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Old 12-25-2011, 08:20 AM   #1
mudrat
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Algonquin Bushwhack via NE Slide: Christmas Eve Day 2011

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!


--------------------------------


Duration: 9 hours 45 minutes; 7:45 a.m. – 5:15 p.m.
Benchmarks: Kagel Lean-to: 9:30 a.m., Slide bottom: 11:40 a.m., Algonquin Summit: 1:45 p.m., Wright Summit: 3:00, Trailhead: 5:15 p.m.
Total Mileage/Vertical Ascent: 12 Miles/3,200’
Trail Conditions: Dirt and rocks showing below with minimal base and dusting overtop. Trails at higher elevation were ice flows.
Temperature: 5-15 F
Partner: None…solo.
Diet: (cal/sug/protein): 3 eggs, 2 powerbars, 2 e-gel packs, 10 starburst, small portion of banana bread2.5 L water.
Clothing: Legs: Capiline wicking layer, mid-weight fleece, snowpants, Top heavy wicking layer, Integral Designs rain jacket. Northface windstopper gloves under various mittens. Microspikes, Grivel 10 pt. Crampons, gaiters, NF boots.
Pack: 35 lbs. with belt pack.
Picture Gallery: HERE





My wife went to Oklahoma to visit her family. I stayed home to be with my 96 year old grandmother. ‘Tis an odd feeling being apart on both Christmas Eve, which is also our anniversary. I found the best distraction was to bushwhack Algonquin. The fact that I shimmied up another slide was icing on the cake. The plan was to follow the Wright/Algonquin drainage to the base of the western most (and highest elevation) slide on the NE face and check out the Irene damage en route. From the top, if I was able to climb it safely, I would bushwhack straight to the summit.

The lack of snow lately made the trails made the trails perfect for either bare booting or microspikes. I wore the latter just in case I found some ice under the dusting of powder. Marcy Brook was an easy crossing and the morning sun was still softly illuminating that which it touched. The crossing was easy as most of the ice was thick enough to support my weight. At the dam, the combination of light and clouds clinging in Avalanche Pass nearly took my breath away. Whale’s Tail was also glowing brightly against the shadows still around. It was a good start!





Another twenty minutes found me at Kagel Leanto switching into my G10’s (I wanted to sit while changing, but should have crossed Marcy Brook sooner and sat in the snow). I ran over the area in my mind. I could have kept the microspikes on, but figured I’d go for overkill rather than break my butt. The turned the climb up the woods on the other side of the brook into a “walk in the park”. I crossed the stream in a different area than the last time I was in the area with Wright Slide in my sights. As easy as the area is to navigate, I found myself daydreaming and screwed it up by climbing the shoulder of Avalanche Mountain. A nice view of Avalanche Pass Slide was a dead giveaway that I was off course. Disgruntled, I almost continued to climb and check out one of the hundred highest. I’d plenty of time so I swallowed my pride and went back toward my target crossing the ridge to Wright Brook.

I bushwhacked alongside the stream rather than hopping its icy rocks. That wasn’t in my plan even with crampons. After about twenty minutes I fell upon the telltale signs of a new slide…open woods and a sizable pile of trees. The deposit is less than 1/2 mile from the leanto…unless you wander around aimlessly as I did. Transitioning from woods to the run-out was a precarious balancing act…picking trees thick enough to allow the crampons to find purchase. I found myself immediately embarking on that rock hop that wasn’t in my plan. I figured it would eventually lead to some slab thus making an easy climb to the slide’s bottom 1,275’ feet higher. If you’re expecting slab, don’t hold your breath. It’s all a tiring climb up a rocky stream bed. If I’d bothered to look at my own recon pictures from last August or thought about the character of the area, I would have known my expectations were in vain.

The climb up between the two mountains always feel longer than it should to me. I’m not sure why I always suspect the NEXT time to feel shorter! The picturesque Adirondack stream that I remembered was gutted as one would expect. Most of my attention was taken with foot placement. The lack of a consistent snowpack turned each rock into a game of chance. What was hidden under the snow, ice or bare rock? The crampons worked on either, but the feel is completely different. I found that all the ice wasn’t thick enough to support my weight as well. I fell through a few times to my shins even tapping with a pole to gauge the thickness. All the traps of climbing in these conditions made the ascent take longer than it might have in heavier winter conditions.

