Next, we followed the markers (which soon stop after the pass), and then the ever-fainter tracks, down towards Skylight Brook. At one point the tracks diverge from the official herdpath (I was watching my GPS with its track of our non-winter ascent), but it followed a generally straighter path to Skylight brook, so we just kept following it. With all of the water events we'd experienced today, I hoped that Skylight Brook's crossing would not be problematic.
As it turns out, it wasn't, and apart from Ewart bending his ski pole slightly, we got across ok. On we went, climbing up gradually through the very well-cleared herdpath to Allen brook, and the base of the steep stuff - the start of the real climbing! Would the conditions be good, mediocre, or horrible....?
The base of the steep stuff
Fearing for more of the 'lumpy stuff' (thick solid snow base next to melted out thin sections), we started up the steep bit to Allen's summit. From this point, it is about 1,500 feet of ever-increasing steepness to the summit, in the space of just over a mile!
The herdpath route mostly stays to the right of the brook, and there was a surprising bit of trailwork here and there - cleaned up blowdown, cut logs, etc. A bit of flagging, too. The snow conditions turned out to be very good, actually. The melted-out sections were small and confined only to a few sections in the center of the brook. On either side there was plenty of solid snow to hike on. Although it was tiring and steep, everything pointed to a straightforward ascent to the summit.
The tracks we were following disappeared completely under the ever-deepening fresh snow at 3,000 feet. Still, the herdpath was fairly obvious, and I had my GPS track to reassure us when necessary. Really, though, this part is fairly straightfoward: Straight up, staying slightly to the right of the drainage of the brook.
The cloud deck of the mostly overcast day was well above the high peaks, and we had excellent views to points north - Redfield, Cliff, the Sewards.
At 3750 feet, Jenn offered to break trail for a while. The going got really steep here, as we emerged onto the slide that marks the upper part of the brook. Snow conditions remained excellent for getting good grip with the snowshoes, and Jenn plodded up at a constant pace. We stayed in the official herdpath on the left to avoid the small cliff band section. Then it was into the dense vegetation (but still a very nicely cleared herdpath) for the last 250 still very steep feet to the summit ridge. Let it be known to any who doubt that Jenn does her fair share of trailbreaking! That was 500 feet of the steepest part of the climb. Good job!
Still warm from the effort of the ascent, we waited around a bit for Ewart, who was a few minutes behind us. When then made our way a few minutes along the summit ridge to Allen's summit sign. Since we're talking about winter 46 lists these days, this marks winter 42 for me, winter 40 for Jenn, and winter 43 for Ewart. We're all getting pretty close!
Andrew and Jenn on summit
While Ewart and Jenn were milling about at the summit, I went a few tens of feet further along the lookout facing Marcy. The only time I'd ever been to Allen previous to this, I saw absolutely no views at all, and I wanted to know what things looked like from this angle. The lookout does provide a nice vew, giving a unique angle on Panther Gorge and the mountains around it: Haystack, Marcy, and Skylight.
Marcy, Skylight, and Gray
It was getting on timewise - 2:30pm - and we had to get a move on. As it was, it was going to be a long day. Off we went, employing some effective glissading down the consisently very steep first 500 feet of elevation down from the summit. Even Ewart got into the sliding act this time, coming to a satisified and poofy stop at the end of the steep stuff.