Wednesday, October 03, 2007

So, as usual, more photos can be found over at flickr
I was up in the Adirondacks this past weekend, as I am maybe 3 weekends out of 8 (that was the estimate I came up with). I was keen on catching the fall colors, since I missed them last year (can't recall why - probably on a trip or something?) so I was pretty psyched. I was definitely NOT psyched for all the traffic I encountered after work at 3PM on Sunday, since I'd had about 6 hours of sleep total in the past week of 14 hour work days and last minute vet-school-application-doing, but with 5 shots of espresso (yup, that's what you get in a venti americano with an extra shot), two Envigas (that's 100 mg caffeine a pop) and a Red Bull, I was determined to make it.

Too bad the caffeine didn't quite hit me until I actually ARRIVED at dinner time, but hey, I made it. Flyyyyying and talking a mile a minute. Stuffed with sweet potato salad* and grilled chicken patties* (* really yum and if you want recipes leave a comment) I knocked back a couple - three margaritas and hit the sack. Some folks were planning on meeting at 6AM to try to push a new route to the top of Wallface, but... yeah. No thanks. I hope they made it though.

The next morning didn't dawn quite as clear as was predicted, but temps were in the 60s or so, and after sleeping in... and sleeping in... and having a leisurely breakfast, we decided to take the dogs and make the walk up to the Washbowl (or Upper Washbowl, as it seems to be called these days). I'd only been up there once before, to do the classic Wiessner Route, and at the time we were going on info in the old guide book. Our approach took us nearly an hour of scrambling up a dirty talus field. Of course, you can get up there in about 20 minutes if you go up past the Creature Wall!

It was nuts; as we drove past, we noted that the Spider's Web was completely empty. The Creature Wall, on the other hand - as we came up through the woods, the faint strands of Lynyrd Skynyrd gradually became clearer and clearer, eventually turning to the Allman Brothers and a multitude of boyish, teenage voices. Thank goodness we weren't staying there.

However, as we got up to the Washbowl, which sits a goodly way up across the valley from Chapel Pond Slabs, we noted that something was clearly wrong.

Voices. Lots of them. FRENCH voices. Grar, says the boyfriend. They should stay in their own country! (I think he says that only because THEY will not let him into THEIR country due to a 20-year-prior DWI from which he has not proven (paid) himself rehabilitated). They're on Hesitation. They're on Partition. They're on Prelude. They're on the Wiessner Route. They're everywhere! We wander to the right to take a look at Green Beer, a 5.8ish, not-so-inspiring-but-not-so-bad looking climb which he first put up back when he was in high school, along with his high school teacher.

"Come on!" he says, "It's really good! I can't believe it doesn't get a star!"

Maybe, maybe not. Dare I say that I'd rather wait for uber-classic Hesitation than do a single, sort of dirty looking pitch? Okay, maybe it wasn't THAT bad looking. But we note that the second climber is getting ready to leave the belay at the top of Hesitation, so we figure we'll sit, wait for ten minutes, and then by the time we get back to the base of the route, she'll be out of the way and we can start up.

Yeah, right. We wait. We go to the base of the route. We find another party that sneaked in unbeknownst to us and has just put down their packs.

Well, fine. We'll go to Butterflies Are Free to Partition. More ultra-super-classics. As we make our way over, we stop to say hi to the folks who are starting up the Wiessner Route (it's the leader's second trad lead ever. Go him! The Wiessner can be a little bit tricky). They inform us that their buddies are just starting up Butterflies Are Free.

"What is this, the Gunks?" we ask.

Eventually we decide to do Whoops! another one of my boyfriend's FAs from long, long ago (like, when I-was-still-2-years-old long ago). Eh, whatever. It looks dirty and unclimbed, and it pretty much is.

I throw a helmet on Stella because of the loose rock. She appreciates it until she is pinged by a pebble. You'd think she would have appreciated it MORE after that! Maybe it's because she was startled out of a deep sleep.

After pulling on some scary loose blocks to gain a ledge, I grab the rack and try to set off up the spooky stacked blocks that start off p2 (5.8 PG). Maybe it's the lack of pro (Joe later got in two RPs in a crack I couldn't reach) stepping off the blocks and onto the face, or maybe it's the Williams-Sonoma Meyer-Lemon Key-Lime Margarita mix catching up to me, but screw it, I come down and let him relive the pitch. It's easy climbing, but very, very spooky, with very questionable pro. Lovely view of parties over on Chapel Pond Slabs, though, and the trees are starting to color. It's not all bad. I turn about 3 pounds of broccolli and a pound of cheese and a pint of beer into some cream of broccolli soup, and we have that, some squash-apple soup and banana bread (with a lime-rum glaze) for dinner. I don't think I even made it through the Simpsons at 8PM.

The next morning, the alarm goes off at 5AM. WTF? Screw that, we don't get up until around 9, and after making some breakfast and lunch (pb&j for him, a deviled ham/cheddar sandwich and a turkey/bacon sandwich for me) we get out the door around 10AM. We are hiking in to Avalanche Lake, which I have never been to before. It's about a 5 mile hike in from where we parked, but mostly quite flat. The first 2.8 miles are actually up a truck trail.

