Saturday, October 13, 2012

Climbing with kids: Wilmington Notch, 10/08/2012

Whiteface Mountain and Moss Cliff, viewed from the top of the Notch Mountain Slab in Wilmington Notch.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

We finished our hike up Mount Jo on Monday in the early afternoon, so we took advantage of already being in Lake Placid to head to one of my favorite beginner crags: the Notch Mountain Slabs in Wilmington Notch. In addition to a pyramid-shaped 80’ tall laid-back slab of clean rock, the slabs sport a spectacular setting high above the west branch of the Ausable River. Across the river rise Moss Cliff and Whiteface’s rocky summit. Even though the slabs are just a short hike from the trailhead, the climbing here feels remote and scenic.

Daniel making his way up And She Was, an excellent 5.2 beginner climb on the clean rock of Notch Mountain Slab.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

We set a toprope on the main slab, giving access to two highly recommended beginner routes, And She Was (5.2) and Roast & Boast (5.6) along with a number of options in between. Large pines, easily accessed by scrambling up the right-hand side of the slab, provide solid, easy to rig toprope anchors. Daniel stuck to the fun climbing on And She Was, whose predominant feature is a left-rising foot crack, making four bottom-to-biners-and-back laps.

Looking up the west branch of the Ausable as it flows through the Notch

Messing around with a couple Camalots - kids like to know how the all the gear works

Now that we’ve been out climbing with the kids several times, Daniel is quite comfortable with the equipment, climbing technique and safety procedures, and he’s advancing his skills quickly. We've found that keeping the day short (ours was out of necessity) and the climbing fun - not scary - are key to a successful family climbing outing.

The left-rising foot crack of And She Was

Although Beth and I each climbed several pitches on our other climbing outings with the kids this year, we were happy enough to let Daniel do all the climbing this time out. Sylvie, who’s not even 5 yet, is still too young for roped climbing; her “climbing” is confined to scrambling within a few feet of the ground. Consequently, the flat and open base at the foot of the slab is a big plus.

Looking down at the flat, open base from the top of the slab

When we packed the car Sunday morning to head up to Lake Placid, we threw the climbing gear in almost as an after-thought. Good thing we did, since cooler Fall weather will soon close the window for comfortable rock climbing, as Sunday night's snow reminded us.

Close-up of the Ausable from the top of the slab. Fall foliage is fading fast.

If you want to check out the Notch Mountain Slabs, follow the northern trail to Copperas pond. Look for a climber's herd path on the left about 5 minutes in from the trailhead. The herd path is sometimes marked with a cairn, though it wasn't on Monday. 5 more minutes of steep climbing leads directly to the foot of the main slab. The Adirondack Rock guidebook gives detailed directions and route descriptions for these climbs and the many other climbing opportunities in Wilmington Notch.

More Climbing With Kids posts here.


  1. Jeff,

    Awesome that you started Daniel climbing so young. I've always wanted to try it, but I will admit in a public forum that I've never been able to work up the nerve to give it a go. Really, really cool!


    1. Thanks Ken! You might consider trying a course with the ADK or a guide service sometime. Kids have the benefit of not being afraid of anything, so they learn really quickly, a lot like skiing.