Whirlwind Snaefellsnes

At the beginning of our Iceland trip, we stayed in Borgarnes, since we didn’t want to be driving too far on our first day on arrival in Iceland. And since we were staying in Borgarnes, and had a day to spare, we decided that we’d tack a whirlwind tour of the Snæfellsnes peninsula onto our trip to the Westfjords.

We decided to go clockwise – driving the southern coast in the morning, and then the northern coast in the afternoon. We packed our lunch at the hostel, filled our water bottles, called up the route on our phones (always pay attention to the road, as GPS can be off and where it says turn….might not be a turn. Be sure to follow the road, and use the GPS as a back up), and set off.

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Our first pit stop was at Raudfeldsgja, a fissure in a cliff face near Arnarstapi. There’s a small parking lot near the road, and a path that leads fairly straight up to the fissure, where the birds wheel overhead. You can walk into the fissure(although we chose not to as it was pretty wet, and we didn’t have a change of shoes – come prepared with a pair of water shoes/boots/sandals, to take advantage of this) but it was still interesting to do the short hike up to the cleft, and look up (and up) the cliffs, and a welcome break to stretch our legs.

From there we continued on to Hellnar, to take a short 2.5 km hike back towards Arnarstapi. The hike starts off on wooden walkways, before narrowing to a beaten track through lava rocks and fields. There are wonderful views of the glacier, as well as the ocean, and cliffs where birds nest. It’s not a difficult hike, and the trail is easy to follow. We pulled up a couple of rocks near Arnarstapi, to eat our lunch and watch the birds.

We had some tea and dessert in the café back at Hellnar, before heading back onto the road. Our plan was to stop at the Vatnshellir Cave – who doesn’t love caving? – but we were unfortunately either a half hour too early, or a half hour too late, and decided not to wait for the next tour.

Not long after hitting the road, we picked up a young couple hitch hiking. This put the curb a bit on our ‘stopping wherever we’d like to’ plan, but we did pull over into a viewing area along the northern tip of the peninsula to stretch our legs and take a few photos.

We dropped our passengers off at Kirkjufell, which they planned to climb, as we continued on to our last stop – the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum, where we would not only learn how hakarl is made, but what it tastes like (hint: not so good)

It’s a one room museum, run by the family. Inside is a plethora of fishing related gear and artifacts, and after a brief presentation of how hakarl is made (from the traditional way it used to be made, to the more modern way it’s done now) they give you the chance to sample a piece (with some rye bread to cut the taste a bit if you’d prefer).

You’re also welcome to tour the drying house out back – but I warn you, the smell there is definitely worse than the taste.

From there it was back to Borgarnes, to celebrate Canada Day at the hostel (we threw our own party because that’s what you do when you’re the only Canadians in a hostel in Iceland)

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Overnighter in the Adirondacks

Redfield order in ranking: 15

In all the (four) years of working on the 46, Steph and I had never had an overnighter. All of our hikes, including the entire Dix range, were done on daytrips. Last year we branched out into winter hiking (tackling first Cascade and Porter as primers, and then slogging out to Allen, and enjoying some prime butt-sliding down the slide.)

So this year, we decided that we would finally do an overnighter. We had a good idea of what items would be needed (hint: tent, sleeping bags and pads, and bear can), all we had to do was put everything into motion. The original plan was to hike in on Saturday and out on Monday, and hope to get a lean-to.

We decided to head down over the May long weekend (or rather, the Canadian May long weekend, which was May 21 to 23). We drove down Friday after work, and spent the night at the Hoot Owl Lodge to finalize our packing, and making sure all the food we had planned to bring would fit in the bear can. (It didn’t. We had to be ruthless about what we were going to bring.)

So maybe that’s the first tip. The bear can hold enough for two nights and two days of hiking – two dehydrated meals, two sandwiches, 4 peanut butter rice cakes, two pre-packaged fruit cups, two protein bars, some trail mix, carrots, chocolate covered pretzels, two pop-tarts, a mini-bota box of wine (this was cause for celebration!)…pretty much two of everything, plus toothbrushes, sunscreen, mozzie spray and any garbage we accumulated.

