Access to the Main Face is often limited in the spring and summer due to peregrine falcon nesting. Check the DEC web site (www.dec.ny.gov, search for "peregrine route closures"). Closures are posted in the kiosk at the beginning of the approach trail in the (now closed) Poke-O Campground.
Several recent incidents at the Poke-O Moonshine Main Face have heightened tensions with neighboring landowners.
Shortcut Trail (aka the Smitty Trail): The main approach goes from the (now closed) campground to the cliff near Discord. There is a shortcut trail on the right that provides access to the cliff near Pentecostal. This shortcut trail crosses the edges of two parcels of private land, and was closed in the spring of 2014. As of Aug 30, 2014, this trail is open on a tentative basis. Stay on the trail; there are some cairns and Access Fund signage to help.
Northern Trail Closure (aka the Easy Living Trail): There is an old trail that connects US 9 with the cliff near Psalm 32. This trail is entirely on private land and should NOT be used by climbers; indeed, it has been closed and undocumented for many years. Both ends of this trail are now marked with signs courtesy of the Access Fund.
In short, while visiting the Main Face, approach from the campground, and stay on the main trail along the base of the cliff.
This information is a public crowdsourcing effort between the Access Fund,
and Mountain Project. You should confirm closures, restrictions, and/or related dates.
As stated by Don Mellor in his comprehensive guidebook to the adirondacks: "Taken separately, each pitch of this route would be considered among Poke-O's best. Linked together they create an experience that seems to good to be in the East."
The Fastest Gun epitomizes all that climbing at Poke-O is about: In-your-face climbing from top to bottom with dizzying exposure, airy belay stances, and a short, but mandatory runout above small gear. This route is not only a classic Adirondack climb, but a route worthy of coast to coast notoriety.
Pitch 1: Begin this route at a big right-facing flake with an off-width starting at about 15' off the ground. grunt your way up the layback flake, slam a #4 Camalot in the off-width and figure out how to get yourself to the top of the off-width below the first roof.
place a Camalot under the roof, undercling and jam your way around this strenuous section until some feet can be had off to your right. Take a quick rest, then finish up the jamming/layback section to the slung blocks. Step left and continue over to the left below the double crack system running vertically above you. (100')
Pitch 2: Follow the seemingly endless twin cracks above you to a small roof. Pull this, then continue above the broken dike, climbing slightly to the left to a ledge. (140')
Pitch 3: A bolt marks the third pitch. Climb off the ledge to a thin crack on your right. Pass the 1/4 inch bolt at a hard move, then place some small gear, and run it out (5.6ish, but heady) to the large left-facing corner capped by a roof. (160')
Pitch 4: The roof move. A series of hard moves gets you to the base of the corner. Crank your way up and left over the roof past some loose flakes, and then climb up to the top of the cliff and anchor. (150')
About 70 feet to the right of the Bloody Mary corner is a major right-facing flake/crack behind a tree. This is the first pitch.
A full rack with doubles in the mid-size range (green through yellow Camalots), plus a wealth of nuts including a good selection of RPs or brass nuts.
One of the greatest routes you'll ever do. All four pitches are a must do, though the 2nd and fourth are especially memorable. The finger tip traverse under the giant roof on P4 is amazing!
By Andrew Mertens From: Hanover, NH Oct 13, 2010 rating: 5.10b6a+19VII-19E2 5b
I though the spicy bit of pitch 3 was actually getting to the bolt, not the climbing after it. I remember some tricky 5.8-5.9 moves getting to the bolt protected by a small gear, added to the fact that you are right above the belay. The climbing after the crux move is 5.6 at most, and I actually found a fair amount of gear. But awesome route. Every pitch is great but make sure you get the lead on pitch 2 and 4.
You can rappel off this route with one 70M rope. From the top of the last pitch scramble up 30 feet into the woods, go 150 feet climbers left above an obvious tree with rappel tat. Scramble down and 5 or six rappels will bring you to the ground.
Each pitch has individual character and challenges every climbing skill...maintains grade for entire length. Protection is good...used everything from small brass stoppers to a Number 4 cam.
