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It had only been two days since we climbed Carson, Grace and Macomb. We hadn't intended on going back to the Adirondacks quite so soon, but when we got talking with our newest hiking companions, Linda and Mark, we discovered that they were going to do a peak that both Jenn and I needed -- and they were going two days later, on a Tuesday. Since Jenn was on March break, and since we had such fun hiking with Linda and Mark in the dixes, we decided to join them.
Signing in
Wolfjaws at twilight
Fast Hikers
We met at the Garden trailhead at 6am sharp on Tuesday morning. The weather forecast was unsettled, trending towards the cloudy and rainy. It was very warm, with temps above freezing at the Garden.

In addition to us four, Linda and Mark had invited a university student and adk hike leader -- Alex -- to join us.

The initial pace was pretty brisk, and we went at this full-steam pace all the way up to Johns Brook Lodge, which we reached in a very quick 1 hour and 20 minutes. A quick snack break and we were off like a shot once again, heading up the Phelps trail towards the Bushnell Lean-to, where we would be starting our attempt up a novel new route (at least for me, anyway). We'd heard that this route was recently broken out by a couple of parties, and we were eager to try it. Normally one would hike up to Slant Rock, across the Shorey Short cut trail, and then up the Range Trail to Basin. This route promised a much more direct approach.
At JBL already...
Deciding to stay left
A glimpse of our destination
Meeting a friend
Nearing the Lean-to
Quite a lot of snow
The new route we were trying is called the Chicken Coop Brook Approach, and leads from behind the Bushnell Falls Lean-to, up Chicken Coop Brook and Slide, to the col between Saddleback and Basin. It is a very direct and steep route, and would serve us well if it was well broken out.

We located the track just to the left of Bushnell Falls Lean-to, and the track looked good. Time to give it a shot!
Start of Chicken Coop Brook
Good Track
Starting to open up
The track and the route started off very, very well. The track was well set, and the route mostly followed the bed of Chicken Coop Brook, winding aesthetically up and around various obstacles in the brook. The lower part of the route is not super steep. Instead, the route saves most of its elevation gain for the very last bit, where it rises a thousand feet in a very short horizontal distance. At its upper end, the route follows a steep open slide path coming off of Saddleback. I wasn't expecting this, and was pleasantly surprised. A bit of a calf-burner that section is, though!
Turning into a slide...
Saddleback Summit Rocks
Linda ascends
Finally, the route tops out in the col between Saddleback and Basin at the Range Trail. Jenn and I were also thinking about doing Saddleback (which Jenn needs as part of her 46er quest), and so in an ultra-safety frame of mind, I brought enough climbing gear to tackle the rocky cliff ascent of Saddleback. Now, normally one can scramble up the steep bit of rock on Saddleback, but because it was wintertime, we weren't sure what shape it was in. So, I brought a rope, two harnesses, and a smattering of protection. This way we'd be virtually assured of getting up Saddleback. We would then go over Saddleback and down the Orebed trail, rejoining our ascent route down near JBL.
Looking back down the slide
Saddleback Cliffs
A handy gear rack
Since I didn't need any climbing gear for Basin, and since it added a significant amount of extra weight to my pack, I decided to park all the climbing gear on a handy tree rack on the Range trail near Saddleback. We'd return for it later, and we didn't think any climbing gear thieves would be up here today, on a Tuesday in the Adirondacks in winter!
Good view of Saddleback
The trail, marked
Steep Trail!
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