High Peaks Wilderness and Vanderwhacker Wild Forest Unit Management Plan Amendments Access Alert!

The DEC and the APA are taking concurrent public comments around the proposed amendments to the High Peaks Unit Management Plan and the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest Unit Management Plan. Downloadable PDF’s of both Unit Management Plans (UMP’s) can be found here:

High Peaks UMP

Vanderwhacker UMP

There are a lot of good things for climbing mentioned in both UMP proposals. However there are also several items in the UMP proposals that could negatively affect climbing.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • Write a personal letter and email it to [email protected] by June 27, 2018. Please don’t copy and paste anything written below, but use these points to create something in your own words.
  •  Make sure to include these 3 general points:
    • Climbing is a legitimate use of New York State public land
    • Climbers are willing to work cooperatively with the DEC/APA
    • Don’t reduce parking. In fact only increases in parking should be considered
  • Items included in the current UMP drafts that the ACC thinks are good:
    • Stabilization of soils on cliff tops and bases
    • Provide fair and equitable access to rock and ice climbing resources
    • Kiosks with Climbing LNT and other relevant information on them
    • Continue to support and work with the DEC regarding peregrine cliff closures
    • Stabilize approach trails
    • Maximum group size 10
    • Create a fixed anchor focus group with all stakeholders, including the ACC
  • Items not included in the current UMP drafts that the ACC thinks would be good additions:
    • Speed reductions through Chapel Pond Pass (from Round Pond to St. Huberts) and Cascade Pass from 55mph to 45mph. Equip with “school zone” style flashing signs to get driver’s attention.
    • Specific climber approach trails adopted by the DEC (similar to what was proposed/done in Sentinel Range Wilderness UMP) as class III trails:
      • King Phillips
      • Spanky’s Wall
      • King Wall
      • Jewel’s & Gems Wall
      • Creature Wall/ Upper Washbowl
      • Chapel Pond Slab
      • Tilman’s & Shipton’s Arete area
      • Spider’s Web/Lower Washbowl
      • Beer Walls
  • Items included in the current UMP drafts that the ACC thinks should be changed or removed:
    • Parking removal: With increased usage throughout the  Chapel Pond area, removing any parking is a bad idea. Add more parking lots, reroute the Giant Ridge hiking trail and continue to maintain current parking.
    • Ice climber access: Removing the current lots along 73 will create a severe hazard for ice climbers who will walk the plowed road to and from the new proposed lots to the Chapel Pond area. In addition to the above bullet point, all new and current parking lots should be maintained for winter use.
    • Spiders Web & LWB access: Removing/posting/guard railing the “over the white line” parking will significantly reduce the available parking for these beloved cliffs. The Spider’s Web shoulder often has five or more cars on a busy day. These cars will use the parking at the outlet intended for camper & paddler use if the shoulder is closed. Additionally, climbers will need to cross the road to access the cliffs. We propose reopening the pull off at the start of the approach trail.

Please include any other points you feel are important to voice your opinion about. Thanks in advance for taking the time to help improve climbing access in the Adirondack Park!

OSI Purchases Huckleberry Mountain Parcel, Promises to Improve Climber Access

The Open Space Institute (OSI) has purchased a 1,285 acre parcel on Huckleberry Mountain that connects the state land (with the climbing cliffs) with Johnsburg Road. The property will be held by the OSI until it can be turned over to New York State, hopefully within the next three years. This is exciting news for climbers, as the connection between the state land and Johnsburg Road promises a shorter, more convenient approach to the cliffs of Huckleberry Mountain.

Huckleberry Mountain was once a popular day hiking destination with its attractive open summit and the historic Paint Mine Ruins. It was also a popular climbing destination with 55 routes up to 5.12, with a heavy emphasis on moderate routes. The Huckleberry/Crane massif is surrounded by private land. The historic, 20-minute approach to Huckleberry Mountain from Paintbed Road crosses two parcels of private land before entering state land. The approach used by climbers was the same as that for the Paint Mine Ruins, and has long been described in various hiking and climbing guidebooks to the region. In 2009, the owners posted their property and threatened to prosecute trespassers. Presently, the only legal option for climbers is to park at the Crane Mountain trailhead at the end of Sky Hi road, hike up Crane Mountain, bushwhack down the other side into the valley between Crane and Huckleberry, then go up valley to the cliffs, which takes about 2.5 hours if you don’t get lost. The inconvenience of this approach has, in practical terms, closed climbing at Huckleberry.

The present, legal approach to Huckleberry is described in Adirondack Rock, excerpt here:
http://www.adirondackrock.com/vol2_pages214-215.pdf

The ACC is working with OSI to map out an alternative approach to the historic paint mines and the climbing cliffs. While still not roadside, the new approach will be far better than going over the summit of Crane. Due to funding, the OSI does not allow public recreation on their properties, so this purchase does not mean there will be immediate relief for climbing access. However, the OSI is looking into alternatives that will allow access in this instance, before the property is turned over to the state. The ACC will continue to work with the OSI on this.

Phil Brown of the Adirondack Explorer has an article here:
https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/outtakes/adirondack-rock-climbers

North Face of Pitchoff Ice Climbing Access/Winter Trail Etiquette

The traditional access for ice climbing on the North Face of Pitchoff has been to park at the end of Mountain Lane, then walk along the Jackrabbit Ski Trail until below what ice route you wanted to climb and then head up through the woods.

The Jackrabbit Ski Trail is maintained by skiers for skiing. PLEASE USE SKIES OR SNOWSHOES when using the Jackrabbit Ski Trail to access the ice routes on the North Face of Pitchoff! If you don’t have ski’s or snowshoes the closest place to rent them is Cascade Cross Country Ski Center off Route 73 on the way to Lake Placid or in Lake Placid at High Peaks Cyclery and Eastern Mountain Sports or in Keene Valley at the Mountaineer.

