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Flurry of Activity Births M9 Trad in Adirondacks

Matt McCormick on his way to the first belay of Bossman (M9, 3 pitches, 230′), High Falls Crag, Adirondack State Park, New York. The new mixed route, climbed on Monday by McCormick and Bayard Russell, is now one of the park’s most difficult winter lines. [Photo] Bayard Russell

Some of the best winter climbers in North America have been tooling around on High Falls Crag in Adirondack State Park, New York. Visits by Steve House, Maxime Turgeon and LP Menard this month sped progress on some of the crag’s obvious but still unclimbed mixed lines. But in the end, it was the lesser-known “locals” from nearby Vermont and New Hampshire who bagged the finest route.

On January 14, Steve House and Matt McCormick added the last 100′ of a partially complete M6 recently established by Matt Horner. The purest and most prized line at the crag, however, still lay a few feet to the left. So McCormick teamed up with Bayard Russell to try the line during the 14th annual Adirondack International Mountainfest. (Read about Russell’s recent ascent of Painted Wall Icicle in the January 17, 2010 NewsWire.)

“It was the route du jour over there the past few weeks,” Russell said, citing the recent activity at High Falls Crag. “If Matt and I had just walked up to the cliff and started climbing without knowing any of the climb’s recent history, we probably wouldn’t have done the line we did. It was the cumulative effort. We were just the last guys on the pile.”

Bossman (M9, 3 pitches) follows a single, continuous crack for 230 feet. The first pitch climbs technical, steep terrain on turf shots and thin pick torques. Pitch 2 contains the crux, an extremely reachy move with chickenscratch for feet. The last, short pitch corkscrews behind a minor icicle then “worms out” onto the ice, McCormick said.

McCormick tried the dynamic crux repeatedly on lead with no luck. Eventually he lowered to the belay and handed the sharp end to Russell, who pinkpointed through the move on his first try.

House had attempted the crux move a few days prior, “trying to free on the lead some really desperate climbing on the second pitch,” Russell said. “He took the whip, blew a nut, the next one caught him, but all the other gear below zippered out–then he went back up and fell three more times.”

“It was awesome to see someone going for it so confidently on really hard climbing, above small gear and in such great style,” McCormick said of House.

Russell continued: “When Matt and I were up there we lowered the style bar a bit, did some aiding, found all the micro hooks and a really good high piece, a small but bomber nut.” He and McCormick made the first ascent on Monday, January 18.

Bossman is now one of the hardest gear-protected mixed lines in the Northeast. In the Adirondacks, its difficulty is second only to Fecalator (M10).

McCormick added that it was a treat to establish a route on Mountain Fest weekend. “Jeff Lowe and Alex Lowe used to come in and climb new lines that same weekend every year,” he said. “So it was meaningful to me to do such an amazing route during the festival.”

Sources: Bayard Russell, Matt McCormick,