|Jan. 25, 2004 (Sun.)
Seward Mountain [Failed to Summit]
|Elevation: 4361 feet; Order of Height: 24
|Participants: Andrew Lavigne, Ewart Tempest, Caroline Doucet
The forecast for the entire Northeast on the second-to-last weekend in January 2004 was cold, cold, co-old! The forecast was for crisp, clear and lows of around -30C (before any wind chill). Caroline, Ewart and I decided to accept this challenge of nature, hone our cold-weather camping skills, and get out and exercise the old bones.
The feature this time around was the Seward Range: Seward Mountain, Emmons Mountain, and Donaldson mountain. These three are all connected in one continous ridge. Normally one drives to a trailhead a fair ways up a gravel road off of route 3 between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. In the winter, however, the last 3.3 miles of the road are not plowed, and so we had to hike that extra distance both in and out.
We got started somewhere between 1 and 2pm. We considered but elected not to use cross-country skiis. It was a long (but pretty flat) slog. We selected the Blueberry lean-to as our overnight camping spot, which we arrived at mid-dusk. We immediately set upon building our snow quinzee, which would give us a break from the bone-chilling nighttime low temperatures. Unfortunately there was [still] not that much snow depth at this elevation (2000'), and so we had to scrape far and wide to get enough snow together for the quinzee. This time (relative to last winter on the Whiteface winter camp) we made sure to build a raised flow such that the entrance was below the level of the floor, offering a block to heat escape. For dinner, Ewart brought along a concoction of meat and vegetables which he fired up into a tasty meal.
We slept in relative comfort (although we built the inside a little too small, so we were cramped) from about 10pm to just before 6am, when we got up and braved a very cold winter morning. We fired up twto MSR stoves and made water, breakfast, and warmed our hands (with me melting a hole in my fleece mitts for good measure). Within an hour we were up and running, crunching along the trail eastwards towards the ward brook bridge and start of the herdpath up to Seward. The day was very clear and beautiful.
It was unfortunately obvious that no one had been up Seward all that recently. There was an extremely faint indication of the last hikers up, and it was the best we could do to occasionally come across it and follow it for a while before it became too faint to follow. We managed to stay more-or-less on the herdpath route for a while, but as we gained elevation we lost it completely and entered what I now have come to dread on a winter bushwack : a belt of snowy, densely packed, short conifers. After a while of making very slow and tiring progress (until about 10:30am) we realized that, given the long hike out, we had to concede defeat and turn around. Hopefully I'll have someone else's route to follow the next time I'm out on a winter trailless peak! It took us no time at all to follow our tracks back down to the main trail and from there to our lean-to campsite, where we cooked up a hot lunch and packed our gear.
The trek out was unventful and very quick. We covered the entire distance in about 3 hours and 20 minutes. So... another failed peak, but good exercise, company, and experience nevertheless.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References:
Image Gallery: January 2004 Seward Mountain failed attempt