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Allen - Nov 2

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  • Allen - Nov 2

    Twelfth annual ACC Ottawa November hike. This year we had eleven people leave on three hikes from the Keene Valley Hostel. Paul led a duo to climb Redfield and Cliff, Ray led a group of five to climb the Wolfjaws, and finally I led a group of four to tackle Allen. I watched the weather like a hawk all week as there was a major storm on Thursday that dumped a lot of rain. This was coupled with a lot of wind on Friday. Forecast for Saturday was ideal, so we drove down Friday afternoon, and despite a small detour due to a downed power line, arrived unscathed in Keene Valley.

    Early morning we convoyed to Upper works in two cars, dodging the occasional tree blocking up to a complete lane of the road, but all obstacles were easily driven around. We thought that this hike might be over before it began if the Upper Works was blocked by a fallen tree, but other than some branches, nothing major prevented us from arriving at the trailheads. Said goodbye to the Redcliff team, as Erik, Cole, Duncan and I flipped on our headlamps and wandered down to the Hudson River. The river was high, flooding the trail under about fifteen centimeters of water, so we bushwhacked around this until we reached the bridge which we discovered was listing to one side, the fencing broken and full of debris. The river must have been more than a meter higher during the storm... impressive! I inspected the main cables (fully intact), spent some time bouncing the bridge to ensure that it was structurally sound, and then declared it safe enough. We crossed one at a time to the other side and found the stairs tipped over, so just walked down the rock using the overturned steps as a handrail.

    We hiked on quickly, wanting to move as fast as possible on the flat approach trail. After rounding Lake Jimmy, the headlamps switched off and we saw a beautiful sunrise lighting up the Santanonis. We arrived to the Opalescent river and spotted some broken lumber on the far bank. We joked about that being the bridge, and continued hiking. A short while later we came to the crossing and to our dismay, the bridge was just simply gone! A few planks and broken cables are all that remain of this new bridge. Rather unfortunate as this was replaced fairly recently since the last time it washed out in 2011. Well the river was not too high, and we had brought water shoes in case Skylight brook needed a ford, so we stripped our boots and pants and forded the river without too much difficulty. Erik, being the shortest of our team had the most trouble, but made it safely across, though not without soaking his undershorts. We met the only person of the day here, and it just figures that my only interaction with a fellow hiker involved shouting across a river while not wearing pants. The other hiker declared that he was going home as we dressed ourselves to continue on.

    The hike along the DEC trail was flooded in parts, not by the storm but by some industrious beavers. The herd path was in fairly good shape, though a few extra branches littered the path thanks to the wind. No major blowdown though. As we descended towards skylight brook we somehow lost the trail, following an erroded leafy runnel created no doubt from storm run-off. Upon realizing the error, instead of backtracking I pulled the compass out and switched into bushwhack mode. A few hundred meters later we crossed the trail again and then arrived at Skylight brook. My fears of this crossing were unfounded as this was easily rock hopped, after which we sat down for a break to refuel before the climb.

    After the long flat walk the climb was a welcome sight. We followed the path along Allen brook which was very pretty with lots of water cascading down. In places the ice formations were quite beautiful, and as we climbed higher the trail became more and more icy. Maybe about 100 meters below the slide the trail became icy enough for spikes, and the slide itself was covered in a 2 cm thick coating of ice with water running underneath. Crampons would not have been overkill here, but we got by in the spikes by kicking steps and making our way carefully across and then upwards to hit a trail that ran up parallel to the remainder of the slide. Above the slide there was a lot more mountain than I remember, but finally we hit ridge and scampered the last little bit to the summit. After a few photos with the sign we wandered over to the lookout and sat down to lunch. Unfortunately the peaks had their summits in the clouds, but we were glad to be here anyway. Cole broke out a flask of bourbon which warmed the soul in the cool wind.

