|May 30, 2004 (Sun.)
|Elevations: 4361 feet, 4040 feet, 4140 feet; Order of Height: 24, 40, 33
|Participants: Andrew Lavigne, Caroline Doucet, Markus Wandel, Ewart Tempest, Jen
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