Gothic Arch (5.6) – Adirondacks

This guys star rating: 1/5

This contrasts with a lot of the other ratings you might see on the information highway. But I just don’t feel like the effort to get to this climb is worth it.

The approach

We left from the St-Huberts parking lot at 6:30. The approach is a mixed bag:

  • Up to the damn at the end of the Lake Road, it’s flat(ish) and easy 7km. We took about 1h15 minutes.
  • Once you start ascending towards Gothics, it’s a relentless and steep 4km up to the top of Pyramid Peak bringing you over 2500 feet. This section took us about 1h25 to climb, but most will likely take a bit more (both Phil and I are pretty strong hikers).
  • The bushwhack that starts in the col between Pyramid and Gothics is … well, a bushwhack and all that it implies. We took about 25 minutes to get to the base of the arch.

A few notes about the bushwhack: It starts at the flat section between Pyramid and Gothics, just before you start going back up towards Gothics. There is (as of June 2015) a small cairn and the trail is obvious for the first few 100 feet. You’ll want to make sure you’re in the drainage early on. You can use the included tracklog to figure out where the bushwhack starts. We didn’t exit the drainage early enough, so we overshot the exit by about one hundred feet, so we had to climb back up to the base of the arch (not a big deal).

The climb

I’d suggest a 70m rope for this one (The third pitch is a 210 foot stretcher). There are no pitons, bolts or hangers. We followed the line spelled out in Adirondack Rock.

P1: Start on the left side of the big obvious arch climbing straight up then shooting for a grassy ledge on the right. Right of the grassy section is a nice big ledge where you can use chockstones to setup a belay. Run-out but easy, I only got one piece in.

P2: Go up the left facing corner, traverse over the two wet black streaks then diagonal your way up to the right end of the big arch. The rock is much more textured and featured than it looks like from the belay. The pitch is almost a full rope length. The belay was setup at a nice set of features where bomber gear was all over the place.

P3: Starts off on a steep section with a cool toilet bowl looking feature (right off the belay). Once over the steep section, keep going straight up over very runout but easy 5.2x terrain until you hit the tree island. P4 starts to the right of the tree island, so try to setup your belay on that side.

P4: A shitty pitch where you follow mossy and wet rock up to the base of the first overlap. Here the gear anchor was VERY marginal … Would suggest trying to stay in the woods to set it up instead of under the overlap.

P5: Here we didn’t follow the guidebook and instead went straight to a small right facing arch about 200 feet up. The pitch goes over a few overlaps and has the nicest climbing of the day. The first overlap is passed by going around left.

P6: A few feet to the top, simply follow the line of least resistance until you can see a few broken bushes where other climbers have setup the last belay. The reason we didn’t link this with P5 is that we ran out of rope.

The bushwhack out is an easy hundred feet or so through dense, but manageable krummholz (assuming you finish the climb where we did).

We took about 4 hours to complete the 6 pitches. As mentioned before, I don’t feel that this is even close to a classic, but it’s definitely a fun alpine outing. The gear is often marginal and the rock crumbly and hollow. You’ll want to be a solid 5.6 climber with some slab experience (i.e.: runout with a good head) before leading this one.

The descent

We opted to hike towards Armstrong instead of heading back towards Pyramid Peak. Either way, getting back to the car will take another couple of hours.

The Tracklog


The photos

My Wordpress installation has a nasty bug where I  can’t upload pictures anymore … when I figure it out I’ll update this page

Tunnel Vision (5.7) – Red Rock Canyon

This guys rating on a scale from 1 to 5: ***

The Approach

It was my third try on the Angel Food wall. Five years ago I got onto Lean Lady but after a long bungled approach we had to cut the climb short with daylight dwindling. Last year we had walked up to the cliff wanting to do Group Therapy, but once again getting lost on the approach meant we didn’t even start climbing. A good navigator I am not.

This time we hit the nail on the head and hit the cliff exactly where we needed to (you can look at the tracklog below to get full details). Most guidebooks mention this approach to be 20 minutes; I doubt that to be reasonable even for the fittest. You’ll want to count at least 30 minutes.

Park at the White Rock parking lot and go down the dirt road where the White Rock Loop trailhead starts. After about 10 minutes or so (at the first major left turning bend), where you’ll fork onto a climbers trail. The climbers trail can get confusing, so make sure you aim for the large right facing arch (see pictures) while trying as hard as possible to stay on the trail (following footsteps is unfortunately not always the correct way to do this).

