Chapel Pond – Beer Walls and Spider’s Web

Our 3-day weather “window” in The Dacks turned out to be more like a couple of arrow-slits. After glorious weather on Saturday, Sunday was grey and chilly. Unfortunately this coincided with the only day that Ben (newly arrived on a lengthy work secondment in NY state) could make it over to join us. Unperturbed, we parked up near Chapel Pond (perhaps the centre of gravity of Dacks climbing?) and walked into Beer Walls. This easily accessed crag is parallel to the main Keene Valley Route 73 but hidden from it on the back of a low ridge – it has a reputation for being very busy, but we had it completely to ourselves (obviously the only people daft enough!)The trail is pretty obvious, with wooden steps to start with, and passing by a sign-in box, then leading over the ridge to the top of the crag then down to the left hand end of the Upper Wall in about 10 minutes. We wandered along beneath this, past a few wet and polished cracks, until we found ourselves at the foot of a striking arete, split by a shallow corner. Some Mountain Project browsing led us to the conclusion that this was Frosted Mug, “along with Slim Pickins, one of the two best 5.9s in the Keene Valley” and solid 4*. They weren’t wrong – excellent, fun climbing and quite sustained at the grade. Here’s Helen making the precarious moves out on to the arete.Immediately right, taking the wall right of the arete, is the cryptically named Flying and Drinking, Drinking and Driving (intrigued to know the story there). Anyway, it’s billed as “one of the best 10a pitches in the area” so we jumped on it. Easy climbing up to a slightly spicy traverse left, then a couple of tricky moves up into a shallow crack (especially as it was drizzling by now) and a fun juggy finale up improbably steep 5.7 territory to finish. Here’s Ben having just completed the crux moves (by then even wetter!)Well worth 4*. With the crag wet through, we called an early finish. Ben headed back to base in Saratoga and Helen and I opted for refreshments at The Pourman’s Taphouse, featuring a dozen NY State beers on tap (but they’re only tiny glasses, honest!)The contrast the next day was startling: blazing sun and blue skies maxing out around 15C. We parked up at the same spot, from where the very impressive Spider’s Web is clearly visible (apparently the legendary Henry Barber counted this among the ten best crags in the US, and who’d argue?) Here’s a photo we took on a recce on Saturday:… and here’s the view of the crag from the climber’s campgroundIt’s a short approach, but awkward, through a steep talus / boulder field (there’s a GPS track to follow on MP), but well worth the effort to reach this 100ft wall of plonk-on vertical to gently overhanging granite. Mountain Project sums it up with… “The Web is a magical place with splitter lines on some of the best rock in the North East.”Arriving at the base of the crag we found a team from New Hampshire warming up on Mr Roger’s Neighbourhood, 5.8, which takes the slim corner in the shot below, and a couple of locals on Slim Pickins up the major corner in the background.We followed suit – the Mr Roger’s corner is a delight, but only reached after some really awkward moves off the ground.Slim Pickins lived up to its billing as the other awesome 5.9+ (shirt now long dispensed with – what a difference a day makes!)This is bounded on the left by the stunning arete of Esthesia, 10a, easier for the the most part until the obvious off-width overlap near the top, which proves to be a real struggle. Camalot #4 handy (first time used on the trip but worth it’s dent on the baggage allowance!)We finished off with yet another 4* outing: TR, 10a/b (named after the first ascentionist Tom Rosecrans), and probably the best of the bunch. I actually found it more straightforward than the others (not necessarily easier, but no awkwardness – just good honest toil with superb jams, jugs and gear)Gorgeous evening light on the crag as we stumble down through the now-shady boulder field.A note on logistics: there’s a limited amount of space for discreet tent/van camping near Chapel Pond but we’re not in a discrete van! With our 25ft RV / mobile advertising hoarding we ended up at the KOA in Wilmington. Normally, a commercial campground is an absolute last resort for us – they’re often tarmac parking lots with row upon row of gigantic motorised behemoths (where 25ft is a tiddler), so we were delighted to find Whiteface Mountain KOA felt much more like a State Park campground (no doubt helped by being out of season). I’d go so far as to recommend it!Not that there weren’t a few “Big Units” in there: this one took the biscuit:The whole outfit must be almost 60ft long and in a blatant attack on the English language (and the worst tradition of caravan brands like Swift) it was called:LOL!

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