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All loaded up and ready to go

We woke up excited on Saturday, and we in the parking lot by 6:30. We had to finangle some parking (we, um…created…a parking space.) but by 6:49 we were signed in and off on the trail.

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Good morning trail

Which for some reason had grown far, far steeper than we had remembered. It started off with some rolling terrain, before hitting a steep curve at the hour mark. But we kept up our pace (slow, our pace was slow, but steady) stopping a couple of times to remove layers, and to eat and drink some water.

And that’s the second tip. We each carried a litre water bottle, full, and 2.5-litre camelbak bladders, also full. There’s enough water along the trail (and occasionally, over and under as well) that there’s no need to carry that much. In fact, on the hike out we only had water in the water bottles. (Hint three – make sure that your water purification system is handy)

Somehow between last summer, when we did Cliff, and this May long weekend, I had managed to forget about the water crossing about an hour and half in. How I did this, I don’t know, seeing as I have the balance of a three-hour old colt (bad) and always end up turtling over rocks. And with a large, heavy pack on….turtling wasn’t going to work. (I know because I tried and nearly tipped over into the water.) It’s not that the water was particularly deep, it was just deep enough for me. Steph made it over, dropped her pack, and came back to grab mine when….he appeared. My hiker in shining gaiters (I’m sure those gaiters weren’t shining by the end of the day, but they certainly were when he appeared beside me). He asked if I was having trouble, asked if my pack was heavy, then easily swung it up and bounded over the rocks on wings of gortex (or whatever his boots were made of). After that it was easy enough for me to turtle over to the other side.

(Which brings me to this: there is a high water bridge. We still have no idea how we managed to miss seeing it, other than there is no sign when coming in from Upper Works. Coming out again, there is a sign, so we took the swinging, scary, suspension bridge of doom back over, thus freeing us from relying on strangers of unusual helpfulness.)

We came to the Flowed Lands Interior Register shortly before we hit the 3-hour mark. We were bouyed by our time, and excited to be that close to our final destination. We had been aiming for the Uphill Leanto, but had readjusted to finding something closer to Lake Colden, as the extra 2.6 miles from the dam to the lean was going to cause us serious endurance problems with the packs on. (Hint 4 – those packs are heavy heavy heavy, and less is more!)

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Scrambling down

We scrambled along the trail, which had gotten woolier – more large rocks to scramble up, over and around, as well as being relentlessly up. We came to the Colden Dam an hour after signing in at the interior register, and crossed over.

Where we couldn’t find a leanto. There was a sign to one, but….no lean to (possibly it was across the water.) So we headed back over the dam, and to the McMartin Leanto, which was less than 5 minutes back along the trail.

For those planning to stay at the McMartin leanto, there is water access nearly across from the leanto trail – there is a large “No camping” sign about a 30 second walk back up the trail (towards the dam), and a snaking herdpath down to the river.

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Home sweet leanto

Lucky for us, there was plenty of room in the leanto – someone else’s gear was neatly stashed along one side (he would in fact hike out that evening, so we ended up with the leanto to ourselves.) We dropped the heavy packs, ate some lunch, packed our day-packs with items we might need, and headed out to conquer Mount Redfield.

And this brings me to tip 5 (possibly 6 if you think of the water tip as a hint) – there is a reason that people hike in with the heavy packs on one afternoon, hike the next, then hike out on the third day. Because you will probably be exhausted from carting around that massive bag, and all that weight.

Since we were as exhausted as we were, we decided to leave the Gray-Skylight hike, and do Redfield. We have a grand finale planned for July, and Gray-Skylight-Marcy is a doable loop, but Redfield was off on its own lonesome, orphaned last year when we summitted Cliff.

