By Courtney Ley
I decided to head to the Adirondacks over the weekend to see how things were fairing after the recent thaw. I wanted to do a lot of climbing, so it only made sense to hire Alex Wakeman as my climbing partner. A young buck from Saratoga, he climbs night and day. When you are done blowing your arms out all day on steep ice, it’s never time to relax for Alex. It’s time to go blow out your legs on a nighttime alpine route. Even after you’ve warmed up and had a good meal and a beer. I’ve never spent time with anyone else that has his motivation to climb and I knew it would be tough to keep up with him. There was no question that I’d have a great time with his company. The question was, what would we find for ice conditions after a few days of temperatures the 40’s and 50’s.
I arrived at the Chapel Pond parking lot at 5pm on Friday evening and caught a glimpse across the lake before darkness set in. The pond was open water and the cliffs no doubt had seen some warm temperatures. Once Alex pulled up, we wasted no time. Ten minutes later with headlamps donned, we were on our way to Chouinard’s Gully. The ice was great in the gully and the evening was warm and comfortable.
Jeremy Haas joined us the next day and we headed over to Cascade Pass, but unfortunately the Sisters were too lean and the Quarry was looking too wet and detached. (Sorry, I didn’t take any photos!) So back at Chapel Pond, we climbed Lions on the Beach center, left of center, right of center, left of left and every which way.
The scene was quiet, fun and relaxed with only a few of the seasoned locals and friends out for the day. After awhile, it was my time to pull some weight, so we headed over to Crystal Ice Tower and I led some steep ice for the first time this season. Crystal Ice Tower was good, as were the pitches above.
The evening rolled in, we said goodbye to Jeremy and it was time for dinner and a beer. I knew I shouldn’t get too comfortable because before long, Alex was plotting our next objective. A nighttime ascent of The Cascade. Even with a good burger in our stomachs and the fireplace roaring in the Ausable Inn, I found us later in the parking lot back at the cold and windy Cascade Pass ready to roll. The prospect of a long WI2 ice line up a drainage, through clefts, slots and wooded ridges that all led to a summit tugged at my alpine heart and I couldn’t refuse. Unfortunately, the route needed more time to refreeze and after climbing the initial step, we ran into a gushing waterfall at the top of the first pitch.
But things are on the mend and on Sunday as we drove through the Pass, I saw some climbers on the route and it looked much better than the previous night. Even Roaring Brook on Friday was open water, but by the time I was driving home on Sunday, it was a lot quieter and slower.
It was 8pm when we were back at the car and it took some arm twisting to convince Alex -not- to climb any more that night. I knew laps on Chouinards until midnight was on his mind. Instead, we settled in for an early start on Sunday. I was hoping Multiplication Gully was in decent shape so we went to check it out first thing the next morning. But it wasn’t quite there yet so I just snapped a conditions photo and Alex drove us to the North Face of Pitchoff. I haven’t spent much time climbing ice in the Adirondacks. I grew up and spent the first 20 years of my life in New York, but I wasn’t introduced to climbing until I landed in New Hampshire. I consider New York as my hometown still, and was psyched to get the tour and go to some ADK ice venues for the first time. This included the North Face of Pitchoff. We opted for Weeping Winds, which was in fine shape with a lot of options.
Overall, things are looking up for late this week and into next weekend. The weather is calling for cold temperatures and snow showers every day. For the Keene Valley area, check out Ian’s latest condition post HERE and other NEice members reports on the conditions page and photo page.
After I left Alex for the drive home at 5pm, I wondered if in ten minutes he’d be putting on his headlamp and going after the next piece of ice.
Photos by Courtney and Alex. Click on thumbnails to enlarge. Do it!