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8/26-29 Three night backpack trip to the Fab 4

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  • 8/26-29 Three night backpack trip to the Fab 4

    After previous experiences in failing to acheive peaks as long day hikes, because we are so slow, Keelin and I decided to do the Fab 4 (Skylight, Gray, Redfield, and Cliff) as a 3-night backpack trip. This proved to be successful! We packed almost all of our food into a black Bear Barrell. The manager of the place we were previously staying offered to lend us a Bear Vault, which has a greater capacity, so we accepted; more on this later.

    We left Upper Works with heavy (for us) backpacks at 8:10. After 4.5 miles, we reached the Flowed Lands leanto at 11:00, and took a brief break. We met some other hikers there, and discussed the bear problems. They told us that the Bear Vault was unacceptable, especially around Lake Colden. On our previous trip up the Calamity Brook trail, last May, the trail seemed to be non-ending, but this time, even with heavier packs, it was quite pleasurable. We then proceeded around Flowed Lands to the Lake Colden Dam, and decided to look for the Colden Leantos, one of which was the recommended camping spot. Not realizing that some were on the trail toward the Ranger Station, we crossed the dam and went to the sign "Lean To", just before the low water crossing of the Opalescent River. (Didn't see the trail register). We found the leanto and several campsites, but they didn't look too appealing, so after spending a half hour there, we left at ~2:00 for Uphill leanto. One reason for this decission was the bear problem - the hikers at the Flowed Lands leanto mentioned that there was a DEC-provided food locker at Uphill; another was that it was closer to our destinations. We arrived at Uphill at 3:30 and found the locker. The leanto and camping areas were deserted. Later that afternoon, Mike and JoAnne (Bristol on the Forum) arrived and set up camp at one of the campsites. We went down to the Opalescent for water and had a nice chat. We went to bed at 8:00ish and found it hard to sleep. We kept hearing mouse noises, but saw the mouse only once. I went to sleep with my hand outside the sleeping bag and suddenly awoke with a sharp pain on my thumb. I turned on my headlamp and was bleeding. I assume the mouse was trying to clean under my thumbnail and bit me by accident. A word to the wise: be sure to wash your hands after handling food, and sleep with your hands inside your sleeping bag!

    The next morning was dreary with rain threatening. Mike and JoAnne came up to the leanto and we all had breakfast together. I found out that like Keelin and me, they were up to 36 and planned to do the Fab 4 over the next two days. Keelin and I decided to do Gray and Skylight, because we didn't want to climb the cliffs of Cliff in the rain; they made the opposite decision, so we all left, planning to have dinner together that night. We left the leanto at about 7:30 and reached Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds at about 9:50, after 1.8 miles of hiking. On the way up, I noticed that my GPS altitude read a little over 4000 feet, and a few minutes later, I passed the 3500 foot marker! I am assuming that the GPS altitude was based on air pressure, and because a storm was approaching, the pressure was low, hence the discrepancy. The Flume on Feldspar Brook was spectacular as were the swimming holes, but because of the bad weather, we decided not to investigate.

    The cairn for Gray was super obvious and we immediately started up. As we approached the summit, we met a couple of gentlemen who were coming down and were doing a lot of photography. I asked them how far was the summit; the answer was "about 15 minutes". Very good, because we summited 13 minutes later, at 10:35, after only 0.3 miles of climbing. No views, due to the weather, so we quickly descended, arriving back at Lake Tear at about 11:30. One of the photographers was waiting there.

    Skylight was next; after a 25 minute break for lunch, it started to rain. We broke out our new ponchos (purchased as an impromptu decision) and started up at 11:53. We got to the top at 12:51 with no views. We couldn't find any sign, but did find Verplanck Colvin's survery marker, so we knew we were at the top. Returned to Lake Tear at 1:42. We promptly proceeded back to Uphill, but near the junction with the Lake Arnold trail, heard some loud chopping. We went to investigate, and found some guys building the high water bridge to the Feldspar leanto. Very impressive construction - thanks Guys! We reached Uphill at 4:40, still raining. The rain soon let up, and we went down to the river for water. Mike and JoAnne had already arrived; they had dinner by the river and we had it at the leanto. They later joined us for after dinner tea. Again went to bed at about 8:00, but this time I washed my hands and kept them inside my bag. No repeat mouse incident, although I did hear it frequently.It poured all night.

    The next morning was again dreary. We had a quick breakfast and departed for Redfield at 8:30. Redfield turned out to be a delightful climb. Shortly after leaving the the trail split, we crossed paths with the photographers again. They suggested that we might consider not using our poles. We followed their suggestion, which was right for this hike, and packed them away (the poles, that is). The rain never materialized, so we put away our ponchos. We reached the summit at 11:20, after 1.6 miles. Great views! After a few minutes, we returned to the cairn by about 1:00. We immediately started up Cliff, following for a short distance the old Twin Brook corduroy road. The cliffs were fairly daunting; after the second one, Keelin decided to leave her pack. We reached the first summit and proceed along the delightful ridge to the true summit, arriving at about 2:30. Spent a few minutes there and started down. Near the bottom of the cliffs, we met the photographers again. Reached the leanto at about 4:00, to find another group there. They were from an organization called "Fit Packing", which endeavors to make people more fit by backpacking. They had come up from one of the Colden leantos, where they had a bear indcident. They had seven bear barrels and one Bear Vault. After a noisy night, they discovered their barrels scattered around as if the bear had played billiards with them, and the screw cap of the Vault with tooth marks. The rest of the Vault was gone! We went down to the river to go swimming and to cook and have dinner. Upon deploying our filter pump, we discovered mouse tooth marks on the plastic tubing.

