"New England Ellen!," he cried, "I'm coming out that way over Labor Day! Meet me either in New Hampshire or the Adirondacks!"
New England Ellen responded an affirmative. With long-range plans set, Indy took off on his West Quest.
Weeks later Indy returned, a leaner (well, skinnier) adventurer. But the adventures were not over yet. A few weeks to 'recoup' at work and skate out to the local crags (after not getting nearly enough climbing in while out West), Indy was ready. He contacted NE Ellen again, and they made arrangements to meet in the Adirondacks ( "There are a gazillion climbs to do up in the Adirondacks, Indy!"). Indy also had a request for NE Ellen from some other New England friends of his who were wondering whatever happened to Hot Rod Lisa and Noah (see also Next Time!).
NE Ellen was amazed anyone was still keeping track, and told Indy that Hot Rod Lisa had long moved on from that one. Indy relayed the info to the interested parties, then re-packed his car once again (but only for a 4-day jaunt, not a 5 week mega-adventure). On Sept 2nd Indy departed B'more and headed North. First stop was Schenectady to stop in and see his starship comrade, Jon 'Cruiser Duel' Davis.
The drive up wasn't bad; most construction had ceased in preparations for the Labor Day holiday that was coming up. Indy made almost reasonable time (being delayed only really at one construction zone for a significant period of time) up to Schenectady. After boring 'Cruiser Duel' and his kids by regaling tales of his earlier travels, Indy worked his way through Albany and back onto I-87, and then north into...the Adirondacks!
The night was dark, and the clouds descended. Spots of rain periodically smashed into Indy's windshield. The clouds came down to ground level, impeding visibility. Indy turned on his Auto-Tracking-Find-The-Road system and pushed on through the soup. His destination originally was to be the Cascade Lakes region near Lake Placid. But as time wore on, and he seemed to make no real forward progress (someone kept stretching the road out in front of him further and further), Indy amended his plans and was going to try and make for Newcomb.
Unfortunately, it got later and later, and Indy grew more and more tired. Newcomb wasn't going to happen. Maybe he could find some pull-off off the side of the road? He got off the highway at the Newcomb exit and headed west, looking for a likely place to park and set up camp. He found a couple...but they turned out to be dirt driveways to private residences (after being shot at a few times, Indy decided setting up camp in someone's front yard wasn't the thing to do this evening). A few more miles down the road Indy spied a 'weird' dirt driveway. Came in at a strange angle from all the others, and seemed more like a dirt road, with a spur coming off at the one side for traffic coming the other direction to turn onto. Hmmmm. Indy decided what the heck, check it out.
Indy pulled in and parked. It was quickly apparent this was no private residence. Nor was it a side road. It was like...a mini-park of some sort, but only maintained by people who came there. Exploring around a bit, Indy discovered that the road (which appeared to peter out at the grass ~200' from the road) actually continued onward for another 100' into the woods as two tire ruts to a campsite next to a stream. Indy discovered he could park down there and set up camp, and be out of sight from the road. Of course, negotiating down the tire rut lane would prove tricky; it was littered with stones and boulders sticking up through the ground, and Indy didn't have one o'them high-falutin' SUVs or other high-clearance vehicle. Well, Indy thought he could do it, anyhow, so carefully negotiated his Indymobile through the 'minefield' of rock, only scraping bottom briefly once as a tire dropped off a stone sticking up. Once down Indy quickly set up camp and passed out. It's been a long week, and a long day. Indy was beat tired. The night passed quietly, the only sounds being those of water dripping off the trees from an earlier rain, and the gurgling stream...
