So, with 32 of 46 ADK peaks completed, I decided that I would take a week off this August and get them done. Of course, I still had 14 to go. I tinkered with the schedule, setting the trip up this way and that. It looked do-able in a week, right? Of course, I’m long past the point where the peaks come fast and easy, and I had some nasty outliers, but I figured, “What could possibly go wrong?”
Of course, with a schedule that tight, and no wriggle room for weather, I was asking for it.
[b]Day 1—Saturday, 8/15[/b]
After flying home from FLETC on Friday and a long night playing Dungeons and Dragons, Shuttle and I met Dan at the Metro, and drove the 500 miles to the Dix Range in the ADKs. As if in foreboding, the skies opened up and poured on us on the thru-way. The rain cleared off before we reached the Elk Lake Trailhead, however. We geared up and backpacked in to the Slide Brook Lean To. Boy, does that place look different in August than in January! The campers were thick as fleas, and I think we felt some irritation at their expansive set ups, but we settled down on a flat space near the privy and spent our first night out.
[b]Day 2—Sunday, 8/16[/b]
Sunday morning, we were among the first out of the camping area—the plan was to summit the five peaks of the Dix Range (Macomb, South Dix, Grace, Hough, and Dix). Now, I only needed Macomb, which I had failed to reach in January 2014, but I wanted to do the whole range as an accomplishment. Knowing the trails there much better, I figured I had the most elegant line set up, so we started climbing the herd path up the Macomb Slide. Dan and I climbed together until the bottom of the slide, where I waited for Jen. Although I had regarded the slide with some trepidation, it really wasn’t too bad. In fact, I found it exhilarating, even. Soon, we stood on top of Macomb. Dan went on as Jen and I soldiered over South Dix (crossing the open area that had worried us in the blowing snow two years ago), then out-and-back to Grace, then to Hough. I reached Dan atop the Beckhorn, where he was napping. I jogged out to the summit and returned to the Beckhorn as Shuttle finished the last class 3 moves. She summited, then we began the long steep descent off the Beckhorn. I thought about the ice that had covered this section in January. We arrived at Slide Brook around 6pm, with a fully successful day. In fact, so much so that we decided to strike camp, backpack out, and reposition ourselves for Allen. That long approach was worrying us (Allen has a tough reputation).
The hike out complete (that was about 17 ADK miles with 5,000 feet of gain), we sat on the bumper and drank some beer. Other campers came out. One guy with an external frame pack showed us the four knives he was carrying, one like a machete. He also had an entrenchment tool.
We drove to Allen’s TH, near Upper Works. As we pulled in, we disturbed a dude sleeping in a bivy. He said he was meeting some other guys early and they’d be finishing their 46. We had little clue what he meant by “early.” We pitched near the trailhead and settled in for our own early wake up call.
[b]Day 3—Monday, 8/17[/b]
1:30am in the morning we were awaked by a stereo booming some sort of music I am unfamiliar with and a lot of guys trying to get started. We slept fitfully for awhile longer, woke up at 5am, and were on the trail before 6am. Allen is 9 miles away. A seriously long approach, and no other peaks in the neighborhood. It’s just Allen, all the time. But we found the approach pleasant. The crossing of the Opalescent River (feeding directly into the Hudson) was trivial, though people had been talking of it a lot. At last we were on the herd path. We crossed path with the group of guys who had woken us. They reported that Allen was steep and slippery. Dan flew ahead as Shuttle and I reached the base of the climb, roughly 7ish miles in. And then it did get vertical indeed. In the lower reaches, the trail often coincided with the creek and there was a great deal of slippery red algae. Very dangerous footing. Mercifully, this went away and turned into scrambly slabs in the upper reaches, which I vastly prefer. We climbed and climbed, at last moving through easier forest terrain near the summit. After a muddy class 3 move, we stood atop Allen. It did occur to me that I had worked awfully hard to get two new peaks, but I was at 34 of 46. Now we just had to turn around and get home.
Shuttle and I descended more quickly, but Shuttle took a nasty fall on the algae, sliding down a slab and splitting her lip on a branch. I was worried she had hit her head, but no. I looked at her lip and told her no big deal. “Post-Ronda Roussey, all the girls want split lips.” We soldiered on, tortured by black flies, who, for some reason, love to bite my bald spot. At Shuttle’s pace, we finished at about 12 hours (Dan, much faster), which I think is respectable. When I fired up the car, I was shocked to see that we had 66 miles to drive to hotel in Lake Placid. Allen really is distant.
Crowne Plaza. Showers. Lake Placid Brewery. Beer. Bed. We slept like we had earned it, as we had completed two tough ADK days. Tomorrow the MacIntyre Range beckoned.
