A training hike of sorts; something long-ish and moderately challenging. A prep hike for an upcoming Solstice hike repeat.
Parking at the recently-opened summer trailhead, we made good time along the mostly flat trail and old forest road to the start of the Calkins Brook herdpath (our chosen route of ascent to the Seward Range today). Weather was dry but humid.
Calkins Brook herdpath in excellent shape - clear of blowdown, easy to follow. A few muddy spots and some erosion at the top end, but other than that, quite good.
We elected to visit Seward's summit first, and found the hike over to be trouble-free and quick. Not so much for the hike over Donaldson to Emmons. Some large annoying mud-pits along the top of Donaldson, and many little ups and downs and a longer-than-it-looks distance to Emmons. Plus lots of black flies. The trees are just high enough in most spots of interest to obscure views, save for the nice couple of lookouts near Donaldson's summit. I definitely prefer this ridgeline in the winter, when all of the roughness is covered up and the extra few feet of elevation (from the snow) gives you more views.
A long trudge back to the cars from Emmons rounded out an eleven-and-a-half hour day. Tiring, but a good workout.
Please refer to the link below for the full trip report with lots of pictures.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: June 2015 Seward Range via Calkins Brook
Originally the weather for the January 21-22 weekend was looking pretty bad. The previous week had seen yet more unseasonably warm and rainy weather, and the weekend looked to be more of the same. At the last minute, though, the forecast changed: Sunday's forecast changed to clear, calm, and with a reasonable (read: not too warm or too cold) temperature. Owing probably to the short notice, it was just Jenn and myself today. Things went our way all throughout the day - excellent weather, no problems at all on the approach road to the summer trailhead (potentially could have been tricky, or worse, blocked), and, apart from some strange January muddiness, the trails were in great shape - especially the Calkins Brook herdpath. Excellent condition. The views from the summits were great, and we finally met the infamous Pin-Pin! what an incredible and nice guy - glad to have finally met you. Pin-Pin and his crew blazed excellent paths along the Emmons-Donaldson-Seward ridge, and these no doubt helped us quite a bit. Thanks muchly! A long day, but all-in-all, a pretty easy 3-peak winter ascent of the Sewards! For more complete trip text, and for all of the pictures, click on the image gallery link below.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: January 2006 Sewards Range Hike
In January of 2004, Caroline, Ewart and I attempted this peak on one of the coldest days of the year. Unfortunately for us, we were unable to route-find successfuly up Seward through fresh snow. At below the 3000-foot level, we turned back. Now, I had heard about an alternate way up, the Caulkins brook route, which ascends from the west almost to the summit of Donaldson. I didn't have any good sense of whether or not it was an easily followable herd path or not, so we did not try it in January. But, perhaps we should have. For once, the forecast for the weekend looked absolutely perfect: clear, cool, low humidity. Caroline and Markus also needed this peak for their 46er list, and so all three of us headed down to the trailhead on Sunday, May 30. Along also were Ewart and a newcomer: Jen, friend and room-mate of Shannon, a BCer who wanted to hike some mountains after spending a little too much time in the Ontario flatlands. One huge bonus about the weather conditions was the fact that the night before had seen a good frost, and as a result, there were essentially no black flies to be seen - and this was prime black fly season in the Adirondacks! The hike to the Caulkins brook herdpath is quite easy. Follow the normal trail to the signed junction with the caulkins brook road (just a hiking trail now). Follow that road towards the Caulkin Lean-tos until just before the road intersects Caulkins brook. There is a small cairn marking the herdpath, which heads off to the left. The herdpath is quite easy to follow, with perhaps the only tricky bit the crossing of Caulkins brook itself - it is easy to miss the fact that the herdpath crosses. The crossing is not far up from the start of the herdpath, and if you arrive at a nice open area which looks good for a campsite, then you've gone too far. Additionally, my GPS tracklogs have a waypoint near this crossing. The rest of the way up gains the required 2000-foot elevation gain with remarkable ease, and for the most part the herdpath is in good shape, with only a bit of blowdown nearing the top. The herdpath deposits you almost at the summit of Donaldson, so if you want to do the Sewards as a loop (as we did), then this cuts