Lake George

Lake George
Lake George - from Tongue Mtn Range - 11/11/2011

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wallface Mountain (3700') from Upper Works - 10/13/14

I've heard some unpleasant stories from hikers who have climbed Wallface Mountain.  Like any of these bushwhack hikes, it's often hit or miss on what kind of terrain you run into.  Recently though, I heard about a route that wasn't so painful.  I headed for Wallface today, with my dog Rev, to confirm that story.

This was my 2nd day in a row starting from the Upper Works trailhead.  Yesterday I hiked to Duck Hole with my wife, Leesa, and Rev.  Today Leesa was working, so it was a good time to try and grab another bushwhack peak on the ADK 100 highest list. 

Rev and I got started at 9:05.  It was 36 degrees and overcast.  No rain was forecast, but I was prepared just in case.  You never know when the weather might change in the mountains.

Nice bridge over Indian Pass Brook

A first look at Wallface Mountain

We made quick work of the Indian Pass trail and we were at the start of the herd path in an hour and 20 minutes.  Once you get into the base of Indian Pass, the trail crosses from the left side of the brook to the right.  To climb Wallface, you don't cross the brook.  You stay on the left side of the brook. You'll see a cairn that marks the start of the herd path.   Very quickly there is a 2nd cairn that marks a turn to the left for a campsite.  The campsite is probably illegal since it is less than 150' from the brook and there is not a a "camp here" disc.  Continue to hug the left side of the brook and you will see a faint herd path and nicely placed miniature cairns.

The cairns mark a climbers path that leads to the base of the Wallface cliff.  This is a location where many climbers go to rock climb.  It's not intuitive that this would also be a good direction to head to climb the mountain, but once you reach the base of the cliff, you can work your way up the left side along the cliff base and walk in ferns for the most part instead of thick spruce.

The cairns end here at the base of the cliff

Ferns at the base of the cliff make easier climbing than through the spruce.  

Wallface cliff

Climbing here isn't bad

Of course all good things must end.  As you get near the top of the left edge of the cliff, there is some thick brush right up to the edge of the cliff.  If you go slightly away from the cliff base at that point, it opens up a little bit and the walking is easy.

At the end of the cliff band, I immediately turned right and began climbing the final incline to the summit plateau.  The going wasn't bad.  I scouted the trees ahead of me and was able to climb with little difficulty.

Once on the plateau, the trees were thicker and it was a little harder to maneuver.  I clawed through a couple spots and soon found view to the N-NW.  I believe I was looking at Wallface Ponds in the distance.

A first (and only) view that I found.

A zoom view...

I continued along the plateau and found the apparent high ground.  There was a large bolder at this location that may mark be the high point.  I didn't see any sign, disc, cairn or any man-made indicator.  

The summit...

From the other side...
Supposedly there is a faint herd path that leads to a viewpoint on the top of the cliff that offers views east and NE, but I didn't see it.  I was very windy on top, but Rev and I explored around a bit.

I had enjoyed the route I had taken on the climb so I backtracked along the same line to head down the mountain.  It's worth the climb just to go as far as the base of the cliff, or partway up the left side. The summit itself isn't as nice, in my opinion.   

Going back down.  Occasionally I had a glimpse of the sun.

Rev at the top of the climbers herd path

A last look up the cliff

Still some color on the trees, but it is falling fast.

On the way out, I spent some time exploring the bottom of Indian Pass.  There are some huge glacial erratics, some caves, and some underground streams.  At one point, right along the herd path, you come across a cave below some boulders and you can hear water rushing, but the ground looks dry. You would need a ladder or a rope to get down in there.  The whole area is fascinating. 

The bottom of Indian Pass Brook 

After that, I was back on the Indian Pass Trail and back at the car at 2:50 PM.  On the way out, I noticed there is a relatively new interpretive sign in front of the McNaughton Cottage that details the buildings that used to exist at Upper Works.  It's a nicely done sign and worth a read. 

The new sign at McNaughton Cottage
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  9.5 miles
Hike Time:  5.75 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 2150' 

The route (Click image to enlarge)

The Nat Geo map with the route


  1. There are two major talus caves in Indian Pass. W H Lyman Cave is about 2500 ft long and under and east of a huge cracked rock visible from the first ladder on the trail. The second, TSOD (Touchy Sword of Damacles) is the largest known talus cave in the world. It reportedly has 13,000 ft of passage and 350 entrances. The "Guide to the Caves and Karst of the Northeast "has more info and maps of both caves.

  2. Thanks for the info! This is really fascinating to me. At first I googled to confirm what you were saying; I had no idea that there are caves in Indian Pass. I found some information, but very little. Do you have more info you can share with me, either as a reply to this post, or as an email?

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Howdy! My wife and I are the adopters of the Wallface lean-to. Indian Pass is one of my favorite places in the park - fascinating, as you say. We're actually heading up to the lean-to this weekend to check in, and then we plan to go up into the pass to poke around - it's a giant playground! Looming cliffs and talus caves (and I read somewhere rumors of treasure hidden in a cave in the Wallface cliffs) can you go wrong? Great post...we're big fans of your blog!

    1. Nice to hear from you. My wife and I are the adopters of the Herbert Brook lean-to.

      I will be back in Indian Pass soon just to spend a day exploring around the pass and look for caves.

      Your lean-to looks nice. Maybe I'll see you out there sometime.