Posted on August 15th, 2012 Add a comment >>
I’m looking forward to gathering with fellow writers for a book signing at the Mountaineer in Keene Valley on Thursday, though I may feel a little out of place among the likes of Russell Banks, Chase Twitchell, Bill McKibben, and Jerry Jenkins.
The Mountaineer recently expanded its book department and hopes that Thursday’s book signing will become an annual event.
Check out this story in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise for more details and a complete list of the authors who will be there.
I will be signing copies of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks: Writings of Pioneering Peak-Bagger, Pond-Hopper and Wilderness Preservationist. I collected and published Marshall’s writings in 2006. Marshall, his brother George, and their guide, Herb Clark, were the first to climb all forty-six of the High Peaks.
Unfortunately, my new book, Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, will come out a few weeks too late for the signing, but I hope to have a flier available, and of course I will be able to answer questions about the book. You can order the book from the Adirondack Mountain Club by clicking here.
If you do stop at the Mountaineer, check out the Mountaineer’s own publication, Adirondack High Peaks Summit Journal. Drew Haas, one of the shop’s employees, put it together this year. It’s a spiral-bound journal for those climbing the forty-six High Peaks. It fits in your pocket and sells for just $9.95.
There are two lined pages for each peak, with space allotted for the date of ascent, the hiker’s companions, weather, and other basic information. There also is a check list of the peaks, ranked by elevation, and list of emergency numbers.
It’s a pretty nifty little book. I bet Bob Marshall would have liked one.
Posted on April 25th, 2012 5 comments Add a comment >>
This summer W.W. Norton plans to publish Classic Hikes of North America: 25 Breathtaking Treks in the United States and Canada. Judging by the publicity materials, it should be a magnificent-looking book, with detailed maps and more than two hundred color photos.
Adirondack hikers may be disappointed to learn that no hikes in the Park made the cut. In fact, only four of the twenty-five hikes are east of the Mississippi.
The hike closest to the Adirondacks is the Presidential Range Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The other eastern hikes are the Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina, the Sentiers International des Appalaches in Quebec, and the Long Range Traverse in Newfoundland.
The 224-page hardcover book was written by Peter Potterfield, the author of Classic Hikes of the World. It will sell for $39.95. Click here for more details.
With so many great hikes to choose from in the United States and Canada, perhaps Potterfield can be forgiven for ignoring our part of the world. But if you were to choose one hike from the Adirondacks, what would it be?
Posted on July 29th, 2010 5 comments Add a comment >>
Although you can’t learn rock climbing from a book, you’ll find a lot of rock-climbing manuals at EMS in Lake Placid, the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, and other outdoors stores. These books are no substitute for experience, but they do reinforce lessons you’re likely to hear from professional guides and veteran climbers.
I own several such books. One of my favorites was written by Lake Placid’s own Don Mellor: A Trailside Guide: Rock Climbing, published by W.W. Norton & Co.
Recently, I finished a classic of the genre, Basic Rockcraft by Royal Robbins, from way back in 1971.
Royal Robbins ranks among the giants in the annals of climbing. He made his reputation pioneering big-wall climbs in Yosemite and elsewhere. In 1957, to name just one feat, he and two others made the first ascent of the northwest face of Half Dome. It took them five days. Following the onset of arthritis in the late seventies, Robbins retired from serious climbing and took up adventure kayaking. He also founded an apparel company.
Much of the advice about climbing technique in Basic Rockcraft remains as sound as ever. However, I was struck by how much the equipment has changed.
Shoes. In the photos in the book, Robbins and other climbers wear what appear to be hiking boots and socks. For all I know, these may actually be the rock-climbing shoes of the day, for he discusses the advantages of specialized rock shoes and notes that some of them have cleats. In any case, the boots in the photos are a far cry from the sticky-sole slippers favored by climbers today.
Harnesses. Robbins did not enjoy the comfort and security of a manufactured harness. Instead, he wrapped webbing (flat rope) around his waist and tied loops for his thighs, creating a proto-harness known as a “Swami belt.” He also used webbing to create seat slings for rappels.
Belay devices. Modern climbers feed the climbing rope through metal belay devices when belaying or rappelling. These devices generate friction to stop a fall or control a descent. Lacking such devices, the climbers in Robbins’s day generated friction by wrapping the rope around their bodies and sometimes feeding it through stacked carabiners as well.
