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About this blog

Project-100 is a fund-raising project put on by the ADK High Peaks Foundation.  I am a founding member The Foundation and will attempt to summit each of the peaks from the ADK Hundred Highest list between December 21, 2017 and March 21, 2018.  It is noteworthy that approximately 40 of the peaks are untrailed.  However, if I haven’t finished by that date I will continue until the list is complete.

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Neil

3/9/2018 – Santanoni and Little Santanoni – Start: 7:03 AM Finish: 7:54 PM

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Glen all smiles in his natural element.

Glen, Bill B. and I began the long walk up the Bradley Pond Trail near 7a.m. on a mild Friday morning. It was snowing and had snowed enough in the past 48 hours to let us know what the Santa Direct would be like. We were just behind of a large group of young people and their teacher. They had plans to do the 3 peaks and descend via the direct. I was skeptical given the new snow, the difficulties they would surely encounter and the inertia-inducing size of their group.

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Santanoni Direct trail. Some breaking required.

We enjoyed the well-packed trail they made until we veered onto the Direct, which we quickly lost, then found and stayed on until the flat area below the final steep ascent. The snow was deep and we switched leads every one hundred feet of vertical ascent. It was slow going and hard work, even when you were in the tail position. We lost the trail several times but quickly found it again thanks to 3 pairs of eyes.

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Just below the rock wall. Snow depth increasing.

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We made the junction to the main herd path and immediately turned down towards the final col about 500 feet below. We were on and off the herd path, mostly on. There were no traces of it under the new snow but sometimes we could feel it. From the col it was 2.2 miles to Little Santa. We began the 1,000 drop in very thick and steep woods. I was going first and pushed hard getting a full-body workout while being showered copiously with granular snow. As expected the woods opened up quickly and we followed the seams and open lanes. Glen had his compass out and kept us on a 260M bearing, which was going to get us 80% of the way there.

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Oh Baby, I hate to go.

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Close to the top. Look at the snow! That’s why it’s called winter hiking!

500 feet below the Santa ridge, Bill decided to turn around. A tough decision that requires experience and wisdom. Glen and I continued, on and on through open woods with a few gnarly sections until it was time to switch bearings and begin the long ascent to L. Santa. After an initial steep climb of 350 feet we continued interminably with gentle ascending until the summit (GPS and visually confirmed) and immediately turned around, knowing we had a packed trail back to our vehicles. It was 2pm IIRC.

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After the out and back to Little Santa. Nothing like good old water.

The re-climb of Santa was long and tiring but, always mindful of the next day’s more ambitious hike that was planned. We maintained a slow, energy conserving pace. When we got to Bill’s turnaround spot the going became much, much easier. We slowly made our way up, way up to the Direct junction. The large group had not done Santanoni but the trail was firm under the newly fallen fresh powder snow. We dropped packs and broke trail in deep powder to the summit, took a few pics and turned around.

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Dark and gloomy trail to Santanoni’s summit.

It was cold, windy and incredibly eerie in the falling darkness with the trees plastered in snow and rime ice. We got out our headlamps and changed into dry, warm clothing, which was nirvana-inspiring! The fog was dense but you could perceive the gully and steep exposed rock to the left as you descended. Our in-bound trail was fading fast in the new snow but was nevertheless easy to follow.

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Take the picture and let’s go home.

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Glen on Santanoni for his 30th (???) time.

Part-way down I stopped and changed my socks and put platsic bags over them. Time-consuming, but necessary, and good for another wave of nirvana.

Down, down we went over a soft trail that spared the knees and required little effort. We arrived at the Bradley Pond trail, which was like getting onto the Northway and then we trudged and trudged back to the gate for a 12 and a half hour day. It was going to be a short night.

Neil

Allen Mtn

The trail was fast and hard and I made great time in micro-spikes to Skylight Brook where I switched to K-10's and tromped my way to Allen Brook. At this point my progress slowed considerably and I found the hike to be very sinister and almost evil in feeling. The steep brook flows down in a very narrow and steep-walled cut in the mountain-side. The ascent is steep and very wild and rugged. After miles of approach the feeling I had was one of loneliness and malevolent surroundings. My thoughts turned to my first hike of Allen with Dominic which didn't help. The slide was so steep (how could I have forgotten after so many trips up that peak?) and my K-10's barely bit into the hardened snow pack. I was very glad to have brought my ax but once again regretted not having full crampons. Above the slide the trail is so steep! I was feeling my two previous days of hiking and kept putting one foot in front of the other and heaving myself upwards. I used the ax in various ways to aid my progress, including hooking it around trees and pulling.

I did not linger on the summit – no views anyway. The descent went much better than expected but, being alone and acutely aware of what a fall could result in, I took great care with every single step. Below the slide I was able to stride manfully and lose elevation quickly. I was at Skylight Brook in a twinkling.

I took a different way across and the ice bridge collapsed and sent me sprawling in the deep and swift water of the brook. I was totally soaked from mid-torso to tips of toes. I calmly got my footing and the rest of the crossing was pretty easy! Haha! I was swearing (mentally) to make a sailor blush.

On the other side I removed my pack and lay my fresh stuff out. Then I quickly removed my traction devices, boots, socks (2 pairs), shell pants, long underwear and underwear. Standing on the soaked footbeds that I pulled out of my boots I put on 2 new pair of socks, plastic bags (from Stewarts, no less!) and my synthetic puffy pants. With new footbeds inserted I pulled on and laced up my boots. Then I wrung out my wet stuff and shoved it into a plastic bag, put an extra wool hat on and took off up to the height of land.

I kept my soaked jacket and base layer shirt on thinking that over Project -100 I had worn them just about as wet when bushwhacking and this turned out to be OK. Also in my pack but not used I had another base layer shirt, a puffy jacket and a heavy-duty synthetic belay jacket plus other mitts and hats. All of my extra gear was inside a rolled up and tightly cinched dry bag inside my pack.

The hike out was long of course but the total time was just under 9 hours including the delay at Skylight Brook. I decided that I would not hike Street and Nye the next day.

02/25/2018 - Allen Mountain - Start: 8:03 AM Finish: 4:51 PM

Neil

Seward and Donaldson Mtns

Saranac Lake has the enviable distinction of being the coldest village in the Lower 48. And the coldest temperature I noted while driving to Coreys Rd was -25 Celsius....in Saranac Lake! The road to the Sewards trail-head was easily driven in my Outback. It was now -23C. (-23 C = -13F, cold but not brutally so). There was no wind and the air felt dry. It was easy to get warm and before long I had removed clothing, opened my jacket etc.

The Calkins truck road had about 4 inches of fluffy powder snow over unseen rocks. I put my snowshoes on for better footing. There were no issues crossing the brook but shortly thereafter I lost the trail in open woods but found it again easily enough. About half-way up to the Donaldson junction the going got rougher with deeper snow and very heavily laden spruce boughs that dumped snow all over me and down between my back and my pack. It was pointless trying to brush it off. The footing was difficult with a foot of snow hiding the rocks and roots one normally avoids easily. I was thrown of balance over and over again.

This was my final “tapering” hike before the real thing so I repeatedly reminded myself not to struggle – to find that pace where effort isn't felt. I started out for Seward, Donaldson and Emmons but decided early on to drop Emmons and enjoy Seward, which I knew was going to be a tough hike. I got to the junction after three hours and fifty minutes and immediately dropped down to the first low point. The trail was easy to follow over the bump and the next low area had weak ice under snow that broke away underfoot but luckily any underlying water had long since drained away.

The day was stunningly beautiful and the bumps of Seward were intensely lit up by the late morning sun. The sky was deep blue and contrasted against the tree branches that were heavily caked in a pure white frosting. I had my work cut out for me as I struggled hard to avoid the deeper, structure less snow, which offered little purchase for my snowshoe's crampons. So, I paused often and took 3 deep breaths before continuing.

