peakbagging Archives

  1. Missing Hikers Rescued in Adirondacks High Peaks →

    This is an intense story of two hikers who were rescued yesterday in the Adirondacks after being forced to spend two nights in harsh Winter weather.

    After making their summit of Algonquin Peak, a heavy fog settled in just after they reached the top causing them to lose the trail leading down the mountain. A recount of their story noted the fog was so thick that they accidentally fell off a rock edge into a massive pile of snow:

    Their friends later determined the fall, which brought them down the opposite side of the summit from the side they climbed up, to be about 100 feet.

    The man was resourceful, and did what he could to keep him and his friend warm, a reminder that every piece of gear is worth its weight in gold in a survival situation:

    On the first night, when she lost feeling in her toes, he dumped everything out of his backpack and wrapped it around her legs, zipping it up around her. After about 20 minutes, she could feel her toes again.

    I love hiking in this area, but there are sections of trail that can be treacherous in the normal hiking season if you aren’t being careful or properly equipped. And so, Winter peakbaggers have always seemed like strange breed of people to me.

    I am glad to hear they survived, and am in disbelief they came away with all of their fingers and toes. These folks were very lucky.

  2. Colvin, Blake, Nippletop, and Dial

    Over the weekend I made my fourth trip to Upstate New York to bang out another handful of peaks in the Adirondacks. In about 12 hours and 18.6 miles, I summited four peaks, bringing my total to 13:

    • Mount Colvin, 4057 ft (10/46)
    • Blake Peak, 3960 ft (11/46)
    • Nippletop, 4620 ft (12/46)
    • Dial Mountain, 4020 ft (13/46)

    Unlike my last Adirondacks hike which took me to the top five peaks in the Dix Range, the challenge with this group was that Colvin and Blake sat on a different range than Nippletop and Dial. This meant hiking up the first range to summit two peaks, descending, hiking up the second range for the other two, and descending again — a challenging day no matter how I would slice it.

    And so, no matter which two mountains I hiked first, I knew I would be getting tired during the second range. I settled on starting with Colvin and Blake, as the hike back to the parking lot from Nippletop and Dial would be — for the most part — a slow descend with no backtracking, unlike the trek from Colvin to Blake and back.

    Some of my favorite views during this hike weren’t on the peaks at all, but on a side trail that took me to Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs, which presented a gorgeous view looking down and South at Lower Ausable Lake, tucked between Mount Colvin to the East, and the Great Range to the West.

    At 3960 feet, Blake was my first false 46er. Although its top was covered in trees, its ascent still proved to be a challenge.

  3. Five More Peaks: The Dix Range

    Last weekend I made another trek to the Adirondacks, this time to conquer the five High Peaks in the Dix Range, all of which are attainable on a single day hike. In order of my summits, they were:

    • Macomb Mountain, 4405 ft (5/46)
    • South Dix, 4060 ft (6/46)
    • Grace, 4012 ft (7/46)
    • Hough Peak, 4400 ft (8/46)
    • Dix Mountain, 4857 ft (9/46)

    My hike began at the the Elk Lake trailhead, where — (at around 6:15 in the morning!) — I was able to squeeze the Patriot in at the end of a row of cars, giving me a legal parking spot without worry of being towed. It seems you just can’t get to this place early enough.

    As I learned on my last Adirondacks adventure, encountering hikers along the way is a nice way to gain information about what lies ahead. In the case of this hike, I was trying to determine the most reasonable route down Dix Mountain. The consensus seemed to be to take the trail West of Buck-horn, after reaching Dix. This avoided the longer Hunter Pass trail on the North-side of Dix, and was allegedly a shorter route back to the trailhead.

    I met a few groups of hikers along the way, and found that occasional small conversation during the hike is almost necessary at times. This was especially true of the last three miles, where I couldn’t decide if exhaustion was worse than my sore feet and knees. Needless to say, I am out of the woods again. With nine of the 46 High Peaks under my belt, I’m looking forward to the next journey North.