Helmets. In his discussion on equipment, Robbins nowhere mentions helmets, and the climbers in the photos do not wear them.
Chalk. Nor does he mention chalk, which is ubiquitous today. Climbers use chalk to keep their palms and fingers dry.
Pitons. A piton hammer and pitons were still part of the essential equipment. Robbins lists five types of pitons and describes how to place and remove them. At the same time, more benign forms of protective anchors were coming into use, namely, artificial chockstones, or nuts, that could be wedged into cracks. Robbins advocated using nuts over pitons whenever possible. They don’t deface the cliff, he said, and offer the climber greater satisfaction: “the silent communion between man and rock, the feeling that one is with the rock, the greater sensitivity to its minute variations and configurations, the knowledge that one is not violating the rock, smashing it with pitons.” His defense of “clean climbing” helped changed the sport. There are now a wide variety of nuts and camming devices on the market.
All of the equipment innovations since the publication of Basic Rockcraft have served to make climbing easier and safer. In Robbins’s era, a difficult climb would be rated 5.9 or perhaps 5.10 in the Yosemite Decimal System. Nowadays, the best climbers have managed to do routes rated as high as 5.15, which once would have been considered impossible. But could they do them in hiking boots?
Did you ever climb with the old equipment? If so, we’d love to hear about it. How much have equipment improvements changed the sport and made climbing easier?
Posted on June 1st, 2010 Add a comment >>
In the July/August issue of the Adirondack Explorer, a Montana angler writes about falling in love with fishing the Adirondacks. He was introduced to the region by another love, Lisa Densmore, a freelance writer and photographer who grew up in Saranac Lake.
Well, Lisa has just published Hiking the Adirondacks, which describes forty-two hikes from all parts of the Adirondack Park. Released by Falcon Guides, the book sells for $18.95. It can be purchased in stores or online.
Lisa is more than qualified to offer us advice: she has been hiking in the Adirondacks since she was a young girl. Although she now lives in New Hampshire, she has a summer camp on the Chateaugay Lakes in the northeastern corner of the Park.
The book carves up the Park into six regions—the same six delineated in the series of guidebooks published by the Adirondack Mountain Club. In a smart move, Lisa subdivides the High Peaks region into two chapters, one for peaks above four thousand feet, the other for smaller peaks.
She includes hikes to eleven of the forty-six High Peaks. No doubt people will quibble about her choices. For example, she offers separate chapters on Algonquin and Wright, two neighboring peaks that share the same approach. It would have made more sense to combine them into a single chapter (or drop Wright altogether) and add a chapter on Nippletop or Dix.
But this is a minor cavil. Overall, she did a superb job in selecting hikes that are sure to appeal to the general hiker. Some of my favorite mountains are in this book: Catamount and Lyon in the northern Adirondacks, Nun-da-ga-o Ridge in Keene, Tongue and Buck near Lake George, Crane in the southern Adirondacks, Vanderwhacker in the central Adirondacks, and Black Bear near Inlet. Not to mention little Baker Mountain in Saranac Lake, which I often climb on my lunch hour.
This is not a book for people who prefer flat hikes. With two or three exceptions, all of the hikes lead to summits or lookouts. However, the climbing varies greatly in difficulty. Kane Mountain, for example, entails an elevation gain of just 535 feet.
Densmore’s professionalism is evident in both her writing and photography (it’s a shame the inside shots are not in color). I had the opportunity to watch her at work when I tagged along on two of her hikes: the loop over Nun-da-ga-o Ridge and the traverse of Pitchoff Mountain. I can attest that she is a meticulous note taker and observant photographer. Readers will enjoy the fruits of her labor.
Posted on January 5th, 2010 Add a comment >>
Bob Marshall was one of the original Adirondack Forty-Sixers, but he thought he was born too late. He would have preferred to have lived in the nineteenth century, before the Adirondacks were overrun by civilization.
Well, Bob is now part of the twenty-first century.
John Warren, the guy behind the Adirondack Almanack, reports in his blog that a number of old Adirondack books have been digitized and put online. Among them is Marshall’s 1922 booklet The High Peaks of the Adirondacks. It can be read online or downloaded for free.