As planned we slept in, grabbed breakfast at a diner, stopped off for some whisky, and drove to Heart Lake, where we geared up for three nights in the woods. Shuttle—with relentless efficiency—had crammed two people’s food for 4 days and 3 nights into a single bear canister. With shelter for two, stove, and that can, as well as my other gear, I was carrying respectable weight as we headed in towards Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois. The plan was to drop down to Lake Colden for the night.
Dan in front, we climbed steadily. At the trail to Wright, I waited for Shuttle, then headed up. I encountered Dan, who was descending. I knew he was heading on to Algonquin. I quickly summited Wright—one of the best views in the high peaks region, then waited again at the intersection. Once Shuttle was down, I started to climb for the summit of Algonquin—the second highest peak in the range. I scrambled up the steep slabs, but just as I left the tree-line, the skies darkened and people were coming off the summit. Thunder boomed. Two guys seemed rather spooked and were quite determined that I should not go to the summit. They said the ranger stationed up there was coming off the peak. She reached my position and I talked it over with her. She thought the danger of lightning was high. It looked very bad at this moment. So, I turned around. The mountain would be there tomorrow. A perfectly correct, responsible decision …
But the wrong one. Shuttle and I trudged back down to the designated campsite at MacIntyre Brook, our morale low as we lost all that elevation. I bent another pole. We figured Dan would have made it over comfortably enough, and didn’t worry. We had set a rally point at Feldspar anyway. But I knew this meant that I would almost certainly not make my 46 by Saturday, as planned. We drank some whisky and chatted with a family carrying impossible packs. The storm never really manifested, adding insult to injury. Very demoralizing.
Awake early and eager for redemption, I left the bear can to Shuttle who would work her way to Feldspar by a low route while I went forward fast to get as many peaks as I could. The morning was crisp and clear, and I climbed aggressively, alone. I was the first on top of Algonquin that morning. It was quite windy, but I enjoyed the open alpine scenery, taking in the long stretch down Algonquin, over Boundary, and to Iroquois. So that was 36 and 37. Probably one of the best stretches in the ADKs. I turned around and descended towards the trail that would take me into the Lake Colden basin.
But then I met a fellow coming up from Boundary. He introduced himself as Doug. I knew immediately he was a local. He was on his 7th lap of the 46, and I think he was surprised I was ahead of him on the trail. I told him what I was doing. He mentioned that he was going to do the bushwhack down Iroquois, into Coldbrook Pass, and to the herd path to Marshall. Would I like to come?
Hell, yeah, I’d like to come! Anyone who has stared at the ADK map enough has thought, “Why isn’t there a trail here?” There really ought to be one, and if a local was going to show me the bushwhack, I was game. Please note that this may not be the most prudent decision I’ve ever made. I’d had enough of prudence the previous day.
It all started innocently enough. We summited Iroquois again, then stepped off the nose of the peak onto a few ledges. From there, you can see a sharp feature known as Shepherd’s Tooth. We spotted vague paths headed in that direction and followed them, which soon took us into steep, crowded krummholz. The trail pokes out on top of Shepherd’s Tooth, and then takes a sharp turn, virtually a u-turn, to descend a class 3 crease, on the right. Doug and I traded tales of woe and misery: he told me of a fellow who had gotten stuck in the incredibly thick forest and had to be rescued. I could believe it. My pack got caught several times. At last, we reached a series of class 5 ledges about 100 feet above the pass. They were covered in slime and very slippery. I made the first move down them, but the second move seemed to require us to jump down onto another slimy ledge. I had no appetite for this move, given the very poor footing, so I told Doug I would climb back up and look for an easier way down. Indeed, by moving left along the ledges, we found a class 3 gulley that bounded them. Abraded but elated (next time, gloves and long sleeves), we quickly reached the pass and the trail.
Doug headed off on his own—he had much farther to go than I did since I was planning to overnight at Feldspar—and I climbed quickly up the boggy herd path to Marshall, which I reached at 11:40am. Peak 38. I updated to Facebook, then descended via the Herbert Brook herd path, which seemed to go on forever. Many creek crossings later, I reached Lake Colden and climbed via the wonderful Opalescent River trail—well known territory to me. I reached Uphill and the herd path to Cliff in the early afternoon, but my legs felt tired, my thinking confused. I decided not to do another peak today, and headed instead to Feldspar. Dan came up to me from behind. He had done Marshall that day and taken a nap, and was now hoping to be reunited at Feldspar, as soon we were. Shuttle was there, soaking her feet. As we prepared dinner by the creek and drank the last of the whisky, Doug passed by. He’d had a big day, but looked pretty tired. We wished him well and settled in.
Sometime during the night, Shuttle decided I was a mouse and started beating me with her pillow.
