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Entry-level mountaineering - Catskills, Adirondacks, or anywhere else nearby
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By S. M. Lee
Nov 10, 2012

Hello everyone! I am looking to put my newly learned, basic mountaineering skills to work in the places mentioned in the title of this post. I've learned the basic snow and glacier travel, self-arresting, and anchor building techniques, and would like to tackle some peaks around here this winter in which I may have to utilize what I've learned in the form of frontpointing, axe-use, etc. If anyone has any suggestions I would really appreciate it. I am familiar with the Catskills and 'dacks so even just a few peaks and basic info would be really helpful. Thanks!


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By Dave77
From Watertown, NY
Nov 10, 2012
me in NH

Check out the high peaks region in the Adirondacks. There are plenty of peaks to bag in the winter that you could continue to practice your techniques. If you are looking for more of a challenge, check out Mt. Washington in NH.


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By Josh Wood
From Oneonta, NY
Nov 11, 2012
hotlum / bolum route on Shasta

If you're feeling ambitious, Katahdin in ME is pretty awesome in the winter. 17+ mile approach on skis or snowshoes and many different routes to the top. I think it's the best in the east.


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Nov 11, 2012

In the Adirondacks:

Trap Dike on Mt. Colden
Cascade via The Cascade and slide
Gothics North Face

All are technical climbs for at least a section or two, so you'll need your rope and ice screws. But there is no difficult climbing anywhere, and lots of moderate snow and ice.

The trails in the Adirondacks are fun in the winter, but not really mountaineering. But, if you want a rope-free adventure where you can use crampons and an ice axe, try a loop including Basin and Saddleback. Or, climb the Wolfjaws via one of the new slides. Benny's Brook is the the approach, then just follow snow to the top...


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By Medic741
From Pittsford, New York
Nov 11, 2012
When I was a bum at Frey

Will be heading out this winter. Pm me if interested


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By S. M. Lee
Nov 11, 2012

Thanks guys, that's really helpful. Wolfjaw and Basin and Saddleback sound like what I'm gunnin for. Haven't done any ice climbing yet, so Trap Dike and Gothics sound out of my league. Something to work towards, though, since I'm planning on taking an ice climbing class this winter. Anything similar to Wolfjaw and Basin and Saddleback in the Catskills that anyone can think of?


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By Medic741
From Pittsford, New York
Nov 11, 2012
When I was a bum at Frey

If you're just starting out I'd recommend just hiking in the winter out there to get used to the environment. Good way to build up a base, especially if you don't have any ice experience get some experience before you go nuts. Cascade could be a good one.


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By Kevin Heckeler
From Upstate New York
Nov 13, 2012
Rumney

S. M. Lee wrote:
Thanks guys, that's really helpful. Wolfjaw and Basin and Saddleback sound like what I'm gunnin for. Haven't done any ice climbing yet, so Trap Dike and Gothics sound out of my league.


There's also the Ribbon/True North slide on Gothics. Did it a few years ago, lots of fun, kinda steep, and definitely easier 'mountaineering' grade challenge without being an actual ice climb. Even requires about .5 miles of relatively no-brainer bushwhacking. ;-) I guess people ski this slide a lot, perfect grade and usually has a good snow pack. Beware that the top out could be deep snow as it tends to get blown into the trees on the left, same side your exit will be. We ended up swimming in 4-6 feet of unconsolidated snow on top of the spruce (falling through frequently). At the end of the ascent it definitely added some pucker to an otherwise pedestrian day. Maybe try going all the way up to make the exit to the ridge trail shorter. Took us 30 minutes to go 300 yards. We bailed left off the slide about 200 feet from the top. In hindsight that was a mistake.

www.adkhike.com/2010.htm#Gothics9

A lot of people solo the Trap Dike (ropeless). The top usually has thin ice or thin snow/ice compressed, so you can't protect it with screws anyway. The rest is usually WI2, which most people with any sense of balance can solo. It's a longish day, especially if you have to break trail for any portion of it. Same for Gothics true north.

I found getting into ice climbing made me a mountaineeer, not the other way around. Having the rescue skills is probably critical for glacier travel, but other than avalanches the ADKs don't have anything in common with what most consider mountaineering. It's mostly ice climbing or hiking. Quality options where these two disciplines overlap are few and far between, and the best ones IMO require a lot of effort (more hiking than climbing).