We made good time to the Cliff-Redfield junction, arriving just over an hour after leaving the leanto. We had been told that the hike to Redfield was by far easier than Cliff, and was more of a hike than a climb.

It appears everyone lied to us.

It was a long slog up a river, scrambling over rocks and under fallen trees. I fell more times than I wish to count (scrapping my knee, ripping a hole in my pants, and grinding dirt into a cut on my palm) but the view was incredible – Skylight looming beside us, Marcy looming behind us, and Redfield in front. We hit the summit at 2:13, not quite two hours after leaving the junction. It’s possible that had we left the hike until the day after we could have been quicker – we were definitely feeling the strain from having hiked the packs in.

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Number 43! Only 3 left

A group of guys made the summit before us, and we could hear one bragging that he was at number 39, so I felt the need to yell out “Number 43!!!” because dammit, I’m so close! We joined them on the lookout to stare out at the Lonely Mountain (aka Allen), before heading back to the summit to eat some more, and whinge about how tired and sore we were.

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Allen, the lonely mountain

The hike down was a lot quicker, especially as we knew where the route was this time. On our way up we had a few moments where we weren’t sure if the trail went up the side of the brook, through the brook, or even crossed the brook. There are small cairns, but they can blend in if you’re not paying close enough attention. But tip 6: the route never crosses the brook, it frequently follows the brook, is in the brook, but never crosses to the other bank. The trail when it is on the land is very easy to see and follow.

We stopped once to refill our camelbaks (and treat the water, just in case) and to talk with a few other hikers who were heading up Cliff. We staggered over the suspension bridge (muttering pleas under our breath as it swayed over the rushing, snow-melt infused water below), and then over the dam and to our leanto, where we found our leanto mate packing up to head out. A ranger had told him there was a 20% chance of rain overnight, and a 70% chance of rain the next day, so he decided to head out early. (Great for us, we got the leanto all to ourselves!)

Our night was quiet (no bears!) and amazing – the soft rain did start around 3 in the morning, and the sound of it hitting the roof of the leanto (solid, no leaks!) was peaceful. The rain continued into the morning – going for the bear can, which had been carried out away from the leanto, kind of sucked, but we took our time, gathered up our gear and repacked, and by the time that had finished…..the rain had stopped. We got to walk out again without rain dripping down our backs. Tip 7: if it has just rained, don’t grab a tree for balance, you will shake the rain on the leaves down your back. We did slide a bit on the slick trails – they had been wet on the way in, and man were they waterlogged on the way out! Gaiters were definitely the way to go.

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You know it’s a maintained trail because of the logs

My last tip for an overnighter: keep some water and food in the car. It was nice to get some filtered water and food that we hadn’t been eating for two days.

Total climbing time: 11 hours 7 minutes
Left parking lot at: 6:49, back in leanto at: 5:56
Summitted Redfield at: 2:13

 

What’s in Your Pack

I’ve been working towards the 46ers (the 46 mountains in Adirondack Park that are over 4000′) for a few years. I’ll admit to being an idiot when I started – wearing jeans, sneakers and a cotton shirt, carrying only 500ml of water and a small one-shoulder backpack that contained my wallet, an apple and a pb sandwich, I climbed Cascade and Porter mountains. Despite the lack of proper gear, I had a great time (except the descent. Those boulders are killer on the thighs) and I was hooked. 4 years later, I’m looking at a finish; I’m only four peaks away.

2 Summits. 4 Hours. 1 Bobsled. 1 Road-Trip.

Do not wear this hiking

I’ve learned so much in the past four years. What to carry, what to leave, and what to wear. When to push on, when to turn around and when to put the camera down and enjoy the view.

But the biggest, most important thing has always been what to have in my pack. I started winter hiking last year, and it’s been a learning curve for how to pack.

I have two packs – one for summer, which is smaller, and has a built in rain cover; and one for winter-like conditions (so anything from fall to spring). With my larger pack, if weather conditions look iffy, I bring a rain cover – I absolutely do not want my extra gear in there getting wet – especially the clothes. If I need to change, I need to change into dry clothes!