After passing through a super-fragrant evergreen stand, we passed a very cool beaver dam. In looking for its entrance (found it, thanks to super low water), I found also a pile of toilet paper. SO NOT COOL!!!! I hope they got giardia from the beavers!

Why'd they bother with this one if it was too big to move? I guess they'll cut it up as they need it...

We stop shortly later to remove layers. This becomes so important later on...

After passing Marcy Dam, the road becomes a trail proper, though it's still quite flat and easy. It passes loads of lean-tos along the stream; this is a very popular area to come & camp whilst exploring the Great Range.

A mile or so later, we come upon the end: "Misery Mile". At this point, the winter ski trail diverges and ascends via a longer, gentler slope; the hiking trail ascends via big steps. Again, it's still quite easy, if somewhat mroe strenuous. This is nothing like the talus-y boulder-y ascent up to Wallface.

To be fair, the misery part of the mile really only lasts about half of a mile, if that. After that, the final approach to Avalanche lake is mostly on boards rendered largely unnecessary by the dry, autumn conditions.

After a twenty more minutes or so, I catch my first inkling as to why this might be called Avalanche Lake

There was actually quite a large avalanche last winter from a face just to the side of the Trap Dike on Colden which took debris clear across the lake, but we didn't actually end up going far enough down the lake for me to see if there were any remnants left half a year later.

The first glimpse of the towering walls on the west side of the lake reassures me that the hike was worth it (though I knew it would be!).

We stop for a bite (I've actually already downed my turkey bacon sandwich and banana bread) at the northern end of the lake, and I take a good look around. Our objective is a route called Something Wicked, which is supposed to chimney behind a really unique flake high on the west wall. The flake is easy enough to make out; so's the approach gully. Of course, we end up walking right past it, climbing some of the hikers ladders and eventually just bushwhacking right up to the base of the climb. Rocky scampered right on up, but Stella needed a little boost. She's really good about waiting for help when she knows she can't make it. That's my smart girl!

Now, once we got to the base of the climb, we determined several things. First, that I'd left the printout of the route description at home on the dining room table. Second, that we couldn't see the second pitch (the good one with the flake) from below so we weren't 100% that we were in the right gully. Third, the pitch I figured we had to climb to gain the ledge and the secondpitch looked a little dirty, and off-widthy at the top (only 5.6, but hey, dirty, spooky, adirondacks 5.6 still scares me!). Fourth, though the dogs were being cool, it wasn't an ideal spot to leave them while we climbed a couple of pitches (small ledge (though not fall-off potential), a little slopy and uncomfortable, rocky, wet due to a stream running through it). And fifth and finally, around the corner were some really good moderates that my boyfriend knew were there, would be easy to find, and would be more comfortable for the pups. Sold.

Our original quarry started in the gully that diagonals up from left to right on the left side of the photo. The new quarry (Entrance, 5.8)followed a crack just to the left of the distinctive, left arching dihedral on the right side of the photo. It goes up the right facing corner on the right side of a block that forms the big ledge about 1/3 of the way up, and then continues up from there. Since I'd bailed the day before, I got to go up first. The crack started off striaghtforward enough, hand sized with good pro and nice face holds to allow some stemming. As I broke above the trees, I noted that I had quite an audience of hikers watching me from back at the trail. Fine. Of course, that's when the face holds petered out and the crack widened to just-bigger-than-my-fists. After plugging in my biggest piece (#4 cam), it took me several false starts before I had confidence enough in the dirty rock's friction to scum my way to the top.

"It can't be that dirty, I think this route gets a lot of traffic! It's a classic!" yells up my boyfriend when I let out an audible "Ugh!" at the dirt inside the crack.

"What, you mean it gets climbed like twice a year?" You see? It's funny because it's probably true. Well, maybe not quite. But probably not much more!

75 feet, a lot of dirt and a 20-foot traverse to anchors later, my boyfriend comes up and informs me that he's lost his shirt.

Great. He's probably left it back at the beginning of the hike. He's gota t-shirt. That's it. We'd planned on hiking out in the dark, but now it looks like we probably ought to get going. We rap down the 75 feet, take a quick look across the stream at the California Flake (covered in slimy algae, EW. Didn't look possible in those conditions)

And start back. It had taken us about an hour and a half to get up to the lake (that included faffing around hiding from the dogs, taking lose-your-shirt breaks and whatnot) and the guidebook estimated about two hours; the plan was to get back in one and a half. Sorry. I go at my own pace. I don't think it's that slow. If I end up walking alone, so be it. It ended up taking about two hours to get out.

The shirt was sitting across a log, right where it was left.

We headed up to a friend's place to catch the sunset over the Great Range.
I got up at 5AM this morning to drive back for work in NYC at 1PM.

4.5 hours, ten miles of hiking for one 75-foot pitch of ok-but-not-amazing climbing? Totally worth it!!


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