Back to the Adirondacks for a second week, back-to-back. All part of making up for a two-year Covid gap. Today's objective: Wright Peak. One of the stars of the High Peaks region, with a commanding view of other big nearby peaks, good access from the ADK Loj area, and a long open stretch of alpine terrain leading up to the summit.
Note: if you are not Canadian, then you can safely skip this bit about covid testing:
Canadians in March of 2022 are required to provide a negative rapid covid-19 test before re-entry into Canada. Last week on the Bear Den / Flume hike, we experimented with an online test monitoring service and found that it worked, although we encountered a number of problem points. This week, we thought of some improvements. Namely: do the test in the morning, *before* the hike, so that you give lots of buffer time for the official PDF of the test results to arrive, and you don't have to worry as much about getting delayed or having to rush on your hike. Secondly, find somewhere with public wi-fi so that if you have no or limited cell data coverage, you aren't struggling to get a good connection. And thirdly, select one proctor and have all folks congregate on one call administered by that proctor. One audio conversation, not an unintelligible cacophony of people speaking over each other on multiple calls.
Switching to Morning Testing
Another optimization: consolidation
In all, we whittled this not-at-all-useful exercise (there's absolutely no way we could have gotten covid while having sat in the car for since crossing the border) down to about 30 minutes. Three negative tests out of the way, and now, back to hiking.
The forecast had been saying "mostly cloudy to cloudy" all week, but as we drove up the side road to the Adirondak Loj area, it seemed much more like full-on sun than anything else. Almost all of the high peaks we arrayed before us in late winter majesty. The parking lot was unplowed (owing to a snow dump from the day before) but still mostly full of cars. Long gone are the days when almost no one hiked in the Adirondacks during the winter (although to be fair, it is still far less than the traffic one sees in the summer).
With the fresh snowfall (and a personal greeting by an ADK ranger), we donned snowshoes right from the start, even though the Marcy Dam trail was already well packed-out (this is the busiest trailhead in all of the Adirondacks). With bright late winter sun and fresh white snow sparkling in the breezy air, we started off on the trail.
Gloriously bright and fresh
Alana Enjoying the Spindrift
We marched uneventfully to the junction at the start of the MacIntyre Range Trail, which we'd be taking to reach the base of Wright's summit. As we hiked, though, the bright patches of blue and racing puffs of low cloud had unfortunately given way to a mostly overcast sky.
We started the long ascent up the MacIntyre trail, at first mostly flat, then very gradually steepening until we were gaining altitude at a good clip. The trail was perfectly packed. It was just step, step, step in a regular pattern - no adjustments or clambering to step over roots or around boulders.
"The Waterfall" -- as I like to call it -- is a good marker of progress. It is almost exactly 4 kilometres in from the trailhead and indicates that you are almost halfway up the mountain, elevation-wise. I remember getting to this distinctive point on my very first Adirondack hike, way, way back in 1994, with a group of inexperienced misfits from work, on a hike to see a solar eclipse
We soon got to the first "scrambly" step not long after, next to a sign that warns about severe weather. Today the sign was important to heed - it was quite cold for mid-march (probably below -10C at this elevation), and it was quite breezy, even down here in the trees. That meant that above treeline, it was likely to be quite harsh.
Two hours and twenty minutes after starting out, we arrived at the Wright Summit trail junction. Here, a short spur trail branches off from the main MacIntyre Range Trail and heads steeply up to the summit of Wright Peak. We knew from experience that this relatively flat and spacious little spot was the place to get ready for the exposed alpine terrain above, and we got out and put on all of our heavy-duty winter weather gear.
Hiking slowly up the steep initial bit of the Wright Peak trail (so as not to get too sweaty in the seven layers we now had on), we made our way up to treeline (which occurs at about 4250 feet on Wright). We waited patiently as some guys finished putting their snowshoes back on after descending from the summit. "Dry up there", they said, "almost entirely rock". Hence the reason for ditching their snowshoes. This was good info, since I had thought that surely some of the last 36-hours of fresh snow remained. We therefore elected to park our snowshoes in the trees here, and scramble upwards without even putting on our microspikes (again, which I would normally have done).
Sure enough, once above the trees, I could see a mostly bare moonscape of rock -- dry rock, not rock coated with ice. I'm always amazed at how Adirondack summits seem so easily able to shed snow. It seems like a property that many other mountains don't seem to have. Just the day before, 30-ish centimetres of snow fell up here - yet the terrain was basically completely bare. Of course, wind has something to do with it, but.... I don't know - maybe the clean unbroken granite plays a factor also?
We had been wise to don all of our winter clothing - it was *windy* up here, and combined with blowing, drifting snow that stung, it was a very punishing environment. We gingerly avoided the last patches of snow and ice and navigated up the dry expanses of steep bedrock.
Some especially strong gusts of wind pummelled us on the summit knob -- enough that we had to brace to keep our balance. Although it was still mostly cloudy, there were enough appearances by the sun to create moments of scenery and to brighten up the mood of the alpine landscape. Off to the south, the looming east face of Algonquin faded into and out of view. After a few snaps, we took shelter in a nook in the summit bedrock in the lee of the wind for a few minutes, but needless to say, we didn't stay at the summit too long.
We navigated back down through the gale-force winds to treeline, switched back into our snowshoes, and then descended back to the calmness of the Wright Peak trail junction, where we were able to delayer back to a more normal configuration of clothing. Alana brought out some Cinammon Danish cookies - a crunchy treat I used to bring on all of my hikes decades ago. Very thoughtful!
There's not too much to say about the descent; with the excellent trail conditions, we made short work of it, and were back down in the flat country below the mountain in no time, and from there to the trailed before 3:30pm. The sunny weather had returned, and it was a very placid, pleasant afternoon - although part of that had to do with being away from the highest peaks, as they often attract their own weather. Underscoring that point was the final shot here, looking back at the MacIntyres from the open farm fields near route 73. The summits of Wright and Algonquin were still wreathed in blowing snow and wind and cloud.
Descending past the waterfall
End of MacIntyre Range Trail
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Wright Peak - click map to view
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet