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Old 09-22-2008, 08:03 PM   #1
ElectricMan
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Mt. Marcy The East Face

The first time I stood atop Haystack and peered over at Marcy, the first thing that caught my eye was the curved slide running halfway up its east face. The angle at which you see the slide from Haystack leaves you asking, Is that thing doable? At least thats what I asked myself.

Three years later I would find out.

The objective of the day was to climb to the base of the slide in panther gorge, and proceed with the climb if possible.

Because of the remoteness of this slide and the numerous unknowns about the area and conditions more planning would be necessary.

Planning

Last year I did a recon trip to the area to try and get a better look at the base of the slide and also try and determine the conditions above the slide. From the Phelps trail I whacked a few hundred yards to above the cliffs to determine the likely conditions above the slide.
After all, once you topped out on the slide youre still left half way up that face in the middle of cripplebrush.
I estimated approximately 2 hours to get from the top of the slide to either the summit or the Phelps trail.

I then proceeded over to the lower cliffs of Little Haystack to try and get some pics of the base of the slide. Although the day was overcast I was able to get a couple of pics.
The pictures would indicate a vertical section of rock, at the base, with a crack running the height of this section. I was disappointed I couldnt get better pictures from this vantage point but after a half hour of waiting for the clouds to clear, I moved along.

I proceeded up over Haystack and down into panther gorge where I climbed the south slide of Marcy. The whack from the top of the slide to the summit reinforced my estimate of 2 hours to whack from the top of the east slide.

With these new pictures, my recon and few shots from various angles derived from trip reports, I was conformable with an attempt.

Saturday 9/20/08

I had decided to make this attempt this season. With the rainy spring and summer and a few previously schedule trip for that timeframe, this adventure was put off until September.
When I saw the forecast predicting dry weather for the week leading up to a great weekend, I knew this was my window. Unfortunately Monday I came down with a bug that was going around the office and was concern this would put the kibosh to my plans.
I took Tuesday off and rested the entire day in hopes of stifling this bug. By Thursday I felt better (not 100%) and by Friday decided to go.

Arriving at the Garden Saturday morning I set out with a moderate pace not feeling 100% but cautiously optimistic that I was strong enough for this adventure. I was fine for the first 7 miles until I reached the steep rocking section of the shorey short cut. At this point it felt like someone was pushing against my chest as I was trying to breathe. This was not a good sign but I decided to continue.
Once on the range trail I decided to take the Haystack Brook trail around Haystack to conserve energy. Taking a right onto warrens camp trail I found the relatively easy climb up to Bartlett Ridge difficult in my depleted state. On top of the ridge I decided to lower my expectations for the day and proceed cautiously.

I arrived at the stream in panther gorge and began my trip into the unknown. I didnt know if I could rock hop the stream to the slide base or if whacking through panther gorge would be required. Luckily I found the stream rock hoppable and very open.

A couple of 10th of a mile up, the stream splits off to the left. Thinking this was the best way I continued left for about 15mins until realizing this branch drains Marcys south flank. I whacked across a relatively flat open, swampy panther gorge and picked up the east branch of the stream again.

The area I whacked through was lush and green with a lot of beaver activity.

I proceeded up the stream to approximately 3600 and took a NW bearing to try and find the base of the slide. After a short time I ran across a steep drainage that held a lot of debris.
Could this be the run off from the slide?
I followed this drainage up to about 4000 and there it was. A 150 vertical wall with a large crevasse running it entire height.

Is this the base of the slide? I thought is had to be.

There was no way I was going to climb that crack without placing pro.

To the right of the vertical wall is a series of stepped cliffs with a lot of vegetation. This looked like it would afford a route around the cliff with reasonable exposure.
By the time I was half way up the rock band I had convinced myself that this may not be the slide base. If that was the case who knows what would await me at the top.

I decided to play it safe and contour north along the rock band to see if the slide was further north of my present location. I traveled until I had a clear view of the end of panther gorge.

That settled it; the base of the slide was in fact the 150 cliff I was climbing around.

Above me at this location there appeared to be an obvious weakness in the mountains steep face that I may be able to navigate.

It was time to decide to go or turn around.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon and I was at about 4000 on Marcys east face and I had many hours of hard work to get back to my car. It would take me several hours whether I decided to attempt a climb from hear or bail and head back out of the gorge. The route above me had promise so I decided to explore this possibility until 3:00; this would be my turn around time.

I climbed another 200-300 vertical finding the terrain getting steeper and steeper. I made the decision to bail after taking some photos.

I headed down though an overgrown boulder field with rocks the size of small school buses. You know the kind of terrain that if you slipped, youd fall 20 down between some cavernous rock with no hope of ever getting out or being found. To say the least the progress was slow and unnerving. I finally reached the stream and rock hopped my way back down panther gorge, whacking around the occasional pools in the stream.

Once on the Elk Lake trail I went up to 4 corners and climbed over Marcy as the sun was starting to go down.

From here it was one foot in front of the other on the laborious walk back to the garden.

In all it was a 14 hour day with 25 miles and 7200 on the boots.

Although there appears to be some possible avenues to bypass the slide base, with this areas remoteness and still unknown factors, Im going to mark this slide as NOT DOABLE.
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Old 09-22-2008, 08:16 PM   #2
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Very, very interesting report.

Fascinating in fact.

Now that you have done so much of the preliminary work I can't wait to check it out for myself. Not that I would expect to get any higher than you did, just to go to such an amazing place.

Thank you so much for posting.
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Old 09-22-2008, 08:25 PM   #3
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Very, very interesting report.

Fascinating in fact.

