Pete Kamitses: First ascent of traditional 5.14a in Adirondacks

posted by dpm on 09/22/2011


Peter Kamitses is one of America’s most well-rounded climbers.  Like most Vermont natives he’s humble and low-key never taking anything too seriously, especially climbing.  He’s 35 years old and happily married with two adorable kids.  I guess you can say he’s your average New Englander, eh? 

But when he steps onto the rock he straight up kills it and has been for years.  He’s snagged the first ascent of sport routes as hard as 5.14d, like his link-up China Glide at Rumney, New Hampshire, but where he really shines is in applying his sport climbing strength to hair-raising traditional routes.  Over the past few years he’s left his mark on some of the last undone trad projects in New England like Illuminescence (5.13d) and Fire in the Sky (5.13c).  Last year, he visited Lake Louise for a spin up Sonnie Trotters famed route The Path (5.14a R) which never saw headlines.  (Click here for video of Sonnie on the first ascent)

Pete on his new route.  Photo courtesy of Dave Crothers/Climberism.

This time he’s claimed the first ascent of an intimidating crack system nestled deep within New York’s rugged Adirondack Mountains.  The route is located at the Tsunami Wall near Silver Lake.  Pete describes the Tsunami Wall as “30 degrees overhanging and 100 feet tall.  It is completely blank except for one line; a double crack system that splits the wall.  The climb starts at the top of a tall slab so you feel exposed right away.

The route starts on some ‘kitty litter’ granite before the rock gets bomber.  The crux involves a finger lock that was so painful Pete never practiced the move on toprope while rehearsing the climb.  “You get that fingerlock and you have to pull straight out, not down.  It felt like my finger would just break off.  You have to lock it at your waist and then reach to a slopey sidepull pod.  Then you have to unkey your finger, place gear in the middle of the crux, then start slapping between the crack features at one point controlling a wild foot cut.  When I first started leading the route I was trying to run it out through the crux but I took a huge fall and came within ten feet of the slab.  After that I figured it was worth stopping to place the pro despite it being so difficult.  The redpoint crux is at the top and pretty runout as well but safe with good gear a ways back.”

Photo: Dave Crothers/Climberism

As many New England climbers know, it’s oftentimes not the technical difficulty of the route that provides the most challenge.  The weather up there is wet and they don’t call it ‘New’  England for nothing.  Last summer, Pete had spent ten days toproping the climb in preparation for a lead attempt.  But a wet season stopped him short as the crack holds water for long periods of time.  This year he went back with towels and a blowtorch to dry the route.  After 4 days of lead efforts spread over the past month, Pete got his weather window and sent the climb on a perfectly breezy, 58 degree, fall day. 

The folks from Climberism, a New England based media site, were there to capture photos and videos and have been kind enough to share them with DPM.  Stay tuned for the video of Peter Kamitses on the first ascent of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (5.14a).  Click the image below for a big whipper teaser from a failed attempt.      

Video image: Youtube/Climberism

Here's some more video of Pete crushing a 5.14a in the St. George, Utah area.