We celebrated Brian's 27th winter 46R peak. A line of trees blocked the chill north wind from intruding too much on us here at the summit, and combined with the clear skies and strong pre-spring sun, it was quite balmy.
Congratulations on your W27
Joining us on the top were two other hikers, who had come up behind us as we were completing our ascent. They were also a pair where one member had completed their winter 46 and the other was aspiring to do so. We exchanged pleasantries and had them take a few photos of us. Selfishly, I was pleased that they had arrived, and that they were planning the same set of summits as we were - because now we knew we were going to have a freshly packed-out trail to hike on, going forward from this point.
We're feeling pretty good, and things are working out for us: the weather has sunnied up nicely and we've got an eager pair of hikers ahead of us further packing out the Range Trail. We continue our hike westward, enjoying the occasional open view westward towards our next objective: Armstrong Mountain. From our angle it presents a rounded forested form, and there's substantial col between us and it. Its summit's eastern slopes look pretty steep, and I know from experience that there is an especially steep step that in summer involves a long ladder. I wonder if this year's thick snowpack means it is entirely underground (undersnow?) today.
We soon arrive at this steep pitch on Armstrong's eastern approach and indeed, the ladder is nowhere to be seen. Instead we've got a very steep but generally firm snow slope; indeed, steep enough that it gives one that sense of "I don't want to slip here". However, there is essentially no ice to be found anywhere and the bite of the snowshoes into the firm snow is reassuring. Soon we are past this point and continuing a steep but winding and easy snowshoe track towards the summit of Armstrong.
Expanding view from Armstrong
We completed the hike to the 4400-foot summit of Armstrong in short order. The snowshoe track loses the official trail in a few places and as a result a bit of the journey is extra brushy. But soon enough we arrive at the open summit ledge of Armstrong and are greeted by a strong blast of icy wind. Additionally, we are also greeted with an amazing view of a fully and perfectly wintered Upper Great Range: Gothics, Basin, Haystack, Marcy - all of the great peaks, all beautifully coated in clean white blankets of snow; their manifold landslide faces turned into what look to be perfect alpine ski runs.
Arriving Armstrong summit ledge
I congratulate Brian on yet another fine Winter 46R peak - his 28th. Despite his only starting his 2023 winter ascent push in mid-February, he's done pretty well at making progress this year.
Although Armstrong is a rounded, treed summit - this one summit ledge makes it a worthwhile peak. The particular angle and proximity to the higher peaks of the Adirondacks provide a particularly superb and exciting view.
Brian and Upper Great Range
Andrew and Upper Great Range
Armstrong summit ledge view
Normally the open ledge on Armstrong would make a great lunch or snack break spot - but the gusty wind today encourages us to move on. We've got a lot of ground (some of it quite fun and exciting, too) to cover, so that's probably for the best.
The snowshoe track is a bit confused heading west from Armstrong's summit, and again I think we are off of the official path for a little bit. The thick snowpack continues to give us the occasional far-ranging view that we would not otherwise have in the summer. We dip down a bit into deeper forest, losing the views until we come to the crest of a small bump between Armstrong and Gothics. From here, we start to get some really close-up views of the great northeastern ridgeline on Gothics, where, in a short time from now, we'll be hiking!
Soon we reach the col between Armstrong and Gothics. Unlike the deep dip between Upper Wolfjaw and Armstrong, the low point here is very shallow - perhaps only 150 feet lower than the summit of Armstrong. As I've said for many years: Armstrong may be a 46R, but technically by the rules (one of which is at least 300 feet of prominence to neighboring peaks), it shouldn't really qualify.
We are sheltered from the gusty winds here in the col, and a small open meadow provides a warm and almost springlike place to stop for lunch.
Just as we started continuing off after lunch, the rear strap on my MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes snaps. Immediately thoughts of half-barebooting the rest of our long day play through my mind, but then, as we examine the failure more closely, I notice that the break is very near to one end of the strap and that there is a fair bit of spare tail on the other end. With a bit of fiddling, I was able to slide the strap along so that nearly all of that tail is used up, and - lo and behold - the broken end was still long enough to buckle my foot in.