Author takes a day off

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter several days of rain, we had some beautiful sunshine on Sunday. We spent the day climbing in Keene Valley with Michael Virtanen, author of  the novels The River’s Tale and Within a Forest Dark, both set in the Adirondacks. First we did Empress, a classic seven-pitch route on Chapel Pond Slab established in 1933 by Fritz Wiessner, a celebrated climber in his day. The photo shows Mike on the third pitch.

Afterward  we went over to the Beer Walls to climb  a couple of two-pitch routes. The better one was Sword, a clean arete with airy exposure and interesting moves. Mike also did a popular one-pitch crack called Seven Ounces (rated 5.7); I gave it a half-hearted stab but was too pooped and gave up.

For me, the psychological crux of Empress comes in the middle of the fifth pitch. After climbing a big crack to a ledge, you step onto a narrow foothold on a fairly steep slab, a few  hundred feet above the ground. Then you climb up the slab, relying on smaller toeholds and pure friction to keep from falling. Mike took this photo of my feet after I had stepped  out onto the slab. (To enlarge either photo, click it once to open a new page, then click it a second time.) — Phil Brown

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