Posted on May 9th, 2013 Add a comment >>
Rock climbers will have a few more routes to climb this weekend, according to Joe Racette, a biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation who monitors the nesting of peregrine falcons on cliffs.
Racette said the Upper Washbowl cliffs near Chapel Pond are now open to climbers. DEC closes Upper Washbowl and Lower Washbowl each spring at the start of the falcons’ breeding season. DEC has ascertained that that this year the falcons are nesting on Lower Washbowl.
Upper Washbowl has twenty-one climbing routes, including one established by Fritz Weissner, one of the top climbers of his era, in 1938. There will be a story about the historic Wiessner Route in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer. Meantime, you can read more about the route on Adirondack Almanack.
Lower Washbowl will remain closed to climbers until the falcons fledge.
DEC hopes to pinpoint soon the location of a falcons’ next on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, one of the largest climbing areas in the Adirondack Park. For the time being, most of the routes on the Main Face will remain closed.
RockSport, a climbing gym in Queensbury, recently informed DEC that falcons were nesting on the Main Wall of Shelving Rock, a climbing destination near Lake George. As a result, DEC has closed the routes between Snake Charmer and Wake and Bake.
Click here for updates on climbing-route closures.
Posted on April 19th, 2013 1 comment - Add a comment >>
On my lunch hour, I took a short hike to check out the rock-climbing cliffs on Baker Mountain on the outskirts of Saranac Lake. A few weeks ago, a huge wall of ice hung nearby, with its tongue extending along the base of one of the routes.
Today the ice was gone, and the cliffs were dry. I expect I’ll be climbing there soon, but Don Mellor beat me to the punch.
Baker, it turns out, is on Mellor’s list of cliffs suitable for early-season climbing.
“You’re looking for southern exposure with no drips from above,” says Mellor, a Lake Placid resident who has written several rock-climbing books.
Generally, you want to avoid cliffs with runoff from hills above or with vegetation that holds moisture that then drips water onto the rock.
Mellor’s other recommendations for early-season climbing in the Keene-Keene Valley region include the Beer Walls, Spider Web, Hurricane Crag, and Pitchoff Chimney Cliff.
Will Roth, a guide at EMS in Lake Placid, tells me he’s already climbed at Potter Mountain near Silver Lake, Deadwater in North Hudson, and the Spider Web, and conditions were great in all three places.
Coincidentally, the Adirondack Explorer has a story on Potter Mountain in its May/June issue, which we just sent to the printer’s. The cliffs on Potter and adjacent Silver Lake Mountain were open to climbers only in the past few years as a result of the state’s land deal with International Paper. The photo above was taken on my trip there last September.
Mellor says you also can find dry cliffs in the southern Adirondacks.
Climbers should be aware that a number of climbing routes on Poke-o-Moonshine and Moss Cliff and in the Chapel Pond area are closed during the nesting season of peregrine falcons. For more information on these closures, click here.
Posted on April 8th, 2013 5 comments Add a comment >>
On Saturday I skied Mount Marcy and was surprised at how good the snow conditions were. I began at the start of South Meadow Road and had to take my skis off only once, on a fifty-yard stretch of the Marcy Dam Truck Trail.
To be sure, the trails were hard and sometimes icy on the approach to Marcy Dam and the first mile or so beyond, but above “50-Meter Bridge” (the second crossing of Phelps Brook), there was good snow: packed powder, with fluffier stuff outside the well-trodden track.
Somewhat surprisingly, given the gorgeous day, I saw no other skiers. I did, however, encounter a number of hikers who were coming down as I was ascending. Most of them were not wearing snowshoes, a violation of state regulations. Hikers in the High Peaks are supposed to wear snowshoes whenever there is at least eight inches of snow on the ground. The rationale is that winter hikers without snowshoes create “post-holes” that mar the trail.
Because the Marcy trail was so packed down, the hikers didn’t sink in the snow and so didn’t do much damage–at least at the lower elevations. When I reached the summit cone, I discovered that the strong winds of last week had blown snow across the trail. In places, the hikers had sunk a foot into this looser stuff. It didn’t ruin my day, but still …
Ron Konowitz and Katie Tyler skied Marcy on Sunday and sent me videos of post-holes they saw, including a big one on the Corkscrew, a steep, twisty section. Ron says he spent an hour filling in post-holes.
