Friday, January 24, 2014

A Sense of Place

Platte Clove, one of the places where I've ice climbed the most, will always remain special. This rugged, unique ravine has more ice in it during a good winter than most other places around the northeast. In fact, it's a little bit like the Shawangunks to the south. The route concentration is high and many of the climbs are very good.

Huge hemlock trees, on slopes so steep loggers couldn't access them, adorn the walls of Platte Clove. Normally, hemlocks are part of the undergrowth. They prefer the shade and cooler temperatures than most other trees found in the Catskill forests. In Platte Clove many of the Hemlocks, especially on the north-facing slopes, have trunks that are 2-4' in diameter.  I stop frequently to admire them.

They mottle the sunlight, and create a wooded, almost mystical climbing experience - something that's rare here, where our forests are composed largely of deciduous trees. In the Devil's Kitchen and near Bridalveil Falls this makes the light very yellow in the afternoon. At the Dark Side and in the Black Chasm the trees make it feel almost like it's dark outside, even on a bright day

Every time I traverse the north-facing slope on my way to the Dark Side, or pass the old stone quarry on the way to the Chasm, or stop next to the old stone bridge to put my crampons on before entering the Kitchen I'm reminded that Platte Clove is one of my favorite places.

The climbing there is good too. Over the past decade or so I've climbed in the clove a lot yet the place still yields new lines, and cliffs keep getting discovered (perhaps re-discovered). Over the long weekend I spent four days in the Catskills. Three of them were in Platte Clove and I had an incredible time climbing with good friends. After many years it amazes me that I can go to a place I've been to hundreds of times before and climb new climbs. Many of the established climbs are very fine too.

There comes a time in every person's life when the invincibility of youth is replaced by a sense of realism. Some folks have this reality forced upon them early. Others, not so much. My bout of paroxysmal a-fib (I chronicled this in my last post) reminded me not to take for granted my mobility and the ability to scramble, explore and climb in wild places. At some point this ability is taken from all of us and I want to enjoy every visit to special places like Platte Clove.

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