Saturday, January 15, 2011

Big Slide - Winter Peak

I have been the proud owner of snowshoes since I was a little kid, mostly just walking through the cemetery next to my childhood home, golf courses, and across Paradox Lake. As an adult I have a few local trails that I like to go on. Over the last couple of years I have climbed up one firetower mountain in them (Hurricane Mt) and some small elevation gain trails like the one at Pilot Knob Ridge in Lake George - but today was my first winter high peak hike. I chose to go with the Albany Chapter of the ADK on Big Slide, because that is one of the easier peaks of the 46 and only 8 miles if you go via The Brothers up and back.

We met at "The Garden" in Keene Valley around 7:30 am, and our group of seven started out around 7:50 on the trail towards the Brothers. The temperature was -10 F in the parking lot but we warmed up quickly before reaching the First Brother at 1.5 miles, at about 9:15. The sky was perfectly clear, letting us see over to Camel Hump in Vermont. We had a great view of Giant, Lower Wolf-Jaw, Upper Wolf-Jaw, Saddleback, Haystack, and some other high peaks. We could also see Round Mountain and the top of Noonmark. We remarked on the clear skies and lack of wind. We were warm from hiking despite the bitter cold temperatures, and welcomed the calm cold air.

Giant Mt

Hurricane Mt (Firetower)

Great Range

At the third overlook we could see clouds quickly moving in over Haystack, and that was the last view that we had. Tucking back into the woods after one of The Brothers, the snow cover on the ground was high and every inch of the trees were covered in icy snow, even the undersides of the branches. The weight of the snow had made the branches hang low - it was like walking through a winter wonderland. The next time we came out of the woods, at the summit, we had entered a different climate than what we experienced on The Brothers. The wind was strong and it was heavily snowing. There were no longer any views out in the distance, we were trapped in our own little snow globe. Nobody felt like eating at the cold, exposed summit and the longer we were there the colder we would be, so we left the summit shortly after arriving, probably about noon.

Snowy view from summit

My snowshoes are great for wandering on flat trails, but I realize now I need a pair that are shorter in the back with better crampons for steep climbing because the last half mile or so was very difficult for me. I'll probably get a pair with heel rests for the steepest parts, as I have trouble walking on my toes to dig into the ice with my right foot. I had microspikes in my pack, as well as some rented crampons, but the snow conditions made snowshoes seem more suitable. The leader had to pull me up over an icy spot at one point, the rest of the time my arms got quite the workout pulling my body up using tree trunks and branches. The ladder that was built toward the end of the trail to assist hikers at this steepest part to the summit is actually buried in the snow right now.

Normally I climb a lot better than I descend, but on snowshoes this was not the case. Perhaps the snowshoes give me more ankle and knee support, or maybe it was just the butt sliding that we did for a good portion of the beginning of the decent. Snowshoeing on flat ground is a workout, let alone up a mountain... I definitely was out of breath a few times!

We got back to the trail head around 2:20 pm to find the lot was quite full and the cars all snow covered. A couple people had not realized that I was a newbie in winter high peak hiking until the leader congratulated me on my first winter peak, so at least it wasn't that painfully obvious! I do not plan on completing the "Winter 46," but this was my 19 high peak o my regular "46" goal.

To view all the pictures from this trip click here.


storybeader said...

that was some work-out! Good for you - A little foggy to see, but I'm sure it was beautiful! Like the idea of butt sliding - hope you had on waterproof gear! {:-D

diane said...

I am in awe of your goals and determination. Our relatively flat "hike" on the Lake George Rec trails was quite challenging enough for me!

A Keeper's Jackpot said...

Deb- I was waterproofed head to toe! Butt sliding makes you feel like a kid again.

Diane - that was a great challenge, we were out there for a couple hours. You even went off trail and crossed a brook for a photo op!