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|08-03-2016, 07:22 PM||#1|
Resident Slide Junkie
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: ADK Mountains
Panther Gorge - Tail of Redemption 2016 July 30
The weather pattern during July was frustrating for climbing at elevation. The remaining obvious lines on Mt. Marcy are a nightmare to climb if they’re wet or even moist. Heavy storms during the week shut us down for four weeks—no sense marching back with a heavy pack just to look at cascades! When the weather turned for the better, Bill Schneider and I commandeered a Hamilton College student named John Pikus and set plans in motion to revisit the roof system on Mt. Marcy’s Agharta Wall.
The logistics were identical to many other trips: meet at Rooster Comb parking lot at 4:00 am., check gear and begin walking from the Garden trailhead at 4:20. A few steps down the trail we heard the raspy sound of a saw-whet and barred owl each agitated with the other...not something I hear every day.
First light in June usually arrives slightly after we pass Johns Brook Lodge. We were closer to Bushnell Fall when it broke the ridgeline and lit the canopy—days are getting shorter once again, but that’s what headlamps are for. We began bushwhacking about 8:30 and arrived at the Agharta Wall an hour later.
Looking back at June: the weather was warm and the blackflies were terrible. I tolerate them fairly well especially when we’ve got a big goal in mind, but they’d started to eek away at my patience after a few trips with so many bites. This outing found us under partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the 70s and only the stray blackfly passing within earshot. They didn’t seem to be interested in feasting so the bug repellant staying in the pack.
The cliff seemed dry, perfect. Our first target and Bill’s lead was below the largest roof in the center. It’s an aesthetic elongated triangle set into the cliff face capped with a daunting roof. One can study beta photos all day and not account for the nuances of what lies within. I belayed while Bill worked his way up an ever-constricting vertical seam at the back of a corner. It disappeared as did the footholds on the adjacent walls. After an hour he made the call for me to lower him—a tough, but smart call. The grade was an estimated 5.11. It will be there another day and there was another option nearby.
Bill working the monster in the middle of the Agharta Wall.
Bill put up The Cloudsplitter on the Agharta Wall during the early 2000s. He noticed a crack about 20 feet to the right of it while studying our beta photo. The possibility avoided the roof system on its southern edge. Photographs (and some common sense) indicated that there might be cracks above, but to what degree or quality was a mystery.
We scrambled up the precarious grassy slope and found a comfortable spot from which to belay. Bill organized the gear and began the route at about 11:15 am. He tested the rock with his nut tool—“Tap, tap, tap, thud,” answered the rock. Small areas around the cracks were slightly loose, but manageable. It wasn’t long before Bill climbed up to a chimney/corner on the left-hand side of the Agharta roof system. He shouted not to touch anything below a small outcrop of the corner and disappeared out of sight. In contrast to past trips with strong winds, we could hear each other well as he ascended the face above.
An easier start to the next route.
I paid the rope out slowly before it stopped. Bill was trying to connect seams and cracks in a runout face. He’s meticulous and patience paid off. It wasn’t long before he yelled, “Off belay!”
It was my turn. I climbed about 40 feet before stopping at a good stance to take photos of John. I let John pass and climb first thereafter to photograph from below. Upon climbing, I left the small ledge, moved to the right and found myself on excellent face climbing. Bill had only managed to place a small micro-nut in a seam, but the holds were perfect. Rather than ascending a scary pitch, I found myself in my element on the steep slab. Another 50 feet placed John and I along a left-facing corner/overlap. We stepped right onto a small runout pitch before the overlap arched left at its top.
The next 30 feet ascended a deep hand-crack. One would have to work to fall from this area. Bill was near its top standing in a small depression taking pictures. This was a wonderful pitch. The slab to the south captured my interest over the winter. Adam Crofoot assessed it in June as a good place to get into trouble. I noted that he was correct as I studied it. It was steep, less featured and had little to no weaknesses in which to place gear. The slab to the north, however, was a different story. We assessed it with a future trip in mind. There was still a good route left on a wall that is nearly fully lined with routes. Such is the way of progress...
John at the chimney/corner.
Leader of the pack...Bill belaying from above.
Runout Slab Area...
I led the top pitch, another 170 feet (the bottom was 150 feet long). I followed the crack to its end and climbed lower-sloped slab over a few bulges to a left-facing corner. The upper portion wasn’t the cleanest pitch in places, but was enjoyable. The opposing corners of The Cloudsplitter & Agharta ice route sat about 50 feet to my left...a dramatic arena. The corner had good cracks; thereafter I climbed right on a diagonal line to some steeper slab below an interesting table of stone forming a 4 foot roof. I tapped the “table” a few times to make sure it was stable—the 4” thick stone wasn’t going to move. Above was a stout tree from which to belay. Our route was up—John’s first in the gorge!
Part of the pleasure of Panther Gorge is of course in the climbing. The other satisfying element is introducing enthusiastic new climbers to the area; watching their expressions and excitement. I find inspiration in this.
We narrowed our descent options to two choices—bushwhack south to the Wreck of the Lichen Fitzgerald area or north along the upper cliff band (the fourth pitch of Galaxy of Tears) to the top of the Feline Wall. We opted for the latter. I led in hopes of finding the belay tree Dustin Ulrich and I used in June. The bushwhack fell short of heinous, but wasn’t pleasant in climbing shoes. A few ledges and 15 minutes later I located the red cord and carabiner around a 10” spruce. Bill and John followed and we rappelled.
We talked of putting up another route and assessed two single pitch possibilities. The route had only taken two hours to climb; one of our fastest times. Instead of pushing ourselves, we opted to leave the gorge early and take our time walking out. All had gone well.
Conversations revolved around various topics as we walked out. Top of the list was what to call and rate the route. We decided on Tail of Redemption about ½ mile from the parking lot. The name’s a reference to this route redeeming a couple failed attempts at other starts on Agharta Wall and the Huge Scoop and has religious overtones...not to mention a cat reference. We arrived back at the car at about 7:30 pm. The day had taken 15.25 hours and we each felt amazingly fresh. On to the next trip!
View from the belay above Pitch 1.
Wall to the right of Cloudsplitter/Agharta lines.
Dance with the swords edge
and the dragon waives its tail.
Victory with grace.
Last edited by mudrat; 08-03-2016 at 07:37 PM..
|mt. marcy, panther gorge, rock climbing, tail of redemption|
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