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Allen & McDonnel 4-7-2018

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  • Allen & McDonnel 4-7-2018

    McDonnel is a mountain spoken of only in hushed tones, even amongst avid Adirondack bushwhackers. Advice on the best way to approach this seldom-visited mountain varies from “Don’t” to “Hope for a good crust.” It had been on my to do list for too long.

    My partner-in-crime and I pulled into the Allen trailhead around 6:15 AM and we wore snowshoes right from the beginning. We “broke trail” through 3-5 inches of fresh powder all the way to Allen’s summit, which we reached 4h45m later.

    Leaving Allen’s summit, we traveled down the steep north slope of the mountain. The woods were pretty open and the views were excellent. We wisely skirted the northern bump of Allen by staying to the west.

    In the col between Allen and McDonnel is a stadium-sized field of blowdown. While we didn’t have a great crust to work with, the 5+ feet of snow did a good job of covering most of it up and allowing us relatively easy travel. This place would be an absolute nightmare in the summer.

    Once we began ascending McDonnel, we found generally agreeable woods. Whenever things got tight, we pushed to the right (east) and found open channels. The summit ridge is pretty dense with spruce but it also contains sufficient runways to make forward progress without resorting to spruce-swimming. Excellent views from the top of Haystack, Marcy and Skylight. Much to my surprise, it took only 1 hour to travel from Allen to McDonnel.

    It was great having tracks to follow back to Allen, but re-ascending the treacherously steep north face was absolutely soul-crushing. It felt like we were crawling. At times, we were. Alas, we made it back to Allen just about two hours after we first left it. All that remained was the long walk out.

    I had planned on 14-16 hours for this trek. It took less than 11. McDonnel: you ain’t so bad after all.

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

  • #2
    You nailed route / and / or did your home work.
    west of evil bump then always right or east up McDonnel !!
    very close in to west side of bump is a wide open track.
    If you continue north from summit of McDonnel towards Skylight there is a 1/2 mile long open area ( all blowdown )
    but with old deep snow / crust a great route over to skylight.
    Worth the visit for unique view of Skylight with it's very prominent rock spire ( separate knob on SW ridge that connects over to Redfield ).
    Future trips to consider:
    Allen, McD, Sky out through flowed lands.
    Red > Sky via the ridge and spire of Sky.


    • #3
      We followed your footsteps on Sunday ! After hitting Allen's summit and eating a bit , we moved on to the northern viewpoint where we were quite surprised to see some footprints heading down toward McDonnel . Even better , the further we went , the more we realized that your route was actually pretty much identical to what we had in mind in the first place ! You guys did a great job , the only thing , you stopped at the first summit (south) and the northern one is higher . The views from the northern summit were amazing so you'll have to go back . Took us a little less than 12 hours but I think if it wasn't for you guys , it would have taken us at least an hour more . Thank you , what an amazing coincidence !

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      Last edited by Spike; 04-09-2018, 01:12 AM.
      Lyon Mountain Trail Adopter .


      • #4
        Yup, little McDonnell was popular, it seems, this past week-end. Thanks so much guys for this unexpected route !!! You guys really nailed it, and you must have been very efficient to go from the Allen summit to the first McD sub-summit in one hour. Since we forgot to sign in the register at the Allen trailhead, we had no idea that people had gone to McD the day before. Hah !!!

        As for which bump is the true summit ??? The contour lines on the maps are identical for both sub-summits. puts the 'true' summit on the north bump (the one closest to Skylight), but subjectively (no instruments involved) it seemed a bit lower than the south bump.
        'As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think'. From a Native American initiation rite
        'Following our will and wind we may just go where no one's been - Tool
        Lyon Mountain Trail Adopter


        • #5
          In 2001 I did a 4 day, 3 night trip from the Elk Lake t/h, from Sept. 7-10.. McDonnell was first, then I made a point to hit "Allen's Tooth" [so named by Random Scooter] on the way to Allen. I dropped off Allen toward Skylight which I climbed via the slide on that side. Following the drainages to the slide was hard, and above the slide the spruce was pretty bad. Being out 4 days was unusual for me, and I was feeling cut off from world events and news in general. [which isn't really so bad from time to time.] So back at the Elk t/h when I saw another hiker about to take off with a big pack, my isolation influenced my choice of words. I asked him something like 'Have we gone to war with anybody in the past four days?' I don't remember if he even replied. But when he got out of the woods, we were at war.
          A bad day in cripplebrush is better than a good day at work.

          Remaining Winter NE115 peaks as of 3/11/10: