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Panther Gorge: A New Rock Climbing Route (5.8+) on Mt. Marcy - Wreck of the Lichen Fitzgerald

Posted by Kevin MacKenzie,
North Country explorer from
August 16, 2014

FULL REPORT, PHOTOS AND VIDEO AT: http://www.adkhighpeaks.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25818

Friend, Adam Crofoot and I walked down to Keene Valley and arrived at his house at 9:30 p.m. after logging 20 miles over 16.5 hours. Ah, if it had just been a hike, I might not have felt as weary, but we’d logged a full day of backcountry climbing and I knew I’d feel the effects over the following couple days. That, however, is the end of the story.

Big explorations and sleep are not good partners; I woke up at 1:30 a.m. on August 16th and gave up on any solid rest at 3:45 a.m. Resigned to a hard day with little sleep, I drove down the road to Adam’s house. His girlfriend, Allison, dropped us off at the Garden. We were walking to Panther Gorge by 4:45 a.m. The primary concern in my hazy mind was, “Will the stone be wet or had the wind dried it out enough?” Nine miles is a long walk to find out that conditions aren’t safe. The dew point was equal to the temperature—not a good sign. In our minds it was worth taking the chance, however.

We had our hearts set on putting up (creating) a couple new routes one or both sides of the gorge. We were aiming high with our primary focus centered on Mt. Marcy’s Agharta Wall—the cliff about 1/8 mile north of the East Face and Grand Central Slide. A free-standing pillar at the mouth of the gorge on the Haystack side was a secondary goal if time allowed.

We crested the Marcy/Haystack col just past the junction to Haystack at around 7:40 a.m. which placed us below the Agharta Wall in a field of soaking wet ferns at 8:45. While the small waterfalls and blowing water coming off the wall around our first ascent choice was beautiful, it struck down any thoughts of climbing it. Our second objective was relatively dry, however. If foul weather held off as forecast, we’d have a window to accomplish our goal.

Route 1: Wreck of the Lichen Fitzgerald (5.8+ YDS)
The Agharta Wall has a huge scoop missing at its south end, a beautiful and dramatic feature that’s a testament to gravity and the elements. The missing stone makes up some of the talus that Anthony Seidita and I crawled under earlier in the summer. Adam and I noted a line along the right side of this. It looked like a series of flakes and cracks that might allow access to the upper wall. An close inspection is a far cry from studying a photo; it’s difficult to tell the characteristics of a feature until you’re in the arena. I knew this would be the most challenging climb of my ‘career’ as I looked up our proposed line. I reminded myself of all the reasons that I thought this was a good idea!


Erika Barthelmess

What a trek! As one who is afraid of heights, I enjoy reading this.

Also, at one of our nature up north campfire sing-alongs, and 8 year old requested we do "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"! I was impressed that an 8 year old knew that song!


Kevin MacKenzie

That is good Erika!
As a confession, I'm afraid of heights too. I've learned how to compartmentalize the fear. This one tested those limits!