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Number 42: An Allen Adventure

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  • Number 42: An Allen Adventure

    Maybe I shouldn’t have hiked.

    My leg was just stopping its weeks-long ache from an earlier injury, but I wanted to “get Allen out of the way”—as I’ve heard other hikers say.

    The day was sunny and moderate, and the beginning of the trek was gorgeous. All within a short time we’d crossed the swaying bridge over the baby Hudson, bypassed Lakes Jimmy & Sally, swayed across the new Opalescent bridge, and stared into the Wardens cabin. But my leg was aching, and though the next long stretch was level and relatively featureless, I was lagging behind farther than I usually do. (I should note that I turn 71 tomorrow.J)

    My friends are normally chatterboxes but they seemed quiet that day. They knew what they were facing. A turn-off to Marcy appeared on our left (really? somehow I hadn’t thought of that as being possible from Allen), and then, after what seemed a long stretch, there was the gravel pit and the register to Allen.

    The hike got interesting. No more level paths, but still a typical path through the woods. When Skylight Brook showed up I was trepidacious because the ache had become constant, and rock-hopping didn’t look as much fun as it usually does.
    But I made it, with some help.

    Time passed and we came to Allen Brook with its impressive falls. Another one of those places you want to linger at all day—an omen, maybe. Here the climb really began. The directions didn’t hold encouraging words. Words like “steep,” “red slime,” and finally “relentlessly steep.” But I plugged on. Up and up. I began to lose steam, and then my energy seriously petered out. We had crossed from the right-hand side of the brook to the left, so I knew the top couldn’t be far ahead but my leg was angry and I felt my body stiffening. Paul and Mike grew alarmed. Finally the decision we all hate to think we’d have to make: I needed help.

    Yep, let’s call the Adirondack help line, I said—but no signal. Going back seemed impossible. I thought: I need to see this summit do-or-die. Paul thought I was nuts.

    Not to string this farther, I kept on and lumbered into the summit glade about 4:30. The spot near the Allen sign made a nice little enclave, which I was glad for, since I thought: I am staying here for a while.

    Consultations, worries—I let it all flow over me as our group reluctantly split up. They left Paul and me, knowing they’d call the rangers once they hit a phone signal (which by the way, wasn’t until the Newcomb road, many hours away).

    Here it was, then: our unexpected over-nighter. We had food and water and meds, our clothing was mostly warm enough, and there were two space blankets. We set up a camp on Allen summit that would be our home-away-from-home. Rest. Despair.

    Suddenly a couple appeared out of the bushes. That inspired action and we quickly we decided it was in our best interests to hike on down as far as we could. We knew it’d be especially cold on a high peak, exposed in spite of trees around us, and—what if lightning should come our way.

    Very unhappy at the thought of that red slime again but glad to be proactive for a change, I forgot my aches and we headed down after them. They knew our predicament and even volunteered to carry some gear for us that our friends had left behind.

    Somehow we did it. The descent was smoother and faster than the ascent. We had to get SOMEwhere by sunset and I wanted off this mountain. Paul hates slides; I hate red slime. We made quite a pair but we manned up and did it. The couple disappeared but told us they’d leave our gear at Allen falls well secured.

    Dusk found us past the slide and well down the mountain. Finding a non-wet spot was tough because the glen we were admiring on the way up suddenly seemed wet everywhere with no site to stretch out upon. The soft green moss which looked so inviting was drenched.

    There it was: just off the path a dry spot under low trees. Very professionally (we thought) we cleared the area of twigs and brush, and hung a small LED lantern which would light our site all night. We spread one space blanket down and realized that we were wearing wet trousers from a slip or two we had each endured. Darn it. We put on wool caps but had to take off pants. Gaiters would have to serve. We ate and puttered around till the last putter was possible, then got ready to lie down. We faced each other with headlamps on. First thought: should we string up food away from bears? For better or worse, we nixed that idea and stowed it in one pack near us We were ready to fight for it, should night-critters appear. We lay down—wet boots off, damp wool socks on. The second space blanket was over us. We thought it wasn’t working till at one point it blew off and I could feel the colder air around us. We must’ve tucked it around us a hundred times that night. Very encouraging it was, to have a blanket the thickness of saran wrap between us, along with the beautiful stars overhead. I blessed those stars because it meant no rain, I hoped. Allen Brook’s splashing was comforting: I won’t ever forget it.

    Well what can I tell you. It was a very long night. We didn’t freeze but we weren’t exactly warm either. Paul even fell asleep every now and then; me, no. The leg pains were forgotten in the wonder of it all. I thought of our friends back in Lake Placid, and I knew they’d be thinking of us. But we were okay.

    When dawn appeared we both looked at each other and said, “Let’s go!” So we quickly packed and took off, after we took a pic of our mountain hotel room. The root that had troubled Paul all night looked innocent.

    Somehow—and you tell me how—though we couldn’t text or call, we got a text from Lisa that said that rangers would meet us at 8:30 a.m. This was heartening but we knew we still wanted to get a move on as far as we could. (Unless they meant a helicopter dear Lord.) About 200 feet away as we walked out lay the clothes the couple had promised to leave for us, weighted down by a rock. We could’ve used those clothes during the night! but it was a welcome sign. An hour or so later, there were the rangers, hiking toward us. We were glad to introduce ourselves to Del and Jake. We were exhausted; they were toting two-ton packs extending a yard behind them.

