The first hike after coming back from climbing Kilimanjaro. It was an extremely warm Febuary day. Clear, almost hazy, and warm. The plan was to do the classic and beautiful loop hike from Adirondak Loj, through Avalanche Pass and Lake, up the backside of Algonquin, and bag both Iroquois and Algonquin. Along for the hike were Jenn, myself, Caroline, and Brian. The trail from Adirondak Loj was quite hard-packed, so we bare-booted it all the way to Marcy Dam. It was a bit crisp starting off, but by the time we made it to the dam, it was quite warm. The sky was crystal clear and suprisingly, there were few to no people around. (I remembered later that this was Superbowl Sunday!). Avalanche Pass and Lake were beautiful, as usual. Avalanche Lake had beautiful stretches of clear, dark ice, in which many fascinating and interesting patterns could be seen. The way up the backside of Algonquin steep and extremely warm. I couldn't believe how spring-like it felt. It was definitely well above zero. The snow was firm enough, though, that crampons were all that we wore. We did not posthole at all. After a long and tiring and very steep 2000-foot ascent, we gained the main ridgeline. Although cooler up here near 5000 feet, it was still very warm for an early Feburary day. Caroline decided to skip Boundary/Iroquois, and headed up to Algonquin to await us. Crampons were very useful on the hard, crusty and icy bits going up and down over Boundary and Iroquois. Iroquois' summit was magnificent, with superb views everywhere. We reached the top of Algonquin late afternoon. Things started to get breezier and cooler on the summit. We therefore did not stay too long on top. It was much icier heading down the northwest side of Algonquin - crampons were very useful here. We then slipped and slid our way down the steep snowy trail, taking only a short 90 minutes to reach the main trail to Adirondack Loj. It was deep dusk by the time we made it back to the ADK parking lot. What a magnificent and warm winter hike! Two more for the winter 46er list!
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: February 2005 Algonquin - Iroquois Hike
Our fourth 'Kili training hike'. Not the best weather day, but the promise of snowy and/or icy conditions and the fact that we were running out of days before Kili made us go. I chose Wright because it was short, relatively steep, and had an open summit where I hoped we'd get a chance to get Yi to try out crampons and become comfortable with them. We had a devil of a time getting her crampons adjusted due to sticky adjustment screws, and that delayed our start until almost 9am. The trails had less snow on them then I had expected, since the recent forecast had been for up to a foot and a half of new snow. Instead, we bare-booted all the way up to the waterfall on the trail up to Wright / Algonquin. The weather was still socked in by the time we got to treeline. On the plus side however, the entire terrain above treeline was coated in ice. Perfect for crampons! We all tramped up sure-footedly with our crampons, enduring the strong winds. Very neat wild feeling up here today in the white and ice and wind. A short but steep climb in the open brings us to the nice little summit of Wright, where we all shake hands. Then its off to the northeast just below the summit to take shelter from the wind for a few moments. On the way down, Yi gets lots of good crampon practice (yay!). Down below the trees, everything is calm and warm in comparsion to the blustery summit conditions. Once back at the waterfall, we take off the crampons and bare boot it the rest of the way.
All in all, a very fun hike in very neat winter conditions, and good practice. Total distance = 11.5km, Total time about 7 hours.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: December 2004 Wright Peak Hike
This was the third in our 'Kili Prep Hike' series, and we were again constrained by bad weather to doing a short 1/2 day Adirondack hike. We were going to climb Mount Adams (and its fire tower), and Markus had also wanted to explore the ghost town at Adirondac. However, there were only five of us today, and Markus was displeased with the idea of using two cars for five people (Jenn was sick and wanted some space in the back seat to sleep), so he left and went home. I figured since Markus had wanted to explore the ghost town that we should do something else today instead, and so I chose Ampersand mountain: it is scenic, short, and a relatively short drive from Ottawa. The hike in and up was nothing notable; the trail had a fair bit of thin snow and ice higher up, but not quite enough to warrant crampons. The summit of Ampersand was howling with wind, and we could see all sorts of strange and dark clouds moving in. Other higher peaks were clearly experiencing little mini blizzards. The views were grand in all directions. Walking required some extra care due to the strong winds. We all summitted and enjoyed the stark beauty of the day. We didn't stay up here long, though, because we were hungry for some lunch and it was way too windy to sit down for a bit out in the open. So we clambered back down into the trees for our snack. We carefully picked our way back down over the slippery steep parts of the trail and then, in no time at all, back to the car.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: November 2004 Ampersand Mountain Hike
This hike was the second in our 'kilimanjaro preparation series'. It was, at this point, 40 days until we were to leave for the Kilimanjaro climb. Even though the weather looked only reasonable for the first half of the day, we wanted to get out and climb something, so I thought about it a bit and picked a hike that I knew was pretty scenic but not too long, so that we could avoid the afternoon rains which were coming. Well, as it turns out, it was quite an amazingly nice hike. The last (and only) time I'd done this hike it was in the clouds, and I knew that there were many lookouts. With good visibility, though, this hike is super scenic, with tons of good viewpoints as the trail follows pitchoff's ridge-like summit. This hike was also characterized by many digital SLRs being used - resulting in a huge amount of picture taking. The day was warm for late November, and there is little to no wind. Ewart had parallel-hike along the Porter-Cascade ridge while we hiked, and, with radio contact, we arranged for a tele-photo flag-unfurling picture with him atop Cascade peak. Another point of note is the fabulous open rock at the west end of Pitchoff's ridge. Very scenic and very interesting.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: November 2004 Pitchoff 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
