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The Armchair Hike Attempt 7/7/05 –7/10/05

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  • The Armchair Hike Attempt 7/7/05 –7/10/05

    The plan for this trip was to hike three butt kicking day. The trek was to bring us over 14 of New Yorks highest peaks. We were to hike over 30 grueling miles with almost 16,000 of elevation gain and over 14,000 loss. That was the plan, now here is what happened.

    Once again I got held up at work and ended up running late and got to South Meadows Campground just as it was getting dark. Everyone else had already arrived and had their tents set up for the night. After setting up my tent we discussed our plans for the following day and went to bed early, as we wanted to get an early start. During the night we were serenaded with the not so distant calls of coyotes.

    Friday: Let the hike begin
    We woke up around 5, Friday morning, so we could get an early start. After packing up camp and eating breakfast we drove to Adirondack Loj to spot a car and then made the half hour drive to the Rooster Comb Trailhead in Keene Valley. The sky was overcast and temperatures were cool, it felt like excellent hiking weather. I signed us in at the trailhead, filled out our camping permit and we made our way into the High Peaks Wilderness. As soon as we started hiking up the first hill I didnt feel right. I was gasping for air and couldnt get my body to respond; I felt like a car stuck in first gear with the gas peddle to the floor. This feeling persisted until we got about halfway up Lower Wolfjaw.

    The lower section of the trail was through an open forest that contained a mix of pines and hardwoods. The trail quickly let us know that the hike was going to be mostly up hill. We finally reached the junction with the spur trail to the summit of Roostercomb. We dropped our packs and hiked the half-mile to the top where we were able to get views (the only ones we would get all day) of the surrounding mountains from the cliffs on the summit. When we looked up the Great Range we could see that the summit of Lower Wolfjaw already in the clouds. After taking some pictures we made our way back down to the Range Trail and put our packs back on.

    The next bump (actually 2 bumps with the false summit) was Hedgehog Mountain. Although the summit wasnt socked in, there were no views to be had from Hedgehog due to the thick forest there. We descended off of Hedgehog and soon began the long up hill to Lower Wolfjaw, which would be our first high peak of the day. The climb seemed never ending and when the trail finally did level off it was only for a very short stretch and was followed by an even steeper and longer climb. It was somewhere in this section I had to remind everyone and myself that this trail is evil because every mountain along it has at least one false summit. Between the false summit and the actual summit of Upper Wolfjaw, we came to the bottom of the first rock scramble of the day. This section was only foreshadowing what was still awaiting us along the trail. Once we made it to the summit the only views to be had were that of the inside of a cloud. We were now mileage-wise at about the half way point of the days hike, but we still had 5 more peaks planned for the day and a whole lot more elevation to climb. After a brief break we started our descent into Wolfjaw Notch. After about a half mile of hiking and about 800 of descending, we reached Wolfjaw Notch, where we at some lunch.

    The problem with loosing all of that elevation was that we had to regain all of it and then some to the summit of Upper Wolfjaw. I really enjoyed this section of trail it was full of short rock scrambles that required some thought to where one places their feet and hands. Hiking through this section of trail one begins to understand what an Adirondack Great Range Traverse is all about. When we reached the false summit, the rain made its first appearance of the day. At first it was an on and off mist, but would become a full rain latter on in the day, Cindy had arrived. ENS, GM, and myself pushed on towards the true summit, while the others rested for a few more minutes. After climbing about 200 more feet of elevation we reached the summit rock and rested. Soon the others joined us. It was at this point that I began having doubts that we would make it to the Sno Bird Campsite as it was already after 2pm.

    The next portion of the hike didnt seem that bad even though the trail climbed over 500 in about .4 miles. I could tell everyone enjoyed the 30 ladder up one of the ledges on Armstrong. We all made pretty short work of Armstrong and we met up on the summit ledge. Normally this offers great views of Gothics, but not this day with the clouds and rain. During our short break on the summit, we made the decision to only hike over Gothics and not Saddleback and Basin. Instead we would hike down the Orr Bed Brook Trail and down to the Orr Bed Lean-to and finish the range on Saturday.

    The hike up to the summit of Gothics was the first peak of the day we didnt have a false summit, that would come after the summit. It was also the first summit where we broke treeline as the summit of Gothics is just about at that level.

    By far the most interesting part of the hike was the descent off of Gothics. This proved to be treacherous in the wet conditions as about 400 of the decent was on bare rock slab. The two sections with cables were helpful, but the going was extremely slow. It was about halfway down the first slab where ENS gave us all a scare when he slipped and must have slide down at least 30. Every time we would reach the bottom of one slab another would be around the next turn. Finally we reached the col between Gothics and Saddleback. We still had another 1.8 miles to go form here along more steep trail that offered up more rock slabs, broken ladders, and mud.

    When I approached the lean-to I found it occupied, but too my surprise it was my cousin Sherpaman and his dog Tahawus, AKA The Goat. We settled in the lean-to, cooked food and went to sleep as the rain poured down.

    10.3 miles hiked
    5821 gain
    4255 loss

    It poured rain most of the night and into the morning. Everyone slept in and we had to decide what to do. No one really wanted to head back up the range in the pouring rain, but no one wanted to bail on the trip either. It was finally decided that we would hike out to the Garden, pick up our cars from the Roostercomb trailhead, dive to the Loj to get dry cloths from Backslackers car, and the head to Lake Placid for some food.

