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Scylla and Charybdis in Panther Gorge 2018 February 17

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  • Scylla and Charybdis in Panther Gorge 2018 February 17

    Length/duration: 18 hrs./18 mi.
    Partners: Laura Duncan & Brent Elliott
    Routes: (click here for notes on climbing grades)
    • Charybdis (WI4/400 ft.): FA Kevin MudRat MacKenzie, Laura Duncan, Brent Elliot
    • Scylla (WI4/180 ft.): FA Brent Elliot, Kevin MudRat MacKenzie
    Click image for larger version  Name:	iOSAJe0QPXHKXREnsHlS0WCCmP9YJAvO8N_xLfc9xzQcAgwnfUtmZSOa0GsI7KK_x06C3mQzfJsf6E5boGKw8bKCvaTWjMMcS-LofepR---mTEskoTGYf5e0brIPLVwlStbpUjiXovE9B0LFe7kHA2B0NeJ7Kdo_6pdmdq9p51E0EfN2BBP58L534SziKBBeIxwPspkaAOGGTTUU0nEOIVsMpihzVdaHxemnpHXRT0H5zb6bsAFbKphnhdDcLEd Views:	1 Size:	328.0 KB ID:	484304
    Brent and Laura deep in the Gorge. Haystack shoulder in the background.

    Twin Fracture Gully is a deep gash that slices into the side of Marcy along the southern border of the Huge Scoop. The distinctive feature is 20’ wide and deeply inset into the southeastern aspect of the ridge. The main channel splits into dual gullies amidst roof systems at its top. As a drainage for the ridge, it is a chossy wet mess during non-winter seasons, but that sets it up for fat ice when the snow flies. It’s been on my winter tick list for a few years, but the thought of trudging that far into the Gorge was unappealing for several seasons. I kept it in my pocket as a backup option in case a target line wasn’t fully formed.

    Enter Laura Duncan and Brent Elliott, two climbers I met in Panther Gorge during February of 2017. They drove 7 hours to share in an Adirondack adventure. We met at the Garden Trailhead in Keene Valley at 4:15 AM on Saturday, February 17. Our primary target was a smear about 100’ north of the Agharta ice route. The potential line looked fat from afar during a January trip. I questioned whether the bottom of the curtain had touched down and, if not, whether we’d be able to find a way up to the ice. Recent rain followed by a flash freeze sparked my hopes, but longer daylight hours and the dark anorthosite of Marcy were working against it. The only way to find out was to visit.

    Hard-packed trails aided with the nearly 8-mile approach to the northern pass of the Gorge. The crust off-trail wasn’t entirely supportive, but the underlying snowpack was firm enough to keep us afloat except for the occasional spruce trap. We walked out on the snowfield below the Agharta Wall 45 minutes later after some bushwhacking acrobatics in the talus. Its namesake route, and Just Nickel and Iron were fat. A blue sky and warm sun were overhead in contrast to the forecast which called partly cloudy skies with 15-20 m.p.h. winds—not good for the smear. Our hopeful line looked terrifying. Melted daggers were 15’ from the ground, and there wasn’t enough feature in the rock to climb up to their start. The middle of the smear was nearly melted out. I grumbled to myself, reset my ambitions and suggested we trek about 15 minutes south to Twin Fracture Gully at the edge of the large northern walls. If that wasn't in, we could climb Agharta and throw new-routing to the wind.

    The snowfield showed the evidence of the recent warm spell. We passed a spear of ice sticking out of the surface while descending to the Scoop. A few minutes later, we were catching our breath in the alders in the snowfield near the gully. I climbed up high enough to view the top, and my heart jumped with excitement. I could see ice capping the cliff at the end of the gully. It was not simply climbable; it was fat. The 6-hour approach suddenly seemed worth the effort. I said a quick prayer for a safe climb before the action started.

    Laura tied in and zipped up the first pitch. Several women have made their mark in the Gorge including Emilie Drinkwater who climbed Panther Gorge Falls (aka Grand Central Waterfall) during her historic solo of Joe Szot's Adirondack Trilogy ( ). To my knowledge, Laura is the first woman to be part of an ice climbing first ascent in the area. She took the first pitch 180’ up to a bulge below the confluence of the dual gullies. It did not take long before she had Brent and me on belay.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	gehDnN1ZX2uxNOJX_o3piugtWLjAeUjXTlpvATJeNBNHo4AMxVi42uhi6Fki1FHIFR8IA2Xm4Zz1UQibBq97qzgAjKMluzU0jVWkXd0PWQmK36s3lB7mdMZJ8DgAnxK1iQ5OBNhVqNLXRPovN84IrlUgCMvY-rkejZp2W5IUmvAsSXlguW415YJ3NkGWm_Viqp956pqbJjavpMOHM2UShNBVZYytVd-lWUwZdsEVtidEajycE7LpvU_rkNlNPec Views:	1 Size:	91.9 KB ID:	484308
    Laura leading the first pitch of the day (top). Laura/Brent at the first belay...hard to believe this is Mt. Marcy! (middle).Brent looks up at Charybdis on the left and Scylla on the right (bottom).