The next morning (this is now friday, Sept 3rd) Indy awoke - after having slept in 'til nearly 10am!! Stunned he slept in so long (well, it was peaceful there, what with the bubbling brook barely 20' from the tent - and the view from the tent didn't suck, either), Indy finally clawed his way out into the daylight. After quickly drying out his tent and fly (it was still a wet night, mostly from water dripping off the trees), and exploring the immediate area, Indy pushed on. His ultimate goal was to get to the High Peaks Campground by late afternoon/early evening. NE Ellen would meet him there that evening. So Indy toured around the High Peaks region for the day, doing recon runs to trailheads and an abandoned(??) iron mine (Tahawus). Finally he made his way around to Lake Placid and picked up a few supplies. Then moved on to the Upper Jay to set up camp. Along the way Indy noted on his map he would pass by The Land Of Make Believe on route 9N, north of Keene. Cool!! Indy's never been to a land of make believe before, much less The Land of Make Believe!
With the directions supplied by NE Ellen, Indy found the High Peaks campground. However, Indy never did find The Land of Make Believe (and he went looking for it for a while). Bummer. But while failing that, Indy did succeed in a recon foray down to Chapel Pond and located several of the crags there (this in preparation for the next morning; knowing where things are ahead of time saves time the next day in searching for stuff). That night Indy returned to fix dinner and wait for NE Ellen to show.
NE Ellen finally did make it, though a bit later than she intended (bloody holiday traffic!). The two caught up, not having seen each other in a couple years. Finally then retired for the evening (well, morning), only to get up a few hours later with the sun. After a slow breakfast, the two made their way to Chapel Pond Slabs. The goal: to climb Regular Route (5.5), a 700' slab route that had moderate levels of protection, and a classic on Chapel Pond Slab (the alternate Indy was toying with was Empress, another 700' 5.5 route on the same slab, but with more sparse protection - and in fact, one pitch is listed as having none at all! Indy, while on lead, would like SOME protection in the rock, and this being a new place, didn't want to push his luck on an X-rated route).
Arriving at the crack of midmorning, Indy and NE Ellen discovered the base of the slab was swarming with people queued up to get on Regular Route. There were 4 parties on Empress already, but 6 or 9 waiting for Regular Route. Indy and Ellen looked the situation over and after a while of watching not much progress happen on Regular Route, opted to tackle Empress. The parties on there had finally moved on above the first pitch, so Ellen went up first, giving Indy the less-protectable pitches (Indy decided this wasn't going to be too bad a route to do, protection-wise; in the unprotected sections - just don't slip!).
The first pitch was pretty straight-forward (5.3), but wet in a few spots. Ellen ripped in a semi-hanging belay and brought Indy up. Indy popped up and over to the next belay station and brought Ellen over. From there they could see that 2 of the parties ahead of them were opting to do the 5.6 variation of Empress, called Greensleeves. This left 2 parties left on Empress. Cool. The next pitch looked pretty blank, but straight-forward enough. Ellen let Indy take it ("Not enough protection for me; you solo it."). Indy happily bombed up to find the hummocks, three of them, and some scanty places for pro. On the third hummock he stopped ("How much rope is left??", "10 feet!", "oops") and brought Ellen up. The next section looked pretty straight-forward again, but instead of aimless wandering, it looked to be ~100' or so (maybe less) to the birch tree ledge, where the other two parties were at (the first party, a group of 4, was already starting the next pitch, the off-width pitch...wait, that's an off-width up there! Homey don't do off-widths...how's he going to get out of this one??). Ellen came up and looked at it. It was her turn to lead, but she opted to allow Indy the honor instead ("No, Indy, really, I insist. You've never been here before, you might as well get the lead in. (Besides, it's 5.5, I don't lead 5.5, and it's practically unprotectable - go solo, my friend!)"). Indy reracked and headed up.
A few short minutes and couple interesting moves later, Indy was at the birch tree ledge. The last of the party of four was just starting, leaving the couple who were immediately ahead of Indy and Ellen: Joe and Colette, from Canada. Indy brought Ellen up and the four struck up conversation (where they discovered Joe and Colette camped out on this ledge late last year in a howling storm; ahh, that must have been something like 'the romantic part' Indy's friend Lynna keeps talking about) while waiting for the party of four above to clear the next belay. Indy kept looking at the intimidating off-width ("Off-widths...I hate these guys!"). But soon Joe had moved on and Colette followed. Indy looked at Ellen.
