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Saddleback and Basin Loop: April 29, 2017

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  • Saddleback and Basin Loop: April 29, 2017

    This weekend we completed Saddleback and Basin. We hiked in the first 3mi to the camp sites just before the outpost on the 28th. Woke predawn departing 5:15am and headed up towards Ore brook. Fairly easy going till you approach 3500 ft and the ladders up the slabs (7:30am) after which there is still significant snow with some on and off of the snowshoes. By 4000ft the snowshoes mostly stay on except for some steep rock slabs were the sun has had its way with the snow. On and off again will be a trend for the trip. Route finding becomes more difficult as we go as there is no trail and we have not seen another soul nor will we all day till fairly late in the afternoon. The remaining snow depth on the trail is variable at this elevation but 3’ +/- 2’ feet is a good estimate. Without showshoes (and even with) its easy to go through the snow to knee or thigh. In spite of the conditions the going feels fairly easy till we are at a windy summit of Saddleback by 9am.

    From Saddleback to Basin route finding becomes even more difficult. That said we only made one brief wrong turn as its fairly evident where you’re going (straight and up) and the rare ability to bushwhack on account of the snow is a treat. We arrive at the true summit of Basin by noon and are out of water and need to purify streamlet water/boil snow to replenish. We abandon the minor hope of attempting Haystack as the time between Saddleback and Basin clearly indicate this is not the season for such antics. We reward ourselves to a well deserved hot meal on the summit and a leisurely hour and a half down time alone on this windy summit for being ahead of schedule. We contemplate retracing vs. completing a loop via the Shorty Shortcut to slant rock. We decide on the later largely for the variety but also postulating that in spite of the “shortcuts” reputation it probably won’t be as back as retaking Saddleback, in hindsight this may not be true.

    The decent from Basin is treacherous. This is largely expected as the steep south face of Basin is well known, however the conditions add complications with the need to take snowshoes off to navigate steep slabs, steep snowy sections being very slippery due to the sun melting the surface (even with snow shoes) and worst of all active water movement under the snow compromising the integrity of the snow covering the trail which is often masking significant drops. Much care is required and even with care and snowshoes it is extremely easy to break through the snow and thus missteps are dangerously easy. By 3:20 we are thankful able to make the Jct to Shorty Shortcut leading towards our goal.

    This section of trail also has quite a reputation due its ironic name and the stealthy elevation gain over the shoulder of little haystack. The steep ascent towards slant rock proves to be the most difficult pathfinding yet and the combination of steep elevation gain, waning energy reserves and the constant risk of breaking through the deep snow that has been compromised by melt make for a stressful 1.1mi. This is consistent with everything I’ve read and it is with relief that we find ourselves at the brook crossing to Slant Rock Jct at 4:40pm.

    All afternoon we have been watched water trending downhill and its been obvious all along where we would find it. The brook is clearly higher than usual although at this point there is no dainty rock hoping; we have struck a tentative accord with the waters and whatever power controls them and have accepted another sock change in our future. We plow through where we deem foot holds safest and there is virtually no discussion before or after this action. While melt has made for complications we agree it’s a rare treat to see the same area of mountains under drastically different conditions. The high waters are an acoustic and visual treat and we enjoy the technical challenges we have faced.

    Along this trail we encounter the first signs of life all day, some of the campers staying in close proximity to us! We exchange some conversation and trudge on eager for another hot meal on the horizon. From here on the going gets noticeably easier. In spite of all the elevation we continue to drop we are surprised for how long we keep our snowshoes on. Gradually the sections of snow and wet widen and we stow our faithful snowshoes for the day saluting MSR for gear that can handle harsh trails of ownership.

    We reach the Johns Brook crossing by 6pm and unsurprisingly its obvious the designated ford is not suitable. Half way crossing would be fine but a fast flowing chute seems unwise. We scout out a suitable option for crossing by foot or by log (as a previous tip advised was at least once possible). During this process one of the previously mentioned trail companions catches up to us and advises us that the downed log is indeed available and guides us directly to it. We happily accept this as the path of least resistance and travel upstream approximately 200 paces and shimmy our way across. A tightrope walk would no doubt have been a jauntier crossing but misstep into the fast moving brook here would be more than unpleasant and so we opt for discretion as I’m told it’s the better part of valour. A short bushwhack uphill to the NE finds us on a rough trail that leads path the old bridges wreckage and ultimately the trail.

    We are thankful for this insider knowledge, while we have deemed a safe crossing possible we are quite certain it requires at least ankle deep fast flowing water in addition to a deviation from the designated ford. A short time later we take a diversion to Bushnell Falls. While perhaps not very high, they are indeed gushing and it is a serene little detour. Its clear why the Rev. Bushnell was fond of this area, a sign indicates not to get to fond however camping is (somewhat obviously) prohibited here in spite of what might be a temping spot. After a short break we trade places with the sole trio we encountered all day again and switch places a few times before we ultimately reach “home” by 7:30. We welcome a hefty meal and recuperate before another predawn exit on the 30th.

    The Adirondacks have again met every expectation in terms of natural beauty and technical challenge. We look forward to our next adventure here.

    Last edited by Drez; 05-05-2017, 03:00 PM. Reason: Expanded
    [17/46] Giant, Rocky Peak Ridge, Gothics, Armstrong, Upper Wolf Jaw, Lower Wolf Jaw, Big Slide, Cascade, Porter, Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois , Marcy, Skylight, Colden, Colvin and Blake.

  • #2
    The end of April and beginning of May are always a challenge. Kudos to you on your safe journey.
    #8335W, Solo 46W
    NE 111 113/115

    One list may be done, but the journey is far from over...
    Half Dome, 2009


    • #3
      By your narration. You crossed a downed tree over Johns Brook upstream of the rock crossing designated by trail markers upstream of Chicken Coop brook?
      Good to know if you had. Happy you finished your trip.