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4 Day Trip: Algonquin Via Avalanche Pass

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  • 4 Day Trip: Algonquin Via Avalanche Pass

    My friend Ryan and I have been gearing up for some backpacking trips with his dog Fenway, and we finally took our first one over the last four days. I'm an aspiring 46er (albeit very early into my journey) and he just enjoys hiking with his dog. I'm 25, but Ryan is twice my age and has some vision impairment (loss of peripheral vision) so hiking the rough trails in the ADK region really pushes his limits. We couldn't move as fast as some other people, but we maintained a steady pace and had a blast doing it.

    The original plan was to hike from ADK Loj into the Colden Lake area, establish a base camp, and spend two days hiking peaks (Algonquin, Wright, Iroquois, Boundary and Colden). We're both avid photographers and planned to spend a lot of time photographing the area as well.

    We arrived Saturday around noon to find the parking lot at the loj completely full, and had to park 3/4 of a mile from there along the side of the road that goes to the primitive camps. While this set us back, we just took it in stride, considering it free parking and an easy walk to warm up. We made great time to Marcy Dam, where we took a quick break and spoke with one of the assistant forest rangers about our trip. She gave us some advice, and we continued on our way. We felt great and really enjoyed the hike up until we hit Avalanche Lake. We knew that traversing the edge of the lake was going to involve some ladders and scrambling, but we underestimated the difficulty of it. Ryan and I struggled somewhat with full packs on, but the real problem was figuring out how to help Fenway navigate the steeper sections. He hikes regularly, but had never encountered ladders before and struggled to figure them out. We were able to get him through, but it took way longer than we had planned and cost us a lot of energy. The trails on the way in were muddy, but nothing terrible. We saw very little snow/ice remaining between the loj and Avalanche lake.

    We took a much needed break at far end of the lake and refilled our supply of water. We realized at that point that we were both extremely tired and it was getting dark fast, so we elected to set up camp at one of the two sites located just past Avalanche Lake. The walk up the rocky stream bed to the campsites had us worried, but the site we ended up at was very flat and worked great for us to set up our tents. We ate dinner that first night and decided that it would be too dangerous for us to try and get Fenway back down some of the ladders along A. Lake, so we began working on an alternate route back to the car.

    Day 2: We got up early and were on the trail by 0700. The weather was overcast and felt like rain, but none ever came. Today's goal was to summit Algonquin, Iroquois, Boundary, and Wright. We made fairly good time up to the top of Algonquin considering our fitness levels, but definitely didn't set any speed records. The trail up was a little more technical than I had expected, considering that the only other Adirondack peak I'd hiked prior to this was Cascade. We encountered a few sections of deep mud, and a few sections of ice rail that were maybe 20 feet long, but the trail was otherwise pretty solid. As expected winds at the summit were extremely strong, and being inside of the cloud cover, we ended up completely soaked by the time we reached the summit marker. Due to the strong winds, cold temperatures, and low visibility, we both opted to settle for reaching just Algonquin, and gave up on the idea of continuing on for the other 3 summits. The descent back down was quite slippery, but we made it down safely and quickly. We got back to our camp around 1500hrs and began cooking an early dinner.

    We decided that in the morning we'd break down camp and begin our long hike out to the car via cold brook pass to the Indian pass trail. We wanted to give ourselves two days to make the hike because we weren't sure how fast we'd be able to cover unfamiliar trails with full packs on. We ended up making it less than half a mile down the cold brook pass trail before we decided to turn back due to heavy blow down and a poorly maintained trail. We elected to exit via our plan B: Opalsecent River trail to Lake Arnold trail back down to Marcy Dam. We figured that this route would be muddier, but more heavily trafficked (and better maintained) based on what we had heard from fellow hikers and our prior research. Deep, thick mud made this route extremely slow going from Lake Colden until the Lake Arnold Trail intersection. Once we rounded that corner the trail seemed much more solid, other than the narrow board walks through the swampy area that had us both walking knee deep in water at times. We pushed on and made it out to Marcy Dam on our third day of hiking, where we decided to set up camp for one final night before heading for the car in the morning. Dinner next to the water at Marcy Dam was a real treat after a long day (8.25 miles) on our feet with full packs.