The essentials

I always carry a map and compass, and more importantly, I know how to use them. If you don’t know how to use either, sign up for a back country course, ask a friend, or sign up for a guided hike! It’s a good skill to have. A GSP can be a good thing to have, but technology can fail. Plus a compass takes up next to no space, and a map can help you figure out how far (or near) you are to your goal. If you happen to run out of water, it can also help you find the nearest water source, not something a GPS can help you with. When I’m on a new trail, I often have a guidebook, to give me an idea of what to expect next.

My hiking partner and I have gotten stuck on a mountain, as the sun set, with a 2 hour hike back to the parking lot. Headlamps are a must. It can be surprising just how quickly the dark comes on – the trees filter out a lot of light, and  the sun sets earlier as it falls behind mountains. Add in cloud cover, and you could be stuck on a trail that you can’t follow.

Having a headlamp is great, but what happens in the batteries die? Especially in colder temperatures, batteries just don’t last as long. Extra batteries, that you can easily find!, really should accompany you.

Another essential in my pack is a small first aid kit. I keep wetnaps (for cleaning cuts and scrapes, or my hands if they get mucky with pine sap), a few bandaids of varying size, Second Skin (for blister relief), duct tape (to keep the bandaids on) painkillers (Advil, Tylenol, Aleeve, whatever), antiseptic cream (Polysporin or the like), water purification tablets, and a small pair of scissors (the foldable ones you can get for sewing). For most minor injuries, this is enough. Anything more serious, I wouldn’t be able to treat on the trail anyway. In addition to this, I have a travel size bottle of sunscreen, lip balm (with SPF), and mozzie spray for the summer months.

Hanging off my pack is a whistle, which is mostly in case I’m lost and need rescuing. I can blow a whistle a lot louder than I can yell.

I nearly always (except for that time that I hiked with The Fiancé, and left him for dead) hike with the same person, so she carries fire starters – matches, and fire starting material (lint works well, or actually fire starters that you can get at an outdoor store). While she carries this, I carry the first aid kit.

In winter and shoulder seasons, I carry a space blanket with me. I have occasionally kept it in my pack in summer months, if the temperatures are expected to cool significantly overnight.

Considering I’m often out for over 10 hours hiking, invariably I end up having to empty my bladder. It would be disgusting if we all just left our waste sitting in plain view, so I carry a plastic trowel, so I can dig a cathole to bury my waste. Along with this, I have kleenex (for either this, or if my nose gets runny) and a a plastic bag for garbage (kleenex, or food waste)

The clothing

I always have some extra clothing in my pack, less in summer, more in winter. But I always have a spare set of socks, in case of a soaker when crossing streams and rivers. I keep them in a plastic bag, to protect them from a dunking, if I fall in a river. (Again.) In summer, I also carry water shoes if I’ll be crossing a larger river that I may have trouble fording.

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Water shoes, first aid kit and wide-brimmed hat, on a break

One of the things always in my pack, winter or summer, are water resistant grippy gloves. In summer, they protect my hands from pine sap, poking bits, and help me climb up rock. In winter, they cover fabric gloves that keep my hands warm, and allow me to grip snow covered things (ladders, branches, rocks) without getting my hands wet.

A breathable rain jacket, and either rain pants or gaiters, also come in handy if I’m in a particularly muddy area. I generally only have the rain pants if there’s a good chance of rain that day (which for me is roughly 40%), otherwise I stick to gaiters.

I could not hike without a wide-brimmed hat. Sunglasses just don’t do it for me, when I’m switching between shade and sun. But a wide-brimmed hat works no matter what.