The beauty of the area was astounding under the crisp morning light. Looking down the track unveiled views previously hidden under a canopy. Fifteen foot piles of trees collected in various choke points and the torn earth was covered either by several inches of snow or veils of ice. Cascades that once riddled the area were still there, if not a little displaced. All the while, I could feel Algonquin looming to the left. At about 11:20 a.m., I caught my first glimpse of the slide that would take me partway to my final goal.

I took the ice axe off my pack at the base of the slide. I’d been a little uneasy about the prospect of climbing this solo and really hadn’t studied its details. I knew it was mainly an open run of flat anorthosite, devoid of any real ledges or sudden changes in pitch. I just didn’t know the average slope. In the worst case, I planned to simply stay at the edge or even in the woods as necessary. My concern was misplaced as the slope moderate and the rolling waves of ice were broken by large pockets of consolidated snow. I used the ice axe more for than security than necessity. Fifteen minutes later, I entered the cripplebrush.

I expected the bushwhack from slide top to mountain top would be tough especially in winter conditions without a consolidated base. The first quarter of the treed face was defined by moderately tight growth over head-height. The remainder included some steeper areas with trees only growing to about waist/shoulder height. The traverse was easier in this area, thankfully, since it was longer. I adopted a strategy of heading directly for the summit via the open areas of snow. These were either small slabs, ledges or small ridges of rock at the top. The ice axe became my new best friend, one that considerably extended my reach as I looped it around tree trunks. Overall, it was easier than expect…not to say I wasn’t tired from the ordeal. The snow was neither a hindrance or an aid and varied to about 12” deep in some places. Spruce traps were obviously non-existent.



I took many a break in the sea of trees to refuel and soak in the ever-expanding views. I could see forever. Colden slowly broke the ridge line with each new step as Wright dwarfed below. Lake Placid seemed snugly tucked between the ridges of Algonquin and Wright. All the while, the line of trees on the horizon grew closer. I remember thinking that I should be nearing the end of the crawl, but still only saw trees. Then a few steps later, I was standing on the summit crown as the spruce abruptly ended. The quarter mile trek took about an hour and one half in all.

The summit was empty of people. Christmas Eve day found it brushed by only the slightest breeze. Clouds drifted across the landscape below, sometimes reaching as high as a summit. The trap dike was obscured one moment and clear the next. The clouds, long shadows and almost limitless views combined for stunning photographic opportunities. The combination also illuminated those clouds that drifted between Algonquin and the distant Sentinel Range with a rainbow…as if the general lavender hue wasn’t enough color!

I left the summit about 2:00 p.m. after my fingers had finally lost feeling. The crampons became my new best friend as I walked down the ice flow that defined the path. I noted the harder thin ice and the soft ice of the wetter areas en route…I’ve not spend a lot of time on crampons. Once at Wright’s intersections, I decided to climb just high enough up to grab a few shots of Algonquin’s slide. I wasn’t high enough until the summit…the perfect excuse to bag it again under the windless afternoon. 3:30 found me back at the trail. The thick ice quickly gave way to open runs and more exposed rock near the cascade. Microspikes replaced crampons. 5:15 found me back at the car.
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Last edited by mudrat; 01-17-2013 at 05:53 PM.
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Old 12-25-2011, 10:35 AM   #2
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Saw that you signed in. Was bummed we didn't get a chance to run into you. What a great day to be out. Great report.
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Old 12-25-2011, 11:05 AM   #3
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Thank you. Wasn't it fantastic out there?!
It would have been nice to meet you on the trail as well. It was definitely a quiet day out there...only ran into 2 other hikers, though I saw a couple different groups on Wright from the trees.
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Old 12-26-2011, 08:40 AM   #4
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Kevin,
What a great trip report and the pic's are stunning. Despite the unusual circumstances I suspect that you recieved the greatest of Christmas present of all!
Nice
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Old 12-26-2011, 02:16 PM   #5
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Kevin,
What a great trip report and the pic's are stunning. Despite the unusual circumstances I suspect that you recieved the greatest of Christmas present of all!
Nice
THanks, Jack! It was a Christmas present that I'll not soon forget.