    Marcy enveloped us as we climbed side by side on the blue ice and through the snow. Upon reaching the anchor, we climbed another 50’ up to a stance that was protected from icefall. We assessed the options and discussed strategy. Our initial thought was to put up a single long line, but it was early, and there were two obvious choices. After discussion, we agreed that I would lead the left, we’d rappel, and Brent would lead the right. The terrain after the top was likely just a low-angle gully.

    With the climbing logistics under control, I looked around and was amazed by the ice formations on all sides: ramps, bulges, smears, hanging spikes and wind-whipped icicles. The gully had some similarities to Multiplication Gully as well as Haggis and Cold Toast (on steroids). I climbed 30’ up the first bulge, placed a screw and disappeared from view into an ice-entombed chimney. A fat curtain on the right, several inches of clear ice on the left and a thick ramp underfoot set the stage for comfortable if not occasionally awkward climbing. Higher, the right-hand wall opened for an unobstructed view to the north. Large black roofs and hanging daggers were overhead.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	wqfZrT-2CmCnLvixrog22vTZ0o9vHL2MYLsHW3GUgyPWKMEifAhtVRJCNGcu7ricZq_1ZZQ6qxL5RdcNbtX-Pu-gZUgbC-xntC1-xddSi0JeGG_694Zpe6ZA2p-OH5i9M1mdIrq9mq4I8JvzO3dy3LMmhnISBzi26Co9twkhqnlud_nIGES_qoeo4-tD_T6HJHeAdPsNi7oIIupxiQHj6bhPe89n7zp8YO70T5FnlSjI_OyfGFiX1jFZlOWPy87 Views:	1 Size:	210.9 KB ID:	484307
    An icy tomb or God's artwork? You decide. To us, this was heaven. Chimney 1 of Charybdis (top). Large ice cave and chimney 2 of Charybdis (bottom).

    I rested in a large cave under the roofs. Curtains of ice continued north, but I planned to take the line straight up an exposed vertical curtain and into an icy constriction. Twenty feet higher, I worked my way into a squeeze chimney of freshly formed ice. The route was still building. I didn’t expect to find “plastic” during the climb since we’re usually fighting bullet ice at this elevation. I stemmed and squirmed my way into a good stance for another rest. I looked down, and Laura and Brent were back into view. Another short vertical tier led onto a bulge and into the trees. I was nearing the end of the rope, so I slung a solid spruce and set up an anchor. The length of the new route was 400’ with three pitches. It was thrilling to find such a challenging and aesthetic line to lead.

    Laura, then Brent, followed. It was impossible to see her progress until she entered the upper chimney. Her smiling face popped into view and she yelled, “This is the best pitch of ice I’ve ever climbed!” That alone made my day. I love sharing these experiences with people who appreciate the rugged beauty (and a bit of suffering). Brent soon appeared as Laura took photos of him cresting the top. Instead of climbing directly to our position, he explored right to see if we should continue the line. A low angle snow gully led to another short bulge, but it didn’t seem worth the effort, so we rappelled down to the confluence and prepared to take on the northern gully.

    Our warm, cozy nook turned into a blustery freezer as high-level clouds, and a moderate breeze moved in—the conditions of the original forecast. The temperature was in the single digits with windchill. Laura and I were shivering even while wearing belay jackets. She decided to rappel to the packs to heat some soup and take shelter. Brent and I remained to continue the quest though I admit that at the time I’d have been just as happy to have descended with her. I knew the climbing would eventually bring my hands back to life. I watched the cedars whip back and forth along the cliff top and shivered again.

    It was easier to keep sight of the leader on this line though showers of ice chips occasionally sent me scrambling for protection against the right-hand wall. A few short vertical sections led to a ramp below a vertical curtain. The crux was at the top. A half hour later I saw Brent’s head pop into view as he yelled, “Off belay!” I tried to climb fast enough to regain feeling in my fingers. It worked just as I reached the curtain. I stopped to rest and deal with the “screaming barfies.” It was a visually intimidating arena with a few columns that had touched down and plenty of free-hanging mass. One could put up a WI5 here if they were so inclined. A line up the right side offered a more comfortable option. It had the requisite awkward exit into a dense cedar grove—classic Adirondack adventure climbing. The belay station was…intimate—what happens in Panther Gorge stays in Panther Gorge. Brent’s line was 180’ long.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	VvXoLHJDvAaRC3YQ_61b-EVlz0fXvD0onqsvkhtaiTCdcqdajcTeHlsXzQfdK1bgrehNhg_g2UYkiHjdfnA-GaChNfwPF0FkqZRd3DTlRO9PQRdeBCsZKd4oySWGcQYFaiXw0Jh3bBtwVhLCHqO7VsXRiVrDkdPL4-kr-l03tBjivBdvoQ1FQ2i0f-8Btre1xXNy7n78H7xvqu_PaTI1irZ-55DX2-YnXHriOZKHvUMVtKsoU531KbC_GQ8Zy8H Views:	1 Size:	218.3 KB ID:	484306
    Brent peeks over the top curtain of Scylla.

