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Basin 2020-02-16

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  • Basin 2020-02-16

    Another one of my journeys from Eastern Long Island with me wondering what I would encounter during my trip up north over President’s Day weekend. I knew the prior week had temperature variations, rain and snow. My goal for this weekend was to climb Basin on Saturday, which would close out my list of mountains most assessable from the Johns Brook Lodge. If conditions warranted, maybe attempt Grey and Skylight on Sunday going over Marcy.

    Scanning the previous week’s destinations when signing in on Friday afternoon at the Garden register, revealed no Basin activity, nor Haystack. None of the JBL guests nor guests of Camp Grace or Peggy O’Brien had Basin in their sights. I did know that the trail to Slant Rock was broken out as a pair who had intended to camp out in the Slant Rock lean-to had returned from there and asked if they could spent Friday night at JBL as the temperature was -17F that evening when they arrived.

    Saturday morning, February 15th, in snowshoes, I set out for Shorey’s Short Cut. I knew what to expect from the blow down section before Slant Rock based on last month’s climb of Haystack. Still the same seven trees to duck under, but the addition of snow since mid January left few trees to have to step over! Relatively easy going.

    After passing Slant Rock, and making the first left on to Shorey’s Short Cut, I knew it was going to be a long day for this solo hiker. The short cut is not to be confused as something “easy”. The steep trail up to the prominence where you turn the corner and can see Haystack is sheltered by a rock wall, this section had knee deep snow with a crust of ice underneath. You just had to stamp hard until you penetrated the crust with your snowshoe toe. It was a blue bird day, and at that corner, you could see snow curling over Haystack and Little Haystack in a moderate breeze.

    The descent to the Range Trail showed where all that snow settles. This last section of trail had thigh deep snow and with the gravity trying to accelerate you downward, it was difficult to move deliberately to make a useable trail for the return trip. Finally reaching the Range Trail junction, it was time to get some nourishment and liquids. It was also time to understand that no one had used this trail from Haystack nor to Basin! While fueling up, I did hear voices from the direction of Haystack, but never saw a soul.

    Time to begin the ascent of Basin, only three quarters of mile to go. In thigh to waist deep snow, I doubt I made an eight of a mile of progress before I made myself understand, I would never summit before my turn around time. I had expended a lot of energy already on Shorey’s, still had to ascend it again on the return trip and decided to turn around. The climb back up Shorey’s was made a little easier based on my descent but it was still trail breaking. Finally reaching the top, I concentrated on smoothing out the trail from my previous efforts.My motive was to make the trail as appealing to someone else who might want to use it. Back to JBL just before dusk, feeling a little dejected that I had not reached my goal. Wondering, should I try again tomorrow, without anyone to help? Went to bed early with the intention of seeing how I felt in the morning.

    So on Sunday morning, 2/16, while eating my breakfast in JBL, I saw a number of small groups go by the window on the Phelps trail. I did not run out to ask them where they were headed, but I personally felt good and decided to retrace my steps from yesterday.Forecast was cloudy with a chance of drizzle in the afternoon.

    When I got to Shorey’s Short Cut again, I was excited to see new snowshoe tracks headed up, I was certain I was the last one on that trail yesterday afternoon so the opposite snowshoe print direction was encouraging. This was a good sign! Unlike the day before, with great views in all directions, today was overcast and not much to be seen. Johns Brook Valley could be seen to my left under the cloud cover.

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    Onward to the Range Trail and sure enough; tracks heading to Basin. I would estimate the groups I saw earlier in the day were probably an hour ahead of me. Based on the tracks I was following, it was a small group since they were basically stepping in each other’s snowshoe prints. Needless to say, it was easy to follow their path and not have to be the one breaking this route.The only manmade device on the trail Sunday was a small exposed ladder.

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    Shortly afterwards, a large ice flow had to be negotiated. Tracks went right, hugging trees for uphill advantage until the top of this slide, where just lifting oneself using the trees above it to negotiate a three-foot shear wall. I don’t believe I would have figured out this work around had it not been previously negotiated by the group ahead of me who went even further to the right to find the advantage necessary to scale the wall. It was the most difficult part of the climb.

    The rest of the ascent went smoothly. Ice encrusted tress with icicles hanging from their branches made for a surreal landscape before coming to the summit.

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    Rime ice coated everything exposed on the summit, which was in near white out conditions.

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    Here, I encountered my three person break out team who had summited about five minutes ahead of me. They were led by forum member JacksonsJourneys and I thanked them for their efforts.

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    They indicated they were originally going to try for Haystack, but when they saw Shorey’s Short Cut broken out, figured they would go on to do Basin, since someone had to have done that! We had a chuckle when I told them how I spent my Saturday. They opted to do the Saddleback/Orebed Trail for their return trip. I chose to retrace my steps. I got back to JBL, just at dusk; they stopped in around 8:30PM to say they were safe and then continued on the Garden.

    Basin is in the books, winter number 27 for me. From here, I can now concentrate on the Eastern; Western and Southern approach high peaks.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by SeaLevel; 02-19-2020, 05:36 PM.

  • #2
    Real nice write up and so smart to turn around when you knew you should. Nice to hear you summitted.


    • SeaLevel
      SeaLevel commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Old Hunter, hiking solo and at my age, I tend to be more cautious! No need to push my limitations. The Mountains Will Wait!

  • #3
    Congratulations on getting your peak. I'm sure all on here can relate to not getting to a summit and then achieving it in back to back days.


    • #4
      When in doubt turnabout!
      Leave No Trace!


      • #5
        Congrats! Wise move turning around, and kudos for heading back out and getting it done on Sunday!


        • SeaLevel
          SeaLevel commented
          Editing a comment
          Stranger - I know it has to do with the time of year, but it seems that "neck of the woods" likes to bog me down! Glad to hear you survived your night in the woods, it was 30 degrees in the bunk room at JBL on Friday, you were 50 degrees colder!

      • #6
        Congrats on being patient and getting it done.

        Also, RIP to Jackson of Jackson's Journeys. The old man lived a helluva life for a mutt from the south.
        My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.


        • moosebeware
          moosebeware commented
          Editing a comment
          I was thinking about Jay the other day...glad to see he is out hiking!

        • SeaLevel
          SeaLevel commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks FF&B, learning about Jackson was a heartwarming story.