First pitch is amazing; second pitch is indescribable; third pitch is tech and if the three previous pitches were not enough...the fourth pitch is burly and delicate at the same time! I found that the undercling roof section on the fourth pitch was well protected and in fact, the easiest part of the entire route. Getting off the deck on the fourth pitch was just damn hard.
If the team is doing the entire route...don't stop at the belay/rap station at the end of the second pitch and freeze in the shade. Continue for another 20-30' up and left to a comfortable platform in the sun and with a bomber belay anchor and good visual access of the remaining route and climbing above.
A true Adirondack classic!
By Colin R From: Ottawa, ON Aug 26, 2013 rating: 5.10c6b20VII20E2 5b PG13
Just finished this yesterday - might even write a post about our experience in the general forum. Climbed the whole thing onsight with John Dawkins from Vermont and led pitches 1,3 and 4 with John bagging a clean follow of pitch 1 and clean lead of pitch 2. Really one of the most epic and exhausting experiences I have had lead climbing on trad. After probably 5 or 6 grueling hours (we were admittedly slow and without enough water), a few lost nuts and a dropped alien, we topped out at dusk yesterday and my 4 hour car ride back to Ottawa felt like a dream.
That said, John and I both felt pretty strongly about some things regarding this climb that I think need to be said most of which is positive however some of which is a bit critical regarding P3 (nothing personal towards anyone). Let's see, where do I start?
- This climb is probably the best multi-pitch, high-exposure 5.10 pure trad route you will find in the Northeast. Certainly longer routes are available on Cannon Cliff but Poke-O is steeper and arguably more intimidating to climb.
- Those 4 pitches really feel more like 5 or 6 compressed pitches with the rope lengths (130 ft P2, 160 ft P3, 150 ft P4). Definitely you feel the exposure by the time you get to P3 and P4. It tops out the highest section of the cliff at nearly 500 feet.
- Dare I call it the "Mini Grand Wall of the East"? Then again I haven't done the Grand Wall.
- Try bringing a purple big-bro for P1 and for the anchor below the final pillar on P4. It protects beautifully and wasn't a clunker to haul around like those giant cams.
On the other hand however...
- Is it really necessary to keep this line devoid of at least one more bolt on P3? If we are going to call this a "classic" and assume others who fancy themselves to be 5.10 climbers might try it, does it matter that in fact this pitch is borderline R rated? There was the 15+ foot run-out above thin gear (purple metolius) to a rusty 1/4 inch bolt with super awkward balance clip that I barely made - a fall clipping there would easily be 45 feet onto thin gear. Just a couple feet below this was an obvious stance where the bolt could have been clipped much more safely but it was eschewed by the bolt driller. After this came some more techie 10c moves (imo) and a couple more placements before the 40(?) foot 5.6 runout. The 5.6 runout section could really use a bolt. It's got nothing to do with difficulty but rather the fact that its a total choss pile up there with rotten holds and vegetation. I nearly slipped there when I grabbed a loose slab and was standing on vegetation - would have been a 50+ foot whipper onto a thin nut. Is this really necessary to experience? Even in the Gunks, the guidebook tells you up front what you are getting into at least on the danger side so yeah I felt pretty blind-sided by pitch 3 which was only marked as "PG" in the guidebook.
- Grades on the pitches in my humble opinion are...
P1 - 5.9++ (i.e. 10a) P2 - 10b (the stellar **** pitch) P3 - 10c PG-13/R P4 - 10c PG-13 (sequence pulling around the roof is runout-sketch yet again)
Admittedly this may have something to do with the facts that I have relatively weaker legs and calves than upper body. FG requires a lot more leg strength than I suspect many (sport) climbers are used to (my calves were completely torched on top of P4). However, even those grades would be considered stiff in most areas and would probably line it up more with say Index (old stomping ground) or Yosemite. Calling it 10a is kind of a joke imo - my partner couldn't even do the crux move on the 3rd pitch (he pulled on gear, climbs up to 5.11+ sport in Vermont) and fell a couple more times on follow on pitch 4 and that was after he lead pitch 2 clean. Without adding at least another bolt I strongly suggest giving it the proper PG-13+ rating it deserves. There is serious fall potential on P3 and you've got no business being up there if you aren't a solid 5.10+ face climber. I wonder if there haven't been at least a few serious accidents on this line already but maybe those upper pitches don't get done as much.
