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Marcy East Face: Full Face Climb, Rappel and Night on Haystack

Posted by Kevin MacKenzie,
North Country explorer from
September 6, 2013

Panther Gorge holds a place in my heart like no other in the Adirondacks. The remote wilderness, deep forested valley and magnificent rock on all sides tickle my imagination and curiosity every time I bushwhack it. Pillars of stone in front of towering fractured walls…nature’s masterpieces guard the northern entrance; the south is gentler along Marcy Brook though it’s a test to enter or exit from any direction.

Then there’s the stunning east face of Marcy is arguably the crown jewel of the gorge in my opinion: about 550 feet high and a quarter mile wide between Grand Central Slide and the southern edge of the face. The slab is cleaved in the center by a mighty fracture…still a questionable route down before this outing. Neither slide nor the slab was an area that I dreamed of being near since I first viewed it from Mt. Haystack in 2004.

A half a decade later its mystique (and report by Craig i.e. ElectricMan) drew me into a climb of Grand Central Slide. Each subsequent visit (this was my fifth) added another piece to a puzzle I didn’t even realize existed. Scott van Laer and I climbed a portion of the face a couple weeks prior to this; for a week I thought about returning to climb the face directly. I couldn’t see all the way across from the side and the view from Haystack makes everything look vertical, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Therein was some of the draw!

I studied my photos for hours, memorizing various nuances of the area and possible belay stations until I had a vague idea of what to expect for at least a portion at the top. The day would involve a bushwhack down into Panther Gorge from the north, 500 vertical feet of face climbing and 6 rappels down the central fracture. Our exit back to camp would involve a second bushwhack in the gorge to Marcy Brook and Panther Gorge Lean-to. The final leg would take us up one of the steepest trails in the ‘daks over Mt. Haystack and Little Haystack back to Slant Rock.

Approach and Camp
Anthony Seidita (DeepForest) and I planned a weekend of exploring with a hefty agenda: a day in Panther Gorge with a combination solo/technical climb up Marcy’s East Face and possibly top-roping Basin’s Amphitheater. Slant Rock seemed like a perfect jump off point for both. Thursday, September 5th found us beginning our hike to camp from the Garden Trailhead at 8:00 p.m.

My 65 pound pack made progress over the 7-mile trek slow, but stimulating conversation with a good friend made it enjoyable. Before I knew it the time was nearly midnight and we were busy setting up camp. The lean-to was taken, so Anthony erected a tent cover at the closest camping area just up the path. We agreed to get up at 6:30 a.m. to begin the most ambitious day in Panther Gorge...

Full text, photographs and video: http://forums.adkhighpeaks.com/showthread.php?t=22730 or www.mackenziefamily.com/46/46r.html (Slides & Bushwhacks Page).