Marshall wrote the booklet after he and his younger brother, George, and their guide, Herb Clark, climbed all the peaks in the Adirondacks that surpass four thousand feet–or so they thought. At the time, they believed there were forty-two such peaks, but they later discovered they had missed four and climbed them as well. Subsequent surveys revealed that four of these forty-six peaks are less than four thousand feet, but peak-baggers still adhere to the traditional list established by the Marshalls and Clark.
Marshall’s booklet was the first publication of the fledgling Adirondack Mountain Club and, in effect, its first guidebook. In it, he briefly describes how they climbed each mountain, and he rates the view from each. His favorite view was from Mount Haystack: “It’s a great thing these days to leave civilization for a while and return to nature. From Haystack you can look over thousands and thousands of acres, unblemished by the works of man, perfect as made by nature.”
The Marshalls and Clark were hiking at a time when the scars from logging and forest fires were a common sight in the High Peaks, and these influenced his ratings. He complained about the slash and burned territory on Rocky Peak Ridge and proclaimed the view “hardly worth the trouble to obtain.” Today, the hike to this summit from New Russia is thought by some to be one of the best in the Adirondack Park.
Physical copies of The High Peaks of the Adirondacks are rare today, but it was reprinted in Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks: Writings of a Pioneering Peak-Bagger, Pond-Hopper and Wilderness Preservationist, which I edited and published in 2006.
Marshall was a student at the New York State College of Forestry when he wrote his booklet. He went on to work for the U.S. Forest Service, explore arctic Alaska, and help found the Wilderness Society. He died in 1939 at age thirty-eight. The following year, the federal government established the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana in his honor. One of the Adirondack High Peaks, Mount Marshall, is also named after him.
Posted on August 12th, 2009 6 comments Add a comment >>
We at the Explorer just received copies of our new book, Wild Times, a full-color anthology of 120 hiking and paddling adventures from the past ten years of our newsmagazine.
This is news you can use, whether you’re looking to paddle a quiet river, spend time on an uncrowded summit, visit a fire tower, or jump in a lake. As in the Explorer, most of the stories are personal accounts of trips, accompanied by hand-drawn maps and color photographs.
Our writers, photographers, and artists made this publication possible. A lot of credit also goes to Susan Bibeau, our designer, who laid out the book.
Wild Times sells for $14.95 (or $13.95 if ordered from our Web site). That works out to about 12 cents an adventure. Not a bad deal.
You can find a few samples from Wild Times on our main Web site. The book can be ordered online and soon will be in stores.
To order from our home page, click on “Order Now” in the Wild Times box on the right side of the screen. That will bring you to the sample pages from the book. Click on “Order Now” again to get to the order form. Or you can simple click here to get to the form.
Posted on July 29th, 2009 2 comments Add a comment >>
If you read the Adirondack Explorer, you’re familiar with the work of Susan Bibeau. She designs our publication, and that’s lucky for us.
In recent months, Sue has been designing another publication: Dog Hikes in the Adirondacks: 20 Trails to Enjoy with Your Best Friend, a compilation of canine hikes by a variety of regional writers.
We just received a copy, and it looks great. The book includes more than twenty black-and-white photos of dogs lolling on mountaintops, splashing in ponds, and doing other doggy things. Most were taken by Nancie Battaglia. One of my favorites is of a dog soaking in a puddle on top of Ampersand Mountain.
The names of at least three of the writers should be familiar to readers of the Explorer: Neal Burdick, Mary Thill, and Joanne Kennedy, all of whom have written for us. Other contributors to the book include Elizabeth Folwell and Annie Stoltie of Adirondack Life.
The destinations of the twenty hikes are typically small peaks, such as Sawyer Mountain near Indian Lake or Dewey Mountain near Saranac Lake, or a water body, such as Crane Pond or the Raquette River. In addition to the hike descriptions, the book contains tips on hiking with dogs.
Dog Hikes in the Adirondacks was the brainchild of Libby Treadwell, the publisher, who operates Shaggy Dog Press in Westport.
It’s a slim softcover book, just sixty-four pages, that sells for $12.95. It can be purchased online at Shaggy Dog Press. You also can obtain a copy by writing to Shaggy Dog Press at P.O. Box 318, Westport, NY 12993. There are plans to distribute it to bookstores as well.