Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gunks Routes: Three Vultures (5.9) & Keep on Struttin' (5.9)

(Photo: Maryana working up the flaring crack on pitch two of Three Vultures (5.9).)

Summer is flying by.

It is hard to believe I was away from the Gunks for over a month.

Adrian and I were talking about heading up to the Adirondacks this past Saturday, maybe for a death-march one-day spree of climbing. We'd drive up from NYC on Friday night (at least a five hour trip), crash somewhere, climb all day on Saturday and then make the return drive that same evening. For me this sort of arrangement isn't optimal but it means I can go climb somewhere new and not spend the whole weekend away from the family. And as for Adrian? I don't know why he would ever agree to such a miserable plan. For some reason he likes climbing with me, so he's willing to adapt to my needs.

But this past weekend the weather looked iffy and we had arranged no place to stay, so we decided to just go to the Gunks on Saturday instead. And because we were staying local Maryana tagged along as well.

I don't mind climbing in a party of three. It gives the belayer someone to talk to, and if you use double ropes and have both seconds basically simul-climb with a staggered start, three climbers aren't that much slower than two. Also if you like to memorialize your day with photos a party of three can much more easily get decent shots; you have one person who is totally free to roam around and take pictures.

There was one disadvantage to our party of three: we all wanted to lead! As I've previously posted, Maryana is breaking into the 5.9's, just like me. Adrian is no stranger to 5.9 and in the Gunks he's been breaking into 5.10. So we all had similar ambitions for our leading, which led to a little healthy competition and good-natured fighting for position on Saturday.

Somehow I got the first lead of the day without much of a struggle.

I had proposed we head down to the area between the Arrow Wall and CCK. I'll call it the No Glow Wall for lack of a better term. This part of the cliff is similar to the Arrow Wall in that the climbs have high-quality second and third pitches, but sometimes mediocre first ones. The rock leading from the ground to the GT Ledge in this part of the Trapps is generally not terribly steep, and it is rich in horizontal cracks. The grades are pretty moderate; there's nothing much that distinguishes these first pitches from any others in the Gunks. The upper pitches, by contrast, are on this beautiful white marble-like rock, like what you'll find on the upper part of the Arrow Wall and CCK, and there are numerous roofs and other interesting features around which to climb. So the good climbing in this part of the cliff tends to come above the GT Ledge.

The only climbs I'd actually done on this wall before Saturday were No Glow (5.9) and Moonlight (5.6). It is very helpful to have done a route or two on this wall, because unless you can get your bearings the beginning of one route looks much like the next. There is a huge right-facing corner that marks the left end of the wall at the location of the classic easy climb Andrew (5.4). And Moonlight's smaller left-facing corner system is also a helpful landmark on the right end. It also may help you to pick out the vegetated gully that ascends the wall diagonally at the left end; this is Goldner's Grunge, a 4th-class scramble that begins about 35 feet right of Andrew's corner.

I started off our day with pitch one of Three Vultures (5.9), which isn't too far to the right of Goldner's Grunge. I wanted to start with this climb because I knew that the hardest move was right off the ground, and that afterwards the climbing was much easier all the way to the GT Ledge. I was unsure how solid I was going to feel after a month off the real rock. It was also my first day back in the Gunks after my lead fall on Ground Control on July 5, in which I flipped over and mildly sprained a couple fingers. I thought that it would be good for my lead head to get a quick 5.9 tick off the list, and if I couldn't do the opening moves it was no big deal. I'd just hand the lead off to someone else. If I could do them, on the other hand, I would get a nice long warm-up pitch as a reward and receive a confidence boost besides.

I'm happy to say it worked out just as I hoped it would.

The opening step off the ground is the hardest move on the whole route. A good horizontal edge is tantalizingly out of reach. A broken vertical crack starts just above. Some pretty crummy footholds and crimps exist below the good edge. You have to boulder up to it. If you are tall you MIGHT just be able to reach it. Certainly if you're tall the move will be easier. For a short dude like me (5' 7") it required a few abortive efforts to nail the hold, but after trying a couple different approaches I got it. Can I still claim the onsight if my failed efforts were all on the first move?

