Today on the agenda: a quick climb of Wright Peak, on a day with muggy conditions and a very unstable forecast. The roster? myself, Jenn, and Brian.
The weather forecast for today - Sunday, July 19 - was not ideal, to say the least: in addition to the promise of a super-humid, sticky day, nearly the entire daylight-hours forecast consisted of either a possible or likely thunderstorm activity. Now, normally I would call off a hike on a day such as today, but with an upcoming climb of the 10,700-foot volcano of Mt Baker scheduled for the following weekend, I felt we needed to training - both for myself and Brian.
Today was a rare "third-choice" outing for us: after the original plan of a Great Range traverse (shelved because of lack of sufficient participation and proximity to the aforementioned upcoming larger trip), we downgraded to a climb of Grace Peak via the north slide, and then - when the weather forecast looked super sketchy - downgraded again to a simple and short climb of Wright. It was the "right" peak for today.
Surprisingly Sunny Morning
We had a quick look at the weather radar before leaving for the drive to the Adirondacks. If the conditions were looking especially bad, we'd still entertain cancelling the hike entirely. Promisingly, though, it showed that the Central High Peaks region was fairly devoid of heavy weather activity (it all seemed concentrated up towards Ottawa and Montreal). And, even though the hourly forecast did show the potential for thundershowers for the whole day, it was only at 9 am - for exactly one hour - that the forecast predicted a 100% chance of a thunderstorm. The rest of the hourly forecast showed a relatively low chance of actual precipitation and the possibility even of some sun. And that 100% chance at 9am for one hour thing seemed a little anomalous. Perhaps only a glitch in the forecast model?
Anyway, armed with the latest weather info, we headed down to the Adirondacks, encountering only a brief period of rain at the start of the drive, near Ottawa. After that it was dry sailing. In fact, it was downright sunny as we drove up through the meadows towards the Adirondack High Peaks visitor center parking area.
Sunny Visitor Center
Encouraged by the sunny trailhead conditions, we kept all of the wet weather gear we had brought along stuffed into the bottom of our packs, and set off along the main trail towards Marcy Dam. Maintaining a brisk walking pace, we soon arrived at the junction with the trail up to Algonquin Peak (and the rest of the MacIntyre range peaks). Even though we had been walking along easy, mostly flat trail, we were already pretty sweaty. Looking up at the trail signs at the junction, we could see them glistening with moisture from the 100% humidity conditions.
The trail up towards Wright and Algonquin was pretty much as expected - decent at first, then a bit of nice boulder-step trailwork, and then long sections of tiring classic Adirondack trail bouldering. A tiring reminder of why I like hiking many of these trails in the winter, when all of this sort of stuff is well and truly covered over.
As I said earlier, one of the principal reasons why I wanted to do an ADK hike this weekend was in prep for a large out-west trip Brian, Jenn, myself and a few others were about to go on. You may recall from our last ADK trip report - our climb up the Trap Dike on Mt Colden
- that Brian had a bit of a mysterious (but temporary) affliction near the top of the climb. So, in a certain sense, this hike was partially about seeing if we could improve upon that experience.
For a few moments, just before the two-hour mark, Brian did seem to hit a bit of a wall. However, unlike last time, he didn't experience any nausea and he was more-or-less ready to go at a normal pace after a short rest period.
Brief bit of rain
Shortly before 9am, it started to rain - fairly abruptly so. Along with the rain were a few distant booms of thunder. Gradually they came closer, and the rain increased in intensity. Somewhat reluctantly, we got out our raingear. The thunderclaps became louder and more crisp.
Soon afterwards, though, the rain started to let up, and a few minutes later, the only drops coming down from above were from the trees being shaken by the breezy conditions. The thunder, too, began to recede, soon becoming only a distant rumble. The time? 9am. Those NWS forecaster guys nailed it pretty good!
The skies brightened and the last of the drops were shaken off the trees as we climbed past the rocky knob I like to call "Wright's Nubble". Not long after, we reached the junction with the side trail to Wright Peak. We were making good time again, and we only had about five hundred feet of elevation and perhaps a third of a mile to the summit. A few small patches of sky and sun peeked out as we neared treeline.
Although Wright can be busy and overrun with hiker traffic (owing to its close proximity to the Adirondack's biggest trailhead), it is nevertheless still a very worthwhile summit. A large expanse of steep alpine terrain leads from a 4300-foot treeline to its 4580-foot summit. Many other peaks of the Adirondacks are higher and have a less-nice summit experience.
Upwards we hiked, trusting in the super-grippy anorthosite bedrock to keep us from sliding on the steep slab of Wright's western ridgeline. We were now mostly in the cloud, with only occasional glimpses to the expanses of forest below. To our right, the nearby 5100-foot peak of Algonquin was completely shrouded in cloud. A fairly stiff wind was blowing up here, adding to the drama. However, the air temperature was quite temperate, and it felt refreshing rather than cold.
Too soon, the enjoyable above-treeline climb was over, and we arrived at the windy summit of Wright Peak. Conditions were good: dry and moderately windy. And, ever so slightly, visibility seemed to be improving, as Heart Lake or some other feature of the lowlands below would periodically be revealed.