Monday, July 25, 2011

Gothics via Pyramid

I actually hiked Gothics a few weeks ago, the day after I did Algonquin, Iroquois, and Wright. I finally have a little time to write up the trip report! I met my same friend from the previous day at the Ausable Club, but I was a little ahead of schedule, so I stopped on the side of Rt. 73 to take a picture of Roaring Brook Falls.

Roaring Brook Falls from Rt 73

Starting around 7:30, we decided to take the more scenic East River Trail instead of walking The Road the whole length, it added a little time to our day, but we were greeted by a doe and her fawn, a treat that we would have missed on the boring Lake Road and then we encountered a mallard with its babies. Lake Road runs between the Ausable Club and the Lower Ausable Lake, a length of about 4 miles. Years ago hikers could hitch a ride on the bus that runs back and forth for a small fee, but hiker legend says that one day a hiker refused to give up a bus seat to a club member and we were forever banned from riding the bus. Some argue that the hike doesn't count towards your 46 if you ride the bus anyway. Bus rides are for sissies, whats an extra 8 miles anyway!

Fawn hiding behind the tree

Family of ducks

At the dam on the Lower Ausable Lake we picked up the Gothics via Pyramid trail. Although there was a chance of thunderstorms looming over us, the sky was clear for the most part. The trail leading up to Pyramid starts off pretty mild from the bridge, but eventually gets pretty steep. As we came up to the summit of Pyramid, we were encountered one of the most awesome views in the High Peaks, a view that could arguably be better than the one from Gothics. Pyramid Peak is taller than some of the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks, but it is not a true high peak because it is actually a subsidiary to Gothics. As you emerge from the forest onto the the summit, it seams as though you could reach out and touch the huge slides on Gothics. We fought not to get blown off the summit by the strong winds before ducking back into the woods into the col between Pyramid and Gothics.

On Pyramid Peak, Basin behind Gothics on the right, Marcy in the back

Near the summit of Gothics we stopped to eat and we figured out for the most part what we were looking at. The wind was pretty intense making walking difficult. There were great views of Marcy, Algonquin and Iroquois. We walked over to the true summit for more pictures and then went down for our descent on the Beaver Meadow Falls trail. We snacked some more under a large rock, and by that point the two of us knew pretty much everything that there was to know about each other - you do talk about a lot of random things in the woods! The sky was still clear at Beaver Meadow Falls, which was frozen last time I was there. I had taken the Beaver Meadow Falls trail up in the winter with intentions of doing Gothics and Armstrong, but the trail was in bad shape so we ended up going only to Armstrong and down over Upper Wolf Jaw instead. The same trail in two different seasons - but what a difference!

View from Gothics

Where Gothics and Armstrong meet at Beaver Meadow Falls Trail

Beaver Meadow Falls

We were only at the falls for about 5 minutes, and in that time the wind changed and the sky had turned from blue to a very dark gray. We were drenched before we could even get our rain coats out. Thankful to be off the summit, we splashed through the Beaver Meadow Falls trail all the way to the Lake Road hooting like little kids. Where the trail meets the road, we saw a small family of hikers huddled under a rain poncho. Like a gift from Heaven, a bus pulled up right in front of them and opened the door. They quickly boarded the bus, and then slowly turned around and exited - members only!

The rain let up a little about a mile down Lake Road. We saw a couple more deer on the way out, they didn't seem to mind our presence, they looked at us a little sideways and carried on their way. We got to the gate around 4:30, not a bad day at all!

All my pictures can be found here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Algonquin, Iroquois, and Wright from the ADK Loj

Three high peaks in a day sounds like a tough hike, but the Algonquin, Iroquois and Wright trek is really a decent hike, taking less time than some of the single peaks that I've done in a day. I went with a woman that I met through the ADK - we had hiked several hikes with the ADK before and had decided that we would venture out on our own this time.

We met at the Loj at 8am... the sky was blue, the temperature was mild and on the rise, and the bugs had finally started to calm down. We decided to go up Algonquin and Iroquois first, and hit Wright on the way back. The warm up mile down the Van Hoevenberg Trail was quick, we spent it chatting and catching up - we hadn't seen each other since Big Slide this winter! The trail turns to the left to go to Marcy Dam, but we stayed straight to go on to the MacIntyre Range. The trail was a steady incline from there to the summit, a total of 4.3 miles. The two waterfalls that we passed on the way were little trickles, my friend said they were so much busier just a week ago!

Near the summit of Algonquin we caught up with three women, all originally from Keene Valley and back in town for a brief visit. We chatted with them all the way up to the summit where we were greeted by the summit steward and the largest fly I've ever seen. The summit steward, who climbs this mountain or a few of the other popular peaks several times a week in the summer, educates climbers on the importance preserving the vegetation on the summit. He showed us pictures of Algonquin and Marcy from years ago before the program started, and a more recent picture. Comparing the pictures side by side, it's amazing how well the steward program has worked. There are tiny little wild flowers and other vegetation now, however, years ago the rocks were completely bare.

The view from Algonquin was amazing with 365 degrees of beauty. Whiteface, Mt. Jo, Heart Lake, Iroquois, The Santanonis, Giant, Marcy, Skylight, Gray, Colden, and so many more landmarks were visible.

My hiking buddy led the five of us to the unmarked herd path to Iroquois. The trail was narrow and muddy, and at times the branches would latch on to my hair, pack, or pants snagging me back. The path heads over Boundary, a bump between Algonquin and Iroquois, that doesn't count as a high peak due to its proximity to the other two mountains. There's one tricky spot just before the summit of Iroquois, a tall rock with a small foothold but no branches or roots to grab onto to pull your self up. I gripped the rock with my fingers and pulled up on my knees only to slide down on all fours scraping up my elbow. This is where long legs would come in handy. I repeated the same maneuver a couple times before I was able to get one of my legs all the way up. We ate lunch on Iroquois and took pictures of Algonquin, Wallface, and the surrounding High Peaks Region. We had to go back over Algonquin again to head over to Wright.

You know you have hiked a lot when people start to recognize you in the wilderness! I ran into a fellow hiker that I hiked with in the Santanoni Range, and was recognized by someone who follows my trip reports.

The rocks seemed more slippery on Wright, good thing it wasn't raining! It was less than a half mile from where the trail breaks off to the summit, and we were still feeling great. Looking over at Algonquin, we could make out the trail that we had just come down. There was another steward on Wright, this was her summer job between college semesters.

Wright Peak is the site of a tragic Adirondack story. On January 16, 1962 a B-47 bomber was on a practice mission from Watertown to Plattsburgh Air Force Base when it lost radio signal and never arrived at Plattsburgh when it was supposed to. An extensive search began, and it was determined that the plane clipped Wright Peak just below the summit and its shattered pieces spread down the mountain and into the col between Algonquin and Wright, leaving no survivors. Most of the wreckage was under several feet of snow, up to twenty feet in some spots. Two of the men's remains were found about a week after the crash, the remains of a third man were found later. The remains of the fourth crew member were never found. At the site of the crash a few pieces of the plane remain, and a plaque honors the four men that lost their lives that tragic day.

We returned to our vehicles around 5pm, about a nine hour day including summit time.

All of my pictures can be found here.