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