The food

When I first started hiking, I carried a lot of food.  Actually, thinking about it – I still do, I just eat less of it now. But here’s what works for me, with the caveat that what works for me might not work for you:

  • A small bag of trail mix (raisins, dried bananas, peanuts, cashews, m&ms, sunflower seeds)
  • Protein bar (more for emergencies than actually eating)
  • Cheese (Babybel is really easy to take hiking)
  • An apple (which is more to give the apple a tour of the trail, I rarely eat it)
  • A small baggie of veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli and cucumbers, usually)
  • Yogurt (one of the single serve containers)
  • A sandwich (of which I only eat half, if that)
  • Chocolate covered pretzels (guaranteed these will be gone)
  • A multi tool utensil (fork, spoon, screw driver, ratchet) to eat the yogurt
  • Whiskey (because you have to celebrate the summit somehow!)

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    Summit whiskey is the best whiskey

I don’t eat about half of what I carry, food-wise, but just in case. If I need to spend the night on a mountain, I want to be able to feed myself. Or if I meet someone who has no food left, I want to be able to help out.

The water

I hiked 6 Adirondack mountains (Cascade, Porter, Algonquin, Iroquois, Wright and Giant) , and then I hiked Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. On Kili, I was told to drink 3L of water a day, to help with the altitude adjustment. That’s stuck with me, so I always carry 3L of water – 2L in a camelbak, and another litre in a plastic water bottle.

The water purification tablets in my first aid kit and in case I run out of water, and need to refill out of a stream. (This happened on June day when we hiked the Dix Range.) I also have a life straw, which contains a filter in the straw.

Special to Winter

New York State regulations state that either skis or snowshoes are to be worn when there is 8 or more inches of snow. In early and late winter, this often means that in lower elevations there is less than the required amounts, but as you climb the amount of snow starts to grow. So I pay attention to trip reports to gauge how much snow there is.

Additionally, I carry an extra bottom base layer, and two extra tops – one base layer, and one outer layer. When we stop for a break at the summit, I start to get cold, so I pull on the outer layer. It goes back into my pack when I start hiking.

Santanoni for the Range!

Order in ranking: 14

 

Santanoni had been my nemesis for a year.  Last October, we had started out to climb the Santanoni Range, heading up the Panther Brook trail to climb first Panther, then Couchsachraga before going to Santanoni, and down the Express Trail.
Our thinking was that if, for some reason, we couldn’t get to Santanoni, we could always come back and do an up-and-back via the Express.  And it turns out that we couldn’t get to Santanoni- by the time we got back from Couch, it was getting late, and we didn’t particularly want to walk back out in the dark.
So fast forward to March.  Steph had decided to try and do a winter ascent of Santa – having had success with Cascade, Porter and Allen, she thought she’d give Santa a try.  Unfortunately, the Express trail wasn’t broken out, and she while she could find the start of it, she lost it shortly there after.
Fast forward again to August.  We climbed Cliff on the Saturday, and then attempted Santa on the Sunday.  We made good time to the junction with the Express, but then we started to lose steam – our aches and pains from the climb before were hitting us hard.  We arrived at the Hilary Step around 2:00, and decided to turn around.  At the pace we were going, it would be another hour and a half to the summit, and we’d have to get down, and we were driving home that night.
So that makes 3 (4 in the case of Steph) attempts at reaching Santanoni’s summit. We were really feeling discouraged, but also determined – that summit was going to be ours.
We headed down in September for a weekend, and bright and early on a Saturday we were at the trailhead.  We headed up the road to the trail, and hit the express is just under 2 hours.  We were already making better time than our last attempt.  After a brief stop to chat with other hikers, we cross the stream (the water was low enough to rock hop) and head up the trail.
In August, at the Hilary Step

The Express trail is a bit erratic.  It starts off fairly even and flat, then there’s a rocky section that’s flat, then it evens out again but climbs, then a rocky section…this goes on for a bit before the trail starts climbing in earnest.  It starts off as a moderate grade, but quickly becomes steep….steeper….steeper… until you come to the Hilary Step – a massive white section of rock, that you have to skirt around to get back onto the trail, a point that Steph and I call ‘The Awful Up.’

