Posted on May 25th, 2012 8 comments Add a comment >>
An article on Backpacker Magazine’s website lists “America’s 10 Most Dangerous Hikes.” The one closest to the Adirondacks is Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
The mountain is infamous for its fickle and sometimes extreme weather.
“Known as the most dangerous small mountain in the world,” Backpacker says, “6,288-foot Mt. Washington boasts some scary stats: The highest wind velocity ever recorded at any surface weather station (231 mph) was logged here on April 12, 1934. And 137 fatalities have occurred since 1849. No surprise: Most are due to hypothermia—and not only in winter. ‘They call them the White Mountains for a reason,’ says Lieutenant Todd Bogardus, SAR team leader for New Hampshire’s Fish & Game Department. ‘We see snow right on through the year.’”
Other hikes that made the list include the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, the Barr Trail on Pikes Peak in Colorado, the Mist Trail on Half Dome in California, and the Muir Snowfield on Mount Rainer in Washington. Click here for the complete list.
So if you were to choose the most dangerous hike in the Adirondack Park what would it be?
Topping my list would be the Trap Dike and the adjacent slides on Mount Colden. A hiker was killed in the dike last year, and several others have been injured on this route over the years. Another candidate would be the Eagle Slide on Giant Mountain. A fall in the wrong place could be disastrous.
Both of these are off-trail excursions. Any thoughts on the most dangerous trail in the Adirondacks?
Posted on November 3rd, 2011 Add a comment >>
The state has reopened two more trails in the High Peaks region, but it has no plans to reopen before next year other trails closed by Irene.
Hikers can once again take the Deer Brook Trail from Route 73 to Snow Mountain, though the low-water route through the Deer Brook flume remains impassable (it was eroded during the storm).
Also reopened is the second crossover trail between the East River Trail and West River Trail in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. The first crossover trail is still closed, owing to a missing bridge.
Three trail on the Forest Preserve remain closed:
- The Southside Trail to the ranger’s cabin in the Johns Brook valley.
- The Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass.
- The Colvin Range Trail from Blake Peak to the Elk Lake-Mount Marcy Trail.
“These probably will remain closed throughout the winter,” said David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “We’ll look at them again in the spring.”
Winchell said the public can still use the closed trails on the Forest Preserve, but they will not be patrolled or maintained.
Posted on October 28th, 2011 2 comments Add a comment >>
Five trails that had been closed since August 29, the day after Tropical Storm Irene, have been reopened, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced this morning.
Four of the trails start in the vicinity of the Ausable Lakes in the privately owned Adirondack Mountain Reserve:
- The Carry Trail between Lower and Upper Ausable Lake (trail #54 in the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks guidebook).
- Trail from the Carry Trail to the Colvin Range Trail (#55 in the book).
- Trail from Warden’s Camp at the foot of Upper Ausable to Sawteeth Mountain (#57)
- Trail from Warden’s Camp to Haystack Mountain (#58).
The fifth is the Haystack Brook Trail (#59). It leads from trail #58 to the State Range Trail in the col between Haystack and Basin Mountain.
DEC says the Carry Trail and the trail to Sawteeth have been cleared of blowdown. The other trails are passable but may have blowdown.
Two short trails in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve remain closed. They are the first two crossover routes between the East River Trail and West River Trail. Three other crossover routes are open.
Four other trails also remain closed: the Deer Brook Trail from Route 73 to Snow Mountain; the Southside Trail from the Garden to the Johns Brook ranger cabin; the Cold Brook Trail between Indian Pass and Lake Colden; and the Colvin Range Trail from Blake Peak to Pinnacle and beyond.
Hurricane Road to Crows Clearing remains closed, but the trails starting at the clearing are open. These trails lead to Hurricane Mountain, Big Crow Mountain, and Nun-da-ga-o Ridge.
Click the link below for DEC’s High Peaks bulletin for this weekend. It includes a list of trails that impacted by Irene.
Posted on October 19th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
The new issue of the Explorer (November/December) will include a two-page spread on climbing five new slides created by Tropical Storm Irene in the High Peaks.
I’ve blogged about my climbs of four of them (see links below), but I have yet to write about my climb of the long slide on Saddleback Mountain. I climbed it two weekends ago with Ron Konowitz. It’s steep enough in places that I would recommend rock-climbing shoes or approach shoes.
You can easily reach the Saddleback slide via the Ore Bed Brook Trail in Johns Brook Valley. Starting from the suspension bridge near the ranger’s cabin, hike 1.7 miles to a house-size boulder on the right side of the trail (it’s 0.25 miles past a lean-to). From the boulder, you can see the slide on the right, a short bushwhack away.
