Saturday, July 12, 2014

Very Productive Guidebook Recon Weekend

I was in north country for the past couple of days, pulling together data on various bouldering areas with the one and only Johnny Sullivan.  It was an action packed recon trip, with planned visits to the Chapel Pond Slab Boulders, McKenzie Pond Boulders, the Route 3 Corridor Boulders, Second Pond Boulders and Panther Mountain Boulders.  These areas had to be photographed, GPS'd, mapped out and each established problem had to get a written description of its current condition, starting location and sequence of movements from the start to the top out.  It was a tiring couple of days where we were constantly battling swarms of mosquitoes, black flies and high heat and humidity.  Despite all of the elements that were trying to bring us down, we made the most of the trip as we always do and ended up having a really memorable outing.

The Chapel Pond Slab Boulders were straight forward and easy.  Easily accessed right off of Route 73 by Chapel Pond, these boulders offer a nice boulder problem circuit that had been established by some local climbers a couple of decades ago.  Some of the better looking highball problems have since grown in, but it still offers enough climbing for a quick session or to serve as a warm up or cool down area before or after a long day on the ropes in the region.  There was a sizable group staying at the NYSDEC designated campsites around these boulders and I was able to offer one of my crash pads for them to use while bouldering and point them in the direction of particular boulder problems.

The McKenzie Pond Boulders are still as remarkable as they have always been.  I always enjoy visiting these boulders and getting on the established problems.  I left Chapel Pond really really early (4:30 am) to head to McKenzie Pond so I could photograph the boulders before the sunrise disrupted the images.  After completing the necessary photographs to digitally capture the entire boulder field, including the relatively unknown 4th set of boulders, I met up with Dr. Chris Hyson who is a local climber who has been bouldering on and off at McKenzie Pond since the 1980's.  We had organized this meet and greet so we could walk the boulders together so I could get a historical perspective on the area and become familiar with what Dr. Hyson and his friends had established prior to the 2002 Dr. Topo guidebook for McKenzie Pond.  The stories that were revealed to me were great and very informative and I think that this insight will help tremendously with my upcoming guidebook.

After  walked the boulders with Dr. Hyson and edited my topo mapping and updated my boulder problem descriptions and notes, I had a couple of hours to "kill" until John Sullivan was going to rendezvous with me so we could head into Second Pond.  I went back to the Jeep to get my bouldering gear and was greeted by Bill Griffith and his buddy Joe when they were pulling into the new parking area.  With their presence, I ended up bouldering much longer and harder than I had intended at the McKenzie Pond set.  My initial game plan was to climb just the easy and moderates problems at McKenzie to reserve as much skin as possible for Second Pond.  We ended up feeding off on one another's energy and climbing hard all throughout the day.  We got on difficult problems such as Stanfields (AKA the Belcer Problem), Slobadon (AKA the Eastman Problem), Flux Capacitor and Cartwheel to name a few and tried a hard we could to send despite the warm, humid conditions.  It was an excellent bouldering session and one that I was glad to be a part of!  We had the boulders to ourselves until later in the afternoon when various groups began showing up to enjoy the dry weekend.

The Second Pond Boulders always turn into an epic, which sucks in the moment, but makes for some memorable outings after it is all said and done.  Once Sullivan arrived in the north country, we made our way to the NYSDEC boat launch on Second Pond.  We had to unpack all of our gear at the launching site and then drive our vehicles out of the parking lot and park them on the road because we were going into the "free" lean-to site instead of a paid camping site, therefore we were not allowed to leave our cars in the recently paved and renovated parking lot.  After all of this shuffling around, we were back at the boat launch loading my tandem kayak and an inflatable kayak that we'd tow behind for additional gear storage.  Somehow we were able to secure all of our gear on these two boats and safely paddle them into the camping areas near the boulders.  Being a Canadian holiday weekend, there was an excessive amount of people everywhere in the Adirondacks and both the lean-to site and the other NYSDEC designated campsite right by the boulders were already spoken for so Sullivan and I had to settle on a not-so-ideal camping location.

The moment we left the water and entered the woods, we quickly realized that we were in for a rough couple of days.  For whatever reason, this forest was completely infested with mosquitoes and for the next two days, they would never leave us alone, even at night they were atypically bad.  It was difficult to build up any psych for hard bouldering with the never ending presence of these mosquitoes, so Sullivan and I focused more on the bouldering recon work so on the next camping trip to this area, we could simply climb and not have to map and document everything.  I was able to get a really good handle on all of the boulders in the region, was able to update my mapping very accurately, photograph all of the boulders in multiple light settings and I even discovered new boulder problems that I hadn't noticed in previous visits.  The Second Pond trip turned into more work than fun, but the boulder recon portion has been completed, so this fall the trip will only involve hardcore bouldering and no more bull shit.  Oh and to add to the misery we endured in the woods at Second Pond, Sullivan and I were stopped by a NYSDEC patrol boat one evening while we were out paddling on the river to avoid the bugs for an hour and I was issues a violation ticket for not having a life jacket for John.  I was informed that the violation could cost anywhere from $0.00 - $250.00.  I was surprised that they didn't agree that any of the (3) crash pads we had with us could have sufficed as a PFD in a lake here the water never exceeds 8' depth.

After the tiring visit into Second Pond, we opted to check out the Route 3 Corridor Boulders because they were close to the road and we could bail on climbing if the bugs were as bad as they were in Second Pond.  To our pleasant surprise, there were hardly any mosquitoes at the Monster Boulder so we decided to try and climb some of the established boulder problems as well as put some serious effort in on the numerous projects on the steep wall of the Monster Boulder (the side facing Route 3).  Sullivan and I were able to do a handful of the established climbs.  I took a huge fall (20 foot) off of a massive highball known as Maine Flake and thankfully walked away uninjured.  After a couple of minutes to settle my nerves, I was able to successfully climb this striking boulder problem.  After the heart-pounding highball send, we began looking in more detail at the two aretes on the steep side of the monster boulder.  Last fall I was able to make the difficult move to the lip from the stand start on the left arete but couldn't figure out the top out sequence.  On this trip however, I was able to figure out a top out sequence and actually sent the left arete from a high stand start.  It was a high point on the trip, especially after all of the issues we had experienced in Second Pond.  I had looked at the right arete before but had never tried any of the moves.  Johnny and I were able to link the moves on the undone right arete all the way up to the last hard move which we were not able to figure out.  This arete might be in the V8-V10 range when it is all said and done.

After all of the bouldering in the north country, we wrapped up the action packed outing with a VERY highball boulder problem...the notorious "Regular Route" on the Chapel Pond Slab...

Media Update:


  1. Sick post and nice action photos, those problems look rad

  2. That Monster Boulder is something else. Way to go, sending that left arete! I sympathize with your field work woes: bugs, humidity, no climbing. Keep plugging away! Great to hear that you met up with Hyson. I think he has appreciated our interest in the history of local bouldering.