    This morning we both woke up feeling very sore and stiff from the previous 3 days of hiking, but we managed to pack up our camp and start hiking towards the car at 0610hrs. By 0735 we had arrived at the car, and were back on the road headed home. We stopped at a small diner called the black bear restaurant in Pottersville for breakfast. Real food was an amazing end to a great trip.

    Final stats: 25.65 miles, 5,862 feet of elevation gain. Only got one peak in the process, but had one heck of an adventure along the way.

    2 down, 44 to go.

    Entire gallery is on my Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHskyWn4MD

    Algonquin_Hike_-1 by Destin Danser, on Flickr

    Algonquin_Hike_-29 by Destin Danser, on Flickr

    Algonquin_Hike_-32 by Destin Danser, on Flickr

    Algonquin_Hike_-33 by Destin Danser, on Flickr

  • #2
    Great trip report and photos!


    Did you want to avoid backtracking through Avy Pass to see different trails or were you serious that it was to avoid the ladders? Because that's one helluva detour to avoid a few minutes of doggy inconvenience!

    Seriously, maintenance for the Cold Brook Pass Trail was ceased after Tropical Storm Irene (late 2011) remodeled it. Although abandoned, it is still used ... but it's strictly caveat emptor. That's especially true in spring when you become the first to discover blowdown produced by winter. That's the case for any trail but more so for abandoned ones. Had you continued, you would've discovered that Cold Brook Pass (i.e. the height of land between Iroquois and Marshall) is exceedingly wet this time of year. As for the Lake Arnold Trail you discovered it runs through an area that is so frequently inundated that the DEC often issues an advisory to avoid it.

    Most dog owners carry the animal up/down the ladders. Through Avy Pass, I suppose you could also make the critter swim past them (maybe not in May).


    For future reference, you parked along Meadows Lane (formerly known as South Meadows Road). It's often used for overflow parking. Alternately, you can drive to the very end of Meadows Lane, leave your car at the South Meadows Parking Area (free parking), and hike in to Marcy Dam along the Marcy Dam Truck Trail. It's about the same length as walking from where you had parked, but along a nice dirt road (and not a paved one, like Adirondack Loj Road).

    The spot you chose to camp only had one site marked with a yellow Camp Here disk when I surveyed it a year ago. The other one was unmarked. Do you recall if both are marked now?


    Based on your description, here's an approximation of your route. Distance and ascent are a bit lower than the eTrex (or whatever) you used had reported.


    FWIW, if you plan to continue to become a 46er, you'll find the High Peaks lend themselves well to day-hiking. Had the weather been in your favor, a hike from Wright to Iroquois and back is done in a day (and is a very popular route). Plus there are no ladders along the way.

    For backpacking:
    • A base camp at Lake Colden is handy for access to Marshall, Cliff, Redfield, even for Gray and Skylight..
    • Marcy Dam is a good base for Colden, Phelps, Tabletop, and Marcy and even Gray and Skylight.
    • The Johns Brook area affords access to the Great Range and Big Slide.

    Good luck to you both and I hope to see more reports about your pursuit of the 46!
    Looking for Views!

    Comment


    • #3
      Beautiful pictures! Quite the adventure too

      Comment


      • #4
        Great trip report! The pictures are beautiful and Fenway is an excellent name for a dog (formah New Englandah heah: Go Sox!).

        Cold Brook Pass is a pretty rough trip, but IMO more so from the Lake Colden side. The Indian Pass side has a much more distinct Jurassic Park feel to it, but is easier to negotiate. Maybe consider it for your eventual ascent of Marshall (plus there's a crashed plane up near the top of the pass).