If you leave the trail here, you’ll be walking up a scoured section of Ore Bed Brook, a mix of slab, boulders, mud, and pools. In a half-mile, you’ll reach the wide slabs of the slide proper. Your other option is to stay on the trail past the giant boulder: in another 0.8 miles, the trail passes the edge of the slide.
From the second access point, it’s just about a mile to the top of the slide. From the boulder, it’s 1.9 miles.
The ascent is gradual at first, but it steepens considerably as you get higher. Toward the top, you need to climb over or around a rock wall. We went left, which was fine, but we encountered a muddy section just past the wall.
While ascending, be sure to turn around occasionally to take in the spectacular view of the north face of Gothics.
The climb ends with a dike, one to two feet wide, that runs down the middle of the slide. The pitch here is very steep, but the dike is stepped. At the end you’ll need to make a tricky move to gain the woods.
From the top of the slide, you have a 10-minute bushwhack to Saddleback’s summit. We angled left and did not have too much trouble.
Saddleback’s summit offers marvelous views of the High Peaks. Between the slide and the summit, you’ll be sated with scenery. If you return by the Ore Bed Brook Trail, you’ll cross another slide created by Irene. In the aerial photo, this two-pronged slide is to the left of the Saddleback slide.
Following are links to my blogs on other slides created or expanded by Irene:
Posted on October 7th, 2011 Add a comment >>
The state has reopened the trail from Elk Lake to Panther Gorge but warns that hikers still may encounter blowdown.
The 10.2-mile route leads from the private Elk Lake to Four Corners, a trail junction that lies amid Mount Haystack, Mount Skylight, and Mount Marcy. The trail had been closed since August 29, the day after Tropical Storm Irene roared through the High Peaks.
Several trails remain closed. The following list of closed trails is a news release issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation:
- Adirondack Mountain Reserve Trails:
- The first (northernmost) two cross over trails between the East River Trail and the West River Trail. NOTE: The other three cross over trails and bridges are open and must be used to travel between the East River and West River Trails.
- Warden’s Camp to Sawteeth Trail
- Carry Trail
- Warden’s Camp to Haystack Trail
- Haystack Brook Trail
- The Deer Brook Trail from Route 73 to Rooster Comb
- The Southside Trail from the Garden Trailhead to John’s Brook Outpost
- The Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass.
- Adirondack Mountain Reserve Trails:
Posted on September 30th, 2011 5 comments Add a comment >>
A month after Tropical Storm Irene blew through the region, several hiking trails in the High Peaks remain closed. David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said no new trails would reopen this weekend.
The following are still closed:
Southside Trail from the Garden in Keene Valley to the ranger outpost on Johns Brook.
The Deer Brook Trail from Route 73 to Snow Mountain.
Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass.
The trail from Elk Lake to Panther Gorge.
The trail over the Colvin Range from Blake Peak to Pinnacle and beyond.
Most trails in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve are open. Still closed are the carry trail between Upper Ausable Lake and Lower Ausable Lake and all trails originating near the upper lake. Also closed are the first two crossover trails between the East River Trail and the West River Trail.
Winchell said DEC has cleared blowdown from most of the trails that have been reopened, but hikers may encounter erosion and flooding.
Posted on September 26th, 2011 4 comments Add a comment >>
People driving between Keene and Lake Placid can see dramatic evidence of Tropical Storm Irene: a slide scar in the drainage between the two Cascade Lakes.
The large waterfall in this drainage has always been visible—it accounts for the lakes’ name—but it is now much more conspicuous. The rains of Irene stripped the sides of the brook of trees and soil, leaving a wide swath of bedrock.
Because the slide is easily accessible, it’s sure to attract more than its share of hikers and skiers.
Indeed, when I climbed it Sunday afternoon I met Kevin MacKenzie, a passionate slide climber, at the base. At the top of the slide, I ran into Jan Wellford, a sales associate at the Mountaineer, who with his wife was scouting out ski possibilities. And while bushwhacking between the end of the slide and the summit of Cascade Mountain, I encountered Carl Heilman Jr., the son of the celebrated photographer.
I expect the slide won’t be this busy once the novelty wears off, but for adventurous hikers, it will always provide an alternative route to the summit of Cascade—much wilder than the crowded hiking trail. You can follow rock for a mile and a half to the 3,400-foot contour. From there it’s an easy 0.4-mile bushwhack to the 4,098-foot summit.
After parking in the picnic area between the two lakes, I followed a short path to the debris pile at the base of the slide, where Kevin (a k a Mudrat) was taking photos. He took the shots above and at right of me climbing the first waterfall.