    Two rappels later found us back at our packs and behind the shelter of a small ridge. Laura emerged from the trees looking reinvigorated from a hot meal. It was 4:30 PM and the waning sun looked like a soft orb as it moved toward Marcy’s ridge behind the clouds. My motivation shifted from new-routing to something more simple—bushwhacking back to the trail before darkness swallowed the Gorge. I knew the way, but trail-breaking out through the north pass in the dark is dispiriting. We slowly followed our tracks, connecting glades until we reached the Panther Den at the top. Here we diverged from our entry path to avoid the talus in the center of the drainage. By Tooth and Claw (a route Bill Schneider, Devin Farkas and I added in 2016) was in thin but climbable condition. This is another reliable route when other lines are delaminating. Several new possibilities including what looked like a WI6 on the Panther Den’s prow were in as well.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	wv73csSZJMk57wILhhZDtvKBjC2nekCsUv-kv5N9NDfWWxr1iuc0rSyfuRFS-fsyh-MGCZbujSH7fIMMSmplG9IcW01AmqVkY6i9PncT4xTOy0t7EPMXA39O76qWbWBwIxfT3rWMSMOQdd_tHBBWhJ2Pftvh3XnclZgU08EJiCwJvZ-SHxkbgWlvXGjNTK8KgsqUen09ugS-7KbxV1crs1uvtAjITwlVTeDvsQU8QmFwzA2FsYNVCkROApXwD6x Views:	1 Size:	400.6 KB ID:	484305
    RatBoy leads Charybdis (left) and follows Scylla (right).

    The off-trail situation became humorous during the final push from the cliff to the Phelps Trail. Laura broke trail for a bit and did a fine job of finding the powder stashes which brought her to a screeching halt on some of the steeper slopes. Brent quipped that she was a skier at heart. At least I knew where not to step. It was around 5:30 PM when we reached “civilization.” With 8 miles to go, the day was far from over.