    They wanted us to eat something right away, asked questions, and then—on our way. Dreaded Skylight Brook was still formidable, but again with help, I made it. They let me set the pace, admitting they were glad they didn’t have to maneuver up red slime after all. Two miles of hiking led us to the gravel pit sign-out. There were parked two huge ranger vehicles, and we were to ride, one each with them. It was not a question: we were to go with them. I thought, even through the aches and weariness, Dear Lord does this mean our hike does not COUNT?? But the choice wasn’t mine. So we took a ride few 46ers have taken, through “forbidden” private roads back to the Upper Works road. Even then, the ride took an hour, because a lot of the terrain was rough. I enjoyed seeing camps and private hunters clubs because who sees them? until finally we crossed baby Hudson again and were out.

    Del and Jake dropped us off at our car. We thanked them I don’t know how many times, and Jake gave us orange rubber wristbands that said Smokey’s Friends (was this a bar in Lake Placid? I asked Paul later—with some disdain he said we were talking Smokey the famous Bear).

    So we lived. I knew this would be a news clip somewhere, and we were. One report said “70 year old loses his way on Allen,” which wasn’t the truth, unless they were writing symbolically. I resented that Paul’s age wasn’t reported.

    All the time I kept the worry up, in the midst of being very grateful for the happy ending, that Allen (number 42 for me, 41 for Paul) would not count. Several days later my 46er correspondent wrote that yes indeed it would. I had climbed the entire mountain, right, she asked? Yes. I had descended the entire mountain, right? Yes. Under my own power, right? Yes. Well yes, but via a Greater Power, I have to think.


    (1) The first morning after we arrived home, Paul was heading out the door down the steps. He shouted out his goodbyes and then, “Watch out for the red slime of Allen!”--and immediately slipped kaboom onto his back. He was ok, but even with my stifling a laugh I thought: the mountains do not take jokes lightly.

    (2) The doctor removed two syringes of liquid from my knee. I am better, but no thoughts of climbing for a full month at least.

    Allen has spoken.


    "A full appreciation of mountains is not to be experienced by merely looking; that is why men climb." -Francis S. Smythe, British mountaineer

  • #2
    Congratulations on 42. A memorable one at that.


    • #3
      Riveting story. Glad everyone worked out and you guys escaped virtually unscathed. Good, Allen counted for you. Rest that knee and keep on going.
      Nothing like being in the woods.


      • #4
        Jim, this is an incredible report. Glad you are well and recovering. Allen is on my list this year and it's clearly not one to be taken lightly. Hope to see you on the trails when you're healed. Oh, and happy birthday!



        • #5
          Thanks for posting the story... but let me get this straight, you decided you needed a rescue and then pushed on upwards anyway? Would it not have been better to spend that time and energy descending?


          • Jim Gifford
            Jim Gifford commented
            Editing a comment
            We were minutes from the summit, and frankly, I'd determined if I had to be rescued, it was going to be from the top, not from almost-to-the-top
            Last edited by Jim Gifford; 06-05-2017, 04:41 PM.

          • CatskillKev
            CatskillKev commented
            Editing a comment
            A report from a very desperate hiker. Allen is not that important. Calm down. Get ahold of yourself.

          • gebby
            gebby commented
            Editing a comment
            Probably the better course of valor would have been to postpone the trip if your leg had been that bad. I've made the same mistake and gone when not recovered from previous injury. Makes for an ugly day!

        • #6
          Interesting read...... Glad you're ok
          Catskills: 39/39, 35W/35W
          ADK: 46/46, 10W/46W
          NH: 5/48


          • #7
            An interesting read and very glad for the happy outcome. A very good reminder to all of us that we carry that extra clothing, safety gear and perhaps a little extra food/water IN CASE something happens. This is a vivid reminder that those occasions do in fact happen from time to time. For all of us, the extra weight in the pack is worth every gram when you need it.

            Glad to hear all's well that ends well and look forward to reading your future reports - once you've healed up a bit


            • #8
              I was just on Allen (my 42nd as well) on Friday night on my final push to 46. I saw this noted in the inner register which wasn't exactly encouraging, as I started a nighttime solo climb up the thing... really wondered what the story was, glad it all worked out for you!

              Also, only 4 more to go now, and none of them Allen! You got this!
              ADK 46*/46 CATS 5/35 FT 4/28 Saranac 0/6 Bristol 6/6


              • #9
                Jim... glad to hear you guys made it out OK. I just have one question... why didn't you continue on to where the cache of clothes & gear was before bedding down for the night? You had headlamps and you knew where it would be.

                Won't knock you on the rest... I've gone on too many hikes before injuries have healed and I'll never learn to rest them more before getting back out there.

                Good luck with your last 4. Hopefully they're not filled with the same level of "adventure" as this hike.


                • Trail Boss
                  Trail Boss commented
                  Editing a comment
                  ... and a fire. Was it too dark the see the wood that was too wet to ignite with the matches that didn't exist?

                  Forgot to say: Glad you made it out OK and three cheers for the rangers!
                  Last edited by Trail Boss; 06-06-2017, 02:15 PM. Reason: Forgot my manners.

              • #10
                I've been thinking about this thread for a few days. I really think that, although the correspondent said the climb can count, I'd feel I needed to do this mountain at least once more. I'd rather have positive memories of climbing a mountain and I'd feel cheated out of the full experience if I hadn't done the entire walk under m own power. I know some consider Allen a grueling necessity, but it doesn't have to be.