Order in ranking: Mount Colvin 39, Blake Peak 43
The Canadian May long weekend was the beginning our 2014 climbing season. Originally we had planned to tackle some (or all) of the Dix Range – we had 5 people, and had planned on two cars, so we could do a traverse from Route 73 to the Elk Lake trailhead. However, this was the spring that wasn’t, and by the May long weekend, the road from Clear Pond to Elk Lake (and hence, to the trailhead) was still closed. This would have meant an extra 2 miles on top of an already long hike. Not to mention that trails above 4000’ were “closed” as well .
So what to do, when the trails don’t cooperate? Change your plan! We decided instead to climb Mt Colvin and Blake Peak. It’s also a long hike, because they’re so far in from the trailhead at the Ausable Club. We had already book the Roaring Brook room at the TMax N Topo hostel – which has a small kitchen, a sitting room, 2 single beds and 2 double beds, as well as an ensuite bathroom – so we were close to the trailhead for those two peaks.
Steph and I have been hiking together for ages, and we’ve got a lot of shared memory built up; there are many things that we don’t have to worry about because we know the other has it under control. Having said this, it’s also fun to add in other people now and then. I think a great climbing season is when I get a bit of both. This time we were with two of Steph’s coworkers – Jodi and Nathalie, and Nathalie’s teenage daughter, Pascale.
The morning of the hike dawned early – we were up at 6 so that we could get on the road and get on our hike by 7:30; Nathalie had been told by one of the other guests at the hostel that rain was expected in the late afternoon, and we all agreed that we did not want to be anywhere near the summits when the rain began. (As a side note: Nathalie is a genius. She brought her crock pot with her, and got a pot of chili going when we left on the hike. When we got back, we had wonderful, hot chili for dinner.)
Of course, being up and leaving early was a great idea…..until we got out to the car and realized it was covered in frost, and we didn’t have a scraper. Credit card to the rescue! You gotta think on your feet to hike in the Adirondacks.
|take this (second) trail|
We were off by 7:00, and took the Lake Road past the Gill Brook Path, to the next trail – the Gill Brook Cut off, which we hit at 8:00. This route is slightly shorter, and infinitely easier! After a short jaunt, we met up with the Gill Brook trail at around 8:25, having stopped for a quick break at the first junction. We stopped again for a few photos, and then headed up towards the junction with Nippletop.
We had made really good time on the Lake Road, but we started to slow down as we hit the actual trails. We hit the junction with Nippletop at 9:30, and then slowed down even more, partly because there was still a bit of ice in places, and we moved gingerly over it – we didn’t want to damage the new spring growth coming in. We did have micro-spikes, but didn’t really need them.
We met three people near the summit – they had hiked in the night before, camped, and were contemplating whether to push on or turn around. To be fair -there was a huge rock face in front of us that, for some, might look a bit daunting. Having climbed the Cliffs of Saddleback, though, Steph and I were more than prepared for this challenge. So with a bit of a scramble, we got up, and soon came to the summit, at 10:30, where we had a half hour break and a snack.
|Enjoying the scenery|
|Obligatory shoe photo|
After a quick break, we headed over to Blake, which was a bit of a struggle. You go down, down, down, then up, up, up. You have to climb over three or four rock faces, and then…..you think you’re there. There’s a clearing, the path is straight (in fact, if you go a bit farther, it starts to descend a bit!) but that isn’t it. The clearing is another two-minute walk, down a bit, up a bit, and around a corner. While the summit isn’t marked, there is a sign that points back to Colvin, and forwards to Pinnacle Ridge.
|If you don’t see this, you’re not at the summit!|
|One of two ladders leading to Blake|
To detail the trail a bit: You start going down Colvin, and almost immediately you see a ladder. Then you go down a lot of rocks, hit another ladder where you think “What in the world are these notches here for!?!? Did it break?!? Did a step break off?!?” (And then on the way up them you think, “Oooooohhhhh…they’re handholds for people going UP” and feel really dumb for what you though going down), and then climb down a bit more rock. Then you start going up a lot of rocks, and a lot more rock, and a lot more rock, which is incredibly steep. Honestly, it’s probably one of the steepest climbs I’ve done. It’s very doable – it’s not technical-climbing – you’re still just hiking, but it is a very steep grade. We were also moving slower due to our party size. Because there were 5 of us, we took longer to go up and over the rock faces, as we waited for everyone to climb up before moving forward. This worked to our advantage, though, as we could pass poles, lend hands, or give advice on the best route up.
We summited Blake at 12:30, and had a half-hour lunch, then started the climb back to Colvin. I’ve always found that the trails that are easy going up and hard going down, and those that are hard going up, easy going down, and this trail was no different. There were a few sliding-down-on-your-butt rock faces, and a few why-was-this-so-hard-in-the-other-direction rock faces. But make it we did, and we took a quick break on Colvin to catch our breath.
After that it was a long slog back to the road (which we hit around 4:40) and then the trailhead – Pascale, the young whippersnapper, fairly jogged back (or at least, in my foggy old memory, she jogged back) ahead of all us old folks – we all staged back at various times – from 5:29 to 5:41. Our feet were sore, but our spirits were buoyant!
|Yeah, that’s right, I brought a tiara on my hike|
Total climbing time: 10 hours 24 minutes
Left trailhead at: 7:05, returned at 5:29
Summitted Mount Colvin at 10:30, Blake Peak 12:30