I'm heading out again tomorrow. My friend's up from from FL and wanted a winter "adventure" , though I don't think we'll have the weather for the same type of pics.
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:13 PM   #6
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Nice work, a truly impressive climb...especially solo. I don't think I've ever read a report of anyone doing this route in winter(???)......very innovative and progressive on your end. Have a great winter climbing season and thanks for the top notch report and photos.
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Old 12-27-2011, 04:48 PM   #7
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What a great hiking day you had! The first time I went looking for the Airplane Slides I also got on the wrong side of the Avalanche ridge. It hadn't registered that there were two brooks and that I was on the wrong one. Anyway, beautiful pics.
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Old 12-28-2011, 12:46 PM   #8
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Nice work, a truly impressive climb...especially solo. I don't think I've ever read a report of anyone doing this route in winter(???)......very innovative and progressive on your end. Have a great winter climbing season and thanks for the top notch report and photos.
Thank you very much, I appreciate it and glad you enjoyed it. I haven't read of any reports, but I'm sure it's been checked out before in all the seasons. It's easy enough to get to just as long as you don't mind cripplebrush and are comfy in winter conditions Next best thing would be to wait until the snowpack gets above the trees and ices over!
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Old 12-28-2011, 12:49 PM   #9
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What a great hiking day you had! The first time I went looking for the Airplane Slides I also got on the wrong side of the Avalanche ridge. It hadn't registered that there were two brooks and that I was on the wrong one. Anyway, beautiful pics.
Greg. It was awesome...one of the top few weather days. The other drainage (closer to the dam) was interesting when I got into it a few years ago. Could be an interesting route to the ridge. Too bad things didn't work out where you could come on this.
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Old 12-31-2011, 08:29 PM   #10
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sureal pics

very nice light in the pics.
funny who you make friends with in the mountains ( an ice ax )
I've been friends with an ice ax for along time even though you " don't need one to climb the 46 in winter "
missed you by a day as I was over enjoying the ice flows on CBND.
MG
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Old 01-02-2012, 10:50 AM   #11
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As always thanks for the great report and Photos. Bob
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Old 01-02-2012, 10:53 AM   #12
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MG: I read your report on the CBND and visualized the flows. Nice hike on that. GOnna send you a pm also on the range.

Rik: I told her if she was naughty that Santa wouldn't come and I drag her butt up a high peak...maybe next time she'll take me seriously What are grandson's for ?!

Bobn: Thank you!
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Old 01-17-2012, 07:47 PM   #13
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Okay I just have to laugh whenever I read your reports on here or in Adirondack Life...well let me clarify your more recent reports .
The funny part is because I have read your first trip report to the Dixes...with the jeans and the rain ...Wow! you have come a long way Mr. Mudrat .
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Old 01-17-2012, 08:33 PM   #14
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Okay I just have to laugh whenever I read your reports on here or in Adirondack Life...well let me clarify your more recent reports .
The funny part is because I have read your first trip report to the Dixes...with the jeans and the rain ...Wow! you have come a long way Mr. Mudrat .
Heheheheh. I had scars on my thighs for 3 years from that mistake!

I'd forgotten that I put my first Dix climb on my site. Yeah, I learned a few things the hard way before I found my niche. Wait...I keep learning things the hard way.

...and thank you very much!
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Old 01-18-2012, 10:26 AM   #15
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Finally read this report. Very nice hike and a good job in capturing in words the feeling of being alone, off-trail in winter conditions. The pics are amazing.

I believe I was doing Cascade-Porter on Dec. 24 with my eldest son and his GF, her first ever high peaks.
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Old 01-18-2012, 11:10 AM   #16
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Finally read this report. Very nice hike and a good job in capturing in words the feeling of being alone, off-trail in winter conditions. The pics are amazing.

I believe I was doing Cascade-Porter on Dec. 24 with my eldest son and his GF, her first ever high peaks.
Thanks, Neil.
It sounds like you had a nice Christmas Eve hike as well. Good to be around family!
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