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Some Fire Tower HIkes and Challenge Finish

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  • Some Fire Tower HIkes and Challenge Finish

    Since the 1st of the year I've spent the greatest fraction of my hiking days on Fire Tower Hikes. I finished the Winter Challenge on 2-5-20 with Hurricane

    Loon Lake 1-4-20; Stillwater 1-29-20; Bald 1-29-20; Azure 1-31-20; Poko-Moonshine 1-31-20; Gore 2-1-20; Hurricane 2-5-20. I picked the farthest away so I could finish with a longer hiker and a mountain (Hurricane) closer to home.

    Loon Lake: One of the farthest for me. And only the second and both times socked no views. Very low snow and crust on the woods-roads that built up to nice snowshoeing snow for the steep climb. It's so steep that it invites butt sliding. I don't butt slide much and I much less care to snow shoe down a butt slide track. When I got back to the trailhead three fellows from Utica on a day trip had just arrived and they were going to tack on Azure too. It would be late in the evening by they got home. I had thought to tack on Poko-Moonshine but a storm had rolled in the driving was bad and I could see the summit was socked in; so I passed on it.

    Stillwater: Tiny parking lot with copious No Parking signs on the roadway. Stillwater was very pleasant. Snow was fantastic. It's a very gentle climb as Fire Towers go. I had only partial views from the cab. The road has snowmobiling on it and I passed several snowmobilers on the way out.

    Bald: I would expect Bald to be one of the more popular climbs in the Adirondacks. A steep enough climb with just 1 mile to get there and a tower situated on a cliff. Views are to be had whether or not you choose the climb the tower. I had the compass bearing to look for Woodhull but even with a picture at maximum zoom I can't make out the Woodhull cab. If you are looking from there to Bald, Bald is visible. That's the advantage of having the whole tower exposed. Several people on the trail. It wasn't so warm but there was one fellow with just a t-shirt...I guess I was overdressed.

    Azure: I got there on the paved roads rather than by the dirt road from the South. As I got there a pickup truck arrived. I did arrive at the summit first but two guys from Potsdam were close behind. Snow was great as there had been 6-inches or more new. I'd hoped for great views to the South but clouds with a low ceiling obstructed any view of the High Peaks. The fellows from Potsdam were there to trail run. They said they'd be climbing 3 or 4 times before heading back North.

    Poko-Moonshine: I made the right choice to pass up on climbing here on 1-4. Started with low snow at the start and changing to ideal conditions as I climbed. I'd climbed the Ranger Trail the only other time here. But that was many years ago; so, hard to say what trail work happened recently down low. Though there did appear to be lots of rock step work under the packed snow. But I did notice the long switchbacks as these had to be new. Very gentle making this a much easier climb. There was a good view to the South, the low clouds had cleared off. The cab was closed.

    Gore: I struck out when trying to find references to climbing Gore without climbing on the Schaefer Trail. One post on the forum referred to another platform that I'm not a member of. I did see that for Project 100 Neil planned to skin up the ski trails before the lifts opened. Summit Post did not indicate that the Schaefer trail is closed during ski season. I ended up with a bushwhack from the North off a designated ski trail to 2nd Pond that's in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness. This cuts off 1/2 the elevation gain with the trade-off of a bushwhack. I checked the trailhead the day before and saw ski tracks; so that's what I did too.

    There was a 2-some that had signed in for Gore a couple days before my hike. And a note that suggested getting out late. I never came across any other tracks.

    My plan was to ski to the height of land on the ski trail (old ski tracks kept going where I left) then go straight for the summit. About 1-1/2 miles. I had my GPS and had programmed waypoints for the Barton Mine property line to make sure I stayed off but I never got close until near the summit. When I got to the place where the terrain began to get steep it was pretty wild looking. Large boulders and sporadic cliff faces. I did find what must be a grassy climb to get around the initial obstacles and followed compass and rule of up. I'd say about 1/2 the climb was spent following deer tracks since they seemed to know the path of least resistance very well. At home I found that my track went up what would be the South Buttress on the mountain. It was pretty much like any bushwhack being OK at times and pushing thought small spruce at times. As the slope began to level off some really nice terrain followed. Sure there was a couple clusters of small spruce I had to push through but there as also multiple spaces 50 yards or longer of open woods walking. Near the ski lifts the trees were older and pretty open. I got to the tower from one of the ski trails that traverses the flat top going somewhere. Must have been bad skiing below since it was closed off by the Ski patrol. I spent just enough time to snap a couple of pictures and the return the way I arrived. Round trip was just less than 4-1/2 hours and at least 2 was the spent on the bushwhack.