Whatever, it was good to try the hard move as many times as I liked with no commitment required. Once you get the edge, the route follows a crack up and right. It is a couple more thin moves to a nice hold and the pro. You still aren't that far off the deck; a good spot should suffice until you get the pro in.

And then the rest of the pitch is cake. It continues up and to the right after the opening holds to a bulge. As I stepped to the right of the bulge to place a good nut before pulling over it, I realized that the bulge is kind of contrived. It appears you could easily climb around the bulge to the right. But I had no desire to avoid it so after placing the nut I moved back left and climbed it as directly as possible. There are positive holds; it is probably 5.7 or so in difficulty.

(Photo: At the bulge on pitch one of three Vultures (5.9).)

After the bulge the climb goes straight up the pleasant but unspectacular 5.5-ish face to the GT Ledge. There is a big tree with fixed rappel gear on a ledge about 15-20 feet below the GT Ledge. I chose not to stop there, but to continue instead up to the bigger GT Ledge to build my belay, because it seemed like this would be a better way to find and begin pitch two. These last 15 to 20 feet of the pitch to the GT Ledge are through unpleasant grassy ledges. I had to mantel up on dirt; I couldn't see any way to avoid it. It detracts a bit from what is otherwise a nice enough pitch.

Pitch two (Adrian's lead) turned out to be the money pitch. From the GT Ledge, it goes up a flaring, diagonal crack that turns into an off-width. This crack ends at a ceiling and then a traverse heads right for about 15 feet to a ledge.

I thought this pitch had easier climbing than the hardest moves on pitch one, but it was more sustained and mentally challenging. The hardest part for me was getting up the flared crack. There was one move, just below a fixed piton, in which I actually used off-width technique, wedging my body in the crack and worming upward until I could grab the good holds above. I'm not sure this was actually necessary; Maryana may have climbed the outside of the crack past this section. But it was secure and fun, and an unusual experience for the Gunks.

On the lead Adrian clearly found the move into the traverse to be the crux of the pitch. He stayed there at the top of the crack for a while, fiddling with pro and gingerly venturing out and back, before finally swinging out there and committing. The traverse looks intimidating because it seems there are no good footholds. Dick Williams calls this crux "deceptively easy," and when I tried it I saw what he means. Once you force yourself out there you find that the hands are great, and good footholds are just a move or two away. Large cams help protect the traverse. Definitely bring your blue #3 Camalot. Bringing a bigger cam as well wouldn't be a bad idea. You'll use it for sure.

I suggested to Adrian that he skip the second belay at the end of the traverse and just gun it for the top through the short final 5.5 pitch if the drag isn't too bad, and that is what he decided to do.

Ultimately I thought Three Vultures was a worthwhile route. I would suggest the first pitch to anyone looking for an easy 5.9 to lead. (I still think of myself as such a person even though the list of 5.9's I've led is starting to get kind of long.) But it is not a great pitch. Neither is the third. But the second pitch is really fun and rather unusual for the Gunks. I would like to go back to it again to lead it some time, although I'm unlikely to use the first pitch of Three Vultures to get there. Now that I've done it once there's no real point. I'd be much more inclined to do the first pitch of Moonlight (5.6) or the nearby Erect Direction (5.8), or maybe just rap down to the GT Ledge after finishing another climb.

There is a fixed rap station just to the climber's right of Three Vultures, made of steel cables around trees atop the cliff, directly above No Glow. I have only used this station with two ropes. I am unsure whether you can reach the GT Ledge with a single 60 meter rope-- but I doubt you can. The cliff is very tall here; it may be more than 100 feet from the GT Ledge to the top. I know for certain that you'll need two ropes to reach the ground from the tree on the GT Ledge.