This section was muddy and slippery the two times we’ve gone up it (and the two times down.)  We had to stop talking so we could concentrate on our footing – start climbing here, cross there, monkey swing around this, don’t pull on that it’s loose, climb up over there, cross again.  It took us a half hour the first time around in August, but only 15 minutes this time.
From there you enter in an area of blowdown, and you get your first view of Santa – and it looks a loooooong way off.  But just like Nippletop, the view is deceiving.  The trail descended a bit into a col, then climbed steadily (and steeply) through grabby trees, until we started to see more open rocky patches, with amazing views of Wallface, Marshall, Iroquois and Algonquin.
Elation! We made it!

Eventually you come to a junction with another trail, running left and right.  Turning left takes you over the false summit to Santanoni, right takes you towards Time Square.  We turned left, and it was minutes later that we came out to the false summit, and from there it was less than 2 minutes to summit – we got there at 11:47, four and a half hours after starting.

We spent nearly an hour on the summit, chatting with other hikers, and just enjoying the views and the fact that we.finally.made.it.  We headed down, elated that the hike had gone so well.  Everything about the hike had been (and would continue to be) perfect – the day had warmed up to a nice temperature, not too hot or too cold, the summit wasn’t windy, the leaves had already started changing…our hike down went just as smoothly as the hike up, and we reached the register at 3:55.  Santanoni was our 42 – only 4 peaks left!

Total climbing time: 8 hours 40 minutes
Left parking lot at: 7:15, returned at 3:55
Summitted Santanoni at 11:47

Scaling up Cliff Mountain

Order in ranking:  44

Finally, after months and months, I was back in the Adirondacks with my climbing compatriot, for an attempt on Cliff mountain, and if we had time Redfield.

Now, we’re both currently a little out of shape.  There have been a few years where we’ve swiftly ascended mountains, like the year we did the Dix Range, but this is not one of those years.  This is one of those schlep yourself up the mountain years.

So we stayed at the Hoot Owl B&B in nearby Newcomb (our go-to accommodations for hikes at Upper Works) and headed out bright early for a 7:15 a.m. start.  The going towards Flowed Lands is very quick – the trail, while not ‘flat’ is even – i.e. there are a few rolling ups and downs, but the trail isn’t covered in rocks, boulders, logs, branches, etc.  (This is actually great on the way out when you’re tired – you can just put one foot in front of the other and not have to worry about tripping over a root that is hiding in plain sight.) We made fairly good time, hitting the monument at Calamity Pond around 9:41 a.m., where we took some photos and chatted with a couple who were hiking in for an overnight stay.  From the monument, it was a short walk, about 20 minutes, to Flowed Lands, where we stopped again to soak in the beauty, have a snack, and rest our feet.  We thought this would be a great destination for a hike in and of itself – it was very quiet and peaceful, and other than the couple that had met at the monument, we didn’t see anyone else until we were ready to leave.

Someone jumped on the bridge.

From there, the trail started to get a bit rougher, with rocks and branches waiting to trip us up.  We walked around the Flowed Lands, and towards Colden Dam, a first for us.  After 15 minutes, we came to the junction with the Uphill Trail.  The name is not misleading, the trail at this point was a bit steeper, and with a lot more rocks impeding a quick pace (for us.)  We stopped by the suspension bridge (closed due to a cable giving way, and hanging precariously over the river) before continuing on, coming to the trail junction between Cliff and Redfield about 4 and a half hours after starting.  At this point, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to do with peaks, so we decided to hike the harder one – Cliff.

Only a little mud on this hike

We started up the trail, immediately encountering mud.  But, having done the Couchie bog the year before, we just powered through – we knew our boots were water-proof.  We quickly hit the first of the cliffs for which Cliff gets its name.

The cliffs weren’t too difficult, providing easy foot holds and hand holds, and were easy to scramble up, at least in the beginning.  The higher we climbed, the harder the cliffs became.  Near the beginning our of 46er journey, Steph and I climbed the cliffs of Saddleback, and after that, these cliffs were easy-peasy.  A few spots where you had to hold on with your fingertips, monkey swing around trees, and boost yourself up over ledges, but nothing that I would classify as scary (and I’m terrified of heights.)  Of course, takes this with a grain of salt – YMMV (your mileage may vary).