"I ain't leading it! It's 5.5 - your lead!"
Indy looked up at the off-width again. This wasn't slabby; this was the 'steep' part of the route (it went almost vertical). Colette had already danced beyond to the next belay ledge. Ellen waited, expectantly.
So, with sweaty palms (Indy's palms almost never sweat, so he rarely climbs with chalk - boy, he wanted some at that moment!), Indy started into the next pitch, telling himself 'it is only 5.5, it is only 5.5'.
In a few minutes (after a couple of semi-desperate moves) Indy was at the next belay station - a nice ledge about a foot or so wide, 4 or so feet long. Joe was just starting up, so Indy waited until there was room for him to sit on the ledge without knocking Colette off (Indy didn't think Joe would appreciate that too much). The next section was the 50' run-out section. Oh, joy!! This was the X-pitch! Indy looked at it...it didn't look too bad. Only 50' to the pin in the flake above? Oh, look, halfway up was a shallow overlap flake; Indy might be able to slot something in there. Joe did (although the piece probably wouldn't hold jack - so it's a prolly good thing Jack wasn't here climbing!). After a while Joe had reached the next belay stance and Colette moved on. Ellen had made it up to Indy by this point and was waiting for her turn at the belay ledge.
"50' run-out, eh, Indy? Your lead..."
Heh, thought Indy as he reracked. Colette had moved pretty far above, so he started up. La la la la la la...Indy reached the shallow overlap flake and slotted in a piece (gee, these Aliens of Ellen's are really nice; Indy will have to make a point of picking some up someday). Indy judged that if he were to fall any significant distance onto this piece, it would just strip right out. Shrugging, Indy marched on ahead; above him loomed the overlap with the pin in the flake, 30' away. La la la la la...
<Clip!> Indy reached the pin and hooked it. Now if he fell the pin (which kinda looked a little old...hmmm, better back it up with a few pieces of gear) would catch him. The crack/flake before Indy petered out after about 8' or so, and then it was a long, blank, diagnol and sheer looking rising right traverse he had to make to get over to where Joe and Colette were at. Another 40-50' runout to the belay...and this looked...trickier. Well, at least, not as straight-forward as the earlier section. Colette called over, suggesting Indy go up first, then start traversing over on the nothings that were there, rather than traversing low on the nothings that weren't there. "Riiight..." said Indy.
So as very good Indy should, he followed Colette's suggestions - which worked out remarkably well (but were unnerving enough that Indy was REAL happy to find places to throw in pro at the belay station - Colette and Joe had 6 pieces in already, so Indy squeezed 3 more between theirs). Joe had already moved on to the next pitch and disappeared around a grove of trees high above. Soon Colette followed and Indy brought Ellen up and over. From there it was pretty easy climbing, the last two pitches. There were some places for pro, here and there, but mostly it was easy-5th class to 4th class scrambling. Half hour later they had knocked off that pitch and were hooking up with Joe and Colette do rap off down the 4th class section on the east side of the slab (the descent required that either one down-climb and bushwach 4th class stuff, or do 4 double-rope rappels - skirting most, but not all, of the bushwacking stuff - and downclimb the final 100' of the 2nd/3rd class gully to the base of the rocks again). As both parties were using double-ropes, this proved efficient to rig one pair of ropes up for the rap and sent the next pair of ropes down first to set the next rap. Three of the rap stations had webbing and anchors which Joe had set there a couple years before (still in good condition). One rap station didn't have any (somebody took 'em and didn't replace, the skankers!), so they rapped directly off a tree (Indy made a mental note if he gets back up there any time soon to bring some webbing and rings for that station).