At the base of the waterfall there was three feet of very heavy snow into which I sank deeply but I patiently slugged my way through it knowing a big reward was at hand (i.e. full-on exposure to the sun and amazing views). Once above the waterfall it was a case of one foot in front of the other until the final ledge, which as expected, was slathered in hard ice. The trees at this elevation and exposure were heavily plastered in snow. After a couple of useless attempts to scale the little rock face I kicked off my snowshoes and put my Hillsounds on. It was a good place to do so being exposed to the sun.

It was now easy to scamper up the ice and I continued inside a tight little snow tunnel for the remaining 100 yards in knee-deep snow. At the summit I noted the lack of tracks coming from the “other side” and immediately turned around. I switched back to my snowshoes (much better!) and floated downhill (slowly and very, very carefully, given the lack of traction and all the hidden obstacles waiting to twist my ankles). Getting to Seward had taken me an hour and six minutes, the return trip only took 42 minutes.

After another switch back to Hillsounds I ascended the slabs to Donaldson and noted there was way less snow on the trail and briefly considered bare booting to Emmons with my trail crampons but decided I had gotten just the right training load already and didn't really want to descend the gnarly herd path alone in the dark in freezing temperatures.

The walk out was uneventful but the Calkins Truck Road in the falling dark seemed deceivingly long (ie. never-ending!) as compared to first thing in the morning all fresh, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The light was fading quickly and I put my headlamp on at the horse trail junction. A minute later at the Blueberry junction I saw a pair of headlamps and met the two guys who I had noted were signed out for Seymour. They had slept at the trailhead in their cars (one Jeep each) and got going about an hour earlier than me. They said Seymour had been broken out the day before. So, for now the trail to Emmons and the North side of Seward remain unbroken.

Neil
I jumped at the opportunity to do this difficult trio of peaks with two superstars. We met at the Garden at 5:30 and spiked our way across mud and ice to Johns Brook Lodge. From there it was all snow. Our threesome became a quartet when ___ joined us. He was doing Haystack alone to finish his 46W. The rocks on Horse Hill were coated in a layer of verglas so we knew what was coming. Indeed Little Haystack did not disappoint and I regretted bringing K-10's instead of my Black Diamond crampons. The “rock funnel” near the bottom of Little Hay was sketchy but not crazy, although instead of front-pointing down, facing in, I opted for a riskier leap of faith onto a postage-stamp-sized snow patch. My partners, god bless them were, positioned to catch me if I blew it and went sailing into the wild white yonder.

We definitely smelled the roses on this ascent, taking our sweet time, appreciating every nuance that the rock, ice and incredible lighting offered us. Back at the junction we had a bite of food and faced our next challenge: Mighty Basin.

And neither did it disappoint. The ice was definitely “in” and above the ladder I felt inadequate in my K-10's while the real climbers killed it gleefully and seemingly sans effort. The descent of Basin was easy on snow that had been post-holed miserably from the looks of things. The post-holes we used as stairs and gained the wall of Saddleback with no issues at all. The wall looked fairly dry but I opted for the stress-free Chicken Route and the guys didn't care one way or the other. I needed a helping hand at the crux but otherwise the route was straightforward. Quite amazing the route was as it followed the base of the cliff, rising steeply upwards and somewhat awesome under all that tannin-stained ice.

We enjoyed hot cocoa and homemade cookies in the warming hut for 30 minutes before trudging back to the parking lot. As soon as I got back to my “winter home” at 'Scoots' loft I went into getting ready mode once again.

02/24/2018 - Haystack, Basin, & Saddleback - Start: 6:32 AM Finish: 7:42 PM

Neil

The forecast was calling for rain and temps in the low 40's. Santa was not broken out and Henderson gave us a small sampling of what to expect whacking to L. Santa. I had a reduced team (MJO and Mayasoleil were my fresh horses from Quebec) holed up in a motel in Schroon Lake and Alistair was too beat up to join us. I made the call (ie. a phone call) and informed my, now two only, partners that the Santas were out, MSG was in. This would normally be an “easy out”, which was good because, thanks to Marshall, I was feeling the previous 2 days a fair bit. Turned out to be really hard due to cling-on snow that piled up thickly under our snowshoes. After Gray and Skylight we crossed Marcy in incredible conditions but we were totally prepared and loaded. Visibility was the poorest I've ever done it in. Wind was about 40 mph. and freezing rain drove at us sideways. Our worst-case scenario was to use recorded tracklogs to go back to 4 Corners and exit via Lake Arnold.

We navigated with a cell phone and not one but two gps's. Mine has become unreliable and a new one is on order so I carried a spare from Tom. But the best tools were my memory and my compass. The descent of the Van Ho was mentally very sketchy in the roaring wind. We only saw the first two cairns so we stopped regularly and I verified my gps, got bearings from projecting the cursor and followed the compass. Some familiar landmarks were familiar and we saw a paint blaze through some ice. Below the cone we picked up a ski trail that dead-ended in the gully and with relief followed it to the Phelps junction.

The rest was a long, long walk. We were soaking-wet and our packs weighed a ton with sopping wet gear that we had shed continuously and strategically as we progressed throughout our day. In falling darkness and clearing skies the wind positively roared as we walked out from Marcy Dam. I kept checking the tree-tops for signs of snapping trunks but no such worries came about.

Marie-Josée and Maude were awesome partners as were Alistair, Glen, Jean and Matt. In fact, one of the best things about this project is all the amazing hiking partners I've been blessed with so far.

02/11/2018 - Marcy, Skylight, Grey - Start: 8:02 AM Finish: 5:53 PM

Neil

Alistair, Jean and I began without Mastergrasshopper who was slow in getting away from randomscoots. We tramped and tramped our way to the Bradley Pond lean-to and soaking wet already dropped packs and began the steep .37 mile whack in very deep snow. Thanks to a tracklog I had from a trip from Henderson Lake over Henderson to the lean-to we had mostly open woods. But, the trees were totally covered in loose snow that showered us copiously and repeatedly. There was no sense brushing ourselves off. One hour to go up, 15 mins. back down.

We decided to not stop at the lean-to, just grab a quick gulp of water, shoulder the packs and keep generating body heat. Soaking wet clothing transmits heat away from you very efficiently. We made Herald Square and Panther without incident and at Times Square saw MG and an arrow towards Couch etched in the snow. Glen, as Alistair has surmised went directly out to Couch to break the trail. (We knew the trail had only been broken to Panther.) We had an easy trip down to the swamp and met Glen on the first bump. He was in fine spirits, totally in his element on his way home from breaking trail out to Couch. We made the grueling trip back up to Times Square and made it down Panther Brook in record time being able to go into a split stance and ski on perfect snow. The road walk was a bit of a slog and we made it out for something like an 11-hour day.

My plan called for a return the next morning to finish the job with big and little Santanonis.

02/10/2018 - Henderson, Panther, Couchsachraga - Start: 7:18 AM Finish: 5:04 PM

Neil

I had a strong team lined up (Mastergrasshopper, Alistair and Great Expectations (Matt) and we easily made our way up to the Wright junction with Matt and Alistair breaking through about 3 inches of new snow over a firm base. Wright was cold, windy and icy but do-able in snowshoes if you exercised care.

Algonquin was amazing in a near whiteout but before we reached tree-line I got a cool photo of two friends descending Wright. While we dropped towards the Iroquois col the light and visibility changed continuously with veiled views opening up and disappearing rapidly. The herd path was not broken but was easy to follow and the wind had packed it down well. No issues. It was a beautiful crossing. Glen led us way over to the right and we avoided all steep sections. The icy crust held us with no breaking through.