of significant distance and effort by bypassing Seward entirely. Donaldson has two good lookouts, one east and one west, with fine views (and the weather is superbly clear and crisp, which helps). From Donaldson, the herdpath to Emmons is not too bad, but I question whether or not there is actually a 300-foot drop between the peaks - I think it is less than that, and so by all rights Emmons should perhaps not be a separate 46er peak. But whatever, if Couchie is part of the 46, then Emmons should be as well, I guess! Emmons has some limited views, especially towards the long lake area. Retracing our steps to Donaldson, we set out for Seward. The trail goes up and down a couple of times before climbing quite steeply up some rocky gulleys to near the summit. Sewards's summit is much less scenic than Donaldson's or Emmon's - essentially you don't see anything (oh, and BTW, the big summit marker signs are gone; all that is left are small trail markers with the name of the mountain written on them). From seward, the herdpath down has a couple of excellent views of Ampersand mountain and lake, and is also very steep, and continuously so. Finally, getting tired and weary, we eventually rejoin the main trail to the ward brook lean-to. Markus is complaining about a sore spot on one of his ankles (which later develops into a bit of tendonitis). From here, we march back along the mostly flat trail to the trailhead, with Markus counting the 'Posted' no trespassing signs along the way. 90+ signs in all - hmmm....
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: May 2004 Sewards Climb
The forecast for the entire Northeast on the second-to-last weekend in January 2004 was cold, cold, co-old! The forecast was for crisp, clear and lows of around -30C (before any wind chill). Caroline, Ewart and I decided to accept this challenge of nature, hone our cold-weather camping skills, and get out and exercise the old bones. The feature this time around was the Seward Range: Seward Mountain, Emmons Mountain, and Donaldson mountain. These three are all connected in one continous ridge. Normally one drives to a trailhead a fair ways up a gravel road off of route 3 between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. In the winter, however, the last 3.3 miles of the road are not plowed, and so we had to hike that extra distance both in and out. We got started somewhere between 1 and 2pm. We considered but elected not to use cross-country skiis. It was a long (but pretty flat) slog. We selected the Blueberry lean-to as our overnight camping spot, which we arrived at mid-dusk. We immediately set upon building our snow quinzee, which would give us a break from the bone-chilling nighttime low temperatures. Unfortunately there was [still] not that much snow depth at this elevation (2000'), and so we had to scrape far and wide to get enough snow together for the quinzee. This time (relative to last winter on the Whiteface winter camp) we made sure to build a raised flow such that the entrance was below the level of the floor, offering a block to heat escape. For dinner, Ewart brought along a concoction of meat and vegetables which he fired up into a tasty meal. We slept in relative comfort (although we built the inside a little too small, so we were cramped) from about 10pm to just before 6am, when we got up and braved a very cold winter morning. We fired up twto MSR stoves and made water, breakfast, and warmed our hands (with me melting a hole in my fleece mitts for good measure). Within an hour we were up and running, crunching along the trail eastwards towards the ward brook bridge and start of the herdpath up to Seward. The day was very clear and beautiful. It was unfortunately obvious that no one had been up Seward all that recently. There was an extremely faint indication of the last hikers up, and it was the best we could do to occasionally come across it and follow it for a while before it became too faint to follow. We managed to stay more-or-less on the herdpath route for a while, but as we gained elevation we lost it completely and entered what I now have come to dread on a winter bushwack : a belt of snowy, densely packed, short conifers. After a while of making very slow and tiring progress (until about 10:30am) we realized that, given the long hike out, we had to concede defeat and turn around. Hopefully I'll have someone else's route to follow the next time I'm out on a winter trailless peak! It took us no time at all to follow our tracks back down to the main trail and from there to our lean-to campsite, where we cooked up a hot lunch and packed our gear. The trek out was unventful and very quick. We covered the entire distance in about 3 hours and 20 minutes. So... another failed peak, but good exercise, company, and experience nevertheless.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: January 2004 Seward Mountain failed attempt