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Rock & Ice Climbing in the Adirondacks

The Adirondack mountains and boulders of northeastern New York, already known as a destination for rock climbers, also offer some of the most challenging ice climbing routes on the East Coast.

At six million acres, hikers, paddlers, skiers and mountaineers can access even the most remote areas of the Adirondack Park. For rock climbers, some of the best routes can be found deep in the wilderness or right off the highway. Many of these climbing and bouldering locations are also used for ice climbing and ice bouldering. Some of them become harder to access during the winter. Either way - there's always a new line to follow and an interesting way to get there. 

In the Adirondack Park, granite is the dominant rock and you'll find steep blank faces, splitter cracks, crags, cliffs that jut out over lakes and very few people. The region's water sources and our winter weather help to form great routes for ice climbing each winter.

rock climbing in the Adirondacks

Adirondack Crags and Cracks

  • Long Pond Cliff near Indian Lake is a remote crag riding above Long Pond. At 80 to 150 feet tall, it offers incredible views and, given its off-the-beaten-path location, is one of least climbed rocks in the Adirondacks. Access via Indian Lake and canoe to John Mack Landing. A trail leads for 3 miles into the pond. Difficulty ranges from 5.3 to 5.8.This is a more difficult trail to reach for ice climbing.
  • Echo Cliff near Piseco offers challenging crack climbs overlooking scenic Piseco Lake. Access from Route 8 and follow West Shore Road along the lakeshore. The trailhead is located half a mile from Little Sand Point Campground. Difficulty ranges from 5.4 to 5.10a.
  • Cascade Lakes between Lake Placid and Keene offers some of the best-known climbing in the Adirondacks - for good reason. Find varied rock and classic Adirondack climbing routes - from Barkeater Cliff to Pitchoff Chimney Cliff. Access just off Route 73. Difficulty ranges from 5.3 to 5.10a. 
  • Poke-O-Moonshine near Keeseville and Lake Champlain is one of the Adirondack Region's premier cliffs for rock climbing. Expect a steep wall, clean cracks and plenty of natural lines. Three sections, including a waterfall, make this a great climb for experienced groups. Access via Exit 33 on I-87 and travel south on Route 9 for 4 miles. There is a parking area at the closed state campground. Difficulty ranges from 5.6 to 5.11a. 
  • McKenzie Pond in Ray Brook - Located near Saranac Lake, this forest of glacial erratic offers slabs, roofs, traverses, and highballs. Large granite boulders offer easy climbing challenges for beginners and plenty of moderately difficult routes to keep everyone occupied. Travel along Route 86 towards Saranac Lake from Lake Placid, taking a right onto McKenzie Pond Road in the town of Ray Brook. There is a sandy pull off about a quarter-mile down the road and the trail will be marked nearby.
  • Rogers Rock offers one of the Adirondacks' most unusual climbing experiences. This Lake George region climb features a slab that rises more than 700 feet out of Lake George, which is best approached from the water. Put in at the Roger's Rock Public Campground on Route 9N, about 3 miles north of Hague and enjoy a camping trip and challenging climbing experience on Lake George.
rock climber in the Adirondacks; image credit to Tyler Annalora

Adirondack Rock and Ice Climbing Guides and Outfitters

Contact these experts to find out where the best ice climbing is happening right now. During the summer, overnight Adirondack rock climbing experiences are available throughout the Adirondack Mountains. Hire a licensed climbing guide or plan an expedition with friends.

  • Adirondack Rock & River Guide Service

    Located in Keene, this guiding center offers licensed and experienced full-service lodging and guiding center to the Adirondacks' best climbing spots. Rates depend on the number of climbers in your party. Private guiding rates start at $110 per person for a group of three.

    • 615 Alstead Hill Rd, Keene, NY 12942
    • (518) 576-2041
  • Cloudsplitter Guides

    Located in Keene Valley, Cloudsplitter offers private guiding, climbing schools, summit climbs, as well as ski touring and alpine and backcountry climbing with licensed guides. Members of the American Mountain Guides Association of certified rock instructors. Rates depend on the number of people in your group and start at $74 per person for four people and one guide.

    • 1900 Route 73 Keene Valley, NY 12943
    • (518) 576-9096
  • Adirondack Mountain Guides

    Located in Keene, they offer rock and ice climbing with certified guides, as well as paddling and hiking excursions. Certified by American Mountain Guides Association. Rates depend on the number of climbers in the group. For groups of 10, rates start at $79 per person.

    • 36 Owls Head Ln Keene, NY 12942
    • (518) 576-9556
  • High Peaks Mountain Guides

    Located in Lake Placid, High Peak's certified staff offer climbing excursions, mountain biking, paddling, hiking and backpacking treks, as well as telemark skiing, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. Rates vary depending on the difficulty of the expedition. For a half-day, two-person beginner trip, rates start at $240 for up to three people.

    • 2733 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY 12946
    • (518) 523-3764
  • Alpine Adventures, Inc.

    Located in Keene, Alpine Adventure's certified mountain guides offer guided rock and ice climbing trips, as well as mountaineering and backcountry skiing expeditions. Prices vary and are available upon request.

    • 10873 Route 9N, Keene, NY 12942
    • (518) 576-9881
  • Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School

    Located in Lake Placid, this climbing school's certified climbing guides lead customized expeditions throughout the Adirondacks. Groups, private instruction and families with kids can choose a specifically tailored program. Rates vary but start around $150 for a full day of climbing with guided instruction.

    • 2453 Main Street, Suite 1, Lake Placid, NY 12946
    • (800) 310-4504
  • Rocksport Outdoor Guiding Center

    Five New York State licensed rock and ice climbing guides offer guided expeditions to some of the Adirondack Region's most popular cliffs including Roger's Rock. Rates start at $300 per person, per day.

    • 138 Quaker Road, Queensbury, NY 12804
    • (518) 793-4626

Did you know? Important Ice Climbing Phrases

  • Screaming barfies – Describes the level of pain ice climbers feel when feeling comes back in their hands after going numb while climbing. Sometimes you don't know whether to scream or barf. In a sentence: "Man, I hit that wall and wanted to scream and lose my lunch, you know, the screaming barfies."
  • Hang dog – To repeatedly rest on the rope while climbing, which denotes fatigue. In a sentence: "I am wiped, I totally hang-dogged that."
  • Hero ice – The sweet spot where ice is melting a bit, or is soft, and your ice pick sinks into the ice wall with ease. In a sentence: "Blue skies and hero ice, I've died and gone to climber heaven."
  • Dinner plates – Refers to the way very hard, cold ice breaks off in large circular chunks when a climber's pick sticks. In a sentence: "Whoa did you see those dinner plates? Talk about flying saucers!"

Resource Books for Rock Climbing in the Adirondacks

  • "Climbing in the Adirondacks: A Guide to Rock and Ice Routes in the Adirondack Park" by Don Mellor
  • "Adirondack Rock: A Rock Climber's Guide" by Jim Lawyer and Jeremy Haas
  • "Adirondack Trails High Peaks Region" by Tony Goodwin and Neil S. Burdick