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Old 06-23-2016, 08:10 AM   #1
mudrat
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Panther Gorge-Galaxy of Tears-2016 June 17

Route On Mountain Project

Previous Panther Gorge Trips
  1. Grand Central Slide (w/Mark Lowell)
  2. [Grand Central Slide Descent, up the Margin Slide & Skylight Bushwhack (w/Greg Kadlecik)
  3. Marcy to Haystack Bushwhack with Great Range Traverse-Great DeRanged Traverse(w/Greg Kadlecik)
  4. Marcy East Face Circumnavigation (w/Ranger Scott van Laer)-2013 Aug 24
  5. Marcy: Ranger on the Rock-East Face Slab (w/Anthony Seidita)-2013 Sep 6
  6. Haystack Slides and Haycrack Route-Day 3 of 4 days in the gorge (w/Anthony Seidita)-2014 May 1
  7. Haystack: All Things Holy (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Jul 12
  8. Marcy & Haystack: New Routes on the Agharta Wall & a Pillar on Haystack-Wreck of the Lichen Fitzgerald & For Whom the Lichen Tolls (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Aug 16
  9. Marcy: New on the Agharta Wall-CrazyDog’s Halo & Watery Grave (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Sep 27
  10. A Snowy Panther Gorge Bushwhack (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Dec
  11. Marcy: A New Ice Route – Pi Day (w/Adam Crofoot & Anthony Seidita)-2015 Mar 14
  12. Haystack: 3 New Routes in a New Area (the Ramp Wall) (w/Allison Rooney and Adam Crofoot)-2015 May 30
  13. Marcy’s Panther Den Wall: Cat on a Wet Tin Roof (w/Bill Schneider)-2015 Jun 14
  14. Rumours of War: Opening a New Area—the Huge Scoop (w/Hunter Lombardi)-2015 Jul 11
  15. New on the Feline Wall: Kitten's Got Claws (w/Justin Thalheimer)-2015 Aug 1
  16. Not Every Trip to the Gorge is Perfect –No Route, but a Good Day (w/Bill Schneider)-2015 Aug 16
  17. Marcy Huge Scoop: The Pride (w/Bill Schneider and Adam Crofoot)-2015 Aug 30.
  18. Feline Wall: Promised Land (w/Dan Plumley)-2015 Sept 19.
  19. Tour de Gorge (w/Adam Crofoot & Allison Rooney)-2015 Nov 21.
  20. Marcy's Panther Den Wall Ice Route: By Tooth and Claw (WI4) (w/Bill Schneider & Devin Farkas)-2016 Jan 30.
  21. Haystack Ice Climbs-Orson's Tower (WI3+) and Fly By (WI3) (w/Nolan Huther)-2016 March 5.
  22. Marcy (Agharta & Panther Den Walls)-Pioneer Anomaly & Belshazzar's Fate(w/Adam Crofoot & Alan Wechsler)-2016 May 28.
  23. Marcy (Huge Scoop)-Predatory Instincts (w/Bill Schneider & Nolan Huther)-2016 June 4.
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A clear weather window during days leading up to June 17-19 led to an overnight trip into the gorge. Friday’s plan was to try and put up a route with local guide and climber Dustin Ulrich. He’d exit and I’d bushwhack out to meet Loren Swears who planned to spend Friday night through Sunday evening climbing around Panther Gorge. I wanted to experience the cool evenings, birdsong and relaxation associated with overnighting in the backcountry.

Dustin and I met around 4 am. at the Rooster Comb trailhead and commenced the usual walk. My pack was heavier with the overnight gear, but we kept a good pace and arrived at the base of the Agharta Wall on Mt. Marcy before 9:00 am. The blackflies were there to greet us as was the heat. It was forecast to be in the 80’s Fahrenheit with a very light breeze. It was our first time out together in the backcountry.




I had pre-selected a new line on the fringe of the Agharta/Feline Walls. To set the stage, the Feline wall contains a 250=foot high somewhat low angle face that’s home to all the pre June 17[SUP]th[/SUP] routes. Immediately south sits a steeper face, a buttress leading to a corner. The Agharta Wall is just around this corner. Our inclination was to begin a route on the southern side of the corner up a rising slightly overhanging hand-crack leading to a 20’ flake that seemed to defy gravity.

Attaining the crack was a difficult task even though it began at the forest floor. It was wet and, in hindsight, I wonder if it ever completely dries. But I’m ahead of myself. Dustin tried various options, backing down after finding either wet or crumbly rock. He settled on a precarious line of face climbing to gain the crack...the dripping crack.

Carefully ascending he made slow progress as the seepage soaked his arms and chilled his hands. Rather than describe the next hour and a half, I’ll just say that we had to give up on this line until it dried. My guess is that water enters cracks hundreds of feet higher and trickles under the buttress eventually exiting in this area. The dry weather and sunlight did little to slow the flow.
He was frustrated on having to back off and I was disappointed in myself—in that I didn’t account for this kink in the plans. I did, however, have a backup plan in my pocket and said, “Don’t worry about it. There’s another option around that will link up with the pitch 2 of our quarry.”

I led him to a crack that rose 100’ up a steep featured face—something I spied a couple years ago. Our frustrations evaporated in contrast to the water around the corner. Dustin climbed meticulously up a finger-crack leading to nubby chunks of feldspar below the hand-crack. Once at the hand-crack he cleaned a bit of moss away and continued. I could tell from below that this was the crux of the pitch. The sun baked my neck and blackflies swarmed as he disappeared and set up an anchor.

