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Panther Gorge-One for the Boys 2016 June 25

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  • Panther Gorge-One for the Boys 2016 June 25


    Every day in the backcountry has a unique feel even though the general location may be the same. The collective energy during this trip was one of the oddest to date—not bad—just odd. Speaking for myself I can think of several reasons and they began the prior weekend when I spent three days camping in the Gorge—one day involved putting up the 600’ Galaxy of Tears. The next included a rather arduous bushwhack of Mt. Marcy via Grand Central Slide. I’ve also trekked into the chasm 4 of the 5 past weekends so I was tired by June 24th.

    There was also a heavier emotional component, one that I noticed the prior weekend when I explored some possible lines and found them unrealistic or unworthy for one reason or another (the effort involved in the approach vs. length, quality of the rock, etc.). The lines are tightening. It’s becoming more difficult to simply wake up, run into the gorge and reasonably expect to climb a new route. The end result has NEVER been certain, but there’s now a stronger feeling of doubt that accompanies each trip.

    This is what we’ve been working toward, but taking a step closer to realizing one’s vision sometimes includes a peculiar mental component. To be clear there are plenty of unclimbed options, but the longest most obvious natural lines on Mt. Marcy’s highest walls are closing in. Nearly 30 rock and ice climbing routes have been added since 2012; most in the last two years. Many of the remaining lines are chronically wet, difficult (5.10+) or single pitch. Mt. Haystack’s options are limitless, but largely less than 100 feet in length. This doesn’t mean our journey is complete, but it does mean that we need to be more conservative regarding weather and more strategic in planning the routes.


    The usual logistics applied (meet at 4:00 am./approach via the Garden) though we’d be climbing as a group of four: Bill Schneider, Adam Crofoot, Allison Rooney and myself. This particular combination meant the heckling ratio would be high. It also meant bringing a single rope as well as doubles (the leader belays two followers then one of followers belays the fourth as the leader continues up the next pitch). Our energy seemed fine for the approach though my knee and hamstring protested—a gift from carrying a 60 pound pack of camping gear 6 days prior.

    A brief respite at Slant Rock reinvigorated me as usual. A camper in the woods announced, “By the way, THIS is the last water...[before ascending],” to Bill and Allison. He was incorrect by about ½ mile and 600 vertical feet—one of a dozen springs higher along the trail including one nearly adjacent to the Haystack Trail junction are our usual water stations. “Last water of the day,” became one of several recurring themes.

    From the col, we bushwhacked down to the Agharta Wall and prepared to climb. The blackflies that badgered Loren Swears and I last weekend were even more ferocious this weekend especially without wind. The 50+ bites I’d endured during that trip were just healing. The little winged demons seemed much worse than last year. Bill announced that his energy was off and that he planned to follow rather than lead—his body was telling him something and he was wisely listening. That’s how we stay alive; to honestly self-assess and listen to our instincts.

    Adam approached a route we nicknamed “Orange” since I used an orange color for the line on the cliff beta photo. A loose block we estimated at weighing over a ton moved when he placed the first cam and tested it. Allison was positioned below and felt sand sprinkle down on her arms. He backed off and reviewed the options before we moved over to an equally appealing line downhill to our right. Like Orange, it too began under a roof system. Like I said, some of the remaining options are difficult. For reference see the following photos!

    After two hours of examining routes and testing the options, Adam down-climbed and we reassessed. The day was beautiful and the scenery alone was worth the walk though we had to wear gloves and head nets to maintain our sanity in the swarms of blackflies. We decided to head north and attempt an unclimbed single-pitch crack on the Panther Den. Allison would lead with me belaying. By 12:30 pm she was ready to ascend. Adam and Bill relaxed off to the side.

    The crack seemed straightforward and sat slightly downhill of a 6’ deep corner at the highest area of the wall. Looks can be deceiving so I thought it might be more difficult than it appeared. She climbed to a small terrace below an overhanging segment of the crack and tossed small pieces of stone into the woods to eliminate a few objective dangers. This was the crux, but nothing she didn’t handle with grace. Thirty minutes later she reached the top and set up a belay.

    I climbed next and found out why the crux looked somewhat daunting. It wasn’t an obvious crack climb and I was forced to use more of the adjacent face than I originally envisioned. Above, there were several obvious choices including staying in the crack or using edges along the face. I topped out and she lowered me. Bill climbed, followed by Adam. We’d put up One for the Boys (5.9) by 2:00 pm. It was a fun and worthwhile addition to the Panther Den...kudos to Allison for the leading! It was her fourth ‘first ascent’ in Panther Gorge.

    The ambition to climb had waned—the odd energy—but we felt no rush to head back to the Garden in such beautiful weather. Allison mentioned ascending either Marcy or Haystack. The latter sounded most appealing so we exited the gorge, lightened our packs and climbed to the summit. Leisurely enjoying the views with good company was one of the most rewarding parts of the day. This included 30 minutes of sitting on the summit in light comfortable winds and surveying our home away from home across on Mt. Marcy.

    Much blood, sweat and energy has been donated to the cliffs. I reflected on the last few years; the time feels like it simply evaporated. I can remember each trip as if it was yesterday. Each has a unique feel and leaves an imprint in my mind, a set of memories that sustain me when concrete walls and a computer screen are my only companions.
    We left the summit—smiles all around—at 4:00 pm and exited slowly. There was no rush. Thus ended another 16-hour trip to the Gorge.


    Blackfly Dinners.

    Allison Rooney on Lead-One for the Boys

    Kevin Following

    Bill following in a headnet.

    Adam and Allison at the top of the route.

    The PRIDE.

    Other Trips in Panther Gorge
    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 (East Face) 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 (V Wall) All Things Holy (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Jul 12
    8. Marcy (Agharta Wall) & Haystack (Free-Standing Pillar) Wreck of the Lichen Fitzgerald & For Whom the Lichen Tolls (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Aug 16
    9. Marcy (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 (Panther Den) 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. Marcy (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. Marcy (Feline Wall) Promised Land (w/Dan Plumley)-2015 Sept 19.
    19. Tour de Gorge (w/Adam Crofoot & Allison Rooney)-2015 Nov 21.
    20. Marcy (Panther Den) 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.
    24. Marcy (Feline Wall)-Galaxy of Tears (w/Dustin Ulrich)-2016 June 17.
    25. Marcy (Panther Den)-One for the Boys 2016 June 25
    Last edited by mudrat; 06-30-2016, 10:39 PM.
    May you always be a student of the journey. God Bless.

  • #2
    You continue to inspire. But climbing with headnets just doesn't seem like fun!
    Exploring the US one mountain at a time.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Bark Eater Too View Post
      You continue to inspire. But climbing with headnets just doesn't seem like fun!
      Thanks! Two weekends in a row getting torn up by the buggers was a bit annoying.
      May you always be a student of the journey. God Bless.