This past summer I did little to no hiking, mainly because I was super busy but partially because I made a promise to the beau that I’d take it easy after disappearing each weekend last fall to finish up my 46. I really didn’t mind because I don’t prefer to hike in the heat and black flies, but the anticipation over the last couple of weeks built as the Winter Solstice approached; I could officially start my Winter 46. I never thought I’d want to accomplish this task of re-hiking each mountain during the coldest- and often most difficult- months, but being the list gal I am, I’ve always got to be crossing items off. I know I won’t be able to reach this goal within one season because I’m limited to three months out of the year, but I’m still going to give it a go. And with a couple of weeks off from work, I’ve made time to reach multiple summits. Grab a beer, this is going to be a long one.
Last week on the first day of winter, Jen, Paula and I headed up into the mountains to celebrate. Jen is still working on her regular list, so we wanted to choose a trip that would “count” for each of us; Dial and Nippletop it was! We were on the trail early at 6:20 AM because the days are short this time of the year and Paula would prefer to hike-in in the dark rather than end the day with head lamps. We signed in and headed up the road for our 2.5 mile walk in. We used our microspikes and switched over into our snowshoes when we reached the pull-off for Elk Pass. At this point, Paula decided she didn’t have it in her. I was shocked but completely understood; we all have those days every once in a while. We said our goodbyes and promised not to leave each other- I tend to want to tack on mileage if something is close enough- and off we went. Upward and onward!
Paula and I hiked the Elk Pass the last time we summited Dial and Nippletop and to be honest, I don’t remember much of that trip other than the walk out. The scenery looked completely different blanketed in snow, especially the beaver ponds. This is where we ran into a guy who had slept on the summit of Nippletop! (This is NOT recommended and can be quite dangerous.) He said the sunset the previous night was gorgeous and there was no wind; the perfect way to celebrate the changing of the season. We kept going up, up, up and before we knew it, we came to the junction where we’d turn right to summit Nippletop. The longest .2 ever! But we made it, took our photographs in the clouds, I had my hot lunch and turned around to head over to Dial.
We ran into a bunch of people headed in the opposite direction as us and to be honest, I was a little jealous. That steep section of mountain we had just climbed was going to become their giant snow slide! Butt sliding down a mountain is the best! Jen and I both agreed that we’d prefer to climb something steep for a short period of time, rather than a gradual climb for miles. We kept up our positive thinking and reached the summit of Dial in no time- it seemed like a walk in the park. After taking our summit photographs on Dial and starting the long walk out, my left hip tightened up and was pretty painful to use going uphill. I think this was because it was my first trip on snowshoes since March and they do make for a trickier hike. The climb up Bear Den was tough but we kept each other moving and signed out for the day around 3:45 PM. Boy were we excited to see Paula! She picked us up some kettle corn in Lake Placid and took us to dinner at Noonmark so that I could enjoy some fresh cut french fries. My first day of winter was a success!
This past weekend, I joined a group for my first winter overnight. I had previously hiked with Patrick up Allen Mountain, met his friends Jimmy (plus his dog Tensie) and Lewis, and finally met a long-time Facebook friend Victoria. The five of us headed up toward the Seward range early Saturday morning to get an early start because we had a long day ahead of us and limited daylight hours. The weather had been pretty warm Friday and melted a majority of the snow they had from the week prior, leaving the walk in very wet. But we still cruised in hopped up on adrenaline and made it to the Ward Brook lean-to in no time. We dropped most of our weight from the packs and headed back for the trail up Seward.
I had heard about this trail the last time I had hiked/camped this range: it was steep and gnarly! But this was the most logical route for us to take for the amount of time we’d have in daylight. We started up and I immediately knew Saturday was not my day to be hiking. Every step took a great deal of effort and to be honest, I wanted to turn around within the first 30 minutes. I knew I had a long day ahead of me and wanted to try and reach the summit of at least one of the three peaks we were set out to reach. Sweat was dripping off of me and I had to stop frequently for breaks. Lucky for me, Patrick felt a little off and took it easy with me. Shortly after 1 PM, we (finally) reached the summit of Seward!
Going forward, I knew it was going to be slow-going. I followed the group for about 35 minutes before I finally saw them and told them to go on without me. I was confident I could hike back to the summit solo and stay put until they returned from the other two peaks. On they went, and slowly I made the climb back up Seward. Once I got up there however, I couldn’t sit still for long because my boots were soaked and my toes would start to freeze. I reluctantly moved on but soon ran into a group that were headed in the same direction as my new friends. I told them to let the others know that I was headed back to camp and slowly started my descent.
I took my time and occasionally stopped to see if anyone would eventually catch up to me but they didn’t. I made it out onto the main trail to head back to the lean-to at about 4:35 PM and sat and waited. I would walk to warm up and then sit and wait. For a hot minute I got nervous that the group of three hadn’t spread the word for me and worried that they were looking for me in the dark. They had to have known I would have gotten cold I thought and moved on. So, I walked back to the lean-to to warm up my frozen toes. Within a hour, my group returned, tired but in good spirit, with fire wood. I didn’t get out of my sleeping bag because my boots were wet and fell asleep to everyone chatting it up. The last thing I heard was that it was starting to rain and a bootie fell in the fire. Whoops!
I slept so soundly and cozy in the cold Adirondack air! I initially woke up before the sun rose, most likely around six and fell back to sleep because everyone was still sleeping. When I awoke again and Victoria got up, it was after 8! We eventually all crawled out, made breakfast and got ready for the day. We didn’t start on the trail toward Seymour until after 10 AM! I remember this trail being one of my least favorites because of the wet slide. Yesterday however, everything was covered in snow and despite being steep, I felt much stronger than I had the day before. We were on the summit at 11:40 AM and were eventually greeted by the group of three staying at the Blueberry lean-to. We didn’t stay long at all because it was chilly and we had a long walk with our overnight packs ahead of us. I did a lot of butt sliding down that mountain! I also saw another hiker’s bare butt (we couldn’t tell if it was a wardrobe malfunction or a quick cool-down); it made us laugh nonetheless.
Once we got back to the Ward Brook lean-to, I had a quick snack, packed up and headed on the trail toward the car. I tried my very hardest to keep up with my fast moving group and focused my energy on my upcoming year. These positive thoughts made the miles go by quickly, and before I knew it, we were back at the trailhead. ANNNNNND the two random people that were loading up into their car (who I don’t remember seeing all weekend), had found the water bottle and brand new insulator I had lost Saturday afternoon. I think they were reluctant to hand it over but I was thankful I asked. Finders is not always keepers, people.
I learned a lot this trip: I need waterproof winter boots. I may invest in a pair of poles just for winter descents. Those down booties look awfully cozy. As do those jackets. And trust your instincts, it’s always right.
Cheers to hiking in the snow! 13 summits reached, 33 to go!