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Hydropower Illustrates Catskills Potential

Matt McCormick leading Hydropower (M9 WI5-, 115′), Black Chasm Crag, Catskills, New York. McCormick added bolts to the route on February 20 and redpointed the climb two days later–an emerging ethic that could give rise to a new era of difficult mixed climbs in the Catskills. He named it Hydropower after a geyser of water erupted from one of his ice screws. [Photo] Ryan Stefiuk /

On February 22 in the Catskills of New York, Matt McCormick climbed a new overhanging mixed line that he named Hydropower (M9 WI5-, 115′). The single-pitch route climbs semi-soft sandstone to a hanging curtain of ice at the heart of Black Chasm Crag. Now the hardest mixed route in the Catskills, Hydropower may lead to a new era of winter development there.

The Catskills in southern New York are known for a handful of winter classics, such as Instant Karma (M5 WI5/5+), Purgatory (M4 WI5-) and Gomorrah (WI5). But there has been “really limited development” in a sea of crags with difficult unclimbed mixed lines, local climber Ryan Stefiuk said. Hydropower may change that–and change the way locals think about winter ethics in the Catskills.

Years ago, Kevin Delaney placed a few bolts on what would become Hydropower. When McCormick visited the Catskills Ice Festival as a guest speaker in February, he checked it out on Stefiuk’s urging. He cleaned the route on rappel, then added six new bolts on February 20. Over the next two days he worked out the moves and redpointed the project.

“The Hudson Valley climbing scene is, in many ways, a bastion of traditionalism,” Stefiuk wrote on his blog, and traditional Catskills style is to establish new climbs from the ground without the use of bolts. Recently, however, harder winter climbs in the area have been bolted, and McCormick approached the project with local goodwill.

Soft sandstone on some steep routes in the Catskills offers as much hazard as it does adventure. During the cleaning process, McCormick knocked off several large stones estimated between 100 and 300 pounds.

“There was absolutely no gear to be found on the line,” McCormick said. “And the one crack I did find proved to be an enormous loose block.”

“It was a pretty compelling argument for rap-cleaning in the Catskills,” Stefiuk said.

Stefiuk encourages non-locals to check out the area’s vast potential and to adhere to a ground-up trad ethic when possible. However, he added, few clean lines remain that could be climbed safely on natural gear.

“All of this involves meeting up with locals or spending time in the area to get acquainted with what’s been climbed and what hasn’t,” he said. “If you come visit, all of the standard rules apply: respect other people’s projects, place solid, stainless steel bolts, use gear when there are good cracks, no squeeze jobs and no retrobolting of others’ routes without their permission.”

Sources: Matt McCormick, Ryan Stefiuk,,,