Today was a beat-the-weather day. Bad weather approaching, so we needed a short-ish, fast-ish peak and also one on mine and/or Jenn's winter 46er list. Tabletop fit the bill for all of those requirements.
Ewart's objective for today was Iroquois, so we shared a parking spot and the first bit of the route along the main trail to Marcy Dam. We then motored along at a brisk clip on firm, well-set trail, all the way up to Indian Falls. The cloud deck remained high and textured, and we were treated to excellent views from the top of the falls.
The herdpath to Tabletop was well-defined and broken out. We ascended quickly, arriving at the summit before 9am. Tendrils of darker, lower clouds started to creep into the area. We still had good views from the limited lookouts on Tabletop, but we could see that that was about to change. We had gotten up here just in time!
Our descent was rapid. A long, somewhat bone-jarring snowshoe trudge on hard-packed trails, all the way back to the Loj. We arrived shortly after 11am, just as the first few flakes of snow started to fall...
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: December 2007 hike - Tabletop.
The idea for this hike was to satisfy the following criteria: 1) get out into the mountains (that one's obvious). 2) A 46er peak that Jenn hadn't done yet. 3) A 46er peak that I had already done in the winter ('cause I want to save my yet-to-be-done-in-the-winter peaks for winter). 4) wasn't super-duper long. Only a few peaks satisfied all of these criteria, and we picked good ol' Tabletop. The weather was cold but clear and still as we started out from South Meadows. Marcy Dam was beautiful in the clear morning light. We decided to do a loop, going up the Lake Arnold trail, cutting across to Indian Falls, and returning via the VH trail. There was snow on the trails, about 10 inches at most, but it was unconsolidated and there was no underlying base. This meant awkward slippery moves on snow-covered boulders. We broke out snowshoes in the upper reaches, and it was a painful experience to hear them screech and gronch against all of the rock underneath. We almost failed in our summit attempt when a very inconveniently-fallen tree fooled me off of the proper herdpath and into the network of old paths on the west side of Tabletop. Reminiscent of the 2003 fiasco with myself and Markus. I came to my senses and backtracked to where the tree had gotten me off track, and we then quickly made our way to the top on the proper route. We were soaked from wet snow by the time we got to the top. And, to add insult to injury, clouds had moved in, obscuring the already-limited views from near the summit. Anyway, with peak done, we made a rapid descent, choosing to use the ski run down the VH trail instead of the regular route (big mistake, not enough snow made for a most uncomfortable rough descent). Back to Marcy Dam, then the car at 5:30pm at South Meadows. Tiring with all that wasted bushwacking!
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: November 2005 Tabletop Mountain Hike
Well, the time had finally arrived. After months of re-doing peaks (so Markus could catch up), and working around vacations, and finding a good weather forecast, I was ready to tackle my only unclimbed 46er peak: Gray Peak. And since we were along with a friend also finishing the 46 on Tabletop, we decided to combine the two into a single hike. To do this, we planned to start at South Meadow, climb Gray via Lake Tear of the Clouds, then traverse over Marcy, then down the Van Hoevenberg trail to Indian Falls, quickly summit Tabletop from there, and head back down to South Meadow. The forecast for Sunday, October 4 was good - although sandwiched in between two bad weather days before and after, but as we got closer to the weekend, this forecast remained firm, so we decided to go for it. This was a pretty ambitious itinerary, well in excess of 30 km, and lots of elevation gain to boot, so we decided to head down Saturday evening and camp at South Meadow. The drive down, apocalyptically, was almost a continual torrential rainfall. Was this some sort of sign? Despite our fears, we continued to Saranac Lake, where we stopped for dinner at the Pizza Hut, partially because of hunger and partially because it was still pouring and the thought of putting up tents in such conditions was pretty unpalatable. We clung to the fact that the forecast was still predicting a nice day for tomorrow (Sunday). Sure enough, after our pizza, we came out to a soggy night, but the rain had stopped. On the way to South Meadow, Markus noticed a couple of rents in the sky, with even a star or two poking through. I decide to sleep in the CR-V, partially because of the wet ground and partially because I've wanted to try it out and see if I