Located near the base, the waterfall is by far the most difficult obstacle that slide climbers will face. Many people, perhaps most, will want to ascend via the woods to the left. Since I was wearing “approach shoes,” with sticky soles, I felt safe climbing the rock beside the falls. There were plenty of blocky footholds and handholds, but the rock was wet from the spray. I wouldn’t recommend climbing the falls unless you have climbing experience and appropriate footgear. I’d say the difficulty rating is at least Class 4 in the Yosemite Decimal System.
I encountered a number of smaller cascades and flumes above the first. In between I enjoyed walking on low-angle slabs with ever-expanding views of Pitchoff Mountain, located across the highway, the McKenzie Range, and other peaks.
More than a mile up, I came to a field of mud and rock. This was easily traversed, bringing me to a steep headwall. The headwall is not new: it’s a cliff band that extends horizontally beyond the margins of the slide, forming a T.
Kevin had told me how to find the summit from here, and his advice proved spot on. I went left at the T. This led me to a short, older slide. I went up the right edge of this slide and then bushwhacked through an open birch glade. Eventually, I ran into thicker woods, but soon after I popped out on the open rock below the summit.
When you reach the T, the easiest thing to do is follow the base of the cliff band to the old slide. If you have sticky-soled shoes you can try climbing rock: it’s slabby, with a 55-degree pitch. I was trying to find a way up it when Jan arrived on the scene. He made it up without difficulty, but I was more hesitant. Eventually, I found a miniature dike that angled to the top.
At the top of the old slide, Jan and his wife went exploring the glades, while I made a beeline for the summit (I had preset my compass at 126 degrees but hardly used it). Just as I was transitioning from birch glades to balsam thicket, I heard a loud rustling in the woods: it was either a bear or a human. It turned out to be a bear of man, Carl Heilman Jr. Like his father, he is strong and fit and in love with the mountains. After a short chat, we parted ways. In a few minutes, I was at the summit, taking in its magnificent panorama.
From my car, I had come about two miles and ascended 2,040 feet. Unlike Carl Jr., I descended via the hiking trail. The distance from the summit to the highway was 2.2 miles. From the trailhead, it was a three-quarter-mile walk along the road back to my starting point—making a five-mile loop.
Posted on September 23rd, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Just in time for the weekend, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has reopened a number of trails that will give hikers easier access to several High Peaks. All had been closed since August 29, the day after Tropical Storm Irene passed though the region.
The newly opened routes include the Ore Bed Brook Trail, which was partly buried by a landslide during the storm. The trail leads to the col between Saddleback and Gothics in the Great Range, providing the shortest route to Saddleback. It also allows hikers to travel in a loop starting at Johns Brook Lodge and going over Upper Wolf Jaw, Armstrong, and Gothics.
Most trails in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve also have reopened, including the shortest route to Sawteeth, another High Peak. Hikers also will be able, once again, to access Gothics, Armstrong, and both of the Wolf Jaws from the reserve.
DEC also reopened the trail over the Colvin Range as far as the summit of Blake Peak, enabling hikers to go to both Blake and Mount Colvin, two High Peaks that had been inaccessible after the storm.
With the latest announcement, all of the usual routes to the forty-six High Peaks are now open. Other popular destinations that are accessible again include Indian Head, Fish Hawk Cliffs, and the Ausable River trails in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. (The first crossing from the East River Trail to the West River Trail is still closed.)
However, several trails remain closed:
- All trails originating in the vicinity of Upper Ausable Lake in the reserve. These include alternate routes to Haystack, Sawteeth, and the Colvin Range. The carry trail between Lower and Upper Ausable Lakes also is closed.
- The Southside Trail from the Garden in Keene Valley to the ranger’s outpost near Johns Brook Lodge.
- The trail from Elk Lake to Panther Gorge.
- The Deer Brook Trail from Route 73 to Snow Mountain.
- The Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and the Indian Pass Trail.
DEC spokesman David Winchell said the department’s crews, with help from many volunteers, have checked and cleared about 185 miles of trails since Irene. He warns that hikers may still encounter blowdown, erosion, and flooding on trails that have been reopened.
Click the link below to read DEC’s latest news release.
Posted on September 16th, 2011 9 comments Add a comment >>
The Lake Road in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve has reopened to the public to give hikers access to trails to the summits of Nippletop and Dial Mountain, two of the High Peaks, in the Dix Mountain Wilderness.
However, trails to the Colvin Range and most other AMR trails, including those leading to the Great Range, remain closed, according to David Winchell, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“We’re pretty well set with what’s going to be open this weekend,” Winchell said. “We won’t have any more trails open until next week.”
As a result of the latest decision, hikers will be able to follow a loop that, after leaving the Lake Road, goes over the summits of Bear Den (3,423 feet), Dial (4,020 feet), and Nippletop (4,620 feet). Leaving Nippletop, hikers can return to the Lake Road via Elk Plass. The entire hike, including the walk from the public parking lot, is 13.1 miles.
