|Feb. 16, 2008 (Sat.)
|Elevations: 4840 feet, 4926 feet, 5344 feet; Order of Height: 7, 4, 1
|Participants: Andrew Lavigne, Jennifer Innes, Jason and Jason
We were getting close - Four left to go! And this day's objective was ambitious - a long loop to try and summit three of the higher High Peaks summits - three that we had left to do - for our winter 46er quest: Gray, Skylight, and Marcy.
Saturday, February 16 - unlike Saturday, February 9 - was forecast to be crisp, cold, and mostly sunny - the perfect opportunity to try and summit these excellent peaks (well, maybe not so much Gray, but we have Gray on our list, and so it has to get done).
We knew it had the High Peaks had received several significant dumps of snow since last weekend's trail-breaking frenzy, and so we knew that we couldn't expect any of the broken-out trail from then to have survived. We were somewhat hopeful, though, that the main trails up to the Marcy area were broken out.
At Avalanche Junction, we debated our choices: go up the Avalanche Pass way, and hike through the beautiful scenery around Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden, or go up the Lake Arnold way, which was significantly shorter but less scenic (and perhaps less broken-out). We chose the long, scenic way.
From the Lake Colden camping area to the Uphill Lean-to, things got harder. There was only a narrow, deep ski track. As a result, I found that my snowshoes were always being torqued inwards - uncomfortable and awkward. Our pace slowed quite a bit on this section. Still, we were grateful we had a path to follow.
After the lean-to, our luck ran out. Maybe a couple of hundred feet beyond, the tracks stopped. It took us two further hours to break trail from the Uphill Lean-to to Lake Tear of the Clouds. The snow conditions were such that the trail-breaking was very laborious.
We were deliriously happy when we heard voices come up behind us at Lake Tear of the Clouds. The voices were not so deliriously happy to catch up with us. We introduced ourselves, and found out that we all had the same itinerary, and decided to join forces.
With our combined muscle power, the ascent of Gray was relatively easy, and it wasn't long before we were standing on the Gray's summit ridge. With the very deep snowpack, Gray was almost a completely open peak. Excellent views of Marcy!
The hike back down to the Lake was efficient and fast. We dismayed to see, however, that a Marten had gotten at our food (or rather was in the process of), since we saw him slinking around. Packing up what food we had left, we continued on to four corners. Imagine our surprise and amazement when we saw a track broken up from Panther Gorge, and leading up to Marcy! Hardly anyone comes up from Panther Gorge.
The trail to Skylight was still unbroken, and so we still faced a 700-ish foot climb with trailbreaking. Having the two Jasons with us, though, made things much easier. Rotating the lead amongst four is an order of magnitude better than two.
Standing on the summit of Skylight was number 44 for Jenn and I, number 41 for Jason and Jason. Another somewhat significant milestone was that this summit of Skylight marked the completion of my second regular 46er round.
Not wanting to stand around too long in the biting wind, we started back down the way we came. Besides, it was getting late and we still had a good thousand feet of elevation to gain to the top of Marcy.
Unfortunately, the broken track up to Marcy did not stay on the official trail, but rather bushwhacked up all the way to treeline. Still, better than breaking a new track. From treeline, it was a straightforward but chilly and gray ascent to Marcy's summit. Only one more to go now!
The way down through the alpine terrain on the eastern side of Marcy's summit was relatively pleasant. It was sheltered from the wind, and the path was far more defined and beaten (due to the fact that it is the far more popular way to ascend the peak). In all, it took us about three hours to descend on good trails all the way back to the Loj parking lot.
See the image gallery link below for a much more detailed writeup, and the set of pictures, graphs, maps, and GPS data.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References:
Image Gallery: February 2008 - The Final Countdown: Gray, Skylight and Marcy