Markus wanted to 'catch up' to me on his 46er count with a hope towards summitting our final 46er peak together. He hadn't yet done the Dixes, and from doing it before I knew it was a great hike, so I decided to do it again with him. We went down on a Sunday that promised good weather - Ewart also came along, for the fun of it (as this would be his third time at least on each of these peaks), and worrying about being too slow, he went down in advance and started 2 hours before us. We had FRS radios for communications so that we could meet up at some point. It was no problem finding the herdpath turnoff, right after Slide Brook. Unfortunately, the low clouds had not lifted, and we were soon ascending into cloud. The trail was followable but somewhat tortuous, winding around and up and down, sometimes through annoying blowdown. Eventually the trail descended into slide brook, which soon turned into a real slide - but this one is different, being full of gravel and scree. Very unusual for the Adirondacks, but very interesting. We reached top of Macomb in fairly short order, due to the direct and steep nature of the slide. The views had opened up, with some interesting above-and-below cloud views. Pretty nice, all in all. We had established radio contact with Ewart, who was a couple of peaks ahead of us. We'd have to try to catch up! The weather, although forecast to be clear, was actually mostly cloudy, although at altitudes that created some pretty dramatic effects. The hike over to South Dix from Macomb was pretty easy, really. The approach to South Dix is quite spectacular, with some nice open rock along the way. At the summit of South Dix, we met Ewart backtracking from Grace on his way to Hough, so we had a brief Pow-wow. We were then off to Grace ourselves, sometimes in the clouds, sometimes not. Grace's summit is quite excellent for a peak that is barely over 4000 feet. Open and lots of views everywhere. Next on the agenda was a hike all the way back to South Dix, and then on towards Hough Peak, a pointy summit not far from Dix. The trail goes through a lot of elevation gain and loss on this section, so maybe that's why they called the peak 'Hough' (pronounced 'Huff', as in Huff and Puff, maybe?). The summit of Hough, although treed, has lots of really nice viewpoints and has a good steep pointy feeling. This is also where we get very good views of the pointy side of Dix and the Beckhorn (a subsummit of Dix). We arrive at Dix's summit mid-afternoon. The weather, although not clear, has lifted considerably, and the interplay of dark clouds and patches of sun creates dramatic lighting effects. Dix is an excellent summit, well-positioned and with views of the immediate rugged surroundings as well as views of the more distant Great Range. A very very enjoyable day to be up there. And, this is where we catch up with Ewart! Finally we'll actually be able to hike together! We head down via the Beckhorn on a very nice bit of trail. Down below things get a bit muggy and buggy (overall the bug situation was quite good for the entire day), and so the last bit out on the trail was a bit of a slog. We stopped to purify a bit more water.... but basically trudged right out to the trailhead, finishing at a pretty reasonable 6:30pm.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: July 2004 Dix Range Hike
Back in November of 2001, while Markus and Lorraine and I were watching the Leonid Meteor Storm on top of Noonmark mountain in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, we learned, through some other star gazers, of a famous and challenging hike known as the "solstice hike". This is a hike where one traverses the entire Great Range in a single day. Yes, you heard right - in one single day, usually around the summer solstice, when days are longest. Eight of the highest peaks in NY state, around 35 kilometres total length, and all in one day. We were impressed at such a hard hike had a name and a following. However, at the time, it just seemed like a crazy outing for folks with more stamina than brains. As a few more years slipped by, and, as we got more into ADK 46er hiking, the thought of this legendary outing took on a more tangible and attainable quality - but, for one reason or another, we were never able to pull together the right conditions to tackle it - until this year (2004). We managed to cobble together five enthusiastic challengers of this legendary hike: myself, Pu, Caroline, Markus, and Luc. Now, I won't go into a large amount of detail in this trip log - a very complete writeup is available via the image gallery link below. But, in summary, suffice it to say we did it, and we did it in good style, not injuring anyone, keeping well hydrated and fed, and experiencing some of the best summits of the Adirondacks on a cool and beautiful June day.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: June 2004 Solstice / Great Range Hike
This hike was meant as an intro for some new-to-the-Adirondacks hikers from where I work. I chose Catamount because it has the right combination of short, interesting route, and scenic summit. (I had also considered Ampersand and Noonmark as other good intro hike possibilities). In any case, it was another perfect cool, bug-free, sunny day (summer 2004 is turning out to have a lot of these). The nice flat 500m of start to the trail served to get everyone warmed up in a nice and relaxing fashion. The steep forested part of the route up was dispatched with relative ease and not too much sweat. Soon we broke out onto the open ledges and excellent viewpoints. Everyone loved the steep rocky chimney and steep slab scrambling to get up to the 'south summit'. From there, it only took us about 25 minutes to navigate the short but interesting trail to the summit. 1h 45m from trail to summit! obviously a good crowd of new hikers! A relaxing lunch and a relatively quick 1h 20m descent saw us back at the cars at 12 noon! pretty early! Pu led the post-hike Yoga activity (see pictures in the image gallery), and then we headed off to Lake Placid for a Ben and Jerries Ice cream, and then the drive back home!
