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Panther Gorge-Climb After Slime/You Moss be Kidding Me-2016 August 6

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  • Panther Gorge-Climb After Slime/You Moss be Kidding Me-2016 August 6

    Previous PG 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 (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 (w/Bill Schneider, Adam Crofoot & Allison Rooney) 2016 June 25
    26. Marcy (Agharta Wall)-Tail of Redemption (w/Bill Schneider & John Pikus) 2016 July 30
    Time/duration: 4:30 a.m. – 10 p.m./17.5 hrs.

    A flash of lightning startled me to consciousness at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Drops of rain hitting the window brought me fully awake. “Gimme a break,” I thought. I turned on the computer to check the radar and looked at the track of the dozen or so thunderstorms spawned by a cold front moving east. The bottom of the green amorphous blobs only brushed Keene Valley so perhaps Mt. Marcy would remain dry.

    My friend Alan Wechsler had driven up and was asleep somewhere in his car so we were committed to our plans. He didn’t come only to climb, but to do a feature on climbing in Panther Gorge. Climbing trips to the area have been ruined seepage and wet cracks in the past so we prefer to have at least a 3-day span of dry weather preceding each outing. Sometimes, however, you roll the dice and hope for the best.

    I went back to sleep until my alarm beeped at 3:15 a.m. I checked the radar again. It couldn’t be worse—two large cells were located an hour to the west and headed directly at Mt. Marcy. My enthusiasm bottomed out, but I readied myself and met Alan at Rooster Comb trailhead. The first drops of rain spotted the windshield as we started driving up to the Garden Trailhead at 4:15. It was down-pouring with lightning flashing in the background by the time we began the slog in. I’m all for spicing up the approach, but this wasn’t what I had in mind. It was only about 10 minutes before the deluge relinquished its reign to a light rain, but I silently brooded knowing our day was likely going entail a long hike with little climbing unless we targeted the V Wall which would be fun, but of lower angle. The dew point was high so the stone would take longer to dry as well.

    The first rays of soft morning sunlight crested the ridge as we climbed the hogback between Hogback Brook and Johns Brook, exactly where it did the previous Saturday. In combination with the valley fog, I hoped the lighting would produce a nice photographic did. Conditions continued to be bleak for climbing as I glanced up from a clearing about ¼ mile past Slant Rock. We were over 7 miles into the approach and a hanging cloud stubbornly clung to Mt. Marcy’s ridge. The trees were wet as we entered the gorge, but the gloom on the north side miraculously disappeared as we descended south.

    I was thrilled with the sun and strong winds as I broke through the trees at the top of the Panther Den Wall. It had obviously rained, but the rock was dry except the usual areas that are prone to seepage. Our target was on the obvious prow 300’ down the wall. I looked up and there was no water to be found at what I perceived to be the crux. Only the first 15 feet was wet and mossy, a natural outlet at the bottom of a technical gully. This would be the start to keep the line independent though one could realistically begin to the left (beginning of Cat on a Wet Tin Roof) if one prefers 15’ of unprotectable face climbing.

    The prow looked imposing and the highlight of the route, a dominant flake about 60’ up, looked perfect if we could get to it. Photographs suggested the crack behind it was deep, but it didn’t lead all the way to the gully. I led the first pitch up the blocks to the gully. This would be easier dry, but the wet moss upped it a grade. Good feet and gear gave me confidence and I’m usually comfortable on less than clean stone. The unappealing start lasted transitioned to a ‘fun-5’ gully with great cracks. I set up a belay below the flake and Alan climbed to my position; we studied the proposed line.

    As an aside, one could combine the gully and flake into a single pitch.

    Attaining twin finger cracks below the flake was the crux. There were only small divots for feet on a near vertical wall. Alan tried a couple stances before moving onto them and climbing to the large right-facing flake. It ate small to mid-size cams. He moved up to its top (about 30’) where there were two choices: move left to an questionable overlap or right via a horizontal. I noticed a line on the photo, but couldn’t ascertain whether it was a seam or crack. The line turned out to be a deep appealing crack leading onto a wide arête. This threw an airy traverse into the route—perfect.