The objection to post-holes is not merely aesthetic: if a ski tip gets caught in one, the skier could be upended and injured.
Many people think they don’t need snowshoes once springlike weather arrives. Actually, when temperatures soar and the snow softens, hikers without snowshoes are more likely to post-hole. I recall descending the Corkscrew once on a warm, spring day and seeing a group of hikers at the bottom. When I yelled a heads-up, they all stepped aside–except for one guy who stayed in the middle of the trail. At the last moment, I did a hockey stop. Turns out he couldn’t move because he had sunk up to his thigh.
So if you’re planning to hike in the High Peaks, please remember that it is still winter at the high elevations. Bring your snowshoes–especially if gets warm enough that the snow starts to soften.
Note to skiers: lots of rocks were showing on the stretch between Marcy Dam and 50-Meter Bridge. It was still skiable, with caution, but it may not be if we get a lot of warm rain this week. Likewise, the many small bare patches on the truck trail are sure to get bigger. If you plan to ski Marcy next weekend, be prepared to do a lot of walking below 50-Meter Bridge.
Posted on April 1st, 2013 Add a comment >>
A sure sign of spring is when the state Department of Environmental Conservation closes rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks to protect the nesting sites of peregrine falcons.
Each spring, DEC bans climbing on routes on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs, and Moss Cliff. Once biologists ascertain where falcons are nesting, some routes are reopened. Sometime in summer, after the falcons fledge, all routes are reopened.
Following is a notice sent out today by Joe Racette, a DEC wildlife ecologist:
Effective today, April 1, 2013, the following Adirondack rock climbing routes are closed to protect Peregrine falcon nest sites.
Moss Cliff – All routes closed
Chapel Pond – All routes on Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs closed
Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain – All routes on the Main Face are closed except the following routes described on pages 39-45 of Adirondack Rock: A Rock Climber’s Guide:
2. Goat’s Foot on Rock
3. High and Dry
5. Big Buddha
8. Pearly Gates
10. Battle Creek
11. Static Cling
12. Certified Raw
13. Air Male
14. Son of a Mother
15. Phase III
18. Puppies on Edge
19. Hang ‘Em High
20 Group Therapy
24. A Womb with a View
Current route closure information will be posted at trailheads and online at:
Posted on March 25th, 2013 5 comments Add a comment >>
A snowmobile that sank in Lake Flower after its driver intentionally drove it over open water has been removed and apparently did not contaminate the water, according to a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
David Winchell, the spokesman, said the snowmobile was pulled out of the lake Friday evening, hours after the incident. “Examination of the snowmobile indicates all motor fluids are intact, so no fluids were released into the lake,” Winchell said in an e-mail.
He added that DEC will not issue any tickets to the driver, whom he identified as Shawn Wales, 37, of Saranac Lake.
Lori Severino, a spokeswoman in DEC’s Albany office, said there were no violations. “Fluids did not leak into the lake, and the snowmobile was promptly removed from the lake,” she said in an e-mail.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported on Saturday that two snowmobilers were observed going back and forth over open water on Lake Flower on Friday afternoon. Amanda Irvine called 911 after she and her son saw one sledder go into the lake. Her son ran to a dock and helped the man out of the water.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you get in someone’s vehicle until the rescue gets here so you don’t get hypothermic?’ and he was pissed off, to say the least,” Amanda Irvine told the Enterprise. “I said, ‘Well, it’s better your snowmobile than your life.’”
She said the man walked away. She added that she gave the other snowmobiler a “tongue lashing” for being foolhardy, but the man said nothing and left on his machine.
Posted on March 25th, 2013 1 comment - Add a comment >>
I went backcountry skiing around Paul Smiths both days this past weekend and found the conditions outstanding, but who knows how long the snow will last.
On Saturday afternoon, I skied to the summit of Jenkins Mountain, starting at Black Pond on Keese’s Mill Road. I skied across the pond, climbed over an esker, and picked up the Jenkins hiking trail. I broke trail most of the way. The sky was overcast, so the summit view was not great, but I had a blast coasting back down the mountain in my own tracks. The snow at the top was relatively powdery.