fit in the back ok. By the time we hit the hay, the sky has completely cleared, and the waning gibbous moon casts a bright light over our campspot. Apart from a noisy ranger participating in a hiker-rescue, the night is calm. We get up at 3:30am, quickly scarf down some food, and are off on the South Meadow trail at 4:10 am. The sky is crisp and clear, and it is not too cold (above freezing, at any rate). The moon is brilliant, and we hike the whole way to Marcy dam sans headlamps, making for a wonderful ambiance. At Marcy Dam I take a ghostly 30-second exposure of a scene I've taken many times before, but which is wonderful everytime I see it. From Marcy dam, we quickly head up to Avalanche junction, stopping to put on our headlamps when the footing gets too rough to navigate by moonlight. We make excellent time, and are all the way to Lake Colden before actual sunrise. The early morning mist and the reflection of Mount Colden on the surface of the lake deserve a couple of photo snaps as we hike by. The ascent from Lake Colden up to the Twin Brook Lean-to is quick and uneventful - we don't stop to take too many pictures of the scenic Opalescent . A quick food break at the Lean-to, and then it is onward, up the steep Feldspar brook trail to Lake Tear of the Clouds, which we reach mid-morning. A small but well-defined cairn marks the start of the Gray Herdpath, and it is located just down from the outlet out of the lake into Feldspar brook (in fact the cairn is right across Feldspar brook from the trail). The well-defined herdpath quickly takes us up to Gray's summit, which, although treed, has many surprisingly nice views in all directions, including the summit cone of Marcy looming nearby, and excellent views towards Lake Placid, Skylight, and the MacIntyres. We reach Gray's summit sign... and the moment is here. Markus and I shake hands, 'bergheiling' our last as-yet-undone 46er peak. For me it has been ten years since I started hiking down here, and it is a satisfying feeling to look around and know that you've been on every single high mountain in view. There are three other aspiring 46ers who summit just behind us (including one guy named Dave, and one for whom Gray is his first 46er peak). Other than that, we are alone. We decide that a traverse over to Marcy from here is much more interesting than heading back down to the trail and around (plus much shorter). There also seems to be a faint but reasonably followable herdpath marking the traverse, so we decide to go for it. The herd path turns out to be quite scenic, with periodic viewpoints. Gray is turning out to be a much nicer peak than I had expected. A few tangly spots, but with no major problems, and we reach treeline on Marcy, marked by a small cairn (in case you need to do this route going the opposite way). Trailless alpine hiking in the Adirondacks, an extreme rarity, now presents itself to us. The final bit of ascent up the alpine terrain on Marcy is spectacular (and we carefully keep to the open rock to avoid damaging the vegetation), and we take a ton of photos! The summit of Marcy has its usual bunch of hikers (although really not all that many), and we stop for a lunch break, since we've reached the summit just before noon. We have a nice long talk with the summit Steward, soak in the amazing views, and then head on down to our next objective: Indian Falls and Tabletop Mountain.
For the first time in 10 years, I get to see Indian falls in the daylight and with no clouds, and the view of Algonquin from it really is quite spectacular! We then locate the herdpath going up Tabletop (which is just below Indian Falls where the hiking and ski trails meet), and start up. At the start of the Tabletop route, we meet a hiker who immediately recognizes Markus and I from our Adirondack web pages - very strange being so recognized by a complete stranger! After a chat, we shake hands with Jeff (from Albany), and we are off. The route up Tabletop is short (less than 1km) and steep, and we are up and down it in just over an hour total.
With our day nearing the end, we cruise back to Marcy Dam, getting down to elevations where the most beautiful fall colors are located. The late afternoon autumn light and the brilliant colors make what is often a boring walk back to the trailhead most enjoyable.
We reach South Meadow at 5:10pm. A simply superb 13-hour, 32.7km Adirondack journey. Not only did we finish our 46, but this hike was such a nice one as well, combining beautiful fall weather and colors with a suprisingly excellent hiking route. If you can handle the distance, this hiking itinerary hits many of the Adirondacks' scenic highlights! Anyway my first 46 are now done... I wonder how long it'll take until my second 46er is achieved? Looking forward to finding out....
