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  • And the Oscar goes to...

    Me!... for Best Trailbreaker in a Supporting Role. The story goes something like this...

    Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood... er... I mean Once Upon a Sunday in the Adirondacks I headed out before dawn up to Bear Den Mountain to knock out another winter peak for the Lake Placid 9er. After the huge dump of snow recently I figured the best trailhead to secure parking at would be Whiteface Ski Center with its hundreds of parking spots and need to keep their lots clear. Good choice there.

    It was -17* out when I got off the Northway and started up Route 73. But it was warming up quickly and by time I pulled into Whiteface it was just -4*. Still very chilly but the day would continue to warm. By the end of the hike it was 20* or so but I never really warmed up on the day. My feet were cold the entire time which is highly unusual for me and I was more chilled than normal. Maybe it was The Irishman in me. I once had a nurse tell me that I had Irish Skin (everything leaves a mark) so perhaps Irish blood was to blame for my chill on Sunday.

    The trail leading away from the register was broken out. A few people from the previous day had done a nice job packing it all down. I was a Parasite and benefited from their hard work as I climbed up the steep little mountain. As I worked my way up the hill I scanned the area for Little Women but only ran into one normal size one who was descending. She was a friendly sort who was excited to be out on the gorgeous day. We chatted for a bit and she mentioned the tracks in the snow came to an abrupt end so she was wondering if she made the summit. I asked if she had reached the summit ridge. Her reaction led me to believe she did not understand the question. I asked if she reached the cairn (which is one of the first things you see once reaching the summit ridge). She asked, "What's a cairn?" I said, "A pile of rocks." She indicated she had. Just to make sure I inquired if she got to see the big beautiful view and if she got to look up at Whiteface. She answered in the affirmative. I was pretty confident she made it to at least the cairn. I explained that wasn't the actual summit and that she needed to continue on for a few hundred yards if she was a stickler for such details. She said, "So I made it? I covered the 1.6 miles to the summit?" I said yes... pretty close. She cheered and off she went. This encounter had the potential to be a pretty good meet cute but there will not be a Marriage Story from it in any of my future trip reports... sorry.

    I was happy to learn the trail was clear sailing to the top. Imagine my surprise when a little while later I came to the end of the tracks... like a half mile and several hundred feet below the summit! Was that woman some kind of Joker? She got me all excited that the trail was broken out and here I was staring up at a blank white snowfield going straight up the mountain. Very steep. No trail markers anywhere. No hint of the where the trail was. And the snow was deep! Well I wasn't about to turn around so upward I went. Snow was knee to mid-thigh deep and impossible to get any forward progress going in. One step up.. .slide back down. Do it again... slide back down. Take smaller steps to mash down the snow... slide back down. If I had to guess I backslid 1917 times... or so it seemed. I'd estimate I doubled the climb with all of the backsliding. And in several spots the snow got to be waist deep. It was not fun. I had a vague memory which way the trail went and set off in that direction and powered through the climb. I consulted my GPS every so often to make sure I was on track. I wasn't about to freeze myself to death in 18-24" deep snow out of pride of navigating with a compass rather than a GPS.

    My progress was glacial. This was not Ford vs Ferrari. This was plodding human vs deep snow and I took as long getting to the summit as I did reaching the spot where I started the trailbreaking bushwhack. Within a few hundred feet of the summit the trees and deep snow made going very slow. I ended up getting stuck in a few bushes that were covered by snow. Like a spruce trap but different. One step on what looked like just snow put me in a tangle a few times. I hope I didn't do too much damage extricating myself. I'm more worried that everybody else will follow my track the rest of the winter and multiply my mistakes.

    Once at the cairn on the summit ridge I took my pictures of Whiteface and the other far off views. It was a quite spectacular day for winter beauty after the recent storm. And you could hear the skiers on Whiteface hooting and hollering as they flew down the slopes. I then walked the summit ridge to the high point, took some more pics, and began my descent. Nothing to report on the downhill really. Pretty routine all the way back to the parking lot. And no wildlife sightings... not even a snowshoe hare or a Jojo Rabbit.

    So my supporting role in breaking out Bear Den was about one quarter of the trail in the deepest of the snow. I guess it isn't a winter worth discussing until you have to suffer the pain of breaking trail in deep snow so I guess I've checked that off this year.

    Oscars are airing shortly and I beat the clock by posting my trip report before Bob Hope starts his monologue. Or whoever. Enjoy the show. Oh... and if you haven't caught on just yet... the items in bold above are all the nominees for Best Picture.

    A few pics from the day...
    link to the album in case you can't see the pics or want a larger view... https://photos.app.goo.gl/tbxdoy5vtSuecrjK7

    Start here...


    The huge parking area. This was one of the reasons I found it so comical that a shuttle was running from LP to Bear Den.
    Who would take a shuttle when so much parking is available?


    The end of the broken trail...


    A few shots of what the snow depth was like...


    The final junction just below the summit...


    Views from Bear Den...




    A closer shot of Whiteface...
    Last edited by Makwa; 02-09-2020, 08:24 PM.


  • #2
    Best script

    Comment


    • #3
      Hilarious report. There are quite a pile of rocks at the dead end snowshoe track in your photo, so maybe you could call them a cairn!

      Comment


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks.

        Well you got me there. I am still 0 for my lifetime in determining whether somebody made a summit or not. No matter what I say people answer in a way that lead me to believe they made it. Perhaps it's wishful thinking on their part.

    • #4
      Here is a video on sizing your snowshoe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bdDf0afy9A If you divide the weights she suggests by about 2.5, then you'll be fine trying to go to a bump on Whiteface where no woman has gone before. 22 inch snowshoes are not meant for snow.

      It was interesting to hear of your trip to Bear Den.
      I might be kidding...

      Comment


      • CatskillKev
        CatskillKev commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm guessing the 24 or 25 inch Tubbs Flex is probably no better in floatation, due to tapering.

        A balanced shoe is what you want for floatation. Adding a tail throws balance way off, and most hikers who are aware, suggest not to bother with the tails. Sometimes though, a hiker says to attach the binding with your foot further back to try to balance them, when tail is attached. I suppose someone with a longer foot has potentially more lee way and more chance to get the weight further back.

        The Flex is just a copy of the MSR, so have not been drawn to those either, so can't comment on the Flex binding. In general, I think Tubbs bindings are more popular than MSR bindings, but Tubbs has had some failures in the binding department also.

        Another way to help you out with stability would be bigger snow baskets on your poles. You should have to use the handle side of the pole to measure snow depth. Your poles are not helping you enough in deep snow.

        And if you are getting some floatation bushwhacking, you might want to think about switch-backing, as opposed to straight up the slope.
        Last edited by CatskillKev; 02-14-2020, 09:16 AM.

      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Good tips. Thanks.

        I agree the poles weren't doing me any favors. I was pole & wrist deep pretty often. Had never been a huge issue until that hike so I never gave it much thought in the past. I actually think I have some Leki snow baskets around here somewhere. Will put them on.

        As always, I appreciate your snowshoe knowledge. Nice to have resident experts on so many different topics on the forum.

      • CatskillKev
        CatskillKev commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you very much, Makwa.
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