    The next day, Wednesday, we returned to the car. Mike and Joanne were planning to hike out via the East River trail and do Allen on the way out. We decided to join them, but without the Allen side trip. We all left at about 8:40, but didn't really stay together. We arrived at the first Flowed Lands leanto, and decided to all have lunch together on the shore of the lake; it was 11:30; At about Noon, we all left, with Mike and Joanne heading ahead. After crossing the breached Flowed Lands dam, the East River trail became very overgrown, so much so that we missed Hanging Spear Falls. Is there a sign marking it? At about 3:00, we caught up with them at the campsite, which is just beyond the site of the former Twin Brook leanto. They were planning to camp there for two nights, bagging Allen on Thursday. We wished we had the time to do the same, with the Allen trailhead so close and such lovely weather, but it was not to be. After a few pictures, we bade farewell and proceeded down the trail, passing the big ALLEN sign and then following the very overgrown trail to the Opalescent River low water crossing. I'm glad the foliage had dried out, because we would have gotten very wet going along the trail if it hadn't.

    We arrived at the Lake Jimmy crossing, and noted a suggested walk around. However, the bridge itself looked pretty good, the planks were dry and about a foot above the water. We crossed without incident, although the far (west) end was a little dicey. After crossing, we noticed that the trail was blocked, so apparently the walk around was not just a suggestion. We waded across the Hudson and got to the parking lot at just about 6:00. So, it took 8-1/2 hours to walk down the 11 miles from Uphill leanto. See what I mean by "slow"?

    All in all, a very successful trip. When we tackle Allen, maybe in October, we will probably make the time to make it a two=night camping trip.
    Last edited by MTVhike; 09-02-2012, 06:47 PM. Reason: spelling

    ADK 46r #8003; 6W
    2nd round: 16
    SL6r #596
    Catskill 3500 21/39; 11W

  • #2
    Congratulations, a nice hike. Sorry you had such fowl weather.
    As far as the altimeter goes, if your GPS unit uses a barometric altimeter AND the settings are such that it uses it then it should be pretty close because what they typically will do is use the GPS altitude to correct the altimeter and visa versa. I used my barometric only altimeter calibrated at Feldspar and found the signs you mentioned to be about 100' off.
    Enjoying the journey with my favorite hiking partner.
    Please visit ADKGurl's Blog: 46-High-Peaks


    • #3
      Great trip report Mike! We so enjoyed the company of you and Keelin. I am glad you reached the parking lot before dark. On top of Allen we met a guy who had just stayed at the Uphill lean to two days before us and showed me pictures of a bear coming up the path where Mike and I had set camp. Tell Keelin that those rocks that were lined up at the back of the lean to she was wondering about were from those folks. They stock piled them there and whenever the bear with her two cubs would show up they would try to scare them away by throwing rocks.
      After getting out of the woods yesterday we took our rented bear canister back to the ADK Loj and we chatted with the ranger there for a while. He couldn’t believe that we didn’t see any bear during our 6 days out there. I guess just as we left the Uphill lean to the next group got hit again by (believed to be) the same bear and her two cubs. I guess we were real lucky.
      And by the way…there is nothing wrong with being slow. It’s better to be slow and safe, and doing Allen as a 2 day trip is smart. That’s just to long of a day, and Mike and I were glad we took our time and enjoyed it.
      Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you'll land amongst the stars.


      • #4
        Congratulations on a well-planned and fully executed trip! As you heard from others, those bears are professionals and this year they are especially hungry due to the poor season for their backcountry food.


        • #5
          Nice trip, sounds like a great time was had despite the rain and the blood donation to the mouse.

          I'm heading out that way on Monday morning for a few days. All I have heard all season long is bears, bears, bears. While I personally have never had what I would term a 'negative' encounter with a bear I have seen them lumbering around before while hiking. Sounds like there is a good chance of that happening again this week. For me at least, they are entertining to observe, though I understand how some folks may not share that particular view.
          Adopt a natural resource. Give back.


          • #6
            Thanks for the trip report and the actual, first hand account of a recent failure of the bearvault. I have one and I'd used it twice at Feldspar, but this past summer I decided against using it any more. This report just reinforces the reality of the problem. The Bearvault company has a new model in testing that should solve the issue...supposed to be available by next spring. If not, I'm going to bite the bullet and get a bearikade.


            • #7
              It is refreshing to hear a trail report from someone who isn't "superhuman"!! You guys bit off a lot doing all of those mountains, but you did them in what some would consider a realistic trip. Not knocking the dudes who can fly, but I am more like you.
              It's not about winning, but the rivers you cross.


              • #8
                That's a great way to get those 4 peaks. Well Done !
                115/115 Yippeeee!