When we returned to the ground I suggested we try Keep on Struttin' (5.9). I thought this would be a good climb for us because like Three Vultures it also has two 5.9 pitches. Dick gives it three stars. I had seen pictures of the crux second pitch, which ends in a traversing section through a multi-tiered roof. I was very excited at the prospect of leading this pitch, but so was Maryana, and she hadn't led anything yet. It was hers if she wanted it.

It is pretty easy to find the start. Not far left of the Moonlight corner, Keep on Struttin' begins directly below a large pine tree with rappel slings that sits about 40 feet up.

Adrian set off on the 5.8 pitch one, about which I'd never heard anything. He made quick work of it, getting all the way to the GT Ledge in no time. Pretty early in the pitch, below the pine at what appeared to be a slightly slabby section, he said "now there's a move right here." But he cruised right through so I didn't think much of it.

(Photo: Adrian about to do the crux moves on the 5.8 pitch one of Keep on Struttin'.)

When I followed him I found out that it is a little bit serious. On the slab below the pine the holds suddenly disappear. Instead of good horizontals there are a couple slippery crimps. And the pro at your feet is a microcam. The sudden difficulty and commitment came as kind of a shock to me. The move is totally doable but I don't know how comfortable I'd feel leading it above my used blue Alien, as Adrian did. In any event, after maybe two moves the climbing returns to the 5.6-ish cruising that you'll find all over this wall. Ultimately I enjoyed the pitch, finding it reasonably clean and straightforward, though nothing special.

(Photo: Maryana at the first roof on pitch two of Keep on Struttin' (5.9). A more difficult roof waits above.)

Pitch two, on the other hand, looked pretty special indeed. From the GT Ledge it appeared tough. Dicey moves up to a roof right off the ledge, then an upward traverse through 5.7 R territory to a bolt, then finally several more overhangs to clear before the belay.

I wasn't feeling timid any more. I wanted this pitch. But Maryana wasn't giving it up. I tried suggesting to her that she'd like the face climbing on pitch three more than the roofs on pitch two, but I couldn't pull it off with a straight face. She knew I was full of it. I was going to be stuck leading pitch three.

There are two ways to start pitch two. To the left of the notch in the roof, the holds look good but there doesn't seem to be any pro. The other option, directly under the notch, offers a bouldery move up to a good pocket that will take a cam, and then another bouldery move up to the overhang.

Maryana chose the approach directly under the notch, and got through it just fine. Then she quickly moved up and left to the bolt. The bolt is visible from the GT Ledge, and there really isn't that big a runout. But it is very blocky/bulgy above the first roof on the pitch and it definitely appears a fall just before clipping the bolt would be a bad idea.

(Photo: Maryana just above the bolt on pitch two of Keep On Struttin' (5.9), about to move left through the final roofs.)

Maryana clipped the bolt and then moved up to the jugs that begin the final set of overhanging moves. She mentioned how tough she thought the moves up to the overhang were. She placed two cams. Then she decided one cam would suffice, and removed one. Then she started to move left and up, but she was worn out; she had to take a hang.

After a rest, she got through the rest of the pitch, placing a lot more pro as she moved left and up through the roofs. I was deeply impressed with her performance. She'd had to rest on gear, but she'd been in control the whole way, and had been very conservative and safe about the lead. I don't think I could have done it any better.

As a follower, I didn't need to stop and rest, but as I climbed I only grew more impressed with the lead. This is the hardest pitch of 5.9 I think I've been on in the Gunks.

It is in your face right away if, like Maryana, you take the right-hand start, with a hard move on crummy, crimpy holds just to get up to the first overhang. Then, later, the moves right after the bolt are, surprisingly, the hardest ones on the pitch. The jugs are right above you but again you have to crimp on a couple thin edges to get up there. You are expecting the pitch to be nothing but a pumpy jug-fest but the cruxes are actually technical and thin. And then, of course, the pumpy jug-fest finally comes and it is no joke.

What an awesome pitch.

