This was a hike to try and satisfy all particpants' objectives: I wanted to summit an as-yet-unclimbed winter 46er peak - Redfield; Jenn wanted to summit Cliff for the first time; and Ewart also wanted to summit Cliff, but in his case as part of his winter 46.
We'd held off on this for a couple of weeks because of unco-operative weather. This week, Sunday looked ok, but marginal. The forceast was for partly cloudy in the morning, with mostly cloudy and a good chance of snow showers in the afternoon. We hadn't been out for a while, so even though the forecast was so-so, we decided to go for it. Oh, right - back to the group's objectives. In order to satisfy everyone, we decided we were going to try an ambitious two-summit day of both Redfield and Cliff, thereby satisfying everyone's objectives. We've had a hard time in the past finding the south-eastern herdpath route up Cliff in the winter, so we weren't sure this would fly.
We started off at a good and early 5:55am from the Upper works trailhead. The trail was well-packed and we snowshoed along pretty rapidly. We covered the entire distance from the trailhead to the shelters at Flowed Land in about two hours - pretty decent speed.
Gray morning at Calamity Pond
Out into the Flowed Lands
Our plan was to head up to the Uphill Lean-to, and then we'd split up, temporarily, with Ewart breaking the herdpath to Cliff, and myself and Jenn summiting Redfield (Ewart had already summited Redfield a few months before).
Walking across the vast white plain of the Flowed Lands was fun. Unfortunately, the weather was a socked-in gray, with very light flurries falling. This wasn't in the morning's forecast!!
Across the great wide open
Heading to Lake Colden Dam
We made our way across open lands and bits of trail to the dam at Lake Colden, and then from there up the trail to Uphill Lean-to. The trail was, suprisingly, very lightly broken in. I was sure that such a major trail would have a super-packed path.
Continuing our fast pace, we arrived at the Uphill Lean-to shortly after 9am. This gave us lots of time to accommodate for exploration and trail break-in, should that become necessary.
We'd brought along FRS radios in order for Ewart and I to keep in touch while we were separated. Unfortunately, I once again committed the cardinal sin of not fully testing the gear before leaving! As it turned out, one of the radios could only receive. Sigh... when will I learn? I gave the good radio to Ewart so he could keep us appraised of his progress (or lack thereof, depending how it went).
So, off we went., Jenn and I up the Redfield herdpath, and Ewart up the Cliff herdpath. Neither trail was broken in, and there was only the faintest hint of a previous path visible. Fortunately, I had my GPS tracklog from my non-winter ascent of Redfield, and that instilled a healthy does of confidence. What it didn't do, though, was help with the trail-breaking. It was tough, slow slogging. There was a ton of new snow everywhere, and there were these curious large bulbous masses of snow attached to everything. They would break off and thwump down onto to you at the slightest touch!
For over one hour, 800 measly vertical feet and under 1 mile of horizontal distance, I struggled my way up the Redfield herdpath. We stayed on it almost the whole way, with a combination of glimpses of faint old path and my tracklog to guide us. Jenn graciously offered to break trail from 4100 to 4500 feet, giving me a much needed break! ahhh... so nice to walk in someone's tracks for a bit!!
The sun played a little tantalizing cat-and-mouse game, but never fully came out. It continued to flurry slightly, and there were no views at all. Unfortunate, 'cause Redfield does have some nice views towards Algonquin on the way up.
Finally, finally, 2 and a quarter hours after leaving the uphill lean-to, we are on the summit. There are no views. ok, whatever... in that case, picture time and then we head down. I am so looking forward to a wonderful, gravity-induced waltz back down our newly created trail!
It takes us only 45 minutes to head down to the lean-to. We meet Ewart partway on the way down - he aborted his attempt to find the southeastern Cliff herdpath, in the same place that he and I aborted in the winter of 2004. That route up in the winter is a total lost cause. I much prefer the ascent from Flowed Lands.
We decide that Cliff will have to wait for another day, and head back down to the Uphill lean-to for a snack and some snow-shedding. Then it is time for the long but easy hike back to the car. And hey, whaddya know, NOW the weather is clearing!
By the time we get back to the open areas of the Flowed Lands, it is turning into a beautiful clear day. Fortunately, walking across the Flowed Lands is itself pretty scenic, so I get some good shots of Colden rising in the background as we hike. The day has also turned quite busy: We saw virtually no one in the morning, but now there are snowshoers and cross-country skiiers everywhere!