We left camp that morning to climb Cliff, which has been an outlier to me for years. The approach was short and sweet, but there are some of the toughest class 3 moves on any ADK peak on that climb. To me, they were good fun. Shuttle conquered them, but she had her green look on for a spell. A false summit later, we three stood on the summit of Cliff (39). Twas grey and windy and without a view. Dan took a photo of his cliff bar on Cliff!
A quick descent, then Dan decided he would do Redfield, which I already had. Shuttle and I returned to Feldspar, struck camp, and climbed to Lake Arnold. Exhausted, she pitched camp for a nap, while I climbed Colden (40). The wind sounded very bad, but as I topped out, it was merely blustery. I reveled in the views and tagged in on Facebook, then started the descent. Feeling good in the early afternoon, I thought that, if I could do Tabletop today, Friday I could wake up and walk a route like Haystack, Basin, Saddleback, Gothics, Sawteeth, and out to the Ausable Club. That would get me to 44, in time to finish on Saturday. My spirit buoyed, I flew down, let the others know what I was doing, then set off for Tabletop, which really came very fast (41).
I returned to camp around 6pm. I decided I would hold off on my decision till the morning. If the weather was good, I’d go for it. It would be kind of suicide mission, and not really how I wanted to finish, but it would be good to get it all done.
Unfortunately, however, we passed a tough night. After the sun went down, the rain started, and it rained hard, all night long. We had pitched the tarp thinking more “wind” than “rain” and the Lake Arnold area drains excessively poorly. Around 1am, Shuttle awoke me to inform me that we were sleeping in a puddle. I wished her happy birthday and encouraged her to use a trekking pole to try to drain the area. This helped some, but basically, we got to sleep in the puddle. Fortunately, the Thermarests kep us above the water level and I never lost much insulation. But neither did I get much sleep.
Yes, we should have done a better job with site selection.
Come dawn, the rain stopped, but I wasn’t much interested in carrying my sodden gear over such an ambitious route, especially with the rock now wet. Oh well, it would just be one more trip for Haystack, Basin, and Sawteeth. Shuttle and I hiked out via Marcy Dam, while Dan did one more peak—Tabletop. We waited for him in Heart Lake, drying our things in the sun and drinking coffee. Dan and I had each gotten 15 peaks, though he did Redfield and I Colden. All three of us were feeling pretty beat up.
Back to Lake Placid, this time to the Best Western. We did some laundry, went swimming, and I took Shuttle for her birthday meal while Dan hit the nearby pizzeria. Tomorrow, one more day.
In the morning, we met Victoria, Jordan, Dave, and her friends for the climb up Esther and Whiteface. This day would be Victoria’s show, as she was finishing her 46 on Esther and then meeting her family atop Whiteface for her celebration. Jen and I followed along, and soon stood on Esther’s wooded summit (42). The summit of Whiteface was beautiful (43), with a view of Lake Placid that was unlike another other peak in the ADKs. It is very accessible, so there were lots of people milling about. We descended to a road crossing and continued our party there. Victoria asked Jen and I to sign our books! And then we trooped down the long descent back to the cars. Showers and then off for a final celebration hosted by Victoria’s parents at the brewery. Overall, this was a fantastic way to end our week in the ADKs! Congratulations, Victoria! And thank you to your family!
Sunday, after a quick visit to the Noonmark, was all about the driving. 12 hours it took us to get home, with a terrible traffic jam on the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Of course, I spent most of the way home thinking of how I would get those last three peaks!
Thanks to Dan and Jen for keeping me company for this crazy and very full week. We got a lot accomplished and made a lot of progress on everyone’s lists. The ADKs never disappoint. They are always hard and adventuresome, in equal measure.
Nice trip report!
On my ADK trip last year, I did remember seeing a trail going beyond the summit of Iroquois. At the time, I was curious if it kept on going to connect to other trails/peaks. I guess it stops soon after and then you just bushwhack. We know that - all because of you, Michael :)
Sucks that you couldn't get your 46 - but on the bright side, we get to accompany you when you get your 46. Hoping we will get a glimpse of fall colors on the upcoming trip!
Thanks, Karan. The bushwhack occasionally does have stretches where there is path, but it's episodic and faint. I intend to thet bushwhack again.
No worries. We had A LOT of work cut out for us last week, and got a lot done. But trips to the ADKs rarely go exactly as planned, and I did have some distant groupings to get done. Plus, I always wanted to finish with a Great Range Traverse. ;)
Great Range Traverse - woo hoo!
My going theory is that Michael subconsciously conjured up that dud of a storm just to concoct a pretext to return yet again. It worked!
This really has me looking forward to the Algonquin/Boundary/Iroquois ridge even more. January is cozy up there, I hear.
Congrats on being almost done. You'll have earned yourself a 'Chocolate Perversion' in Lake Placid, at least.
Mmmm ... Chocolate Perversion.