The next afternoon I skied to Grass Pond from the Hays Brook trailhead in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest. The trail was well tracked, which made for fast traveling. You reach the pond via an old woods road. After visiting Grass, I continued up the old road for another mile or so, breaking trail. I had not done this before, so I was curious where it went. It led to an open forest, at which point I ventured off trail in hopes of finding the Osgood River, but I gave up when the ski turned into a bushwhack.
Judging from my weekend trips, I’d say skiing at the Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths will be a good bet in the days ahead.
On my lunch hours Friday and Monday, I skied to Oseetah Marsh from Route 86 in Saranac Lake. Snow has got thinner along the trail and in the marsh in the past few days. The marsh is looking browner. Snow also is vanishing on the railroad tracks in the vicinity. Rails are exposed and, in some places, so are the ties.
Even after the snow melts in the valleys, there will be skiing in the High Peaks. I may get up there this week. If so, I’ll post another report. When I skied Marcy a few weeks ago, though, I noticed there was less snow up there than usual for the time of year.
Posted on March 21st, 2013 Add a comment >>
Following is the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s weekly update on conditions in the High Peaks.
Compiled on: March 21, 2013
See the High Peaks Trail Information web page (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9198.html)
Weather: The following forecast, provided by the National Weather Service (NWS), is based on conditions at low elevations. Hikers & campers entering the High Peaks Region should expect, and be prepared for, conditions which will likely be more severe than those expressed in a general NWS forecast. Check up-to-date forecasts before entering the back country, as weather forecasts can change.
- Today Snow showers likely, mainly after noon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 21. Wind chill values as low as -2. West wind 6 to 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
- Tonight A 50 percent chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 14. West wind 7 to 9 mph. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
- Friday Snow showers likely, mainly after 4pm. Cloudy, with a high near 20. Northwest wind 9 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.
- Friday Night Snow showers likely, mainly before 10pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 14. Wind chill values as low as -5. Windy, with a northwest wind 17 to 22 mph increasing to 24 to 29 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 46 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of around an inch possible.
- Saturday A 30 percent chance of snow showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 26. Windy, with a northwest wind 30 to 32 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
- Saturday Night Mostly cloudy, with a low around 13. North wind 13 to 17 mph.
- Sunday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 29. North wind 9 to 13 mph becoming northeast in the afternoon.
- Sunday Night Cloudy, with a low around 12. Northeast wind around 7 mph becoming southeast in the evening.
- Monday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 30. East wind 7 to 15 mph becoming north in the afternoon.
- Monday Night Partly cloudy, with a low around 13. North wind around 9 mph.
- Tuesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 30. North wind 9 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph.
- Tuesday Night Mostly cloudy, with a low around 12. Northwest wind 9 to 13 mph.
- Wednesday Partly sunny, with a high near 28. Blustery, with a northwest wind 9 to 14 mph increasing to 16 to 21 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 31 mph.
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. Weather conditions may change at any time. All users should plan accordingly, including bringing flashlight, first aid equipment, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Weather conditions may alter your plans; always be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods.
Late Winter Conditions: Temperatures have been below freezing most of the past week, but daytime temperatures are forecasted to rise above freezing in the lower and middle elevations. Water levels are rising as is usual for this time of year. Always check weather current weather conditions and forecasts before entering the backcountry.
Snow & Trail Conditions: Snow is present at all elevations. New snow and cold temperatures this past week as made for good trail conditions, particularly in the higher elevations. In the lower elevations trails may be icy or crusty in the morning and soft in the afternoon. Slush may be present in low areas and near water. There is 36 inches of snow at Lake Colden with approximately a foot of snow from the storm earlier this week.
Snowshoes and Skis: The use of snowshoes or skis is required on all trails and lands in the Eastern High Peaks and strongly encouraged elsewhere in the Adirondacks. The use of snowshoes prevents falls, avoids injuries and eases travel on snow. “Post-holing”, traveling through snow and leaving holes, takes much more energy, ruins trails and endangers other users.