Back at the junction Alistair headed out over Algonquin due to a broken snowshoe while the three of us descended in very deep powder snow to Lake Colden. What a soft descent! Not very quick due to the deep snow but very soft. We followed a lone set of snowshoe tracks to the Colden dam and then found a well-packed trail to the lean-to at Herbert Brook. The trail ended there. We broke trail in 8 inches of new snow over a good base with a discernable groove where the trail was. Progress was good and energy expenditure (mental and physical both) was very reasonable.

Then we followed a wrong herd path. Glen was not liking it so I outed with my compass (I always put one around my neck when I get dressed in the morning) and map and determined that we were going the wrong way. We plunge stepped down towards Herbert Brook, found the correct herd path and kept going. Then we completely lost the path and burned about an hour of daylight before using map, compass and altimeter to guide us. Progress with no underlying base was decidedly slower and energy sapping. It was now 4:20 pm and we were about 300 vertical feet below the summit. No sign of the vly anywhere and so we decided to make “the turn” towards the summit and pray. All of a sudden it was 100% clear that we were back on the herd path.

The snow was so deep that we felt no discernible base below our snowshoes. Progress was now very slow and fatigue was upon us. We rotated leads often with the leader going as hard as he could then stepping aside when he felt too much fatigue. It seemed to take a long time but finally, we saw the summit sign. Glen took my picture and we turned tail. Back at the lean-to it was dark and chilly but we took our time in fueling and drinking before the long walk out. Crossing the lakes in the pitch black night with snow falling and swirling about our headlamp beams was just one more of the magical and unforgettable moments of Project-100.

02/09/2018 - Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois, Marshall - Start: 8:29 AM Finish: 8:19 PM

 

Neil

Big Slide

The next morning found me all alone at about 6:45 crunching loudly on the ice of Big Slide. On the exposed parts of the Brothers the rock was mostly bare as I expected and past the Brothers the ice had given way to packed snow over a base of ice and this was great. I took tons of pictures of under cast and partially shrouded summits. I hung out on the summit for a while sipping hot tea and nibbling on biscuits and chocolate taking more pictures. The descent was very fast (90 minutes) and back at 'Scoots we popped the card into the TV and had an instant replay of my hike! Big Slide put me at 50 peaks but I estimate only 40% of the work is done.

This project is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. So many experiences have been packed tightly into so few weeks. So many great people have hiked with me. The outcome is always in doubt but I'm inspired and motivated to succeed.

Neil

At 6:30 we bare-booted up the North Trail over the little col at Owl's Head Lookout and paused for some awesome (hopefully!) pictures before trudging for miles uphill to our pre-determined jump-off point for Green. We had already ascended about 1500 feet total and Green stood about 1200 feet above us. Glen Bladholm (mastergrasshopper on the forum) and I had hiked Green end to end from Owl's Head and had nailed a beautiful descent (thanks TCD for the beta!) free of cliffs and thick vegetation. I had this route recorded in my GPS and we followed it up painlessly and in a twinkling were back down on the trail.

Initially I had thought we would exit those same 5-6 miles and drive around to Chapel Pond but at the last minute before heading out the door we decided to spot a car at Chapel Pond. So, we decided to press on and try our luck with the untraveled North Trail up Giant approximately 1700 feet above us. Turned out fantastic! With snowshoes on we never once broke through the crust and slowly and steadily made it to the top and then switched to crampons for the rest of the day. The out and back to RPR entailed another 1500 feet of elly gain, which we did slowly and steadily before donning our packs at the junction at 2:30 pm for an easy-peasy descent over packed snow that gave way to a river of ice that the K-10's killed in the afternoon sun that had softened the ice.

The hike out was interrupted drastically when I witnessed a young woman falling down the ice and injuring her ankle. Full report of that incident is right here.

Neil

I drove to Tom and Doreen's in Keene and quickly changed into dry clothing and jumped back into the car. At 5:30, with a 5-pound pack on my back I switched on my headlamp and spiked my way up and down Cascade and Porter over many gently-sloped ice flows. The summit of Cascade was very windy and cold. The views of the valley lights all a-twinkle was nice but I did not linger long to enjoy it.

Neil

Right off the bat, on the drive to Lyon Mountain from Montreal the freeway entrances were closed past 5am and I got stuck in heavy traffic. Then in the pouring rain, as I was heading out for a winter hike, my driver's side wiper blade flew off into the dark night. I leaned way over to the right and tried to decide whether the problem was with the blade or the arm. Drove a stressful hour to the border in rain with no wiper then decided to risk losing the other one and made the transfer. No further problems.

I met Adam Crofoot in the godforsaken town of Lyon Mountain where we parked, got ready and headed up the transmission tower's service road in the rain. He was skinning in on long fat skis while I snowshoed in the deep slush that threatened to go over the top of my rubber over-boots. The bushwhack from the tower was through wet snow that collapsed into 18'' holes with each and every step, but it was mercifully short. Adam insisted on leading most of the way (I led on the way back :) ).

It was an uneventful wet return trip and I twice stepped into slush that went over the tops of my over-boots. Then followed a 60 minute drive over back-back roads through desolate towns and the country. The Ausable River had broken up and was a raging torrent of white water and ice chunks.

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Neil

Hurricane Mtn

After a quick drying out and feeding session at the Randomscoots loft, I headed back out for Hurricane, after being warned off Noonmark by Tom. It was 52 degrees Fahrenheit and everywhere you turned your ear there was a roar of violent water going downhill to the sea. Hurricane had one crossing that was 6'' deep and the Tingley overshoes, over top of a 2nd pair of trail runners (I had come equipped for spring conditions), did the job. The lower trail was entirely snow-free and there wasn't much higher up. The summit experience was of pelting rain inside a gloomy cloud so I did a quick turnaround and headed back to the loft for a hot shower and a hot meal before gearing up for snow-mageddon and zero degree temps.

Neil

The next morning I was out the door at 5:30 on my way to the AMR to meet Glen. Took me 15 minutes to clean off my car and the drive in the driving snow was done at 30 mph so I got there 5 mins past our meet-up time. Originally, there were supposed to be 18 people taking aim at Dial-Nippletop-Colvin-Blake but as we trudged our way up Noonmark's shoulder in roaring wind and horizontal snow I said to Glen, “looks like instead of a team of 18 we're down to just the two of us”. As the sunrise came up very, very slowly the scene we beheld increased in intimidating beauty.

When we reached Dial, the snow quit with only 3 inches of fluff over a rock-solid foundation. By the time we reached Nippletop, the sun was coming out and the air became dry and cold. We floated effortlessly and quickly downhill to Elk Pass and then we turned up towards Colvin. A couple of youngsters came down without snowshoes and they had positively trashed a perfect trail. Just below Colvin we found a lone snowshoe precariously balanced and saw a hiking pole below the well-known crack. I put the snowshoe into a more stable place and we chatted briefly with the owner on top. We wondered later if she had had a scary experience at that step.

The out and back to Blake was really easy except the final 200 yards to Blake was an absolute post-hole hell, most likely made the day before in the hot weather. Now the post-holes were frozen solid. I guess some people have never heard of snowshoes.

The re-climb of Colvin was done slowly in full-on afternoon sun and about half-way down the road we put our headlamps on. It had been an easy hike but nevertheless we were tired after the 6500 feet of elevation gain.

