During my time spent in the Adirondacks completing my summer and winter Adirondack 46, I've had many occasions to view all of the High Peaks from different angles. And, as I became more familiar with the peaks, I began to notice the little details: oddities, curiosities, idiosyncracies and extras. Like the network of fractures and dikes that criss-cross the High Peaks -- they are all over the place and readily visible if you look for them (the more obvious ones like the Trap Dike notwithstanding). Or, like the many little nubbins and sub-summits -- not big enough or prominent enough to be peaks on their own, but still noteable.
The Shepherd's Tooth
One such little sub-summit I first started to notice about 5 or 6 years ago, as I was doing a lot of hikes and peaks in the Lake Colden area. It is a small but prominent rocky knob on Iroquois Peak, situated on the southern slopes not too far below the summit. I came to know that this little nub even had a name -- it was known as the Shepherd's Tooth -- and the more I saw it, the more I thought that it would be a cool spot to visit. I especially thought this as I was working through the list of trailless 46er peaks: here I was trudging through trackless woods to a viewless peak, while an unofficial peak like the Shepherd's Tooth seemed to offer an airy and commanding view from it's bare summit, and it wasn't on any list of mine. I made my mind up that at some point in the future I'd visit this little out-of-the-way spot.
The Shepherd's Tooth
That day turned out to be February 15, 2009. I wanted to do the peak with a little more style than simply descending from Iroquois' summit and returning, so I devised an interesting loop route: in via Avalanche Pass, up the Cold Brook Pass trail to the height-of-land between Iroquois and Marshall, and then bushwhack up the steep cliff-bound slopes to the Shepherd's Tooth. We'd then continue on up and over Iroquois' summit, traversing over to Algonquin and then back down to complete our loop.
The Tooth in Profile
I did a little research on the 'net, discovering that few people visit the Tooth, and most of those who do summit via coming down from Iroquois. Even fewer continue to bushwhack down to Cold Brook Pass. And fewer still, it seemed, chose to bushwhack up from the pass. Still, via the limited information available, and from my own observations while climbing nearby Mount Marshall, I knew that the chief obstacles lay with the series of steep cliff bands just above Cold Brook Pass. If I could wind my way around those, the rest should be straightforward. I studied the few trip reports available on the 'net and formulated a rough route.
We picked a winter day that had good weather and where we thought the snow conditions would be conducive to a bushwhacking (i.e. fairly hard snowpack to reduce the liklihood of getting into too many spruce traps). And, despite their misgivings, I managed to convince Jenn and Ewart to come on a hike that involved some potentially non-trivial bushwhacking.
Starting out from the Loj
Leaving from the ADK High Peaks Center Parking Lot just before 7:30am, we set off on a brisk pace towards Marcy Dam. There was amazingly little snowpack down at the trailhead -- perhaps 6 to 8 inches, and the trail was rock-hard. Recent warm weather and rains must have taken their toll on the snowpack. We chose, therefore, to bare-boot for the first stretch. The trail went by quickly beneath our feet, and before long, we were at Avalanche Junction, where I switched into snowshoes.
Very soon we were at Avalanche Pass, and spent the next little while enjoying the views of cliffs, ice cascades, and the wide expanse of Avalanche Lake. The weather remained quite nice, with temperatures only a short way below zero and mostly blue skies, and there was very little wind.
Two pillars for two hikers
Observing the Colorful Cascade