Today's hike was a helper-hike. And the person (persons, actually) we were helping were our friends Brian and Harold. They're gunning for their Adirondack 46 (well, at least Brian is -- I'm not quite positive if Harold is or not). Anyway, Brian has 10 peaks left to do, and I offered to help him with a sometimes-tricky peak: Cliff Mountain. Moreover, given that it was winter, I suggested that we do it the Flowed Lands way.
The Flowed Lands route up Cliff has a couple of advantages over the standard south-side route. Firstly, it offers a shorter and more direct approach, and secondly, it has many decent views on the way up. This route is best done in the winter, when Flowed Lands is covered in a solid layer of snow and ice. Otherwise it isn't nearly as direct or easy.
The ideal starting point for a Flowed Lands ascent of Cliff is the Upper Works Trailhead. We departed around 7:30am on a rock-hard trail surface. The warm mid-day temperatures were still far off; it was still well below freezing as we started off.
Apart from helping friends with a trailless peak, I had a couple of other reasons for coming along on this hike (other than the fact that a scenic hike on a nice day in the Adirondacks is always nice): One, I had sprained my ankle last month on my traverse of the Shepherd's Tooth
, and I wanted to try a relatively moderate hike to test it out. Two, I wanted to experiment with my new digital SLR's video capability, along with an external microphone and wind-muff.
The weekend we had picked for this hike had a forecast of absolutely perfect weather. For five straight days, the forecast was for slightly above freezing during the day, and completely clear and cloudless. The previous couple of weeks had seen some warm and rainy weather, then an abrupt cold snap. This was also good, because it meant that the trails and the snowpack were likely to be very firm and resistant -- perfect attributes for bushwhacking up a trailless peak.
It was easy and straightforward walking along the Calamity Brook trail, first through the open area, and then into the woods. It took us about 2 hours to walk from Upper Works to Henderson's Monument, where we stopped to give Harold a look. This was his first time on this trail.
After Henderson's Monument, it was a short few minute's walk before reaching the wide, white flats that are the Flowed Lands in winter. And what a glorious spot this was today. Brilliant Sunshine, crystal-clear skies, and only a hint of a breeze. We stopped for a snack and relaxed for a bit. On such a day as this, there are fantastic views towards Mount Colden, and behind our shoulders, up to Iroquois and the MacIntyre Range (and the distinctive nub of the now-familiar Shepherd's Tooth, too).
After tallying for a good long while, we decided we should probably move on. Now that we were off the rock-hard well-trodden path, we donned our snowshoes and headed off across Flowed Lands towards the low forested peak that is Cliff Mountain. Compared to all of the bigger peaks around, it doesn't look like much.
Along with the rest of the Flowed Lands, the crossing of the Opalescent was in great shape, with plenty of solid snowpack and no wet or soft areas at all. Perfect crossing conditions.