascent of the chimney on Hurricane Crag. Photo by Phil Brown.

“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 of the stellar harder routes, such as Forever Wild or My Generation (both rated 5.10). But our aim is to follow in the footsteps and hand holds of Fritz Wiessner, one of the greatest climbers and mountaineers of his day.

Wiessner pioneered nearly twenty climbing routes in the Adirondacks in the 1930s and 1940s. He established the Old Route on Hurricane Crag with George Austin. They were the first climbers to visit the crag.

The route is rated 5.3, considered an easy climb by today’s standards. The highlight is a 110-foot ascent through a chimney at the start of the first pitch. The guidebook Adirondack Rockdescribes this pitch as “incredible—perhaps the largest, highest, deepest, most continuous chimney of its kind in the Adirondacks. Here Wiessner once again picked the plum feature.”

Josh leads our climb, placing protective gear every ten feet or so to prevent a fatal fall.

“This is cool,” he shouts down from about seventy feet. “You guys are going to love it.”

And a little later: “Woo! Wild!”

After reaching the end of the pitch, Josh belays first me, then Jecinda. Although the chimney rises almost straight up, it contains numerous ledges and holds for your feet and hands. The ascent is not especially difficult. Nevertheless, I emerge from the thing with a bloody knee.

It takes about an hour and a half for the three of us to complete the first pitch. From the belay ledge, we enjoy marvelous views of the Giant Mountain Wilderness to the south.

Jecinda rappels

Jecinda rappels off the cliff.

The second pitch, an easy scramble over slab and up a rock groove, is an anticlimax. Because Jecinda has go to work at Lisa G’s in Lake Placid, we climb only a portion of the third and final pitch before rappelling down to the base of the cliff.

Someday we’ll return to complete our homage to Old Fritz.

Click here to read about another Wiessner route in the Adirondacks.

DIRECTIONS: From Keene, drive east on NY 9N for 4.8 miles and look for a herd path on the north side of the highway. The hike to the cliff takes about twenty minutes. The state has plans to mark the approach trail and build a parking area.

 

 

 

 

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

5 Responses

  1. Josh says:

    Great blog Phil, but I would just like to add that Jecinda and I have never felt like we were risking our lives by climbing. Driving to the crag is probably more dangerous than climbing. We like to climb because its relaxing, not because its dangerous.

  2. Phil says:

    Good point, Josh. I know that you (and most climbers) are careful. I plead guilty to exaggeration. But I don’t think it’s wrong to say that there is an inherent risk involved in the sport. Careful climbers minimize the risk.

  3. Nyle says:

    Hey Phil, When are you gonna make it to the Gunks to do a Fritz route? You wont be disappointed.

  4. Phil says:

    Nyle, I definitely want to do High Exposure. I’ll be in touch.

  5. Dwight says:

    Great article, Phil. I assume that the goat path that you mention is different from the normal trail to the top of Hurricane Mtn which starts here: 44.211510, -73.722923. Thanks.

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