I'd gladly go back and lead it tomorrow. I know now, having done it, that the pro is very good for all the hardest bits. I like to think that having previewed it as a second, I could now lead it clean. And if I can't, I'm confident I can keep it in control and take a rest if I need to, just as Maryana did.

(Photo: Pitch three of Keep on Struttin' (5.9). The "bell curve block" is visible at the upper left.)

Pitch three is also rated 5.9, but it isn't nearly as difficult as pitch two. It is also the least serious of the three pitches; the pro is good the whole way.

Of course, I didn't know this as I set off to lead the pitch. Dick Williams describes moving right around an early roof, then getting over a protruding block, and finally the crux-- a move out of a shallow corner above the block.

I could see the early roof directly above me, and the protruding block as well; it is shaped like a bell curve from below. But I couldn't see what was to come above the block and this made me nervous.

As I led the pitch I tried to conserve my gear so I'd have whatever I needed for the crux. It got a little ridiculous; I think I placed three Tricams in an effort to save cams in case I had to throw in a piece later on while gripped.

There was no need for such worry. The pitch is casual and really rather nice. It ascends that wonderful, white, marble-like Arrowish rock. And the moves are interesting, first up a fun right-facing corner, then 5.7-5.8 face climbing around the roof and up to the bell curve block. I wondered as I approached it whether I would need to go left or right around the block; the answer ended up being pretty much straight over.

After the bell curve block I confronted the crux. I don't want to spoil it for you. It is just one move, interesting but not strenuous in the least. I felt it was easy for the grade, frankly, but then both Maryana and Adrian puzzled over it for a bit so maybe it is harder than I think it is.

Pitch three of Keep on Struttin' is a great pitch for a new 5.9 leader. Soft for the grade. But a quality pitch with nice moves and great pro.

In the end, I found the climbing very reasonable on both of these climbs. I walked away from Three Vultures and Keep on Struttin' regretting that I'd drawn the easier 5.9 pitches on both climbs, and thinking that just maybe I'm ready to graduate from "easy" 5.9. Maybe I'm done breaking into the grade, and I can just be a 5.9 Gunks climber now. When I put this thought into action-- say, when I walk up to CCK Direct or Le Teton or MF-- I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Climbing at Rogers Rock: Little Finger (5.5)

(Photo: View of Rogers Rock from Lake George.)

I have long dreamt of rock climbing in the Adirondacks.

But until recently I could never work it out to climb up there at all. It has always seemed impractical. It is too far for a day trip from NYC. And when I get the opportunity for several days of climbing in a row, I always end up picking more glamorous destinations that are further away, like Red Rocks.

This summer, however, I finally got my chance.

My wife's good friend Greg has owned a house on Lake George for the past few years, and we planned a weekend in early July when my family could visit his family there.

As we prepared for this visit, I tried to sell Greg on the idea of climbing with me up the classic 500 foot, three-pitch route Little Finger (5.5), which ascends Rogers Slide, the slabby east face of Rogers Rock. The route would be easy for us both, I told him.

I was really psyched about climbing in such a beautiful setting, on a cliff that rises straight out of the lake. Another bonus is that the route requires an approach by boat. I knew that Greg owns a small motorboat so I thought this would be easy for us to manage as well. I figured it would be a quick ride to the cliff from his house near Bolton's Landing. We could tie up the boat, run up the route, and be be back before our wives and children even noticed we were gone.

Over the months during which I've been proposing this little adventure, Greg has made supportive noises, but I wasn't sure he was entirely serious about doing the climb with me until just before our visit. I told Greg I had a harness, a helmet and a belay device for him, but that if we were going to do the climb he'd need to get some climbing shoes. I was thrilled when he actually went to Paragon and bought a pair of La Sportivas. I could hardly believe it. We were really in business.

Now as you may have gathered, Greg is not a climber, although he has worn a harness before, and has even belayed a few times in a gym setting with an ATC. Prior to our day on Rogers Rock he'd never climbed outside.