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: October 2004 Gray Peak Traverse
It has been almost two months since our first failed attempt to climb Tabletop Mountain. The thought of our failure burns our minds and makes us ache for the victory of the summit! Well, maybe we don't feel quite that bad about it - but I wanting to try it again, and this time, there won't be any mistakes. I keep a close watch on trail reports online and have a very good idea now of where the herdpath is (it is just below Indian Falls, just a few feet from where we stopped looking the first time. Argh!). Markus can't sleep the night before the hike, so I tell him to just call whenever and I'll get up and we'll go. This turned out to be sometime between 2 and 3am! So we were on the road early, to say the least! We arrived at the ADK Loj trailhead at 6:15 am. Quite early. We start out our hike in the dark and are treated to some nice sunrise light at Marcy Dam. We opt this time to go straight up the Van Hoevenberg trail (no fancy detours this time) and we make the start of the Tabletop Herdpath at a very early 8:30am. A quick break at Indian Falls and then it is back to the start of the Herdpath, which is actually well marked (red flagging, I think). Also there is a very good snow path beaten down. It is an easy and pleasant and quick ascent from here, especially in contrast to the attempt back in January. Soon we are atop tabletop, and, although there is a fair bit of vegetation, the snow does indeed help elevate us in places and we are treated to great views of the Great Range wreathed in Clouds, of Big Slide mountain from a unique angle, and, after a while, Mount Marcy itself, rising out of a cloud bank. It is still very early 9:30 am-ish. In fact, this is probably my earliest summit ever in the Adirondacks. It is a still and relatively warm and sunny late winter day. Quite peaceful and beautiful. On the way back, we think about doing Phelps as well, given how early it still is, but since I've already done it, we decide to go with Esther instead (another fairly easy climb that both Markus and I have not yet done). Unfortunately, on the way from Marcy Dam to the ADK Loj, one of my snowshoe's binding parts fails completely, rendering the snowshoe useless. I am forced to bare-boot it back to the parking lot, and that's the end of our hiking for the day.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: March 2003 Tabletop Mountain hike
Image Gallery: January 2003 Tabletop Mountain hike (failed attempt)
My impression of Tabletop was of a mountain with no particular views, given the descriptions I'd heard or seen. So, I thought that perhaps a winter ascent would raise the ground level enough to offer them [ie- some views]. The position of Tabletop meant that if one could get a view, it probably be very good. So, Markus and I decided to head out early one January morning to try and make it to the top. We started off at the ADK Loj parking lot and quickly snowshoed to Marcy dam, where there was some neat early-morning cloud-and-sun lighting. I decide that we'd do a little loop by taking the Lake Colden trail as far as the cutoff trail to Indian Falls, then over to Indian Falls and from there up to Tabletop. Things went quite well, and I especially enjoyed the remote feeling on the Indian Falls cutoff trail, which was all drifted over and which looked like it had not seen any activity for a while. At Indian Falls, we stopped for a food break and were treated to a nice opening in the clouds all the way over to Algonquin Peak. From here we attempted to find the herd path. I based my search on some sketchy info I had from an older ADK guide; We went up and down the trail from around Indian Falls up to about 1/3 mile above that on the Van Hoevenberg trail, but I couldn't see any sign of tracks in the deep snow. I wasn't sure if it had just snowed a lot since someone had last been up, or if in fact we weren't looking in the right range to find the herd path. After a bit of this, I decide that maybe we should just try and bushwack up and to the left, hoping eventually to cross the herdpath partway up. Well, this turned out to be quite an odyssey: The snow was fluffy and deep, and there were many spruce traps and thickly intergrown brush. It was so bad that it took us an hour to go only a few hundred metres! At that point it was obvious that we should turn around or risk bushwacking totally in the dark, so after some slow backtracking we reach the Van Hoevenberg trail, much more tired than when we left it. We had a quick food break, but, being tired and cold (we were totally covered in snow), realized that we should get moving and warm ourselves up. We hiked back in the growing dusk and chalked this one up as a failure. Mental Note: More careful advance study of herdpath routes (especially for winter climbs) needed!
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: January 2003 Tabletop Mountain hike