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: June 2004 Catamount Climb
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 original plan for this weekend was to do an outing to the White Mountains in NH. However, the weather was not co-operating. Still, I felt like doing a mountain somewhere, so I picked the best weather day of the weekend (Sunday), and decided to do something in the Adirondacks. As it turned out, only Caroline could make this one, so we tackled something she needed for her 46er quest: Gothics. The drive down was through some pretty yucky and tricky winter weather, but we made it to the St. Hubert's trailhead in one piece. We decided to use skiis to help ease the passage of the boring section along the AMR lake road. Snow conditions were excellent and we made good time skiing up the road. At Lower Ausable Lake we switched into snowshoes. Weather was actually pretty good. Lots of sun and blue sky mixed in with clouds. After donning our snowshoes, the long and high slog up to Gothics began (2800 foot ascent from the Lake). I had obviously snowed over the past week, but only a few inches worth at the lower elevations, and we could follow an old snowshoe track up the trail to the Sawteeth/Panther col, no problem. However, above this col, at 3500+ feet, there was a ton of new snow, and no tracks were visible at all. Breaking the trail up the very steep section up Panther was agonizingly tiring. This slowed our ascent and we ended up summitting Gothics around 2-ish. Unfortunately, the weather had also closed in again and the summit was socked in and windy with blowing snow. Still, felt good to have made it to the top - and because of the ADK winter 46er rules we managed to bag a winter 46er summit even though it was technically spring on March 21 of this year! Also at the summit were two hardy climbers that had just finished an ascent of the North Face of Gothics - impressive! The way down was MUCH quicker than the way up, and soon we were back at lower Ausable Lake, where off went the snowshoes and on went the skiis. The ski down the Lake road was heaven... mostly a nice swift glide all the way back to the gate. Took us only about 30 minutes to do the whole Lake Road!
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: March 2004 Gothics Climb
An intro Adirondack hike for a couple of new participants: Rehana, Asmir, and Shelly (although Shelly had been to the Adirondacks before). A beautiful but very windy day in the Adirondacks. Of note was how little snow there was on the lower slopes of the mountain. In places, melted right down to mud! Very early in the year for this. We moved along at a brisk pace and summitted in only a little under two and a half hours. It was not that cold temperature-wise, but a very strong wind was blowing at the summit, requiring one to bundle up. Markus explored the old fire tower and our two new Adirondack first-timers took in their first Adirondack summit vista (which, BTW, is one of the better views in all of the High Peaks region). There is an organization looking to save the tower from being dismantled, and you can view their website here www.hurricanefiretower.org. Trail conditions, as mentioned earlier, ranged from a very thin snow cover to patches of ice, to mud, to lots of ice. Certain sections were best suited to crampons. A very enjoyable outing. Hurricane is such a great little peak!
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: March 2004 Hurricane Mountain Climb
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
The time had come to cross off Esther. We wanted to do a short winter hike (had to get back in time to take Caro out for her birthday). Sunday, Feb 8 presented us with a brief window of clear but cool sunny winter weather (pretty windy, too). The plan was to ascend Esther via the 'north basin' direct route (for lack of a better term). This route starts off from the Whiteface Memorial highway toll road about 800 metres above the toll booth. The road crosses the main drainage down the north side of Esther at this point. The route goes up this drainage on the left side of the stream. We had some relatively good tracks to follow, and that helped immensely. The tracks stayed on the left side of the drainage (when viewed looking up), and, as we got higher, the tracks veered a bit more to the east, through some thick and troublesome foliage, to the east ridge of Esther, about 700 metres from its summit. At this point there is an excellent viewpoint down the other side of the ridge and into vermont, as well as a unique perspective on Whiteface's summit. The bushwack along the east ridge to the summit is mostly pretty nice, with a few craggy bits, some nice views, and generally good hiking (not much tangled underbrush). Near the very summit we lost our benefactor's snowshoe tracks and did a little bit of thrashy bushwacking through some thick stuff. That was soon over, however, and we summitted just before 11am. Many good views in most directions, including to Whiteface itself. We looked around extensively for a summit sign on a tree but could find none (discovered later that Esther has a summit _placque_ on a rock, so that's why we didn't see it). Many summit photos were taken, and soon we were heading back down the way we came up, which went clickety-click, and in no time we were back at the toll road, and then to the car, at around 12:30. Short n' sweet! This marks my 41st 46er peak and my 11th winter 46er peak.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: February 2004 Esther Mountain Climb