    We took several minutes to discuss the best options thereafter; continue the traverse or search upward. I knew lower angled slab was close above him, but not the best way to get there. Alan found a couple right-facing overlaps and took the route upward before calling, “Off belay!”

    I felt firsthand why he tried several options in the step to the finger-cracks at the base of pitch two. A ring-lock at the first crack made me feel secure and I stepped out and began the most exciting part of the day. The jamming and laybacks were exhilarating and the sharp rock digging into my hand was encouraging. It ended all too soon at the traverse where the hands were secure and feet were good on nubs of feldspar. I looked down; the 80 degree arête turned vertical a few feet below me and continued to the grassy slope. Haystack’s cliffs were intermittently illuminated by the sun as the clouds blew quickly by.

    A “stray shower or thunderstorm” was in the forecast so I kept a close eye on the weather when the wind shifted. The sky to the north looked ominous at various intervals and showers popped up near Allen Mtn. to the south. I hoped to avoid being drenched again. We remained dry, but I later found out that we received an inch of rain about 10 miles north.

    I climbed up the face to the slab and stopped at Alan’s belay station in a chimney formed by a free-standing pyramid and the cliff. Bill Schneider and I used the other side of this as the final pitch of Cat on a Wet Tin Roof in 2015. This belay wasn’t necessary, but it kept the communication easier with the wind. I took the lead and scrambled up the remaining slab to a ledge and into the woods where I belayed Alan. A few quick minutes preceded its naming. Alan came up with the name Climb After Slime (5.8 YDS), a play on “Time After Time” and reference to the slimy first few feet.

    View from the prow before climbing to its top.

    Our descent options were to either walk off or find a rappel station to the north. I knew the top of The Panther’s Fang was about 75’ away. The bushwhacking is heinous atop the cliff so shorter = better. Ten minutes later I found a stout tree and set up to rappel. As I descended, I laughed. The tree was only about 15’ from the anchor atop The Panther’s Fang. We rappelled down the line and discussed our next options while eating.

    Alan wanted to try “Fang”. After discussion we decided to top rope it and sought an easier option up. Yes, it would have been even easier had we thought of this sooner. I suggested a crack 20’ north might be an option; another unclimbed line. By the looks of it, there was a reason it wasn’t a route. It was mossy yet amazingly dry. I climbed about 10’ of it while Alan rappelled and had already been contemplating it as a future option. We studied it for a few minutes and Alan decided to give it a try. The crux appeared to be after a small chimney section in the center.

    It took about 30 minutes for Alan to ascend what looked like a surprisingly fun line. The route started in a 10’ chimney which led to a ledge. I was surprised by the quality of the climb. It looked unappealing, but the handholds in the crack, jams in its back and great feet made it well worth climbing. As Alan stated, “You don’t really notice the moss and it doesn’t get in the way”. Cleaning it would really just be for curb appeal.

    A deep chimney at the top with solid blocks in the back and featured sides ended the true climbing. A low angle gully afterward led to a left-facing corner and Alan belaying. I suggested, You Moss be Kidding Me! as a name. Next time, I’m leading it.

    Alan leading You Moss be Kidding Me!

    We moved back to the top of The Panther’s Fang and rappelled again. I belayed Alan as he climbed it. Given the time and possible showers I decided to forego an ascent (also, I’d previously climbed it). It had been a fruitful day by any standard!

    We took our time and walked slowly with breaks at Slant Rock and Johns Brook Lodge where a slideshow on the summits was in progress. The lack of biting midges allowed us to lounge in peace. The days of beginning and ending under the light of a headlamp are upon us again. We arrived back at the car at 10:00 p.m. some 17.5 hours after beginning. In contrast to our start, the sky was clear and stars bright.

    Look for Alan’s article on this day in Climbing Magazine sometime in 2017...

    Kevin setting up a rappel above The Panther's Fang.

    View south from Climb after Slime.
    May you always be a student of the journey. God Bless.