If you're interested in getting on ice there's plenty of climbers and guide services willing to help you along. More true than on rock, an ice climber's best protection is being a good climber. The rule of thumb is don't fall. lol


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By S. M. Lee
Nov 13, 2012

Thanks, Medic, I may take you up on that offer.

Kevin, Ribbon/True North looks awesome based on your pics. Might be exactly what I'm looking for, especially if that snow in pics 7 and 9 warrant crampons. What month did you do it/would you recommend? I've almost put together my touring setup (just need a little more cash), so maybe I could ski the part in pic 2??? Though that 4-6 ft at the top might be a little harder with skis, but then again I don't know anything about touring...yet. Is there a nice place to ski down?

I cannot wait to get into some ice climbing. I've met people with similar accounts (climb first, mountaineer later). For me, it's the more foreign of things I'm getting into--I've hiked and backpacked for years, and have alpine skied since I could walk. But climbing up ice with pointy metal things is totally unfamiliar to me. However, I've gotten to leading 5.9 sport since starting on rock a short while ago, so it's beginning to feel a little less foreign. That being said, I think living in proximity to the ADKs means I'll be taking the route to mountaineering that you took, with more ice climbing first, based on your opinion and others'.

And yup, if the guy who taught me to sport climb kept repeating, "Just don't fall" (on some slabs), I can only imagine how important it is on ice...


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Nov 13, 2012

True North is good. Any time of the year is fine, as long as the North Face looks white from Lake Placid. :-)


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By Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Nov 14, 2012

True north is good but can be a real slog in the winter. The best time is early winter/late fall when it ices up but there hasn't been much precip. Crampons or micro-spikes necessary. Trekking poles or a light mountaineering axe are good for balance.


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By superkick
From West Hartford, CT
Nov 14, 2012
Free Solo up hitchcock gully WI3

Central gully is a good noob objective.


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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Nov 14, 2012
Epic free solo with a pack on

kind of off-topic, but any word on ice conditions currently? Do you think it'd be a fool's errand to go to the dacks in search of ice this weekend?


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By divnamite
From New York, NY
Nov 14, 2012

True North as a climbing objective? Really? It's a black run up top, blue at the bottom. If True North is the type of "climbs" OP wants, then there are shit ton of slides he can slog up and come down (angel, bennie), just be aware of avalanche condition. Especially after hurricane Irene blew everything open.
Auto-X's post is spot on in terms of dacks.


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By Kevin Heckeler
From Upstate New York
Nov 14, 2012
Rumney

divnamite wrote:
If True North is the type of "climbs" OP wants, then there are shit ton of slides he can slog up and come down (angel, bennie), just be aware of avalanche condition.


Yup, that's how hikers become climbers. However, the fast track is to get on some vertical ice and skip the inbetween stuff.

Slide climbing is fun anytime of the year. :)


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By S. M. Lee
Nov 14, 2012

I'm definitely going to try and get on some ice asap, just need to recover from buying all this gear before signing up for a class. But if late fall/early winter is ideal for these slides, then that's perfect for me to get my fix and strap on my shiny crampons and swing my axe into stuff, even if a bit overkill. What can I say, I'm (arguably) a grown man that still likes to play in the snow with new toys.

Central Gully sounds even more perfect, aside from the distance. Maybe as a second objective this season around January-ish.


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By divnamite
From New York, NY
Nov 14, 2012

S. M. Lee wrote:
I'm definitely going to try and get on some ice asap, just need to recover from buying all this gear before signing up for a class. But if late fall/early winter is ideal for these slides, then that's perfect for me to get my fix and strap on my shiny crampons and swing my axe into stuff, even if a bit overkill. What can I say, I'm (arguably) a grown man that still likes to play in the snow with new toys. Central Gully sounds even more perfect, aside from the distance. Maybe as a second objective this season around January-ish.

I don't know any of the slides will be steep enough for crampons and ice axe. I don't think they'll be icy enough to even use crampon without a good winter freeze cycle. Go to the mountaineer at Keene and see what they recommend.