Ice on Water: Lakes and ponds may have a slush and water between layers of ice. Longer days and warmer weather have cause ice conditions to deteriorate. Always check the depth and quality of ice before traveling on it. Avoid ice over running water, near outlets & inlets, along shorelines and near open water.
Snow on Slopes: The recent snowfall and high winds have significantly increase snow loads especially on leeward slopes. The High Peaks region has experienced a significant temperature gradient over the last couple of weeks producing faceted snow which present as potential weak layers. The recent snowfall has further stressed existing weak layers. If you are going to venture out into avalanche terrain: travel smart, carry shovel, probe and transceiver, have a plan, make YOUR OWN observations and decisions. Most importantly if you are unsure, don’t go or chose a location or activity that has a lower riskCold Weather: Dress in layers of non-cotton clothes and pack a non-cotton jacket or sweater. Wear winter boots, a winter hat, gloves or mittens and wind/water resistant outer shell.
Summits: Summits and other open areas may be icy. Carry and use crampons. Carry an ice axe to stop sliding if you fall on ice. Conditions on and near summits are more extreme – deeper snow, stronger winds and colder temperatures.
Avoid Hypothermia and Other Winter Dangers: Regulate body temperature to avoid being cold and overheating. Shed or add layers of clothing as needed. Rest often, eat high energy foods and drink plenty of water. Don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities. Remember you have to make the return trip. Keep safety in mind at all times, consider turning back and trying again another day.
Corey’s Road: The gate is closed for the spring mud season. It will reopen when the road has dried out and is suitable for motor vehicle traffic.
Marshall and Other Trail-less Peaks: Many of the herd paths found on Marshall and some of the other trail-less peaks meander around the slopes of the mountain without reaching the peak. Those climbing these peaks should navigate with a map and compass rather than follow the paths created by others.
Northville-Placid Trail: The trail contains a large area of blowdown near the Seward Lean-to. A detour around the blowdown has been marked with pink flagging.
South Meadow Road: The Town of North Elba has blocked the South Meadow Road for the winter. Cars may park in the area near the roads end at the intersection with the Loj Road.
Elk Lake Trails: The two trails that cross the Elk Lake Lodge Lands – Elk Lake Trail to the southern High Peaks Wilderness and Hunter Pass Trail to the southern Dix Mountain Wilderness – are open for public use. However, the gate a Clear Pond remains closed adding 2 miles to a round trip hike. Plan hikes accordingly.
Marcy Brook Foot Bridge: A new bridge has been constructed over Marcy Brook. It is located approximately 200 feet below Marcy Dam, upstream from the low water crossing that had been in use since Hurricane Irene washed away the old bridge over Marcy Dam.
East River Trail: The bridge over the Hudson River is out, use the nearby flagged ford (low water crossing). An ice bridge does not form at the ford, so crossing the river at this point will always entail wading through the water. Crossing when water levels are high or when water temperatures are cold can be risky.
Bradley Pond Trail: The first bridge on the Bradley Pond Trail is damaged and unsafe to use. The stream can be forded at that location. The second bridge, which crosses Santanoni Brook, is tilting. It can be used with caution.
Southside Trail: DEC has closed the Southside Trail from the Garden Trailhead to John’s Brook Outpost and is not maintaining it at this time.
Cold Brook Trail: DEC has closed the Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass and is not maintaining it at this time.
Trap Dike: Fixed ropes, harnesses and other equipment are often abandoned in the Trap Dike. Due to the age, weatherizing and wearing of these materials they are unsafe and should never be used.
Deer Brook Trail: The low water route through the Deer Brook Flume on this trail to Snow Mountain remains impassable due to severe erosion
Duck Hole-Henderson Lake Trail: The bridge over Roaring Brook Bridge near Duck Hole is out.
Klondike Trail: The bridge over South Meadow Brook is out. The Mr. Van Trail and the Marcy Dam Truck Trail can be used as a detour to reach South Meadow Road.
Calkins Creek Horse Trail: Two bridges are out – the trail is impassable for horse drawn wagons and difficult for horses.
