|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||44.11434°N / 73.90624°W|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Jun 17, 2018|
Photo Set: https://photos.app.goo.gl/92iFkYvdU42NRtWo9
Partner: Ken Hebb
Route on MountainProject: https://www.mountainproject.com/route/114506424/castle-column
I rose with the sun at about 5:15 AM but nodded off until 8:00 when I packed camp, took a few photos, and relaxed. I still felt tired but was enjoying everything about the trip. The route from the day before was thrilling, but we still had a little energy left (very little). We wanted to tackle a short line. Ken hoped to exit at a reasonable hour, and I didn’t want to bake in the hot sun for several pitches. I contemplated a short line on the Panther Den where the routes were sustained vertical, but protection was good. Most importantly, I knew they were bone dry.
Ken awoke at 10:00 AM; we bushwhacked to the top and started climbing at roughly noon. It was hot, but these routes generally only take an hour or so to climb. Like the day before, I had to gather my focus to lead.
This area has also held historical significance. Mountain guide Orson Phelps described various features of Panther Gorge to his clients during the late 1800’s. He peered across from the Haystack side and described a feature to photographer Seneca R. Stoddard. He called it Castle Column and noted that it was at the head of the cliff1. While I’m unaware of anyone who knows the specific feature, there is a massive stone near the top. We started the new route a few feet to the left of the monolith, so I named the route Castle Column to honor Old Mountain Phelps.
Back to the climbing…
The stone on the north end of the “Den” is broken and stacked. It’s key not to touch any of the loose blocks for obvious safety reasons. Thus on-sighting a new route or even following an established one is a mix of climbing and spotting loose stone. I was keenly aware of this as Ken belayed.
A small ledge led to a left-facing corner with a crack in its back…perfect for protection. A ledge at its top allowed me to look at the crux, a finger-crack that led…somewhere. Finger cracks aren’t my specialty, but the edges on the face, texture, and unlimited options to place gear made it fun—not easy, just fun with ample protection.
Jam after jam led to a terrace at its top where I switched to another crack that led into a gully. My other option was to climb a stack of death-blocks on the left—not a smart idea. They’re better left untouched. The back of the gully was damp from the recent rain, but it was good climbing with another stack of much larger blocks along the right. They seemed interlocked and stable though I didn’t test their limits. The route was over at their top.
I plunged into the woods and found a 10-inch thick tree from which to belay. Ken followed and was sitting next to me about 15 minutes later. Both of us were thrilled by the climb. The crack was excellent, and the view from its top was inspiring. The perspective from on high made the treetops look like a dense, textured carpet broken by the occasional piece of talus or cliff.
By the time we rappelled it was 2:30 PM and Ken needed to get moving and out of the Gorge. My original plan was to stay through Tuesday; partially to relax and partially to hunt for a Rab Neutrino jacket that I’d lost in March. Instead, I followed Ken out. I wanted to avoid the storms forecast for Monday and visit a friend. Ken stepped up the pace after refilling his water while I lollygagged my way down to Johns Brook Lodge. I was in no rush. My evening was spent talking with Ranger Scott at the Interior Outpost. Thank you for the coffee, food, and company. This was a fitting end to a fine few days in the backcountry.
VIEW FROM BELOW (LEFT LEANING SHADOW, THEN VERTICAL SHADOW)
Prior Trips to Panther Gorge
1 Seneca Ray Stoddard, The Adirondacks: Illustrated (Glens Falls: Stoddard, 1891), 170-171.