The Adirondacks: Small Mountains, Big Training Ground

With our Keene Valley, Adirondacks Chicks Rock Climbing Clinic in just a few short months, I caught up with Emilie Drinkwater – friend of Chicks and Co-Owner/Guide for Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides in New York.  Emilie has climbed some of the most amazing routes and peaks, is a professional (sponsored) athlete, and an all around amazing person.  Emilie cut her teeth in the Dacks, so as we all consider signing up for the clinic, I asked her to remind all of us why climbing in the Dacks is so special.


Landscape_KeeneValley_EmilieDrinkwater

In 2001 I moved to Lake Placid, NY with $30 in my pocket and no idea what to do next.  I’d recently graduated from college with a fancy degree in Anthropology and African Studies but all I wanted to do was rock climb.  Mostly, I dreamed of all the exotic places I could go to climb (you know, Colorado, California, West Virginia).  Ice climbing, alpine climbing, and ski mountaineering never even crossed my mind at that time so neither did places like Alaska, the Himalaya, or the Alps.

If you’ve never been to the Adirondacks, you should know that there’s a lot of climbing to be had.  A lot as in, more than 3,000 routes spread throughout the vast and pristine wilderness of the 6 million acre Adirondack State Park.  And the quality of the rock is, for the most part, excellent.  Geologically, much of the rock we climb is Anorthosite (the same rock type found on the moon!); cracks, slabs, and faces ranging in height from short, single pitch climbs to nearly 1000′, make for a lifetime of climbing in the Adirondacks alone!

Though the park is huge, Keene Valley and the High Peaks region are often considered the epicenter of climbing activity (but if climbing isn’t your thing, there are also lakes, streams, rivers, trails, and historical sites, to name a few).  My first introduction to the area and to outdoor climbing (during those early days of having no money and no life plan) was on the ever-popular Beer Walls crag.  I fell in love with climbing that day, even though by the end of it, my arms were so tired I could barely grasp the steering wheel to drive myself home.

Focus_KeeneValley_EmilieToday, I’m a full time mountain guide, athlete, homesteader, and writer.  My climbing background on the traditional and high quality, technical routes of the Northeastern mountains has led to adventure, exploration, and sometimes even success, in climbing venues, big and small, around the world.  Though I spend a lot of time in other ranges, the Adirondacks will always remain my home base and the place I credit with introducing me to the pleasure and challenge of climbing mountains!


For more information on attending the Chicks Keene Valley Clinic this Fall, click here.

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