High Peaks Loop (ADKs)

Posted by jm on


This weekend I backpacked an incredible loop through the High Peaks; it was roughly 30-35ish miles.

On my prior Dacks hikes, I've been lucky with the weather. On this trip, everything would be thrown at us. Our hike began with grey skies as we hiked up the Brothers and Big Slide Mountain. All the views were clouded over. I then heard the sound of breaking glass; it was ice falling from the trees. The mist had frozen to the branches and was now melting. Little cubes of ice covered the forest floor, it was like an ice making machine exploded.

We climbed Yards Mtn and then descended to Johns Brook and found a place to camp; the lodge was closed for the season. The next morning was sunny and clear as we climbed up to Lower Wolf Jaw Mtn and the Great Range. The views were superb and the scrambles weren't too bad. Next was Armstrong Mtn with more challenging scrambles over slabs and ledges. There were more great views. The clouds were now moving in fast. We descended to begin the hike up Gothics. We were warned about ice and soon saw why- massive ice chunks were hanging from the trees and one hit someone on the head as it fell. The ice had formed from frozen mist and rain and it was now melting. We were soon above treeline and it was impressive, but clouded over. We left the Great Range to hike to Pyramid Peak, with a steep descent to the col. There is a superb view just off the Great Range Trail, heading to Pyramid. The clouds began to break and we were treated to amazing views. The views were astonishing as the mist and clouds sailed over the mountains and ridges. Massive landslide scars covered the mountains. Mt. Marcy was embedded in the clouds. A peregrine falcon danced across the wind. Lakes twinkled in the distance.

The descent from Pyramid was tough but soon we reached a side trail to Sawteeth. We stashed our bags to climb this peak with more nice views. The descent to Ausable Lake was moderate and we enjoyed views of stunning Rainbow Falls, which was in a deep gorge. Next was climb up to Indian Head, a view I've always wanted to see. The view of the lake, surrounded by cliffs and mountains was incredible. The lake created a wind tunnel that blasted us with gales. The nice spruce ridge followed and then we descended to Gill Brook in the dark. I nearly ran into a deer that was standing on the trail. It just looked at us. We found a place to camp and set up our tents just before it rained. And it rained, and rained.

The next morning the rain finally ended and we packed up. The trails were covered in water and everything was wet. It was a cloudy, chilly day. We climbed up the trail through beautiful forests of spruce. I looked up, the mountains were covered in snow. We climbed up Nippletop Mtn from Elk Pass and there was about 3 inches of snow. Everything was white, and frigid. The wind howled as the clouds rolled over the mountains. We slopped through puddles of frozen mush. Spuce trees fell over due to the wind and ice. The ridge walk down from Nippletop was enjoyable and unique for the High Peaks; it was rolling and fairly easy considering the elevation. There were some short, steep climbs. The view from Dial Mtn was great since the clouds opened up a bit. We continued down to a burned area and some ledges where we can see the ridge and all the summits we hiked down from Nippletop, it was impressive. The descent continued to the Ausable River with some hemlock forests; some trees were big. We crossed the river which had rapids. We then followed a trail towards Roostercomb. This was another great trail since it had a rolling ascent. It stayed on the side of the mountain and passed many streams and glens with waterfalls and hemlock forests. A beautiful walk. We descended on a red trail through more beautiful hemlock forests and reached the parking area.

A wonderful backpack and a great way to see the diverse scenery (and weather) of the High Peaks.