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Trad and sport climbing worthy of a trip to the Whiteface Region

The Adirondacks have a storied history of climbing, beginning back in the mid-1800’s with ascents of what we think of as the most iconic mountaineering routes in the Park. Nowadays, climbing within the Blue Line is largely centered around Keene Valley, the Lake George area, and Indian Lake, among other popular crags dotting the Forest Preserve. The Whiteface Region, unbeknownst to many, distills the best qualities of all these more popular areas into crags concentrated with quality climbs. From beginner trad climbs at Notch Mountain, to moderate sport and trad at Potter Mountain, and the notoriously tough lines on Moss Cliff. A trip to any of these climbing destinations gets you close to dining and lodging options found throughout the Whiteface Region, so planning a climbing vacation here is always easy!

The climbing in the Whiteface Region is not for the novice rock climber. If you are looking to get into trad climbing, hire a guide and learn from the area’s best.

Notch Mountain Slabs - Beginner trad & Toproping 

An easy approach, routes as low as 5.3, and options for setting up a TR, climbing at “The Slabs” presents the perfect opportunity to practice gear placements as a new trad leader, or fit in several pitches of climbing into one day for the moderate climber. There are two main slabs on Notch Mountain, with the first one having classic climbs like Roast & Boast 5.6 and And She Was 5.2, which can be toproped, along with a few others in between. While super fun to lead, the option for hiking around the right side to a bunch of bomber white pines for anchors is an option that many folks utilize here. The laid back climbing is made better by the amazing belay area, an open and flat zone where you can rest, bring lunch, and watch other climbers crux out at the end of their sessions. 

Parking for The Slabs is the same as for Copperas Pond, on the north side of Route 86. This puts you within a few minutes drive of camping options, like the Wilmington Notch campground just 2 miles away, or the Lake Placid - Whiteface KOA campground. These spots make great climbing basecamps, and affordable dining options are close by in Wilmington. Before you climb, stock up on sandwiches for the crag at Little Supermarket right in Wilmington. 

A climber gets taught how to tie a basic figure-8 knot
A climber works her way up the beginning of a slabby route
A climber focuses on the next hand hold
A climber close to the top of a scenic route

Silver Lake/Potter Mountain - Moderate sport and trad

The Silver Lake area, namely Potter Mountain Cliff, is one of those unique climbing crags that has sport routes, an oddity for the Adirondack climbing scene which thrives on traditional ethics and scant use of bolts. While access for this area can be confusing, checking out the beta on Mountain Project can be helpful in getting you to the base of the cliffs. Once there, several 3- and 4-star classics greet you, the first being Honeybadger, a highly rated and well-protected 5.10a sport climb. There are also bolted multi-pitch climbs here, with Piece Out 5.9+ being done often and receiving high praise. Autumn is one of the best times to climb here, and can be climbed late into the year, with the south-facing cliff cloaked in sun and staying warm during even the coldest of shoulder season days.

After a successful day of sport climbing, celebrating with pizza at Mad River Pizza Co. and drinks at 20 Main in Au Sable Forks is obligatory. You’re also not far from a large list of lodging accommodations in Wilmington. 

A climber pulls rope to get ready to clip
A climber pulls rope for the clip.

Moss Cliff - Difficult trad

Did you know that the Whiteface Region holds the hardest single climb in the Adirondacks, and several more of the most difficult routes you can find in this region? At Moss Cliff, likened to Yosemite-style climbing for it's crack systems, blank walls, and overhanging nature, seasoned trad climbers will find truly world-class routes. Featured in high-level publications like The Alpinist, hard lines put up by climbers like Peter Kamitses are both breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly tough. Before Peter’s ascents of a few routes above 5.13b, namely the route Ill Fire 5.14a (hardest grade in the Adirondack Park), the area hadn’t seen many climbers of this level. With these hard lines established, including another 5.14a at the aforementioned Silver Lake area, the Whiteface Region has trad lines that even the most experienced climbers in the world would find challenging and enjoyable. Aside from routes reaching world-class climber grades, there are a few 4-star 5.9+ lines that would be worthy of a trip by themselves, like the sustained and exposed 400 foot A Touch of Class, and Hard Times with its stunning offwidth section.

If you’re coming to project some of these trad lines at Moss Cliff, accommodations in Wilmington are close by, and you could try somewhere new to enjoy post-climb food and drinks nearly every night. A few minutes from Moss Cliff is Rudy’s Scar Bar, start there and then explore some of the other options in the area!

A climber rappelling off a route
A climber rappels off a route.

Interested in these crags, or getting into climbing? Getting in touch with an area guide guarantees an exhilarating, and educational, experience on the rock. 


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