Over the last few years, we've taken my friend Chris on a number of what I termed "moderate" winter climbs, reassuring him with tales of view-filled, bug-free, nicely-packed snowshoe tracks. Unfortunately, some of those outings turned out just a wee bit more strenuous than "moderate". Still, Chris perservered.
Despite these tribulations, Chris formed a vague sense of wanting to work on the Adirondack 46. He's on the gentle slope of the gravity well that is centered on reaching one's final 46R peak, so the motivation is still slight - but it's there. When I mentioned the possibility of a January Adirondack outing, he asked if any of the possible destinations were 4000-footer peaks he hadn't done. I'm all for setting goals, so I said sure.
Street and Nye Objective
The objective was for something fairly easy, with little chance of turning into one of those 13+ hour finish-in-darkness adventures I mentioned earlier. I settled upon the two 46R summits of Street and Nye, located near the Adirondak Loj area. They fulfilled many of the desired criteria - uncomplicated, short, easy-to-moderate difficulty, and, of course, they were 46R peaks. So, we locked it in: Saturday, January 31, 8:30 a.m., Adirondak Loj parking lot.
High Peaks Visitor Center
Along for the hiking today, in addition to Chris: myself, Jenn and Alana. You may remember Alana from her attendance on our recent successful Grand Canyon traverse backpack
, back in September.
The day had dawned perfectly clear - and quite cold. At Adirondak Loj, the air temperature was down around -22C (-8F) and was not expected to rise much during the day. After parking the car, we took advantage of the warm interior of the High Peaks visitor center in order to prepare ourselves. We set off a few minutes past 9 a.m.
The Adirondak Loj complex sits on the shore of Heart Lake, a small body of water situated on the northern edge of the main body of the central High Peaks. The route to Street and Nye, situated about 5km (3 miles) to the west, first follows trails around the shore of the lake. However, in the middle of winter, one can take a small shortcut and snowshoe directly west across. Which we did.
Winter Morning on Heart Lake
On the far side of Heart Lake, we rejoined with the Indian Pass Brook trail, following it for at most a minute or two before veering off right onto the "back" trail for Mt Jo. Another few hundred flat yards of hiking and we reached the "end of maintained trail" sign. The Mt Jo trail heads north here. For us, it was time to head straight, onto a so-called "herd path".
Street and Nye are two of the Adirondack's so-called "trailless" 46R peaks. There is no established, maintained trail to the top. However, given the relative popularity of the Adirondack 46, a relatively well-used and defined herdpath route exists. Even in winter, on a cold day like today, there was a solid and fresh snowshoe track heading west along the unmaintained route. It was looking like there was not going to be any routefinding issues today.
End of Maintained Trail
From the point of depature from the maintained Mt Jo trail, the route actually heads downhill (not uphill, as you might casually expect). We first had to descend to and cross Indian Pass brook. Then, once on the far side, we could begin the ascent up to the Street/Nye Massif.
Indian Pass Brook
Indian Pass brook is actually a fairly wide watercourse. At certain times of the year, it can be difficult to cross. Today, though, in the depths of a fairly long cold spell, a solid layer of snow on top of ice presented no difficulties at all.
Indian Pass Brook
Once on the far side of Indian Pass brook, the well-packed out snowshoe path tracked through a stretch of fairly flat terrain, before starting a gradual ascent through a leafless and quite open deciduous forest. The sun was bright and the air was calm along this stretch, and it didn't feel as cold as the temperature would have you expect.
Open water even at frigid temps
The 3000-foot mark saw us start to enter the upper vegetation zone, typical of most of the Adirondack mountains: a transition from open deciduous forest to thick conifers. The snow depth increased, the temperature dropped, and we could hear and feel the beginning of a chill wind. Fortunately, however, the track remained solid, the herdpath through the brush remained mostly clear and distinct, and the amount of blowdown was minimal. We began meeting hikers coming down from above, a few hours further along than us on the day's quest to climb Street and Nye.
There were a few limited views back east during the ascent to the broad plateau-like area between Street and Nye's summits - enough to make us appreciate the fact that there were other mountains around us, but not too much more. The moderate elevation gain (1900 feet) from Indian Pass brook, along with good trail conditions, mean that we made good progress, arriving at the Street/Nye junction at about a quarter before noon. A large number of hikers appeared to be ahead of us, for the junction clearing (not signed) was a big 25-foot wide area of snowshow-stamped ground.
The routes to Street and Nye split at this junction. A short side trail led right, towards Nye, and this we took first. It was perhaps five to ten minutes' worth of walking from the junction to Nye's summit, and barely more than a hundred feet of extra gain.
Nye Mountain Summit
So, our first summit of the day achieved. Wooded and nearly viewless though it was, I congratulated Chris, since it was another 46R for his list (although Nye is one of those suspect ones, being actually slightly under 4000 feet in elevation).
The extra two thousand feet of elevation and the increased exposure to wind caused the weather conditions at the summit to be noticeably more unfriendly than the sunny and calm glades at the base of the peak. We were all feeling a bit chilled, even though we had put on extra clothes and protective gear. A bit of fiddling and picture-taking and we were off, heading back along the trail towards the Street/Nye junction. We encountered several large groups of hikers on the way back: the army of snowshoes that had stamped out such a good track today!
Street and the MacIntyres
Back at the junction, we turned right and started up towards Street Mountain. Keeping in motion was definitely the way to maintain a nice defence against the bone-chilling cold up here at nearly 4000 feet. Occasionally there would be a nice glimpse out over snow-encrusted branches to more distant terrain.
The trail from the junction to Street's summit is substantially longer and with more elevation gain (than the trail that had gone over to Nye). It wasn't until nearly the end that most of the 250-ish feet of elevation are gained in a short but fairly steep stretch. We tagged the wooden-signed summit at 12:30pm - the second winter 46R peak of the day for Chris and Alana.