Apart from the sketch factor I totally loved this line. Really its a testament to the First Ascentionist (Dunn?) and their vision/boldness.
Also if anyone would be so kind as to hold on to my dropped red alien (at the base of P4, stopped somewhere in the slabs) I would be grateful though I am not holding my breathe.
I just did this route less than a month ago, led all 4 pitches. I must say Iím very surprised at Colinís comments; Iíve met him before, heís a strong climber and appears to know his trad leading pretty well. However those meetings were in the gym and at Spiderís web, both of which are very different from Poke-o. And sure enough P3 and P4 of The Gun is much more quintessential of Poke-o. Both are thin; P3 is face climbing on thin features w/ thin gear and P4 is dihedral climbing with good gear.
Regarding the climbing grades, I think theyíre spot on. I believe Derek Doucet, an apparent regular poke-o climber has better verbiage than I do, but I agree with his stance that the style of climbing (particularly on P3 and P4) is sort of a lost art and therefore appears a little more difficult to those new to the crag. If youíre dehydrated or physically exhausted, well thatís a different story, and Iíd advise all visitors to prepare. I tanked up on water before leaving the ground to deal with the extended 4 hour round trip pack-to-pack. If youíre not sure how you might measure up to the style of climbing up there, my suggestion is to get on some of the easier or single pitch climbs that might get you exposed to this stuff before committing to The Gun. I just got off of the Great Dihedral, sans the Houdini slot, that might give you a taste for the legs required for P4, although itís admittedly easier. Home Rule and/or Lost Chance might be good options to simulate the type of face climbing on P3. Neither of those last two are spectacular climbing, but theyíre thin. One of them also requires thin gear, which is a good segway to that topicÖ
For the gear ratings, I believe they too are spot on, or at least consistent with the rest of ADK Rock gear ratings. I didnít have any big-broís and only had up to a #4 Camelot (P1 can be protected on the right wall; look for a small crack over there). At the peak difficulty of climbing on P3, I donít remember a 15 ft run out. This might be in part to some RPs I always carry to poke-o. Yeah it gets worse as you get higher, but it really starts to ease up in difficulty and I never had mental trouble. In fact my biggest challenge was building a gear anchor at the top of P3. By the way, to save gear, sling trees at the top of P2 for an anchor. As for the roof traverse on P4, thereís enough gear, you just need to find the good rock.
So my recommendation to visiting climbers is to get used to poke-o climbing on smaller endeavors first, strengthen up the legs, sharpen the small gear placement skills and tank up or bring water up The Gun when you get on it. (my feeling is Colinís experience was due to exhaustion/dehydration more than anything else)
By Matt Glue From: Boulder, CO Aug 27, 2013 rating: 5.10b6a+19VII-19E2 5b PG13
I led it the day before Colin (hey dude!) and pretty much agree with Mark. I had various RPs and doubles down to micro-cams, and P3 never felt that runout (got in 2 solid RPs ~10 ft below the bolt). Maybe on the 5.6 part, but that's pretty normal all across the northeast on a route 2+ grades harder.
And yeah, bring water! Should have been obvious on a 500-foot climb, but I ended up flailing all over the last pitch despite gliding up the rest and (IMO) knowing how to climb dihedrals. My toes were cramping later that night. D'oh!
P2 is just damn amazing. Hard to imagine better climbing in the Northeast. Overall it's just hard to believe this climb exists, that 4 pitches of this quality can follow each other.
By Colin R From: Ottawa, ON Aug 27, 2013 rating: 5.10c6b20VII20E2 5b PG13
Hey Matt and Mark - good to hear from both of you!
I appreciate the feedback and definitely take what I say with a grain of salt but don't completely discount it either. To play further Devils' Advocate to my own comments it was the first trad climb I've been on this season (only did one other 5.10 at the New back in April) and yeah, my legs are pretty whimpy. I don't even go running anymore...