After getting down Indy and Ellen joined Joe and Colette at their camp for drinks and socializing for a while. Joe wanted to know where Indy got that #5 Tri-cam; he's been looking for one for a while. They apparently don't carry them up in Canada.
After a while Indy and Ellen headed back to camp, where they had dinner and then hooked up with some Boston climbing friends of Ellen's. Indy and Ellen had been toying with possibly doing a Slide Climb (Eagle) the next day. It turned out that the majority of the Boston group had just gone up Eagle Slide on Giant Mountain that day - beta! Indy and Ellen attempted to pick their brains as best they could, coming up with a lot of questions, but not always pertinent ones, as they would discover in a dozen short hours...
For the uninitiated, a slide climb is basically a non-technical rock climb, usually about 3rd or 4th class (but some can be as easy as 2nd class, or as technical as easy-5th class) up an avalanche scar down the flanks of a mountain. Steeper than a 'standard' hike, but not so steep as to be a technical climb, slide climbs offer their own unique niche between the hiker's world and the climber's world.
The Boston group advised Indy and Ellen to not follow the book direction exactly at first. Instead of jumping in the stream at the junction of the trail and stream, and bushwacking up the stream from there, head up the trail for a ways, then cut over to the stream and go up. It would save them a bit of bushwacking and boulder-hopping. Indy and Ellen nodded eagerly. The Boston team (which had consisted of 6 people in camp - two of them experienced slide climbers, two of them hard-core bushwacking backpackers - plus a local hiker/climber/slider dude; these should have set warning sirens off in Indy's head, but Ellen appeared nonplussed, so Indy didn't worry about it) told them that they did the hike in tennis shoes, but brought along their rock shoes for the climb. Indy was intending on doing the climb in his hiking boots, but decided maybe bringing the rock shoes along would be an act of prudence. The Boston team said it took them 8+ hours to do a round-trip run on this slide, 4-1/2 hours from the car to the summit of Giant (Eagle Slide ends about 100 or so feet from the trail; a quick bushwack through the trees after the slide was done would put one on the trail, and 100 yards later on the summit of the mountain). Indy and Ellen nodded. As a group of 2 they figured they should be able to do this a little faster than a group of 7- maybe 3-1/2 hours to the summit. The Boston crew also cautioned Indy and Ellen to bring a rope and harnesses and some gear ("a few nuts") to protect a couple of steep sections. There was a tricky steep section near the beginning, and then another spot high high up on the climb that got a wee bit steep for a couple moves; the gear could be useful to protect that section. Indy and Ellen nodded. Having given them that knowledge, the Boston group bid Indy and Ellen good luck and farewell. Indy and Ellen retired for the evening, excited about the prospect of doing Eagle Slide come the morrow.
Dawn. Another late start (but not as late as the day before) after another late night. Indy and Ellen ate breakfast, then quickly packed and headed off to the trailhead to Giant Mountain, reviewing everything they had been told the evening before about this climb. At the trailhead the two got their stuff packed and headed in. A mile or so later they came to the stream junction. "Not yet, not yet; we must go up further a ways," said Ellen. "Yeah, but how much further is 'a ways'?" asked Indy. The two looked at each other, shrugged, and figured they'd figure it out.
After a while they spied a likely 'path' heading off to the left, towards the stream. They decided this was as good as any, and took it. A quick run through the woods later, with the only 'bushwacking' being the barrier of foliage at the edge of the stream, they were boulder-hopping their way up to the climb.
Only to be stopped in short order, repeatedly, by area after area of blowdown. Bushwacking?? This was from hell! (or as Indy's friend Lynna would put it, "This is the romantic part!") The two tried to find 'the best path' through this mess, but sometimes 'the best path' wasn't where they went (since 'the best path' was sometimes directly through the blowdown!). "How well do you know these friends of yours, Ellen?" Indy asked at one point. "If I survive this I'm going to kill them," came Ellen's exasperated reply.