We finally summited Cliff at 1:46, six and a half hours after starting our hike.  We had our traditional swing of whiskey (from a metal flask, no glass for us), some lunch, and took some photos, before heading back down.  The cliffs were just as hairy going down as they were up, although we both decided to butt slide where we could, lowering our centre of gravity and reducing falls.

We made good time out, taking some time to relax on Colden Dam and chat with other hikers, enjoying the late afternoon sun, and the view of the mountains. We finally got up and continued hiking, hitting the parking lot at 7:59. A long day, but a restful one.  We had decided to enjoy our hike, and enjoy the Adirondacks, rather than race to get to the summit and back.

Total climbing time: 12 hours 44 minutes
Left parking lot at: 7:15, returned at 7:59
Summitted Cliff at 1:46

Allen! Allen! Allen!….I hate you Allen.

Order in ranking:  26

Let me start off with I’m blogging this late because I hated Allen every step of the way.  Allen was my beast, that mountain that just doesn’t play nice.  You feel….off, your pace is off, you’re sore, and you honestly think that maybe, maybe you’ll have to turn around because this just isn’t happening.

Allen was not my day.

I’d thought, and read and been told, that climbing Allen in winter made more sense.  First, you don’t have any red slime to content with.  Second, you cut time off simply because to get down, you sit, you push off, and you slide down – what takes you 2 hours up, is only 20 minutes down.  You also can walk straight across the Opalescent and Lake Jimmy, rather than wading and skirting.  It all made sense, so I packed up my winter gear and set off.

All is well crossing the Opalescent, even with open water

I’d posted on the ADK high peaks forum that I was heading out, and I met someone at the trail head.  We set off, and things went ok….until they didn’t.  At first it was just my snowshoes bothering me.  I toughed it out for a ways, then had to take them off – part of it due to the fact that the trail was really well-packed, but had formed a bit of a ridge in the middle that I had trouble navigating.  (I know, I know, wear your snowshoes, don’t posthole, etc etc).

No view, but still a winter wonderland

From the cabins to Allen brook went quickly.  The weather was good, the trail was solid, as were the water crossings.  I knew what to expect as a friend had climbed Allen only a few weeks previously, so I was prepared for the rolling terrain and the length of the hike to get to the actual mountain.

We signed in at the trail register, and soon hit Skylight brook and Allen brook, hearing the water gurgling away under the ice.  At this point we start to climb, in earnest.  And things just kept going downhill for me, including me.  When we hit the slide, I slide backwards and down about 40 feet.  I was frustrated, upset, and starting to think that I was going to have to turn around and attempt Allen another day.  But I had already come so far that I pushed on, and slowly (ever so slowly) pushed towards the summit.
When I finally broke out of the trees to the summit clearing (the last one) I finally felt some elation.  Here it was!  I gobbled down some food (some that I had brought, some that people fed me), before turning around and heading back towards the slide, where I could finally sit down and let gravity do it’s work (again, but this time in the right direction).  Only…..I lost control, careening down the slide, and (having already rammed into one person) I opted to hit a tree rather a backpack, wrenching my ankle.

Allen!  Allen!  No, wait, that’s Steve….

Heading back was nearly as torturous.  My climbing partner told me it’s best to think of the climb in stages – from the slide to interior register, from the interior register to the trail, from the trial to the road, from the road to the cabins, from the cabins to Lake Jimmy, from Lake Jimmy to the suspension bridge over the Hudson, which is a hop, skip and a jump from the parking lot.

Still plenty of snow at the end of March

It had been snowing on and off since about 11 am, but it really picked up pace as we hit the logging road.  It would have been wonderful if it wasn’t so tired and fed up with the hike.  I trudged and plodded my way along, and I swear my bag got heavier with each step.  It wasn’t until we hit the parking lot that I realized why – snow was collecting in a pocket – I had been carrying a growing snowball, about the size of a soccer ball by the time I found it, in my bag.