Posted on March 20th, 2013 2 comments Add a comment >>
The state Department of Environmental Conservation issued the following news release today:
Franklin County man pleaded guilty last week to 31 violations of Environmental Conservation Law related to illegal trapping, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced today.
On February 11, DEC Environmental Conservation Police charged Terry J. Hurteau, 56, of Tupper Lake, for offenses including unlawfully setting 15 snares for coyote, multiple counts for unlawful use of body gripping traps on land and multiple counts of failing to tag traps. He was issued appearance tickets for the Town of Tupper Lake Court.
DEC Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) initially responded to complaints about a coyote running through the yards of some Tupper Lake residence. The callers reported that the coyote appeared injured and tangled in what appeared to be wire.
ECOs located the coyote by tracking it through the snow. Due to the extent of its injuries and its entanglement in the snare, the animal was euthanized. However, the ECOs were able to use the snare to begin the investigation which led them to Hurteau.
Hurteau’s activities were extreme and flagrant violations of trapping law and regulation. They do not reflect the behavior of the vast majority of ethical trappers.
Hurteau appeared in court on March 6, and pleaded guilty to all charges. He was ordered to pay total of $3,875 in fines and surcharges.
Posted on March 19th, 2013 2 comments Add a comment >>
They were predicting we’d get more than six inches, perhaps a lot more. They were wrong. We got only two or three, which prettified the woods, but it wasn’t enough to turn the season around for backcountry skiers.
There is still hope: the National Weather Services predicts Saranac Lake, where we’re located, could get three to five more inches over the next few days. Again, not enough to turn the season around, but we’ll take it. And who knows? Maybe this time we’ll get more than predicted.
On my lunch hour, I skied the Jackrabbit Trail from McKenzie Pond Road to McKenzie Pond to check out the conditions. The first thirty or so yards of the trail were scratchy, owing to exposed tree roots. After that, cover was thin but adequate for the two miles to the pond.
Keep in mind, however, that this section of the Jackrabbit doesn’t require a lot of cover to be skiable. I’d be leery of skiing trails with lots of boulders. If they were problematic before yesterday’s snowfall, they probably still are.
The larger problem on my trip was the quality of the snow: it was very sticky. I was on my Karhu Pinnacles, which are waxless skis. If I had thought to bring glide wax, I might have been OK. As it was, I had to stop numerous times to scrape the snow off the bottoms of the skis. I’d go twenty feet and could feel the snow building up again. It was frustrating and not much fun.
Here’s hoping that the snow on it’s way will be fluffy.
Posted on March 19th, 2013 2 comments Add a comment >>
Fred Beckey, a living legend in the climbing world, gave an interesting and often humorous slide show at Northwood School in Lake Placid last night.
At one point, he showed a photo of Fishhook Arete, a narrow, curving ridge on Mount Russell in California. At 14,086 feet, Russell is one of the highest mountains in the Sierra Nevada, so you wouldn’t expect an eight-pitch rock climb that ends on its summit to be a walk in the park. Indeed, the climb itself takes five to seven hours. With the approach and the descent, the trek can take fifteen to twenty-one hours, according to the SuperTopo website.
This is where we point out that Fred Beckey is ninety years old.
Beckey, who grew up and still lives in Seattle, started climbing as a teenager, and he’s still at it. He is thought to have put up more first ascents—both rock-climbing and mountaineering—than anyone in history.
His slide show covered his climbs in the Sierras, the Rockies, Cascades, Tetons, western Canada, and Alaska, among other places. In one video, shot before the advent of sticky-soled climbing shoes, he is shown ascending a steep route in Keds sneakers. “They really worked pretty well,” he said.
The presentation was loosely based on Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite Climbs, a gorgeous coffee-table book published in 2011 by Patagonia Books ($79.95). It’s beautifully designed, with large color photographs and hand-drawn climbing maps. Beckey is a fine writer. In each chapter, he recounts the history of the route, captures the allure of the climb, and provides useful information for those who want to do it. The book is a delight to flip through even if your only intention is to enjoy these routes vicariously.
At the end of his show, Beckey put up on the screen a well-known photo of him hitchhiking with a cardboard sign that says, “Will belay for food.”
“If you see this guy on the road, don’t stop,” Beckey warned.