There are many other times, besides accessing the ice climbing on the North Face of Pitchoff, that ski’s or snowshoes should be used. Heading into Avalanche Lake to ice climb is just one area that comes to mind. A good rule of thumb to follow, and in fact the law in the High Peaks, is that anytime there is 8 inches or more of snow, ski’s or snowshoes should be used. Don’t posthole the trails!

ACC Summary Statement on Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP

Below is a summary statement that was publicly submitted to the DEC during the 12/7/2017 informational/public comment meeting on the draft Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP.

 

December 7, 2017

My name is Will Roth, and I represent the Adirondack Climbers Coalition (ACC). I work locally, year round as a Rock and Ice Climbing Guide for several local guide services and colleges. The rock and ice climbing community is relying on the Adirondack Climbers Coalition to voice concerns related to the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan (UMP).

I would like to first off thank the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for the opportunity to voice concerns around the proposed changes to the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP. The ACC’s concerns about proposed changes to the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP all revolve around changes that potentially affect rock and ice climbing access. Both rock and ice climbing are acceptable uses of wilderness, under the broader term mountaineering, contained within the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

A concise breakdown of wording that the ACC is looking to have adopted has been submitted to the DEC. The following is a summary of our concerns contained within the proposed Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP:

Parking– Climbers use parking areas at the end of Alstead Hill Rd, pullouts along Route 73, parking areas at the end of Mountain Lane and pullouts along Route 86 to access cliffs within the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area. Many of these parking areas and pullouts are shared with hikers in both the summer and winter, and skiers during the winter months. Our main concern with these shared parking areas is making sure that climbers needs are    considered when thinking about parking area/pullout usage. Listed below are the top 3 parking areas of concern for us.

East Pitchoff  Trailhead- The proposed relocated trailhead’s parking area is heavily used by ice climbers in the winter for access to the Pitchoff Quarry cliff and overflow parking for Pitchoff Right cliff. During the summer months this parking area is not used by climbers. But if the proposed parking area becomes full from hikers, the next closest parking areas are heavily used in the summer and winter by climbers. We would like to avoid the overflow hiker parking taking over climbing area parking. There is room at the proposed relocated trailhead to expand parking. The ACC wants to make sure that the DEC is aware of this very real possibility of over crowding especially during busy winter weekends when parking space is limited more due to snow banks.

West Pitchoff Trailhead- This series of pullouts is used by climbers lightly in the summer and heavily in the winter for access to the Cascade Waterfall and Top of the Lakes Gullies. Both summer and winter hiker use of this trailhead is very heavy, with hikers accessing Pitchoff Ridge/Balanced Rocks and Cascade/Porter mountains. The ACC strongly opposes options that remove this parking area – since that would cut off climber access. The ACC understands that there are limited resources to work within this area as far as expanding parking. However one possibility is for winter maintenance to be performed on the day use picnic area between the Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes for winter climber access to both the Cascade Waterfall and Top of the Lakes Gullies. This picnic area, along with the Cascade Waterfall and Top of the Lakes Gullies is not in the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area, but since some of the parking for these climbs is in the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area we have included them here.

Mountain Lane- This trailhead is used heavily in the winter by climbers to access the ice climbing on the North Face of Pitchoff. Skiers share this trailhead to access the Jackrabbit Trail. Summer use by climbers is none. If this trailhead is moved from the current end of the road parking, the new parking area must be large enough to accommodate both the heavy winter climber and skier use.

Trails– Rock and ice climbers do not need maintained trails to access the cliffs that they use. However heavily used summer and winter cliffs do see herd paths develop as a way to access them. Also at heavily used cliffs, along with the herd paths, the cliff base and cliff tops see enough use that erosion control is needed.

Currently two of these heavily used climber herd paths are proposed to become designated trails. The ACC is in full support of the official designation of both the herd paths to the Barkeater Cliff and the Notch Mountain Slab.

In addition to these two herd paths, the ACC strongly recommends that the herd path to the Pitchoff Chimney cliff become officially designated.

With the official designation of these herd paths as trails, the ACC strongly encourages the DEC to not mark these trails. Or if marked, to use a trail marker different than the typical trail marker used for hiking trails. Currently there is already a “Climbers Access Trail” marker in the works for use at several heavily used climbing sites in the Giant/Dix Wilderness area. If the trails in the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area are marked, it would be beneficial to keep the “Climbers Access Trail” markings uniform. This would help both hikers and climbers by helping to eliminate trail confusion.

Rare Species- The ACC supports the peregrine falcon cliff closures. Although there are not currently any cliff closures in the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area it is worth noting that local climbers involved with the ACC already help to monitor peregrine falcon nesting. The ACC looks forward to continuing to support the DEC with its Peregrine studies.

There is mention in the draft UMP that states, “address potential harm that rock climbing could cause to protected species.”. We are aware of peregrine falcons. And as mentioned above, support the cliff closures. What other protected species could climbers cause harm?

Snowshoe Use- The ACC supports the proposed rule that “use of snowshoes or ski’s is needed with 8 or more inches of snow” on the Jackrabbit Trail section in the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area. The ACC understands the potential dangers of “postholing” and the potential to ruin a trail that is designated for and maintained by skiers.

Fixed Anchors- The ACC looks forward to working with the DEC during focus group meetings surrounding the use of fixed anchors and forming a park-wide policy on their use.

Volunteer Stewardship Agreement- The ACC looks forward to working with the DEC through Volunteer Stewardship Agreements (VSA) on climber related trail projects.

Thank you for your time. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Adirondack Climbers Coalition with any questions or concerns surrounding rock or ice climbing in the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area.

 

Will Roth