    Descending was a lot easier than expected as the ice had melted noticeably in our brief absence. I am not quite sure of the physics going on here though, as Erik's underpants which he had tied to the back of his pack in a futile attempt to dry them had frozen into a solid stiff mass. Hydraulic states of matter not withstanding we appreciated the easy descent, and were happy to de-spike once the ice ran out. Another quick break at the bottom beside Skylight Brook and we began the long slog home. Other than a few false trails which we noticed quickly, we stayed on track and finally arrived at the Opalescent and prepared to ford again. An easier crossing this time as the water level had gone down noticeably in the few hours we had been gone, but halfway across I looked up and spy Erik, wearing absolutely nothing but a backpack. I then looked up at the far bank, expecting to see a troupe of girl scouts arriving on scene, but alas we were fortunately alone this time. After dressing and warming up with another shot from Cole's flask we hiked on.

    As we neared Lake Jimmy the headlamps were switched on. Finally the roar of the Hudson was heard, and we were quite happy to see that the damaged bridge was still there, which avoided this turning into an epic. In fact the bridge was in better shape than before as someone had cleaned up the fence railings a bit, and the stairs had been moved back into place. The flooded trail was now dry as the Hudson had also dropped noticeably, and we hiked that last few steps to the parking area with smiles on our faces after an 11.5 hour day. A long drive back to Keene Valley where we arrived to a dark hostel, us being the first group in. The Wolfjaw team arrived a few minutes later, completing a loop using the hostel itself as the trailhead, and the Redcliff team arrived an hour after that, tired but successful as well.


  • #2
    This isn't par for a shoulder season hike in the adk is it, a de-pantsing and twice even? Im having trouble kicking my cold without wading across rivers in my ExOfficio's, maybe its a good thing I cant get up there in the fall.
    great trip report though.
    really sad that bridge is gone, I cant imagine the man and woman hours and effort put into placing that beautiful and impressive span.
    how bad was the report from the other 2 teams in terms of blowdown and trail damage and those repective bridges possibly being out (high water bridges over the calamity/opal/etc, and either the jbl or amr bridges)?
    35er #3133
    46er #11779

    "Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds"


    • mbowler
      mbowler commented
      Editing a comment
      The other two teams reported that things were not too bad. Some bridges/boardwalks had shifted, but no major crossings needed. The wolfjaw team went up from Roostercomb and down to the garden via JBL, so the new bridge there must still be intact (it is really high... if that one ever washes away, the lodge would probably be a victim too!) The wolfjaw team did report quite a bit of blowdown.

  • #3
    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but it is too bad you did not heed the DEC request for people to stay out of the HP last weekend: https://www.adirondackdailyenterpris...e-to-flooding/

    Glad you all were ok, but maybe check on conditions before heading out.


    • mbowler
      mbowler commented
      Editing a comment
      Actually we did. I checked very thoroughly, and departed at 13:30. The advisory was issued at 14:00... a few minutes too late. It was a great day for hiking so I am glad I did not see the advisory ahead of time.

    • 2505
      2505 commented
      Editing a comment
      Got it. Glad all went well!

  • #4
    Frozen undies hanging from a pack, ''de-pantsing'' (good one!), crossing the Opalescent half-nekid, the visuals. A memorable trip! I'm trying to imagine the water level and force it took to tear off that bridge...amazing. Great report.


    • #5
      Thanks for the report!

      Back to monitoring water flow levels before any trip to Allen, at least before it freezes over...

      (FWIW - from an older a report I saw that around 3ft gauge height at Newcomb meant a knee deep water crossing on the Opalescent)


      • #6
        Report in Adirondack Daily Enterprise on damage:



        • #7
          I crossed the Opalescent several times before the bridge was replaced, but never had a chance to cross the bridge itself! Missed opportunity, back to wading.

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


          • NickWI
            NickWI commented
            Editing a comment
            I've only done Allen once, about a week after the now-gone bridge was built. My river crossing planning wasn't a waste after all!

          • rickhart
            rickhart commented
            Editing a comment
            I was the opposite: I did the hike in 1996, and then again on Aug. 29 this year, so I missed the long wading period. You're lucky the first bridge was still there, but even crossing the Opalescent in those conditions is pretty dicey. Makes a great story, anyway.