Earlier, DEC had opened the trails to Noonmark and Round mountains, which also start on AMR property.
Trails to Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs, both located in the AMR, and along the East Branch of the Ausable River, which flows through the property, remain closed.
Hikers also use the AMR to access trails that lead to a number of peaks in the Great Range, including Sawteeth, Gothics, and the Wolf Jaws. Winchell said these trails will stay closed until DEC has had a chance to assess and clear them. Meantime, the Great Range can be reached via trails originating in the Johns Brook Valley.
The only two High Peaks that remain inaccessible by trail (or well-trod herd path) are Mount Colvin (4,047 feet) and Blake Peak (3,960). The summits of both are located along the closed trail that traverses the Colvin Range in the Dix Mountain Wilderness. The trail also goes over the summit of a lesser peak known as Pinnacle.
The day after Irene, DEC closed the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, the Giant Mountain Wilderness, and the Dix Mountain Wilderness. All three areas are now open again, with the exception of trails that have not been checked and/or cleared.
Here’s a summary of what’s open and closed:
High Peaks Wilderness. In addition to trails originating in the AMR, still closed are the Deer Brook Trail from Route 73, Southside Trail from the Garden, the Orebed Brook Trail, the Cold Brook Pass Trail, and the trail from Elk Lake to Panther Gorge.
Giant Mountain Wildneress. All trails are open. Also, DEC recently reopened the parking lot at the Roaring Brook Trail.
Dix Mountain Wilderness. All trails are open except the route over the Colvin Range and its spurs.
Posted on September 15th, 2011 6 comments Add a comment >>
The state will either reconstruct the bridge at Marcy Dam or build a new one nearby, but the project likely won’t be done before winter, according to Tom Martin, regional forester for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Martin said DEC plans to have an engineer look at the dam to determine if it makes sense to replace the original bridge. The alternative would be to build a bridge across Marcy Brook upstream or downstream of the dam.
“We do intend to look at all the options, but we’ll have some kind of crossing,” Martin told the Explorer after briefing the Adirondack Park Agency on Tropical Storm Irene’s impact on the backcountry.
For hikers, one of the biggest impacts of Irene has been the loss of the wide bridge at Marcy Dam. The bridge is located about two miles up the Van Hoevenberg Trail, the most popular route to Mount Marcy, the state’s highest summit.
Until a new bridge is built, DEC is rerouting hikers to a ford downstream of the dam. It requires hikers to hop across boulders to an island and then hop across more boulders to opposite shore, where they can pick up the Marcy Dam Truck Trail.
When I hiked to Avalanche Pass last weekend, I passed a few parties who had missed the reroute. If you’re going to Marcy Dam, look for the sign shown at the right. It’s on the left side of the trail 1.8 miles from the register at Adirondak Loj.
Martin told the APA board that the crossing should be used only if water is low. “There is no high-water crossing that we consider safe,” he said.
During times of high water, he added, hikers can park at South Meadow Road and go up the truck trail.
Likewise, this winter skiers may want to approach the High Peaks and Avalanche Lake via the truck trail. Because South Meadow Road is not plowed in winter, this will add about a mile to the trip each way. If conditions are safe, skiers may also be able to cross the pond created by Marcy Dam. Most of the water in the pond has drained since the storm, which also washed away the dam’s flashboards.
One drawback to the truck trail is that hikers and skiers cannot start at Adirondak Loj, which is owned by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). However, ADK is talking to DEC about reopening a link from the Loj to the truck trail: a section of the Mr. Van Ski Trail that fell into disuse years ago because its bridge over Marcy Brook is out.
If the Mr. Van bridge were replaced, it would provide a safer way to cross the brook than the rock-hop below Marcy Dam, according to Neil Woodworth, ADK’s executive director. Since the Mr. Van crossing is on ADK property, he noted, the bridge could be built without a lot of red tape, meaning it could be done by winter.
Nevertheless, Woodworth sees the Mr. Van option as a temporary solution: by this route skiers and hikers will have to travel 3.5 miles to get to Marcy Dam–1.2 miles longer than if they were to go via the Van Hoevenberg Trail.
DEC closed the eastern High Peaks, Giant Mountain Wilderness, and Dix Mountain Wilderness the day after Irene. It has since reopened all three areas, but some trails remain closed.
Martin told the Explorer reports from other parts of the Park indicate that trails are in good shape. “At this point I don’t anticipate any additional closures,” he said. “I anticipate between now and Columbus Day weekend, everything will be open and in as good shape as before or better.”
He noted that crews inspecting the trails are often carrying chainsaws and nippers and clearing the trails as they go. As of yesterday, DEC had cleared about 130 miles of trails.