|Jan. 19, 2008 (Sat.)
|Elevation: 4340 feet; Order of Height: 26
|Participants: Andrew Lavigne, Jennifer Innes, Ewart Tempest
After much, much procrastinating, the time had come to tackle a winter ascent of Allen. We settled on a day that had a so-so forecast: mostly cloudy, chance of snow showers, moderate temperatures. I didn't want to put off tackling Allen for too long. Our intention was/is to finish the winter 46 this year, and to do it with a finish on "good" peaks. Allen wasn't on our "good" list, and so we wanted to get it out of the way before the final climbs.
I proposed skiing in over much of the flat stuff, then switching to snowshoes. With grudging acceptance, Ewart and Jenn agreed to my ski-and-snowshoe plan. We started off from the trailhead shortly after 6am. Surprisingly, the sky was mostly clear and the stars were out.
We bumbled our way along the trail, across the Hudson and Lake Jimmy, and onto the network of old logging roads. Here, we encountered an excellent recent ski track, probably left by someone coming in from the private lands on the far side of the Opalescent. It was heavenly to be able to glide along the track, chewing up ground at a faster-than-hiking pace.
Unfortunately, all too soon the track we were following went straight ahead into private land at a spot where the trail headed left, and we were forced to break trail. The connector trail between the two roads turned out to be less than ideal for skiing. There wasn't enough snow depth to fully cover the uneveness of the terrain underneath. And, in one spot, I crashed through some innocuous-looking flat ground into about 1 to 2-foot of water. I immediately tried to clean off my skiis, knowing otherwise very shortly they would be entirely encased in ice My feet were soaked, but - for the moment - still feeling fairly warm.
We finished the "lumpy" section (that's what I'm going to call it from now on) and arrived at the road that parallels the Opalescent, cutting a nice new ski track through the light powder that covered a firm base.
We switched to snowshoes at the bridge crossing of the Opalescent. I gratefully accepted Jenn's offer of fresh, dry socks, and changed into them, and then donned my mountaineering boots. Then, we crossed the bridge across the Opalescent and hiked through the logged land. It was definitely nicer in the winter than when I did it four years ago on a soggy, wet November.
The next phase was a gradual ascent up to a pass over a low ridge that separated us from Allen itself. We hiked up the wide old logging road, but again here the recent rains and freeze had created a lumpy hodgepodge of good deep snow and very thin snow and ice over muddy and swampy ground. We were therefore required to snake back and forth around and across this stuff. Somewhat annoying. Outside of these wet and thin sections, though, the snow conditions were perfect for snowshoeing.
Next, we followed the markers (which soon stop after the pass), and then the ever-fainter tracks, down towards Skylight Brook. At one point the tracks diverge from the official herdpath (I was watching my GPS with its track of our non-winter ascent), but it followed a generally straighter path to Skylight brook, so we just kept following it. The crossing of the brook was easy, and we quickly made our ascent towards the start of the steep stuff in Allen brook. Just after skylight brook we encountered some more of that lumpy semi-wet ground in the base of the herdpath.
The steep portion of the herdpath went well: The route mostly stays to the right of the brook, and there was a surprising bit of trailwork here and there - cleaned up blowdown, cut logs, etc. A bit of flagging, too. The snow conditions turned out to be very good, actually. The melted-out sections were small and confined only to a few sections in the center of the brook. On either side there was plenty of solid snow to hike on. The slide portion had good grip underneath a powdery layer. Jenn very nicely contribed much effort to breaking trail up the last steep 500 feet to the summit.
While Ewart and Jenn were milling about at the summit, I went a few tens of feet further along the lookout facing Marcy. The lookout provides a nice vew, giving a unique angle on Panther Gorge and the mountains around it: Haystack, Marcy, and Skylight.
The hike back down to Skylight brook was speedy, with the trail now broken out and the snow on the tree branches now all knocked off. As we ascended back over the low ridge (between Skylight brook and the Gravel Pit), it started to snow quite heavily, but fortunately it didn't last long, and by the time we returned back to the trailhead, it had all mostly cleared up and we were treated to beautiful sunset colors. It was a long, dark walk (and ski) back from here! By 8:10pm, we were back at the car. Fourteen hours - quite a marathon, but now... Allen in the winter is complete! yay.
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 - Allen Mountain