Gothics' Northwest Face Circumnavigation

Gothics' Northwest Face Circumnavigation

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 44.12918°N / 73.85842°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 5, 2009
Activities Activities: Mixed
Seasons Season: Summer

Off to the Base

The day began at 7:00 sharp with Neil, ElectricMan, Mastergrasshopper, Zach and I. Zach, a local friend, would take the trail south to the col and up the cable route while we planned an assault on the Northwest Face. The walk to Orebed Brook Leanto took about one hour twenty minutes if you knock of the ten minute break near the Interior Outpost. Another ten minutes found us at the crossing of the drainage we sought with the Orebed Brook Trail. Consequently, this was the same as the drainage one follows to get to True North or Ribbon Slide that I explored a month prior. The base of the NW Face was just one half hour away, a mere five miles from the trailhead.

The drainage was very pleasant up to and beyond the twenty minute point to which I’d walked in August. The rest was easy rock hopping and, eventually, slab walking. A slide entered from our right (west) as we progressed and, not far beyond, the looming mass of Gothics’ face appeared masked by the shadow of the mountain. The grade of the slab segments increased as we approached and finally reached the base at 9:30 a.m. Neil, who brought his flute, played a little ditty at the face of the wall. I think it was called, “Prelude of the Doomed Friction Climbers in A Minor”. The echo of its clear tone resounded at various points.

Circumnavigating the Face

I think we all eyed the slab in wonder with various exclamations of emotion. We discussed which route to attempt. I had my eye on the right side which was nearest the trees as I explained that I forgot my yellow feather covered chicken suit and, so, couldn’t climb the center portion. Its steep face gradually increased in grade to about halfway up the wall. Lines of moss appeared to run down from the summit. The northern most section under/near the false summit looked like a possible route which one could follow diagonally under the false summit and subsequently to the col. It was not open slab, but broken up with patches of moss and clumps of grass with small trees. We were hoping for more open slab and avoided the north.

The center appeared to be about 40-45 degrees, but was blocked by a large ledge, which, if one could get up to seemed to be traversable near its southern edge, though probably wasn’t in retrospect since the grade increased. Beyond the ledge to the south appeared open and white signifying (in my mind) clear slab.

The looming wall of Gothics’ Northwest Face was like few other areas in the Adirondacks. The wall enveloped us as we approached. My stomach grew tight as we discussed different options of ascent. Most parts were beyond my experience level or simply friction based climbs. The exposure of most of the ascent routes was nearly full. My eyes sought the south route via the trees separating the new finger slide.

Neil and ElectricMan geared up with helmets and headed for the centermost area. The first problem they encountered as we watched was getting a grip amongst the moss on the slab. Neither seemed to slip back, but they backed down and began to work south to find stone with better purchase. While watching, I emptied my pack of all but, the necessities and put the bag of gear in a crack from which I’d retrieve it later.

MasterGrasshopper and I made our way south along the base, testing various possibilities on occasion. We continued this until finding a diagonal crack and ledge that looked promising. We climbed it on a heavy covering of wet moss. Still following a small crack I ascended bit further on the still mossy slab. Glenn and I maneuvered to switch positions on a small crack and he agreed to down climb with me. Soon after we joined forces with Neil and Electricman again.

All of us went to the far south edge where we put in a small amount of slab time over hundred or so feet, picking our way along areas harboring the least moss coverage. Finally, we turned the slab climb into a bushwhack amongst loose trees a few feet south of the slab. Brilliant red and brown colored moss contrasted with the green that covered the majority of the area.

Our ascent was not a failure to us as we enjoyed the views and watched the pitches of the main slide change and decrease as we got higher. Neil’s first route attempt (at the base) would have only gotten steeper after hundreds of feet as would much of the main wall. The white “open” areas where encrusted with small brittle patches of lichen.

Nearing the top, we exited the trees onto still mossy, but safely inclined slabs. Out came the flute once again CLICK HERE FOR YOUTUBE LINK. Above, a few dozen yards open slab even existed before our five minute plunge into the cripplebrush began. Zach was already on top for close to an hour and taking pics of our forced swim through the trees.

We summitted around 12:00 PM and Neil started playing flute again in the presence of some other summit dwellers. After 20 minutes of relaxing, it was time for Zach and I to move on. We still had to descend Gothics, get over to the base of the nw face to get my gear, bushwhack to the Orebed Brook Trail, climb Saddleback and descend its south slide to bivouac near Basin’s east face for Sunday’s trek. The plan was to intersect the top of the True North Ribbon Slide and make our way to the top of the “Y”, then down to the drainage…and it almost worked.

We entered the woods about 150 feet after descending Gothics’ false summit. We walked for about five minutes and I spotted an open area. I then found myself back at the true north slide. I thought to myself, “Dumb***, I let us in a semicircle right back out to the same slide, but lower,” so, back into the brush we went. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves at the top of the Northwest Face on its upper north ledges. It looked rough enough, so we descended. The ledges were broken and somewhat moss covered, but the grade was tamer than the ascent. The day was in full swing with the sun shining directly on the face as we descended. The north side was a conglomeration of moss, grass and clumps of small trees. This perspective revealed possible routes from below. It appears possible to start at the lower north area and work diagonally south to the COL depression and up. The bowl of rippling rock the base with its incredible layers of stone was interesting from the north. Its ripples flowed down into the calm slab, up which we’d walked.

Another Bushwhack and up to Saddleback

Once at the base, I packed my gear and we worked our way south along the same route as earlier when MasterGrasshopper and I were together. Once at the final slab, we plunged into the woods on a very faint animal path amidst blow-down and the usual backcountry challenges. Fifteen minutes led us out to the lower portions of a slide on Gothics’, but to the southwest. It was mossy and wet as we navigated a tier of large ledges. We were both very thirsty and out of water, but the drainage remained dry until we neared the Orebed Brook Trail where some seepage allowed us to slowly filler ourselves and water bottles. Mere steps led to the trail.

Our next challenge was to climb the path to the col between Gothics and Saddleback. Twenty minutes found us breathless and taking a break at the top. A gentleman recognized the MudRat logo on my hat and we discussed our current hike. He also knew Neil from the forums. Saddleback was underfoot at about 4:30 PM. All we had to do was descend Saddleback’s South Slide and set up camp.




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