Now that you have done so much of the preliminary work I can't wait to check it out for myself. Not that I would expect to get any higher than you did, just to go to such an amazing place.

Thank you so much for posting.
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Old 09-22-2008, 09:10 PM   #4
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Given the terrain and unknowns, one of the most interesting TR's I've read in a long time.
Well done.
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Old 09-22-2008, 09:31 PM   #5
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Yup, I've seen that curve from Haystack - rather fascinating.
So was your TR.
Great reading
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Old 09-23-2008, 01:09 AM   #6
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Wonderful report, especially the discussion of the recon and preliminary work. This kind of glimpse into the planning stages is, IMO, a great service to those just developing an interest in off-trail hiking. So often TRs (mine as much as anyone's) recount only the adventure itself and not all of the thought and preparation that make a safe and successful off-trail hike possible. I too tend to do pretty meticulous studies of new areas before diving in, but don't tend to write about the recon missions, or the mapping of logging roads, photo studies, and so on. Great use of images as well!
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Old 09-23-2008, 06:06 AM   #7
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I'm drooling all over myself. Wow! This is one trip I've been dreaming about for decades. Great beta, and incentive for me to get my arse into motion.
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Old 09-23-2008, 07:15 AM   #8
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Thumbs up

Great report - I have to admit I've looked at that slab many times and wondered if it would go.
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Old 09-23-2008, 08:50 AM   #9
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Ha! I was 100% committed to scoping this exact route last weekend until I got an invite Thursday night to do some rock climbing in NH. It would have been funny running into you in such a remote spot.

Kudos, sir!
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Old 09-23-2008, 08:53 AM   #10
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GREAT REPORT! I would have camped out and moved higher the next morning
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Old 09-23-2008, 10:48 AM   #11
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Very cool report. I find these trip reports very intriguing mostly because I know it's something I'll most likely never be able to do.

What do you think the chances are that no one has attempted this route before (obviously when it comes to a bushwack like this no two routes are exactly the same) or that you were the first person in this area?
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Old 09-23-2008, 12:18 PM   #12
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Very cool report. I find these trip reports very intriguing mostly because I know it's something I'll most likely never be able to do.

What do you think the chances are that no one has attempted this route before (obviously when it comes to a bushwack like this no two routes are exactly the same) or that you were the first person in this area?
Somewhere between zip, zero, and nada. But if it FEELS that way, if there is no sign of previous passing, then one can totally immerse oneself in the sensation of being the first. That is what is important... to me at least.
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Old 09-23-2008, 12:34 PM   #13
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Outstanding report of a very ambitious undertaking. Very informative and well written.
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Old 09-23-2008, 12:37 PM   #14
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E-man. Yes, very cool stuff. Agree with many of the above points. Thanks.
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Old 09-23-2008, 01:43 PM   #15
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Nice report. I too have several recon photos and a planned trip for that area. I'd scoped a route down haystack and across to the base. I had it in mind that, if the crack wasn't doable, I'd skirt to the left (facing the slide) and try to find my way. Great description and photos!

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Old 09-23-2008, 02:58 PM   #16
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Abso-tutely amazing pics! What a wild and forbidding place that looks to be! I would think someone has to have gone there, but you can probably count them on one hand. Surely some of the origional Adirondack guides ventured in there, perhaps even Colvin?
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Old 09-23-2008, 03:18 PM   #17
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Very cool - great trip and TR. The slide is named in the Haas book. I wonder if that mean someone has been up it (or down on skis).
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Old 09-23-2008, 04:18 PM   #18
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Thanks everyone.

I would bet folks have been into panther gorge plenty of times. I dont know how much the east flank of Marcy has been explored though. Additionally, if anyone has been on the slide itself I would have to believe it was by skiing down from the summit. Its going to take a herculean effort to get to that slide.

Its funny, when I was rock hopping down the stream heading out of panther gorge, about an 1/8 mile before the Elk Lake trail came upon a fella that was sitting on a rock, facing north next to a small pool. When I noticed him he was startled to see me. I asked I bet you didnt expect to see anyone coming from this direction, did you?
We chatted for a minute and I went on my way. It was obvious to me that he was there, in the warm sun, with the sound of the running stream.meditating.
Another funning thing
The stream rock hop was fairly long and the sound of the water falling over the rocks and gurgling up between branches and various objects sounded like people talking. It happened so often that I started to try and distinguish what they were saying. Kinda cool.

One word of caution.
Beware of the overgrown boulder fields. I dont know if the entire circumference of the gorge is littered with overgrown boulder fields but I wouldnt be at all surprised by looking at the steeps walls. When I climbed up to the base of the slide, I went up the obvious slide drainage which was probably a boulder field that had filled in with debris that had washed down over time. The boulder field I went through during my descent on the NW end of the gorge was a man killer. Im serious, this boulder field was very steep and I didnt know if I could work my way through it or not.

There still remains a lot of unknowns in there.
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Old 09-23-2008, 05:15 PM   #19
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Very cool - great trip and TR. The slide is named in the Haas book. I wonder if that mean someone has been up it (or down on skis).
I think that the area described in the Lawyer/Hass book is a bit to the NE from the slide that he is referring to. The book tells of guide in 1936 bringing two twelve year boys into the area for rock climbing.
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Old 09-23-2008, 05:18 PM   #20
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Thanks everyone.

I would bet folks have been into panther gorge plenty of times. I dont know how much the east flank of Marcy has been explored though.
There was a man who lost his son on or near Marcy in a blizzard. The body has never been found. He has walked up and down Marcy over 600 times from every point you can imagine, searching for his son's body. He actually discovered another body in the process.
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