To Nippletop and Dial
Welcome to February! Today's trip report describes a great winter day-loop up two Adirondack 46Rs that are sandwiched between the Great Range and the Dix Range: Dial and Nippletop Mountains. The imperative to do these particular two peaks stemmed from my friend Brian's newly-stated goal of completing his Adirondack Winter 46 (Brian is already a regular 46R and in the process has already completed quite a few in winter). I was more than happy to help Brian to achieve this admirable goal, and thought about what would make for an appropriate outing at this point. After scanning his to-do list, Dial and Nippletop seemed like the perfect set of peaks to help us ease back into longer distance routes (after a relative hiatus during the years of the pandemic).
We started off from the AMR hiker parking lot (fortunately the now-mandatory reservation system does not apply between Nov 1 and April 30) around 8 am - perhaps a little later than ideal, but still likely early enough for us to complete the mountain portion of our hike before dark. It was a cool but clear morning, with a forecast that called for a steady rise in temperature during the day, almost to around the freezing mark.
We had no idea what the current conditions were like up on the peaks (especially given this winter's wild fluctuations of temperature and precipitation types), so we brought all manner of aids with us: snowshoes, microspikes, full crampons, and an ice ax. There was a thin layer of ice and snow on the access road into the AMR area, so we put on our microspikes right from the car.
Everything seemed as usual with the AMR golf course area. We walked towards the beautifully preserved Beede Heights Hotel, turned left (onto Lake Road) before reaching it, then walked slightly downhill to the trail register at the elaborately-wrought wooden gate.
After registering, we marched at a brisk pace up the hard-packed Lake Road. It wasn't long at all before we reached the junction with the lower end of the H.G. Leach trail. This trail leads up and over the long ridgeline that culminates in Nippletop. However, we were doing a loop such that we would be coming back down this trail. So, for the moment, we ignored the Leach trail and continued marching up Lake Road.
A short way further up Lake Road, we encountered a fellow hiker and began chatting. He introduced himself as Robert, and after a few minutes of talking with him, he recognized Brian and I - turns out, he was a user of alavigne.net! He also asked about my dog - which confused me for a bit - but then I realized that he must been talking about Mike - Julie Moran's dog - and must have got that impression from one of the several trips that Julie and Mike had done with us.
About an hour after heading out from the car, we arrived at the junction with the side trail that we were looking for: The Gill Brook trail. This trail angles off to the left, following the bank of a burbling mountain brook (unsurprisingly named Gill Brook) that leads more or less straight down from Elk Pass. And Elk Pass is the low point between Mounts Colvin and Nippletop. And the northwest approach trail to Nippletop's ridgeline begins its ascent from Elk Pass. Ergo, this was our desired direction of travel.
We said goodbye to Robert here, who, despite also being destined for Nippletop and Dial today, also wanted to take in the Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs lookouts, and so was continuing straight ahead up Lake Road. Perhaps we'd cross paths again later in the day.
We started off up the Gill Brook trail. There was very little to no snow pack, and we continued hiking in microspikes. One of the Gill Brook trail's great qualities is that it mostly hugs the banks of the creek - and the creek itself is very fun and lively, with all sorts of little water features: rapids, cascades, little waterfalls. There was a lot of flowing open water today - surprising given that we were in the middle of February - but also not surprising given the overall warm winter we were having.
It was very enjoyable to follow the Gill Brook trail as it cleverly wound its way along the banks of the creek. The combination of the water features and the partially-frozen creek made for some truly amazing ice features - intricate formations of all sorts, rushing cascades of water running over the top of snow and ice, and periodic stretches of open water, where we could see the rounded river rocks under the clear, crisp flow. We did a lot of stopping, looking, and picture-taking along this stretch.
Enclosed Frozen Waterfall