Neil

Dix Range

At 4:40 am Glen announced he was not hiking that day due to stomach cramps that had kept him awake for a lot of the night. At Clear Pond, Joe, Bill, and I briskly walked the 2 miles to the summer trailhead in sub-zero temps. After signing in we maintained a brisk pace to Slide Brook where we put our snowshoes on and steadfastly tromped our way 1000 feet up to the Macomb Slide. I had the feeling that this hike was nothing more than a continuation of yesterday's with a brief bit of shut-eye in between. At the base of the slide, which I have been up and down 5-6 times I looked up and thought: whoa, that looks very steep and heavy-duty. Then Joe described the route we would take and I felt a lot more comfortable. I went first kicking steps with my MSR snowshoes and testing the snow with my poles for hidden ice nearly every step of the way. It was a calf-burner and the views behind were amazing but all I wanted to do was to keep moving upwards. 

From Clear Pond to Macomb it took us 3 hours, and in the sub-zero temperatures I was always feel very comfortable, if not too warm on occasion. The sun was ablaze and warm going up both South Dix and Grace. Just below the summit of Grace we met up with MJO and Viviane from FousDeRando Forum (this was planned). After hugs and kisses we relaxed for a good 10 minutes in full sunshine with no wind and chatted before going our separate ways.

Our threesome maintained forward momentum up and over steep Hough and then we watched as the incredibly steep and intimidating Beckhorn drew closer and closer as we struggled upwards. We had an encounter and friendly chat with Francis Willis who had hiked from Round Pond. Finally we topped out on the Beckhorn but of course the work wasn't done. From the BeckHorn to Dix it was all ice and very treacherous at that. The wind chilled us and we spent little time on the summit before returning to the BeckHorn. 

Getting off the ice-encased BeckHorn rocks was a slow business and we resorted to bushwhacking down and across to the trail. From there it was down, down, down the beautiful BeckHorn trail to the main trail 2000 feet below. We then tromped our weary way 6-7 miles back to Clear Pond to complete an 11 hour plus day. I realized later that, in the last three days I had hiked 30 hours and about 16,000 vertical feet.

Neil

Sunday morning, pre-dawn. Our trail crampons squeaked loudly as they bit into the hard pack on the Van Hoeveneberg trail. I wore a base layer shirt and shell and walked fast to get warm as we headed into the High Peaks cathedral. My arms were cold for 15 minutes and then I was comfortable everywhere. A quick check with Joe and Alistair confirmed that so were they and we kept walking on the hardened trail all the way to Lake Arnold. There we paused in order to put on our snowshoes and begin breaking trail to Feldspar Brook.

It was a gorgeous day and the eastern flanks of Mt. Colden were illuminated so brilliantly by the morning sun that the woods on the western slopes of the opposite ridge were lit up from the reflection. From time to time we broke out into direct sunlight, which was an elixir to our souls. We crossed Feldspar and continued on our way to the Redfield-Cliff trail split. The trail-breaking wasn’t bad but enough to warrant regular lead switches.

I took a sip of my hot tea (on a whim I had popped a green tea bag into my liter of boiling water that morning and the flavor was perfect) and a mouthful of calories. In much deeper snow we took aim for Cliff. Joe led us up the cliffy section and new exactly where to thread a line over the grippiest ice. The views continued to expand and the sun seemed to help us ascend. We chose Cliff as our first peak so as to catch those very rays. Standing on Cliff we noted the improved views of Colden due to the snow pack and in a twinkling were back at the trail split for more food and beverages. The hike up Redfield was a totally different experience than Cliff. The trail was beautiful but the lower section, being more open along the brooks, had a lot more snow, which was heavier from being wind-compacted. Higher up where the trail leaves the drainage the snow cover was only about 6 inches.

The summit views and air were a smorgasbord for the senses. Air so fresh you could taste its goodness as it penetrated deep into your lungs and mountains all around, near and far. It was chilly but we felt fine and lingered before speeding back towards Uphill Brook. We were a long way from home! The descent was a delight in soft snow that permitted telemark skiing in our snowshoes.

Crossing Uphill Brook I spied a pool of sunshine on the opposite bank and stopped to change the batteries in my Spot device. We were at a nadir in our trek and I estimated 2000′ of total ascent to the top of Colden. Alistair announced he was not doing Colden and let himself drop behind as Joe and I we tromped our way steadfastly up to Lake Arnold. That section of trail seems to climb forever and I could feel the day’s workload in my legs. However, we covered the 2-mile section in about 1h15 so things were looking good.

At Lake Arnold, now 3:30 and the light fading we fueled up and I put a light puffy jacket on unzipped over my shell. Exiting the tight trail onto the exposed false summit of Colden was like entering a wind tunnel and the wind chill felt like -100 for that brief moment. I said to Joe that now we knew what to expect on the summit. Very luckily for us, someone had been up Colden since we had passed by that morning. It was obvious that they had worked very hard at breaking through extensive hard-packed (but not hard enough!) drifts and gone into deep trail-side holes on many occasions. Thanks to that person’s efforts we made the summit in exactly one hour. It was a furious and completely wild scene up there. The Macintyre Range loomed eerily out of the dusk like some mighty ship and to the south the horizon was a long narrow strip of glowing orange. The wind blew the snow all about in chaotic clouds that enveloped Joe as I snapped a series pictures of him as he began his departure from the short summit spur trail.

We flew down the soft trail in 30 minutes and according to Joe’s watch made it to Avalanche camps junction in a scant 30 more for a 4 mph pace. We kept that pace up all the way back to the HPIC where Alistair was waiting in his truck listening to football.

It was an 11 hour, 30 minute day in unadulterated paradise and as we shook hands Joe quietly stated, “ another amazing day”.

Neil

Seward Range

Joe picked me up at 6am at “randomscoots P-100 Central” and at 7:15 we were on our way up the trail after a quick hello to Nancy. It was going to be a long, cold day and Joe gracefully allowed me to be the pacesetter. I set a 100 peak pace and we tromped along in our snowshoes and warmed up. The ascent of Calkins went by quicker than I expected and we were on Donaldson a mere 3 hours out.

The trail was in perfect condition, which aided and abetted us on our mission. The out and back to Emmons was a 75 minute formality under bluebird skies with finely etched, far-away views. The views from Donaldson were to die for but luckily we refrained.

Heading over to Seward on the perfect trail was pure joy especially once we arrived at the waterfall and turned around to take it all in. High up on Seward the trees were lambasted with a thick layer of extremely hard rime. The only colors were the whitest possible white and the deepest blue you can imagine. Temps were low so we kept a move on through the majesty of our surroundings.

Past the summit of Seward the game changed drastically in 2 feet of unconsolidated snow. The trail was not obvious but Joe’s acumen got us over to the cliff wall just in time and then we dropped in. We sank two feet into structure-less powder snow and were surrounded by trees that were completely obliterated in a thick casing of white. Trail-side, trees that stood two feet apart were conjoined by a thick wall of snow that forbade travel in any other direction but down the steep chutes that in summer are slimy rock. We carefully plunge-stepped endlessly downwards and I was both exhilarated and awed by it all. I knew that this was a pinnacle of experience and was exactly why I was doing Project-100. I was also appreciative of the previous 6 months of hard training that kept my quads from crapping out.

The lower Seward-North trail was a never-ending drag and it was nice to take a 20-minute break at the Ward Brook Lean-to. It was cold and I put my down parka on over my shell as I ate and drank for the first time that day. (I never saw Joe eat or drink all day long). We were both chilled when we started out from the L-T and I hustled for a good 15 minutes before feeling the heat return. Seymour as usual was a steep grind but every time I turned around and looked out over the Sawtooth Range I could see that the sunset views were going to be incredible. We made the summit in 90 minutes and I swear I could not have shaved off even one. As expected everywhere the eye fell was stunningly beautiful yet linger in the cold we did not.

During our quick descent of Seymour I forced myself to stop and take pictures until all of a sudden the shades of red and yellow became browns and greys. Back at the LT we readied ourselves for the 5-ish mile tramp out and over and over again I thanked my lucky stars that we did not have a 3-mile road walk on top of the 5 miles of trail.

