The first time I traveled into the heart of the Adirondack Park was on a charter bus with my state university’s soccer team. On Route 73, we passed the slabs of Chapel Pond and I cranked my head upwards and marveled at brightly colored specks on the walls.
“Are those people?” My teammates gushed.
Once it was confirmed that we were observing people on vertical walls of rock, hundreds of feet from the ground, the general response was, “Ah, hell no.”
But for me, there was a deep interest and instinctive foreshadowing. I wanted to be on those rocks and deep in the mountains. I wanted to see the world from that point of view. A year later, I transferred to Paul Smith’s College and fell in love with the wildness around me. A year after that, I began dating a talented rock climber. He lived and breathed rock climbing. I occasionally stopped by the college’s rock wall while he was working and bouldered a few times at McKenzie Pond. I even roped up for a couple of top rope climbs, but I never invested in the sport. I was still a college athlete playing soccer and basketball and honestly found rock climbing to be too slow for my personality. After college, I hiked Mount Marcy and stumbled upon a passion and pace were I flourished. I wanted to climb mountains.
A decade later, I’ve decided to give rock climbing another go. Not because I wanted to send a 5. 13, but because I want to be an Alpinist and need time on the rope. A friend led me up Pete’s Farewell, an open, multi-pitched slab of granite high above Lower Cascade Lake, and by the time we got to the final pitch my leg shook uncontrollably and I cursed the exposure. I felt like I was going to fall off the end of the world. All those rosy colored, romantic visions I’d held from the seat of an automobile dissipated and I was left with an even more terrifying notion, that maybe this wasn’t my thing and I wouldn’t be able to complete some of the high altitude climbs I’d dreamed about.
On the final pitch of Pete’s, I lay-backed and scurried to the top. Away from the edge, I sat down and took a personal inventory. My heart thudded wildly and adrenaline replaced the hate and fear I’d felt with love. I laughed.
I loved it.
I did want to see the world from this perspective. Pete’s Farewell terrified and excited me to the point that I dreamed about it for days after. I’d close my eyes and feel like I was miles high where the ravens rode the thermals. I got a rush and calm re-envisioning the route in my mind.
Within a short amount of time, I’ve found that rock climbing takes you to some of the most stunning places in the Adirondacks. Vertical walls rise up from crystal river beds. Cedar and Balsam needles bake under the sun, producing one of my favorite smells. It’s an internal and external journey that explores the root of trust, beauty and being in the moment. The rock is ancient and with that, holds a multitude of wisdom and energy. All you have to do is put yourself in it’s path.