Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mt. Colden via Lake Arnold

The calendar may say that it is officially Spring, but it's still Winter up in the Adirondacks. Although I just went up Mt. Colden in snowshoes with my Microspikes stashed in my pack the hike does not count towards a Winter 46 badge, which at this point I don't plan on working towards anyway.

The weather was perfect for winter-like conditions. Cold enough but not too cold, and some clouds but not overcast. I did not have a beautiful hiking day all winter, except the first few miles of Big Slide which had turned to overcast and snow by the time we had reached the summit. I had waited several months for a sunny winter conditions hike, and finally I got one and it was spectacular.

We were geared up and on our way by 7:45 am, leaving from the Adirondack Loj. The two miles to Marcy Dam went quickly. We stopped briefly at the dam to shed some layers and snack. The sky was clear enough to see our destination from the dam - what a beautiful mountain!

Colden in the back behind Phelps, partially in the clouds

We took the the trail towards Avalanche Pass for about 1.1 mile before breaking off onto the Lake Arnold trail. From there it was only 1.5 miles to Lake Arnold with some gradual climbing. At Lake Arnold we took another break before taking the L. Morgan Porter trail to the summit. The grade was steep in places, flat in others. I was flipping my heel lifts up and down quite a bit before I decided to leave them down until closer to the summit. After about half a mile from Lake Arnold we geared up for the expected high winds at the summit and predicted -22 degree windchill. This is where hiking in the cold is tricky. You need to protect yourself from the elements but remain cool enough so that you don't sweat. While there were strong winds as we crossed the Alpine Zone they were not as bad as predicted. I was so afraid that I'd have my first great views in winter conditions and be too cold to stop and take out my camera.

Climbing up the open face of the false summit was amazing. The wind was present but forgiving and sun was beating down on us. Looking back behind us, we could see Mt. Marcy and up ahead was summit. We were surrounded by snow covered trees, all of them wind bent in the same direction, frozen in time. As we approached the top of the false summit we could see the actual summit taunting us, so close but yet so far. From the false summit there were spectacular views nearly all the way around.

Summit of Colden

We went down into a col and up the final stretch to the summit which is completely open on all sides, such an amazing view. I can't even properly describe how amazingly beautiful it was on the summit. There was some cloud cover but you could see far in every direction. The sun was reflecting off of the snow and ice, making the scenery so bright. Everybody was so happy, stricken with summit fever as someone referred to the sensation, looking all around us because there was so much to take in. I was so grateful to finally have a beautiful day on such a scenic peak. In the southeast we could see Mt. Marcy, which looks even more majestic and impressive when it's covered with snow, as well as Gray and Skylight. To the southwest we could see Cliff, and we could barely make out Mt. Adams (firetower mountain) and Calamity Mountain behind the frozen Flowered Lands, as well as Santanoni Peak. To the west and northwest we admired the MacIntyre Range, Algonquin also looking majestic. To the north we could see Marcy Dam where we started but we couldn't see as far as Whiteface. Cascade, Porter and Bigslide can be seen behind the false summit to the north.

Marcy, Gray, Skylight

To the southwest

Iroquois, Algonquin, Wright

Behind the false summit are Cascade, Porter, and Bigslide

We left the summit around noon heading back the way we came. We were all surprised that we were back to the lot at 2:30. Not bad for a 12.8 mile hike! We had a strong group of hikers, and the conditions were good too. Not having to break trail makes a big difference.

The whole photo set can be viewed on Flickr.


knittingdragonflies said...

Oh wow! In the middle of a hot flash here, these photos are delicious! Kidding aside, they make me want to dig out my parka and hiking boots and get started!

Splendid Little Stars said...

lovely photos! I can only imagine how amazing it would be to see this in person.

A Keeper's Jackpot said...

This still stands out as my favorite hike so far!