Off we went, then, to Basin. The trail was again well-broken, and we quicly ascended the very [very] steep trail up to the subsummit of Basin, where we had fantastic views back to Saddleback and ahead to Basin. The weather, which we had feared would turn bad, actually got better. The sun was coming out and there was no sign of rain. This was turning into another fantastic day.
Soon we were standing at a lookout just before Basin's final summit knob. It stood out dramatically against dark skies, and we could clearly see the neat and quite steep snowshoe track leading up through mostly open terrain to the summit. I had Alex go ahead and pose on the track for scale. Oh, by the way, please excuse the moisture I got on the front of my camera lens for the shots throughout this section - you'll notice a few smeary bits here and there.
Pausing before final ascent
Jenn surveys excellent view
After a delightful ascent of the east side of Basin, we were standing on top, enjoying the sight of one of the best views in the Adirondacks. Haystack, Marcy and Skylight stood close by in full glory. It was windy, but also warm up here -- just around freezing.
We took many summit pictures (again sorry for the smeary lens), and then got ready to head down. The next stop was the fun cliffs on Saddleback!
Andrew lookin' kinda funny
We retraced our steps back to the col, where I re-packed my climbing gear (ooh, a lot heavier again!). Mark's recently twisted ankle was bugging him, so he and Linda decided to skip Saddleback and head back down the Chicken Coop Brook route. They'd meet us again down below, either partway or back at the trailhead. We (Alex, Jenn and I) would continue over Saddleback and down the Orebed Brook Trail.
We were up at the base of the Saddleback cliffs in short order. The cliffs were mostly bare, dry rock, interspersed with a bit of snow and ice in the crevices and certain key areas. It was enough to make the climbing a bit hairy, and after I scrambled up to a safe halfway point, I got out the rope and gave Alex and Jenn the comfort of a simple sitting-hip belay. We repeated this for the final bit up to the summit, which we reached at about 1pm. Congrats, Jenn, on number 36!
I was quite enjoying the variety and scenery on our hike today. The excellent and new approach route, the excellent and rugged scenery on Basin, and now a fun bit of simple climbing on Saddleback - and great company, of course -- all of this was making today the most fun hike of the winter!
Macintyres from Saddleback
Another weird Andrew shot
We didn't dally long at the summit, because we wanted to try and head down and rejoin with Mark and Linda, who were probably zooming down their route at their usual breakneck pace.
I had an excellent time glissading down most of the upper part of the Orebed Brook Trail. Below that, we continued down over a good track towards the JBL area. The day had become very, very warm. So warm, in fact, that the snow really started to soften up. Not a good sign for someone with a lot of heavy climbing gear in his pack!
We reached the junction with the connector trail to JBL and waited for Alex, who was having a few muscle cramps and so was hiking a bit slower. We decided to try the southside trail, which parallels the main trail but which is on the south side (as you might have guessed from the name). In theory, this route would be better for us - straighter, shorter, and less elevation gain and loss.