Abbe (and friends’) MDC Camp Caving Trip!

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MDC Camp Trip ZWR survey 8/11-8/12 2018

Participants: Irina Eftimie, Nathan Roser, Abbe Hamilton

Entered: 1:00 am 8/11, Exited: a leisurely 1:00 pm 8/12.

We pursued two leads that Scott and Stevan had bolted and rigged previously, both off the Pulpit Room. There is an ongoing and spirited debate about whether the squeezy crawl from Titanic to Pulpit is actually an easier route than climbing the spoogey Titanic slope-rope, ascending the bolt climb rope at ZW8 and traversing over to the Pulpit Room from above.

The first lead, ZWR, was off ZWF34 (February 2018 work weekend survey) over a ~26’ pit with a nice rimstone pool at the bottom. We tied into an additional set station on the far side of the pit but could not read the station number. The approach to the tight keyhole lead involved a heroically rigged traverse along the edge of the pit and a 17’ ascent. The pool was situated as to make excellent plunking sounds as mud and rock tumbled down on the climb. Surveyed passage extended 131’ back (16 stations) along a sinuous, 2’ wide passage with a floor channel. There were several places where a switchback in the passage coincided with a breakdown block or some other projection that could only be overcome with  wild contortions and multilingual cursing. Station ZWR12 marked a narrowing of the fissure to about 1’ wide. We shuffled each survey team member up to the constriction (climbing over one another to reorder ourselves). To the dismay of all parties, I was able to find a way to climb the fissure about 7’ (with much shoulder-standing and words of encouragement) up into a higher, marginally wider section of passage. Irina followed, Nathan could not. This upper level was well-decorated with soda straws and flowstone, and the terminal shot of ZWR16 marks a too-tight formation choke with moderate airflow.

Irina de-rigged the ZWR drop and traverse on the way back to ZWF34. From there, we dropped the Grand Finale pit and ascended a second, shorter rope into the second lead of the day, about 30’ up the wall of Grand Finale. This was an extremely steep, sandy, hands-and-knees tunnel that ran 20’ up to a giant boulder, embedded in mud. The boulder plugged the entire passage except for a scant 3-4” gap above, and the space beyond it is large, dark and echoey. Irina and Nathan halfheartedly swung a hammer at it for awhile, and I hopped back into the Pulpit room and then back up to the ZWF34 pit to listen for any evidence of sound connection. There was no apparent connection: the void on the other side of the boulder appears to be separate from surveyed passage, likely a level between the Pulpit room below and the ZWF34 pit above. Some other means of persuasion will be necessary to get the boulder out of the way for the sweet booty beyond. We left that 20’ tunnel unsurveyed and the rope rigged,  and ascended Grand Finale for the second time that day (what a stellar pit!), reconvened with the Scott and Stevan team at the top of the January 2018 bolt climb (ZW8) to redistribute bolts, ropes and etriers. Some were left above the ZW8 rope, the rest returned to camp.

Leads killed: ZWF34 (the ZWR passage)
Leads remaining: The boulder choke in a tunnel halfway up the Grand Finale.

Other needs: at least two new water jugs as one in the Pinnacle Room and one in the Columbia Canyon water sources are broken enough to be ineffective.

A moment:
There is a moment of profound stillness halfway up the Puppet Buster rope. We are all battered and sore from the night and day of caving that came before. Nathan is still halfway up the upper rope by the time I make it to the rebelay. I clip into the midway bolt and wait as he climbs, heavy breathing and a periodic clink of vertical gear the only sound of his progress. My roped perch is unusually comfortable.  I give weight to my chest strap and recline in the [totally subjective] security generated by visual contact with the bolt supporting me. The moment is mundane: there is nothing to do but wait in the stillness, observing the ascender inches from my face. The moment is extravagant: suspended on a wall, fifty feet in either direction from a place to stand, hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth.

I contemplate the ceiling fifty, sixty feet above with Nathan’s figure suspended slightly in the foreground. A steady, regular chain of sparkly beads fall toward my light, just beyond my craned head. The drips pass beyond me, down through the darkness.  I extend my arm and interrupt their passage with my palm. The ceiling is smooth and pleasantly scooped, a simplification of the jagged and rock-strewn floor far below. Below me is a breakdown block the size of a camper with no apparent origin on the wall or ceiling. I see the low glow of Irina’s light from the bottom of the lower rope, beyond the suspended breakdown blocks and fifty feet below. She begins to sing a wordless, vaguely classical tune. The resonance in the giant, otherwise silent and still passage compliments the piece. My only purpose is to listen to one friend struggle and the other sing. Usually it is easy to forget that 99.9% of MDC’s existence is in absolute silence and stillness. Right now, this is easier to conceptualize. The moment is pedestrian.

The moment is exceptional. This respite has in it the endless feeling of a geologic time scale, but lacks the associated loneliness.

Irina’s song, the only distinct word of which was “joy”, has morphed to “Baby One More Time”. I join in as Nathan grunts and growls his way into the Puppet Buster. The moment is over. Our egress continues.

e pal and em shan are Constantly Screaming

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(Today’s post was contributed by our very own e pal. Have an adventure the world needs to see? Come find Mike during a meeting or email him your trip!)