        As Trail Boss said, most of these peaks are ideal for day hikes, with a few notable exceptions that are perfect for setting up a base camp. You may find that your friend's vision limitations aren't quite as inhibiting when he's not as focused on staying upright while wearing a multi-day pack.

        Any thoughts on your next ascent?
        My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
          Great trip report and photos!


          Did you want to avoid backtracking through Avy Pass to see different trails or were you serious that it was to avoid the ladders? Because that's one helluva detour to avoid a few minutes of doggy inconvenience!

          Seriously, maintenance for the Cold Brook Pass Trail was ceased after Tropical Storm Irene (late 2011) remodeled it. Although abandoned, it is still used ... but it's strictly caveat emptor. That's especially true in spring when you become the first to discover blowdown produced by winter. That's the case for any trail but more so for abandoned ones. Had you continued, you would've discovered that Cold Brook Pass (i.e. the height of land between Iroquois and Marshall) is exceedingly wet this time of year. As for the Lake Arnold Trail you discovered it runs through an area that is so frequently inundated that the DEC often issues an advisory to avoid it.

          Most dog owners carry the animal up/down the ladders. Through Avy Pass, I suppose you could also make the critter swim past them (maybe not in May).


          For future reference, you parked along Meadows Lane (formerly known as South Meadows Road). It's often used for overflow parking. Alternately, you can drive to the very end of Meadows Lane, leave your car at the South Meadows Parking Area (free parking), and hike in to Marcy Dam along the Marcy Dam Truck Trail. It's about the same length as walking from where you had parked, but along a nice dirt road (and not a paved one, like Adirondack Loj Road).

          The spot you chose to camp only had one site marked with a yellow Camp Here disk when I surveyed it a year ago. The other one was unmarked. Do you recall if both are marked now?


          Based on your description, here's an approximation of your route. Distance and ascent are a bit lower than the eTrex (or whatever) you used had reported.


          FWIW, if you plan to continue to become a 46er, you'll find the High Peaks lend themselves well to day-hiking. Had the weather been in your favor, a hike from Wright to Iroquois and back is done in a day (and is a very popular route). Plus there are no ladders along the way.

          For backpacking:
          • A base camp at Lake Colden is handy for access to Marshall, Cliff, Redfield, even for Gray and Skylight..
          • Marcy Dam is a good base for Colden, Phelps, Tabletop, and Marcy and even Gray and Skylight.
          • The Johns Brook area affords access to the Great Range and Big Slide.

          Good luck to you both and I hope to see more reports about your pursuit of the 46!
          We really were concerned about how we'd safely get the dog back down the ladders, but the idea of seeing more trails was also appealing so switching routes didn't bother us. We figured we'd try and save some of the summits for clear days anyway.

          I'd imagine that the etrex data is off from your by a bit mostly because we made several trips down to Colden lake and back during the stay that I left out from the trip report, but it could also just be that the data wasn't accurate.

          As far as the campsite, there are two clearly marked designated campsites there. After you turn right from the trail up the hill one site is straight ahead on a hard packed dirt area along the route to the privy, the other is off to the left (southeast) of that site and is maybe 150 feet away in a grassy clearing. There was a couple staying at the grass site, so we chose to set up camp on the dirt site to give them some privacy. Also of note, the privy here is *extremely* run down to the point of being nearly unusable. If there ever were walls and a roof on it, they're gone. The base that you'd sit on is rotted, leaning over, and I don't know that I'd trust it to hold my weight. I never used it to go #2, so I didn't have to test that theory.

          Thank you SO much for all of the insight and advice. I'm just starting the process of learning the area and it's clear that I have much to learn.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by stone611 View Post
            Beautiful pictures! Quite the adventure too
            Thanks! It was a lot of fun!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by FlyFishingandBeer View Post
              Great trip report! The pictures are beautiful and Fenway is an excellent name for a dog (formah New Englandah heah: Go Sox!).

