Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Big DAKs

There is an article in the current issue of Rock & Ice with this title "Big Daks", referring, of course, to the climbing in the Adirondacks. As a child I spent many summers in the Adirondacks - our family vacationed there at our friend's camp on Long Lake and both of my brothers went to school there.  Later, in my twenties, I revisited the park, mostly on foot, backpacking the Northville-Placid Trail.  I recall one solo 5-day trek on the trail where I did not run into another human being until the last day, hiking out to the Adirondack Loj near Heart Lake in the High Peaks region.  There is a history, spirit and soul to the DAKs, that is somewhat indescribable. The park is a unique tract composed of both private and public land, consuming over 6 million acres - that's right, this place is as big as the entire State of Vermont! I started exploring and experiencing the climbing in the DAKs about 6 years ago, beginning on one of the many large and formidable cliffs, Poke-O-Moonshine. I was hooked. Climbing in the DAKs is different.  In Don Mellor's "Climbing in the Adirondacks" (Adirondack Mountain Club, 1995, Third Edition), he captures the feeling as best one can in the printed word.

 "What is climbing in the Adirondacks? It is not getting advice from a flock of chalkbags below.  There are few colorful sling salads sprouting from fixed anchors. Those who have gone before you have tried their best to hide their passage, not advertise it.  This is an untamed place, even in many ways an inconvenient place. Trails are generally unmarked, and many of the routes see so little traffic that the cracks might be choked with dirt and the grade given by the first ascent team way off the mark. Sure, you'll see a host of well-traveled roadside crags as you drive through the better-known areas like Chapel Pond Pass.  But you might instead find yourself tempted to choose a place like Wallface, or Gothics, or some of the remote wilderness crags of the southern reaches of the park. There you'll rediscover the essence of a sport that has come so far in so very few years, but one which, thankfully, still retains the allure that has drawn people to the mountains from the beginnings of time."
Beer Wall climbs - L to R: Frosted Mug,
Flying & Drinking and Drinking & Driving; Labatt-Ami

We climbed some of the more popular crags this past weekend - the infamous Beer Walls; Deadwater; Hurricane Mountain.  The classic Quadrophenia felt harder to me this time, my 3rd ascent of the route.  I have been pondering those feelings recently - I am unable to tell if my aging is contributing to my increased fear, even on routes I am familiar with - or if it is just an "off day" where I don't feel quite in balance, strong and confident. Nevertheless, the climbing is still most enjoyable in its special, Adirondack way.  And with so much rock and routes to explore, the possibilities are endless.  In summer, an apres climb swim in the cool pond or stream with a cold brew make the whole day heavenly.
The DAKs - Forever Wild.

Larry turns the first roof on the 3rd pitch of Quadrophenia on Hurricane Mountain (2006 photo). With the piton on pitch 2 now missing, that part feels much harder and deserves a "R" rating!

A view of Upper Washbowl Cliff, taken from high on Chapel Pond Slabs.
This cliff boasts classics like Partition, Hesitation and Overture

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