Total climbing time: 9 hours 22 minutes
Left parking lot at: 7:00, returned at 4:22
Summitted Allen at 12:20

And to apologize for the lack of pictures, please enjoy this BBC video:


Winter Hiking – Let’s Start Slowly

So my hiking partner, Steph, and I decided to try winter hiking, because we’re apparently crazy.

Having never done winter hiking (her), or snowshoeing (me), we decided to start slowly, and climb Cascade and/or Porter, if it looked like we were doing ok and had time.  Cascade is a short hike, 4.8 mile round trip hike from Route 73.  Doing Porter would add another 1.4 miles, if we decided to tack it on.

We’ve climbed both peaks before, they were our first 46-ers, back in October of 2011.  I remember hating them on the way down – the hike is steep enough, and the rocks plentiful enough, to make you curse the day you said ‘yes, I’ll hike with you, why not?’

Am I doing this right?

The day of our hike, we layered well – I had on base layers on top and bottom, fleece pants with rain pants over top, as well as a warm Vik Wind Pro mid-layer jacket by 66° North. I had an extra, heavier fleece jacket in my bag, as well as a windproof/waterproof jacket, extra socks and an extra pair of long johns in my pack.  I also had a toque, two pairs of liner gloves, and a pair of thicker mittens.  I was wearing a balaclava style neck and head toque. The temp was forecast to be quite nice, but being prepared for anything is par for the game of hiking in the Adirondacks.

We arrived early – there were plenty of cars parked along the road, but not many on the trail (or summits) – I guess they were off doing Pitchoff, on the other side, or ice climbing.  At any rate, we got settled into our snowshoes and took off, flipping up our heel lifts soon after our start, as we hit the climbing part of our day.

At the lower elevations, the snow cover wasn’t too deep – there were sections where a few rock tops peeked out, but for the most part the rocks were hidden, and our trek undisturbed.  We played leap-frog with a group of women behind us – we were hiking at the same pace, but taking breaks at different times.

Lots of snow at the higher elevations

We had one minor  incident, when I tried to back up in snowshoes (do not back up in snowshoes, just turn around) and fell over, getting snow all down my pants.  A quick brush off with a dry toque, and a change of liner gloves and we were off again.

It took us about 2 hours to hit the junction between Cascade and Porter, so we quickly head out to Cascade, to get our first Winter 46-er.  We met two men coming down who warned us about the winds on the summit, so we took out of thicker fleeces and popped them on, put on our toques, changed out of snowshoes to microspikes, pull on a second pair of mitts, and started to climb the rocks.

There’s this one rock spot on Cascade that is a bit of a bear to get up over, apparently as much in winter as in the summer.  Thankfully, another group was coming down as we were going up, so one of the men braced himself, and stretched out his pole, allowing us to get a good grip and pull ourselves up and over.

Obligatiory shoe shot

The summit was indeed blustery, and cold!, so we snapped a few pictures, as well as an obligatory shoes at the summit photo, before heading down, desperately hoping not to be blown off.  (Ok, it wasn’t that windy, but it was quite strong.)  We made good time getting back to the junction, so we stopped for some food (thankfully not frozen), before heading over to Porter.

Not as bad on Porter

Shortly after the junction, we hit a patch that was a little icy, and a little steep, going down.  So we sat down, and pushed off, sliding our way over the patch.  The hike to Porter was quicker than I remember it being in the summer, and thankfully the summit wasn’t nearly as windy – the trees helping to block the worst of the wind.  We spent a bit mor time here, actually enjoying the view, before heading back to the junction, and down to the trailhead.  We made good time on the way down – it took us an hour from the junction – mostly due, I’m sure, to the fact that we slid down most of the way.

Contemplating the view, before re-snowshoeing