              Cold Brook Pass is a pretty rough trip, but IMO more so from the Lake Colden side. The Indian Pass side has a much more distinct Jurassic Park feel to it, but is easier to negotiate. Maybe consider it for your eventual ascent of Marshall (plus there's a crashed plane up near the top of the pass).

              As Trail Boss said, most of these peaks are ideal for day hikes, with a few notable exceptions that are perfect for setting up a base camp. You may find that your friend's vision limitations aren't quite as inhibiting when he's not as focused on staying upright while wearing a multi-day pack.

              Any thoughts on your next ascent?
              I'll definitely consider that route to ascend Marshall. I appreciate the insight. Is the plane crash visible from the trail? If not is there a way to find it?

              I have a trip back there planned for mid July that includes hiking Big Slide via The Brothers with some friends. I'm hoping to get back there to hike another peak or two before then (probably solo).

              I'll be in the high peaks 6/15-17, but it'll be to take engagement photos for a couple I'm friends with that hikes a lot. I doubt we'll hike a peak on that trip though because we have a lot of photos to get. We're planning to hit Indian Head and maybe ampersand. I'm actually about to start another thread asking for location ideas for this, so I won't go into any more detail here.

              Comment


              • FlyFishingandBeer
                FlyFishingandBeer commented
                Editing a comment
                If you were ascending CBP from the Indian Pass side, the herd path to get to Marshall is on your right just before the peak of the pass. The plane wreck is a little ways past it on the right, just as the real descent starts and the trail gets gnarly. Its not too far off the trail but you may not be able to see it until you're right up on it depending on how thick the foliage is around it. I don't remember it being very tough to find.

                Big Slide is a fun peak. I'm a big fan of hiking that one as a loop. Up via the Brothers and down via the Slide Mountain Brook into Johns Brook Valley. This will give you a chance to check out the Johns Brook and Grace Lodges as well as the DEC interior outpost. There's also a very small section of slide during that descend that should provide a great view of Gothics' northern headwall.

                I always thought it would be really cool to get a picture of somebody on a summit from a completely separate peak. On Colden from Algonquin or Saddleback from Basin come to mind. I know virtually nothing about photography so I'm not even sure if something like that would be feasible.

              • Trail Boss
                Trail Boss commented
                Editing a comment
                OpenStreetMap is your friend.
                https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/4244476283

            • #8
              When I saw you stopped at Exit 26 to have breakfast it suggested that you could have made the same trip from Upper Works via Calamity Brook trail. The only obstacles on that route are wet trail and some small mud wallows. No ladders at all. Well you still have Marshall, Cliff, and Redfield. Upper Works is a good starting point for those.

              Don

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by NY_Adventure_Photog View Post

                ...there are two clearly marked designated campsites there.


                ... one site is straight ahead on a hard packed dirt area along the route to the privy, the other is off to the left (southeast) of that site and is maybe 150 feet away in a grassy clearing.


                ...the privy here is *extremely* run down to the point of being nearly unusable. If there ever were walls and a roof on it, they're gone.
                Thanks! I had recorded the location (and taken a picture of) the "hard-packed dirt" campsite located en route to the privy. I either missed the grassy campsite or they added since I was there in 2016 (the DEC did a lot of work last year). According to my notes, the privy is a box toilet (a.k.a. pit latrine or "thunder-box") and therefore never had walls and roof. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/4320062630
                Looking for Views!

                Comment


                • #10
                  That's not just a dog, that's an aussie. In fact, that's the third aussie named Fenway that I have ever heard of....go figure. Anyhow, I've brought my aussies through avalanche pass many times, I have harnesses for them which make it much easier to lift them up and down the ladders. I usually don't have mine wear packs in rough terrain; they're not really used to it and they need their balance. Sounds like a fun trip. Going up Algonquin from Lake Colden is one of the steepest, most demanding climbs in the adirondacks. Don't feel badly that it took you longer than expected.

                  Comment

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