When I walked in to the loft at Randomscoots, Doreen, may God bless her heart, heated up her home-made cream of broccoli soup plus a pasta and meatball supper. She then added wood to the fire and made me sit in the most comfie chair in the place. I was in bed nodding off by 9 thinking about the morrow’s off-trail hike of Avalanche Peak.

 

Neil

The weather forecast was of intense interest the night before and the morning of this hike. We had settled on Whiteface-Esther and Morgan as a good foul weather hike. Indeed for Project 46 Glen, Geoff and I did Giant-RPR in the morning of a foul weather day followed by WF-E and it was an excellent combo.

At 8am (leisurely start time!) we began working our way up the 800 foot ascent of the old Marble Mountain ski lift “trail” In warm but damp weather. No rain yet and we were down to base layers pretty quickly until close to the Esther junction. We were going at a 100-peak pace and I was mindful to never feel like I was straining. This allowed for a rate of ascent of 30 feet per minute according to my altimeter, plenty fast to get the job done and yet slow enough preserve precious muscle glycogen.

At this rate we made Whiteface mountain in two hours and fifty minutes, the final 500 vertical feet after the road were done in a whiteout with rain lashing at our faces. The snow was quite heavy and we switched leads often.

No time was wasted on the wind-blasted summit and when we got back at the Wilmington turn wall, we put our packs back on, swapped out wet mitts etc. and strolled over to the Esther junction where we shed our burdens and enjoyed a relaxed out and back. The rain was light but never let up. We were back at the car after five hours and forty five minutes. It took a full hour to do a complete change of clothes, including socks and begin trudging up the trail towards Morgan Mountain. The trail nearly climbs the peak and we were 185 meters from the summit (gps verified) when we donned (still unlit) headlamps and dropped our packs. The rain had switched to (fairly dry) snow and it was a somewhat magical bushwhack to the summit in rapidly fading daylight. The snow was a foot deep and quite wet. The shoes hit bottom and had excellent traction.

We were back on the trail before the headlamp hour (days must be getting longer!) and the snow was coming down pretty good. But, it was only after we had switched the lamps on that we realized just how hard we were getting pounded. It was a very slow and slippery drive down the hill to Wilmington where it was raining.

Back at “Scooterville” Glen and I both felt that Project-100 was off to an excellent start. I am indeed lucky to have great hiking partners. It's not easy to find people who cheerfully put on a headlamp at sunset after a day of hiking in the rain and begin a bushwhack just as the rain turns to snow.

Neil

3 Days of Hiking

Day One Sentinel (and not Kilburn)

After leaving my vehicle at Monument Falls Luc La Barre and I parked his on Bartlett Road, where Liscombe brk. crosses. We angled away from the brook and worked our way up through open hardwoods to a ridge that parallels the drainage. This beautiful, rolling ridge is covered in huge, sparsley distributed pines and hemlocks and runs from the Cobbles to the eastern flanks of Sentinel, into which it merges at 2500'. Gradually the landscape turned to white and we donned shells and gloves.

I had this route wired (or so I thought) and indeed everything was going according to plan. However, at about 3400' I missed a crucial turn up through a weakness in the long line of east-west running cliffs and we lost 20 minutes, precious energy and got completely soaked by pushing through thick spruce, whose branches were covered in wet snow. It was about 32F. Once back on track we were chilled to the bone and the wind sawed at us. No matter how hard we tried to generate body heat there was no end to the wet snow that kept falling onto our soaked clothing, chilling us even further. Steep inclines were welcome sights and half-way up one (half-way to be warm and then to get warm again after stopping ) we stopped and I put on an extra hat and fresh mitts.

The plan was to push on to Kilburn but I wasn't liking the idea and I don't think Luc was all that wild about it either. Once past the summit we would be descending very slowly, exposed to the wind and then crossing an wide-open area with tons of blowdown. Ie. slow going. Putting on a dry base layer now would be useless - it would be soaked in minutes. So, just before reaching the summit of Sentinel we agreed to turn back and follow our tracks out. We then we booted it the final 50 yards, took a summit pic and turned tail gladly. I don't recall ever being that cold, I was utterly drenched from stem to stern. Using our tracks we went back as fast we could and managed to sort of warm up.

We corrected my error (got it all in a tracklog now) and half-way back to our (correct) inbound route I had an intuition and made a hard right turn. This led us down through a very steep drop between 50' cliffs on other side of us. That must have been where Tom Penders and I turned up to the summit ridge in August of 2016. We kept hustling and once below the snow line we gathered sticks and lit a fire. Once we had dried out and warmed up we continued east along the beautiful ridge for another mile to where it ends at the Cobbles. From there we enjoyed the views from three different (huge) rocky outcrops. The views swept around the compass dial from Pokomoonshine through Jay and Saddleback past Giant and Dix then across to Sentinel, Stewart, a piece of Esther and the Willmington Range. Wow!

Day 2

Dial-Nippletop-Elk Pass-Nippletop-Dial for 6300 feet of elevation gain.

My three previous hikes had been fairly rough (slush-fest on Skylight-Colden, heavy ice on Giant-RPR and the brush with hypothermia on Sentinel just the day before). I needed to get my mojo back and decided on a tame hike with decent elevation gain: ie. Dial-Nippletop-Dial for about 5000 feet worth and no difficulties, just a nice hike. The forecast for Keene was for a high in the low 50's so I wore Tingleys over trail runners and carried my Hillsounds, which went on half-way up to the shoulder of Noonmark. It was a beautiful suuny day and I was wondering if I should have done Marcy (and more) instead. But then the weather moved in very quickly. The vis dropped, the wind kicked up and I watched the clouds shred their way through the trees on Dial. Then it started raining, which became a full-on 20-minute snowstorm and I was glad not to be doing Marcy.

I was feeling fine and wondered about adding on Colvin and Sawteeth but had started at 9:30 and didn't feel like hiking for hours in the dark. Finally I got the bright idea of doing a round-trip to Elk Pass which gave me another 1200 feet of elly. The people I had seen on Nippletop were very surprised to see me coming back up from Elk Pass! I did the 0.2 mile out and back from the junction to Nippletop, not once but twice. I felt perfect all day, moving easily and feeling very comfortable descending the icy trail to Elk Pass in 24 minutes exactly (took me longer to go back up!). The toughest part of the hike was the 300 foot re-climb of Dial- there's that one steep section. Half-way down Dial I saw a deer run past. It was a like a very swift and silent arrow. How they do that I'll never know.

The view from Noomark's shoulder in dying light was to die for (but I didn't). Soon thereafter, I was descending towards the Lake Road in near total darkness and my headlamp was picking up the markers nicely, although the trail was easy to follow. Then the next marker winked out. I've never seen such a thing before and I mused that such a thing was impossible. Then as I I drew nearer I saw not one but two small markers placed side by side. A deer stood stock-still on the trail 10 feet in front of me and we had a staring match before he/she took off. The deer was surely wondering where he could get a headlamp just like mine. I had similar staring matches with 3 more deer on my way out. I was back on the road just before 5 and it was pitch dark.

Day 3. Marcy and Tabletop.

At 7:30 I was walking towards Marcy Dam through a gloomy winter wonderland as it had snowed a bit overnight. The wind was moaning insistently and the sky was a dark grey. I was in no hurry. A lone hiker caught up and passed me at the Phelps Brook crossing above Marcy Dam. He was also doing Marcy. I was wearing my winter boots and of course carried Hillsounds. Getting to Marcy is a long walk in the woods. The lone hiker opted for the ski trail and I decided to stay on the Van Ho. There was maybe 2'' of snow on the ground, which had completely transformed the landscape.

