Gothics North Face

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New York, United States, North America
Route Type:
Ice Climbing
Time Required:
A long day
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Gothics North Face
Created On: Mar 16, 2006
Last Edited On: Oct 14, 2008


Gothics is one of the most prevalent mountains in the Adirondacks High Peaks and in the North East. It is well into the backcountry, about 5-6 miles from the trailhead. Gothics is the 10th tallest mountain in the Adirondacks.

Getting There

The Best way to get to Gothic’s North Face is via. the Garden parking lot and John Brooks lodge on the John Brooks trail.

To get to the town of Keene Valley:

Keene Valley is on 73 about 20min. east of Lake Placid. Just keep following 73 until you reach Keene Valley

To get to the Garden Parking lot:

One you are in Keene Valley turn onto John Brook lane. The Road is kind of hard to find and you might have to ask around (any body in town will know where it is). Follow this road to the very end (about 3-4 miles). There is a fee of $5 per day to park in the Garden. Get there early, especially on the weekends, the latest I got there was 9 a.m. on a Sunday and I got the last parking spot.

To get to John Brooks Lodge:

Follow trail signs for the John Brooks Lodge. It is a straight forward path hat is approximately 3 miles. Sign in at the interior outpost and cross the river. The John Brooks Lodge is a junction that will take you just about anywhere in the Adirondack High Peaks. Getting to John Brooks Lodge is not hard, the trail is slightly uphill.

To get to the base of Gothic’s North Face:

One you have left the John Brook trail junction it is approximately 1.5 miles to the base of Gothic’s North face. Follow the trail towards Gothics and Saddleback’s summit. On your way you should pass the Ore Bed Brook shelter and you will pass a huge boulder on your right, you might not be able to see Gothics but you are headed in the right direction.
Now here is where it gets tricky. There is no trail to Gothics North Face so you will have to veer off the trail at the first substantial river you come across. It should be about 0.5 miles from the Ore Bed Brook shelter. Head up the river and then you will see Gothics North Face.

Route Description

Juliette Route

Direct Route

Scott s SW Ridge Route

Normal (Direct Variation) Route:

Ascend the left side of the mountain until you reach a rocky patch. At this point you are going to want to cross over more towards the centre of the face. Once you are just left of centre of the face it is fairly straight forward to the top. You will see a small snow/ice chute, follow this. You are now just east of the summit, follow the ridge to the top and now you are on top of Gothics.

Direct Route:

Accent the left side of the mountain and immediately cross over to the left centre of the face. From here follow it directly to the top. You will see a small snow/ice chute, follow this. You are now just east of the summit, follow the ridge to the top and now you are on top of Gothics.

SW Ridge Route:

This is a route that is not climbed nearly as frequently as the east side of Gothics North Face. Once you get to the base of the mountain you must traverse form east to west. This route is more tecnically demanding than the other two routes. Once you start to accend the face be shure to stay to the right of the large rock outcroping that dominates the western side of the face. Once you top out its a short hike to the summit.

Essential Gear

People should not underestimate Mt. Gothics or any other Mountain in the Adirondacks for that matter. People in the Adirondacks have died from hypothermia as early as August. Furthermore, the risk of avalanches should not be ruled out, people have died from avalanches in the Adirondacks. This said, it is almost impossible to be too prepared when venturing into the back country.

Gothics North Face

My Equipment:

2 Pair of socks (keep your feet warm, you’ll need them for the climb)
Climbing Boots (Plastic ice climbing boots or stiff soled mountaineering boots. For Mt. Gothics you spring hiking boots will not do. La Sportiva makes great climbing boots)
Insulated bottom and top (I wear a Patagonia fleece and The North Face fleece pants)
Hard Shell Pants and Top (This is your active layer. I use The North Face shell pants and top. I would recommend that you use pants that have suspenders or a bib)
Hat or Insulated Hood (More than 50% of body heat is lost through your head so make sure that you have either a warm hat or a hood on your down jacket)
Technical Gloves and liners (Your hands will get gold easily, especially when you are climbing. I also highly recommend that you bring along a pair of hand warmers for the climb. You are not going to want insulated gloves because they do not allow you to get a firm grip of your ice tools, Black Diamond make a good pair of affordable ice climbing gloves)
Sun Glasses or Goggles (If you are in a white out it will be hard to see. You can also get snow blindness easily, especially on Mt. Gothics exposed North Face)
Down Jacket (I use the Mountain Hardware Sub Zero Jacket with insulated hood. This jacket is extremely warm and I have NEVER been cold when wearing it. I would recommend bringing one because when you are belaying or standing still on the face you will get very cold very fast.)
Crampons (I recommend step in crampons but most crampons will due for non-technical routes on Mt. Gothics. I use step in Grivel G12 crampons and they work perfectly.)
Ice axe (This item is not necessary if you are bringing a pair of ice tools. However I bring one along for the ascent to the base of the mountain and I definitely use it. Most ice axes these days weigh very little and it is not a burden to bring one along. My axe is the Petzl Charlet Moser Snow Walker)
Technical Ice Tools (People have climbed Mt. Gothics North Face without technical ice tools; however I would not do this. I definitely used my ice tools and was very glad that I had them as opposed to just an ice axe. I use my Petzl Charlet Moser Aztar’s and they work perfectly)
Harness (even if you are climbing solo, as I do most of the time, I would bring a good harness. A few times on the face I got very tired and wanted to rest my feet so I pounded in a snow picket and clipped in.)
Snow Picket (There aren’t many places to place good ice screws so I would bring some snow pickets. Rule of thumb, one snow picket per person. MSR makes the best I think)
Ascender, Belay Devise (Obviously you will not need these if you are going solo. However I always bring my Figure Eight wherever I go. You might find some people climbing the face and if you ask nicely they mike let you climb with them)
Ice Screws (I would bring a few along, especially if you plan to climb the direct route or the SW route. I have 19cm and 13 cm Black Diamond Turbo’s that I take with me)
A Few Slings, some carabineers and a few quick draws (You’re climbing. You’re hauling all this other stuff along, why not)
Rock gear (I have not done any mixed routes on the north face but there are many rock bands so there are some mixed routes)
Pack (technical pack, not the kind you hauled your Geometry books around in High School. There should be straps for ice axes and so fourth. The North Face Spire series are great for the price)
Food (bring lots of food and snacks. The word diet does not exist in the backcountry. Lots of high energy carbs and things than can be easily munched on when you are climbing the face)
Water (I bring 3 Nalgines and this is usually just enough. If you want to play it safe bring four. Don’t forget you purification tablets in case you get stuck in the back country)
Map and Compass (Unless you an Indian you will need these)

I climb it at least one every two weeks. If you would like to know exactly what hardware to bring depending on what rout you will take drop me one and I will help you organize you trip.

Individual equipment:

Hard shell pants and jacket
Stiff soled mountaineering or ice climbing boots
Ice axe
2 X ice tools
Helmet with head lamp
Plenty of food and snacks
Large D carabineer

Group equipment:

3 assorted ice screws (10cm, 13cm, 19cm)
1-2 Snow Pickets
A few slings
10 Carabineers

Optional Equipment:

Down jacket: Gothics is very exposed and it can get quite cold especially if you are not moving
Assorted nuts and hexes: So far I haven’t used mine but I never climb anything witout a some rock gear
Some Quick draws and slings

External Links

To see ice conditions go to


Gothics Grade

Incident on Gothics - 2006

Dont underestimate Gothics North Face. This incident almost killed a man and stranded a climbing group. Because of Gothics remote location rescue can be very difficult and long.

*Information taken from a forum on I was not involved in any part of the incident or rescue, these are other peoples accounts*


At the base of Gothics face we started from the left hand side of the slide. It was rock and ice and about 30deg slope but easy going, I did not need my Ice tools for most of the way just flat foot crampon technique. We then traversed on ice/snow ledge to the base of the center were we decided to rope up as the face got steeper about 45deg. At the start the ice was thin but moss and cracks in the rock made in ok as you got higher the ice was good about 2" thick. About half way up I got a 13cm in good ice and I got another one in a few meters later (the ice got nice think and plastic) after I got my second peace in the I ran out of rope. Since I had 2 good peaces in and only about 20 feet to the trees I asked If they wanted to siml-climb. I got to the trees and set up a good belay 10 feet up from the ice and brought the other guys up.

From the trees the climb kicks back to 30 deg snow so we decided to forgo the rope and continue on in the calf deep snow field near the trees. J untied from the rope at the edge where the ice turned to snow me and R coiled the rope and took down the belay. Just as I stated heading off I heard a noise behind me to see J slide down the ice face . he slid for about 400 feet then free fell about 25 feet to the snowfield below and came to rest in about 200 feet. R and I immediately started to repel off the face. after the first repel J regained continuousness and said he seemed OK. 2 ice screws and two trees got us to the ground 30min later.

I got to him first he was awake and standing but in shock and and starting hypothermia. We got him to sit down and checked him out he had no apparent injures aside from minor cuts and bruises we covered him in our belay jackets and tarp and fed him some hot drinks. After about half an hour he decided to try and get moving to a better location out of the wind. It took him about 15min to travel about 100 feet. R decided to say with him and I would go get help. I made it down to JBL in about an hour and found the ADK volunteers with a radio who informed the DEC rangers.

The ambulance in the Garden parking lot checked out J and he discharged himself as he wanted to go to a hospital in Canada. So I drove him home and right to a hospital in Canada. I just talked to him today and he is doing fine just a little tenderized and only a pulled ankle.