However I did have three distinct "oh shit" experiences. The first was cliping the bolt on P3 where I recall pulling out of the slab rest onto a delicate lie-back crimp rail and clipping the bolt - I was off balance and the bolt was way above my last peice. Once I clipped it I recall doing another hard move into some finger lock thing with smeared feet. Above that I nearly slipped again on 5.6 terrain which would have sent me to the hospital - I grabbed a loose peice of rock and leaned back on it only to feel it slide while my feet (on grass) slid too. Granted I probably wandered off into the wrong section a bit but its pretty overgrown up there. The last experience was pulling past the roof on P4 when my calves were fried and I only had one decent peice (fixed gear) back under the roof plus a micro grey #00 tcu I wedged in somewhere. I remember thinking "please no more stemming!" only to find another 15 feet of awkward stemming and no handholds. A final desperate stretch to a jug just before the lip marked the end of the ordeal for me.
Truth be told I am not very comfortable running it out on low angle stuff without something to hold onto. That's probably why I feel more comfortable on big roof climbs in the Gunks than slabby stuff in the daks. However having spent 6 of my early years climbing out west, I've never fully adapted to grades in the Champlain Valley region (Daks and Vermont) and I suspect other visiting 5.10 climbers say from a place like Squamish would have similar troubles. I don't know really know what the best way is to communicate to Poke-O noobs not to underestimate the grades/runouts at Poke-O other than giving things appropriate danger ratings. Also train your legs on other stem routes as Mark suggests and bring enough H2O. That said, when you give a route 5 stars and claim its the best multipitch of its grade in the east, it gives it a sort of Carnival Ride appeal that's hard to resist - I sure didn't!
Again though amazing line and definiely IF you are feeling strong and capable you should do this climb....
PS - This route totally fits the bill for this article:
By Matt Glue From: Boulder, CO Aug 28, 2013 rating: 5.10b6a+19VII-19E2 5b PG13
The climbing around the bolt and the clip itself didn't feel too insecure to me, but I did take my damn time to figure it out (or I just stumbled into the right beta). And for the roof on P4, I placed something next to the manky fixed cam, and then got in a solid small cam at the very end of the roof crack.
Okay, that's enough discussion and beta for anybody who wants to try this route! If anyone wants the climb to be adventurous, ignore the above four posts. Ha...
I just did this route, led pitches one and three. What a great route!
I too am surprised by Colin's opinion of pitch three. I thought it was the easiest of the four pitches. It has two hard bits, both of which are above small gear. But the gear in my opinion is good.
I had three micro nuts below the bolt-- the highest of these was just 6 feet below the bolt. These were small but good nuts.
I had tons of gear after the bolt, all the way to the belay ledge. I'm talking regular Camalots and Aliens, medium nuts... no creative stuff, just plenty of gear. No runouts. And the rock is fine. Not loose (by Poke-O standards-- there are some loose bits in cracks here and there, like EVERYWHERE else on the cliff).
Colin, I think you went off route (too far left?) after the bolt.
Just did this route today. I think the scariest part was reading some of the comments above on the drive down from Montreal. To our great relief it was fantastic, with good pro pretty much everywhere you need it (with very small nuts/peanuts for the bottom of pitch 3). Bring water for sure, and an energy bar for the last pitch. The 70m rappel tip is spot on. So is the suggestion for the belay station 20' up from the rap station at the top of pitch 2. Gobsmackingly good times.
By Colin R From: Ottawa, ON Sep 30, 2013 rating: 5.10c6b20VII20E2 5b PG13
I guess I must have missed all those RP placements. I was at least two to three full body lengths between my purple tcu and the bolt. I remember looking for a small nut placement below the bolt and concluding there were none. That's not to say it wasn't there - just that I didn't find it.
Nope, didn't go too far left.
Below the bolt, farther left looked perhaps a bit easier but off route imo.
Also - There 100% is a loose flake in the runout section. Just because you didn't grab it doesn't mean it isn't there. If it were my home crag I would do my best to dislodge it safely.
