Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ice climbing at the Narrows

After spending a few years ice climbing at every available opportunity, I've found myself fortunate to climb ice twice in the past two years!  Well it turns out once you learn to ride a bike...

I had heard rumors about an ice cliff in Pennsylvania that would make you think you were in the Adirondacks, but I had put off going there for years.  Mostly this was because I was actually going to the Adirondacks.  But partly it was my disbelief that such a thing could exist.  Well it does exist.  And it is awesome!

gearing up

So I hooked up with Chaoqing who I had never met before but had heard good things about.  He's done some alpine climbs in his native country of China, and has only been in the USA for a few months.  Like myself, it had been awhile since he was on ice.

Main Gully
To start off with we decided to free solo up the Main gully.  Nothing like a good solo to get your lead head in order!  It was WI 2, super fun, and pretty long.  If we had pitched it out, it may have been 2 rope stretchers.

After you climb the gully you reach a huge ampitheater.  This probably has a dozen lines in good conditions, ranging from WI3 - WI 4+.  There was a roped soloist there who was going down the line leading each one! 

roped soloist Bill, using a Rock Exotica soloist

Each of us led a pitch.  I was definitely feeling shaky placing those screws and climbing over the bulges, but I was ok.  Then it goes from nice weather to full blizzard.  We pretty much high-tailed it out of there and was sliding all over the road on the way home (in my 4x4).

Well I was hungry for more, but over the years I've gotten over my "Ice! Go! Now!" attitude.  I waited til some ripe conditions were in place.  I was properly awarded!

I headed back in 2 weeks with Ana and Steve.  Ana is a very good rock climber who is just beginning to learn ice.  However I had no doubt she would excel as usually people make the rock-ice transition in no time.  Steve is an experienced high altitude climber who has been to the high point of every state except Hawaii!


To start I led up the Main Flow, which is 3 pitches and goes at WI 3+, WI 4, WI 3+.  I made good work of P1 feeling myself "warm up" more and more. 

Then I set up a top rope and we had an Ice Climbing 101 lesson for Ana.  As expected it didn't take long for her to get the basics down.  The only problem was that her crampon wasn't really compatible with her boot.  We rigged something up, and she managed for the rest of the day.

Ana's crampon

After awhile Mark Elton joined us at the bottom of the cliff.  He is an alpine climber who gave a slideshow about some of his climbs in Peru at the Seneca Rocks chili cook off last year.  Mark had spent the morning soloing in the Main Gully and partnered up with us for the rest of the day.


We ended up heading over to Dead Deer Gully which we climbed in 2 pitches.  That was honestly a bit spooky climbing over patches of frozen dirt and rocks, and some very thin slabby ice.  But once we reached the top, it was definitely worth it!  Lots of cool curtains, pillars, mixed climbing, all kinds of stuff.  Mark headed off left with Steve and I went right with Ana.  On my 3rd lead of the season I felt great.  Definitely felt like I shook the rust off. After I lead it Ana seconds it easily, then I top-rope a much harder variation where I climb a delicate curtain with no feet.  I essentially use my arm muscles to get myself up a few moves and then do a really wide stem to some small icicles on either side.  Intense climbing, but I felt good, didn't fall, and didn't destroy the ice.

All in all a really fun time and a good start to the ice season.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, let me know if you would want to share it with us at yourLUME.

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