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By Nathan Stokes
Nov 14, 2012

divnamite wrote:
I don't know any of the slides will be steep enough for crampons and ice axe. I don't think they'll be icy enough to even use crampon without a good winter freeze cycle. Go to the mountaineer at Keene and see what they recommend.


I have run into very little in winter that requires more than a pair of MSR Denali snowshoes when the snow pack is right. Last year was a touch different with very little snow below 3000' and not much above. A mountaineering ice axe is good for the leader to clear snow off the overhanging branches from the back of a pack, that is about it.


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By Gunkiemike
Nov 15, 2012

Ben Brotelho wrote:
kind of off-topic, but any word on ice conditions currently? Do you think it'd be a fool's errand to go to the dacks in search of ice this weekend?


It's below freezing every night up there now, so I would expect a fair amount of thin ice on the slides this w/e.


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By divnamite
From New York, NY
Nov 15, 2012

Lee, crevasse rescue, glacial travel and anchor building can be done just about anywhere in the catskills. Self-arrest is a little bit more difficult to practice (I personally think Tucks or Hunginton Ravine bottom areas are great for that, but it's a long drive).

Catskill and Dacks offer great technical climbing as well as physical training. One of my favorite activities for Catskill is to hike up on the backside of Hunter, and then ski down the hunter front side.


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By Jay Harrison
Nov 15, 2012
On an early FA with Dick Tucker.

A bit closer to the Albany area lie a few lesser-known options. I wouldn't do these solo (well, OK, *I* would, but I wouldn't recommend it!), but they may give you a better concept of wilderness navigation and independent resourcefulness needed for mountaineering.
First, the Black Mountain that lies on the east side of Lake George has a challenging west side gully. Approach from the eastern trailhead, hiking along the south margin, curling around the shoreline to the gully that is prominently visible on USGS topos. There are bypassable sections of Grade 2 and 3 ice along the way.
Crane Mountain's Waterfall Wall is a slightly more technical climb, definitely don't want to attempt it without ice climbing skills and knowledge of rope work. Crane Mountain is about a 20 minute drive WNW of Warrensburg (exit 23 off the Northway). In the winter, the hiking trail itself requires crampons, and there are plenty of side options for more technical adventure.


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By S. M. Lee
Nov 16, 2012

Thanks, guys.

Jay, I'm definitely not planning on doing anything solo, but thanks for the heads-up. I'm having trouble finding information on Black Mountain winter ascents. Would you be able to point me in the right direction, or give me a little more info as to what it would entail in terms of what I've been posting until now? Specifically when I should go to give me the best chance of finding what I'm looking for, and what gear I should bring. I did find this, though: www.peakbagger.com/peak.aspx?pid=6099
is the route you're thinking the one marked after the south margin, or the more prominent gully further north?

Thanks again, everyone. Really appreciate it.


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By Jay Harrison
Nov 26, 2012
On an early FA with Dick Tucker.

Ah, found it. This quote stolen from Jason Brechko, who masterminded the crazy scheme to climb up Black this way:

Black Mountain Gully: 700', NEI 2-3+ Jason Brechko, Andrew Brechko 1/21/12

When viewed from Bolton a steep gully can be seen bisecting the west face of Black Mountain. Climbing it is more of an adventure in route finding and back country travel than a steep ice climb but is a fun adventure none the less with spectacular views of the narrows and the tongue mountain range.

Park at the Black Mountain trailhead. Hike into Black Mountain Ponds and after the last pond where the trial intersects the lake trail that climbs Black's SW ridge, continue heading NW trending slightly down hill. Keep an eye up slope until you can see both sides of the steep forested gully high above you. Hike to the stream in the north side of the gully about half way up the mountain. Head up to the first ice and follow the stream bed through a few tiers of grade 2-3 ice bisected by fairly long walking sections. Finally you will end up a NEI2 flow a couple hundred feet tall with steeper finishes possible. From here the gully narrows. Exit onto the north ridge of the gully via a left facing corner right of a brushy slab. Follow the ridge up till you see a cliff band with steep 50' flows. A fat and beautiful 3+ pillar will lead you to the summit plateau and spectacular views. Continue NE to find the trail which you can follow tot he summit and back to the parking lot.


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