Monthly Archives: March 2014

Chasing Light On Crystal Ice Tower

Sabrina Hague leading Crystal Ice Tower

Sabrina Hague leading Crystal Ice Tower, Rhonda McGovern belaying

FRIDAY, March 21, 2014 – Crystal Ice Tower to White Line Fever is a deservedly popular ice climb, just a short walk across Chapel Pond from the parking area. For many climbers the first pitch provides a first-taste of WI4 climbing and stellar views await those who continue on with the easier second pitch. Beyond the second pitch the climb forms less reliably, but when it is in good shape it is a great adventure. On Friday, March 15, R.L. and Karen Stolz rigged the climb for an early morning shoot with Sabrina Hague and Rhonda McGovern the following day. This climb is ideal for our big horizontal boom and two feet of fresh snow made the rigging job much more interesting.

With all the new snow, a somewhat questionable weather forecast and climbers we had not yet actually met we went to bed with some uncertainty. Early the following morning, after considerable effort unsticking the rope we left to expedite getting up the climb, we arrived on top with all our gear ready to go. The sky was overcast and dull – not what we hoped for. Sabrina had not climbed the route before and was not overly confident. After about ten feet of climbing it was clear the route was well within her ability and from that point on she cruised it. A bit more than half-way up we had her stop so we could switch from handheld cameras to our remote boom-mounted camera. This process is never speedy but we ran into a couple of glitches that required extra time to sort out. Hanging out on steep ice for 15 minutes is hard work but she never uttered a complaint. Finally, everything settled down and she was able to continue leading, making it all look very easy. Then, unexpectedly, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and delivered the light we always hope for but rarely see. After lots more pausing for photos Sabrina was glad to be at the top and Rhonda followed her lead easily. Unfortunately, the light was not as spectacular when Rhonda was climbing but it was, nonetheless, one of our favorite shoots for the winter.

Rhonda touching down after a great climb

Rhonda touching down after a great climb

Ice climbing photography, like all photography, requires great light and great subjects along with the right equipment and knowledge to make it all come together into a successful image. Doing all this while hanging from the side of an ice wall in frigid temperatures is particularly challenging, especially in the Adirondacks where weather and conditions can be brutal. What fun!

Welcome To The Forbidden Wall


Tom leading the second pitch for R.L.’s camera

FRIDAY, March 21, 2014 – Don’t let the name put you off, The Forbidden Wall is, in fact, one of Poko’s more welcoming ice climbs. It is the easiest full-length route at Poko that forms reliably yet it receives very little traffic. In a good ice year there are many variations to this 3-pitch route and its icicle cave belay is not to be missed. Remember, this route, like all Poko’s major climbs, gets a lot of morning sun which can delaminate the ice, making it very dangerous. Use extra caution here.

On Friday, March 7th R.L. Stolz rigged the climb for a photo shoot the following day with long-time local climbers Tom DuBois and Dan Plumley. We often rig climbs in advance so we can start shooting photos as soon as climbers are ready. Ice climbing is cold enough without standing around waiting for a photographer!

Dan arriving at the icicle cave

Dan arriving at the icicle cave

We arrived early to catch the morning light. R.L. and Karen were positioned at the top of the cliff, each on their own rope. The ice was surprisingly brittle for so late in the season but Tom led each pitch quickly and easily. Tom is one of a handful of prolific first ascensionists willing to wander far from the road to explore new routes, but this was his first time on The Forbidden Wall. Likewise for Dan. With more than 50 years of Adirondack ice climbing between them, it was nice to be able to photograph these guys having fun on their first trip up this wonderful climb.

R.L.’s 300th Ascent Of Roaring Brook Falls


Marnie Phillips preparing to celebrate atop Roaring Brook Falls

FRIDAY, March 21, 2014 – On Thursday, March 6, R.L. completed his 300th ice climb of Roaring Brook Falls with Marnie Phillips. This was Marnie’s first time leading the route so the champagne celebration on top served to commemorate two milestones. Turns out you can open cheap bubbly with an ice tool quite easily – check out the video!

While 300 times up any climb is a lot, over the course of 30 years that only amounts to climbing it ten times a season on average. As ice climbs go, there are few more enjoyable than this one. The spectacular setting, ever-changing ice, and frequent sunshine make it a true classic by nearly any measure and it should be on every Adirondack ice climber’s list. It’s not a bad rock climb either, but that’s another story.