Some underterminable time later, after fighting with God-knows-how-much blowdown, Indy spied in the distance the upper flanks of Giant Mountain - and the top end of Eagle Slide! They were getting closer. Painfully they pushed on, occassionally finding a stretch of 'open' terrain in the stream that lasted upwards of 100' before encountering more blowdown.
After a while the terrain began to steepen. Ellen admitted to being extremely unhappy about this, and said that the climb had better be worth this. Indy, with residual 'hardness' leftover from his treks out West (especially the Montana trek), was fairing a bit better than Ellen. But not much; this was taxing work! And if it weren't such a hideous slog back through what they just fought through, Indy would have suggested turning back. But then the climb loomed ahead of them, closer than last time. Wearily they pushed on.
Finally the time came when they broke free of the blowdown, and the bushwacking (thanksfully!) came to an end. However, a talus field of loose boulders rose before them. This talus field led through a collection of bushes high up, and beyond that was the base of the slide. The two pushed on, dog-tired, until they reached the last of the shade. The sun was out, beating down on them hard. It was late: already near 2pm. It had taken them 4-1/2 hours just to reach here. The Boston team had reached the bloody summit in the same time period! Yeesh. Indy and Ellen took a quick break for lunch and investigating various trees off to the side. Finally they decided to start climbing. They had recovered some of their strength and the day was waning. Donning on their rock shoes (Indy opted to switch over as he realized coming up the talus field doing this 1200' climb in his hiking boots would destroy his heels), they roped together using one of Ellen's 8.9mm ropes and headed up.
The climb itself proved to be a wonderous, marvelous experience. As Indy was 'leading' he ended up climbing this mostly on hands and feet, not wanting to 'walk' up on the off-chance Ellen slipped and pulled him backwards. Crouched over and climbing this 'technically' he had a better chance of holding any fall she might take - of course, if he fell, all Ellen could do would be to wave as he slid by, then follow him down...so he'd better not fall.
After the first few hundred feet in the sun Indy found a nice stopping point: a flat ledge which they could sit for a moment and get something to drink. It was hot in the sun, on this granite surface. Indy and Ellen had drank much of their supply of liquid during the bushwack up the stream, but needed more now (Indy made another mental note: next time, 3 liters of water/liquid, dammit!). There they sat for 20 or so minutes, chatting away and looking over the valley and mountains beyond. Finally they moved on again. They still had a good 900' of climbing ahead of them.
As had been noted earlier, the Boston group had advised that Indy and Ellen bring gear for this climb. Indy decided to bring Ellen's set of Aliens, a set of small flexible camming devices that would fit into almost any finger-sized crack. The Boston group had told Indy and Ellen that the steep section was 'very high up on the wall, and after that you will encounter blocky steps which mark the end of the climb'. Indy kept this in mind as he proceeded onward. He found several steeper sections, and Ellen asked if these were what the Boston crew had warned them about. "Nah, can't be, they said it was high up on the climb; we've still got X-hundred feet to go" Indy replied, looking up at the X-hundred feet of rock still before them. The steep sections Indy encountered really did push the 4th class envelope, and once or twice had a one or two-move 5th class section on it, but nothing that really bothered him much. He kept going, periodically stopping to not get too far ahead of Ellen as she came up behind (also was available to provide impromptu belays for the short steepish sections just in case she wanted them). Up and up they went, the climbing just going on and on. It was truly great.
Suddenly Indy came face-to-face with a series of blocky sections, and at the top of them, trees. Trees. Blocky sections. Urrrrr.... "Ellen, I think that last steep section was supposed to be 'the section' they were talking about; did you notice?"
"Not really; nice moves, though," was her reply as she came up to where Indy was standing. Indy pointed out what was above. They quickly moved up, being very careful not to knock down any loose stuff (twigs, dirt, stones) and finally got to the woods, and dirt. Rock shoes were now useless. They quickly changed back to their hiking boots, pushed through some boulders and trees, and....came upon the path! A hundred yards to the left they went, and voila'! The top of Giant Mountain, 4,627' - Wa-hoo!! 5-1/2 hours had passed since they left the car.
