Of all the easily accessible areas in the Adirondacks, few can offer the individual both good skiing and ice climbing. The north face of Pitchoff Mountain is the best in the area,, For the skier, this area presents an enjoyable afternoon of moderately difficult terrain; the refreshing notion of being alone in the woods, and some beautiful scenery. To the ice climber, Pitchoff abounds with ice. No other region has as much; especially nice is that it is so quiet and rarely crowded. No automobiles to rattle your concentration. All in all, whether for skiing, ice climbing, or better yet lie both, the north face of Pitchoff is a worthy adventure.
No matter your intention, enter this area via the Old Mountain Road; erroneously labeled “Old Military Road.” Driving from Keene, past the Mt. Van Hoevenberg recreation area, you will find yourself heading down a hill. You will notice a 45 m.p.h. sign notifying a curve to the left. At the bottom, Old Mountain Road makes a 120′ sharp intersection on the right. From Lake Placid, you will pass the Cascade Inn and other motels. Here again you will notice a 45 m.p.h. sign. Look for Old Mountain Road on your left. Park your car one hundred yards up the road from Rte. 73. If you plan to only ski, you must either park another car at the end of Alstead Mill Road or plan to hitchhike back to your car. You can ski the entire trail and then retrace your tracks, but from Keene back to your car is almost all uphill. For a more detailed ski description we highly recommend Northern Adirondack Ski Tours, by Tony Goodwin.
The ski starts with a moderate hill for a quarter mile and then one continues up and down rolling terrain until reaching the of end of the road” sign . Now the track thins and you must continue single file. After one half mile, you will come to the beaver pond. You will know you are there when you see the impressive ice cliffs surrounding you. Even if you are not an ice climber , you will stare in awe at the beauty of your view. If you have lugged all the hardware, off come your skis and on with your crampons. The ice grades are at NEI 3 or 4, (North East Ice; a grading system for the severity of climbing, where 1 is simple and 6 a major epic). Please refer to Climbing in the Adirondacks by Don Mellor for route descriptions.
Once you have filled your eyes with ice-covered cliffs , you continue up a hill for two hundred yards and then begin your downhill run. You will enjoy the next two and one half miles of varying drops down to Alstead Mill Road. For the ice climber, the easiest return is back the way you came. The last hill down to your car is real fine for practicing that infamous telemark turn. That is, if you have the energy.
Whatever your main interest, whether it be skiing or climbing, you cannot help but to love this beautiful area.