Matt McCormick and I hemmed and hawed a bit, looked at some other options, but couldn’t resist trying the line. Some good climbers had been up there, and they definitely cast a shadow, but what the heck, you can always go down, right?
I whined a little bit starting the first pitch, on unbonded thin ice, but pounded a specter hook in some turf and muckled up onto a ledge anyway. The other folks who had tried this route had all taken a right hand chimney/corner system, but the second pitch’s crack we wanted to climb begun here, down low on the first. Matt and Steve House, who had been up here a few days before, had rapped over this unclimbed section and said there was gear. With that in mind I cautiously started up and found plenty of protection, some mungy, but it kept coming. The climbing was good too, thin ice, pick cracks, turf shots and steep for this kind of climbing; at one point maybe just past vertical. Things were melting though, including the turf – a clump of which blew out as I was making the crux move, leaving me dangling from the rope after a clean, short fall. “Damn,” I thought, and finished the pitch.
Matt followed, and we figured the pitch was about M7, well protected and a classy example of typically scrappy Adirondacks mixed climbing.
Now, however, we were below the business. I had reinforced the belay of two knifeblades, one not very good, with three more shitty pins, and felt good about strength in numbers. When I first got there water was only dripping from the outside of the icicle above, and I could lean inside to stay dry. This worked well for a while, but as Matt was putting in the work, finding the bomber gear and figuring out the hard moves, it began to drip from all over. Soon there was nowhere to hide. By the time he had it fully sussed and had done the crux move, he had been hard at work for an hour and a half. Tired, Matt lowered off he asked if I wanted to try. “No.” was my emphatic response, wringing out the cuffs of my belay jacket.
But, I quickly realized my error, pulled the ropes and tied in. Long, kinda dynamic moves are natural for me, so I was optimistic, and after watching Matt I knew where all the holds were. I got the gear Matt placed clipped, and down-climbed to the ledge. After a short break I got back up, hitting the hard move first go; a long reach to a tiny but positive hook with bad feet. A couple of more thin hooks, with worse feet, and I was looking at a sideways jab at the hanging curtain. I took a whack, a low percentage sideways swing, and my tool stuck in the soft ice. “Shit,” I thought, “I’m in.”
The ice climbing above was strenuous, but forgiving due to the temps, and very wet. After pulling one more hanging icicle I eventually found a good place to belay off right; tied to a wobbly cedar and a couple of small cams. Matt followed as twilight begun to settle in. From my perch I could see the final icicle above and off to my left, and I really wanted to finish up it – for the proud line and a third and final new pitch. I havn’t had the chance to climb with Matt alot, and I knew that not a lot of people would have gotten excited about this prospect, but McCormick was all over it – despite the impending darkness and being completely soaked from his belay session. He squirmed through a tiny gap behind the icicle, chopping his way through until he was able to swing into the intimidating dangler. He managing to sneak in some good gear before topping out and bushwhacked into the cedar to find a good anchor. The pitch, while short, is memorable. One 70m rappel deposited us at our packs, in the dark.
We had some fun, laughed a lot and never expected much from the day. Sometimes that works out the best. I’m looking forward to some more adventures with this guy.
Check out more at Alpinist.com, and NEice.com.
This section of the High Falls Crag, in the Adirondacks’ Wilmington Notch, has a short, but interesting history. The corner systems right of the ice were first attempted by the prolific, and entertaining, Joe Szot with partner Will Mayo.Then it sat for a few years until Quebecois LP Menard and Maxime Turguon went up there on the recommendation of the Adirondacks’ main man, Matt Horner. They got up the first pitch and tried to add a second, but bailed after a fall. Matt Horner decided he better have a look and finished the Canadians’ second pitch, but headed down below the top, he told us. Inspired, Matt McCormick and Steve House went up there the Thursday before this year’s Mountain Fest, this time trying a new and direct second pitch; up an overhanging and improbable looking seam. Steve approached it in incredible style, Matt reported, fiddling in tiny gear and going for it. He eventually fell and blew a piece, and zippered the rest – except the one that caught him, a small wire. After three more falls they opted for Horner’s original second pitch and added a final one as well, topping out twenty feet right of what would become the Bossman’s final icicle, thinking the line was about M6.
The Tuesday after the Mountain Fest Matt McCormick and I had a chance to head up there. We added a direct first pitch, with some effort lead Steve’s second pitch clean, and added a direct third pitch up the final icicle. I just wish I hadn’t blown out of a turf shot on the first pitch!