I followed, climbing quickly until reaching the hand-crack. It required more thought than it appeared from below. The moves weren’t as intuitive as I’d envisioned. What we preliminarily assessed as 5.7 tds was more along the 5.8 grade. It was fun climbing in a deep crack. The blackflies accompanied my ascent. There was virtually no wind to keep them at bay.



I found Dustin at an anchor in several cracks next to a 3’ wide flake that overhung the Agharta area. A deep crack was partially filled with choss. Someday this would fall to the forest, but hopefully not this day. I looked up and stood in awe of the Agharta Wall. I’d never seen it from this angle; it was impressive and gave me a good vantage point to photograph three additional first ascent possibilities on our list. Planning for future trips is always part of climbing while in the Gorge.

Pitch two originally seemed to be the easy one based on photographs. I thought it was likely to be low-angle slab. It was anything but what I expected. A defined finger-crack paralleled an arÍte that fell away 100’ to the sloped base of the Agharta Wall. My instincts would have been to follow the crack then break right at large overhang. Dustin led onward with other plans.

He attained the crack and stepped left over the edge (which was also a roof above the aforementioned flake). Popping back up he yelled that there was a hard line under the roof...just info for the future. He continued up the crack and explored left around the overhang which placed him 100’ higher over the same roof. The stone above him looked sheer and featureless from below, but he methodically climbed it and disappeared above at the next belay point.

I suppressed a ping of apprehension and followed up the crack. The sharp edge was perfect to grip and my fingers locked in the crack. This was an excellent start. I slowed my pace as I followed left below the overhang and stepped down onto a dihedral that climbed to the sheer face. I felt like I was stepping into the void; in fact I was.

I heard, “Is this excellent or what!?” from above. He warned of an exposed hand traverse on the near vertical left side of the overhang (which was now below and to my right). We were climbing what is called an “open book”. The gear was great, but there were a couple large steps that placed me closer to a split than I’d have preferred at the time. Good handholds eased my fears...this was one of those times when my fear of heights snuck up from the recesses. This was the money pitch and spectacular climbing! Dustin had picked an incredible line. I found him standing on a good ledge belaying from horizontal cracks.





Our next pitch began with a right-facing flake. He climbed it and grumbled when the flake closed to a mossy corner. If he fell he’d hit the deck next to me. Upon climbing, I found that he’d buried a “yellow alien” into the corner as protection. Above, the pitch was low angled-slab and crossed over the top of Kat Nap, a route that followed the corner far below. A short bushwhack led to the upper cliff band where we’d finish the fourth pitch of the new route.

We arrived under a 75 degree face about 50 feet left of a large left-facing corner. The corner was mossy and the face beyond it didn’t appear as good as what was above. A series of vertical cracks and a textured face led up to a small wall. A short distance from the base, I knew this too was a worthy pitch—we were climbing on a large cheese grater. Differential weathering had transformed the face into something far more featured than the typical “moonrock” we often see on Colden, Marcy and Haystack. Divots had turned into 2-inch deep pockets that connected with sharp edges and jugs. One could climb just about any way imaginable—in the crack or on the face.





The funky face climbing led to a wall traverse. Dustin broke left and ascended a small chimney, up more slab and into the krummholz to belay. We’d put up another fine line and it was unexpectedly fine given how it looked from beta photos! At 600’ it was equal to the longest route in the gorge. I was thrilled we found a dry option so Dustin could experience the gorge at its best.

The blackflies were hungry as we rappelled the cheese grater and bushwhacked down and left to the top of the longer section of the Feline Wall. A single rappel (200’) placed us in a 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] class gully where we could down-climb to the glade and back to the base of the route.

In the week preceding our climb we were chatting on Facebook. The Orlando mass-shooting had just happened and we briefly discussed the insanity of the modern world. The route name—Galaxy of Tears—seemed an appropriate tribute to the fallen victims both recently and over the years.

Our exit together was brief...simply to the Phelps Trail. I was prepared to spend two nights deep in Panther Gorge and met Loren Swears at the Haystack trail junction. Dustin, now with a light pack, ran back to the Garden in two hours. Loren descended with me for his Gorge adventure. Over the following two days we’d explore possible climbs, ascend Grand Central Slide and bushwhack Mt. Marcy, crawl amongst the talus fields to find ice sheets and enjoy the views from the beaver ponds. But that is another story...

------------

GOOD NIGHT WORLD!!!


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Last edited by mudrat; 06-23-2016 at 08:21 AM..
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Old 06-23-2016, 10:47 AM   #2
PA Ridgerunner
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Nice, Kevin! We saw that you had signed in at the Garden, when we were signing in for HaBaSa on Friday. I thought I saw that you had signed out by the time we left, but obviously was mistaken (was getting dark at the kiosk by then).

Looks like a fabulous climb! We looked for you from Haystack, but couldn't pick anyone out. We did hear some voices echoing down there.
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Old 06-23-2016, 02:16 PM   #3
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Absolutely amazing!
Keep up the good work, Mudrat!
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Old 06-23-2016, 03:44 PM   #4
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Thanks guys! Very much appreciated!

PA--I thought I heard someone yelling from Haystack around 8 pm...we were sitting below the cliffs waiting for sunset. Heading back in this Saturday for more fun in the sun.
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Old 06-26-2016, 02:09 AM   #5
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Great Photos, thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-29-2016, 10:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adirondackiteer View Post
Great Photos, thanks for sharing!
Thanks!
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Old 06-30-2016, 07:22 AM   #7
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Nice perspective!!!
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