After a bit of an Adirondacks dry-spell, it was time to get off our keesters and out into the hills. Today - January 26 - was a tag-along day; Friends Harold and Brian were tackling a Mount Marshall winter 46R climb, and when we had gotten wind of the plan, we had asked to accompany them. Also along for the day were a couple of new-to-the-Adirondack hikers from the Ottawa chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada - Maurica and Jean-Guy.
Upper works trailhead
We planned to tackle Mount Marshall from the south, across Flowed Lands, and up via the commonly-used Herbert Brook ascent route. Although the forecast had for days been consistently for cloudy conditions with a chance of snow, we arrived at the Upper Works Trailhead under completely clear skies. Cold, though.
We managed to get started just minutes before 8am. The snowpack and hardness at the trailhead was low and high, respectively, so we saved some wear-and-tear on our snowshoes by starting off bare-booted. It wasn't long before the cold temperatures and brisk pace produced frosty hair and eyelashes.
Off on a wide forest road
The trail from Upper Works initially follows along a number of old forest and logging roads, giving a wide open feel. We could see the tip of Mount Colden about 5 miles away, showing us the general direction of the Central High Peaks.
As we hiked along, I suddenly became aware of a section of trail that didn't look familiar. Upon a bit of further reflection, I realized that we had not yet crossed the first of several crossings of Calamity Brook. Apparently, the trail has been re-routed.
The new re-route (which I later found out had been put in place in 2011, after the last time I had been up this way), stays on the north side of Calamity brook, avoiding two crossings. It joins with the side trail towards Indian Pass and Duck Hole, which then subsequently re-joins with the original route. The new re-route is quite easy but a bit longer than the old route. On the plus side, it passes near some more open terrain, giving a few more extra views.
Calamity Brook High-water crossing
After re-joining with the main/old route, we continued on our way towards Flowed Lands. The first of several moderate grades are encountered here, and these boosted our elevation from the 2000-ish foot level to the 2700-ish level of Flowed Lands. We could see that several people had backcountry-skiied the route, even though the base was too thin for good skiing conditions.
After stopping briefly at the commemorative site of David Henderson's 1845 shooting, we continued on to the Calamity Lean-to, arriving shortly after 10am, or just over two hours after starting out from Upper Works. Our clear weather persisted, and we were starting to think that this forecast of clouds and snow just wasn't going to happen.
While the others stayed at the Lean-to for a snack break, I decided to push out onto the open flats of Flowed Lands to take in the views and to soak in a a few BTUs of energy from the sun.
Although Flowed Lands was indeed beautiful and the sun was indeed bright, a chill wind was blowing across the open flats. I decided to hide myself in the lee of some cliffs and wait for the others to appear.
Finally, after about twenty-five minutes of waiting around, the others finally emerged onto Flowed Lands and made their way across to me. We then continued through the beautiful open scenery towards the start of Herbert Brook (and the start of our climb), using the snow and ice cover as a convenient shortcut across what is impassable land in the summer.