When I talked up the climb to Greg, I always emphasized how safe we'd be. I told him he'd always be on toprope, and that I'd build super-safe anchors for us. I also told him that this climb was very easy and that there was basically no way that I would call upon him to catch me falling on it.

I said these things because I wanted him to feel like doing this route with me would be a safe, reasonable thing to do. So I had a selfish interest in saying them: I wanted Greg to agree to do the climb. But I wasn't trying to sell Greg a bill of goods. I really did believe the climb would be easy for us. It is 5.5, after all.

The only hint of concern I had at the back of my mind as I reassured Greg was that Rogers Rock features slab climbing, which is not my strong suit. I have very little experience in slab and I don't feel very secure in the discipline. But the guidebook says that Little Finger is not typical of the slab routes on Rogers Slide, in that it follows a vertical crack which provides great pro and positive holds.

With that information I felt fine about our prospects.

When our weekend visit arrived, it looked like we were going to have perfect conditions. It was rainy towards the end of the week but the forecast was good for both Saturday and Sunday. I proposed that we climb on Sunday so as to have the best chance for dry rock; also we could plan out our logistics on Saturday and prepare. The day before the climb I had Greg try on my spare harness, and I gave him a quick primer on making sure the harness was doubled back. Then I gave him a refresher on belaying with the ATC and told him the few things he'd have to remember on the climb:

1. Feed me enough rope-- do not pull me off of the rock!

2. Never let go of the brake strand.

3. Do not take me off the belay until I say "off belay."


After just a little practice I felt like we were good to go.

(Photo: approaching Rogers Rock by boat in the early morning)

We got an early start on Sunday, leaving the Bolton's Landing area by 6:30 a.m. I wanted to get there early to make sure we were the first party on the wall, and to ensure we didn't take up too much of the day.

There was a slight wrinkle that arose from the fact that I know nothing about boats.

I was assuming Greg and I would just park the motorboat somehow and leave it at the base of Rogers Rock. It turns out that this is impractical. Typically people approach by canoe or rowboat and pull the boat up onto the small bit of land that sits at the base of the cliff. Greg's motorboat is too heavy for that, and apparently-- who knew??-- if there is no place to moor the boat it can't just be left unattended at the base. So Greg's wife Peggy had to get up early to drive us in the boat to the rock. (Sorry, Peggy.)

We left our return plan tentative. Luckily there is pretty good (Verizon) cell phone coverage at Rogers Rock. We decided we'd call Peggy later and tell her whether we were going to rappel (meaning we'd need a pick-up by boat) or top out and walk around to the campground (requiring pick-up by car). Greg and Peggy had both heard from locals that people usually top out and walk off after climbing Rogers Rock. Greg preferred the idea of walking off to rappelling, but I was skeptical that topping out would be practical from Little Finger. This idea about walking off was just one of several things they had heard from neighbors about climbing on Rogers Rock, and I didn't have to climb on the rock to know some of the other things they'd heard were false. For instance, they had also been told that the whole route is protected by fixed pitons, a notion I knew to be ridiculous.

I read in the guidebook that the original Little Finger route had gone all the way up, and I saw from the topo that some other less-frequently climbed routes on Rogers Slide do actually top out. But I also knew that Little Finger as it is now typically done stops after three pitches, well short of the top. It is unmarked in the guidebook past the rap anchor atop pitch three. I told Greg that if I saw an obvious scramble to the top I was all for it, but I suspected we'd be rapping off.

The water was calm as we approached Rogers Rock and we had no trouble jumping out of the boat and onto the rocks at the base with my big backpack. I quickly got my rack and ropes out and tossed my pack back into the boat. ("You have to bring all that crap with you?" Peggy asked.) And then, after a tiny bit of engine trouble, Peggy motored away and we were alone at the base of the cliff.

(Photo: My inexperienced but totally trustworthy partner Greg. Reader, I belayed him.)