It grew colder and colder as I ascended and the snow deepened. The forecast was for falling temps and 10F with 35 mph sustained wind on Marcy. At the Phelps junction I geared up. I put on two pairs of fresh wool mitts under OR Revel shell mitts, my OR wind-stopper bela-clava, a hand-knit bela clava over that and cinched my shell's hood very tight and zipped it up all the way.

The cone was wicked rough and the summit remained inside a cloud while above me the sky was blue. I was getting pushed around and the bit of exposed skin on my face (I had no mask or goggles) grew very chilly in no time. The snow at times was mid-shin with the odd knee-deep drift and the lone hiker's footsteps were mostly blown in. I wondered where he was and why he wasn't coming down yet. I had been thinking of going down to 4 Corners but the visibilty was very sketchy. I kept turning around and memorizing my route down and did my best to leave a furrow in the snow. The snow alternated with wind-swept ice. The closer I got to the top the wilder the wind got. At the plaque I went around to the left and there was no wind under the 6 foot high cliff-wall. I went all the way around it in 2 feet of snow and there it was as if I stuck my face into a snowblower. I looked at the route down to 4 Corners and it was socked in so darkly it was like looking at the edge of the world. There was no way I going down there! There was no indication anyone had gone that way so I looked around the summit area for the lone hiker but never saw him. Going down was uneventful but one heck of an experience all alone up there in shrieking wind and foggy vis but I knew every little turn and most of my tracks were still discernable, although filling in rapidly.

After that it was a meditative walk in the park and I went up Tabletop in gorgeous sunshine but Marcy and Haystack remained socked in. On my way out past Marcy Dam two guys I had seen below the Hopkins junction heading up to Marcy with two dogs came running down the minus one dog. They said it had broken its leg and kept on moving fast. When I had seen them going up it never occurred to me that the cone of Marcy might not be a great place to take a border collie-sized dog, not ever having had one. I thought it was of a size that could readily be carried but they were long-gone before I thought of any questions like, where did you leave the dog?

At the end of this 3-day shakedown weekend I marveled at how much I had learned on Sentinel and how utterly different each day of hiking had been.

Neil

Moose-McKenzie had been weighing on me for some time. I knew the trail between was very lightly traveled and so I hiked it in October. I went up from the Jackrabbit Trail over McKenzie to Moose then came back to the Two Brooks junction and down to Lake Placid. For some reason I thought I would do it this way for P-100. I knew that in spite of it being marked, this hike had the potential to be very long and hard, more like a bushwhack. So I was glad to have Joe Bogardus, David Gomlak and Glen Bladholm lined up to go with me and my gps track log.

And then who should go out and do it the day before? Pinpin and the Queen! They did a fantastic job staying on the path in what were assuredly difficult conditions. It must have been tricky because there were a good number of exploratory dead-ends to their snowshoe track. The woods were covered in very heavy and thick snow (pictures posted yesterday) and by the time we got close to McKenzie the snowshoe trail was filling in with close to 5'' of fresh powder.

It was 4 degrees on McKenzie and we descended to Bartlett Pond, 1200 feet below in like 5 minutes before walking out at a more leisurely but nonetheless brisk pace. Fast forward 60 minutes....

I was sporting a dry shirt and mitts, a fresh hard-shell and shell mitts and had put shell pants on over my wet OR Cirque pants and we started out up the trail to Pitchoff mountain. Long story short, it kicked our butts. We chose the wrong turn at a Y intersection and ascended very steep and icy terrain before we found ourselves below some sketchy cliffs in fading daylight. There was no way we wanted to descend that in the dark. So, we backtracked only to see a trail marker right at the Y in the trail showing the correct path. Before that “interlude” we had incredible, awe-inspiring views through the gloom to the slide on Cascade.

Someone had hiked the trail the day before but we were in 7'' of new snow with no tread-way showing but we felt the base underneath. We switched leads regularly and went slowly. Headlamps came on just past the spur junction to balancing rock. I myself didn't eat or drink enough in between hikes and my ass was dragging. Took us 2 hours and 30 minutes to make the top and an hour and ten minutes to return to the car and head back to Tom and Doreen's for a hot shower, food and drink and a good night's sleep.

Day one and 3 peaks were retreating in the rearview as we immediately discussed tomorrow's plan.

Neil

Avalanche Mtn

I really wanted to check out the off-trail conditions and had locked eyes on Avalanche Peak, which I did twice from the Kagel lean-to and Algonquin-Wright drainage during the summer of 2016. It had been a breeze and the round-trip from the drainage took me about 2 hours with no pack. Open woods the whole way and if you hit it right, very little steep terrain. It seemed to be a good choice of bushwhacks right after a long day doing the 4 Seward's with 6500 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Off we (Julie Chevalier and I) went after an easy 8 am start over a rock-solid trail to the Kagel LT where we stopped and got ready. I donned 30'' Tubbs of 15 year-old vintage and as soon as we crossed the brook and ascended the steep embankment I had doubts about them. However, the first half of the journey is along an old tote road and then through open woods that ascend gently. Bushwhacker's candy and the Tubbs were great as long as I didn't trip over them or catch a tip too often.

Julie and her husband Jean-Sebastien have done hundreds of bushwhacks including a lot more in winter than I and she was extremely helpful with both the macro and micro management of our route and she broke her share of trail. We conferred frequently on our exact whereabouts and watched our progress very closely (we used altimeter, gps, map and compass pretty much equally at first). Just before 1000 meters elevation we made a turn that showed us gaining the summit ridge through the fattest contour intervals. The gps indicated that we were 400 meters from the summit when we made the turn at roughly 975 meters. One hour and forty-five minutes had elapsed since we left the l-t. The next 400 meters took us 2 hours 30 minutes.

The snow was beyond what I had imagined being deep and structure-less on the ground and the open spaces between the trees were filled in with walls of snow. Sometimes we found a narrow passageway through it but often it was easier to bash the snow walls down. Over and over again lumpy showers of snow rained down from above banging upon our heads and shoulders. Our backs were soaked and lumps of ice formed on the inside of our pack belts and pack-backs. Progress was slow (duh!) and navigation was simplified to studying the gps screen for the fattest possible intervals, projecting a compass bearing and following that.

The higher we got the heavier the snow became. However from time to time we hit little stretches of open woods and were able to walk along in a normal fashion. It was in one such section that we exited the woods to a small clearing and looked way up at a broad 50-foot high white cliff. In retrospect, it was beautiful. Nothing to do but make a 90 degree turn and go around it. What amazed me was that I recalled having passed more or less through the same route up to the ridge effortlessly twice before only 18 months previously. The ridge itself had been a cinch but now, only 200 meters from the summit every meter gained came with huge efforts. We were now using our hands to sweep away the snow in front of us in order to be able to lift our snowshoes up onto the next placement. But, as rough as it sounds we were laughing and joking the whole way. At one point Julie looked at me and said, “I guess the other bushwhacks will have to wait”. Funniest line of the day but you had to be there.

And then we both saw the little summit clearing at the same time and it was all over. Peak number 21 would soon be over the shoulder of Project-100. Every step of the way up we knew that the return trip would be a piece of cake and indeed what had taken us 4h30 was easily covered in 1h30 back over our trail. It was cold and windy on top and we didn't hang around for long. Back at the lean-to we made clothing changes, ate and drank then tied our snowshoes onto our packs and sped-hiked out, racing to beat darkness, which we did by 5 minutes. We were out at 4:55PM for a 9-hour hike.

 

Neil

Figuring this project out as I go along is like trying to fit 100 mosaic pieces into a whole. The best fit is constantly shifting and as you go, there are less and less pieces left over. You are continuously faced with a brand new mosaic to create.

Day 1: Calamity and Adams.