Pitch 1 (5.7+)

The hardest moves are right off the deck. A steep start followed by a hand traverse with small hidden feet bring you into a corner which you’ll follow up to a large ledge. I setup the belay below the steep chimney in a good crack system, but that wasn’t ideal since my rope was constantly wedged between two rocks while belaying. Setting up a redirect or belaying closer to the edge might be a better option.

Pitch 2 (5.4)

A steep but easy pitch. With a pack it wasn’t terribly enjoyable. The two bolt belay is part way up the second chimney (on the left side) but because the party ahead of us was still there, I setup shop 20 feet below.

Pitch 3 Variation (5.8)

The 2 chimney pitches didn’t sound fun with a pack, so I chose to climb the left hand side bolted variation. Right off the fixed anchor, step onto the face where you can clip a bolt. From here, you’ll pas another bolt before hitting a fun corner where you can plug some gear. Another 8 o 9 more bolts will up to another fixed anchor.

This was a surprisingly great pitch with some great knob and flake climbing.

Pitch 4 Variation (5.6)

Another semi-bolted pitch, you’ll want to follow a few bolts and cracks while leaning towards the right. The pitch finishes at the mount of a very large cave where you’ll find a few options to setup a belay. This is the start of famous tunnel pitch.

Another nice and easy pitch.

Pitch 5 (5.6)

This is the pitch that gives the route its name. From all the reading I did prior, it never became clear how this pitch is usually climbed. I did NOT climb it the way it was intended … From some further reading and sleuthing it seems like going to the far end of the tunnel and stemming the whole way up is the “correct” way.

For myself? I went straight up the polished rock about midway in which deposited me under the right hand side window (i.e.: The wrong one). I then traversed back towards the far left chockstones which got me to the exit corner. Despite some people saying it’s silly, having a headlamp would have been nice; the single piece of gear I plugged had to be put in without proper inspection (it was in front of my face, but I couldn’t see the lobes) and I had to use my hands to feel out the foot holds … Needless to say that this weak fool was sort of gripped.

A nice and unique pitch, but a serious one. I setup the belay at the top of the exit corner.

Pitch 6 (5.7)

From the belay after the tunnel, I followed the obvious line up to the top of a large boulder on the left. There is a steep 5.7 section towards the end of the pitch. If you want to avoid this, there is apparently an easy way out towards the left before the roof.

Descent

Go back down the gully that is the climbers left. There are a few 3rd class sections, but despite what it looks like from the top, it’s a surprisingly easy descent. There are a LOT of cairns, so if you lose them for a while, you may be off track.

Gear

I brought: 70m rope, double set of cams up to 1 inch, one of each C4 #2, #3, #4, set of dmm offset nuts, 12 draws (you’ll need them all if you do the bolted variation).

The Pictures

The Tracklog

Note: The descent information is useless; this is because my watch records a point every second, we were slow and GPS is imprecise. 


Cannon Cliff and the Black Dike

This guys star rating: 3.14/3.14

We got up early. Real early. With the time change, our bodies were feeling 4:45. Sleeping in Lancaster meant a longer drive in the morning than we wanted, but there was nothing available close to the Notch. We wanted to be in the parking lot for 7:00 which we did. Alas another group of fellow Quebecers drove in seconds after us and were quicker to gear up. They would get first dibs at the dike which meant a constant rain of ice on our heads for most of the day.

The approach

The familiar bike path usually taken to make it to Cannon Cliff becomes a snowmobile highway in the winter. We signed the climbers register and headed Southbound on the trail. At some point, somewhere around the middle of the cliff, we crossed the climbers trail and started up. From a semi-dense forest, we moved into the boulder field where the snow filled gaps between rocks made hiking delicate and precarious, and finally hit the steep 200 foot snow field which brought us to the bottom of the climb.

There seemed to be a few trails coming up … I’m fairly certain we didn’t take the right one and could have continued down further on the snowmobile path, but it worked. I wanted to avoid overheating so I kept the pace slow and steady. After all, with no one behind us and a group ahead there was no rush.

Pitch 1 (W2)

A nondescript and long pitch that brings you to the foot of the money pitch. We setup the belay to the right of the ice runnel at the foot of a bulge. You’ll want to be sure you have somewhere to take cover when the ice comes raining down.

Pitch 2 (W3-4)

The money pitch. We had it easy; the rock traverse was short (5 feet or so) and I didn’t have to swing my axe or crampons a single time. It was hooking all the way. The pitch is beautiful and unique, and in fat conditions, easy for this week climber. We setup the belay at a set of 3 pitons on the left side of the wall.