I was at Grace Camp the nights of 3/17 and 3/18. We were supposed to be staying at the Warming Hut near JBL as ADK volunteers, but the heater there broke last week and ADK let us stay at Grace Camp instead, only because the people who booked Grace Camp cancelled at the last minute.

We were in the camp Sat afternoon and a guy came in saying one of his 2 climbing companions had fallen 600 vertical feet on an ice climb of the north face of Gothics. Apparently he had just ascended a pitch and was above the other 2 climbers and briefly unroped for some reason, and slipped. They were about half way up the face when it happened. The other climber was still with the victim. All 3 were from the Ottawa area. He said the victim was initially unconscious for about 10 minutes but came to and was in shock and obviously injured. Amazingly he was able to walk on his own, although very slowly. He started down with one guy while the other raced down for help.

When the guy came in to Grace, we got on the radio to Adk Loj and they contacted DEC to initiate a rescue. In the meantime, myself and one of my companions mobilized to go up and help the victim if possible, with dry clothes, hot drink, and sleeping bag in case he could no longer walk. They had adequate food, water and warm clothing but no sleeping bag. Their tracks left the Orebed Trail about a half mile above Orebed Lean-to. They followed the first prominent stream that crosses the trail above Orebed Brook and leads to the north face. We had a portable radio with us to communicate with Adk Loj and DEC. As we were going up, a DEC helicopter landed at the Interior Outpost and dropped off 2 rangers, then buzzed right over us as we neared the victim. We reached them around 4:00 p.m. about a third of a mile from the marked trail. The victim was still moving very slowly but otherwise doing pretty well. He appeared to have a sprained ankle and was in obvious pain. I gave him some hot chocolate and dry mittens and we continued down. The 2 DEC rangers arrived shortly and gave him a medical assessment to see if he could handle being hoisted with a harness to the helicopter. They wanted to fly him out because he was going so slowly and they were concerned his condition may deteriorate. By the time we reached the Orebed Trail, it was around 5:30 p.m. and the helicopter could no longer fly in because the weather was too poor. It was breezy with some light snow and not great visibility. So we helped him down the trail. The rangers had me go ahead to the camps to see if there was any space in Camp O'Brien. Fortunately there was plenty of space there for the 3 climbers and 2 rangers to spend the night. There was also a doctor staying there (how lucky is that?) They got to O'Brien around 7:00 p.m. Next morning they still wanted to fly him out but the weather was still poor, so they walked him out to the Garden, which took about 3 hours, and got him into an ambulance and to a hospital.

My Story

I have been preparing to climb Gothics for about three month and it was a summit that I really wanted to bag. Although Gothics is only the 10th tallest mountain in New York State it is by far the most technical. Situate deep inside the Adirondack High Peaks it is a 5 mile trail hike and then another mile until one can reach the base of the North Wall. Few people climb the North Face of Gothics; subsequently there is no trail directly to the base of the mountain.

I was unable to find a partner for this climb and a certain part of me was reserved to look for one. Two weeks ago I had made the hike to the base of Gothics only to turn around because my friend, James, was ill equipped for the climb. I was very disappointed to turn around; I have always felt that it is harder to turn around from a summit than to press on a bag the peak. Anyways, I had been thinking about Gothics constantly for the past two weeks and was set on climbing it.

On Sunday night I got all of my gear ready. I would bring my 800 fill down Jacket, my fleece, my fleece pants and insulated shell pants, my technical ice axes, my walking ice axe, my harness, 3 quick draws, a small assortment of hex’s and nuts, 3 slings, two ice screws, a snow picket and my technical crampons. I had three Nalgines of water, an Altoids tin of skittles and a Tuna sandwich. On Monday I woke up at 4:15 am, was out the door by 4:30 and got to the trail head at 7 a.m. To insure that I would not have to walk in the dark on my hike back I would set a latest summit time of 2 p.m. The hike to the base of the mountain was fairly uneventful. I had done this hike two weeks prior and knew where to go for the most part. Although the off trail hike to the base of the mountain was rather difficult I was able to begin my technical climb around 11 a.m. Because I would be un-roped for the entire climb I chose to ascend the first ½ of the climb up the left side of the face where there was less ice. I encountered a few sections of steep ice but for the most part the climbing conditions were good. About ½ way up the face I would have to cross over to the central part of the mountain and then accent a steep snow and ice valley that would keep me away from rock veins and take me to the top. I love the movement of climbing. As they say in “Touching The Void”, it’s a mixture between ballet and gymnastics. The muffled crunching sound as your crampons dig into the snow, the hissing noise that your ice axe makes when it slices into ice. I think about climbing all the time and to be climbing could not make me happier. The climb was extremely strenuous and I finished all my food once I got to the top of the mountain. I almost didn’t summit Gothics. I had just hiked 6 miles and ascended a 1000 foot snow and ice wall and I didn’t feel like climbing the ridge to the summit. But then I said to myself, hey, you’ve come all this way, mine as well get to the top of this thing.

