Wilderness Rock Climbing in the Adirondacks, A Selected Guide

Wilderness Rock Climbing

Wilderness Rock Climbing in the Adirondacks, A Selected Guide

During the 1930’s, a small group of climbers discovered a world of rock and silence deep in the interior of the High Peaks. But you may still climb in desolate places in the Adirondacks where the only sounds are lonely winds, the falcon’s cry and your breathing as you move up the rock.

It is with the hope that more people will enjoy the challenge of wilderness rock climbing that we present the following area profiles and a sprinkle of climbing history.

Please note that detailed individual route descriptions and descent routes can be found in following guides:

  • Climbing in the Adirondacks: A Guide to Rock and Ice Routes in Adirondack Park. By Don Mellor, 1983.
  • Adirondack Rock and Ice Climbs. By Thomas Rosecrans, 1976.
  • A Climber’s Guide to the Adirondacks, Rock and Slide Climbs. By Trudy Healy, 1967.
  • Guide to Adirondack Trails – High Peak Region Adirondack Mountain Club Inc., 10th Ed.

Because they are far from roads and are subject to fast weather changes, climbing in all of these outlying areas is a serious endeavor. Climb at your ability, not above it. Please give exact descriptions of where you intend to be, and when you plan to return, to a responsible friend at home. Enjoy the challenge but please remember to register at the trail head.

Wilderness Rock Climbing


In the thirties, John Case a former president of the American Alpine Club, and Jim Goodwin, his enthusiastic partner, attempted a route which would have been tho first ascent of Wallface. As Jim remembers, climbing was always an adventure with Mr. Case:

“John was an excellent climber, though he knew nothing of piton use or even how to rappel. John and I thought we could make that top barrier on Wallface (an overhang ing section) . . . the route became pretty exposed and perhaps my fears persuaded John to back down about 50 vertical feet from the top.”

Case later completed the route via a variation on that exciting line described above. He climbed without protection the whole way, even with 700′ of exposure on that top section to spice things up.

Round trip Time:two days
Time from Rescue:one day
Height of Climbable Rock:800′
Range of Difficulty:5.3 to 5.9 A3
Recommended Routes:Diagonal, Mental Blocks, No Man’s a Pilot
Quality of Rock:Excellent on most existing routes. Crack-less on most of unclimbed lower section.
Reference Guide:Don Mellor



Big Slide

Slide Rules has firm bolt placements most of the way up. A lack of cracks and otherwise steep runout made this necessary. Surf and Turf is a gem.

Round trip Time:one – two days
Time from Rescue:one day
Height of Climbable Rock:500′
Range of Difficulty:5.5 to 5.8
Recommended Routes:Slide Rules, Surf and Turf
Quality of Rock:Excellent friction slab.
Reference Guide:Don Mellor



Panther Gorge

A word on the approach is necessary because it involves bushwacking from the Marcy and Haystack col down into the Gorge along the Marcy side cliff barrier. A herd path in the gorge used by Old Mountain Phelps as part of one of his more adventurous guide trips was wiped out by a 1950 hurricane. Going will be slow but the gorge is as wild and beautiful as the animal it is named after.

Round trip Time:two – three days
Time from Rescue:one – two days
Height of Climbable Rock:700 to 900′
Range of Difficulty:one existing 5.6
Recommended Routes:Take Your pick, mostly new ground.
Quality of Rock:Very Good, a dihedral is a prominent feature of the main face.
Reference Guide:Mellor, “Peaks and People of the Adirondacks”




In 1938, Jim Goodwin and Edward Stanley climbed the Rainbow Slide: “a lot of steep friction but nothing worse than the Giant Eagle Slide.” They topped, out just to the right of the summit overhang. However, their climb did have an element of commitment not usually experienced in Adirondack climbing today.

“Of course we new nothing in those days of pitons or other protection. Our philosophy was the Geoffry Young British attitude — the leader just can’t make a mistake!” — Jim Goodwin 1938.

 North Face Rainbow Slide
Round trip Time:two daystwo days
Time from Rescue:one dayone – two days
Height of Climbable Rock:1100′700′
Range of Difficulty:5.7 friction5.7 friction
Recommended Routes:North Face Directmain slide
Quality of Rock:Two gorgeous glacial cirgues. Both have vegetation and low angle slab runouts.
Reference Guide:MellorMellor



Giant Mountain

Imagine the 1963 rock and earth slide which created these Western Cirque climbs as it travelled all the way down to Route 73, clearing a swath 100 yards wide. Of all the areas listed, the Western Cirque slides on Giant offer the safest climbing and they will bring you right onto the summit after an aesthetic alpine jaunt.

  Western Cirque
Eastern Cirque
Round trip Time:one daytwo days
Time from Rescue:half to one dayone day
Height of Climbable Rock:700 to 900′1000′
Range of Difficulty:fourth class to 5.5 at top of Bottle Slide.5.3 to 5.6 friction.
Recommended Routes:Bottle, Eagle and Question Mark Slides.Choose a route. One can find bivi-ledges.
Quality of Rock:Excellent low angle friction slabs.
Reference Guide:Healy, Rosecrans, “Adirondack Slides” July 1962 issue of “Adirondak”.