The start of Little Finger is easy to find. A little to the right of center of the huge slab, the unmistakable vertical crack of Little Finger seems to rise forever. As I stood there beneath it, the angle seemed reasonable and the crack looked very positive. I was very excited to get going. (Peggy later said that in the boat I'd seemed like "a kid in a candy store.")

(Photo: Trying to look heroic at the base of the climb. You can see the vertical crack of Little Finger rising just to my left.)

The first pitch is only 5.4. It is long, though: 180 feet. The guidebook claims, accurately, that after some early difficulties, the angle and the climbing ease as you head up to the anchor.

As I ascended the early bits, I felt a little tentative. A number of things were roaming around in my brain.

I didn't want to burden Greg with too much gear removal, so I tried to limit the amount of pro that I placed, and I avoided placing many nuts. It killed me to eschew the nuts, since the route follows a vertical crack. So I had to place a few. This climb eats nuts! But I tried my best to avoid it. And since I was placing mostly cams, I had to run it out a bit in order to conserve them, which made even easy moves seem serious.

Also, the fall I'd taken just the previous Tuesday on Ground Control (5.9) in the Gunks couldn't help but enter my mind. My confidence was a little shaken, and the two fingers I'd sprained on my right hand were still rather swollen. I tried not to use them. On such easy climbing it was usually no problem, but it still required some mental effort.

Finally, I don't think I was climbing the route terribly well. I'm sure I could have pasted one foot on the slab at all times and comfortably walked up the stupid thing. Instead, since even easy slab climbing scares the crap out of me, I basically crack-climbed it, keeping my hands and feet in the crack almost all the time. This forced my body into positions that, while secure, were likely more awkward than necessary.

Eventually, I just admitted to myself I was a little nervous, stopped and placed a cam, and rested. Then I got over it, resumed climbing, and everything was fine.

(Photo: Looking down pitch one of Little Finger (5.5).)

As I neared the first belay station, at a slightly lower-angled scoop in the rock, I began to really enjoy the climb and the beautiful surroundings. The rock was good and the view was spectacular. There was pro available in the vertical crack pretty much whenever I might want it. The day was pleasant, sunny and not too hot.

I reached the belay and found a fixed cordelette tied to a nut and a couple pitons. I used this station as one leg of a three-piece anchor, adding two cams of my own to make the anchor crazy-solid.

"Greg," I shouted. "I'm off belay."

I watched as Greg took the ropes out of his ATC.

Then he violated rule number 4.

"Uh oh, I dropped the ATC!"

Oh crap.

I envisioned bringing him up and having to give him my device, and then belaying him with a Munter hitch for the rest of the climb. Then I'd have to take the device back, lower him off from the top of the climb, and rap down to him...

"Can you reach it?" I asked. "Did it go in the lake?"

"It didn't go in the lake, but I can't reach it."

We had only about ten feet of rope left to play with, and it wasn't enough for him to walk down to where the ATC was sitting. I had tied Greg in; he didn't know how to tie a rewoven figure eight knot for himself. I didn't see a safe way for him to escape the system and retrieve the device. I was about to tell him to just forget about the device when he came up with the obvious solution.

"I'm going to get out of the harness for a sec and go grab it."

This was perfect. He knew how to double his harness back; he'd done it himself already before we got started. I knew I could trust him to do it right.

Once he got the device and put his harness back on, he did fine. He climbed the pitch and removed all the gear, looking for all the world like someone with much more experience. No falls or hangs.

Pitch two was shorter, 140 feet, with a 5.5 bulge not far off the anchor. Probably I was just more relaxed, but this pitch seemed easier than the first one to me, and Greg felt the same way. I even busted out a few slab moves on this pitch. The early bulge was easily surmounted and then lower-angled climbing led to a small stance below a roof, where there is no fixed gear. I built a three-piece gear anchor in a couple good cracks.

(Photo: Looking down pitch two of Little Finger (5.5).)

Again Greg had no trouble following the pitch or cleaning my gear.