After the requisite photo-shoots from the summit, and a quick bite to eat to re-energize, the two headed down the trail which would take them back to the car. It was here that Indy discovered that New Englanders do not much believe in switchbacks - this trail, when it went downhill, went downhill! Ugh!
A few knee-bashing miles later they were back at the stream junction, and then a mile later, the car. Exhausted they retired to camp and had dinner. Thoughts of the next day were groggily discussed, but forgotten as sleep fought to claim them. They retired for the night.
The next morning the two arose finally to a bright sun. In slow motion, weary from the day before, they had breakfast and broke camp. Ellen went to kill her friends, but discovered that most of them had already taken off for the day (to quickly get in a climb before heading back to Boston). Indy joined her, but the two remaining Bostonites were unphased. They were, after all, pretty hard-core guys, used to backpack-bushwacking with multi-hundred pound packs on. They chuckled at Indy and Ellen and broke camp.
Indy and Ellen discussed their options. Ellen wasn't as pressed for time as Indy was; Indy still had to make the drive back to B'more, and had hoped to get an early start so as to be on the road by noon (already an 8 hour drive without traffic). Wasn't going to happen, Ellen told him, and Indy knew that. But he could try. Options were batted back and forth: do a quick, 1-pitch climb, or a short hike, or just hang out. It was decided that a short hike was in order. The top of Nubble Peak was reputed to offer views of the slides on Giant, and supposedly gave a view of Chapel Pond Slabs. So they took off to do that.
The weather had deteriorated from the day before; it wasn't very warm, and heavily overcast. Threatened rain that never came. The two hiked up to Washbowl Lake, then around and up to Nubble. From there they got the views they were told about. After a quick lunch (in chilly wind!) the two headed back, returning to the cars a bit after 2pm. Yep, Indy wasn't going to get on the road by noon.
They said their farewells and parted ways: New England Ellen heading to Vermont to hook up with some friends for dinner, Indy to brave the drive back to Maryland.
The drive out wasn't too bad...until Indy got within 15 miles of Albany. THEN traffic piled up to a standstill! Slowly...oh, so slowly, he crept along with 15 billion other people heading south from the 'Daks. "Dammit, I knew there was a reason I never travelled during holidays!" Indy muttered. Unbeknownst to him, it was going to get worse.
After fighting his way through Albany, Indy thought things would clear up a bit as he hit the toll road. No, sorry, things just got worse. In fact, Indy noticed that it took him 1-1/2 hours to move 40 miles south of Albany - AAARRRRGGHH!!!!! This was inSANE! Christ-almighty, this was ridiculous. Indy started trying to think of alternative routes, but came up empty. Then traffic would break for a while and Indy could crank up to 70mph...only to slow to a stop for half an hour after going 15-20 miles. This up-again-stop-again pace persisted all the way until New Jersey, when Indy jumped off of I-87 and headed south. Suddenly...no traffic!! Indy was already 3 hours behind what he thought he should be, and tried to make up the time.
Unbeknownst to Indy, the Weather God, who had left him alone most of the weekend, was going to get his last say in for the weekend, and sent a major squal to intercept Indy on the New Jersey Turnpike. It was one of those so massively intense downpours that a good 1/3 of the people pulled over to wait it out. Indy thought about that, but decided to push onward, over water-logged roads, hydroplaning along as he went, on the theory that he could push through to the other side of the storm quickly.
Too bad for Indy this storm decided to sit on him the whole way through New Jersey! Driving was hideous (at least traffic was moving, even if no one could see anything). By the time Indy reached Delaware, the rain had tapered off to a light drizzle, and kept that up most of the way back to B'moreland.
Finally, over 11 hours after he left New England Ellen, Indy made it back home. It was late, he was tired and ready for bed.
Thus endeth the Labor Day Adventures of Indy in the Adirondacks.