For my decent I initially chose to follow a path down the West ridge, round the back of the mountain. However the trail conditions and powder were not what I expected. I started to follow the tail but accidentally veered off the trail, following someone’s snowshoe tracks that led me to an impasse that I could not cross. Consequently I had to backtrack through powder up to my waist. This was extremely strenuous, and time consuming. It was at this point that I started to get very tired and hungry. I will admit that I did not bring nearly enough food on this trip. At this point I decided that descending the west ridge was impossible because the trail was so poorly maintained and marked. However, there was an East Ridge trail that would lead me to two smaller peaks and finally back towards my destination. Although I was reserved to taking this trail it seemed to be a much better alternative than descending the North Face of Gothics. Unfortunately, the same thing happened to me on the east trail as did the west trail. At this point I was where I started almost two hours earlier. Although I don’t not know the exact time, I estimated that it was 3 p.m., I was extremely tired from the past hour of trekking through waist deep snow and I was out of food except for an Altoids tin of about 8 skittles. I would now have to descend the North Face of Gothics without the aid of a rope to repel with, in a condition far less capable than when I ascended.

My decent was slower than I thought and it was at this point that I got rather worried for my safety. I knew that most accidents happen on the way down, and if I were to fall there would be no stopping until I reached the bottom some 600 feet below. However, things would only get worse. About ¼ of the way down the snow gully, still 900 some feet from the bottom, my left crampon fell off and went sliding down, resting on a ledge at the bottom of the gully. Now I was in big trouble. Instead of four points on the ice I would only have three, which also meant that every time I would move my right foot I would have to completely rely on my two ice axe placements to support my weight. I managed to get around most of the ice and stick to snow where I would be able to use my left foot. It took me much longer than I previously thought to get down the mountain. I was able to cut some time off, however, when I realized that I would be able to glaciate a snowy patch on the far left end of the north face. Once I reached the bottom and locate my missing crampon I began my arduous journey back to the trailhead, some 6 miles away. By this point it was 5 p.m. and it would be getting dark in an hour.

At this point I was getting extremely hungry, I was very tired and sore, and my pack weighed quite allot considering all the hardware I had to bring along with me for the climb. I had to get back; I wasn’t going to be able to spend the night out here without food or shelter. Days can be pleasant in the Adirondacks but nights are very cold. Furthermore, sweat, hypothermia’s best friend, would be what killed me had I decided to stay the night. As any outdoorsman knows sweat can be a cooling relief when exercising, however, one you stop the sweat feels as if you have just jumped into a freezing lake, and I was covered in sweat. At this point I had 3 skittles left. As I began to descend the valley that brought me to the base of the mountain I ate one of the skittles. These skittles would have to last me for 6 miles. As I ventured forward I become more and more tired, but what was bothering me the most was the hunger which seemed to make every weakness I had worse. I could hardly walk. Many times on the trail back I tripped and fell over because of the clumsy and sluggish pace I was walking. I ate another skittle to get more energy. I began to think, what if I can get back? Am I going to die out here? I am stronger than this, I will make it. I kept telling my self, in a critical tone, that I have to make it back to the car. Whenever I wanted to give up and just pass out I would get mad at myself for giving up so easily. With three miles still to go it got dark and I put on my head lamp. I then ate my last skittle and drank the last of my water. It was then that I started seeing things in the woods. It wasn’t at the state where I was full on hallucinating but I would see a tree or a bush and to me it would be something else, like a dog or a bear or a telephone pole. I knew now that I had to get back. To take my mind of the hunger I started to sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall. It was a feeble attempt to distract myself, which last no more than 25 or so bottle. I was getting very, very weak. It came to a point where I stopped thinking and just walked. I told myself, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. I dosed off to the rhythm of my feet, focusing on each step. My destination no longer existed; it was just a matter of moving my feet. I got back to the car at 7:30 p.m. For the past 12 ½ hours I had hiked almost continuously, with exception to a few 5 min. breaks. Furthermore I had ascended and descended a 800 foot Ice wall. All of this on an orange I had for breakfast, a tuna sandwich and 20 some skittles.

I tested myself. I had the initiative to save up the money to buy all of my gear. I had the willpower to get up at 3 a.m. only to head into the unknown, risking my life to achieve. Overcoming my fear of death and climbing without the security of a rope. Not giving up when most would have. Despite the almost constant treat of death throughout the climb I couldn’t help by feel an amazing sense of control than I still feel now.

Gothics North Face

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