As he followed pitch two I looked at the pitch three alternatives. The usual finish to the climb heads right from the second belay, continuing to follow the vertical crack, diagonally avoiding the roof, and then heading up to the finish. It is another long pitch of 5.5, 180 feet.

The original finish heads straight up over the roof instead of heading right. It is a more difficult alternative, rated 5.7+. The guidebook describes this as the best pitch on Rogers Slide, and says it is well-protected. Once over the roof the pitch heads straight up and eventually moves right to the same finishing anchor employed by the 5.5 finish.

I was aware that some leaders will place a piece at the overhang as a "French free" alternative for partners who are not up to free-climbing the overhang. The second can then pull on the gear to get through the crux. I felt sure we'd have no problem with the roof pitch, but I decided not to push Greg. He was doing very well, and seemed to be hiding any fear he was feeling, but I wanted him to finish the day with an air of accomplishment, not failure. 500 feet of 5.5 was probably a big enough test for him today.

(Photo: View of Lake George from the top of pitch two of Little Finger (5.5).)

So I told Greg I thought we should just do the 5.5 regular finish, and he seemed relieved.

It turned out that the first part of the third pitch, even when you go the easier 5.5 way, is still the crux of the whole route. There is a traverse on good but slabby feet (the mental crux) and then a couple steep steps up (the physical crux) before the angle eases again, leading to cruiser climbing to the finish.

There isn't too much gear for the traverse, but I tried to place as much as I could. I warned Greg about the swing potential. There is bomber gear before you move much sideways (I think I placed two pieces after I left the belay), and then it is a couple steps to the end of the overhang on the right before you get anything again. Before moving upwards through the physical crux moves you can get a great cam over your head. After those moves it is an enjoyable romp up the rest of the way to the bolted final anchor.

I could tell as I was doing the crux moves that this part of the climb might be tough for Greg, so I tried to talk to him about exactly what I was doing as I did it, and pointed out some of the holds I was using.

Once I reached the anchor I could no longer see Greg down below the roof, so I could only cross my fingers and wait. As he began the pitch I breathed easier with each inch of rope I pulled in. After a couple minutes he shouted up that he thought he might fall, but as I looked down I was relieved. I could see his hand, which meant he'd cleared the traverse, so even if he fell there wouldn't be any dangerous swinging. He'd fall a foot or two at most.

And as it turned out he didn't fall. He managed to pull through the crux and finish the climb without a single fall or hang. And, even more amazing to me, we didn't leave any stuck gear. Greg was a great partner. I'd take him along again on a climb in a heartbeat.

(Photo: rapping off.)

From the bolts atop pitch three I could tell there was no easy way to the summit. Up above was a big overhang. It wasn't too far to a bushy gully on the right end of the slab, but it did not appear to me that there was a trail over there.

Once Greg joined me at the anchor, however, I thought it was worth a look, so I had him put me back on belay and I went right to the gully just to check it out. I found a lot of loose rock on the little ledges heading over to the gully. And once at the gully I saw that it is very steep with enormous exposure. It would not be at all difficult to slip and fall hundreds of feet. With no obvious trail to the summit in sight, I went back to the belay and told Greg I thought we should call the wives and tell them to pick us up by boat. We would be rapping off.

And even though rappelling wasn't Greg's first choice, I think it was the much more convenient escape, and a much sexier one besides. Three double-rope raps to the lakefront and a waiting motorboat? That is some serious James Bond action! It sure beats a slog down a long, hot trail to a parking lot.

Later that day at Greg's local beach on the lake, his neighbors seemed shocked and delighted that we'd actually climbed Rogers Rock just like we said we would. Greg too seemed to have had a positive experience. I don't think Greg's climbing shoes will be seeing too much more use, however. He repeatedly described the climb as something he's really happy to be able to say he did once, and only once.

I told him our next target should be Deer Leap, another cliff on Lake George that the guidebook authors describe as the "biggest chosspile in the Adirondacks." With an endorsement like that, how can we resist?