Brian needed to cross Cliff off of his ten remaining unclimbed 46er list, and I offered to help him out. Given the time of year, I suggested we go for the Flowed Lands approach.
We could not have asked for a better day for an ascent of Cliff Mountain via the Flowed Lands: the conditions were absolutely perfect. The temperature was below freezing at night, and had been for many days, and so the snowpack was very firm and perfect for a bushwhack climb. The forecast high was nicely above freezing, and the skies were crystal-clear.
Upon reaching the beginning of the bushwhack, we encountered a very nicely defined use track. And as it turned out, this use track threaded it's way very nicely up the northern slopes of Cliff, hitting many open areas and avoiding any serious bushwhacking. To top it off, views on this glorious day were fantastic. More information and lots of pictures available in the main report (link below).
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: March 2009 Cliff Mountain via Flowed Lands
The second day of our 2-day Marshall/Cliff trip. After having spent a semi-sleepness night with the battling varmints under our lean-to, we got up shortly after 5am to prep for Ewart's arrival at the lean-to. He was only interested in the climb of Cliff, and so was hiking in early to team up with us just for today.
We were choosing to ascend Cliff via the 'Flowed Lands' side, rather than the official herdpath route that leads up from the other side, near the uphill Lean-to. We were doing it this way because it was shorter (from where we were) and in my opinion, it was more open way up. I'd done this route once before in 2004 (link) with Markus and Caroline, and we had followed someone else's excellent track up. Given the recent snows, I wasn't expecting a track this time, but I did have my GPS tracklog from the 2004 ascent and would use that to recreate the route.
The walk across the flowed lands gave us a view of the forested ridge of Cliff Mountain above us. The start of the route is basically along the southeast edge of the Flowed Lands under Cliff Mountain (see my track map for details). There was, as we had expected, no track, so it was going to be a full trailbreak all the way to the summit. It was now about 7am, so we had lots of time to cover the one mile between the edge of the Flowed Lands to the summit.
It was good that we'd started early. It was slow going, breaking trail and navigating, all the while attempting to shake the loose snow off of trees before bushwacking through them. There spruce-trap rate was quite high, too, further slowing us. Ewart fell far behind as we ascended - his greater weight meant that he was breaking through and falling into spruce traps that Jenn and I had managed to successfully traverse over. When we stopped, we could hear a long stream of curses from far below us. There were several times where the difficulty of the conditions brought me close to calling for an abort of the climb. We were close, though, only a few hundred yards away now.
Perserverance won out. At 10:30, 3.5 hours after starting up from the edge of the Flowed Lands, we reached the summit sign on Cliff. Boy, was I glad that was over! We enjoyed the relatively good views from the summit of Cliff, taking in the shining white summits of the newly-snowed-upon peaks all around us. Dark clouds and shifting sunlight provided some great photo opportunities.
We were in a bit of a rush, hoping to get back home for an engagement in the evening, so we stayed at the top for only five minutes and then started back down at a good clip, enjoying much better progress going downhill on a defined track. On the way back down, we met Ewart about 300 feet below the summit, tiringly wading his way through a 10-foot continuous section of spruce trap. His words for the mountain were unkind.
We were back at the Calamity Ponds lean-to before noon, and hastily packed up, and we then hoofed it back to the Upper Works trailhead. So ends our report on two somewhat tiring and tough days of wet, snowy trailbreaking. Anyone wanting to do Marshall or Cliff (via Flowed Lands) is now invited to try out our well-set tracks. Might as well make use of 'em!
See the image gallery link below for a more detailed writeup and the set of pictures.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: January 2008 - Marshall and Cliff
A second attempt on Cliff after January's failed attempt. This time we decided to try the Upper works trailhead, as that offered a slightly shorter approach than from the ADK Loj area. The day was hazy, sunny, and super-warm (for February!). The trail was packed rock-hard all the way to Flowed Lands, where we then donned our snowshoes I had originally planned to go up the Opalescent to the standard summer herdpath up Cliff, but then I noticed prominent snowshoe tracks heading straight across flowed lands, and just to be sure I followed them for a bit. Sure, enough, they seemed to head straight up cliff from Flowed Lands. Whoever blazed this path did an excellent routefinding job, and very little brush was encountered enroute. Lots of good lookouts, too! In no time we were on top (before noon, even). Could not find sign - perhaps it was buried. Good views through blowdown to all surrounding peaks. Cliff is extremely well positioned amidst most of the higher peaks. We quickly returned down the excellent herd path and, in under 3 hours, we were back at upper works and the car.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: February 2004 Cliff Mountain Climb
Cliff was probably overlooked by me until this point because it is a relatively nondescript peak in the middle of an area with much more interesting mountains. Cliff mountain is, technically speaking, not over 4000 feet. However, when the 46er list was drawn up a hundred years ago, it was thought to be over 4000. And so it has remained in the list to this day. This was also an outing where I would get to try out a bit of cross-country skiing in the Adirondacks. We selected a route with gentle terrain, starting at the South Meadows trailhead. The forecast was for a nice and sunny day, not too cold. There wasn't much glide on the morning snow as we skiied along the south meadows route to Marcy Dam. We stayed on the skiis up to Avalanche Junction, where we stashed them and switched to Snowshoes. From there it was up and through Avalanche Pass. We encountered saw a couple of groups making winter climbs of the Trap Dike. The recent deep freeze meant that the lakes provided excellent passage past some (in the summer) very rough trails. We arrived at the uphill leanto around noon, and take a quick break. From here, it was off-trail towards cliff mountain. Ewart has been on the route before, and I have an understanding of the route myself, so we are hopeful. Certainly was a good day for it. The weather was as perfect as you could ask of a Winter Day - clear, calm, and not too cold and not too warm. It is soon apparent that no one had been up Cliff in a while. There was only a faint hint of a previous snowshoe track, and soon that became too hard to follow. We tried to stay on the herd path but soon got lost in an area of yucky blowdown. Even Ewart, who has been up this mountain before, is unsure of the exact way. We slowed to a crawl as we struggled our way through this.... Eventually it became apparent that we were running out of time (if we hoped to finish at a reasonable hour). So, just before the height of land between Cliff and Redfield, we decided to turn around, leaving the summit of Cliff for another day. The way back was quick and unventful. We retraced our steps back the way we had come. The late afternoon sunny winter day was spectacular. We reached avalanche junction and our skiis at about 4:30pm. The ski conditions were extremely fast and even a slight slope got you gliding. It was a bit tricky at first but great overall! Ewart found it a bit dicy and ended up walking it back to Marcy Dam. From there we both continued on skiis down the south meadows route in increasing darkness. Good thing the trail is an old road at that point! A small hiking headlamp is not good enough when you are barrelling along at 20km/hr and want to see what is ahead! All in all, an excellent day, even though we did not make the summit. And, backcountry skiis are definitely better for this terrain than my old clunkers!
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: January 2004 Cliff Mountain Climb