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North Face

WI2 Easy Snow PG13, Ice, Snow, 1200 ft, 2 pitches, Grade IV,  Avg: 3.6 from 14 votes
FA: unknown
New York > Adirondacks > Adirondack Ice… > E: Interior Hig… > Gothics

Description

When it's in, this is the most continuous and sustained alpine ice climb we have in New York. It usually offers 3-5 separate lines. Catch this in the right conditions. March and April are usually best. What looks like ice from the doorstep of High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid can be sketchy snow-covered rock in reality so pay attention to weather patterns and trip reports.

The three most common lines are left, middle, and right. The far left side offers the easiest climbing with many trees to use for pro. The middle is the most aesthetic an can have a fun steep start on the overlap. When I climbed it the ice quality was the worst on the top half of the face but was stellar down low. The right side offers a line similar to the middle with a separate exit. The right side is generally thinner.

When you get to the face pretty much what you see is what you get. The best strategy is to simul-climb so climbers should be prepared to climb without falling on thin grade 2 ice. It would make a great solo if conditions are right. If you pick your line carefully it would be possibly to pitch it out and belay every pitch but don't get yourself stranded without a belay.

Location

Start at the Garden trailhead and hike towards John Brook Lodge. After 3.0 miles there will be a junction. You want to go towards the Orebed Brook Lean-to/Gothics. If the water crossing is bad take the high water bridge. After a mile you will reach the Orebed Brook lean-to and you need to start paying attention to the trail. You will pass several small drainages and a cool overhanging boulder that would make a sweet bivy/bouldering area. Continue until you hit the largest of the drainages and cross to the other side. If there is a beaten trail to the North face it will usually start here. The best approach from here breaks off the left side of the trail and sticks to the right at forks in the stream for the first 5-10 minutes of the bushwhack. From hear follow the stream until you start to see the face. Obviously as you get closer you can decide to go left or right depending on which part of the face you want to climb.

Descent can be made by:
-Hiking down the Orebed Trail from Gothics summit
-Hiking down the trail over Armstrong
-Hiking down over Pyramid(this would end at a different parking lot)
-Skiing or snowshoeing the True North slide(this is the separate, lower-angle curved slide to the left of the North face)
-The proper North face has also been skied but it would be extremely difficult in most conditions

Protection

If it's a really good year it will take some screws. Bring stubbies and many long slings. There are no fixed anchors and pro can be very difficult to come by. Most of your pro will be questionable screws or small slung trees. Some larger solid trees exist depending on which line you choose.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

She's big so take your pick of lines...
[Hide Photo] She's big so take your pick of lines...
Kevin Chlad and Ben Botelho climb the final rope-length of the North Face of Gothics
[Hide Photo] Kevin Chlad and Ben Botelho climb the final rope-length of the North Face of Gothics
Left side 3/7/15
[Hide Photo] Left side 3/7/15
This is a roughly sketched out approach path
[Hide Photo] This is a roughly sketched out approach path
The view off to climbers right as we ascended the slide
[Hide Photo] The view off to climbers right as we ascended the slide
Facing the North face at the end of the approach.
[Hide Photo] Facing the North face at the end of the approach.
Conditions Jan 30, 2016. Thin and sporadic ice, but this route meanders all the way up on good snow and thin ice. Everything on this line is easier than Cascade falls/slide, but there is very little protection available (ice is only 1-2"). Makes for a great day out. 2 hours approach on  trail, another hour up the drainage to the climb, 1 hour for the climb, 3 hours back to the car from Gothics summit. Presently, snowshoes are not helpful or needed.
[Hide Photo] Conditions Jan 30, 2016. Thin and sporadic ice, but this route meanders all the way up on good snow and thin ice. Everything on this line is easier than Cascade falls/slide, but there is very littl…
Roughly sketched out return path if you choose to head left after topping out. This takes you across Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw mountains.
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Actual distance from the top of Gothics to The Garden is around 7.5 miles
[Hide Photo] Roughly sketched out return path if you choose to head left after topping out. This takes you across Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw mountains. Actual distance from the top of Gothics to The Garden i…

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Ben Brotelho
Albany, NY
 
[Hide Comment] great climb...can't wait to do it again this spring! Feb 7, 2013
Jfaub
Ottawa, On
[Hide Comment] Any more beta on the descent? Specifically, any landmarks to find the trail? I've been on other ADK peaks in the winter, and if there hasn't been anyone on the peak lately, i've found that finding the correct path for the descent is a bit of a gamble. Aug 4, 2014
Simon Thompson
New Paltz, NY
  WI2 Easy Snow
[Hide Comment] With a proper topo map of the High Peaks area, the descents should be pretty obvious. The summit of Gothics isn't a very big place. Aug 5, 2014
Jfaub
Ottawa, On
[Hide Comment] Ok, good to know. Thanks! Aug 19, 2014
Robert Hall
North Conway, NH
  WI2-3 X
[Hide Comment] Couple of comments: First, conditions vary from perfect neve to verglass. The twice I have done it, the face has been very thin. First time (1979) we roped up with the 7mm pull-down cord for a 10 ft step on the approach and never took it off the whole way up, the 9mm stayed in the pack. Except for "breathing belays" we just simlu-climbed putting a sling around the thickest of the tiny vegetation!

Second time (circa 2008), I went in solo, got to the base and two others arrived. These guys must have had a guardian angel, they were "doing" French Technique but only putting in one side of the crampon (i.e. not bending the ankle) I took off as fast as I could to leave them behind.
On the descent via the North Slide, near the bottom I decided to "cut the corner" back to my ascent footsteps in the snow. I was not using snowshoes; only when I got "into the trees", where there was a huge accumulation of snow blown off the face, did I realize that if I fell into a "spruce trap hole" I might be there "forever". Just realize, the objective dangers are not always on the technical climb. Jul 7, 2016
[Hide Comment] Friend and I took the left route, topped out March 18, 2019. Snow shoes highly recommended for the approach.

At the top you can head left or right. Left is about 7.4 miles back to The Garden, and to the right is about 8-9 miles I believe.

Trails at the top between Armstrong Mountain and Wolf Jaw Col are a mess right now. Blazes are beneath the snow, so tons of hikers have created their own random trails with varying success. Many false starts that lead nowhere, and lots of bushwhacking. Took my friend and I 4 hours to go ~2 miles.

I managed to drop an Edelrid Megajul belay device around 2/3 of the way up (didn't fall too far down). Free for the taking if you can find it. Mar 21, 2019