It started off with a bang. or, like, a little whistle. maybe more of a slow constant scream?


emshann, my wonderful, hard-working, baking partner (the best hand mixer I’ve ever met!),
planned an amazing trip, split equally between type I and type II fun, service-filled, friend-full, lovely.
although certain ~details~ didn’t quite turn out (show up?) the way they were planned, the five of
us—emshann, Claire, Vera, Elliott with two t’s and two l’s and two r’s, and me—had such a grand time!
this was one of the first suoc trips I’ve ever been on that’s left exactly on time (shoutout to
emshann & Vera!). we had a lovely drive into Adirondack Park, listening to emshann’s ADK playlist, with
a mandatory stop at Stewart’s, and a pee break on the side of the road, surrounded by just-past-peak
fall foliage.


we arrived at the Adirondack Loj around the time the sun began setting; we were treated to a
glimpse of Heart Lake, and given the chance to set up a tent before the darkness settled in. Elliott and
Claire arrived soon after we did, and we made a group dinner of radiator-o’s (reminiscent of childhood
spaghettio’s; the glass lid to the pot was left at home, and so, we happily resigned ourselves to a liquidy
tomato pasta soup!). since Elliott had expressed that we were taking away his birthday weekend,
emshann thought to bake him a cake. she and I bake a classic chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, ran
into a road block with the question of “how to transport”, said “fudge it!”, shoved it into a plastic Ziploc,
and called it a day. when we asked if Elliott was ready for his birthday surprise, he hesistated (for fear of
an ice??), but I think everyone was wholesomely surprised when we emerged from the car (and
darkness, as we had requested everyone switch off their headlamps) with a slightly squished, top-
frosted-only cake, with emshann’s small pink camo lighter acting as a candle.
after the pot of pasta was finished (and emshann forced Elliott to take some for lunch for the
next day—spoiler, it leaked), four of us settled into a slightly-sardined tent situation—squished, but not


we had a nice start the next day; layers and packs were organized the night before, so when
everyone’s little teethies were brushed and little toesies were in boots, we headed to the information
center for a breakfast feast provided by the AMC! Bagels (and toasters!), pb & j, cream cheese, yoghurt,
oats, cereal, granola bars, apples, coffee, hot chocolate! pb cookies! what a treat!
emshann signed our group in, handed over our waivers, and we were sent over to meet our
crew leader Anna (Ah-na). Harris Eisenhardt and Collin Borzell joined our group and we all grabbed hazel
hoes and began our hike in!


Anna led us from the loj trailhead to Marcy Dam as emshann and I recounted a terrifying
encounter from the month prior: The Juiicy Bear of Marcy Dam. we stopped for a quick group picture on
the bridge spanning the dam and began our trail work shortly after the dam crossing. as we made our
way through avalanche pass, Anna instructed us on how to utilize our hazel hoes to clear the drainage
ditches along the trail.


our trail work ended around the base of Colden, just short of the “adult playground” Anna
almost plummeted off last summer (right before the DEC rebuilt the ladders and bridges!), and we sat
by the water for our lunch. Elliott discovered the joys of tortillas spread with pb and the gifts of raining gorp from above, and Harris introduced us all to the newly released fruit & greens lara bars, complete
with the taste of fruit & greens, and texture of leather. leftover frosting from birth boy’s cake was
packed & shared, celebrating with spoonfuls at every stop along the way.
from avalanche lake, we made the short 3-4 mile hike back to the loj, dropped packs, and
headed to lake placid for dinner. we took a little loop around the main street, and while Colin and Harris
dined on frozen treats, Vera and Claire opted for a warmer option: hot chocolate with homemade
marshmallows. once the line at wyatt’s died down, we replenished it. the seven of us all dined on
delicious veggie burritos and quickly fell into tired, full boi comatoses.


back at the campground at the loj, we joined the boob marshall club for a little campfire &
catching up with some returners and introductions to first years. many marshmallows were lost to the
fire, and by the time someone dropped the fourth, my eyelids had drooped closed, and I called it a night.
although we planned to make cheesy trash bagels (courtesy of my dumpster dive behind
bruegger’s earlier in the week) and tea by heart lake (how wholesome!), the wind and hail on our tent in
the morning deterred us heavily. we found ourselves crowded around a table we didn’t deserve to
inhabit inside the loj, warm and still sleeping, munching on surprise (flavour) bagels, attempting to
spread nearly frozen butter on every bite. emshann stopped this nonsense by warming the sticks in the
armpit of her puffy and saving the entire endeavor.


emshann and I headed back, listening to her scary car ride playlist (look her up on spotify,
people. some quality tunes compiling going on over here), and Vera headed back to Syracuse with Claire
and Elliott. a surprise meet up at a stewart’s in Harrisville was exciting to say the least! ice cream was
bought! Elliott put ice cream in his coffee! people emptied their bladders!
then everyone made it back to Syracuse safely, soundly, and everyone gave their drivers gas


What’s New for Fall 2018?

