Cloudy with a Chance of Summiting Colden

Order in ranking 11

I’m sitting here listening to the rain thunder on the roof, and watching a lake grow in the parking lot out front, so it seems an apt time to write a post about climbing Mount Colden.
Not that it rained when I climbed Mount Colden, but it was forecast to.
I was set to climb Colden the day after my Mount Marshall trip with ADK.  On the Sunday, the forecast was for thunderstorms (not good), but the forecast had been changing a lot over the days preceding it, so I thought I’d wait until morning and check the forecast for the day at the Loj.
I woke up to the pitter patter of occasional raindrops on my tent.  I hurriedly packed up everything, and went over to the Loj for a better idea of whether this was to get worse, remain the same, or clear up.  50% chance of rain was all the forecast said.  Utterly uselessly.  (Side note:  If I knew the American  version of Nav Canada, I’d go to their  website for an aviation forecast – it’s so much more detailed.)
I decided that 50% was ok – I’d head out, along my planned route – through Avalanche Pass, up and over Colden, and down via the Lake Arnold trail.  I figured I could evaluate the weather situation at Marcy Dam, and then again at Avalanche Lake.  From talking to the other hikers the day before, I had decided not to descend via Avalanche pass (and was I ever happy with that decision!)
Bridge along Avalanche Lake

The hike to Marcy Dam was great – I’ve done this hike countless times, but every time I still think “Wait….did the path turn this way here?  I don’t remember this little down bit….I though it went left, why are we going right?”  until I come to boardwalk area (that’s what I call it, I have no idea what other people call it) and then I feel confident that I’m on the right track.

I hit Marcy Dam in about 40 minutes – I must have been really motoring.  I had given myself a turn-around time of 12:30 – it rain and/or thundershowers were to start, I did not want to be anywhere near the summit.
From Marcy Dam towards Avalanche Lake, the trail continues relatively flat for about 1.1 miles, which is where the junction with the Lake Arnold trail is.  At about this point it starts to get a bit rockier – it’s hard to maintain a rhythm as you dodge between rocks, but it still isn’t too steep.  There were also lots of bridges over muckier and/or wetter areas.
When I hit Avalanche Lake, I was a little confused.  There’s no sign post telling you which way to go, and I couldn’t see any trail markers either.  I was also getting a little nervous, as I had only met people heading back to the trailhead (all of them had massive packs, so I assume they had camped at lean-tos), and the summit of Mount Colden (and in fact, most of the peaks) were covered in clouds.
I looked at my map and decided (rightly) that right was the way to go, and quickly picked up the trail on the edge of the lake.  I’d read on several forums (and in the guide book) that the mile of trail around the Lake was challenging, and to give yourself extra time to get through.  As I walked along, scaling boulders, shimmying down ladders, and trudging over the bridges, I made up a little song:

Hitch up Matilda
                You want boulders and rocks?  It’s got plenty
                It’s got ladders and bridges galore
                You want hitch-up matildas?  It’s got 20!
And I’m taking a few liberties there – there aren’t actually 20 hitch-up matildas.  It was actually a really fun portion of the hike!  There was one moment where I thought I lost the trail – I’d been skirting some blowdown when the trail disappeared……over the blowdown.  Once I figured that out, it was smooth sailing again.
I signed into the interior register at 9:50, and started my ascent.  The first little bit is uphill, but not terrible too steep.  It also evened out every now and then, so you didn’t feel like it was relentlessly up.  I flew through this, stopping once to eat a bit, but just kept going.  And then it hit.  It was like the trail just suddenly went vertical.  It didn’t it just felt that way.  Rock face and rock face, steep rock face.  I’d climb one bit, take a breather, climb another.  I swear it was an hour of just trudging up rock face.  Wet, steep rock face.  It thankfully wasn’t too slippery, but I could just picture myself slipping down, down, down – not getting hurt, just losing all my hard-won altitude!  (Second side note:  I did slip once, but only lost about a foot, and several layers of skin on my knee)
I came across a broken ladder (*sob* the only time I would have gladly climbed a ladder), and just kept going until…..I was in cloud.  I had reached cloud level, and just about then a ladder appeared, leading up a cliff, and then the tree line disappeared, and I was in the alpine zone.
I was slightly nervous on the exposed rock in the clouds.  I desperately did not want to step off rock – as far as I knew I was the only one on the mountain, given the previous days forecast.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, watching for yellow paint blazes (follow the yellow paint trail!), and keeping an eye on the surrounding rock.
At 11:21 I finally hit the summit, to some clearing clouds (not enough for a good view), and two other hikers (coincidentally from the same city as me).  We chatted a bit, ate some food, and then I was off on the L. Morgran Porter trail, incredibly happy not to be climbing down all those rocks faces.
Summit selfie, sun in eyes


The trail continues over the rock, and down into the treeline, before reaching a col.  It then climbs a little, goes over more exposed rock, and then veers sharply right to descend back down into the trees.  There are some paint blazes that lead the way, making it hard to lose your way.  It’s about 1.4 miles to the junction with the Lake Arnold trail, you’ll one sign points towards Lake Colden, and a little yellow marker with a hand-written “Marcy Dam, 2.6” is just under it.
I hit the junction  at 12:37, nearly an hour after leaving the summit.  The trail down had been steep in places, but easily handled – it was very similar to other trails in the Adirondacks – giant rocks in your way that you have to awkwardly step down, tree roots in your way, same old same old.  The Lake Arnold trail was similar – it honestly felt like 2 hours of “when is this going to end?”  There was nothing to break up the monotony of the trail.  I came up with another song (I got a little bored):
                This is the trail that never ends, it goes on and on my friends, some people started walking it,
not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue walking it forever just because…
Try getting that out of your head.

From the split it’s about 1.5 miles to the end of the trail, where you re-join the trail from the morning, following along Marcy Brook for 1.1 miles to Marcy Dam.  And did that trail ever feel nice after the rocky trails down!  Just going flat (ish) was a nice change of pace!


Total climbing time: 7 hours, 55 minutes
Left trailhead at: 7:38, returned at 2:33
Summitted Mount Colden 11: 21

One thought on “Cloudy with a Chance of Summiting Colden

  1. Quelle expérience: 23 km sous la pluie et les nuages et pas de vue au sommet, c'est vraiment vouloir escalader une montagne. Quand on est au point d'inventer des chansons, ça veut dire que le défis est non seulement physique mais aussi mental. Tu devrais être fière de cet accomplissement.


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