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After a tiring 500-foot trailbreaking ascent, carefully knocking snow off trees, I arrived at the junction with the main trail to Haystack. I hoped that Jenn and Phuong hadn't been waiting for too long!
Unbroken to Haystack
Mostly cloudy and Basin
Swirling and Haystack
There was no one at the junction, however. No tracks, nothing. Concerned that they (and, for that matter, Jason) hadn't arrived at this point yet, especially since I had taken the long way 'round, I immediately started back along the main trail. Fortunately, on top of a little knoll about 100 metres (yards) down-trail, I saw and heard a figure: It was Jason.

I called up to him, and he confirmed that Jenn and Phuong were not far behind him. And, as I got to the top of the knoll, he explained why he'd not yet gone past this point, despite the fact that he should have been way ahead of us: unbelievably, he'd accidentally climbed Marcy!
Haystack's summit
Apparently the junction with the trail to Haystack was not broken out, and all the trail signs and markers are now under the snow. Jason just kept on going, not realizing until he saw the summit plaque on Marcy that he'd made a bit of a mistake. His first summit of Haystack many years before was in cloud, and he wasn't familiar with how Haystack's summit terrain should look. An impressive misstep.

On the way back down, fortunately, he caught Jenn and Phuong just a little ways beyond the unbroken junction, starting to make the same mistake. So, he saved them from some extra work. Locating the junction, Jason then broke the steep trail up to the knoll we were now on, and Jenn and Phuong were close behind. Soon Jenn came into view, and she explained that Phuong's knee was starting to act up, and a result they were going very slowly. In fact, Phuong had pretty much decided that she should turn back. Since Phuong was almost at this scenic little knoll, I went down a bit and accompanied her up the final few feet.
ooh, even better
It was indeed a view not to be missed. Even from this little knoll, there were fantastic views of Little Haystack, Haystack, and Marcy. And the clouds which had earlier seemed destined to make our summit a gray affair were starting to break up in dramatic fashion. All sorts of cool, swirly, dramatic dark-and-light effects played over the very alpine-looking summit of Haystack.
Grand Marcy view
Phuong emphasized that she didn't want to 'ruin' our winter 46er completion peak. On the other hand, we had to be reasonably sure that Phuong, a relative newcomer to the Adirondacks, could safely make her way back down. We went over the directions several times, gave her a radio, and got her to repeat it all back to us several times. Right onto the Phelps Trail, and then straight at every junction down to the warming hut, where she would await our return.
Phuong's turn-around point
Meanwhile, we'd contacted Ewart on the radio, and he had retrieved his pack, and was going to make his way up towards us, following my tracks. Good, at the very least, we'd run into Ewart after we had summitted, and he would finish his winter 46 today - perhaps not with us at the very moment of the summit, but on the same day at least.

We weren't sure what conditions were like on the steep side of Little Haystack. We knew the route down it was reasonably scrambly, and if there was a lot of ice, it could prove challenging. I eyed the northern base of Little Haystack's knob, and remembered reading a report of Pin-pin's about how he likes to go around the base in the winter, avoiding the steep cliffs. It looked doable, and I suggested to our group that we try this. I radioed to Ewart and he said he'd just follow our tracks, no matter which way they went.
Jenn climbs Little Haystack
Off we went, then down off the little knob and over to the base of Little Haystack. Little Haystack is quite a nice summit in its own right, far better than most of the other peaks of the 46. But, being close to and not having enough prominence from Haystack, it is relegated to a nice stop along the way. A very nice stop.

I attempted to break trail around the base of Little Haystack, but the snowfield at the base looked suspicious, and sure enough I'm soon stuck in a spruce trap. This immediately sapped our will to continue along this course, and both Jason and I were in agreement that we'd just tackle the standard route and see what it threw us. So... backtracking a little, we scrambled up onto Little Haystack's open summit and made our way to the other side. Still no sign of Ewart behind us.
Grand Marcy View
Haystack's notch
Into the Alpine
There was enough hard snow and ice on the steep side of Little Haystack to warrant caution. I started down a bit in snowshoes, but then thought the better of it and switched to crampons, which the others did as well. We carefully crunched our way down and edged across an icy and somewhat exposed ramp, and then we were down. Jason had a little scare when he edged sideways a bit without keeping his crampon points down, and slipped a few feet before he caught on some rocks. Aged him a few years, he said.

With the worst over (and climbing up is always easier than climbing down), the summit wasn't far ahead. The weather, too, was co-operating. It was well on it's way to fully clearing up, turning into a glorious winter afternoon. Perhaps the Adirondack-gods had just wanted to give me a little scare, deke me out a little, let me know who's boss around here, before opening up the skies to welcome our final winter peak. If so... then thanks!
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