    We packed up and started the 5-mile hike to the Garden. When we reached the bridge over Johns Brook near the ranges station we discovered that it was closed. I had forgotten the bridge was damaged. We had to back track and ford Orr Bed Brook, where we all soaked our feet. From there we hiked over to the upper bridge over Johns Brook and made our way to the Garden. Things went as planned after that and we found our selves in Lake Placid eating pizza and drinking beer. When we finished our meals, we drove back to South Meadows Campground, making a pit stop for more liquid refreshments and set up camp for the night. Sundays weather was supposed to be nice and we decided to hike the MacIntyre Range from South Meadows. Thinks were once again starting to go right.

    5.2 miles hiked
    344 gain
    1067 loss

    The sun finally made its appearance, sunny on Sunday who would have thunk it? It was cool that morning but the temperatures were rising fast. The agenda for the day was to follow the fire truck road to Macy Dam (AKA bear central), hike over the Whales Tail Trail to the MacIntyre trail, up Wright Peak, Algonquin Peak, Iroquois Peak, descend down to Lake Colden, hike through Avalanche Pass back to Macy Dam, and hike the fire truck road back to camp.
    We put on our packs and hit the trail. The first few miles to Marcy Dam were relatively flat on nicely groomed trail. At the Dam we were offered superb views of Mount Colden, Avalanche Mountain, and Wright Peak across the small pond. From here we hit the Whales Tail Trail (say that 3x fast) and what a difference in trail conditions, mud, rocks, logs, mud, I love these low maintenance trails that few people hike on. The MacIntyre Trail on the other hand was like a supper highway meets a creek bed. The erosion on this trail just keeps getting worse and worse, but then I guess by me hiking on it Im also part of the problem. The Whales Tail Trail came in low on the MacIntyre Trail so we had a lot of climbing to do to reach the summits. The sun was getting hot, but with the water flowing down the trail we were able to find a lot of places where we could dunk our heads in the ice-cold water. After miles of hiking and scrambling we broke treeline on Wright and the views opened up. It was a little hazy, but not bad at all for July, especially when one takes into account that it had rained for about a day and a half straight. When we reached the rocky summit of Wright Peak, an ocean of mountains in all directions surrounded us. We could see the Great Range in the distance and I almost instantly relived Fridays hike in my mind. We sat and ate for a while and when the wind finally started to feel too cold, EarthNsky, Greenmonkey, Sherpaman, and myself decided that it was time to head toward Algonquin Peak, which dominated the view to the southwest. The others decided to stay on Wright for a bit longer and then hike back to camp.

    We hiked back down to the junction of the Wright spur trail and the MacIntyre Trail. Here we topped off our water (I must have ended up drinking about 6 to 7 liters that day) and started the .9 miles to Algonquin. The heat seemed to really slow me down, but I was able to press on, by taking a few more breaks and keeping a constant supply of water in me. It was when we broke treeline on Algonquin when it felt real hot, because we could not get out of the sun. Once on top we saw the regular circus of people on this popular peak. Poor Greenmonkey got roped into talking with the mountain steward for quite some time. We sat and longed around for a while taking in the views. When the crowds got to be a bit too much for us we got up and started hiking toward Iroquois Peak.

    The hike down Algonquin towards the Iroquois herd path offered up some great views. Most of the hike down was above treeline. These views abruptly stopped as we left the marked trail and started the herd path (Sherpaman fondly referred to it as the coat ripper). Most of the path snaked its way through dense spruce and it felt like walking through a hedge maze. Not quite halfway the path popped above treeline as we hiked over the summit of Boundary Peak. Here we were able to see where we were heading briefly before we descended back down into the spruce forest. Before too long we were climbing out of the trees again as we reached the summit of Iroquois Peak. We shared the summit with only a few others as we watched the crowds of people take over the summit of Algonquin. We cooked up some food as we admired the view.

    Unfortunately we couldnt stay on the summit all day and we had to get going. We backtracked alone the herd path until we once again hit the MacIntyre Trail. The descent down toward Lake Colden was relentless as we bounced from rock to rock, or tried to avoid slipping down the many rock slabs. About a third of the way down the trail met up with a brook, which it constantly crossed the rest of the way down. Halfway down I began to remember how much I disliked this section of trail. After an hour or more we reached the bottom. We were done with the major hills for the day.

    From the base of Algonquin we hiked through the limbo area between Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake. As we neared Avalanche Lake we had GreenMonkey lead, as he was the only one of us that had not seen Avalanche Pass. As we got to the lake we could see the vertical walls of Avalanche Mountain rise to the left of use and the steep cliffs and slides of Mount Colden rise to the right. We stopped and took pictures before following the trail to the left along the lakeshore. We had to climb up and over boulders, climb up and down ladders, and walk across planking that was bolted to the walls of the metanorthosite cliff. Once we made it to the other side of the lake we followed the trail to the height of land in the pass. This area is still littered with trees and other debris left from the slide on Mount Colden when Hurricane Floyd hit the Adirondacks in the fall of 1999. This area looks like a fire waiting to happen.

    From Avalanche Pass we hiked down to Marcy Dam and then followed the fire truck road back to our campsite were the other where waiting for us with subs and Cokes. We sat down and ate and then packed up and went home. Things didnt go as we had planned but we were still able to make it a great trip

    18.1 miles hiked
    5019 gain and loss

    Total trip
    33.6 miles hiked
    11,184 gain
    10,341 loss


  • #2
    Cool pics, lumberzac. Well done, making the most of bad weather.