To be honest Seth, I am having a really hard time taking your comment about "gear being everywhere" at the end of P3 seriously. Read the description here on MP that clearly says there's a run out at the end. "Plenty of gear everywhere" you say? Does that include a 35 foot runout? I looked. I am sure others did as well.
PS - I am really trying not to come off as rude or anything. Sometimes its just luck of the draw the way these things play out and believe me, I have been climbing a long time and very much aware of this. I have been involved in 2 serious climbing accidents so I prefer to play it a bit safer than some.
Hey Colin, I take no offense at your comments and I meant none by mine.
If we are debating the area around the bolt, I just disagree about the climbing and the gear. I think the bolt is perfectly placed because the 5.10 move comes right after it. (The move to get to the bolt seemed like 5.8 to me.) And there is gear for the 5.8 move if you like micronuts.
About the 5.6 alleged run out/crappy rock, I again think it is overhyped. Here is a photo I just pulled up on my phone. This is no great shot but it may help a little.
View from the belay atop pitch 3 of Fastest Gun.
The photo shows much but not all of the easier climbing and some of my last few placements. You can see two placements clearly and there is a third one you can't really see a little higher than the yellow cam and on the other side of the ropes, clipped to the pink rope, obscured by a little bush. Anyway the distances aren't that clear from the photo but there is no 35 foot run out. The bushes in the foreground are less than ten feet from the belay ledge. I think from the context of many of the above comments that you are a far stronger climber than I am and I did not feel creeped out at all by the pro situation.
The other thing that the photo demonstrates is that the rock at the end there is generally solid slab. There are a few bushes and cracks with loose crap but that is Poke-O, it isn't unusual. If you wander to either side you might find yourself standing on a bush and pulling on loose stuff-- and it has happened to me more than once!-- but it isn't necessary. My main concern about the bushes was that I thought some of that stuff might be poison ivy. But I didn't get a rash so I guess not.
By Colin R From: Ottawa, ON Oct 1, 2013 rating: 5.10c6b20VII20E2 5b PG13
Thanks for posting that pic. It actually clarifies completely both of our points. Turns out I didn't finish the way you did and its actually fairly easy to explain from the photo I have edited from your photo (the red arrow is where I went). I went to the right of the bushes in the left of the photo - that's where the loose flake is. I got suckered into it because, as you can see its a low angled ramp there and it seemed easier and more mellow. I figured I would go that way and just flick the rope over the bushes once I was at the top. However once I pulled on the loose flake and almost slipped (literally within centimeters), I traversed back left again (I did not down climb) thus I completely missed where you put your gear. That's not to say I would have placed anything where you did though I will take your word for it that it is solid. As a side note, I tend to prefer to run it out unless I am sure my gear will hold (for me its not worth placing it unless I am sure it will hold which pushes me either to climb with more confidence or find a better placement). The last peice of gear I placed was I think just at or below where you partner is in the photo - so yeah I was pretty darn runout and a fall would have been well, let's just not go there....
Did this route several weeks ago and thought I would share my thoughts. I would have to agree with others that this is possibly the best climb of its grade on the east coast. However, be prepared for full value 5.10 climbing on almost every pitch.
Bringing a #4 or even a #5 camalot is not a bad idea. The OW section section on P1 is not bad without this but it is useful for the belay below the last pitch. Definitely bring RPs or similar small nuts for P3. P1. Calling this 5.9+ is a joke. Awesome and fairly sustained crack climbing. P2. Amazing splitter twin cracks. Possibly the best pitch of 5.10a I've climbed, anywhere. P3. There are a few thin moves before and above the bolt. Protection is decent if you have RPs or better yet, very small offset nuts. There is a slight runout towards the top but at this point the climbing is very easy comparatively. P4. The usual finish was soaking wet when we did it. We opted for the 5.9+ variation to the left. It looked dry from the ledge. This ended up involving very thin crack and face climbing with multiple tiny nuts in a row for protection. It ended up being wet and runout climbing towards the top anyway. Terrifying. I would not recommend this finish, and I imagine it does not get done very often.
Amazing route but bring some small nuts and big cojones!