Moss Island Clean-Up

With a Side Trip to 9 Corners

by Jay Harrison


Moss Island

A pre-sunrise start, bleary-eyed despite the usual strong coffee fuel-up, took us shakily westward. A regular on Rockclimbing.com had posted a general invitation to Moss Island's clean up day, and I, recuperating from shoulder surgery, saw this as a good excuse to look around that area despite my Physical Therapist's strict prohibition on climbing.

The day before had ended late for both of us; consequently,we forgot a few things. A map, for one: after realizing it wasn't in the car, I banked my hopes on Todd knowing the way. Robin just shook her head, in too deep already to escape. This could be a long drive. Picking up Todd in Johnsburg, he confirmed that his last visit, nearly fifteen years earlier, had been from an entirely different direction. We were swimming in uncharted waters.

We stumbled south and westward across the intangible map,and providentially dropped ourselves into Little Falls without realizing we'd managed it, and well: we arrived an hour early. For those who are interested, our path followed Route 8 to Route 30 south, west on Route 29A through Gloversville to Route 170A, to plain old 170 for the descent into Little Falls. Cutting off Rt. 30 through Benson on Rt. 125 might save a bit more time for those of us traveling from the northeast.

After a short stop for sustenance, we headed to the mainland cliffs sprinkled between railroad tracks and Route 5, for a quick exploration before heading to the island proper. We drove like tourists in search of River Road, pulling ourselves out of traffic flow onto this empty street before causing much road rage. Shortly past the Recycling Center/Sewage Treatment Plant, River Road is blocked off, gradually decaying past the barrier. The undergrowth is thick and liberally coated with poison ivy here, so we turned back looking for easier access to the cliffs listed in Todd's 1990s-era guidebook. Beside the overpass, a rough road leads to the railroad tracks, providing a clear and close approach trail.

The first outcrop lies on the edge of densely-posted private property, just before reaching the railroad tracks. It is short, a bouldering venue, with an overhang hiding a fantastic vertical shaft leading fifteen feet to the top ledge. The shaft appears very "doable," I was tempted to try, but wearing dress shoes and with one lame arm, I resisted the urge.

Water shafts are common in the Little Falls rock; apparently this was a main drainage point during one of the glacial periods. We passed by dozens of potholes and scour grooves throughout the day. Most of the shafts are filled in with debris and in many case, pools, indicating no or small water exits. We chose not to plumb the depths of any of the pools we found; as that first deep one made such acts seem perilously foolish.

We continued down the tracks to the pond area, where a narrow pool lay between us and a long, promising cliff. Several good cracks ran the height of this cliff; they must be fine lines, though several of them would require a boat belay, and the entire cliff appears to get very little attention.

By this time, we were pretty sure our spare time was used up, and we headed back to the car. Sure enough, we were now officially late for the show by about fifteen minutes, so we made haste across the bridge and down to the parking lot. Todd and I headed up the road, while Robin opted for the walkway beside it, expecting the two to converge before long. The two of us walked across the lock and down Moss Island, all the while waving to Robin across the canal and peering ahead for signs of a bridge. After a quarter mile, there was none in sight, so Robin turned back to rejoin us.

Todd and I turned a corner in the road and came upon a score of girl scouts ambitiously raking at the verge. At a table near the center of activity, the event leader, Dave, stood directing the action. Scouts and troop leaders dominated the turn-out, but several climbers were also busy pruning brush and piling debris beside the road. Todd and I began collecting trash along the canal until Robin joined us, then we headed up to the top of the cliff to collect more garbage there.

The area was pretty clean, already. With the exception of one foul mess, there was very little for us to do. I spent a short while pruning branches back from a top-anchor herd path, and took some photos of the activity below, before we headed back down to the lawn.

Dave had left for provisions, but returned about the same time we descended. We took the opportunity to introduce ourselves, hawk the upcoming Southern Adirondack Rock Climbers' Festival, and make sure the event was wrapping up before saying good-bye and heading back to the car.

While walking among the mainland crags, I flushed a grouse off her nest.

Girl Scouts arrive with shade trees to plant along the path.

Greg clears a route that had grown in thickly.

Girl scouts paint the signs along the canal to help preserve them.

A few folks managed to fit in a climb or two.

The Boulders at Nine Cornered Lake

Todd passes the Gatekeeper, V8

On the ride homeward, we needed some exercise to work off a big lunch, and having seen the trailhead for Nine Corners Lake, we decided to hike in for a quick look at the bouldering locale. It's about 20 minutes' easy walk up a gently rising trail to get to the first boulders. Only one junction along the way might cause trouble: continue on the right fork. The left fork works around the lake's west shore, while most of the boulders lie near its southeast shore. Once at the lake, a campsite lies just above a piled-stone dam. Cross the dam and head directly into the woods to reach the closest ones, or wander along the lake with an eye toward the woods.

There's plenty there. Big boulders lie solo and in several clusters, and at least one ledge big enough to top-rope is among the options here. We spent an hour wandering northward, just looking at the possibilities. We saw people heading in with crash pads on their backs, and met a large group from Pennsylvania bouldering near the lake, but the area is so large it seemed empty. There is plenty of chalk-sign on many boulders, but significant moss, lichen, and crud lies on many enticing lines, so either the place is far from played out or it doesn't get nearly enough traffic...yet.

We didn't stay long, so there isn't much to write about. Once my shoulder is functional, we hope to return, maybe camp along the shore with our ladies, and spend some quality time swimming, bouldering, and relaxing. It's a perfect autumn retreat for wilderness lovers. In the absence of eventful grist this time round, the pictures can tell the rest of the story.

This might be Tea Time, V0.

Contemplating the Tower of Power, V0

Peeking around Tower of Power.

Unidisclosed Line on Tower of Power's
other side.

Undeveloped or neglected? Not sure.
Plenty more like this here.

Working on Hawaii 5.0, V5

A group from PA works Star Scream, V1