01/19/2018 – Calamity Mountain – Start: 7:46 AM Finish: 1:34 PM

I chose Calamity to kick things off because I was interested in Cheney Cobble and North River, which are close by and which would have similar snow conditions. I was interested in CC-NR because I had very strong and enthusiastic partners lined up and the conditions were looking good.

Christina and Brian joined me for Calamity and it turned out to be a really easy, text-book whack. Of interest was the ¼ inch thick layer of blue ice on the snow-pack above 3200 feet. It was just right for a whack!

01/19/2018 – Mount Adams – Start: 1:54 PM Finish: 4:58 PM

Adams I chose because it was close by. I eschewed the whack across from Cal to Adams in order to save time and energy. I’ve done it by 5 different routes and four were very, very hard. The easiest was done on a 5-foot snow pack. The snow isn’t deep enough right now. The round-trip via the regular trail took 3 hours including a 20 minute stop on the summit. I was happy to note that I was ascending at 30 feet per minute, breathing comfortably through my nose and feeling no effort whatsoever.

 

Neil

Day 2: Cheney-North River.

01/20/2018 – Cheney Cobble – Start: 6:30 AM Finish: 5:49 PM

Jean, MJO and I were underway just before 7 and snowshoed on level ground for 3 hours prior to commencing the bushwhack up the north side of Cheney. As anticipated, the snow was firm (pretty much perfect) and up to about 900 meters elevation the woods were open. Then it got both very steep and very thick. As we homed in on the summit it grew extremely steep and we got cliffed out, back-tracked a bit and then Jean threaded the needle up through very steep terrain alongside cliffs that were plastered in yellow ice. The wind was ferocious and of course we were all soaking wet and the only way to keep warm was by exerting oneself very strenuously.

It was noon! Exactly the time I wanted to be there. More importantly, I wanted to be in the CC-NR col no later than 2pm. so off we went. We decided to try and take an easier route down but the only other one I knew (from a scouting trip with Trail Boss in May, ’17) had a steep crux that turned out to be filled with ice. Long story short: we got cliffed out and had to re-climb steep terrain and lost a full hour. North River now had a question mark hanging over it. All the while the wind cut at us and we were cold. Our mental energy was definitely taking a hit but with self-imposed discipline we calmly ignored the cold as best we could and continued to stop and check the map and compass and also, from time to time, MJO’s Gaia map on her phone. It wasn’t easy! My GPS went kaput earlier during the day and using map and compass was decidedly slower work than navigating by GPS. MJO’s Gaea map was a very welcome back-up even if there was no tracklog in it.

It was of paramount importance that we miss the cliffs that line the col by deviating north and this we managed to do. But, getting across the saddle to the SW shoulder of Cheney was a slow business and the wicked cold wind kept doing it’s work on us. Finally, we were lined up perfectly above the col and here the wind had died down. But, to our surprise the snow was completely unconsolidated on this side of the mountain. We fell continuously into spruce traps and when we didn’t the footing was treacherous and required tremendous muscle power. When Trail Boss and I ascended the same flank he said it was soul-destroying it was so thick.

I looked at the time: 2:30 and were were still well above the col and our physical and mental resources were dwindling rapidly, including the remaining daylight. We were at a critical juncture and but making the turn away from the col down towards our inbound track 600 vertical feet below us was easy to do even if I knew I had just burned an eleven hour day. Getting down those 600 feet turned out to be a major struggle through thick woods and deep snow. Had we done NR and departed the col at 4pm, say, the exit would have been very interesting. Earlier on, while dodging cliffs on CC, I had said, “if we do NR I’m not doing Wallface tomorrow”. Again, the shifting mosaic pieces where every hike influences every hike.

We got back to the car and between Lake Jimmy (gorgeous views!) and the Hudson I remarked that I felt pretty good, this was no death march. It was an eleven hour day and before parting ways we sat in my car and drank beer, ate chips and reveled in the heat and companionship of the trail. It had been a good fight.

Neil

Day 3 Wallface-McNaughton

01/21/2018 – MacNaughton & Wallface Mountains – Start: 7:09 AM Finish: 6:49 PM

Crossing Henderson Lake early in the morning was a special treat and I studied my previous (4!) routes up Henderson Mountain as we tramped along. I was feeling pretty tense after yesterday’s hike and inwardly fretted over how things would pan out once we got to the sharp end. I had “fresh horses” with me and both Luc La Barre and “autochromatica” are Clydesdales when it comes to pulling a heavy load. My legs were feeling heavy and I kept a medium pace as I warmed up.

While I had been toiling away in the North River Range Nancy Labaff and her team of 6 (en route to a successful ascent of McNaughton) had hiked up the drainage that runs down from Wallface Ponds. As in, right in the drainage! I would never have thought of that and without their tracks would not have had the guts, having broken through ice into cold water on several occasions in my time.

However, the 500-foot ascent was smoothly although there were three steep pitches up some blue-ish ice that I knew I would not be descending late in the day. Once at the vly at 800 meters elevation we made a decision we were very happy to have made. Remembering Tom Haskins’ advice, we chose the hardest peak first: Wallface. McNaughton is 300 feet higher but a team of six had gone up and down it so we could do it in the dark if need ever be.

If you look at a map you will notice this very steep band https://mapper.acme.com/?ll=44.13745,-74.04516&z=15&t=T&marker0=44.13745%2C-74.04516%2C3.0%20km%20WxNW%20of%20MacIntyre%20Mountains%20NY right here. Ascending that was a combination of sustained mental will spiced with masochism and when we finally got above it the woods were so thick we could barely move. But, we moved left and found the open woods I remembered from previous forays. The ascent, while steep and demanding was going very well until we experienced a major gear failure. One of Sean’s snowshoe pivots broke. I got out a handful of tie-wraps and we improvised a quick repair job that I thought would get him to the summit and back down. Tie wrap repair jobs have a tendency to be short-lived.

When we arrived at the summit we discovered that a 100 foot diameter clear-cut had been made. The summit rock was thus really easy to find. The clear-cut was made during a recent search for a missing hiker. I have to say, the views from the summit are such that before long Wallface will have a herd path going right up it.

The ascent took 2h30 mins and the return trip to the vly: 60 minutes including a lengthy stop to properly patch up Sean’s snowshoe harness with a 6 foot length of shoe-lace.

Next up: McNaughton.

We of course followed Team Nancy’s tracks from the day before and we positively marveled at the work they had done. Our appreciation was particularly acute given that we had just done the same thing on Wallface. We were thus able to read their thought processes and route-finding decisions all the way along. It must have been crushingly difficult but then again, so was Wallface! From vly to summit took us 1h45 and on the summit I put on a dry base-layer shirt and then I threw my puffy jacket and down parka on with fresh mittens! Whoa! Serious bliss right there! It was now 3pm.

I got the feeling that our outing was beginning to look like a study in gear depletion as I piled soaking wet clothing into my pack. I had hung my sopping shell up on the summit sign and when I put it back on it was glazed over with ice.

I was cold everywhere when we left the summit and I said to Luc, “we want to go down very carefully and safely”. He totally got that and the descent went very well, much better than we anticipated. We were back at the vly at 4 and all we had left to do was hike out for 3 hours. The smartest move of the exit was to make a rest stop at the Wallface Lean-to and swap out wet socks for dry. The “ice-fall” descent of the creek went well but we detoured two of the steep pitches. The detours in the open woods on firm snow were very easy.

Lake Henderson in the pitch black night (as verified by shutting off the headlamps) was an interesting experience in sensory deprivation where 30 minutes felt like 60. Getting to the car was fantastic but crawling into bed after a supper of bacon and eggs at Mercy Cabin was pure heaven. Sleep came quickly and was very deep.

With one month out of three gone 41 peaks are over my shoulder.