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The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and you’ve got a nagging feeling you should buy school supplies – the fall semester is almost upon us once again. While we’re all going to miss our extended summertime adventures, at least the school year means SUOC is back, ready for another incredible year of trips and shenanigans. Whether you’re a returning member or a brand new friend, the information below should help you get up to speed with all things SUOC this semester:


When and where are regular meetings this semester?

Meetings will be every Tuesday at 7:30 in the Life Sciences Building Auditorium. Meetings run between an hour to an hour and a half long, with trips announced towards the end of the evening. You can start coming to meetings at any time – as the ancient proverb says:

“The best time to join SUOC is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

No experience needed – just come say hi, and sign up for a trip!


Do you have some sort of meeting for people who are generally interested?

Yup! Our General Interest meeting will be at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, September 11th in Grant Auditorium. This meeting – which is significantly larger than most of our regular meetings – will go over a lot of the basics of who we are and what we do, which will also be covered at the first few regular meetings of the semester. If you’re a little overwhelmed by the number of people, don’t worry – things tend to thin out once the semester gets going.


Can I come talk about the club at some fair-type events?

HECK YES! In fact, we’ll be at three involvement fairs early in the semester:

  • 8/30: ESF Activities Fair, on the ESF Quad
  • 9/4: SU Club Sports Fair, in Flanagan Gymnasium
  • 9/5: SU Involvement Fair, on the SU Shaw Quad

Come say hi, and sign up to get reminders about the general interest meeting!


What do y’all do as a club?

So much! We do almost every outdoors sport you can imagine (the full list is under that “About” tab up above), as well as a bunch of non-sporting events throughout the year! There’s some more information on our About page, all throughout this website, and in our Facebook Group.

We’re getting real excited to see you all again! Have a great end of your summer, and see you in September!

Goons in the Gunks

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An odyssey of Conor O’Sullivan and Ben VanderStouw

About thirty minutes into the car ride, Conor looked over at me. “Oh no. Dude, can you check the trunk?”
I unbuckled my seatbelt and slid into the back.
We turned around to grab Conor’s helmet sitting in our living room.

We got to New Paltz – a town full of pubs and New York City dwellers escaped for the weekend – around 8:00. We found a little parking lot to sleep in, camping in the back of Conor’s luxury Toyota Prius. We ended up getting around ten hours of sleep that night, the most we’ve had all semester!

We got up at 7AM, ate some breakfast, and headed to the crag. The Gunks are famous for their world-class multipitch traditional climbing, with very tough grades. Many climbers from elsewhere in the country are humbled by a Gunks 5.9.

Many of the routes were closed because of peregrine falcon nesting, so it was quite crowded. We saw some other parties do some WILD things like top-roping with just a rope around a tree and making just terrible anchors.

We climbed a route called Madame Grunnenbaum’s Wulst, or Madame G’s (5.6). This climb is usually completed in three pitches, being 210 feet, but we linked the second and third for a 170’ rope-drag-filled extravaganza! It was hard getting to the top because there was so much friction in the system (gotta bring up more draws next time!).

I ended up taking a 20’ whipper on the first pitch of Something Interesting (5.7+), and to my dismay I had to leave my trusty green Alien Cam that caught my fall. I was too tired and spooked afterwards to lead the next pitch, so we lowered back to the ground.

The view from the walls is absolutely beautiful, with the Catskill mountains framing a big open sky.

Conor was going to lead a route called Three Pines (5.3), but the German party in front was taking a long time, so we left.

After we made some vegan/gluten free garbage plates and called it a day!

What great way to procrastinate Organic Chemistry.

Stay Wild, Not Mild.

This post contributed by Ben VanderStouw. Do cool things? Want to share? Email us at


Emily Shannon is Looking Good, Feeling Good, Looking Good, and Being Safe

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Around 9 PM on Friday night, I was starting to get a little nervous. I was about two hours out of Syracuse and about three hours of walking into the Black River Wild Forest, a 130,000 acre forest preserve in the southwestern Adirondacks. We had been expecting a relatively easy hike in for the first day of our trip, but instead had found the trail untouched and hard to follow, with unmarked turns and snow-hidden creeks slowing us the entire way. It had gotten dark about an hour earlier, meaning that we were making even slower progress – and that we kept having to backtrack, mistaking small clearings and gaps in the woods for the narrow trail we were following.
But soon enough we saw our lean-to – a squat little shelter left over from the 30s, when the CCC remade the Adirondacks with federal funds. I was thrilled. The only thing I cared about was getting into the shelter and going to sleep for the night.
Emily Shannon, though, had some other things on her mind. “See that rock?” she asked, pointing to a small boulder off the side of the trail.
I was confused. “Yeah?”
“Someone had to put that there,” she said. “What an idiot.”


So goes hiking with SUOC’s newest backpacking leader, who passed her ghost lead with flying colors this past Saturday. With a small trip to Chub Lake (and some outstanding backcountry pizza), Emily demonstrated her abilities as a backpacker and a leader, and did it in the traditional Em Shan style. With this trip, Em is now a leader in both three-season and winter backpacking, and is excited to take on her role as Backpacking Chair in the year to come.

If you see Em Shan, make sure you say congrats – and make sure you sign up for her next trip!