Rockfall on Wallface climbing route

Heilman aerial
Wallface is one of the largest cliffs in the Northeast. Photo by Carl Heilman II.

Veteran climber Don Mellor regards Free Ride on Wallface as one of the better rock-climbing routes in the East, but when he scaled it last weekend it was not the same.

Mellor discovered that thousands of pounds of rock had fallen from the belay station at the end of the sixth pitch, known as the Lunch Ledge.

“What’s left is an arch propped up by blocks,” he said.

Not trusting the stability of the arch, he climbed ten feet past it (and to the left) to set up a belay in another spot.

“It doesn’t affect the climb at all,” he said. “It’s a reminder that things are moving.”

This isn’t the first time that Wallface, one of the biggest cliffs in the Northeast, has shed a substantial amount of rock. Its base is littered with huge blocks of talus.

“There’s rockfall all the time. It’s creepy,” Mellor said. “The geology is wrong. It tilts out.”

Free Ride is a 735-foot route climbed in nine pitches, or stages. It’s rated 5.11a in the Yosemite Decimal System, meaning only elite climbers can scale it.

The guidebook Adirondack Rock says it was first ascended in 1999 by Tim Beaman and Dennis Luther. “The route took two years to create, then another year to climb it, with all bolts drilled by hand,” the book says.

And Mother Nature changed it in an instant.


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.

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