Trip Report - Adirondacks
(subtitle And then it started to rain)
Bill and I were primed and ready for our annual Adirondack Weekend. Since we live in the Hudson valley less than 4 hours from Chapel Pond, were not so far away that this sort of trip should be a big deal. But weekends up north are rare because: 1) weekends are family time for me, 2) Bill isnt particularly fond of getting wet, bug-bitten, or sticking any part of his body into a crack, and 3) the Gunks are close enough to climb after work.
It had been really wet all week prior to our trip, and was still drippy on Thursday night, our planned blast off time. So we surrendered a half day, and drove up Friday morning instead. The weather in Poughkeepsie had cleared nicely overnight, but true to form, the mountains were still socked in as we neared our Northway exit. In fact, it showered briefly on us in those last ten minutes on the highway. Nothing heavy, and the sun was out just as quickly afterward. We ate lunch at the base of the Chapel Pond Slab - our first goal and things were looking good. There was a stream running down the slab, and it formed a pretty little waterfall off the small overhang up high in the middle of the slab. It wouldnt bother us on the Empress route, so I racked up and started up the initial corner.
And then it started to rain. Not too hard though, and since I had some gear in below me, my only concern was stepping around the wet streak rapidly encroaching on my left foot. The shower passed within a minute and Bill followed without any complaints.
With the advantage of his 60 meter rope my second pitch was a bee-line to the hummock belay that normally is the end of the fourth pitch. Thankfully the rope was long enough for this shortcut, as opposed to the last time I tried this, with a shorter rope and a different partner, and we had to simul-climb a little bit for me to reach the belay. Just before this belay I stepped easily across the waterfall stream, which was conveniently confined here to a narrow groove and provided some cool refreshment. The next 5.5 friction pitch had been one of the most desperate pieces of rock Id ever climbed when I first did this route beacoup years ago, in rigid lug-soled Fabiano Black Beauties. In sharp contrast to that nervous day, this time I took an ambitious line directly up the slab (as dictated by the wet streaks) to some gear at half rope and then cruised to the birch trees.
The wide crack pitch that followed was a blast. I hadnt done it in ten years or more, and its amazing that a 50 degree slab (the rib above the crack, in this case) can actually feel exposed. But it does, when youre fifty feet out from gear and the rock drops off behind you AND to both sides. Sitting comfortably at the belay high on the rib, the wind would occasionally blow the waterfall spray onto me, a good hundred feet above and left of the waterfall. One more rope-stretching pitch got us to the woods. As usual, I didnt walk far enough left to catch the descent gully, and we ended up rapping multiple times along the edge of the slab. No problem with that, except we got Bills freshly washed rope all muddy. Our last rap dropped us off slightly uphill from the start, and from there we could see quite a crowd distributed over the lower pitches of the slab.
And then it started to rain. Hard this time. With thunder and that electrical action. We hurried back to the car before we were too soaked, but the folks that had to bail off their climbs came down looking like drowned rats. Our round trip took about 3.5 hours - not very fast, but OK for us slowpokes, and we may have been the only party to summit that day. Once it cleared and wed checked into the Woodruff Motel in Keene, I cajoled Bill into a hike up Owls Head for a look around and some low key crack top roping. The blueberries were in fat, and I stopped several times to grab a handfull. We got the rope set up but before we could do too much, it started to rain (just a wee bit) so we hightailed it off there, not being too fond of getting zapped, should some lightening find its way through the pass.
Bill was really diggin the friction climbing - a welcome break from the typically strenuous climbing at the Gunks - and it took me back to my climbing roots, so the next day we drove to Pok-o-moonshine. Being a Saturday, I figured the slab would be busy, especially the easier routes like Catharsis that we would have our eye on. From the road we could see a big wet spot mid-route, but we could likely manage our way around/through that. A bigger problem was Bills digestive tract, which seemed to have taken a dislike to something he ate for breakfast. Or maybe it was a touch of the flu, since he was feeling weak and light-headed. Strike three was that the skies were threatening again. So we pulled into the campground instead and took a stroll along the base of the main face to kill time and see which would spill liquid first - Bills gut or the sky. BTW, I now know which part of the face above the campground is known as the Waterfall Face, and why. Amazingly, the only other group at the face was a party of two starting up Gamesmanship (a great route). We walked as far as Fastest Gun, picking out routes to do someday.
And then it started to rain. Just a quick shower, and we waited it and a second passing sprinkle out under the slightly overhanging wall. It did confirm, however, that we didnt want to commit to a 4 or 5 pitch route on the slab, so we went to the car to gear up for the one pitch routes on the Nose Apron. Now Im no sport-o climber, but to me, the bolts on Ukiah (5.9) and Homecoming (ditto) look awfully far apart. NOTE: one of these routes was erased by the Thankgiving 98 rockfall. Theres cruxish moves below the first bolt on each of them to boot. Nevertheless, I had the rope up Ukiah and Bill was ready to follow it, when it started to rain. Hard, soaking, downpoury rain. We took refuge under a boulder but the water ran down the roof and landed in my lap anyway. When it let up I pulled my now thirty pound rope and we retreated to the car for some lunch. We had nowhere else to go, so we waited for the sun to come out again, which it did after yet another shower. Finally we dodged a dark cloud and the rock dried enough for us to go back and polish off the rest of the routes we wanted to do. Well, most of them anyway. Im not normally ready to quit until the stars come out, but this time I gave in at dinnertime. It rained some more that evening. Geez, would this weather ever clear out?
Sunday we were going home, so we picked the slabs of Moxham Dome. I had never been there, even when I lived in the North Country, but its easy to find, and easy to approach from the road. I was a little anxious about parking so close to the POSTED signs but we met a local climber as we walked out and it seems the landowner is OK with climbers as long as they dont block his dirt road. The highlight of the day was that IT DIDNT RAIN. I think it still was raining closer to the high peaks, but we were finally out of there, and things were stable and dry overhead. We generally explored the left side of the slab, finding good friction, interesting lines, and lots of wasps, generally in the cracks and pockets where you want to place gear. I cant wait to go back and check out the longer routes in the center and right side of this slab. Moxhams closer to home than the better known ADK crags too, a bonus for future quick get-aways. But I cant imagine coming up here in the dark, as some crazy rec.climbers have done, even knowing (sort of) how best to approach from the road.
Conclusion - we went north seeking a change of pace from our usual cragging, and found a typically Adirondack experience: wet weather, black flies/mosquitos/deer flies, and run out slab routes. In prior years Ive made it a priority to bag some of the classic old routes (e.g. Washbowls Hesitation), but thats too much like our everyday Gunks climbing, cracks and granite notwithstanding. From now on, slabs are going to take center stage on these annual weekends.