Monday, August 19, 2013

Climbing with kids: the Beer Walls: 08/15/2013

View of the lower Great Range from the top of the Upper Beer Walls.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
Unlike last month, when we climbed at Chapel Pond with nearly a dozen in our party, we had a relatively quiet day climbing at the Beer Walls with just our family of four. I emphasize "relatively" quiet, because our kids - any kids I suppose - at times seem quite capable of making as much noise as a party of twelve. Noise level is a real issue to consider when other climbing parties are nearby, as is often the case at a popular crag like the Beer Walls, but was no problem at all for us on Thursday when we pulled up to an empty parking lot at the approach trail head. That's one of the bonuses of climbing mid-week - definitely a consideration when climbing with kids.

Daniel practicing his crack technique on 3.2

Topping out on 3.2.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
With no competition from other climbing parties, we had our pick of routes and headed straight for Seven Ounces and 3.2, two extremely popular top-roping cracks on the Upper Beer Wall. We got the kids going on 3.2 first, a short (40') and easy (5.4) left-leaning crack. Since our kids have mostly climbed face routes so far, 3.2 was their first introduction to vertical crack climbing. Any experienced climber knows that the key to crack climbing lies in jamming your feet, hands or fingers into the crack and standing or pulling up. Basically, if it hurts, you're doing it right. But since 3.2 is a pretty forgiving crack for a beginner, the "hurt" was balanced out by the fun of climbing and the satisfaction of reaching the top.

Sylvie climbing 3.2

Beth and the kids soaking up the view at the top of 3.2 and Seven Ounces

Seven Ounces is located just a dozen feet to the left of 3.2, so a quick re-set of our static rope anchor allowed Beth and me to get in a quick climb while the kids snacked and played. It's a much more difficult (5.7) crack, and it's a bit polished from heavy use, so we didn't even bother having the kids try it.

A few other climbing parties had arrived, but I was hoping that Afternoon Delight - a terrific 5.5 face on the Lower Beer Wall - would be free. The 5 minute hike over from 3.2 and Seven Ounces rewarded us not only with finding our climb open but also with beautiful views of the lower Great Range along the way.

Sylvie figuring out the opening moves on Afternoon Delight

Daniel at the start of Afternoon Delight

Everything seemed to come together for the kids on Afternoon Delight. There's a fairly tricky start up a zigzag flake, but then the face opens up with lots of options all the way to the top. From the bottom, the face appears steep (not an illusion) and blank, but in fact it is criss-crossed by numerous in-cut horizontal holds. High up, if you can take your focus off the rock directly in front of you and don't mind a bit of exposure, there's a fantastic above-the-trees view to the Wolfjaws, Armstrong and Gothics. I knew Daniel would be able to get to the top without much trouble (and he did, twice), but I was surprised when Sylvie nailed the route and tagged the 'biners at the top too.

Look ma!

Closing in on the top of the route

Those various routes took up 4-5 hours, in my opinion an optimal timeframe for a family rock climbing outing. Other than a difficult base at the foot of Afternoon Delight (Adirondack Rock calls it a steep, eroded, cramped gully - spot on), the Beer Walls score pretty highly on the key parameters for climbing with kids: short approach, quality rock on multiple top-roping routes at the appropriate grade, beautiful setting. One other thing - I mentioned the cliff being uncrowded mid-week, but in reality Beth and I have never had difficulty getting on our choice of routes, even on weekends. This ain't the Gunks.

Late afternoon view from the top of Afternoon Delight

No comments:

Post a Comment