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Jan. 17, 2004 (Sat.)
Cliff Mountain [Failed to Summit]
Elevation: 3960 feet; Order of Height: 44
Participants: Andrew Lavigne, Ewart Tempest
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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

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