  4. National Trails Day in the Adirondacks

    A little over a month ago I set out to hike Mount Haystack, which, at 4960 feet, is the third tallest High Peak of the Adirondacks. Following last year’s hike up Mount Marcy (5344 ft), this would be my second of the 46 High Peaks.

    I planned my approach to Mount Haystack from the Garden parking lot, in Keene Valley. Having read that the lot fills very early this time of year, a call to the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) revealed that no shuttles would be running to the lot that weekend. So, I arrived as early as a Friday night drive with a decent sleep would permit. At around 6:45am, I was fortunate to find a parking spot, but only a few remained.

    I signed the trail registry and was on my way. The morning was cold — around 40 degrees — at least this is what I remembered reading on my car’s dash on my way into Keene Valley from the Interstate. I was wearing a pair of shorts, a base layer, and a fleece (though my pack had a pair of pants, and other winter gear, if needed for the summit). I contemplated putting on gloves, but knew I would warm up quickly.

    The trail was very damp, and within the first half mile I spotted a red eft, but refrained from taking a photo — I was in the zone. Before I knew it the sun was peaking through the trees. It was 8:00am and I had hiked three miles, leaving me at John Brooks lodge, a back-country hostel of sorts for hikers to sleep, eat, and get ready for their day in the mountains. It seemed as though many hikers had hiked in on Friday night and were beginning their day hikes from here. Not a bad idea…

    I pressed on up the trail following along John’s Brook until I eventually crossed near Bushnell Falls, where the trail led me into what felt like a rain forest near the Slant Rock shelter, and eventually took me up the mountain where the ridges around me began to stand tall. Here, downed trees had trunks several feet across, covered in thick beds of moss that looked shaggier than an old 70’s VW rug. The sun was higher now, and fog was lifting as the forest warmed. Before reaching the ridge, which the trail would eventually climb over, dipping down the other side, the hike presented some steeper wet and rock-face challenges, which foreshadowed what I would encounter after my descent from Haystack.

    Up and over the ridge, I followed the trail. Just a little down the other side and I was rewarded with my first view, facing South: Layers of mountains stood before me — an unknown peak to the East (on my left), and in the West, Mount Haystack and Little Haystack. Definitely time for a photo and a candy bar.

    I could see two hikers at the top of the unknown peak to my left, and wondered if it, too, were one of the High Peaks. I pressed on, and arrived at “T” in the trail. Presumably, left would take me to the unknown peak. I stayed on course and turned right, approaching the alpine zone, and the base of Little Haystack. A lengthy section of boulder-riddled trail led me toward the alpine zone, but the rocky path which resembled a washed out stream bed was beginning to nag at my feet and spirit. After a fast morning hike, I had a ways to go to reach the summit, but my body was beginning to feel the weight of my pack, the soaking sun, and the pains of what would be a long day hike.

    After reaching the treeline, I changed into my colder weather clothes, and climbed Little Haystack. As I walked into the cold air, a hiker greeted me and warned of the gusty summit of Haystack that was ahead. Little Haystack itself brought the reward of clear skies, with Mount Marcy to the West, the next mountain over. Mount Haystack’s summit was a short valley away, and was now within reach. I pressed on and was greeted by another hiker who was descending — he was only wearing tshirt and pair of shorts! I was chilly even with my layers, a reminder that you can never be too prepared in the mountains.

    When I finally reached the top of Haystack, two more hikers greeted me. After helping each other out with photos, I found out that the man who took mine was celebrating Mount Haystack as his 46th summit on his 50th birthday! What a great way to complete the last of the High Peaks. I took a few photos from the top of Haystack, then hunkered down on the Southern side of the summit. A nice dip that was protected from the wind made good place to eat some lunch. Two down, 44 to go.