Neil

Lost Pond Peak

I had just spent 3 minutes hacking 2 feet of crusty snow off of a log away with my ax so Joe could boost me over it. There was no other way to go. The woods were very thick with tight, snow-encased spruce trees closing ranks and blowdown barred the alternative routes. This was supposed to be a smooth-sailing opening day of the weekend but Lost Pond Peak was totally kicking our butts. I knew I was draining the energy tank too early in the game but all I could do was focus on the present task and keep pushing onward and upward. Joe, Nancy and Brian were excellent trail partners, never complaining, always helping and taking turns on point.

I have been up LPP at least 8 times by various routes and most of them have kicked my butt. This route was supposed to be an easy route that I had done 8 years ago but I didn't have a GPS with me to make a record of it. I was now suspecting that the previous route had been further over towards Street Mountain. Nothing to do but keep pushing. To boot, the crusty snow was very difficult and we back-slid and broke through a lot.

Then at one point I began finding seam after seam and Joe said, « I don't know how long it will last Neil but I'll take it ». Things improved steadily and we made the summit uneventfully after a final steep push that got my heart rate into Zone 5 I'm sure. We had killer views from the viewing rock and could plainly see the new « bald spot » that had been clear-cut on Wallface for the rescue. It was cold up at 3900 feet elevation so we didn't bask in the sun but vamoosed out along our trail, which of course was much faster and looked very easy.

Neil

It all started Thursday morning at 3:30 am when my alarm went off at home in Laval. By 7:30 Joe and I began the long approach to Saw-4. It was 0 degrees and would never get any warmer all day. The approach I used from Averyville is long and very pleasant with no issues, no thick areas. The first 90 minutes are on the Pine Pond Rd. and an old woods road, which ends at a lumber camp.

Joe and I hiked at my 100 peak pace, knowing I would be hiking on the morrow as well. Our goal was to do 4 and 2 for sure and see about 1. Near the end of my route you ascend south towards the 4-2 col along a drainage and then make a sharp turn west towards the summit. We were able to save time and energy by walking directly on the frozen surface of the drainage for a lengthy spell. The ice was very thick. We made the turn and gradually the slope became steeper and steeper. At about 3100' where the slope becomes very steep we dropped our packs. I have a string of waypoints for this final section and whenever I use it the way is surprisingly clear. Whenever I don't the route is a difficult time and energy sink. I kept calling out the bearing changes to Joe who would stop and dial the new bearing into his compass.

It took us 6 hours to make it to the top and observed aloud that my best time was 4h30.

The descent to our packs was very quick of course and the walk to my favorite campsite in the 4-2 col was pretty quick too. We already knew that Saw-1 wasn't happening and this relieved some pressure. I had us ascending 2 a bit too far to the left and we encountered a series of cliffs until I had us deviate further right and from there on in it was just steep. However the cold played on us and keeping it all together in such rugged and forbidding surroundings was key. You looked up and saw a massive wall of granite plastered in tannin-stained vertical ice. Then you looked up even higher and saw frost-encrusted trees branches in the wind and you knew you had to find a way up.

Joe really needed to see the summit saddle blowdown field so we took a look at it before scuttling down to the east side and side-hilling then climbing steep slopes to where you turn for the true summit bump. Once again we left the packs and the final bit was straight up and grueling in the extreme. The wind was bone-chilling and when Joe asked if I wanted a picture I said “no, it's too cold” and down we went. It was 4:30 and daylight was fading. My brain knew just how beautiful the view was but this wasn't the time to sit back and enjoy it.

I had the route from 2 to 1 in my gps but not the route we would be taking to pick up our inbound trail, some 2.5 miles distant. This made the navigating a bit more fastidious but I could look at the paper map, project the gps cursor in the general direction we needed to go and then we used our compasses to hike in a straight line. It wasn't dark yet so we could also use the surrounding ridges as landmarks until it became pitch dark. Luckily, we had open woods the entire way and the headlamps easily picked out the open lanes. Whoever was in front checked their compass nearly every minute and I would check the gps and map every 10 minutes or so.

We were happy to (finally!) step onto our inbound tracks and turn our navigating brains to the off position. It was -9F back at the car. Total time was 13 hours and change. I did not open my pack once all day. Didn't change any of my clothes, did not drink any water at all and only ate the food that was in my jacket pocket. I never felt thirsty all day long.

The coldest part of the day was the drive back to 'Scoots where Jean and MJO had been following the Spot. I got in at 9:30 and once I was wearing dry clothes, and while I was feeding we discussed the plan for the rest of the Sawtooths.

Pictures

02/02/2018 – Sawtooth #4 & #2 – Start: 7:46 AM Finish: 8:35 PM

Wake-up was at 4:30 and we began hiking from Averyville at 6:18 on the button.

Took us 2 hours 30 minutes via the “Old NPT” to get to the lean-to at Moose Pond and another hour finding and losing the trail south to our jump-off point. We walked right on the creek for about .5 miles and then we entered the woods and began what started as an easy ascent through open woods with firm footing. That ended abruptly and I believe it took us over an hour to cover a half-mile to the summit due to steep slopes combined with thick woods and less than ideal snow conditions. It was past noon when we departed the summit and descended the steeps slopes of #3. Route picking was a constant challenge and all 3 of us participated whether we were in the lead position or at the back. The ascent of #5 is only 600 feet but it is very steep and it really kicked my butt. We stopped on top for 10 minutes for food and pictures and I was so cold I had to get out of there and move as fast as possible through the deep snow to the low point. Just before our departure Jean said 2:30pm. We had both hoped for 2pm. Sawtooth #1 was still a long way away. It would probably be dark when we summited.

We found a drainage we could walk in and it was going our way so we followed it until it became too narrow. We entered the open vly at the 2-1 col and walked along the east side. I was now checking the gps frequently and calling out compass bearings. We walked north until about even with the summit and then, following crucial waypoints I have painfully collected over the years, we circumnavigated the summit in an ascending arc. It was crucial that we avoid the cliff route, which would be solid ice, and that we avoid the “evil gully”. The ascending was extremely difficult and the wind blew very cold. We were rotating leads frequently. We arrived right at the head of the “evil gully”, saw the cliffs we had avoided studiously and I had Marie-Josée, who was leading, side-hill until past the gully and then the rubber really hit the road. We could see the summit bloc and in fading daylight with the wind blowing through us we looked way, way up and saw the snow-encased trees waving to and fro. The summit looked straight up above us. The slopes were ice-caked in many places there were steep channels of snow . It was intimidatingly steep and the cold wind sawed at us relentlessly. Long story short, we made the summit, M-J took a selfie of us next to the sign and then we got the Hell out of there. Following our tracks we got down the steepest section to our exit point in no time. It was about there that the battery case of my gps sprung open and the unit itself went flying into the snow while the battery cover dangled uselessly at the end of the lanyard. I found the unit, without its (white) batteries and Jean had a fresh set of Lithium batteries out in less than a minute.

Then it was down, down, down through open woods and soft snow along a bearing that would serve us well for hours to come. The headlamps in the not-quite-totally-dark woods picked out the openings and we made excellent time until we hit wall after wall of very thick woods. We tried deviating but finally decided to push through along our compass bearing. After 30 very slow minutes we hit open woods again, which followed all the way out to Joe and my trail on the Old Woods Road from the night before. The night was jet black but we could see near-by treetops looming out of the sky.

Back at the car I couldn't believe it when I saw the time. We had been out for 14 hours barely stopping, never sitting down and fighting the cold while expending energy continuously. When I finally lay my body down to rest and my head hit the pillow relief and contentment passed through me like a wave.

02/03/2018 – Sawtooth #3, #5, #1 – Start: 6:12 AM Finish: 9:40 PM

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