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Marshall via Indian Pass (Upper Works) Trail Report

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  • Marshall via Indian Pass (Upper Works) Trail Report

    High Peaks: Marshall
    Date: 9/4/2017
    Time: 7:15am departure
    Trailhead: Upper Works

    The original plan was to hike Marshall from the East. I was going to leave from the Loj, take the Indian Pass Trail, bear left up the Cold Brook Pass, and then approach the summit from the Marshall herd path. However, after seeing pictures of Wallface Mountain, I got excited and decided to change my approach. Instead, I would take the Indian Pass Trail from the West via Upper Works. It was worth it. Wallface is spectacular in scope and presence. I met two guys who were on their way to climb the beast. They had their ropes slung over their shoulders and helmets strapped on their bags. Godspeed boys. I admire rock climbers...because I'm not one! Wallface stands out like nothing else in the Adirondack Park.

    By the time I reached the summit of Marshall, I felt like I completed a very exhausting scavenger hunt. It was satisfying and there was so much to take in. I didn't shut my brain off the entire ascent. It seemed like I was constantly making decisions: What step? What path? What rock? What time? The trek is rugged, unexpected, tough, beautiful, and unique. You don't actually conquer Marshall until you scramble through the giant glacier-carved rocks, traverse through miles of stream, protect your face from dense forest brush, and check your map repeatedly to make sure you didn't miss the turn-off. So...it might be an aggressive scavenger hunt, like one designed by a military training instructor. But, you feel really good when it's done.

    Once you reach the Indian Pass, the trail is slow going. I can usually travel at a pretty good clip. So even I was surprised to notice how long certain sections were taking me. For instance, after you reach the Indian Pass summit rock (there's a little sign), you eventually descend down a stream. This can be a hands-and-feet descent in places. There also aren't a lot of a red markers on this part of Indian Pass. Just know that you are correct if you're by (or in) the stream. My suggestion is to pause every so often to look ahead and identify the herd path before you commit. It is there. The path may be more obvious 10 meters out than directly under your feet.

    Despite these challenges, I thought Cold Brook Pass was incredible. This trail is laid out like a dramatic short story. It starts in the stream with really nice falls and pools. Then the trail narrows and grows in. Parts of the trail get pretty dark. I was soaked head-to-toe from the wet pine branches. The north side of the trail then thins out and you can see Iroquois through the trees. I remember feeling like "okay, I know where I am"...which is really far from the trailhead. Finally, you see the Marshall Path cairn (which is obvious) marking the turn-off. However, before making the turn, I travel a little farther to see the place crash site (another 10 minutes down the trail behind a giant boulder on the Marshall side). In summary, this part of the path concentrated so much variety that it made the nearly 2 mile long hike very engaging.

    To add a final bit of perspective, at least from my point of view, while I sat on the summit and had a sandwich, I decided not to return the way I came and instead made the loop down the Herbert Brook path and out via Calamity Brook. I told myself that this was the "easy" route. Please understand that no route up Marshall easy. However, I know that, compared to what I came up through, I was happy as a clam going down this way. I was walking right through the middle of the brook, wet but not much mud, like a kid in his galoshes. The trees weren't whipping me. Their roots were solid. The path was clear to find. Ah, life was good. Had I done the loop in the opposite direction, I probably would have been surprised by the stark difference in the trail characteristics (and not in a good way).

    I posted a few pics from this hike on the blog: www.46summits.com.

  • #2
    Enjoyed your report. You are doing some really great routes while hiking the 46!
    We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Jonathan Markowicz View Post
      ...You don't actually conquer Marshall until you ...
      You got that first part right; no one actually conquers Marshall. We conquer our doubts. Over 10000 46ers have conquered their doubts about Marshall.

      ​Kudos for the atypical choice of route to Marshall. Combining the Marshall and Herbert Brook trails adds variety plus the route through Indian Pass adds drama. Good choice!



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