Adventures of Marc Toso and Willow Toso

Something Wicked

This past summer has been my second in upstate NY and Willow’s 1st. On the whole the climbing and exploring places like the gunks and the crags around the adirondacks has not disappointed. However, as the summer rolled on we craved the alpine playgrounds we use to explore in the big western states. Hence we set off looking for alpine rock in New York…

One can still find remoteness and  wild places on the east. I had once hiked around Avalanche Lake and gazed at some of the best looking backcountry alpine walls I’ve seen on the east. With that in mind we headed into the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, looking for a multi-pitch backcountry climb.

Our goal was the California Flake, a climb the guide give 5 stars and 870 feet! wow! sounded awesome! Unfortunately after hiking for 6 miles we discovered the north facing wall was sopping wet. This was proving to be nothing like California… (I’m not sure what we expected it had rained all night…) Not to be deterred we headed towards a route we couldn’t see, Something Wicked. A route 1st done in 1996 by Ed Palen and Laurie Daniels (nice work guys!), fingers cross that it would be dry.

The approach proceeded through several hundred feet of snarling trees. Not too bad. Up a gully of loose rock with a stream pouring down it. At least the stream formed a trail of sorts. The route is suppose to start by a cave… There’s the cave! And a waterfall is pouring out…. Fortunately, the 1st pitch is a chimney about 30 feet away and is dry enough for me!

I take the 1st lead. It’s a fun 5.6 These 5.6 pitches on the east coast always surprise me a little. From the chimney’s top I traverse over some ledges to a nice belay tree and bring Willow up.

Willow finishing up the 1st pitch

View of the California Flake from the 1st pitch of Something Wicked. It’s the flake that looks like well… California. The route continues for several pitches above the flake.

The view of Avalanche Lake from the 1ts pitch. Several routes ascent the wall across the lake, requiring a boat. This area is suppose to hold good ice climbs in the winter.

View of Mount Colden.

We move the belay about 20 feet back to the massive chimney for the 2nd pitch. Money pitch here. This beast takes you through the bowels of the mountain (in a good way).  Willow’s lead which she massively enjoyed all 150ft of.

Willow heading up the chimney. There was a bolt near the base which surprised us. The crack would have taken good gear. Well, if we had a #5 Camalot (for nonclimbers, that ‘s BIG gear)… But since we didn’t have one there were no complaints.

Willow at the belay chockstone at the top of the pitch.

And she didn’t have too bad of a view either…

Me finishing the Chimney Pitch

At the 2nd belay

Now the 3rd pitch is described a 5.9 PG. For those who don’t understand what PG means, don’t worry about it. It’s not important. This pitch starts off traversing a ledge which is basically the top of the massive flake which formed the chimney. Not too bad. It’s about the width of a sidewalk. I go about 20 feet dead horizontal from the belay. No gear to be had. Just the me, the rope, the belay and Willow’s little (super STRONG!) hands.

So I contemplate the slab I need to step across onto. I spot the finger crack I need to get too, but it’s somewhere in the vicinity of 10-15feet away. The moves don’t look desperately hard, but not super causal  either. A fall here would send me swinging into the intestines of the cliff and backing into the chimney we just climbed. Does that sound like PG to you? Not so much to me. Good fun. This is all about reccreation, right?

(on a side note, if my mother happens to read this, remember all of this is written purely for dramatic effect. I was actually home safe in bed that day. To all others there is nothing more true than what is written here.)

Step up. Step down. Up a little higher, nope back down. Feel the holds. Remember the moves. Only move when solid. Back and forth. Up and down. Oopps. There I am. Committed. No more downclimbing. One more move. Hey! there’s a small pocket for my blue TCU! No more swinging into the mountain’s bowels!

Getting the 1st gear on the 3rd pitch

The finger crack looks awesome. Until I get into it…. Well, it’s still awesome, but… it would be a super high quaility if about 10,000 more people climbed it. It basically looks like the 1st ascentionists scraped mud out with a nut tool and nobody’s climbed it since. But I’m not bitching. There’s great gear, fun climbing,  some dirty and painful fingertips and even the occasional helpful bush to pull on.

(NY climbers! Go climb this thing!)

Heading higher on the finger crack

Eventually the crack disappears and I’m left with slab… The guide described traversing right to “tree islands” and this is what I do on sparse gear but easy climbing. After crawling my way through a “tree island” I set up a belay and bring Willow up. For those of you unfamiliar with “tree island” they are basically patches of vegetation growing on cliffs. Out west I’ve always trusted big  living trees. Those roots need to dig deep into the stone to find water. They’re solid anchors embedded many feet into the rock. Not so here. There’s so much  precipitation here these trees have plenty of water and nutrients just inches below the surface. After Willow arrives at the belay she casually pushes my tree anchor over (don’t worry I was sitting down and giving a massive butt belay).

Top of the climb, only hellish bushwack above. Ain’t doing that.  We string an anchor together of trees/branches/mud and rap to the 2nd belay ledge.

Heading off from the 2nd rappel.

We suspect the 3rd rap could be done with one rope. We’re wrong.

Willow jugging back up the rope. I like to keep my woman tired.

We rerig the rap with two ropes and get back to our packs safely

We end the day with a single pitch route called Afflication!  Willow led it without flaw. Some chossy rock to a fun roof with nice dihedral climbing on top. We cleaned up the half-disintegrated webbing and called it a day!

Final move on Affliction

6miles of easy trail walk’en and we’re back at the car.

Any day spent in the hills is a good day.

5 responses

  1. jules

    You folks never cease to amaze me!
    Beautiful pix!

    February 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm

  2. h

    Sounds fun… there is much other awesome climbing up there… Check out the fin wall (classic overhanging hand/finger cracks)… 3-D, Chalk up Matilda… Much, much more obviously…

    February 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    • looks like tons of good stuff up there! thanks for the recommendations!

      February 22, 2010 at 2:48 pm

  3. j_

    Very cool. These kind of routes scare me with the sort of chossy daks gear, but reports like this get me psyched!

    February 22, 2010 at 12:12 am

    • there seems to be plenty to get psyched about up there, and on this route one could easily just do the 1st two pitches. Nice bolted rap anchors at the top of the 2nd. but the last pitch does add some adventure!

      February 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm

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