    We named the routes Charybdis (WI4/400’) and Scylla (WI4/180’) during a discussion at Slant Rock. Twin monsters of the deep Gorge seemed appropriate and Laura liked that Scylla is depicted as a female in Greek mythology. A warm fire at Johns Brook Lodge seduced us into another rest. In the end, we reached the trailhead at 10:30 PM after roughly 18 hours over as many miles—a full day, but appropriate for the route location and snow conditions.
    Prior Trips to Panther Gorge
    1. Grand Central Slide (w/Mark Lowell)
    2. Grand Central Slide Descent, up the Margin Slide & Skylight Bushwhack (w/Greg Kadlecik)
    3. Marcy to Haystack Bushwhack with Great Range Traverse-Great DeRanged Traverse(w/Greg Kadlecik)
    4. Marcy East Face Circumnavigation (w/Ranger Scott van Laer)-2013 Aug 24
    5. Marcy (East Face) Ranger on the Rock-East Face Slab (w/Anthony Seidita)-2013 Sep 6
    6. Haystack Slides and Haycrack Route-Day 3 of 4 days in the gorge (w/Anthony Seidita)-2014 May 1
    7. Haystack (V Wall) All Things Holy (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Jul 12
    8. Marcy (Agharta Wall) & Haystack (Free-Standing Pillar) Wreck of the Lichen Fitzgerald & For Whom the Lichen Tolls (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Aug 16
    9. Marcy (Agharta Wall) CrazyDog’s Halo & Watery Grave (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Sep 27
    10. A Snowy Panther Gorge Bushwhack (w/Adam Crofoot)-2014 Dec
    11. Marcy: A New Ice Route – Pi Day (w/Adam Crofoot & Anthony Seidita)-2015 Mar 14
    12. Haystack: 3 New Routes in a New Area (the Ramp Wall) (w/Allison Rooney and Adam Crofoot)-2015 May 30
    13. Marcy (Panther Den) Cat on a Wet Tin Roof (w/Bill Schneider)-2015 Jun 14
    14. Rumours of War: Opening a New Area—the Huge Scoop (w/Hunter Lombardi)-2015 Jul 11
    15. Marcy (Feline Wall) Kitten's Got Claws (w/Justin Thalheimer)-2015 Aug 1
    16. Not Every Trip to the Gorge is Perfect –No Route, but a Good Day (w/Bill Schneider)-2015 Aug 16
    17. Marcy (Huge Scoop) The Pride (w/Bill Schneider and Adam Crofoot)-2015 Aug 30
    18. Marcy (Feline Wall) Promised Land (w/Dan Plumley)-2015 Sept 19
    19. Tour de Gorge (w/Adam Crofoot & Allison Rooney)-2015 Nov 21
    20. Marcy (Panther Den) Ice Route: By Tooth and Claw (WI4) (w/Bill Schneider & Devin Farkas)-2016 Jan 30
    21. Haystack Ice Climbs-Orson's Tower (WI3+) and Fly By (WI3) (w/Nolan Huther)-2016 March 5
    22. Marcy (Agharta & Panther Den Walls)-Pioneer Anomaly & Belshazzar's Fate (w/Adam Crofoot & Alan Wechsler)-2016 May 28
    23. Marcy (Huge Scoop)-Predatory Instincts (w/Bill Schneider & Nolan Huther)-2016 June 4
    24. Marcy (Feline Wall)-Galaxy of Tears (w/Dustin Ulrich)-2016 June 17
    25. Marcy (Panther Den)-One for the Boys (w/Bill Schneider, Adam Crofoot & Allison Rooney) 2016 June 25
    26. Marcy (Agharta Wall)-Tail of Redemption (w/Bill Schneider & John Pikus) 2016 July 30
    27. Marcy (Panther Den Wall)-Climb After Slime & You Moss Be Kidding Me! (w/Alan Wechsler) 2016 August 6
    28. Marcy (East Face)-Revelations (w/Nolan Huther & Loren Swears) 2016 August 27
    29. Haystack (V Wall)-Psalm 23 & Windjammer (w/John Pikus & Jaryn DeShane) 2016 September 17.
    30. Haystack (North End)-Kitty Cake (WI2) & 2nd ascent of By Tooth and Claw (Marcy) (w/Doug Ferguson & Walker Wolf Bockley) 2017 January 14.
    31. Marcy (Feline Wall)-Chimaera (WI3-) (w/Matt Dobbs & Jace Mullen) 2017 February 18.
    32. Haystack (North End)-Ride the Lightning (WI5-) & Skip the Lightning (WI3-) (w/Alan Wechsler) 2017 March 10.
    33. Marcy (Chimney Wall)-Slacker Cracker (5.9) (w/Adam Crofoot & Jaryn DeShane) 2017 June 3.
    34. Marcy (Chimney Wall)-Marcy's Great Chimney (aka Empty Tomb) (5.8) and All Ryled Up (5.7) (w/Jaryn DeShane) 2017 June 15.
    35. Marcy (East Face)-Anorthofright (5.9-) (w/Steven St. Pierre) 2017 August 27.
    36. Marcy (Chimney Wall)-Panther's Pinnacle (5.9) (w/Steven St. Pierre) 2017 September 16.
    37. Marcy (Chimney Wall Area)-Spiritus Draconis (WI4+) (w/Jaryn DeShane) 2018 February 1.
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

  • #2
    Hello Mudrat,
    Claudia noticed you'd signed in Saturday and we looked for your group from Haystack. I was on her HaBaSa club trip. Looks like your group would have been out of sight or mostly obstructed from view in that gully. Nice pictures.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Hear the Footsteps View Post
      Hello Mudrat,
      Claudia noticed you'd signed in Saturday and we looked for your group from Haystack. I was on her HaBaSa club trip. Looks like your group would have been out of sight or mostly obstructed from view in that gully. Nice pictures.
      Hey Don!
      We might have been in view around 10 or 10:30, but it would have obscured us until around 4 pm when we got off the climb. Habasa's a classic loop. Love it! Thanks!
      May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.


      • #4
        Looks damn good these routes, the advantage of your "silly" outing is that the ice will not be pitted. Do them while you still have the legs, stamina and will to get those.

        Pics are stellar, I like especially the one we see you climbing from above.

        See Ya some day.
        8000m 0/14


        • #5
          Originally posted by nangaparbat View Post
          Looks damn good these routes, the advantage of your "silly" outing is that the ice will not be pitted. Do them while you still have the legs, stamina and will to get those.

          Pics are stellar, I like especially the one we see you climbing from above.

          See Ya some day.
          Hey there! The routes were definitely not pegboards. That's exactly what I'm trying to do: accomplish a few tasks while I can still haul a heavy load that far and have energy to climb. You'd have been hooting on these lines. Yes, you will! The winter gathering is next month...nudge.
          May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.


          • #6
            Beautiful, history in the making.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Woodly View Post
              Beautiful, history in the making.
              Just saw this comment...thank you.
              May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.