    Moments later a handful of other hikers reached the summit, and a group joined me to eat their lunch. They too were seeking a break from the gusts. We talked a bit, and I asked about the unknown peak to the East where, earlier in my hike, I had seen two hikers at the top. They pulled out a map and explained I could take an alternate path back to John Brooks lodge that would let me knock out two more peaks, Basin Mountain and Saddleback Mountain. In that instant, my return hike had changed.

    The trail to Basin and Saddleback would turn my hike into a loop, but not without challenges. Coming down Haystack was no problem, but I began to tire during Basin’s ascent. Basin offered steeper sections of wet, rock-faced, Adirondack trail, requiring more calculated steps, and occasionally grasping for tree trunks and exposed roots to maintain balance. Hiking with trek poles was not an option on the rock faces, so I strapped them to my pack for most of the climb. I reached the top where a group of three hikers warned me that Saddleback would be a rough one, considerably worse than my hike up Basin. One of the hikers pointed out they had already been to the Basin summit (where we stood) earlier in the day — they chose to backtrack from their summit of Saddleback instead of going down the other side. Another hiker added, “and I was puckering the whole way down”. Yikes.

    At best, I would climb up and over Saddleback. At worst, I would have return and climb back to the top Basin, just as they had. Knowing that the shorter way back to the car was to press on, I did just that.

    Basin’s ascent was more treacherous than I expected — steep, bare, and wet rock-face. I took my time, but had no idea what to expect of the ascent (and descent) of Saddleback. The trail continued down the ridge, poked out of the trees, then began its way up Saddleback. This was quite possibly the most dangerous portion of hiking trail I had ever encountered. It was steep rock-face, but there was a section or two that felt more like a climb than a hike. The ascent up Saddleback was certainly something I did not want to come back down. At the top, I snapped a few photos and took a breather. Four down. I was tired, but despite the unknown that lied ahead, I needed to press on.

    As the trail descended, I ran into a group of hikers who were making the climb up the the other side of Saddleback which I had chosen to go down. (The map showed more than one route, but this one was the only reasonable path thad would complete my hike within the day.) Upon seeing them, I was immediately relieved that the descent would not be impossible, and a short conversation revealed that the worst section on the way down would be bridged by a ladder. Phew — this would be possible. I made my way down, and hours later reached the Garden lot.

    Three summits in one day, bringing my total to four of the 46 High Peaks.

  5. Mount Marcy Summit — 5344 ft.

    This Spring marked my first trip to the Adirondacks, where, to close a great few days of camping at Rollins Pond, my friend Micky and I hiked to the top of Ampersand Mountain. At the top, we discovered a beautiful 360-degree view wedged between the lakes region to our West and the High Peaks to our east. It was during that trip where I learned about the 46 Adirondack High Peaks — a group of mountains in the High Peaks region originally surveyed to be at least 4000 ft in elevation. (Though, when poking around for maps, I learned that a re-survey later revealed that 43 peaks sit at or above 4000 ft.)

    As last weekend approached, I pulled up a list of the High Peaks to find a challenging day hike with a 360 degree view at the summit. At the top of the list was the tallest mountain, Mount Marcy at 5344 ft, which met my criteria. With a goal in sight, I loaded the Jeep and journeyed North on Friday night to tackle my first of the Adirondacks High Peaks.

    During my early morning drive into the High Peaks region from Interstate 87, it didn’t take long to notice that trailheads lining the High Peaks Byway were loaded with hikers taking advantage of their Saturday. Towns like Keene made it impossible not to think “the ski people are out”, as mostly everyone was decked out in their fancy outdoor gear. Though, perception is relative, and I probably looked like an amateur in a pair of old blue jeans and my tattered boots of 17 years.

    The people pattern continued after I turned down the worn and rugged Adirondack Loj Road, where I was dumb-founded by the number of cars behind and ahead of me, dodging fractures in the road among patches of newer asphalt. (I later learned the road had been damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.) For the first time in my life, I felt like I were in a children’s book. It was as if I were driving a cartoon Volkswagen Vanagon among a few hundred other hiking families all flocking to a nearby trailhead, all of us eager to enter the woods.