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February 9-10-11 - The Macs - Henderson, Panther and Couch - Gray, Skylight, Marcy

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  • February 9-10-11 - The Macs - Henderson, Panther and Couch - Gray, Skylight, Marcy

    On behalf of Neil Friday, day one of three. The Macintyre Range

    02/09/2018 – Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois, Marshall – Start: 8:29 AM Finish: 8:19 PM

    Mastergrasshopper, Glen. Mountain man always happy to be there.

    I had a strong team lined up (Mastergrasshopper, Alistair and Great Expectations (Matt) and we easily made our way up to the Wright junction with Matt and Alistair breaking through about 3 inches of new snow over a firm base. Wright was cold, windy and icy but do-able in snowshoes if you exercised care.

    Wright summit with Matt Marsh and Glen.

    Algonquin was amazing in a near whiteout but before we reached tree-line I got a cool photo of two friends descending Wright. While we dropped towards the Iroquois col the light and visibility changed continuously with veiled views opening up and disappearing rapidly. The herd path was not broken but was easy to follow and the wind had packed it down well. No issues. It was a beautiful crossing. Glen led us way over to the right and we avoided all steep sections. The icy crust held us with no breaking through.

    On our way to Iroquois.

    Back at the junction Alistair headed out over Algonquin due to a broken snowshoe while the three of us descended in very deep powder snow to Lake Colden. What a soft descent! Not very quick due to the deep snow but very soft. Out on the lake we picked up and followed a lone set of snowshoe tracks to the Colden dam and then found a well-packed trail to the lean-to at Herbert Brook. The trail ended there. We broke trail in 8 inches of new snow over a good base with a discernible groove where the trail was. Progress was good and energy expenditure (both mental and physical) was very reasonable.
    Then we followed a wrong herd path. Glen was not liking it so I outed with my compass (I always put one around my neck when I get dressed in the morning) and map and determined that we were going the wrong way. We plunge stepped down towards Herbert Brook, found the correct herd path and kept going. Then we completely lost the path and burned about an hour of daylight before using map, compass and altimeter to guide us. Progress with no underlying base was decidedly slower and energy sapping. It was now 4:20 pm and we were about 300 vertical feet below the summit. No sign of the vly anywhere and so we decided to make “the turn” towards the summit and pray. All of a sudden it was 100% clear that we were back on the herd path.
    The snow was so deep that we felt no discernible base below our snowshoes. Progress was now very slow and fatigue was upon us. We rotated leads often with the leader going as hard as he could then stepping aside when he felt too much fatigue. It seemed to take a long time but finally, we saw the summit sign.

    We earned this one!

    Glen took my picture and we turned tail. Back at the lean-to it was dark and chilly but we took our time in fueling and drinking before the long walk out. Crossing the lakes in the pitch black night with snow falling and swirling about our headlamp beams was just one more of the magical and unforgettable moments of Project-100.

    02/10/2018 – Henderson, Panther, Couchsachraga – Start: 7:18 AM Finish: 5:04 PM

    Day 2. Henderson, Panther and Couch. Something very different.

    Alistair, Jean and I began without Mastergrasshopper who was slow in getting away from Randomscoots. We tramped and tramped our way to the Bradley Pond lean-to and soaking wet already dropped packs and began the steep .37 mile whack in very deep snow. Thanks to a tracklog I had from a trip from Henderson Lake over Henderson to the lean-to we had mostly open woods. But, the trees were totally covered in loose snow that showered us copiously and repeatedly. There was no sense brushing ourselves off. One hour to go up, 15 minutes back down.

    Alistair carries a load of snow up Henderson.

    We decided to not stop at the lean-to, just grab a quick gulp of water, shoulder the packs and keep generating body heat. Soaking wet clothing transmits heat away from you very efficiently. We made Herald Square and Panther without incident and at Times Square saw MG and an arrow towards Couch etched in the snow.

    Henderson summit sign. Tree hit by blowdown.

    Glen, as Alistair has surmised went directly out to Couch to break the trail. (We knew the trail had only been broken to Panther.) We had an easy trip down to the swamp and met Glen on the first bump. He was in fine spirits, totally in his element on his way home from breaking trail out to Couch. We made the grueling trip back up to Times Square and made it down Panther Brook in record time being able to go into a split stance and ski on perfect snow. The road walk was a bit of a slog and we made it out for something like an 11-hour day.

    My plan called for a return the next morning to finish the job with big and little Santanonis.

    02/11/2018 – Marcy, Skylight, Grey – Start: 8:02 AM Finish: 5:53 PM

    Day 3. Gray, Skylight, Marcy. Last minute change of plans.

    All fresh and clean at Marcy Dam! Maude and Marie-Josée smiled all day.

    The forecast was calling for rain and temps in the low 40’s. Santa was not broken out and Henderson gave us a small sampling of what to expect whacking to L. Santa. I had a reduced team (MJO and Mayasoleil were my fresh horses from Quebec) holed up in a motel in Schroon Lake and Alistair was too beat up to join us. I made the call (ie. a phone call) and informed my, now two only, partners that the Santas were out, MSG was in. This would normally be an “easy out”, which was good because, thanks to Marshall, I was feeling the previous 2 days a fair bit.

    The lenticular-shaped cloud lay directly over our route! Taken from L. Arnold-Opalescent trail.

    Turned out to be really hard due to cling-on snow that piled up thickly under our snowshoes.

    Lest’s get outta here!

    After Gray and Skylight we crossed Marcy in incredible conditions but we were totally prepared and loaded. Visibility was the poorest I'’ve ever done it in. Wind was about 40 mph. and freezing rain drove at us sideways. Our worst-case scenario was to use our freshly recorded tracklogs to go back to 4 Corners and exit via Lake Arnold.

    We navigated with a cell phone and not one but two gps’'s. Mine has become unreliable and a new one is on order so I carried a spare from Tom. But the best tools were my memory and my compass.

    Happy to be here!

    The descent of the Van Ho was mentally very sketchy in the roaring wind. We only saw the first two cairns so we stopped regularly and I verified my gps, got bearings from projecting the cursor and followed the compass. We also checked M-J’s Gaia app on her phone until it crapped out. We saw some familiar landmarks and as a special bonus we even saw a paint blaze through some ice. Below the cone we picked up a ski trail that dead-ended in the gully and with relief followed it to the Phelps junction.

    The remainder of the hike was just a long, long but pleasantly-paced walk. We were soaking-wet and our packs weighed a ton with sopping wet gear that we had shed continuously and strategically as we progressed throughout our day. In falling darkness and clearing skies the wind positively roared as we walked out from Marcy Dam. I kept checking the tree-tops for signs of snapping trunks but no such worries came about.

    Marie-Josée and Maude were awesome partners as were Alistair, Glen, Jean and Matt. In fact, one of the best things about this project is all the amazing hiking partners I’ve been blessed with so far.
    If by chance some day you're not feeling well and you should remember some silly thing I've said or done and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled ~ Red Skelton

  • #2
    Formidab! Glad to have played a tiny part in your Day 2 as we were one of the two parties (4 persons) that broke out the trail to Times Square on Friday Feb 9. Your description of the difficulty following the route down Marcy certainly solidifies the reason why no one but experienced navigators should climb M in low winter visibility..but they keep on doin it! Lookin forward to the next peak writeup. Essayons!


    • #3
      MSG... easy day out. um yeah! Quite the impressive hikes there Neil (and crews)!