Pitch 3 (W3)

Most of the pitch is pretty easy, but not to be underestimated as there is an awkward and steep bulge midway. Once again, hooking was the name of the game. With a group rappeling below us I was tip-toeing making sure I wasn’t dislodging anything. The belay is at the top of the cliff on a tree.

Descent

Please, don’t rappel this if you don’t need to … The walk off takes the same amount of time as the rappels so why would you choose to rain down ice on people below you …

From the top of the climb, simply head South (climbers left) and follow the path. We kept our crampons on and walked the whole way down, but the people who had descended just before us had butt slid most of it (I’d say 50% of the descent can be done on your butt).

The Photos

 

The Tracklog


Mount Willard – Hitchcocks and The Cleft

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For some reason, probably because I’m weak, the walk up to Lower Hitchcock Gully puts a toll on my calves. At the railroad junction, not knowing what to expect once we start up, we decide to gear up and rope up to simulclimb the easy stuff; if we hit a harder section we’ll be ready for it. There aren’t any hard sections save for a few tiny bulges.

Having prepped at the railroad, we’re immediately ready to start climbing when we arrive at the base of Lower Hitchcock. I’ll be getting all the easier pitches today, probably because I’m weak, so this first one is mine. Fast forward to the rocky section at the end of the pitch where shit gets real. It’s a twenty foot section of thinly ice covered rock. Mercifully there’s a tree one third of the way up which can be slung for protection. I spend a few minutes carving out feet in the ice. Four moves later I’ve topped out and setting up a quick belay at a tree.

Upper Hitchcock

From the belay we take the easy walk up to the base of Upper Hitchcock where there are lines all over the place. We proceed to dispatch Rear Window, East Slabs Left, Upper Hitchcock and East Slabs Right. Apart from Rear Window which is a bit thin at the bottom, the ice is fat everywhere. I take the lead East Slabs Left which I find terribly fun. As far as belays go, all routes top out at trees and all of them drop us back to the ground with double sixty meter ropes.

The plan is to finish the day in The Cleft. I’m looking forward to this because of its unique setting. We walk North for a few minutes until we arrive at the very obvious feature. Since this is an easy climb it’s my lead. We both head up to the first bulge where we setup the belay. Starting at the very bottom would have forced us to do in two pitches. The climb doesn’t disappoint; one of the cooler ice climbs I’ve done (take that with a grain of salt; I’ve climbed roughly 12 routes in my life).

To finish the day we head up to the summit of Willard and are treated to an exceptional panorama of Crawford Notch. The walk down is quick and easy (except for when someone got burned with battery acid … don’t ask).

The Tracklog

I set my watch to record a point every 5 minutes and stopped the tracking throughout the day. The tracklog shows a rough line of how to get to Lower Hitchcock Gully from the railroad; it also shows the summit and descent trails.


New Hampshire Carters Traverse

Last Friday I did a traverse of the Carters through the Nineteen Mile bk trail and down the Stony Brook Trail. For those looking for tail conditions, here is my bullet point report:

  • I’ve started trail running, so am trying to push harder and faster on each outing. To try to say light and fast I was trying a new setup with new Atlas Fitness snowshoes. They are comfortable but definitely lack the grip found on my MSR Evos.
  • Getting up to the col between Wildcat and Carter Dome was quick and on great snow and trail conditions. I wore only micro spikes over my running shoes and I was flying.
  • The ascent to Carter Dome is steeper and I obviously slowed down. The micro-spikes were borderline insufficient on some of the steep sections. If there is no snow in the coming days or the current pack ices up, something with a bit more bite might come in handy (crampons or good snow shoes)
  • Getting over Mount Hight and the three Carters (South, Middle and North)  was also quick and the trails were in great conditions. Once again no snow shoes were needed.

Everything between North Carter and Stony Brook Trail was in complete shambles and I slowed down to a crawl:

  • Blow down everywhere
  • Bad snow conditions requiring snow shoes
  • With the blow down, the trail was easily lost. I lost it 3 or 4 times which slowed me down by almost 2 hours.
  • With no snow and a weird rained on pack, following other hikers foot paths is impossible.

I figured that this being the AT it would be better marked and in a better shape, but I guessed wrong. I can understand that the blow down may be recent and that the maintenance crews will need time if that’s the case, but the infrequent markings make this trail downright confusing (this may be the first time I complain about a trail).