    Hurricane. I actually think I have climbed Hurricane in winter but I never made a record, so climbed it again. Conditions were great. Temperatures in the 30s and good snow from 9N to the Tower. Light winds too so that climbing the tower was pleasant. The were two from Quebec that were ahead of me and two that followed.


    Had issue embedding pictures. This will have to do.
    Pictures are of

    Stillwater-Big Moose Road
    View toward from Mt Mansfield from Poko-Moonshine
    View from in the cab on Hurricane
    Red Breasted Nuthatch near the 9N Trail to Hurricane
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Hear the Footsteps; 02-06-2020, 05:16 PM.

  • #2
    Congrats on the finish!

    Some thoughts:
    Loon Lake - the butt-sliders must always be there. They scoured all the snow off the steep parts up high when I was there too. Make my descent a tad more perilous on solid ice.
    Stillwater - I wanna say the No Parking signs are just on one side of the road? Every time I've been there cars have been parked on the side of the road nearest the trailhead.
    Poke-O-Moon - from what I understand the Ranger Trail used to go straight up the mountain. The reroute with switchbacks has made it much easier to climb. I've been on it twice now since the work has been done (but never under the old config) and like it better than the Observer's Trail.
    Gore - I could swear that in the past Gore was off limits in winter for the Fire Tower Challenge but I cannot find anything saying that now. Has there been a change in the guidelines? Any info or news from our forum fire tower experts TFR or Laurie Rankin ??


    • Hear the Footsteps
      Hear the Footsteps commented
      Editing a comment
      Stillwater. Yeah I said about the No Parking sign because there is one prominently located right next to the trailhead sign.

      You don't mean to tell us Stillwater over crowed too! I just say that because everything is popular everywhere. Not just the ADKs. I go to Peebles Island and Vischer Ferry Preserve and there are lots of people enjoying their time out. Parking areas overfilled. It's global!!

      Poko - I remember it being steep and rocky. The people I met were locals and said the old route it was wet. It became a drainage. I agree the new route is very nice.

      Gore: Well when I searched the forum I found a post that in a reply to Neil's query 'if checked on that other social media site one would find where some had climbed Gore in winter for winter credit.' I'm not a member. The checklist states to not use the ski lift as it is a hiker challenge. And I'm aware Schafer trail is closed to the summit during ski season. It climbs right on the downhill slopes and would be hazardous to skiers and climbers. Paperwork sent today. We'll see what the ADK Glens Falls chapter says.

  • #3
    There are 2 problems with Gore, there is a ski center there (Didn't Neil bushwhack to the summit?) and the tower is covered with active devices, which if you believe the signs, will fry your brain! The tower is always off limits, but I'll defer to someone else to call, or provide direct evidence for using the trail, or ski runs...
    Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

    Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
    Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
    Past President Catskill 3500 Club
    CEO Views And Brews!


    • Hear the Footsteps
      Hear the Footsteps commented
      Editing a comment
      Your right about the tower. I've climbed Gore three times before. Lots of signs. I got close enough to take a selfie with the whole tower. I wasn't aware that cold weather makes it more dangerous .

      The part of the ski trail I was on was on the flat summit for maybe 50 yards. It was closed to skier traffic. While I was in the woods heading to the tower there was all sorts of ski tracks, two outhouses and signs in the snow I was walking through the toilet. So I figured why stay in here. I got out of the woods near to what appears to be a new summit lodge I just walked on side of the packed snow until I got to the driveway to the tower.

      Re to Neil's route I searched the forum and found references to arranging with the Ski center to skin but no detail afterward even in the Project 100 report. There it's mentioned Lewey and Gore the same day solo.
      Last edited by Hear the Footsteps; 02-06-2020, 06:09 PM.

    • Hear the Footsteps
      Hear the Footsteps commented
      Editing a comment
      Neil somewhat in common. The Black Mountain Brook part. I came in from the dotted line (ski trail) N of Height of Land Mountain. Went to the left of the 772m bump. Crossed the brook and ended up climbing the buttress that goes through the 1050m indicated on map. Then across what becomes a beautiful wide summit ridge. Some of the time with slope falling off steeply to my right until I was very near the ski trail.

    • Neil
      Neil commented
      Editing a comment
      Years ago Dunbar and I bushwhacked Gore from King's Flow over Puffer. We went to the north side of Second Pond and from there more or less directly to the summit. It was well after sundown and when we crested the summit we were greeted by a full moon and a field of trees whose trunks were broken off half-way up. It was very surreal site. (and a very long day.)